Peace: A Fortuitous Endeavor

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Last October, I learned about and experienced an exercise in the U-Theory developed by Otto Scharmer. It’s difficult to explain the U-Theory as it is largely experiential; however, it is defined “firstly as a framework, secondly as a method for leading profound change, and thirdly as a way of being – connecting to the more authentic or higher aspects of our self.”  

February took me on an accreditation visit to a school that had a profound impact upon me.  This school was founded in 1923 by a nun and aims to educate the hearts and minds of its students.  I love this, and what is most impressive is that its mission has not changed in almost 100 years.  In one conversation with one of the Sisters in which I was complimenting the mission, she stated so simply that, “Peace begins in schools.”

Peace begins in schools.

These words return to me often and as an educator, I think we have a profound responsibility in this age of disparity to educate our students for a more peaceful and compassionate world.  

In the spring, a wonderful mentor and leader David Chojnacki, introduced me to the Charter for Compassion, a belief in a compassionate and peaceful world, and I immediately joined the movement.  After engaging in one of their online calls, I was invited to host a Charter Salon, or what I am terming a Peace Salon, a salon that hopes to “open up the door to new ideas, new approaches for our efforts to bring about a peaceful world by fostering a compassionate world.”  I love this idea of coming together to explore ideas on peace.  While I will host a salon in person, I’m also curious about what ideas we have in this digital space.

  • What actions can we take in our lives to foster more peace and compassion?
  • If peace begins in schools, how do we ensure we are meeting this worthy mission?
  • What does education for peace look like?
  • What ideas does this inspire?

As I reflect upon what became a year of inspiration, I attribute it to the U-Theory.  Once I became attuned to “what wanted to happen” I encountered the experiences I needed to affirm a passion, one that I will continue to strive towards as I allow the future to emerge,

For Change: “Just Keep Nipping Away”

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If you missed tonight’s Rugby World Cup 2015 South Africa versus Japan game, you missed a “rugby miracle,” rugby history, sports history.  In an epic game, Japan, the underdog, won the game.  But they didn’t just win and they certainly didn’t get lucky.  As one commentator said, “They weren’t lucky; they worked incredibly hard…”

This was the first game Japan, a tier 2 or tier 3 team, had ever played against South Africa, who are rated among the top three teams in the world.  And they won.  In the last minutes of the game.  Because they refused to stop and, as one commentator noted repeatedly, “they just kept nipping away.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 9.42.11 PMAn astounding game to watch, Japan got a penalty kick seconds before the end of the game.  But did they take it and go for what would still have been a historic draw?  No! They went for the try.  And 4-5 minutes later, they won because they refused to quit. It was a glorious win, but it wasn’t glamorous.  They pushed forward and were taken down.  Passed the ball and went down again.  And again and again.  But they “kept battering away” until they scored the try and made world cup and rugby history.

Not only have they inspired rugby fans and ensured that this will be a memorable World Cup 2015.  Their bravery in not taking the draw is inspiring from any perspective.  Whether we are striving for change in our profession, peace in our world, or simply trying to raise compassionate children, Japan showed us that no matter how small a chance, we can succeed.  We should not settle.  We deserve to go for the win.

#courage #RWC2015 #JPN

Inspiring Thought

Yesterday, we ran a positive opening convocation.  I say positive because the room was filled with energy, people were exchanging ideas and “cross-pollinating” and, based on feedback, the session generated hallway talk after.  In fact, one person told me that he’d overheard three or four conversations inspired by the convocation as he passed through one of the halls.

This makes me happy because the goal of learning should always be to inspire thought.  If just one person is left thinking, I’m happy.  Whether we agree or disagree, the thinking, talking and reflection is what helps us learn and grow.

Certainly, it should be our goal to inspire this same type of thinking in our students, so that they are left “buzzing” after their time with us.

Posing questions is one of the best ways to inspire thought, and using protocols from sources such as Critical Friends and Thinking Collaborative can allow for increased engagement, voices from all learners and ultimately, more learning.

An essential question for everyday should be this: Have I inspired thought today?

On Leaving

I recently left my home of 10 years.  As much as I love it, I can’t believe it was my home for this long.  You see, Kuwait is generally more transient, and most people leave within 2-4 years.

