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. 

A Smile Has Never Burned So Bright

So two Mondays ago, the French government dropped the mandatory mask wearing for students and teachers inside and outside of the school buildings. I have to admit that when I first heard this news I was both relieved and excited, and I could hardly sleep at all on the Sunday night before, thinking about seeing full faces and smiles for the first time in almost two years. 

Even with my excited anticipation of that first morning, knowing that I might get a little emotional, I didn’t expect it to affect me as much as it did. As the kids started to turn the corner into the playground I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes, and when one little girl said, “Mr. Kerr, that’s what you look like!”, and another one said, “Mr. Kerr, I knew you would have a beautiful smile”, I started to cry just a little, and I couldn’t bring myself to stop for much of the day. 

I think that for me, the hardest part of the pandemic has been not seeing people’s faces, and being such a smiley guy myself, I know how a simple smile can transform a person’s mood, day, and attitude in profound and lasting ways. Not having those smiles to feed off of has contributed enormously to the prevailing sense of isolation that communities are struggling with these days, and a big part of transitioning out of Covid will need to involve lots of face to face gatherings I think, with the specific and purposeful intent of reconnecting with people’s faces and smiles. The power of a smile is undeniable, and it has been an absolute gift over the past two weeks to get back to seeing a person’s smiley face, and in many ways, back to seeing a person’s true self. 

Having said all that, I am acutely aware of the fact that the pandemic is probably far from over, and that Covid is still circulating rapidly in France. I am also aware that people have varying levels of anxiety and trepidation regarding mask wearing, and that of course is to be expected and respected. It may even be that at some point we need to go back to wearing masks in schools for another stretch of time, and even though that would be hard for many of us, safety still needs to be our priority. At this point however, I am enthusiastically accepting the beautiful little gift that each and every soul-feeding smile is bringing to my days, and I hope you are too 🙂

When this is all over, and we reflect back on how we have been impacted by the pandemic, I think it is fair to say that the absence of face to face smiles has been one of the most difficult experiences that our world has had to navigate. Maybe though, in the not so distant future, when we emerge from this better and much stronger, we will commit to going out of our way to truly connect with each other more and more and more…face to face.

We will put our phones down a lot more often, and choose to connect in person with one another instead of through social media and email and text, which is mainly, and sadly, our current and learned default these days. Nothing beats the power of a smile, and over the past couple of weeks these smiles have never burned so bright! Here’s hoping it is something that lasts, because I have just finally stopped crying everytime I see a beautiful little face with a toothless grin. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

A smile remains the most inexpensive gift you can bestow on anyone, and yet its powers can vanquish kingdoms kingdoms – OG Mandino

Related Articles – 

The Power of a Smile

Choose to See Good

Smiling Still Matters

A Smile Can Change the World

Hiding Our Smiles

Inspiring Videos – 

Kindness 101

Injecting New Life

Pep Talks for Free

10 Things That Made Us Smile
TED Talk – The Hidden Power of Smiling

An Essential Reset

So I was speaking to a friend and colleague of mine the other day, about some of the difficulties that we have been collectively facing as a global society over the last two years, and our conversation eventually started to revolve around the themes of isolation and community. Knowing that we’ve gone through almost 24 months of mask-wearing, zoom meetings, limited gatherings, and a lack of human touch, it doesn’t come as a surprise that people are feeling isolated, and that sadly, our idea of community has become drastically altered. We even began wondering nervously if people have started to feel comfortable in this isolation, and finally, we began wondering whether transitioning out of the pandemic might actually be just as tricky as transitioning in. 

You see, living in a world for this long of a period of time, where the primary sources of communication are text messages, social media posts, emails, facetimes, and Zoom meetings is bound to become problematic, and it’s not much of a stretch to say that as a world we are a little worse for wear because of it all. It’s also not a stretch to consider how this problem might have actually started before the pandemic even hit hard back in 2020, but I digress. Anyway, these communication defaults and platforms have absolutely contributed to this isolation, and they have not only isolated us, but they have in many instances started to divide us as well. 

