Posted in Personal, Reflection

The universe will conspire…

One of my favourite books, The Alchemist has a line that says:  The universe will conspire to bring you what you desire in your soul.  Well, today, I discovered that the universe sometimes conspires against you achieving your goals.  Just to see what you will do.

I started out my run in the humidity and after about 1km wondered how far I could push my body.  So the mental games began early.  Then within minutes, I got a brutal toe cramp.  So the little voices started getting louder.  “It’s humid.  Your toe really hurts.  You might want to cut it short today Kelly.”  Then the rain began.  This made me listen to the nicer voice that started telling me, “The rain is cooling, it’s refreshing, keep going!”  So at that point I decided I could push through.

However, it wasn’t pretty.  I spent the entire run trying to spread out my toes to find a comfortable position that might alleviate the pain.  I think I might have looked like a penguin.  I just gave up on that and accepted the pain and the awkward foot position that I chose to run with.  Then I turned a corner into heavy wind and rain.  I started to wonder just how wet an iphone could really get before it was an issue. It was pouring.  At that point I’m sure I even yelled outloud at both voices, “COME ON!!!”

The only thing I could do, to forget about all of the challenges, was to refocus on my breathing and my music.  I changed my music and started thinking of #temt.  I decided this was even worthy of a blogpost.  I believe it was Greta (@gret) that said she was going to begin running.  Well, Greta, I spent the last part of my run thinking of you and hoping this would inspire you to keep at it.  5 months ago I wasn’t a runner.  At all.  I NEVER thought I could do it.  But I had someone who believed in me and helped me believe in myself.  Today I realized that when you listen to the nicer voices in your head, you really can achieve your goals.  So keep at it.

Humidity.  Rain.  Toe cramp.  Wind.  Harder rain.  Still toe cramp.  Further distance.  Blogpost.  In that order.

Posted in Personal, Reflection

Who do you surround yourself with?

I have learned that I am happiest when I surround myself with people who allow me to question.  People who MAKE me want to become a better version of myself.  But most importantly, people who actually challenge me and PUSH me to reach my goals.

Recently I had a great conversation with @flourishingkids on Twitter.  Or was it in chat on Facebook?  It doesn’t matter where, but I thought my family would get a kick out of my on-line connections again (I can just see the eyerolls).  The conversation was pivotal.  I’ve never met Joan, face-to-face, however, through these conversations I have come to realize that she is “one of these people”.  I can sum up the entire conversation and connection we made with one tweet she shared:

One of my favourite stories that my dad told me, well into my adult years always made me smile.  He said  “Kelly-Ann, you drove me crazy!”  J Apparently when I was little, I drove him crazy with one question that I asked over and over and over:

“Daddy?  Wha’IS that lil thing?”

(and you have to raise your voice an entire octave when you say IS)

And he said it didn’t matter if I was pointing at the tiniest bug in the grass or the tallest building on a roadtrip.  The question was always the same:

“Daddy?  Wha’IS that lil thing?”

As an adult, I loved hearing that story.  And now when I reflect on why I loved hearing it so much, I realize why.  It validated my love of learning.  And as much as I apparently drove him crazy, whenever he told the story to me as an adult, I could tell he had a sense of great pride in his eyes that HE was the one who was able to teach me and answer all those crazy questions.

The art of questioning continued well into my education, where I recall staying after math class in highschool all the time to try to understand WHY.  I’m sure I drove Mr. Forget crazy as well, but my greatest teachers would always let me question.  In a recent educational course, my colleagues concluded that I was “Kelly, the one who doesn’t wait for the Q&A slide in anyone’s presentation”.

And it’s funny to share that one of my beloved siblings has even coined me a new nickname.  Analytic-Kel.  I’m ok with that.  I think he’s just jealous.  I’d like to think that my inquisitive nature is going to help me with my next learning experience.

As I was walking on one of my favourite beaches a couple of weeks ago, a place where I can reflect quite easily, it was a defining moment when I received this email.

And as incredibly scary as this adventure is to me at the moment, I’m so excited to continue with the learning and the questions.