Yet, my ten years seems like a flash – a most significant flash.  Kuwait is where I met my husband.  Where I had both of my daughters.  Where I started my tenure in school leadership.  Where I started and ended my MFA in poetry.  Where I loved my school more deeply than I can describe.  Where I have felt most at home than any other place I’ve been or lived.

Many people asked how I felt upon leaving, expecting either deep sadness or extreme joy. My answer: I leave with love and gratitude.

It is time for my family to move on, and with that knowledge, comes a certain nostalgia.  I will always love Kuwait for what it is, the people, and what it has given me.  Yet, it is time to go.  Thus, I leave with love and gratitude.

It is a most satisfying feeling to leave a place with deep appreciation and high expectation for the future.  We expats live a transitory life.  Still, I can say to Kuwait and ASK, that I will “love you forever [and] like you for always” while anticipating with great excitement the many futures unfolding.

Some Kind of Ride by Brian Andreas

What are we really saying?

Each week since before Mia was born, I’ve received a BabyCenter tip of the week.  These are great little insights that arrive at just the right time.  This week, I got the below message about body language:

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 9.36.39 PM

It’s so true.  Often, I’ll say something while I am distracted and then wonder why my girls don’t listen, until I remember to practice being present.

These same truths about body language apply to leadership.  My most recent mentor is a counselor and she would often speak to us about how body language speaks more volumes than any words we use.

If our body language tells the truth, it’s probably best that our words do as well. Otherwise, we risk sending mixed messages and causing confusion, be it in parenting, relationships or professional situations.

 

There’s No Place Like “Home”

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I’m home for the first time in almost five years, which is the longest I’ve been gone without visiting.  Maybe this is the reason why I am noticing more changes than in the past.  Subtle changes like an increase in self-service and a decrease in customer service.  Other not so subtle things, like an increased polarity of perspective.

Other things don’t change at all.  Friendships that slip straight back into normal conversation, as if it hasn’t been three, five or seven years.

Still, I feel more foreign here than I do where I just came from, though where I came from is no longer home, and I find myself slipping into defensive mode about my most recent “home” and my soon to be new “home.”

There are so many misperceptions about the world,  When I lived in Taiwan, my students commonly thought that Americans didn’t love their children as much as Asian parents because of the movie Clueless – apparently, because the main character has a lot of freedom, my students perceived Americans as unconcerned about their children. Obviously, this perception is ridiculous, and I am sure we perceive ourselves as very caring parents.

The perceptions about the Middle East are equally unfounded.  Yet, it’s difficult and somewhat exhausting to try to explain how wonderful the Middle East is.  Or Taiwan. Or Sweden.  Or England.  All places, I very much consider as home.

My whole life, I have encountered questions about my “homes,” my ethnicity and my experiences.  The questions are generally well-meaning, but they are not always respectful.  This time home, I find myself floundering for patience and missing the people with whom I share common experiences.

Regardless of where we are from or what we believe, we are not so different from one another.  I wonder at what point, we can accept this and stop trying to compare and compete?

Embracing the Imperfect

One of my profound flaws is an excessive need for perfection.  On a rational and logical level, I understand that the world is rife with imperfection.  Yet, I still struggle with my daily imperfections, for example losing my patience with Mia or saying the ‘wrong” thing.

While I am very aware of the fact that I am not perfect, I have an irrational expectation that all that I do and say should be perfect, particularly as a leader and a parent. Often, when I blog, I’ll write a post and ponder for days whether I should post it.  For example, I agonized for over a week on whether I should post my thoughts on ego.  Yet, when I did, it was met with a lot of positive feedback.

This 30/30 exercise allows for imperfections.  My all-time favorite blogger, George Couros wrote recently about his blog being a place of sharing and personal learning, that writing helps him learn.  He posts often, and though not all of his posts are perfect, I always learn from him and I am always inspired.  Plus, our imperfections allow us to show our humanity, which deepens our connections and relationships.  Today, I embrace my imperfections and hope to learn from them.

Video Archive Yourself?!?

This morning, I presented virtually at ISTE 2015. Actually, I re-presented a shortened version of a webinar on Narrative Poetry & Digital Storytelling that I presented for the ISTE Digital Storytelling Network in April. As I was preparing and reviewing for my presentation, I realized that in my Kuwait-Saudi move purging frenzy, I’d tossed all of my handwritten notes and commentary.