I have certainly been guilty recently of being triggered a social media post that was shared by a long time friend of mine, whose opinion is drastically different than mine, and instead of reaching out to connect with him and to seek to understand, my knee-jerk reaction was to hit the unfriend button…and I couldn’t believe that’s where my mind initially went. It’s just so easy these days to get sucked into our confirmation bias silos, and to lean away from the human connection thread that links us all together…sadly, that thread has become increasingly frayed over the past several months and what we need, in my opinion, is a complete reset. This essential reset needs to be rooted in kindness, understanding, and even a little bit of forgiveness, and as educators we should be leading the way. 

It’s interesting to think how it’s going to be those same foundational pillars of kindness and understanding, that helped us to struggle through the most difficult parts of the pandemic in the first place, which will be the ones that will help us to successfully transition out. The first step however, is to recognize that we have ALL been negatively affected by this experience in one way or another, and that the only acceptable response to any given situation these days is kindness. Once we lead with kindness, the only acceptable response to any given situation after that is to seek to understand. That, along with a willingness to forgive people for maybe not being at their best, or maybe being somehow changed (haven’t we all) over the past couple of years, needs to be our first step in our approach to transitioning out. 

That first step will be an important step into community building, where we prioritize sharing, listening, reuniting, celebrating, and relationships…smiling face to smiling face, away from our devices. For me, it’s exciting to be writing this post because it means that we are at a place where maybe, just maybe, there is a hope and some light that signals the beginning of the end of all of this. Regardless of that though, it’s time to open up our hearts to each other NOW, in meaningful ways, and to start rebuilding what has been lost. It’s about kindness, seeking to understand (especially when someone has a different perspective or stance than you) and forgiveness. It’s my belief that as hard as it has been for the world and for our community, we will get past this and emerge stronger than ever. My challenge to all of us, beginning this week, is to find the courage and the strength to begin that essential reset, and commit to leading with kindness, seeking to understand as your default stance, and to open up your heart to forgiveness…we will transition out of this together, and I know we will do it well. Have a fantastic week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

There is nothing more intimate in life than being understood and understanding someone else.

-Brad Meltzer

Related Articles – 

The Loneliness Pandemic

Acts of Kindness 

National Park Visits

The Importance of Kindness

Compassion in Key

Inspiring videos – 

Driven By Love

The Fairy Garden Friendship

The Inner Net (10 years old but still powerful)

20 Year Timelapse

10 Things That Made Us Smile This Week

TED Talk – Kindness at Work

Is It Friday Yet?

So I have to admit that the year 2021 was indeed a difficult one, for all of us, and this year has sadly started in an eerily similar fashion. It’s crazy to think that we have been living in this dystopian existence for almost two years now, and yes, it’s been deflating and demoralizing in so many ways. I also have to admit that even though I have had it much, much easier than most people, 2021 did finally start to take a toll on me, particularly through that final month of December. 

I consider myself the world’s most optimistic person by the way, and it takes a lot to get me down, which is why I was really surprised when I started to recognize a shift and a dip in my mood. I struggled to find that extra gear, and I began to find it hard to tap into my usually overflowing energy reserves. I found myself asking, “Is it Friday yet?” over and over again throughout the week, and before I knew it I had started pinning my happiness on the start of the weekend. I even started counting down the days until the school holiday break…yikes. It got to the point where I knew that I needed to share how I was feeling with the people closest to me, and I’m glad that I did because as it turned out, they were feeling it too…truthfully, I bet we all were. 

Anyway, since the holiday break I have done a lot of running and reflecting (and less eating and drinking), and I’ve started the new year in a much better place, my usual place. I feel like I’m back to my old self (thankfully) due to a few little tweaks that I’ve made to my attitude and mindset, and as usual, due to a great idea from my amazing wife. I started by re-reading the book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, which I highly recommend, and I pinpointed some triggers and routines that had started to become unproductive habits toward the end of the year. Then, once I identified what they were, I changed them as fast as I could. 