When I was meeting with Finney Cherian, who will hopefully still agree to advise me even after all my questions during our meeting, I realized he is one of the most inspiring educators I’ve had the chance to meet and work with.  (I’ve hyperlinked his name to a couple of videos will demonstrate to you why I have connected with his passion for learning and questioning.)  In our meeting, Finney has agreed to help me through my learning.  When I shared with him that I was scared to even THINK about writing a thesis, and continued with all of the self-doubt sort of explanations and barriers I thought I had about writing a thesis, he said, “Kelly, you are NOT allowed to think of your thesis right now.  You are only allowed to have wonderments.”  I love that word.  Wonderments.  What a positive spin on being so analytical, for a girl who can’t seem to shut off her brain, and who questions all the time.  He made me feel more normal.

I will end with a quote from one of my favourite movies, “All About Steve.”  I don’t believe it did too well in the theatres, but for me, I connected with Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bulloch) – she had a bit of a crazy brain like me.  I can watch the movie over and over and learn something new each time.  At the end of the movie, Mary said,

“My brain is full of all kinds of information.  Some of it useful, some of it not.  I’ve recently discovered, hiding in the back of my mind, somewhere between astrophysics and a catalog of candy bars of the Seventies, a previously hidden bit of knowledge more important than everything else.  It is this… On the journey of life, just find someone as normal as you. If not one, then find a whole bunch!”

The thing is, some people love learning and I’m so thankful I’m one of them.  I’m also thankful that I have surrounded myself with so many wonderful people who will continue to push me and help me learn even more.

So… Who do you surround yourself with?

Posted in Personal, Reflection

Isn’t it great to be inspired by others?

Here I go!

Recently I came across a Twitter Exercise Motivation Team (#temt) through my Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.  See?  We just don’t tweet about what we had for lunch.  This #temt has pushed me to another limit. It has allowed me further reflection about how I need to be pushed into exercise.  Being involved in this is a way to keep at my goal of running, through the inspiration and motivation from other like-minded people on Twitter.  So I’m sharing my blogpost that I posted on the Team Sharing Site.  If you’d like to go check out the posts of others (since I’ve referred to many in my post), they can be accessed through the link following my post:

I have finally taken the time to sit and read through everyone’s thoughts! And there are so many things that have caused me to reflect even further… time for a post.

I love how Joan started this Team Blog as a way to reflect on living a healthier life. By reading everyone’s posts, it really makes me think about the health of your body, mind and soul and how related those facets really are. That’s what this is all about. It was great to read about (and visualize) Anna’s run along the gorgeous scenery in Greece and also Kathy’s walk with Angels at the cemetery – both very moving places to run and reflect on the goodness of each day.

What really made me think was Dean’s question – What does it take? And the first thing that came to my mind about what it really takes to get me to keep at running is to “not compare myself with others”. I’ve always wanted to be a runner. But I made the mistake of starting out, comparing myself to avid runners, and then giving up because I wasn’t “perfect” (gasp!). I started a handful of times, compared my measly run to the 10K of others and then went back to just power-walking and yoga. I did this over and over. Until March. I started running again, but this time, I shared my struggles with a friend who is an avid runner. When I asked him how he can run and not compare himself to others he gave me the best advice. He said, “I run my own race.” It made me think about doing what was right for me. So I started again. And I started keeping track of MY running each day. I ignored the people running by me. I didn’t look at the runners that I crossed paths with. I learned to shut out the rest of the world when I run. I focus on ME. I taught myself how to run my own race.

Running for me is about my mental health. I feel better when I run. I sleep better when I run. It’s about getting lost in my music and emptying my brain of all the nonsense that tries to creep in at times (my brothers call me Analyti-Kel). There was a picture in one of the posts with this quote – “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between 2 deep breaths.” That is so true to me. If you focus on your breathing, I mean REALLY focus, it brings you a step closer to awareness. I’ve tried to practice that in my runs. I’m not perfect, but I’m learning.

I loved the video that Shelley posted about “Running and Reading” – Will talked about that “voice that talks to you when you are running” – but he referred more to the voice that nags about how tired you are and how you need to defeat that little voice. I like to listen to the other voice that seems to talk to me through my music on my run. The little voice in my head (through my music) gives me inspiration, the voice that says I’m doing my best, the voice that tells me to keep going! When I’m listening to my music, on my run, it truly lifts my soul!

