All posts by Daniel Kerr

Dan Kerr is now Lower School Director at the American School of Paris. He previously served as Intermediate Division Principal at Academia Cotopaxi American International School in Quito, Ecuador, and prior to that was the Middle School Principal at SCIS in Shanghai, China. Dan has also worked at JIS in Jakarta, Indonesia and he began his International career in Abu Dhabi. Dan is thrilled to be joining the ASP family and will be accompanied by his wife, Jocelyn, who will be working as a counselor, and his two children, Max and Gabby. 

What to Read in 2023

So it’s that time of the year again when I get to order books for my birthday, which is my favorite gift ever because it keeps on giving for months and months and months. The deal is that I have to finish reading all of last year’s books before I get to order new ones, and I’m excited about ordering the list below in the next few days.
As usual, I’m encouraging you all to take a few minutes this week to look through these titles, and to order one (or five) that resonate with you…or, do your own research and share those titles with me so I can add them to this list. The suggestions below revolve around the themes of education, leadership, creativity, innovation and culture building, with an overarching focus on becoming a better person and educator for our world. 
Anyway, take a look and happy reading in 2023! Enjoy the week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

The Half Known Life – Pico Iyer
Attention Span – Gloria Mark
A Creative Act – Rick Rubin
Fool Proof – Tess Wilkinson-Ryan
Psych – Paul Bloom
Magic Words – Jonah Berger
The Real Work – Adam Gopnik
Awaken Your Genius – Ozan Varol
Anatomy of a Breakthrough – Adam Alter
The Perfection Trap – Thomas Curran
Disruptable – Allan Young
The Good Life – Robert Waldinger, Marc Schulz

A New Year’s Mindset

So here we are already a couple of weeks into 2023, and we are already speeding through the month of January. I really enjoy the start of a new year actually, because it provides us a natural opportunity to think about where we are in our lives both personally and professionally, as well as providing us a chance to set goals or to make resolutions to do better, to be better, and feel better about where we currently are. The problem that often comes with these “resolutions” however, is that they are usually framed in the negative, and often set people up for failure. They tend to lean toward what’s currently wrong in our lives, and toward areas of life that aren’t currently worth celebrating. 

Honestly, making resolutions hasn’t felt quite right for me recently, because I found myself always starting the new year in a negative mindset. I was focusing on things that I wasn’t doing well, or doing at all, and this ultimately made me feel bad about myself. I’m sure many of you have gone through a similar experience, and maybe you’re feeling that way right now. Well, this year again I’m taking a different approach to the new year, and I’m entering into 2023 with a different and positive mindset, which so far feels really good.  
 
During this past holiday break I purposely re-read a post that I shared a few years ago. I had shared in that particular post that I used to start a new year by beating myself up for needing to eat better and exercise more, to drink less and spend more time with my family, and all the rest. I remember catching myself starting to get a bit depressed when January hit and frankly, a little sad. I wrote about how one New Year’s Eve not that long ago, when I was getting a little overwhelmed by the changes that I “needed” to make, I started looking around and I saw my two amazing kids, my beautiful wife, and this incredible New Year’s light show, and that’s when I challenged myself flip the script so to speak, and to start thinking about all that’s right with my life, and not about all that I perceived to be wrong with it. 
 
This mindset shift has allowed me to focus on all that was great about the previous year, and all that is going well in my life both personally and professionally. I now take all the good things that are working, and that are making me happy, and I carry them over into the new year…a new year’s carry over has now become my new year’s resolution. Of course over the next few weeks and even months I’ll try to eat better and exercise more, like I do after every extended holiday, and I will find new ways and new things to learn because I’m passionate about learning, but I guess my point is this…instead of beating yourself up about the person that you currently aren’t, and all the work that you need to do to feel better about yourself, change your mindset…even if it’s just a little, and begin the year focusing on the positive. 
 
Try to take stock in all that’s right about your life, and all that’s great about who you are as a person, and start 2023 by celebrating that! Begin the year feeling good about yourself instead of bad, and you know what, I bet that this positive energy and outlook will be a better foundation and starting point to achieve any goals that you might have for the upcoming year. I’m willing to bet that if you begin from a place of celebration and gratitude that any changes that you want to make will be more sustainable in the long run. You see, if we look closely enough, I bet all of us have areas in our lives that we are proud of and happy with…carry them over and make those positive aspects your focal point as we speed through January. Anyway, happy new year everyone and I truly hope that 2023 is your best year to date! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Life I am the New Year.
I am an unspoiled page in your book of time.
I am your next chance at the art of living.
I am your opportunity to practice what you have learned about a life of reflection and giving.