I started a new running route and routine, at a different time, with a goal attached to it for the Spring. I considerably cut down my use of social media, which was sucking the life out of me, seeing the endless posts of people sharing their best lives (staged or not), or hearing all about the latest Covid updates and opinions. I started to listen to music that I absolutely love in the mornings before school (80’s is my go-to recently), and as a foundational commitment, I chose a word…a word that will define my attitude and perspective over the next 12 months. I think I might even stick it up on my bathroom mirror to keep it front and center in my mind each and every day, which will help me to stay present. 

Listen, I’m not at all trying to trivialize the incredibly difficult year that so many people have had over the past 12 months, with the loss of jobs, or loved ones, or those people who are right now trying to survive a very real struggle with mental health, because my dip in mood obviously pales in comparison. If however, you are looking for a fresh start to a new year, or if you can’t seem to shake a low level sadness, dip in energy, or mild depression, then try shaking things up a little. As simple and potentially silly as these changes sound, they are actually working, and the shift and purposeful intent behind them has helped me bolster my joy and gratitude. The other important thing that I can recommend is to be vulnerable, and to open up to a few people that you trust so you can get the support and friendship that you need. Sometimes just talking about how you’re feeling can be cathartic enough to get you back on track. 

One thing for sure is that I’m going to stop asking, “Is it Friday yet?”, and get back to being more present in the day to day experiences of life. Happiness is not only found at the beginning of a weekend, it’s in the beautiful little moments embedded in each and every day leading up to a Friday afternoon…it’s time that I get back to practicing what I preach, and so far it’s been a much better start to 2022. Hang in there everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Quote of the week…

The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness – Abraham Maslow

Related Articles – 

Live in the Present Moment

Being Present and Effective

Are You Wishing Your Life Away?

Feeling Happier

Staying Positive In the Winter Months

Work – Life Balance is a Cycle

TED Talks – 9 talks

Protect Your Passions from Burnout

Break Out of Your Shell

Inspiring Videos – 

Cheerful Gowns

Young Adults Step Up

A Rekindled Romance

10 Things That Made Us Smile

TED – How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain

What To Read in 2022

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, as most of you know, that I have to finish reading all of last year’s books before I get to order new ones, and this year I just finished over the winter holiday…just in time!

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 or ten) 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, health and well-being, and culture building, with an overarching focus on becoming a better person and educator for our world…and a better, healthier version of yourself! 

Anyway, happy reading in 2022…a good book can be transformative in so many ways, so please make the time, I promise you it will be time well spent. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

Noise Daniel Kahneman

The Joy of Small Things – Jane Parkinson

The Power of Regret – Daniel Pink

Big Potential – Shawn Achor

Atlas of the Heart – Brene Brown

From Burnout to Balance – Patricia Bannan

Stolen Focus – Johann Hari

Raising Critical Thinkers – Julie Bogart

Embrace Your Almost – Jordan Lee Dooley

Because of a Teacher – George Couros

Uncommon Sense Teaching – Barbara Oakley

Quote of the Week – 

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life – W. Somerset

Related Articles – 

Why Reading is Good for You

Positive Benefits

The Science Behind It

Reading As An Escape

17 Reasons 

TED Talk – 

The Healing Power of Reading

Inspiring Videos – 

Hope For a New Year

Ice Rink Update

Listening is the #1 Skill

10 Things That Made Us Smile

A Doll Like Me

What I’m Thankful For

So here we are heading into the final three weeks of school before the winter holiday, and I feel compelled to re-share a post from a couple of years ago. As you all know, the month of December is right around the corner, and now is a good time I think to reflect on the many things that bring us joy and inspiration as educators. My hope is that these eight little things will resonate with you, again, and give you an extra boost so you take on these final days with energy, smiles, joy and gratitude. Reading these again certainly helped to frame the weeks ahead for me, so here we go…some things that I continue to be thankful for…