I’ve decided to print the Star Wordle and put it on my bedroom mirror. I’ve also decided that it’s time I buy that fancy Nike shoe thing to help me keep motivated and track my progress. Those are my goals for now!

Thank you Joan, for bringing us together. I feel that this sharing will be an inspiration to me. I want you guys in #temt to call me on it every day! I look forward to the tweets: “Kelly have you run yet today?” Because I know myself. I need to be pushed.

http://twitterexercisemotivationteam.blogspot.com/2010/07/isnt-it-great-to-be-inspired-by-others.html

Posted in Personal, Reflection

To apologize or not to apologize …

In my principal course yesterday we were challenged in thinking about how we would make ethical decisions in our role.  A couple of different ideas emerged which I thought I would share with my PLN.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about when you feel an apology is needed or not.  This entire post is what I submitted for my reflective assignment, so you’ll have to deal with the ethical and professional standards information – I left it here for a learning experience 🙂  The “whether to apologize or not” dilemma is what really is bothering me at the moment.  I need help to close this file in my overactive brain.

I have come to the conclusion that “learning through narratives” provides the best form of learning for my inquisitive brain.   In our course today, we had a guest speaker from the Ontario College of Teachers speak to our group about the ethical considerations a principal may have to make in their role.

When his first slide started with the “History of the College”, I was a little concerned about the content of the three hour session and how I would motivate myself to actively listen.  However, we were quickly immersed into an engaging morning which led to a greater understanding of what it means when I truly consider “ethical standards” and how the OCT must ensure accountability in the interest of the public.  I found it quite interesting that our speaker talked about the OCT as being “educative” rather than just a body that “enforces” these professional standards and ethical standards.

In considering the ethical standards involved in the role of a principal, he continued to mention that your professional identity is what all your teaching begins with.  A principal’s identity involves being a pedagogical instructional leader, a conflict manager, a leader of communities of inquiry, an informed decision maker, a reflective practitioner, a developer of the organization, a conflict manager, a visionary, a self-directed learner as well as an ethical leader.

The ethical standards were framed together in 4 distinct areas:  Ethics of care, ethics of respect, ethics of trust and ethics of integrity.  Thinking about ethics in these 4 key areas brought about great reflective questions for my consideration:  What should CARE look like?  I believe that one needs to understand the context when answering that question.  There may be many factors to be considered and judgements cannot be made without considering all of these factors.  What does RESPECT look like?  It was described as “giving voice to everybody”.  This is another important item to consider which requires work on the principal’s part to take the time to listen and consider everyone’s thoughts on a matter.  This also related very well to our mentor text today “The Shrinking of Treehorn” – where I made the connection that we need to make sure that nobody becomes invisible on your staff or in your school.  The invisible person, whether it be a student, or an adult, requires great care & respect in order to develop a relationship of trust.

The professional standards that were discussed related to the principal as a pedagogical leader:  commitment to students and student learning, professional knowledge, professional practice, leadership in learning communities and ongoing professional learning.

All of the information around ethical standards and professional standards were synthesized for me when we had to consider a narrative.  A case study involving en ethical dilemma where the principal asked the vice-principal to be dishonest in a certain situation involving student elections for student council.  It brought about a great discussion where we debated on many factors involved.  The most important part of dealing with a dilemma is being able to NAME it.  Once you name the issue, it’s a little easier to work through the following Ethical Decision-Making Framework that was provided to help us with this process (keeping it linear helps you frame your decision based on consideration of many factors):

1. Ethical Dilemma/Issue – YOU MUST NAME IT – What ethical dilemma or issue has emerged in practice?

2. Judgement/Decision – How would your respond?

3. Principal/Value Guiding Decision – What principle or value is guiding your actions?

4. Rational Decision – What are your reasons for your actions?

5. Implications of Decision – What are the possible consequences of your decision or action?

6. Reflections on Ethical Dilemmas of Action and Practice – What new insight or understanding have you gained from listening to your colleagues?

