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

Low Stakes, Easy Entry, Effective PD

with Jennifer Carlson, Hamline University

Recently a group of colleagues and the two of us, Jennifer and Paul, experimented with what might have been the easiest PD experience we ever set up. 

A half dozen of us, from Minnesota to Malaysia, agreed to meet on Zoom over a month’s time: three Saturday afternoons, every other week. We chose the topic, Uplift, in advance. During our first Zoom we talked about what Uplift in education might be. During the following two weeks we used WhatsApp (1) to share moments of Uplift in our teaching and working roles and (2) to reflect about the role of Uplift in learning. After two weeks we checked in with a Zoom, then spent two more weeks on WhatsApp before finishing with the final Zoom. Four weeks, one topic. Free and entirely voluntary.

We did not start with a firm definition of Uplift, nor for that matter did we all end with the same definition. Not everyone who participated was able to be at every Zoom. Some contributed a lot to the discussions, others little. We benefited from the experience in different ways and to different degrees. The process was self-organized, easy, non-threatening, and we loved it. 

*****

Here’s why:

Paul: My colleague Bill Tihen first introduced me to the notion of Uplift to address the uneasy feeling that teaching often feels like a deficit model. Students are missing knowledge, points are deducted, and we tell students they need to catch up. Learning, however, is an additive sort of thing. We enjoy discovering, questioning, hypothesizing, catching on, seeing something from a new angle, having a sudden insight, and gaining a new perspective. Especially perhaps when we are furthering our knowledge about something we know about, or getting better at something we already do well. 

So how do we shift from a deficit to an additive model of learning? Well, in part, by identifying and practicing Uplift. We talk about it as a practice, something that you need to continually work on, intentionally. It is a practice in the way that a painter works on their art, a writer on their craft, a Buddhist on their meditation. We think it’s a practice that teachers should think about and do more of. The WhatsApp messages focused me on Uplift as a practice. My awareness of Uplift increased and I began to look for it consistently each day. My awareness also brought into relief moments when I chose different paths – ones that had nothing to do with Uplift. 

The experience made my interaction with students and colleagues a bit better. I am willing to say that it made me a better and happier person. It also piqued my interest in sharing this model, since a small group can pick any topic they would like to think about, for any length of time, for no cost. It’s a Meetup with support between sessions; it’s a support group; it’s a community of learning; it’s a reminder to reflect; it’s an essential question. And the format is nearly universally available.

Jennifer: When I learned of and joined in with Paul and Bill’s interest and work with Uplift, I made the connection that I had been doing Uplift in my university courses. For the last few years, I have been consciously making the commitment to inject each class session and module, whether face to face, blended or asynchronous, with positivity, hope, joy and … well … uplifting moments. My version of Uplift provides defining moments of happiness. This has taken the form of photos, positive quotes from diverse authors, filmmakers, artists, and poets, notes of encouragement, and reminders to students to take a moment to be good to themselves. I have thought of it as an approach to a hopeful humankind, yet very person-focused, and a celebration of positive personal experience. 

This additive approach to learning and collaboration shined through in the messages from colleagues in the Whatsapp messages and Zoom discussions. Suddenly, for me, Uplift was everywhere. I realized that it was simply being open to seeing it, feeling it, and sharing our experiences and noticings of it. My heightened awareness of Uplift caused a shift in how I communicated, collaborated, and communed with others. There was much more joy, happiness, and a greater willingness to let the small challenges slide away. 

*****

Where do we go from here? We have run a successful trial of an easy approach to focus attention on a specific area of teaching and learning. The approach can be adapted to any topic, led by any colleagues who can agree on a time to meet, and without cost. 

We could defend the approach by referring to the literature. We could replicate the process with our same group, exploring a different topic. We could each create a new group, with new colleagues, on new topics. We could suggest a PD model for schools in which each participant creates a WhatsApp group, on a theme, with colleagues elsewhere in the world. 

Or, in the spirit of Uplift, simplicity, and collaboration, we could simply share with you how good it feels to be in charge of your own professional development, in a non-judgmental, self-selecting community, on a topic of your own choice.

Give it a shot!