The Noise – Have you ever taken a few minutes in the day to stop and listen to the white noise of a school? If you haven’t then do it on Monday morning…it might just be the most beautiful sound you’ll ever hear. It’s a constant hum of laughing and learning, and failure and success, and teaching and determination and love. One of the best parts of my day is to walk down a hallway and to listen from outside the door to the sounds of kids engaged…or to stand off in the corner of the playground during recess time and listen to the shouts and squeals of happiness, as kids play and make new friends and learn how to fit in…it is definitely music to my ears, and without a doubt, the soundtrack to a beautiful day. 

A Child’s Beauty – Children are the best teachers that any of us could possibly have, and the most beautiful inspirations that exist in our world. It is impossible for someone to spend a day with a child and not come away inspired and changed for the better. If you really listen to what children say, and if you take the time to watch them interact with the world, your heart will fill with joy and your smile will stretch across your face. The way they notice the little things in life that we often take for granted, the way that they are constantly curious, the utter joy that spills from their bodies when they learn something new and find a little success, and their imagination, creativity, and willingness to fail and to try, try, try again…wow…there is nothing in our world like the beauty of a child. 

Committed Educators – Teaching is the most noble, honorable and important profession/vocation that we have in society, and quality teachers are as close to true and living superheroes that we have in our world. Committed educators are change agents…they are sculptors…they are artists…they are mentors…they are role models, and they are oftentimes under appreciated. No professional works harder than a committed educator in my opinion, with the sole focus and responsibility of moulding their students into positive change-makers for our world, and into empathetic, compassionate, critical thinking, and creative members of our communities. Quality teachers are truly amazing and deserve to be lauded for their tremendous efforts and contributions to the future of our planet. 

The Opportunity – The opportunity that we have as educators is incredible, and the responsibility is immense. The opportunity to re-imagine education and to break free from traditional schooling is in our collective hands, and there is no more exciting time to be an educator than right now. We have the ability to transform how we teach our kids, and how we design and redesign learning spaces, and how we write and deliver curriculum, and how we prepare our students for a rapidly changing world…awesome! We have the opportunity to be courageous and innovative and transformational…let’s seize it!

The Struggle – Watching kids learn, and grow, and fail, and develop is a beautiful struggle, and one that I will never get tired of being a part of. Growing up is hard, and trying to find your way in this world is difficult at the best of times. I love this struggle, and I love each child’s journey into becoming who they will eventually become. They all burn so bright, and their joy and pain is so open and honest and so on display. The struggle is incredible to watch, and it brings you back to that time in your life that shaped who you are. It’ll make you laugh and cry and get frustrated, and it will make you proud…but most importantly it will make you feel, and become a part of something truly special, which is each child’s journey into finding themselves, and their purpose…this struggle is at the core of what is beautiful about education. 

The Constant Learning – Each and every day I learn (and re-learn) something new. Being in classrooms and interacting with students and teachers is a constant learning process that makes me a better person. I learn from my mistakes, I learn from the mistakes of others, and I learn about people and how to best support and challenge them. I learn about current educational trends and research, I learn about what’s being successful in other quality schools, I learn from my outstanding leadership and admin teams, and like I said before, I learn from the best teachers that we have…our kids. They teach me everyday about the importance of being my best self for others, and to be humble and honest and a good listener. It’s staggering how much you can learn in the run of a school day if you just open yourself up to it.

The Unexpected – An educator’s day never goes as planned and I love it. The thing about school is that you never know from one second to the next what will come your way, and this uncertainty makes me love my job. There’s always an unexpected mini crisis or a student celebration or an issue with a parent or a teacher or a kid, and it keeps us on our toes in the best possible way. From one hour to the next you can be floored by a student accomplishment, you can be bewildered by a decision that a student or adult has made, you can have a belly laugh from something that a kid says to you, and you can be thrown into a situation that will break your heart…and it’s all good. An individual school day is just like a student…ever-changing, unpredictable, surprising, and always beautiful!

