Category Archives: Daniel Kerr

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

Career Day Magic

So just before the April holiday our Middle School division hosted their annual Career Day for students, and it was inspiring to see so many professionals sharing their life passions and purpose with our kids. I overheard one student say, “I didn’t know that job even existed”, and another one said, “Wow, everyone sure loves their job in our community”, which may not be completely true, but at the heart of it, it really was the exact message that we are trying to send…love your work!

It reminded me of that old saying, “Love your job and you’ll never work a day in your life!”, and honestly I believe that there is a lot of truth to that, and just before the event began I had the opportunity to talk to several of the presenters about the key message that they were eager to share with the students. I was thrilled that the enduring takeaway message for students, from all of the presenters that I spoke to, revolved around the imperative of finding meaning and purpose in your chosen field, and the importance of following your passions once you find them. There was no talk about how much money they made, or how much power they had, or how influential they have become, it was singularly focused on the idea of making a difference in the world, and becoming a positive influence in the lives of others, all while staying true to who you are. Wow!

The best part of that day for me was that I had a chance to speak to dozens of students about the inspiring and meaningful career of international education, one that we are familiar with. It was heartwarming to see so many young people interested in the idea of education, and when I asked why they decided to attend my season, the overwhelming response revolved around the opportunity that teachers have to positively impact another person’s life. Each one of them spoke beautifully about how a teacher in their lives had empowered them and changed them for the better, and how that experience had inspired them to do the same…double wow! 

I gave the kids in my session the hard sell of course, connected to the meaning and purpose that educators bring to work with them every single day, and the opportunity that educators have to not only change a single person’s life, on a daily basis, but the opportunity that they have to indeed change the world…how many careers can promise that! After the sessions were over there was a palpable buzz in the hallways as students started talking about which career resonated most powerfully with them, and then, just as I was leaving to head back down to my office I heard two 8th grade students chatting. One said, “I’ll probably find a career in some profession that doesn’t even exist yet”, and her friend said, “Well, make sure you at least find meaning and purpose in it!”… nice 🙂 

Anyway, it truly was a magical day, and not only was it profound to have those professionals share their experience with our students, it was also incredible to partner face to face with our community again, finally, in a meaningful way on campus. The best schools leverage their parent community to inspire, just like our Middle School did on that day, and it was even more special that (completely unscripted) their collective message aligned so perfectly and so beautifully to our stance as a school. Meaning really is the new money, and seeing so many of our students inspired by that message made me smile from ear to ear. I’m so excited to see how these young changemakers inspire our world when they enter the world of work. Our future is in good hands that’s for sure! Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Life is about making an impact, not making an income

– Kevin Kruse

Related Articles…

The Why of Work

Finding Meaning at Work

Defining Your Purpose

Meaning is the New Money

Meaning and Purpose

Recommended TED Talks – 

What Makes Us Feel Good About Our Work?

Is There More to Being Happy?

Flow – The Secret to Happiness

How To Stop Languishing

How To Live Passionately

Inspiring Videos – 

Kindness 101 – Determination 

Runaway Cat

Kindness 101 – Inclusion

A Message That Still Rings True

So it was 10 years ago this month that a very close friend of mine, and a fantastic Middle School teacher with me at the time, died very unexpectedly and very quickly from an aggressive form of throat cancer. One day it was a sore throat and a difficult time swallowing, which we thought nothing of at the time (too much celebrating and spicy food perhaps), but then quite unbelievably, within a few short months he was gone. It seems strange to me that it has been a decade since he passed away, particularly since I think about him all the time, with his photo on my bookshelf in my office, but over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about him more than usual. 

I feel incredibly grateful that before he died I was able to sit with him on a few occasions to talk about love, death, regret, and about all of the things that he was grateful for in his life. We also talked about the deep sadness that he felt for having his life cut short so randomly and so unexpectedly. He had a message that he wanted, and needed, to pass on to me before he died, and once he did he wanted me to share it with others…so I did then, and I have tried to intentionally spread it around ever since.

The enduring sentiments, the life lessons, and the immediate call to action that came out of those honest and heartbreaking conversations with Jason positively changed my life forever, and made me a better father, friend, husband and leader. I actually shared much of his wisdom in the only TED talk that I have ever done, titled Living a Life Well Lived, and for the sake of memory and inspiration I decided to re-watch it this past weekend to see if I am still living up to the promise that I made to him during his final days. After watching it again, it struck me that the life lessons and wisdom that he shared with me ten years ago still ring true, and in fact, I think they are more important to me now than they were back in 2012, particularly thinking about our traumatic experience with Covid over the past couple of years. 