All that you sought and didn’t find is hidden in me,
waiting for you to search it out with more determination.
All the good that you tried for and didn’t achieve
is mine to grant when you have fewer conflicting desires.
All that you dreamed but didn’t dare to do, all that you hoped but did not will,
All the faith that you claimed but did not have —
these slumber lightly, waiting to be awakened
by the touch of a strong purpose.

I am your opportunity
to renew your allegiance to a life fulfilled
I am the New Year.

— Author Unknown

Quote of the Week…
Celebrate what you want to see more of
-Tom Peters

Related Articles – 
Goals Instead of Resolutions
Make It and Keep It
Smart Tips
Start the Year Off Right
Goal Setting Strategies

Inspiring Videos – 
On The Road – A Year in Review
A Child With a Dream
10 Things That Made Us Smile This Year
The Kindness of a Stranger
A Special Gift

Un Petit Cadeau

So last weekend I found myself in line at my favorite French bakery after scouring the city for hours and hours for a simple watch battery that I just couldn’t seem to find. In front of me in line was a man who had sadly forgotten his bank card, and as the owner rang up his bill the man ended up being a couple of euros short. I quickly ran to the car and grabbed a few euros from the console and gave it to him so he could go on with his day, which of course was not a big deal at all and the right thing to do in any situation. But the incredible and magical thing about this gesture, which continues to make me smile, was that on the way home from the bakery I decided to stop at one final place to see if they had a battery, and as I walked into the store guess who was behind the counter eating his lunch…that’s right, the man who was in front of me at the bakery…he is a watchmaker!

After we smiled and greeted each other I asked him if he had the type of battery that I needed, but after he looked and looked through his drawers, he ended up being all sold out. Just as I was turning to leave he asked me to wait for just one minute as he disappeared in the back, and when he came out again he was holding the exact type of battery that I needed. When I asked him where he found it he just kept saying, “un petit cadeau, un petit cadeau”, but what he didn’t know is that I saw him through the curtain taking off his own watch and removing the battery so he could give it to me as a little gift. Even though I protested he wouldn’t take no for an answer, so away I went with a huge smile on my face and a heart that had grown at least a couple of sizes. On the drive home I reflected on that whole experience, and more than anything it just solidified my belief that small little gestures of kindness will absolutely spread, and they have a beautiful way of finding their way back to you if you pay it forward. 

I also think that there is something particularly special about the holiday season that fills people with a little extra cheer, and love, and thoughtfulness, and in many ways the idea of what we tend to call “holiday spirit” really seems to be an alive and tangible thing. The best part about this time of the year, in my opinion, is the opportunity that we all have to give of ourselves to others, and the chance that we have over the next few weeks to share a little holiday spirit, and to spread some of that tangible and living magic around to anyone and everyone that we come in contact with. 

I guess this little story is my way of casually reminding all of us of the beauty of this time of the year, and with less than a week to go before head off on our adventures I’m asking that you take some time this week to slow down, take a breath, and soak up all the positive energy that is spilling out from our students and from each other…let’s smile a bit more, give out a few more hugs, and spread that holiday magic around! I want to wish you all a safe and joyful holiday season, and a happy and prosperous New Year…the world is a beautiful place and that holiday magic is all around, even in a small boulangerie and an even smaller little watchmaker’s store. Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Holidays
The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Quote of the Week…
Remember, there is no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end – Scott Adams

Related Articles – 
Unexpected Power
Kindness at Work

TED Talk – The Value of Kindness

Inspiring Videos – 
The Gift
Joy is Made
Festival of Hope
Michigan Marching Band
 
 

From Hard Conversations to Opportunity Talks

So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a post titled, “What’s In a Name?”, where I suggested that schools might want to think about reimagining traditional course and subject names, and that post got me thinking really deeply about the how and why behind the naming and labeling of lots of things all across organizations. For example, the other day I had a super supportive friend and colleague of mine ask me how I was doing because he knew that I had just come out of a school day loaded full of what he called, “hard conversations”. 