*****
We met in Summer 2018 in the visiting scholar program of the Leysin American School Educational Research Center, Jennifer as a visiting scholar, Paul as the host and director. The Center’s motto is “Continually becoming the professionals we already are.” Its main theme is self-regulation. And its guidelines for effective professional development include these four attributes: classroom-based, collaborative, autonomous, and on-going.

GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

Here are some wonderful new releases that all feature animals. Some focus on movement, others on the animals’ special features. Some are fiction, most are nonfiction. But all of them are great to share with students and young readers!

Animals Move

Looking for a fun book to share with preschool or kindergarten? Animals Move by Jane Whittingham is a picture book with padded cover and thick pages, for little ones. And kids won’t even realize they are learning while having fun. The book introduces names of baby animals and adults. Did you know that a baby porcupine is called a porcupette? Text and photos show animals jumping, wriggling and pouncing while a child makes all the same moves. Fun to read, then jump up and go through all the activities together. ISBN 978-1-77278-238-7, Pajama Press

Room for More

Room For More, Michelle Kadarusman, illustrated by Maggie ZengTwo wombats dig a burrow in the Australia’s bush. Soon wallabees, koalas and many others stampede by in search of shelter from wildfires. Then den gets very crowded but there’s always room for more. And the kindness of the wombats is repaid by their friends when the rains come down and threaten their burrow. A picturebook that works on many levels: Australian wildlife, natural disasters, friendship and more. With nonfiction information on back pages. ISBN 978-1-77278-252-3, Pajama Press

Time to Shine: Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals by [Karen Jameson, Dave Murray]

A unique picture book about animals is Time To Shine, Celebrating the World’s Iridescent Animals, by Karen Jameson with art by Dave Murray. This book features on animal – an insect, a snake, a bird, etc. – on each page with short, rhyming text. The iridescence and its cause or effect is then explained in a small text box. This way the book can work for young readers as well as for slightly older budding scientists. ISBN 978-1-77306-462-8, Groundwood Books

Finding Moose

In Finding Moose, by Sue Farrell Holler and Jennifer Faria,  a child and her grandfather set off for a quiet walk in the woods, hoping to spot a moose. They don’t see moose but they do see small critters, birds, moose droppings and more. All along grandfather shares their native names in Ojibwemowin, language. A gentle story about bonding in nature. ISBN 978-1-77278-244-8 Pajama Press

Beastly Puzzles: A Brain-Boggling Animal Guessing Game

Beastly Puzzles by Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler is my new favourite picturebook about animals. With incredible fold-out pages, the book is a guessing game into the amazing weirdness of nature. Each page asks questions to get kids thinking: what animal could you build with three billiard balls, dinosaur feet, some feather dusters and a vacuum hose? An ostrich, of course! Great art by Byron Eggenschwiller makes the impossible seem possible as each spread unfolds. A book that will be loved by young naturalists as well as by budding inventors and will lead to hours of read-aloud fun while learning impressive animal facts. ISBN 978-1-77138-913-6, Kids Can Press

Margriet Ruurs is the Canadian author of many books for children. To book her for author presentations at your school, visit: www.margrietruurs.com

Let it stay-the gun

Image generated by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on Canva.com

At the tip of a gun

Is the story of many

The bullet that is nested in its womb

Does not want to see the day

Let it stay.

For once delivered it will never return

Never bring back all that it snatches

Lives, memories, trust, innocence, love, peace, sanity, soul, family

When you have so much to say and yet you cannot say

Let it stay.

For there will be no order for it to stay.

There will be no one to put a stop

As it brings our world to a stop

I stop and wonder, is this why I go on

To see the bullet rip into the gone

Let it stay.

The bullet speaks to me, begs me

Don’t build any more schools as guns will not go away

Kill it all before it kills a child, the school or the gun, kill it

The bullet wants to be buried and returned to ashes

Before it buries more

Let it stay.

For the pain will stay and this pain will rise

Rise and revenge will call a gun again

The bullet told us so, kill or it will kill you

When will it stop, never as it waits in the womb of a gun

To be released, to be lodged, to be validated for this reason or that

Let it stay.

It will rise again, kill again, and laugh at us

Who take it with open arms, die for it, kill for it

We created it to protect us, from what?

Our children, our brothers, our sisters

Yes, we did, and we made our enemies the day we got the gun

Let it stay.

Give it another day and it will take us all

For it was born to destroy and it will take us all

For no time machine or words of sympathy

Can bring back the gone, the young and the lost

They die and we kill another one

Let it stay.