The area of controversy that did not sit well for me was, once a decision has been made, move on.  And even if it was not the right decision, it’s done.  Our presenter said “Don’t go back.  Don’t apologize.”  This really was not sitting well with me, and I had to address it (and no, I did not wait for the Q&A slide at the end of the presentation – which led to ridicule at lunch, but so-be-it).  I felt that if you make a mistake in a decision, I feel it does MORE for your character if you are able to “go back” and acknowledge the fact that you may have made a mistake.  Acknowledge it, apologize for it, understand what you have learned from it, and then move on.  So when I asked for clarity around what he meant by his comment, he did provide somewhat of an explanation which involved the following… the decision you made was the BEST FIT AT THE TIME.  He continued with saying that even if you make a mistake, you probably did what you thought was best at the time.  You thought you were right.  Don’t apologize for that. I’m going to have to think about that one a little longer to see if I can come to an understanding in my own head around that concept.  I’m not totally closed to understanding what he meant, but it’s just not sitting well with my character and “who I am”.

Most of all, in considering your actions in any decision making in the school, whether you need to consider ethical standards, or professional standards, or your own personal morals, I think the best questions you can ask yourself is… “Why am I doing this?  Is it for the commitment that I make to my students and my staff?”  I’m hoping, that as I embark on this journey, that I will have the courage to face any of these decisions allowing me to maintain the integrity of “who I am”.

Posted in Personal, Reflection

It’s all about relationships

It’s all about relationships and communication skills.

This was the common thread once again throughout our Principal Course dialogue this weekend as we focused on Human Resources and Building Communities.  As the leader of a school, principals must continue to focus daily on the art of “how to deal with people”.  An additional common theme seemed to encompass the “malcontent” that might occur within a staff and the courageous conversations that are necessary in order to maintain the cohesive school climate that will continue to be student focused.

The theorist presentation highlighted Marzano’s views from School Leadership that Works and how the “classroom is the concrete evidence” when it comes to assessing student achievement.  His work outlines the following factors involved in establishing a Code of Call that will have a positive effect on student achievement in the classroom, represented on the left side of the table below.  I believe that these same factors can be paralleled to having a positive effect on a school collaboration model by reflecting through the eyes of an administrator and focusing on the teachers/administration/staff as the group of learners.  My personal thoughts on how this translates from a classroom culture to a school culture are represented on the right side of the table below:

Marzano continues with highlighting the many factors that a teacher must take into consideration when it comes to understanding the learners in their classrooms:  home atmosphere, learned intelligence, background knowledge and motivation.  Again, these same considerations must be taken into account as a principal of a school of “teachers as learners”.  In my view, the group of learners are the same, whether they are a group of adolescents, or whether they are a group of adults.  All learners emit similar behaviours that must be considered if improvement in learning is the target, regardless of the age of the learners.

When we discussed the “14 mistakes that Principals make” and were challenged to rank them in our small groups, I found it no surprise that ineffective human relations and poor interpersonal communication skills were among the top two mistakes reported among ineffective principals.  The principal has many responsibilities to build and encourage the positive relationships that will produce a cohesive staff with a main focus of student learning.

Another common theme this weekend involved Decision Making and how it comes down to 2 main types – ethical decisions & legal decisions.  This can be summarized in the two reflective questions that principals should consider when it comes to making difficult decisions together:  What would be the morally right decision to make in this situation? &  What are the legal implications here if I make this decision? I appreciated the more detailed list of  “Considerations for Situational Decision Making”.

As a principal in a Catholic school system, I feel that the themes today can be related to a few ideas that were embedded in a book provided through our Board’s Leadership program:  Jesus, CEO – Using Ancient Widsom for Visionary Leadership.  In this book, 85 ideals are shared and related to Jesus as becoming an empowered leader with the strength of self-mastery, the strength of action, and the strength of relationships.  These are the ideals from the book that I felt most related to the Decision Making and Building Communities focus:

He Was Keenly Aware of His Resources:

  • How well do you know your staff’s “stories”?
  • How well do you really know what other factors might be affecting your staff?

He Did the Difficult Things:

  • What difficult things are your instincts, right now, telling you to do?
  • Are you willing to do them, even if it means standing alone?

He Beheld Them:

  • Do you see your staff as new creations every day or do you see them as their job descriptions?
  • Do you focus on that person in that moment?