After I said thank you and started to head for home it struck me that on its face the label that we use to identify this kind of courageous human interaction really does have a negative connotation, and after thinking critically about it over the past week or so I’d like to advocate for a change from calling these interactions “hard conversations”, to a more positive and compassionate labeling where we call these conversations, “opportunity talks”. 

In my opinion, a simple name change like this would re-frame a person’s mindset, approach and inevitable visualization of what’s to come from one of nervousness, defensiveness, and fear (on both sides of the table) to one of openness, understanding, and compassion. In my experience, just about every hard conversation that I have ever had with anyone, and I’ve had many, has deep down at the core been about recognizing an opportunity. An opportunity that we have for growth, or clarity, or repair, which ultimately is a very positive and beautiful chance for a particular person to do better, and to be better…and what could be a greater opportunity than that?

It took me a long time to change my approach and mindset regarding these difficult discussions, and if I’m being honest, I used to shy away from them until they became absolutely necessary. I was never one for conflict growing up, and like most people, addressing difficult issues was something that I didn’t look forward to for many, many years because well, they are hard! Over the years however, I have started to embrace these opportunity talks as I am now acutely aware of the fact that good leadership and good schools are connected tightly to what people in the organization are willing to address. Now I actually find myself much more comfortable with these types of conversations because I know that an organizational culture depends on them, and I have learned throughout the years that they are an integral part of building solid and trusting relationships…and as we know, relationships are the foundation of all human organizations, especially school environments.  

I’m not saying that these conversations aren’t difficult, they certainly are, and they require practice, practice, practice and a developed skill set to manage them well, that’s for sure. So to begin that work as schools let’s start with a simple change of name so both parties enter into the conversation with a focus on the opportunity that lies ahead, and a focus on what ultimately matters, which is doing and being better for our kids and for our community. 

Anyway, If nothing else, this name change would reframe our mindsets around these interactions, and shift how a day full of “hard conversations” doesn’t necessarily have to be seen as a bad day at all like my friend assumed and suggested, in fact, it can actually turn out to be a very good day or even a great day. You see, a day full of “opportunity talks” is a day full of growth, relationship building, deeper understanding, stronger connections, and a day full of strengthening our culture as a school…that’s a great day indeed! Have a fantastic week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 


Quote of the Week…
At work, at home, and across the backyard fence, difficult conversations are attempted or avoided everyday – Douglas Stone

Related Articles – 
Approaching Difficult Conversations
Handling Hard Conversations
A Few Helpful Tips

Inspiring Videos – 
Veteran’s Day
Brand New Sneakers
10 Things That Made Us Smile

A Structure for Student Voice

So after a brief departure from running our school-wide professional learning communities (PLC’s) with faculty and staff due to Covid, we are back this year with more exciting and engaging opportunities for all. We have structured our PLC format this year around the umbrella theme of AGENCY, and the research and deep inquiry projects that are underway across the school are definitely inspiring. It’s so important to have educators not only learning and growing together, but having some voice and choice in their professional development experiences as well, and I’m looking forward to our next session in a couple of weeks. I also cannot wait for the end of the year learning showcase where we get to benefit collectively from everyone’s hard work and passions, and reflect on how these groups have helped to enhance agency across all aspects of our school.
 
Our return to these PLC’s have got me thinking about how this particular learning structure could be adopted, adapted and applied to our students, and rolled out as a form of “student learning communities”, or SLC’s. I posted a version of this idea several years ago and I think it’s time to revisit and reshare, as I believe it deserves some significant thought for all schools who are thinking about ways for kids to take more ownership of their educational experience. 
 
All good schools that I know of are always trying to find creative ways to engage students in their learning experiences, and looking to implement structures which allow kids to drive their own learning and personal growth forward. These schools have also purposefully structured time for teachers and teacher teams to analyze and discuss individual student data, and to use this data as a foundation for a more personalized and differentiated approach to goal setting and curriculum design. But why not set up a situation where students get a chance to go through the same powerful process? 