The Joy – If you’re like me then coming to school everyday brings you tremendous joy…how could it not? We get to hang out with kids all day long, we get to spend time with our colleagues who are also our friends, we get to learn and feel and become better human beings because of our daily interactions with our students and each other, and we get to shape the future of our little (and not so little) kids. What other profession can offer such a joyful and purposeful existence? Just when you start to feel stressed or frustrated or overworked, you turn the corner and run into a beautiful little kid, with a huge smile on their face, and so much joy in their hearts, and they run up to you and they give you a big hug and you just melt as their energy reminds you why you love school so much. I’m so grateful for what children bring to my life!

There are only a few weeks left until the holiday break everyone, so keep your energy up and keep your heart open to why you love school so much. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other. 

Quote of the week…

 Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses -Alphonse Karr

Inspiring Videos – 

Foster Dad

Reindeer Dog 

So Good – from 2018

Connection Seeking

So a couple of weeks ago at a child study meeting we began speaking about a beautiful little kid who has been struggling recently with his behavior, both inside and outside of the classroom. We were trying to figure out the root of his attention seeking behavior when all of a sudden it came to us that he wasn’t just seeking attention, he was desperately looking for some connections and a deeper sense of belonging. As the meeting was ending, our conversation turned to that whole idea of what we tend to refer to as “attention seeking”, and we agreed to start referring to it as “connection seeking” from now on. 

You see, something powerful happened when we started to look at his troubling behavior through this subtle lens change. It became much easier for us to get to the root of what he ultimately needed, and why he was displaying these behaviors in the first place. When framing the issue with the idea of connection and belonging in mind, we quickly moved past the behaviors themselves, and got to the cause and to the why with a greater sense of compassion and care. 

The timing of that meeting was important for me, because this past week was chock-full of difficult issues and conversations involving not only students but adults as well, and as it turned out, every one of those situations was rooted in the individual needing a deeper connection in one way or another. It got me thinking about our school-wide initiative around belonging, and how important it is for our school, and for all schools, to be digging into this work.

Just to be clear, when we talk about belonging, we’re talking about four specific areas under that umbrella term, which are: the need to be seen, heard, valued, and protected. So when dealing with a couple of the issues involving adults this past week, I actually went to a few members of the child study team, and we engaged in a kind of “adult study” dialogue, where we looked at the issue through that connection seeking lens. What we discovered was that in every instance the adult was not receiving what they needed from at least one of those four areas, and just like the little kid that we had discussed two weeks ago, the adults were simply seeking what they ultimately desired, a deeper sense of belonging…but isn’t that just what it is to be human? We all need to be seen, and heard, and protected, and valued, and if we have a deficit in one of those areas it will eventually show up in one way or another, and that isn’t specific to kids, it’s the same with all people I think. 

Anyway, with all that in mind, I’m going to start viewing the world through more of a “belonging” lens, and I’m asking you all to try it out as well. I think it will help us all to show up to certain situations with a little more care, and a little more compassion, and a little more love…I know it won’t hurt to have a little more of those in our lives. Have a wonderful week and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Communication Is merely an exchange of information, but connection is an exchange of our humanity – Sean Stephenson

Related Articles – 

Connection Seeking

The Fred Rogers Approach

Social Connection in Schools

Every Kid Needs to Be Seen

The Power of Being Heard and Seen

TED Talks – 

Connecting to Others

Inspiring Videos – 

Stealing the Show

Returning Some Hope

10 Things That Made Us Smile

Happy Thanksgiving

A Little Bit of Magic

So I was walking by the early childhood outdoor learning space the other day, when I stopped to chat with a couple of kids playing in the hedges beside the mud kitchen. They were very animated and very interested in some leaves that had fallen from the adjacent tree, and I asked them what they were looking at. They said, “We are looking for fairies because they live in these bushes and they float down from the sky on the leaves!” One of the little girls then said, “My brother says that fairies don’t exist but I know that they do, and I’m going to find one to show him”. I told them good luck and I went on my way, smiling and thinking about how beautiful that interaction was, and how quickly it made my day. 