Most importantly, we must reflect continuously … how do we see ourselves as becoming similar leaders with the strength of self-mastery, the strength of action and the strength of relationships?

Posted in Personal, Professional Learning, Reflection

My New Learning Journey

How do you know you are ready?  How do you know when you are truly being “called” to do something?  Change can be exhilarating.  But change can be so scary at the same time.  Scary because it challenges you to step outside of the zone that you are so comfortable in.  However, that feeling of discomfort can also mean growth.  Personal growth.  Professional growth.

Yesterday, I started my Principal’s Qualifications course.  And I have to admit that I feel like I have come full circle.  Full circle from teacher in a classroom, to consultant at the board office, and now back to student in a classroom.  Ironically, the first day of my course took place in one of my old schools (in a different city) that I spent a large part of my teaching career in.  However, this time as I entered the school, I wasn’t the one in charge of the lesson plan.  I was in charge of my own learning.  It felt amazing.  I knew I was meant to be there, on that day, doing exactly what I set out to do.  I think I even felt what it meant to be “called”.

Many ideas surfaced through the variety of activities that we were immersed in.  The main idea that stuck with me all weekend was that “it’s all about relationships.”   A good principal will build a Catholic community by making sure that staff members feel valued.  All staff.  If you are able to listen to others, and learn their “story”, then it will help everyone realize that they are able to contribute to the knowledge of others.

We also talked about the possible stressors (obstacles) that are involved in a principal’s role.  This was eye-opening to say the least.  Many similar ideas emerged on our small group chart paper (which was very comforting):  student safety (job one!), unreasonable parent requests, conflicts among teaching staff, supporting teacher actions you may not agree with, having thick enough skin not to take things personally, making wrong decisions, staying calm, not reacting to a situation and having the right words to say in any given situation.

I appreciated this simple but effective guideline:

  1. Consider all factors
  2. Do an information search
  3. Make a decision

It seems simple, however I believe it falls nicely into an idea stressed by our instructor:  The new cool is calm!  Most decisions do not need to be made immediately – great advice.  Many of my initial fears were calmed with the advice of our instructor.  His vast number of experiences has allowed growth in his professional career that he can now share and pass on to us learners.  And I am grateful for that.  It reminds me that if we work with others around us, and trust in the collective wisdom that our staff has to offer, we can be the amazing principal that will make others want our job!  We were told that should be our goal.

It was mentioned that a good principal does what good teachers do.  I can relate to this as a consultant.  I can never stop being a teacher.  It’s not possible.  It is who I am.  And whether I have 25 students sitting in front of me, or 25 teachers sitting in front of me, or 25 principals sitting in front of me … it doesn’t change who I am and what I will do.  I have always felt that every group I work with is just like a group of students.  Different learners, with different needs and different goals.  It’s up to me to listen, connect and help lead them in their learning and to motivate them to achieve their own potential.

The night before my course, I came across this blog post by a principal in Alberta.  It was the perfect reflection to guide me in setting out the type of principal that I want to be (when I grow up).  It stayed on my mind throughout the course of my day.

We were introduced to a great mentor text:  King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood.  It helped me connect to the idea that everyone has a role to play.  The solution to any problem may be easy if you are open to looking at things with a different eye and using the collective knowledge of those you work with.  This is exactly what I intend to do with my new learning challenge.  I like to embrace each new opportunity with this thinking … What is it that I’m meant to learn from this situation?  Is this the calling (which is way more than a title by the way) that I am to be listening to at this time in my life?  Will I embrace this new calling when that time comes?  Absolutely.

Posted in Personal, Reflection, Technology

Do you mind if I join you?

This is how I think.  This is what it took to get the thinking out of my brain and onto this blog post.  It has been one week since I attended TEDxOntarioEd.  One week of sticky notes scribbled in the car (yes, while driving), more tiny papers shoved in my backpack during meetings, many conversations with colleagues and finally one organized mind-map tonight in order to try to capture everything that has been spinning around in my head, in no apparent order.