I think it’s time to set up a structure that allows all students to collaborate together, every so often, to talk about their learning with their peers, to analyze their own feedback and assessment data, to talk about their strengths and weaknesses, to learn from each other, and to provide important feedback to their teacher or teachers about how they best learn. Once a cycle or once every week or two, students would get into their student learning community group (grade specific or subject specific, or ultimately, passion specific that isn’t tied to grade level bands or subject areas) and collaboratively reflect on their day to day experience of school. They would listen to each other talk about their successes, they would learn from each other, they would teach each other, they would talk about some struggles that they might be having, they would set goals and hold each other accountable, and when the trust has been developed, they could share their own assessment data and feedback from teachers to see how and where they might be able to improve. 
 
 
 
All of this would be documented and shared with the teacher as feedback for them, which would help the educator in the room to better plan a differentiated lesson, to better understand if a student needs some extension or some intervention, to get a much richer idea of what each individual student truly needs, and to receive feedback on their teaching too…a personalized insight from the people who we often forget to include in these conversations, the kids. Of course, during this SLC the teacher or teachers would walk around to each group and engage in the collaborative conversations, getting immediate feedback on how each lesson or unit is going, and checking for conceptual understanding. 

It shouldn’t be only focused on academics by the way, it would be a wonderful portal into each student’s social and emotional well being, both inside and outside of school. The students could be directed and encouraged to talk about relationships, their home life if they’re comfortable, their sense of belonging within the community, issues that they need support with, and how they feel about themselves as people and learners. These SLC’s would provide incredible insight into each student’s individual experience, and would help individual students, teachers and schools to dig deep into the personal perspective and feedback from the kids, giving weight and action to student voice and student agency across the school.

Anyway, PLC’s as we all know have been incredibly powerful in moving schools forward, so why not bring students into the mix? It seems so simple, doesn’t it? SLC’s might just be the perfect extension of the PLC model, and a way to get the most important voices into the conversation. It’s a structure that would absolutely bring kids into the learning conversation, and provide a mechanism for students to truly have a voice in their educational experience. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the Week…
Half the curriculum walks into the room when the students do – 
Darnell Fine

Related Articles – 
Edutopia – Student Voice Articles
Student Voice and Student Wellbeing
Bring Student Voice to the Forefront
Making a Student Voice Heard

Book Recommendations – 
Personalized Learning
ASCD – Learning Communities

Inspiring Videos – 
Teaching Kids Kindness
Kindness 101
10 Things That Made Us Smile

What’s In A Name?

So I have been thinking a lot lately about the traditional structure and construct of school course and subject names, and how interesting it would be if we, as schools, finally changed things up. I honestly think it is time to rename many of the subjects that our students take throughout their educational journey, and with this renaming I believe that students would show up with a different mindset, and a clearer understanding of what they are truly being asked to learn about. I also think that this switch would present a possible opportunity for schools to reimagine stand alone subjects and subject areas altogether, allowing for a more transdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. When you stop to think about what’s actually in a name, and the power that comes along with it, the answer is…well, a lot!

As it stands now, the traditional subject names like Math, Science, History, Social Studies, English, Language Arts, and many others have been around since the 19th century, and they bring with them, in my opinion, a really vague and uninspiring connotation that can leave students and teachers mired in the past, and siloed into an antiquated idea of what is possible with curriculum and education. Wouldn’t it be great if instead of going to Math class, a child went to a course called Problem Solving and Critical Thinking, where they show up not only knowing what is expected of them, but inspired by the action that the name proposes. Or if instead of heading off to Science, students went eagerly down the hallway to a class called Seeking the Truth, or Seeking to Understand, where they know precisely what they are there for and what they are meant to do. What about instead of English, or Language Arts, kids walked into a course called Human Connection, which at the heart of it is exactly what we do when we read and write…we connect with one another across cultures and genres and differing perspectives. 

