Category Archives: Daniel Kerr

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 

Edutopia 

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

The Notion of a Growth Heartset

So last week at our new family orientation event, I ran into a joyfully bright eyed and eager second grade girl who could not have been more excited about starting her new school life at ASP. She was mostly excited about the idea of making new friends, and she went on to tell me at length all about her foolproof strategy, which made me tear up and burst out laughing all at the same time. She said, “making friends is easy for me because I just show them my heart, and that’s all you need to do!” 

Of course I thanked her for sharing that, and mentioned that I was absolutely sure that her strategy would indeed work well for her this year. Sure enough, on the first day of school this week I saw her buzzing around the playground spreading joy and love and positive energy everywhere she went, with kids completely and helplessly drawn to her and following along, as she left rainbows and sunbeams all around them in her wake. 

That interaction with my new student inspiration got me thinking about the notion of a growth “heartset”…which is ultimately a kindness of the heart approach to life and school. This approach is something that we could all use a little more of these days as we begin another school year. I found a wonderful definition of heartset in one of the articles that I’ve included below, and it defines it as, “an energy field of self-awareness, non-judgment (acceptance), peace, caring, positivity, giving, forgiving, and compassion that allows us to more freely and proactively be a force for good. A growth heartset creates an emotional environment in which we and the young people we teach can flourish in spite of the uncertainties and challenges that are so prevalent today.” 

Well, this notion aligns perfectly with the commitments that we have made as a faculty and as a school over the past few years, and in my opinion, having a growth heartset is what quality teaching and great schools are all about. I know we’ve done incredible work with our kids over the past several years around the importance of having a growth mindset, which is a frame of mind, and now I think it’s time to extend that work to include this important notion of a growth heartset, which is a frame of the heart, and to start using the term heartset with our community.

It really is a fantastic word to use with our kids, as it encompasses so much of what we are trying to do in our approach to teaching, learning, and school. Having a growth heartset ties in so nicely with our motto of, “You Are the Weather”, and even though the culture and climate of our lower school is super solid, there is always more that we can do to enhance our daily interactions with our kids and with each other. So, my challenge to you as we begin a new year, a year that is full of promise and possibility, is to be even more like our new ray of sunshine in second grade and simply… show them your heart…that’s all you have to do! It really is a foolproof strategy. Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

When you lead with your heart, love and connection will follow

-Unknown

Related Articles – 

Transforming Teaching and Learning

Lead With your Heart

The Heart of Teaching

A Mindshift for Teachers

Starting the Year Off With Joy

Community Building Ideas

Inspiring Videos – 

Hokey Pokey

No Plans To Retire

Made Us Smile This Week

Opening Doors 

Find Your Voice

Heroes Down the Home Stretch

So here we are, finally staring down the last few weeks of school, and as I think back over the last ten months or so, the only thought that I can come up with is, wow, that was quite a year. I guess what I really want to share this week with all of you is a heartfelt thank you, and a joyous congratulations, for your Herculean and heroic efforts throughout arguably the most difficult year of our professional lives. It really has been a year like we’ve never seen before, and a year that we never could have imagined, and yet together we somehow found a way to navigate through it successfully, and keep our students happy, engaged, and learning…a Herculean and heroic effort indeed. 

The last ten months have certainly taken their toll on all of us that’s for sure, as our levels of anxiety have been constantly on high since day one. We never knew when a covid cluster would hit, or if one of us would get sick, and we learned some hard lessons around what it really means to be resilient and adaptable. When I stop and look back over it all, much of it seems like a blur honestly, and I’m left feeling a little dizzy and overwhelmed, but you know what, I feel a lot grateful and proud as well…we all should. We took on so much this year as a faculty, even with the pandemic playing havoc at times, and we should all take a few moments this week to celebrate all that we’ve accomplished as a community. It’s really impressive actually how we’ve managed to keep committed to our goals as a school, and to use the lessons that we’ve learned to become better educators, better leaders, and in many ways, better people.

Besides saying a huge thank you for all that you’ve given to our kids and to each other throughout this craziest of years, I also want to implore all of us to finish strong, and to find just a little bit more strength to get through that final sprint. The last few weeks of a school year can be tough as you know, even in the best of times, as fatigue begins to set in, and as the onslaught of emotions that comes along with saying goodbye to students and colleagues and friends inevitably starts to knock us off balance. With all of that fatigue and emotion dragging us down we still have to be at our best with all that is still left to do…we need to find a way to finish strong, as hard as that may be. 

As tired as we all are, and as eager as we all are to get to the summer, the next three weeks will give us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on all that has gone well in spite of it all. All of the personal and professional learning that we have obtained, all of the growth that we see with our students, all of the silver linings that have come out of this most unusual of school years, and all of the ways that we can take what we’ve learned this year and use them to make next year incredible, as we rise up better and stronger than ever. 

Thank you again to all of you, for your strength, resiliency, and unwavering commitment in the face of adversity…you truly are heroes…heroes down the home stretch. We’re almost there so let’s lean on each other and finish strong. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

If you have to put someone on a pedestal, put teachers. They are society’s superheroes. 

-Guy Kawasaki

Inspiring Videos – 

Sign Wars

A Second Chance

10 Things That Made Us Smile

Related Articles – 

Teachers are the Heroes We Need

10 Reasons

Finish the Year Strong

Changing Roles

What Are We Learning?

Unpacking Our Trauma, Celebrating Our Growth

So last week I had a long, and as it turns out, a much needed conversation with a great friend and colleague of mine. We talked about the past year and a half, and how incredibly hard it has been for everyone, and for our world, and you know what, that conversation for me was cathartic. At one point he used the word “trauma” to describe some of his low points since the pandemic began, and for many people that is exactly what the last 18 months or so have been…traumatic.