TEDxOntarioEd offered many inspiring speakers who were able to move me in both professional and personal ways.  I truly enjoyed how @JesseBrown touched upon the value of visuals for many of our learners.  He was able to take an idea and bring about its brilliance in order to touch our students in the classrooms today through Bitstrips.  I also enjoyed listening to @zbpipe share how her mother was one of her greatest inspirations in her career, and connected with that.  I was also moved by @Timthestudent and how brave he was to stand and deliver a message to teachers on how he would appreciate to be viewed as a student.  Does he realize his own potential as a change agent?

However, one of the greatest personal reflections of the evening came through an adlib segment from @danmisener who shared a story involving a root canal and how it relates to why we do what we do (you might have had to be there – but you can listen to a podcast here that @benhazzard has captured).  Do we do our best for someone else?  Or do we do our best just because it’s the right thing to do for ourselves?

An equally exciting facet of the whole evening was connecting with people I had only met online through Twitter (insert eye roll now if you have to – I’m getting use to it).  There is no way to explain what it felt like when @KimMcGill tapped me on the shoulder with that quizzical look saying “Kelly?”  Our eyes met, there was instant connection, the smile and then the hug.  We had only communicated online and it was as if we’d known each other in so many ways.  Then to meet her daughter @MegaTronMcGill and let her know how much I appreciated the Flickr pictures her mother had been sharing.  I’m not sure she was impressed that I had seen her in that way, cupcakes and all, but it helped with the connection.  Others also commented on my own children – on Julia’s intense energy level and Jesse’s highly reflective nature.  And nobody had ever met them.  All this “knowing” was learned over the net.  Together we marveled at how many of us were meeting for the first time.  You heard things like “Oh, @digitalnative is over there, or @aforgrave is over here, or @MindShareLearn guy” – not Colin, or Andy, or Robert, but their twitter names.  That’s how we knew each other.  I’d see two more people introduce themselves to each other for the first time F2F, and then realize they hadn’t met before either.  Wow.  It was just mind-boggling.

This was further magnified later in the evening when I was engaged in a very comfortable conversation with a colleague regarding an A&E project after the event.  That’s when @grahamwhisen came up to our table and asked “Do you mind if I join you?”  That comfortable conversation turned awkward for a moment.  It was awkward until we filled the time with a sharing of nametags and twitter names.  That turned into “Oh, I think I read your blog recently” and then all of a sudden the connections were made.  We “knew” each other.  This resulted in a fabulous conversation throughout the evening with @Sharon_Drummond, @Terrentius, @MattWalkinshaw as well as @grahamwhisen who decided to blog about this new phrase “The New Way of Knowing”.

For me, TEDxOntarioEd was about making connections.  Making connections in my professional role, with people I had either met through work, or on-line, in a forum where we were all gathering with a common purpose.  The purpose was to further discover how to motivate our students to realize their greatest potential.  At this event, I felt that everyone in the room was connected in an unexplainable way.  And it reminded me that it’s all about relationships.

How do we teach our students that it’s all about relationships?  How do we teach them the courage to sit down at a table filled with strangers and take that risk to say “Do you mind if I join you?”  Imagine the learning involved if we could teach them to just embrace those opportunities to connect and learn from others around them.

Posted in Personal, Professional Learning, Reflection

Oh no! The posters are in my garage!

It’s 5 minutes before the “starting time” of our Collaborative Inquiry sessions on Monday morning.  The junior staffs along with their principals are gathered and excited to begin our day together.  The ministry folks have arrived.  Our team is gathering tools and posters and preparing the tables for the busy day of strategizing ahead.  The room is a BUZZ with activity.

First up on the agenda, after our prayer, is a reflective review of where they left off last time.  Each school had prepared a poster with their Inquiry Question, their Theories of Action, and their plans for data/evidence collection and next steps.  Each session, we begin by taking a pulse of how they made out with their plan.  They use red, yellow and green sticky dots to reflect on how they made out with each part of their plan.  This task is completed on a large poster so that they can then use the poster later in the day to present to other schools.  It has worked very well all year to keep our teams focused and the dialogue related to the action plan for the students.

So as we scramble as a team to prepare each school’s materials, a sick feeling starts to hit me.  The posters are not where they should be.  A new member of our team is scrambling along side of me helping me look for them.   I’m trying to appear calm, in order to model effective professional behavior to one of our newest members of our team.  Must model organization, preparedness, control, calmness, right? The ministry ladies come over to chat and see if I need them to help with setting up anything (NO! I scream in my head, just let me think!), the other team members are scurrying about trying to help and obviously starting to sense my angst.