The memory of the hurt and pain don’t forget

For it shall raise the gun again

And spare none, this time it will be you yes you and your child.

How do you feel? Keep a gun to protect yourself and kill someone?

But the bullet is for your child, the blood is of your child

What did you save and what did you kill? Think and

Let it stay.

The feeling that this is enough, let it stay.

The crushing sadness of loss, let it stay.

The blood on the hands, let it stay.

The memories of the day, let it stay.

I have a lot to say but I will let it stay.

Let it stay-the gun.

What Slowing Down Might Teach Us

Image: Iroquois Chiefs from the Six Nations Reserve reading Wampum belts in Brantford, Ontario

Poquaûhock sounds better than “clam.” Translated “horse fish,” this was the word used by the Narragansett people, an Algonquian American Indian tribe from Rhode Island, to refer to the “quahog,” an edible clam with a very hard shell.  The Atlantic Ocean-dwelling native is of much greater historical importance than an addition to a chowder. The shells of the quahog were initially invaluable in the creation of tools, for storytelling and for recording important historical events and treaties. Beads of the polished quahog shell were crafted and strung in strands, belts, or sashes called wampum.  And wampum belts sometimes were symbolic of ongoing treaties.  So treasured, First Nations’ wampum became Massachusetts’ first legal currency.  The species name mercenaria is even related to the Latin word for commerce. 

Yet, with such rich history there is even more to marvel. Inside the marine bivalve mollusk is a soft-bodied invertebrate. One that can live upwards of 500 years! Besides living in intertidal zones and the adaptability this may showcase, the mollusks behavior is one we might stand a chance to learn from. There is a sort of simplicity, a slowing down of time that anthropomorphically must result, as they spend their entire lives in an immobile and isolated state. Yet, the clam is capable of burrowing down or even migrating small distances if in danger.  Otherwise, they remain steadfast. Possibly for centuries!

This is not about becoming more like mollusks. Rather, a glimpse into what behaviors we might begin to bolster, in order to have longer but also improved lives. Moreover, lives where we do not simply exist, but relate as individuals, communities, and to all other life forms.  Connected, balanced, and in life’s flow, symbiotically moving with purpose and defined by shared values.  Slowing down may just be the secret ingredient. Daniel Christian Wahl, author of Designing Regenerative Cultures attests to how we have much to gain when we envision time differently, “A new cultural narrative is emerging, capable of birthing and informing a truly regenerative human culture.” Underlying is a notion of what may very well be our greatest currency, time. The pandemic assisted us in understanding this. Time to pause. Time to reflect. Time to spend time with family. To take more walks. An opportunity to realize what matters most. The frenetic mornings, claustrophobic offices, occupied minutes and hours in traffic and meetings better served as memos. A dawning realization, akin to the sunrise, of primordial potence.

Find More Than Humanity When We Slow Down

National Geographic explorer Paul Salopek, is retracing the journey of some of our human ancestors’ migration beyond Africa. Called, Out of Eden, Salopek is In his tenth year along the 24,000-mile odyssey. Humble Salopek repeatedly seems to pen the phrase, “I am walking across the world.” Said in passing much like one might say, “I’m going to stop by the store.” In the  tenth year of ambling, Salopek is currently in a Tibetan autonomous county in Sichuan Province. In a recent story Salopek shared how this fictional dreamland of Shangri-La was inspired by James Hilton’s 1930s novel Lost Horizon. “Hilton wrote breathlessly of the Shangri-La lamasery… It was a redoubt of ‘utter freedom from worldly cares’ where time paused and people lived for 250 years.”

Half the life of the quahog!

Though there is no univocal definition or description of Slow Journalism, an ambition of speed is absent.  So too are oversimplification and stereotyping.  Walking is the preferred mode of transport, in effect forcing one to slow down and observe carefully. One of the catchphrases of Out of Eden is, “Slow down, find humanity.” I am certain from reading the philosophical Salopek’s writings, what is learned goes beyond the limits of just finding humanity. Possible because time is re-imagined.

A Look to the Trees

German Nobel Prize novelist and poet Hermann Heese is remembered for his body of work centered on an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In Heese’s ​​1920 “Collection of Fragments,” one passage especially stands out, attesting to the power of time. 