Instead of going to Art class, imagine if kids went to a class called Creativity and Imagination, which in itself screams out for a partnership with maker spaces, innovation clubs, and educational technology opportunities. Also, there are obviously incredible examples of Art, in many forms of writing or music for instance, that could lead to wonderful collaborations between educators. What about offering new courses, either as electives or otherwise called Empathy and Inclusion, or Belonging, or Passions and Inspirations, or Kindness and Gratitude, where kids truly get to learn about what it means to be a great human being for our world, while allowing them to lead out their own desired learning pathway throughout a school day or school week. Listen, I could go on and on, with more examples and more possible names but you get my drift. I would love it if at some point a student schedule looked something like this, across all divisions of a school…

Problem Solving and Critical thinking (Math)
Seeking the Truth (Science)
Human Connection (English Language Arts)
Creativity and Imagination (Art)
What Ties Us Together (Social Studies)
Empathy and Inclusion
Belonging
Passion and Inspiration

Instead of this…

Math, Science, Art, Social Studies, English, etc…

To be clear, my intention with this post is not at all to devalue the passion and rigor that subject specific educators bring to their subjects, which is immense I know, but rather it’s a way to possibly thread them together where appropriate, or to support them to better clarify and communicate what it is that they are targeting for their students. It’s a way of looking at subjects through a different lens…a lens that is clearly aligned with a more current and innovative structure, and a new lens that students can engage with when thinking about the class that they are taking. Finally, please understand that I am acutely aware of the fact that some schools around the world have already done this work, and I know that there are wonderfully progressive and creative curriculum structures out there that are changing the landscape of education in beautiful and inspiring ways, but for the most part, schools everywhere, all around the world, are still using the course subject names that our great grandparents used and honestly, times have changed, and things are rapidly changing, and we could too. 

Anyway, I’m going to continue this discussion in the future with schools and organizations who have already begun this journey and I hope this post has given you something to ponder and explore in your own communities if nothing else. It’s important to keep challenging the traditional structure of education so we can keep getting better for our kids, so at the root of it, just ask yourself, why? Why are we still using these traditional names when there is a more creative, more inspiring, and more engaging opportunity just waiting for us to act on. What’s in a name? Well, there is so much power, so much opportunity for innovation, and so much tied to a student’s relationship with learning…so, let’s think about it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 


Quote of the Week…
A name represents identity, a deep feeling, and holds tremendous significance to its owner
-Rachel Ingber

Related Articles – 
UNESCO – Reimagining Our FuturesTogether
Topics Instead – Finland

TED Talk – Dan Harris

Inspiring videos – 
Halloween!
10 Things That Made Us Smile
Emotional Support Alligator

A Beautiful Balance

So not that long ago I gave an assignment to a group of educators who I teach as part of their international education and leadership master’s degree program. The class is titled, Innovative Practices, and the overarching theme for that particular week revolved around the idea of a blue sky vision for schools. The assignment was to write about, and then to defend what they believed to be more important when designing their school of the future, a greater focus on academic rigor or a greater focus on social emotional health and wellbeing. What I thought would be an interesting discussion actually turned into a fascinating debate on the very nature and purpose of education, and the essential responsibilities that we have as educators as we seek to prepare students for their lives inside and outside of school. 

What made me smile about the outcome of this assignment (and where I was truly hoping they would eventually land) was that the group came to this rock solid conclusion…it wasn’t one or the other in isolation, it was a purposeful marriage of both. We ended up calling this parallel approach, “the beautiful balance”, and it was inspiring to hear the ideas, discussions, and recommendations that they all had for bringing this balance to life in their particular schools. There was a lot of talk about the importance and the imperative of a deep focus on social emotional health and wellbeing, particularly in a post-covid world, and that is the absolute truth, but a recognition as well that we can’t sway too far in one direction for fear that the high expectations and deep rigor that we want for our students might be compromised. 

Finding this beautiful balance in schools is no easy task, and the work and commitment needs to be targeted, intentional and explicit. It’s deep and difficult work as we review things like curricular and advisory programs, course offerings, units of study, student workload, and beliefs around assessment practices. It’s about prioritizing systems thinking too, and watching for any unintended consequences that may knock us off balance, so to speak. It’s about a new or renewed commitment to developing not only incredible students, but incredible human beings as well. 

As a part of the assignment they also brainstormed the skills, dispositions and attributes that they wanted as natural outcomes for their balanced students. They envisioned students who ask critical questions and fail forward and seek to understand. Students who inquire deeply and follow their passions and take ownership of their educational experience. Students who are inclusive and empathetic and collaborative and look for solutions to problems in their world. Students who persevere and challenge themselves and find comfort in being uncomfortable. Students who feel celebrated and valued for their accomplishments outside of the regular classroom, and who feel seen and heard and loved. And finally, students who ultimately feel a deep sense of belonging and who find success in all aspects of the day simply for being who they are as young people in our world.