The only option was to admit defeat.  I turned to our newest member of our team and said “Oh no… the posters are in my garage.”  Actually, you can substitute another word for “oh no” because I believe I may have even done that in the heat of the moment.  I just thought I had better keep an appropriate title for this blog post.

The next thing that happened just makes me realize what it truly means to be a member of a team.  Everyone jumped into problem solving mode with 2 minutes to starting time.  Blank posters were created, team members dug up old notes from the previous session, about three different people offered to drive to my house, and a couple of others offered to cover while I went home to get them.  However, it was starting time.  There was no other option than for me to admit defeat and “roll with it”.

After we prayed together as a community, I welcomed the teams and we began our session with the message of how “collaborative inquiry can be messy”.  It’s ok not to be perfect at everything we are trying to accomplish.  Everything we do is a learning opportunity. It was a perfect moment to admit to the entire room of teachers, principals, ministry folks and team members (and obviously to myself), that our posters were in my garage.   What happened next makes me realize how very hard we are on ourselves.  They thought it was funny.  They laughed at my imperfection.  I even heard, “Thank God, you are human,” from the crowd.  I had beat myself up for 5 minutes (which honestly seemed like three hours) and they laughed and appreciated that I was human.

Being a perfectionist is hard work.  I remember reading a long time ago “Perfectionism can drive you to the dredges of destruction”.  When I read that, I thought it was quite harsh at the time.  Probably because the truth of that statement scared me immensely.  But over the years, I’ve realized that it is quite true.  Just this morning I was also reminded of this in a blogpost by Daniel Pink which allowed me to reflect once again on the view of perfectionism and the choice I need to make regarding this quality in myself.

We all “leave the posters in our garage” at some time or other in our lives.  We do this because we are not perfect.  And, since no one is perfect, it’s much easier to admit your mistake, laugh it off and move on, with the help and support of your team around you.  I’ve learned that most people (the ones that matter) will appreciate the fact that you are human, and really don’t mind that you are not perfect.  In fact, they will appreciate that you are not perfect.

So try it.  Admit that you left the posters in your garage…

Posted in Personal, Reflection

So what’s your story?

Why is it that whenever we meet someone for the first time, one of the first questions we ask to fill that fresh moment is “So, what do you do?”.  I recall reading an article a while back, (I believe it was in Psychology Today) which challenged my thinking around this.  This article stressed the importance of not having your job define who you are.  The article also offered encouragement to approach each new encounter with a goal of finding out more about that person’s “story” and who they are as a character in their story.  Afterall, isn’t life all about relationships?
 
A colleague of mine recently introduced me to an amazing book by Donald Miller entitled “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years“.  This author has an incredible gift of helping the reader understand that life is just a good story, made up of many memorable parts.  He also invites the reader to view themselves as a character who must encounter transformation in their journey – a character arc.  Sometimes, a number of character arcs occur! As a character in your own personal life story, you must overcome conflict in order to attain what you want.  Our lives are made up of a number of “mini-stories” which involve conflict we must overcome and incredible learning experiences along the way.  I believe that each new challenge is just another opportunity to learn something new.  New information.  Or something new about yourself.  Something new about your character.

As an educator, I believe we encounter many of these stories who help define “who we are” as characters in our life story.  This book has inspired me to approach each new day as being another incredible gift to “add to my story”.  When I meet new people, I’ve made it a personal goal to focus more on personal stories.

It has also encouraged me to reflect on the following questions, daily.  I invite you to do the same.

  • Who is the character I am creating in my story?
  • What is it that I need to learn from the conflict of the day?
  • What story do I want to tell the world?
  • What story do I want my children to be able to tell the world?

Donald Miller ends his book with the following reflection:

If we want meaning in life, then live a good story.  Propel yourself into noble adventure, endure difficult conflict for a cause greater than ourselves.   Be a moral compass for others.

Speak a better story into the world!
How brightly a better story shines.
How easily the world looks to it in wonder.
How blessed are we who hear these stories.
And how happy it makes us to repeat them.


So tell me… what’s your story?