Anyway, a couple of days later I was running through the park close to my house and I turned down a particularly gorgeous tree-lined trail. As soon as I did I noticed dozens of autumn leaves falling from the trees to the ground like soft, colorful snowflakes, and I all of a sudden began to imagine that each leaf had a tiny little fairy riding on it, just like the little girl had imagined. I even slowed down to pick one up, just for fun, to see if I could get that elusive evidence for her but of course, no such luck. As I got going again I started to think about what a gift it must be to see the world like those little kids do, with such imagination, and wonder, and with such a belief in magic and magical things. Things that make us wonder, and excited, and leave us with an absolute sense of awe. 

That beautiful run through the park, and that interaction with those fairy detectives opened up my heart to the fact that there is beauty and magic all around us, and sometimes we just need to be reminded to open up our eyes and look for it. Over the past week I have been trying hard to notice as many magical, awe inspiring things as I can, and you know what, it’s hard to keep count. Just in the last couple of days alone I’ve seen a double rainbow, shades of autumn colors that I have never seen before, a brightly colored woodpecker outside my house, a cotton candy sunrise and a sunset that looked like it was literally on fire. Not to mention the beautifully haunting sound of the wind just before it rains, and the smell of the world after the rain stops. It’s hard to even walk down the street without being stopped in your tracks by something amazing, but of course, you have to be looking. 

Even as I write this I’m looking out the window at two yellow roses that are hanging on tightly to their last few summer petals, and there is a little ladybug clinging to the stem of one of them….so cool. This little reminder has come at the perfect time too by the way, as the weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter and the light is getting scarce. The descent into winter is here and these little magical gifts will keep me going during this time of transition. It’s not lost on me that the nudge to open up my eyes to the beauty of our world came from a couple of children, oftentimes our greatest teachers. So with all that said, my challenge to you this week is to search for beauty everywhere you look, and even though you might not find a fairy floating down on a falling leaf, you might just find some joy and gratitude, which is sometimes all you need to keep you smiling through the colder and darker days. Enjoy this poem below, one of my favorites, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud

I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the milky way,

They stretched in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,

Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.

-William Wordsworth

Quote of the Week…

Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.

– Roald Dahl

Related Articles – 

Nature Creates Magic

Embed Magic Into Your Everyday Lives

Finding Magic

Unlock the Magic

The Science of Magic

The Magic of the Mundane

Inspiring Videos- –

Helping Dads

Setting Records

Things That Made Us Smile

The Restorative Potential of Nature’s Beauty – (TED Talk)

Cloudy With a Chance of Joy (TED Talk)

For the Love of Birds (TED Talk)

Fibonacci Magic (TED Talk)

Presuming Positive Intent

So recently as a school we have been digging deep into two wonderful professional development opportunities…Adaptive Schools and Cognitive Coaching. Learning about ways that we can better interact and collaborate with each other, both individually and in teams, is a huge opportunity for us to strengthen our relationships, and to build trust and vulnerability, which will ultimately bring us closer together as a community. I have been through this training before at a previous school and it was transformative then, so going through it again here at ASP is super exciting to say the least. 

Anyway, as I have reflected on the sessions thus far, and as I re-familiarize myself with the 7 norms of collaboration, I can’t help but feel that for me, the norm of presuming positive intent is truly the foundation of any successful human interaction. It’s a skill that will absolutely change your life for the better when developed and used consistently in conversations, meetings, and all other interactions that you have with others throughout the run of a day…truly. Like all skills however, it takes practice and discipline to get good at it, and to be honest, it’s much harder than you might think. 