“When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts… Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all…

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

A New Currency of Connectedness and Time 

That we might take the time to root ourselves, like the trees. Trusting and patient. Wise, listening, and connected. 

In my third year living in a Southeast Asian city of upwards of 15 million inhabitants, concrete prevails more than the trees. Yet, I have repeatedly retreated to lone trees, as forests are seldom to be found. And I have received confirmation. A message of hope, remembrance that I am fortunate to have a life of choice. Conscious and unhindered, I am both imbued and revitalized by responsibility. Embracing uncertainty and ambiguity, while synchronously returning to a less complex story of unity. 

One where we are reminded of a new currency, connectedness and time.  Where quahogs and trees are more than mere metaphors of life and longevity. A purposeful and promising path forward.  May the summer help us all reimagine time.

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GLOBAL BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS

There’s a fine line between reading picture books aloud to children and children being able/wanting to read by themselves. Even if their interest level is high, sentence structure can be difficult to master. Here are chapter books and graphic novels to help encourage reading.

Super Detectives! (Simon and Chester Book #1)

Graphic novels can help beginning readers to master a whole book. The Simon and Chester books by Cale Atkinson are fun stories, divided into chapters, about a boy and his ghost best friend. Together they solve mysteries in Super Detectives!. They have adventures in Super Sleepover! Together they learn to rely on each other to get them out of difficult situations like ‘how to behave at a sleepover’ or finding a lost dog’s home. Through humorous adventures, without violence, and in graphic novel format, these books will encourage beginning readers to master a whole book in no time. ISBN 978-0-7352-6742-8 ISBN 978-0-7352-6744-2, Tundra Books

Hermit Hill

Another graphic novel but for somewhat older readers and with a delicious added twist of mystery and supernatural… is the Sueño Bay Adventures series by Mike Deas and Nancy Deas. The fabulous art sweeps the chapters along with exciting characters that have new adventures in each title. In Hermit Hill they meet Hivers, tiny Moon Creatures who play a role in the health of the forest. Can Sleeves overcome the ancient curve that surrounds them? ISBN 978-1-4598-3149-0, Orca Book Publishers

Esme's Birthday Conga Line

Esme’s Birthday Conga Line by Lourdes Heuer and Marissa Valdez is a chapter book that really encourages emerging readers. Esme’s grandparents did not plan much for her birthday. But Esme sets out to organize her own party complete with cake, a piñata and music as she invites all occupants of her apartment building, including the grumpy caretaker.  ISBN 978-0-7352-6940-8, Tundra Books

Some readers struggle because of learning difficulties. The following novel about a dyslexic child was reviewed by Beatrix, age 10:

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael is a book about a girl named Louisa, who dreams of being the youngest Broadway playwright in history, as well as the youngest Cirque du Soleil gymnast. But for now, she’s in fifth grade, with two best friends (Lexie and Nakessa), ADHD and dyslexia, and a teacher, Mrs Snyder, who seems to hate her. Then Lou’s mom delivers some bombshell news: Lou is going to be a big sister—to twins! Will she ever get to spend time with her mom after the babies are born? This book is amazing. I could really feel what Lou was feeling. I am in fifth grade, so I could relate to a lot that she goes through, and I couldn’t put it down until the end. I recommend it!  ISBN 978-1772782585, Pajama Press

Word After Word After Word

Not long ago prolific author Patricia MacLachlan passed away. We all know her book Sarah, Plain and Tall. But I looked up some of her latest, perhaps lesser known books and fell in love with Word After Word After Word. Designed as an easy-read novel for kids beginning to tackle chapter books, this one is also a wonderful story to read aloud to a class. Written in a poetic style, with lots of poems written “by kids”, the book celebrates a visiting author who teaches poetry to the children. Undoubtedly, MacLachlan wrote the story based on true classroom experiences. A great book to follow up by writing free verse poems with students. ISBN 978-0-06-027971-4, Harper Collins

The Poet's Dog

And finally another title by Patricia MacLachlan, slightly older but still readily available and one that young readers will love: The Poet’s Dog. In this poetic chapter book two children wander in a snow storm. A large, lovable dog comes to their rescue and takes them to his deserted home. Having been raised by a poet, surrounded by books, it comes as no surprise that this dog can talk and the children can understand him. The new friends bond, keep each other from being lonely until they are found. And, as suitable in such a lovely fairy tale story, there is a happy ending. ISBN 978-0-06-229264-3, Harper Collins 

Margriet Ruurs is the author of many books for children. She conducts author workshops at international schools around the world. Book her through her website: www.margrietruurs.com

What is your single story?