As I noted in my “Whirlwind” post, we move fast. Perhaps too fast, and in just two short months, though I knew the content well, I was no longer in the same preparatory space as I’d had been when I prepared the original presentation. Luckily, we record our webinars, and so I watched the archive and took notes from myself. This proved interesting, useful and I learned again. This time from myself.

Though I may have archived my webinar for my portfolio, I probably would not have watched it all from start to finish had I not been preparing a secondary presentation. And though I had a detailed outline, it was really interesting hearing myself present, hearing the thoughts I spoke in real time and hearing the connections I didn’t know I’d made. I learned something and revisited a place I’d not been in a couple of months. Additionally, I was able to revise my upcoming presentation and improve upon it.

Yesterday, I also came across a video blog by one of my favorite coaching experts, Stephen Barkley.  Though I don’t typically love video presentations, his “post” spoke to me.

These two experiences, one of viewing Barkley speak in real time and the other of of going back in time and hearing myself speak as opposed to just reading old notes or journals, has got me thinking that it might be valuable to take video archives of what we do. We advise novice teachers to record themselves as a form of reflection.  Perhaps, this should be standard practice.

  • What do we look and sound like when we are presenting, teaching, collaborating, etc.?
  • What do our planned thoughts look like in real time?
  • What is the uncut version of who we are?
  • What can we learn from watching a past version of ourselves?
  • Can recording and presenting our thoughts deepen our online connections?

As a writer, I know that I do not capture nearly all that I think.  I also know that as much as I plan and script presentations, I always go off book.  Thus, listening to myself was illuminative.  It was also nice to remember the intensity of the passion I feel for the topic, and this is something that words on paper/screen simply can’t do.

Additionally, listening to Stephen Barkley speak, think and pause made me connect with his content in a manner that differed from reading blog posts (though I also love the traditional blog posts).

As we journey further into the digital age, I would challenge us to start recording ourselves live and uncut, at least some of the times.  And then, watch it a week, month or year later. Though it occurred by chance in a moment of necessity, it certainly proved to be a wonderfully reflective exercise.

A link to my original Narrative Poetry & Digital Storytelling Webinar can be found here or at https://iste.adobeconnect.com/p93lcyjctf3/

Ode to Reflective Educators

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 5.26.37 AMAfter my “Whirlwind” post yesterday, a wonderful educator, colleague and friend (@emilysb1) retweeted my post adding her own twist.  I felt immediately inspired and grateful, as I always do when working with Emily (and so many other wonderful educators) because she added an element I had not thought of.

I had been viewing the 30 days with some hesitation…maybe 30 opportunities to fail at being focused (and then I could write about the necessity of failure).  Yet, here was Emily, so positively turning it into an exercise of gratitude.  And so I write with gratitude to all of the educators who inspire me each day, particularly those like Emily who are able to think deeply, reflect and always have time for the process.

Whirlwind

I want to write everyday.  Blog everyday.  Exercise everyday. Mediate everyday.  Read volumes of brilliant literature or any of the hundreds of great books I have that will make me a better educator and person…everyday.  Be a mindful mother.  Play.  Walk. Do Yoga.

And that’s just what I want to do everyday.  That doesn’t count the 101 projects I have on the go…all inspirational things that feed my passions – a book of poetry for Mia, stories about runaway cupcakes for Madison, a peace charter, the fledgling research proposal for my PhD application…and the list goes on and on.  In fact, my husband jokes about my ongoing list of “things to do.”

Yet, I find myself resisting.  Not so much by not doing anything, but in doing too many things at once.  In being unable to focus.  Currently, I have cut back from the five books I was reading to just two, and wow, what a difference it has made.

Part of my “scattered,” I think, is the result of a hugely busy school year.  Leadership and teaching is being able to juggle numerous porcelain plates without dropping them, and even when we do it well, what we lose is our ability to slow down and focus.

And so this summer, as I transition from one place to the next, I am going to take some time for mindful reflection and sharing, and I’ll be using this space to download some of my “scattered.”

I believe we should be sharing and learning together, and so I am going to use this blog to share some successes and failures, reflect upon the past year, and generate new ideas.  Essentially, I am going to use this blog as a way to remain mindful, practical and reflective.  Hold me to it as I embark upon my 30/30 plan – 30 posts for 30 days of reflection.