Ten Years

When I was about to turn 60, I decided I should start a blog for 60-somethings, a journal of sorts to remember and share what I was going through. I couldn’t believe I was that old! Well, I think I managed one post before I abandoned it.

And now I am about to turn 70, which sounds about as old as 60 did ten years ago. The only thing that’s changed is how I look at the world, myself, and my relationships.

I will continue sharing what I’m learning here. I can’t wait until I am almost 80 to see if my topics have changed. Somehow I envision lots of posts about getting older, and that’s ok because that’s where I am. That 18 year old, sitting by the side of the road in Amsterdam with a loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese, thinking she was all that and more, had no idea how her life would turn out. There have been many dark times, moments filled with regret, days when I wondered if I was losing my mind. And yet here I am, excited about this next decade and feeling grateful for all I have in my life.

Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day.

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end.–Gilda Radner

Stay tuned.

What a Long Journey

Sometimes I wonder why I am so drawn to readings, podcasts, and videos about emotional health. Mostly, it’s because I had to clean up my own struggles, understand where they were coming from, and learn to recognize I would have good days but also bad moments. The human experience.

This takes time. And if often takes words from experts to get you through the dark spots.

What I’ve learned:

  • We must live with imperfection and failure.
  • We will all experience moments of doubt, hurt, and pain. It’s what we do with those times that will push us through to the other side.
  • Knowledge of how the mind works is essential.
  • We can only release shame when we become vulnerable and share our stories.
  • Focusing on breath solves many problems.
  • I really can’t change the past; I can create a future that heals my heart.

I love this Brene Brown quote: “Stillness is not about focusing on nothingness; it’s about creating a clearing. It’s opening up an emotionally clutter-free space and allowing ourselves to feel and think and dream and question.”

Ten years ago, the walls I had erected to protect me started to crumble. I’ve learned those walls had to go. When we are kind to ourselves, we open up fields and forests of relationships that can grow. Start by forgiving yourself and see what happens.

Be Willing to Change the Game

About a year ago, I pasted a quote into Evernote by Chris Lehmann (probably from Educon 2011):

If we want our students to grow, we must do that ourselves. This weekend we believe differently. All of us have a stake in the game. Solutions must include us (and our students). We cannot solve problems by doing things TO students.

This morning, as I bumped into the quote again, I was reminded of a teacher I met this past weekend. We were discussing change and what kind of “change agents” we want to be. He paused, turned his head slightly, eyes widening: “I just realized,” he said. “I ask my students to take risks all the time….and yet I don’t put myself out there at all.”

He was referring to sharing and working online, being willing to reach out to others to learn and grow. He’d been satisfied, thus far, to be the director who told his students what to do without doing the work himself. He looked as if he had walked into a strange, new place with no idea how he had arrived.

I smiled. I’ve seen that look before. And it can be both scary and exciting.

During our session, this teacher had shared some amazing insights, and I was eager to find his space place online to learn more.

“I don’t have a space online,” he’d said. “But I guess that needs to change.”

We must model the kind of learning we want from our students. And we must also be willing to learn from them as they explore their interests and passions.

First, we must believe in the change. And then we live the belief.

This seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?



What’s On Your List?

Changing the culture of anything (businesses, institutions, families) means taking a hard look at what works and what doesn’t. We can’t just wave a magic wand and say “change.” We also must consider our communication skills, our interpersonal skills, and often years of patterns of behavior.

So when we talk about shifting our schools and classrooms to a more open, collaborative environment, we need to consider that it’s often easier said than done. Maria Ogneva, head of community at Yammer, wrote this solid piece on changing culture (which I learned of from Jane Hart’s community).

She says, “as we all know, every time you attempt to change behavior, you run into resistance. The better you can anticipate resistance and channel it into positive energy, the higher the chances of success.”

How do we anticipate and channel? For many of us, it means taking a look at our goals, our vision. Even as a teacher, I needed to know why I wanted to move from the front of the room to being an active participant in my class. Why? What was my purpose? So for a school, we must ask the same questions: How will this move us to a better place? How will this help us learn? As Maria says, do we know what our mission really is?

But where she really caught my attention was in her list of barriers. Though she is speaking about business, look how we can apply this to education:

  • Command and control mindset
  • Functional silos
  • Rigid hierarchies
  • Wrong things measured

Bingo. Can’t you picture your school or school division right now?

In part two, Maria suggests ways to shift culture, offering tips such as starting small and making change relevant and personal. Don’t try to do everything at once, and for goodness sake, use available tools to help discussions happen.

As an example of a company that gets it, she  uses one of my favorites, Zappos. I often wonder what we in education could use from that model.

Zappos leadership believes ” if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff — like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers — will happen naturally on its own.”

Do you know what your school culture is? Do you know what you want it to be? I love the way Zappos identifies its culture in 10 key points:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

I wonder how different (or alike) our lists would look if each of us in a school tried this. What’s on your list?