That’s the balance that they are chasing, and it’s a balance that is not only attainable in my opinion, but essential for us as schools as we think about what might go into this blue sky vision. As a way to begin to find that balance, the place to start for schools is to target the social and emotional well being of kids, and teachers, as we think about and tackle the school experience post pandemic. It’s imperative that we look at how we can support not only students, but our entire community, targeting how we can get better in this area and using the last few years as a catalyst for change. It’s not okay to simply go back to the way things were, as the opportunity is here to focus on empathy, compassion, understanding and belonging. It is not the time at all to add more work and more stress and more homework to try and catch up, or make up for “all that lost time”. With an eye on the health and wellbeing of our communities we will take a giant step in the right direction toward finding that beautiful balance that we need in schools. 

Anyway, I enjoyed the assignment and the deep discussion that followed, and it’s encouraging to know that schools around the world are currently focusing heavily on creating that beautiful balance for their communities, and I’m proud to know that we are one of them. Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Next to love, balance is the most important thing – John Wooden

Related Articles – 

Social and Emotional Skills – OECD

Three Keys to Infusing 

Academic Growth

The Anchors that Drive Us

The Dark Side of Rigor

TED Talk – Having Fun

TED Talks – Protecting Your Passions

Inspiring Videos – 

Back to School Inspiration

10 Things That Made Us Smile

School Spirit

Honoring Your Mom

The Beauty Within

Joy Begets Joy

So we have this new little kid at our school, who only arrived in Paris just a few short weeks ago, and honestly, there is just something about him that draws me in. Lately I find myself seeking him out at least a couple of times a day because his smile and energy and enthusiasm is ridiculously contagious. Interacting with him is like getting a triple espresso shot full of joy, and everytime that I speak to him he leaves me feeling instantly better, and belly laughing or smiling as I move along through my day. 

With him it starts early in the morning as he comes bounding off of the bus literally exploding with sunshine and rainbows, and it continues until the end of the day when we fist bump goodbye. Just seeing him changes my mood for the better…and I’m almost always in a great mood already! It’s amazing how a single person’s mood and attitude can have such a profound effect on your own, and he is a great reminder to me that happiness spreads, and that your energy and attitude matters, and that joy does indeed beget joy. 

This child’s joyful approach to life connects nicely to an activity that we did as a faculty the other day, where we unpacked the phrase, “you teach who you are”, and discussed what that phrase means to us as educators. Obviously we can dig really deep into that idea, and we did, but on the surface and in very simple terms that short but loaded phrase can not only represent the effect that you have on everyone else as you enter the building each day, but it can serve as an important reminder that the energy that you bring to every space and every situation really and truly matters.

You see, If we know that joy begets joy then it isn’t too far of a stretch for us to realize that a negative mood or a poor attitude can be equally transmissive. Like me, I’m sure you find yourselves drawn to people who lift you up and infuse you with a little boost, and I’m also sure that you try to limit your interactions with those who dampen your spirits. For me, I believe that the only true currency that we have in the world these days is the energy and attitude that we bring to each and every human interaction. In every instance we have the power to inspire, or to deflate, and we all need to be uber conscious of what energy we are exuding. 

I don’t usually share poems in back to back posts but the one below resonated with me so I thought I would share it…take a read and let it sink in. Joy is a funny and sneaky thing, and like the poem suggests, it will always find you when you are ready to accept it. The thing that is true about joy is that it spreads, and it’s contagious. Knowing this, it’s also true that we all have the opportunity to change a person’s day or life for the better when we are intentional about handing it out. It’s just like my new little buddy who bounds off the bus each morning…his joy spreads over a kilometer in every direction, and it’s impossible to not be positively affected by it. 

My challenge to you all this week is to monitor who you are being for others, and to do a self audit of your joy factor. Are you spreading it around enough? If not, then make a change and seek out others who can inspire you in the right direction. Remember that joy begets joy so take it in and spill it out and watch how it changes your life, and the lives of those around you for the better. Okay, have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great (and joyful) for our students and contagiously joyful for others. 

JOY

Joy does not arrive with a fanfare,

on a red carpet strewn with the flowers of a perfect life.