The things that he implored me to take to heart were simple, yet deeply profound, and at the time they shook me wide awake. They were a perspective and attitude check for sure, and a much needed “look in the mirror” moment for me that has shaped a significant portion of my life. Anyway, the things that he spoke about included the following…

  • Embracing your regrets, and using them to inspire you to do better.
  • Telling the people that you love that you love them..all the time!
  • Regularly thanking the people in your life who have made you smile, made you better, or  impacted your life in a positive way.
  • Checking your attitude. If there is something in your life that you want to change, change it. If you can’t, then change your attitude.
  • Intentionally paying attention to the person that you are for others, each and every day, and with every human interaction that you have.
  • Paying attention to the beauty of our world, and the little daily gifts that it offers up to each of us. Beauty is all around us, all the time.
  • Putting yourself first and keeping balance in your life.
  • Finding gratitude, and using that gratitude to drive your approach to living.

After watching the video again it struck me that because of what’s been happening over the last couple of years with the pandemic, and the sense of isolation and the disruption to community and relationships that we’ve all had to navigate, it’s the right time to share Jason’s message again. The truth of the matter is that we are only given today, and it’s up to all of us how we choose to spend it. We can use today to inspire, spread joy, lift each other up, and find gratitude, or we can show up in a way that deflates others, or even more sadly, we can allow the days to speed by invisibly, missing out on opportunities to connect and to truly live our best lives. 

The pandemic has shown us how incredibly important relationships are, and how necessary it is to leverage our community to inspire. It has also shown us how easy it is to get comfortable in isolation, and how easy it is to use digital and online connection as our communication default. Well, as the sun begins to shine and as we stare down the end of the school year, let’s use these lessons to finish strong, and to end what was another difficult year in a positive and uplifting way. Jason may be gone but his message certainly lives on in me, and I hope it can spread a little into your lives as well, as we rapidly approach the summer. Have a wonderful week ahead and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week…

Self-Care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

-Eleanor Brown

Related Articles – 

Work-Life Balance

Embracing Regret

Change Your Attitude, Change Your Life

The Ripple Effects of a Thank You 

The Benefits of Gratitude 

Inspiring Videos – 

40,000 Daffodils

10 Things that Made us Smile

TEDx Shanghai – Living a Life Well Lived

Embracing Regret – Daniel Pink

On the Road – Dear Mom

Community Celebrations

So we had our student-led celebration of learning conferences last week in the Lower School, and what a celebration it was! Not only was the day itself a true celebration for our entire community, the lead up to it was magical as well, as teachers, students and parents worked collaboratively together to prepare for this important showcase. 

As the students left for home in the afternoon before conference day, there were so many comments like, “Mr. Kerr, I’m so excited to show my parents how much I am learning in writing and math!”, and “My parents are going to be so proud of me, and you know what Mr. Kerr, I’m really proud of myself too!”, and heartwarmingly, one little boy said, “I love school so much and I can’t wait to tell my parents all the reasons why”. 

On the day after the event it was the parents’ turn to flood my inbox with positive comments, mostly about how much they enjoyed the opportunity to partner with the school, how impressed they are with our teachers, and most importantly, how grateful and inspired they are with the amount of growth that their child has shown throughout the year. All of these celebrations got me smiling for sure, as it was indeed a great day, but it also got me thinking about the need for us to start doing even more of this!

With much of the world slowly learning how to live with Covid, I think that we can begin to dream about ways, as a school, that we can start building a robust and vibrant on-campus community again…and celebrations will be at the heart of that. I spoke briefly in my last post about needing to get together more face to face, and how we will need to “get to know” each other again as a school community, and celebrating our teachers, our parents, and of course, our students is absolutely paramount. 

Our recent student-led conference celebration proved that there is such a strong desire to reunite the school, from all sides, and when we finally do open back up to parents, creating opportunities for community involvement and community celebration will be huge. I’m so excited to get parents back on campus at some point, and honestly, the situation that we’ve all been in over the past two years has really shone a light on how important “community” really is to a school. Honestly, we just haven’t been the same without it, and I’m excited and inspired to prioritize this when we are finally able…not long now I hope 🙂

You see, In my opinion, the best schools have strong parent partnerships, and a strong, connected and family-like community. Where everyone works together to support our kids and their learning, and where we all come together to celebrate each step and milestone along the way. Our student-led conferences were a great example of that, and we can use it as a jumping off point as we look to reunite on campus in the not so distant future. In the meantime, keep looking to find ways in your classrooms or in your departments to celebrate, celebrate, celebrate, and I will do the same. Have a wonderful week ahead everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other. 

Quote of the Week….

Remember to celebrate milestones as you prepare for the road ahead – Nelson Mandela

Inspiring Videos – 

Driven By Love

An Inspiring Adoption

The Power of Forgiveness 

Kindness 101 – This Week – Optimism

10 Things That Made Us Smile This Week

Being Called Beautiful

TED Talk – The Value of Kindness at Work

TED Talk – Where Joy Hides and Where To Find It

Related Articles – 

Celebrating Students

Celebration Activities

School-Wide Events

Impact Your School

Celebrating Student Success

Internal Motivator

A Day to Celebrate Each Student

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