The thing about presuming or assuming positive intent, which is the belief that people are in their heart always meaning well and doing their best, is that it gets you to think of others first, and not yourself, and this a muscle that needs strengthening over and over and over. I have often found myself in difficult meetings or contentious situations over the years where I feel myself getting defensive very quickly, and starting to take a person’s words or actions personally. I’m sure that this happens to all of us, maybe more often than we’d like to admit but here’s the thing…if you enter into a meeting with an open heart and an open mind, searching for the root of the issue and taking yourself out of the equation for a minute, you’ll find that people almost all of the time want a good result, and in many instances, they want the same result as you. 

When you presume positive intent you open up yourself to the notion that conflict usually comes from a place of fear, or insecurity, or a lack of trust, and with this in your mind you are better able to hear people, see people, and take the personal off the table so to speak. The other thing about presuming positive intent is that it allows you to enter into situations with a sense of caring, compassion, and with a willingness to forgive. Listen, people make mistakes all of the time, I know that I certainly do, but believing that these mistakes come from a place of well meaning changes the conversation and outcome, and it ultimately strengthens relationships.

In my life and in my job, like I am sure is true for you as well, I have difficult conversations all of the time, but I’ve become better at approaching them over the years. In fact, by developing the skill of presuming positive intent, and practicing this before I enter into a conversation, I have actually started to feel very comfortable with these experiences. I don’t always get it right of course, and being human I still get defensive once in a while, but having developed the skill of presuming positive intent through years of practice, I have positively changed my life. I have also learned to listen more intently, see people more clearly, and get to the root of an issue much more quickly.

Like I said, as educators and as human beings, we almost all of the time come to a space meaning well and wanting to do our best. We want people to know this about us, and we should commit to knowing this about others too. Once this happens we will all be better for each other and for our world, and honestly, our school and community will become a stronger, safer, and happier place. With all that said, my challenge for all of us this week, and in the weeks to come, is to practice this skill intentionally. Remind yourself when you enter into conversations, meetings, and interactions with others that everyone is meaning well and doing their best. Practice this skill of presuming positive intent and watch your life, and the lives of others start to change for the better…it has been working for me and I know it will work for you. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Gratitude in advance is the most powerful creative force in the universe

-Neale Donald Walsh

Related Articles – 

The Collaborative Way

Assuming Positive Intent 


Relationship Superpower

An HR Playbook

Making the Right Assumptions

Adaptive School Toolkit

Inspiring Videos – 

Invest in Kindness

School Bus Driver

Casting the Light of Kindness

Mel Robbins – Assuming Positive Intent

Improve Positive Thinking – Alison Ledgerwood

10 Things That Made Us Smile This Week

Knowing Your Community

So an interesting thing happened to me at the end of last year, which really opened up my eyes to how critical it is to spend the time getting to know your community…deeply. Not just the students and parents and faculty, but everyone who works so hard to ensure that our kids have their best possible experience each and every day. 

You see, we had a fantastic science unit planned for our kids around the importance of honey bees in our natural world, and one of the ideas was to bring in a beekeeper to talk to the students about honeymaking and pollination and all of the other incredible facts about our little black and yellow friends. So we went out and found a couple of local bee advocates who spent a few days enthralling our students and leaving them wanting more…especially more of the yummy honey samples.

Anyway, It just so happened that later that evening one of our experienced maintenance workers, who I thought I knew pretty well, stopped me and let me know that next time, he would be more than happy to speak to the students, as he is actually a certified beekeeper and this is his absolute life’s passion! Well, at that moment I felt terrible, and rightly so, because I had missed the perfect opportunity to connect our students with one of our community members, who, like all of us, has so much more to offer than simply the jobs that we are employed to do.  

I started to reflect on the opportunities that pass us by each and every day that might leverage the expertise and knowledge and inspiration that is right at our fingertips…literally. I missed this chance because I didn’t know this man as well as I could have, or should have, and this experience absolutely woke me up to some necessary work that I have to do…that we all have to do perhaps. This incidentally, connects very nicely to our school-wide initiative around belonging, where we are making a huge effort to ensure that all community members are seen, heard, valued, and purposely engaged.