Image created by Shwetangna Chakrabarty on canva.com

Recently I was showing my senior students Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk The Danger of a Single Story. This led to an interesting discussion on ‘Single Stories’. As per Adichie, a single story is a one-sided perspective of something or someone. Single stories have the power to create false interpretations of the actual story. She coins the term Nkali to describe the power that creates false one-sided interpretations. For example, single stories about India narrate spicy food and dirty cities; Americans are plagued with gun violence; South Americans are suffering from never-ending substance abuse; African countries are underdeveloped and unhygienic. These single stories develop as we keep believing the same narratives without uncovering the whole context of the narrative. Also, single stories are fed to us by powerful lobbies or political rhetoric that are purposefully constructed to hide the whole story.

Going back to the original discussion with my students, I decided to do a critical reflection about single stories. I invited students to think about their single stories with the following two questions:

  • What is your single story?
  • How/why is it created?

Interestingly it was not easy to answer these two questions, hence I decided to give them a task in groups to identify a current issue that they know from a single perspective only and to look for a counter perspective of the same issue. For example, illegal immigrants, jobs being taken by foreigners, ivy league universities, the world wars etc. This strategy stirred up a lot of conversations and helped students to identify some of their single stories:

  • Thin is beautiful
  • Top universities better jobs
  • Ukraine is unjustified but Iraq is justified
  • China is a communist country
  • Diet to lose weight
  • Japanese are suicidal
  • French people are snobs
  • Women are weak
  • Showing skin is asking for it
  • Men should not cry

These are some of the examples my students came up with. This made me think, do I have a single story, yes, I do. My single story is-iPhones are the best! It struck me hard as I always believed that iPhones are the best phones, I have never bothered to look or research other phones in the market. I have created a single story that even makes me get into the debate of android vs IOS with my close friends and family! This is an insignificant example. The bigger danger of single stories is far more disturbing as it harbours inequality and prejudice. These stories generalize and marginalize people and justify a culture of dominance, discrimination and indifference.

Single stories can be challenged by recognising the purpose and the people behind propagating these one-sided stories. Another of avoiding single stories is to develop nuanced thinking-accepting multiple perspectives. Critical thinking isn’t enough, it must be complemented with nuanced thinking. This will help widen our perspectives and embrace conflicting points of view.

I leave you with a simple exercise, next time you meet a person from a different culture, religion, language or ethnicity, try not to assume or generalize their persona. Take the leap of faith and challenge dogmas that have penetrated your psyche. Single stories have the power to distort your mind, spirit and even soul, crush them before they crush you. Introspect today and answer my question ‘What is your single-story?’

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

Big Ideas

Once a week in their Culture and Communication classes, our students in Grades 2 to 5 read a chapter of The Odyssey – the Ancient Greek tale of hero Odysseus and his men trying to get home after the Trojan War. 

The story itself is very entertaining but the students are also asked to use the story to think about some very big ideas. Every lesson we record the wisdom of our students and I thought I would share some of that wisdom with you:

On Beauty 

  • ‘Different people think different things are beautiful so that means beauty is an opinion and we can’t judge it.’

On Happiness

  • ‘How do you even know you are happy if you are not sad sometimes?’

On Rules

  • ‘It is hard to write rules for every little thing and it is sometimes hard to say what is right and what is wrong. It would be easier if there was only one rule – care about others.’

On Forgiveness

  • ‘It is silly to punish someone who already knows they did something wrong and have learned not to do it again.’

On Reasoning With Others

  • ‘It is better to help people understand what you are saying than to just tell them that they are wrong.’

In thinking about these really big ideas, students practice critical and creative thinking techniques and develop a belief that everyone’s thinking has value – including their own. These techniques can be applied to any problem or any subject and their ability to apply these techniques is strengthened by their belief that their ideas are valuable. All cultures have big stories like The Odyssey that students can read and think about big ideas. The more big stories they read the better!

https://www.philosophy-foundation.org/the-if-odyssey