Joy sneaks in, as you pour a cup of coffee,

watching the sun hit your favorite tree, just right.

And you usher joy away,

because you are not ready for it.

Your house is not as it must be,

for such a distinguished guest.

But joy cares nothing for your messy home,

or your bank-balance,

or your waistline, you see.

Joy is supposed to slither through the cracks of your imperfect life,

That’s how joy works.

You cannot invite her, you can only be ready when she appears.

And hug her with meaning,

because in this very moment,

joy chose you.

-Donna Ashworth

Quote of the Week…

Find ecstasy in life: The mere sense of living is joy enough. 

-Emily Dickinson

Related Articles – 

Joy is Contagious

The Contagion of Happiness

Make it Go Viral 

Why Attitude Matters

Every Single Day

TED TALK – 

Where Joy Hides and How To Find It 

Inspiring Videos –

Out to the Ball Game

Kindness 101

10 Things That Made Us smile This Week

The Arrival Gate

So I used to think that the happiest place on Earth was the arrival gate at any international airport, kind of like the introductory scene suggests in the classic movie Love Actually. You see, ever since I was a kid I have been taken by the smiles and the hugs and the pure joy that is unabashedly on display every time a person comes into sight through those opening arrival doors. People are always rushing over the railings and past security guards and holding up signs, and in most cases they are quite literally unable to contain their happiness at the sight of their arriving loved ones…it inspired me then as a young person and it still does to this day. Next time you find yourself at an arrival gate, take a good look around and take in the beauty…it’s a deliciously happy place indeed. 

Anyway, over the past few years I have started to change my tune slightly, and now I firmly believe that the happiest place on Earth might just be the arrival gate of a lower school on the first day back from summer. Our first day was this past Tuesday, and the amount of smiles, hugs, laughter and unadulterated joy that was spilling out of the students and teachers was palpable and magical. Kids were sprinting off the buses and into the playground, desperately seeking out their friends, and eager to make new ones. Even the new students, who were sent into an “I can’t wait” frenzy the day before at new family orientation day were dying to get started in their new classes…it really was a beautiful experience, and I just stood there taking it all in, smiling from ear to ear (in between hugs and high fives and fist bumps of course). 

Thinking about it though, I’m sure that this particular year is a little different, as there seems to be a sense of deep relief being shared by all of us as we start the year without masks and isolating restrictions and all the rest. I guess it is an exaggerated version of what we usually see on the first day of school, as I know we are all hoping that this is the new beginning that we have been waiting for since the pandemic began. I have to say that it wasn’t just the kids and teachers who were joyfully ready to roll last Tuesday, it was the parents as well. The lower school playground had a party-like atmosphere almost like a carnival, and it gave me a glimpse into the community that we used to have here at ASP not that long ago, and it was an inspiring promise of what’s to come. It was a return to a look of our true community, and a wonderful first step into reconnecting.

It reminded me of the poem below that I’ve shared before in previous posts, which talks about the important and essential partnership that needs to be developed between parents and educators in order to give our students the educational experience that they deserve. The poem might be a little outdated in some parts but the sentiment rings true, and it’s one of the things that is so exciting about this year…that reconnection of community after such an abrupt and isolating collective experience. So with all that in mind, and the arrival gate euphoria still very much in my heart, I want to wish everyone an amazing school year ahead. Here’s to keeping that arrival gate awesomeness alive and well in the months to come. Welcome back to school everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Whose Child Is This?

“Whose child is this?” I asked one day

Seeing a little one out at play

“Mine”, said the parent with a tender smile

“Mine to keep a little while

To bathe his hands and comb his hair

To tell him what he is to wear

To prepare him that he may always be good

And each day do the things he should”

“Whose child is this?” I asked again

As the door opened and someone came in

“Mine”, said the teacher with the same tender smile

“Mine, to keep just for a little while

To teach him how to be gentle and kind

To train and direct his dear little mind

To help him live by every rule

And get the best he can from school”

“Whose child is this?” I ask once more

Just as the little one entered the door

“Ours” said the parent and the teacher as they smiled

And each took the hand of the little child

“Ours to love and train together

Ours this blessed task forever.”

~Author Unknown~

Quote of the Week…

School bells are ringing loud and clear. Vacation is over and school is here!