Since that experience at the end of last year, I have done a much better job of getting to know the people in our building, who I thought I knew already but really didn’t, and I have found out so much! We now have members of our maintenance and facilities team going out on field trips with our kids and sharing their local expertise, we have members of our cafeteria team speaking to our kids about healthy eating and composting and food waste, and we have many of our cleaning and security staff helping out with our daily lunch and recess duties so they can get to know our students even better…and vice versa! 

By developing these relationships across our community, and by taking the time to get to know everyone inside and outside of our building, we will only become a stronger school. A school where everyone truly feels a sense of belonging, and where we uncover as many opportunities and possibilities as we can to not only enhance student learning, but to strengthen our relationships with each other as well.  So my question for you to ponder this week is…how well do you know the people in the building? If the answer is, not well enough, then go out of your way to change that around. We are stronger together as you know, and we are all here to support our kids…so reach out and take the first step, you might just be surprised by what you find out…I sure was, but never again. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much

-Helen Keller

Related Articles – 

The Power of Being Seen

Strength Based Community 

School Culture 

Community in Your Classroom

Leveraging Support

Inspiring Videos-

Field of Dreams

Every Opportunity

Relationships in Schools

Peace Train 

My Community – Bus Driver

Surprise Assembly

100 Jokes in 100 Days

To Be A Kid

So I have been spending a lot of time this week trying to get to know the names of our new students, which incidentally might just be the most critical aspect of my job as we begin the new school year. I have been eating lunch with them and hanging out with them at recess, and tracking kids down on the playground before school, and you know what, it’s given me plenty of time to reconnect with an undeniable and absolute truth, which is…kids are awesome! 

In my opinion, It is next to impossible to interact with a bunch of kids and not have your heart be filled with joy and love and hope. The other cool consequence is that you can’t help but to be transported back to when you were once a kid yourself, as you start to feel that sense of wonder, imagination, creativity, and playfulness that we all sometimes struggle to connect with as adults. 

This past week I’ve been playing tag, and playing school, and telling jokes. I’ve been in the mud kitchen and on the swings and on the slide, and I’ve been making up imaginary communities on the moon…so fun! I even had a chance to jump in a shallow puddle outside the early childhood area much to the delight of the little ones, as well as to the delight of my own inner child. It’s been one of the best weeks that I’ve had in quite some time, certainly since the pandemic began, and the takeaway for me is that obviously my inner kid has been bursting to come out, and I bet yours has been too.

We are so fortunate as educators to have the opportunity to be around young people each and everyday, and I know that collectively we are much better than most at letting our inner kid flags fly, but over the past 18 months or so it’s been very easy to be in constant adult mode as we all deal with the world as it is. Spending this past week purposely engaging with kids at play, and finding a way to become a part of their world, has been refreshing and in many ways therapeutic. Honestly, I actually think that I needed this past week as I jumped and sang and splashed around, and with how I’m feeling now, I’m going to keep it up next week too! 

Anyway, I highly recommend finding some time over the next couple of weeks to head down to the mud kitchen, or to take part in an Art lesson, or to even take a swing on the swings with kids daring you to go higher and higher. We all need to reignite that beautiful little kid spirit that is still deep down inside, and to reconnect with the beauty and joy of children…we have so much to learn from their approach to life, and from their ability to find inspiration in life’s simplest and smallest of pleasures. How lucky are we to have the opportunity to learn from children for a living…don’t take it for granted. So, get out there and play! Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week….

The most sophisticated people I have ever known had just one thing in common: they were all in touch with their inner child – Jim Hensen

Related Articles – 

Be a Kid Again Day!

Finding Your Inner Child

Live Like a Kid Again

Why You Should

Doing Childish Things More Often

TED Talks – 

Talks for Your Inner Child

Take The Time To Play

Inspiring Videos – 

Clean Slate

TheThank You Letter

Best Friends

Another Pep Talk