Trauma as we all know, is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, and it can cause feelings of helplessness, loneliness and isolation. It can diminish a person’s sense of self, and it impacts a person’s ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences. Well, what people have gone through lately certainly fits this definition, and I think the first step toward healing is for all of us to find space to unpack and talk about how we have been affected and changed since this all began. 

To be honest, I’m not very good at opening up about my darker feelings, and I’m outwardly as happy and optimistic as anyone that you’ll ever meet, so the conversation with my friend was a little uncomfortable at first. As it went on however, it started to feel good to say out loud how I was feeling, and to verbally articulate how much I’m struggling with the way the world is these days. It can be overwhelming if you stop and think about all of it, which is why it is so easy not to, so many of us keep focused on the silver linings and little joys and gratitudes as a nice defense mechanism…I’m really good at that by the way, but I’m not sure it’s all that healthy as a solitary and full-time approach. 

Saying that this past year has been hard is a colossal understatement, as people have lost jobs and loved ones, been sick (in some cases more than once), been locked down and isolated away and in most cases deprived of many things that make them happy. We haven’t been able to hug or touch or even see people’s faces, we haven’t been able to travel, many of us haven’t seen family for almost two years, and every day is an uncertainty. The level of stress and the type of stress that people are experiencing is unprecedented and people are afraid. 

For educators specifically, we are struggling to be our best professional selves in this new normal, and we are all desperate for the things that we took for granted, like a face to face happy hour, or a sit down lunch with a friend, or a simple conversation with a student without a mask on. We’re all so tired of it and we all just want to take off our masks and smile and share a hug with someone…anyone. For our students, it’s also been really difficult. Many of the best parts about school are gone for them, and for seniors, it’s happened at the absolute worst time. For the kids who find their identity through sport or theater or social connections it has been devastating. So, let’s talk about it…we need to.

Before the end of the year, as we carve out time to meet and reflect about the year in teams and as a larger division and school, we will have an opportunity to share how we’re feeling, and how we’ve been affected, and by sharing we can find strength in our collective trauma. Like I said, sharing and listening and empathizing can be a cathartic experience, and I think it’s essential that we do this first, before we have the important conversations about how much we’ve grown, and how much we’ve learned, and about all of the good things, the silver linings, that will eventually come out of this. 

In a strange way that conversation with my friend buoyed me a little and I felt lighter and ready to return to my smiley and optimistic self…I think that talking about the hard parts of your year will help you too. Anyway, the end of the school year is in sight so hang in there and lean on each other for support. Together we will unpack our trauma and then celebrate our growth, which will in both instances make us a little bit better and a little bit stronger. Have a wonderful short week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. Oh yeah, Happy Mother’s Day for all you incredible mothers out there!

Quote of the Week…

Listen. People start to heal the moment they feel heard.

-Cheryl Richardson

Inspiring Videos – (Mother’s Day Themed)

Bucket List Journey

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Knowing What You Don’t Know

So I’ve read a number of great books so far this year, and one of them has resonated so profoundly with me that I feel compelled to talk about it this week in the hopes that you decide to pick it up for yourselves…you won’t be disappointed. The book is called, Think Again, written by an organizational psychologist, speaker and writer named Adam Grant, and in my opinion, it might just be the most important book that you read all year. 

This book is the perfect book for all of us right now, because we live in a world where it is so easy to be blinded and blanketed by our own confirmation and implicit biases. Our social media platforms love to feed us what we want to hear and see, and that coupled with the entrenched belief that we know what we know, means we don’t always show up with an open mind when confronted with a difference of opinion. In fact, we are often so convinced that we are right in our views and opinions that we preach and prosecute without listening or questioning or considering at all…and that can be a dangerous roadblock in the search for truth, fact and common ground.

This book implores us to constantly think like a scientist, so we refuse to let our ideas become ideologies, and so we are daring enough to disagree with our own arguments. Grant says that, “thinking like a scientist involves more than just reacting with an open mind, it means being actively open minded. It requires searching for reasons why we might be wrong, and not for reasons why we might be right, and actively revising our views based on what we learn”. 

This book is a necessary reminder that it is essential that we all learn how to unlearn, and how to re-think, and to think again…rethinking is a skillset and a mindset, and something that I would argue we can all get better at. Grant talks about how our ways of thinking can often weigh us down, and we don’t bother to question them until it’s too late. Further to this, he discusses why it’s so hard for us to re-think…because it’s scary. Questioning ourselves not only makes the world more unpredictable, it also requires that the facts that we once thought were true may have changed, and what we once thought was right may now be wrong. 

Grant says that, “reconsidering something that we believe in deeply can threaten our identities, making it feel like we are losing a part of ourselves”, and “when a core belief of ours is questioned, we tend to shut down rather than open up”. I know that I am and have been guilty of this at times in my life, and reading this book it gave me the push that I needed to get in the habit of re-evaluating, reflecting, opening up, and really listening to the other side of an argument, especially when I know the other person is “wrong”. 

Anyway, do yourself a favor…no, do the world a favor and read this book. It’s a fantastic mix of rich storytelling and current research, and it will open up your mind to your own confirmation biases, as well as to the implicit biases that have sneakily become a part of who you are…like I said, you won’t be disappointed. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

The Curse of knowledge is that it closes our minds to what we don’t know. 

– Adam Grant

Related Articles –

Do You Know What You Don’t Know?

Languishing

Persuading the Unpersuadable

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Inspiring Videos – 

High School Baseball

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The Reverse Selfie 

366 Nights

A Made-Up Word

Adam Grant – Think Again

Armchair Expert Podcast – Adam Grant Returns (Think Again)