– Winifred C. Marshal

Interesting TED Talk – 

Nurturing Student Genius

Related Articles – 

Thinking Ahead

Making School a Happy Place

Joyful Classrooms

Joyful Learning Network

Don’t Go Back to Normal

Inspiring Videos –

Pep Tok

10 Things That Made Us Smile

The Whole Community

Saving a Life

The Arrivals

Hallway Therapy

So over the past week or so, I’ve had a few difficult and emotionally draining conversations with adults, which when combined together started to fuel a slow and downward trend in my energy level and spirit. After the most recent one I decided to take a long and dedicated walk around the Lower School to get some much needed hallway therapy, and as is always the case, after that magical tour I felt my spirit soaring once again. I’m so fortunate that my mental health booster shot is just outside my office door, and how lucky am I that I have access to instant hugs and belly laughs every time that I walk down a Lower School corridor. Believe me, I don’t take it for granted, and I am so grateful for this particular little gift, as well as for the enormous gift of being able to feed off of the joy and energy of children each and every day of my life.

Here are just a few of the sights and sounds from my most recent hallway therapy session, which began with a hug from a 3 year old after he corralled me in his pretend spiderman web…that was literally after one step out of my office…nice 🙂

  • I saw and heard kids singing beautiful little songs as they transitioned from one class to another.
  • I came across a ladybug investigation in our science garden with kids screeching for joy when they found one or two of them snuggled up under some leaves.
  • I saw three little girls skipping hand in hand back to class from the washroom, smiling and giggling along the way.
  • One student who was hanging up his coat just outside of his class invited me to his birthday party, and went on to invite me on his summer vacation to Spain with his family.
  • I had a bunch of students stop to show me their crazy socks, and ask me which ones I was wearing on that particular day (Spongebob Squarepants).
  • I saw some older students smiling and working collaboratively on an end of the unit project, and high fiving each other as they finished.
  • I saw our student leadership team making sandwiches for refugees.
  • I saw kids playing soccer and tag and swinging on swings out on the playground.
  • I saw kids making flower and dirt soup in the mud kitchen.
  • I saw two boys helping their friend to the nurses office after he scraped his knee on the slide.
  • One student told me a joke that he had recently learned (Why do bees have sticky hair? Because they use honeycombs).
  • I saw students writing reflections on their Ipads, and reading together in their book clubs.
  • I saw a class full of 3 and 4 year olds debating which one of their family pets was the cutest (the bunny won).
  • Two students performed their latest dance routine for me, which I quickly learned, and then I promised to perform it next year in an assembly with them…yikes!

And best of all, after touring the hallways for just under an hour, I had received 11 enthusiastic hugs, (not including the first one from our little spiderman) and 3 sincere I love you’s…talk about a therapy session worth every minute, and totally free!  

Anyway, as we stare down the final week of the school year, and dream of the summer months ahead, I want to take some time to celebrate our beautiful children. This past year has been difficult and exhausting in many ways for all of us, and honestly, it would have been so much harder if it wasn’t for the daily therapy sessions that we all get to take advantage of as educators. If you ever start to feel a little bit down, or a little bit tired and overwhelmed, then just walk through the hallways of a school with open eyes and open ears, and watch your heart, energy and spirit grow immeasurably! 

Have a wonderful final week everyone and thank you for your incredible effort this year, and send our beautiful little therapists off to the summer with a huge smile! Finally, here are a few lines from a poem by Paul Hayward, which will hopefully put you in the right frame of mind for our final 4 and a half days. Happy summer holiday everyone, you certainly deserve this one, and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.

Dance 

Open your heart to happiness.

Let every pore absorb light.

Swim in the joy of the here and now,

And cast off the darkness of night.

Walk in the summer of sunshine.

Fly in the blueness of sky.

Sing ’til your throat gets too sore.

Smile for as long as the day is,

And laugh just a little bit more.

Breathe slowly and deeply and listen.

Give all your ideas a chance.

Let the sun beat down on your goodness,

And kick off your shoes and dance.

Quote of the Week…

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within – Maya Angelou

Related Articles – 

Recharge and Prepare

Summer Tips

Teacher Self Care

Switch Off and Grow

Inspiring Videos –

Play By Play Announcer

10 Things That Made Us Smile

TED Talks – 

Building Joy In your life