Sunday, January 31, 2016

Do You Take the Time?

Over weekend, one of my family members had a dental emergency.  We called our dentist's office and on the voicemail, she left her cell phone number in case of a serious situation.  We left a message and she called us back.  After talking over the situation, our dentist kindly offered to see us at 11:00 AM on Sunday.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Our dentist offered to see us at 11:00 AM on a Sunday.

Time is so elusive - all at once, we do not have enough of it (think of all the teachers working hard on a Sunday night to prepare for the week) and it slips through our grasp so consistently (think of each and every parent that watches their children grow up in the blink of an eye).  We yearn for some moments to last a lifetime and squirm when the we cannot wait to have something be over with quickly.  It is so relevant to our lives that I've already written one blog post on it this year, "The Gift of Time."

Yet despite all our yearning, longing, and lamenting, we each get the same twenty-four hours, and this year, three hundred sixty six days.  And today, our dentist spent one of those hours with my family, reassuring us about a little mouth.  On a Sunday, her day off.

While waiting in the outer office, one of our children was noticing all the documents that were on the wall.  I took him over and described what each of them was.  One was a diploma from her undergraduate years, another was her Doctorate of Medicine in Dentistry.  There were certificates attesting to her passing the National Board Exams, being a part of national associations, and other dental professional organizations.  All the documents on the wall demonstrated that our dentist knows "how" to be a good dentist.  By taking the time to see us on her day off, our dentist demonstrated she is a good dentist.

It was a mild Sunday at the end of January, our dentist had plenty of better things to do with her time.  Yet, there she was with the office open and lights on when we pulled up a few minutes before 11.  We thanked her profusely, more than once, and she responded with a smile that this was all part of her work.

In education, we have people's most precious things in the world for more waking hours than their families do.  Do we take the time to reassure families, as our dentist did today?  Do we take the time to connect when families have concerns?  Do we take the time?

As it turns out, our little one did not require substantial attention and will need only his regular follow-up visit.  And our entire visit took less than twenty minutes.  But My Wife and I will sleep much better tonight knowing he's OK.

Do you take the time?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

When Is Enough Enough?

This past week I went to the doctor, after not feeling well for the better part of the prior two weeks.  I'm usually pretty healthy and am typically able to kick any sore throat, head cold type situation but in this case, it hung on for too long.  At several points during those two weeks, I often thought about going to the doctor but I was convinced I wasn't "sick enough."  I was not interested in making the time to get to the doctor only to be told it was "viral," and unable to be treated.

I was so convinced I wasn't "sick enough" even last Monday when I went to the doctor, I actually said to the doctor, I hope I have strep just so I would get antibiotics.  As it turns out, I had a sinus infection and I did get antibiotics and as a result I have finally started to feel like myself again.

This whole situation made me wonder about the mindset I had, which resulted in my reluctance to go unless I thought I was sick enough.  I'm not alone in this mindset either - I spoke to many people this week who were either sick themselves or understood my thinking.  This made me wonder further if this was something intentionally done by the medical community.  Was it based on good intentions, research or data?

I then started to wonder, what are the unintentional messages we are giving as an educational community?  How often do people think about reaching out to us but they worry that their concerns are not "enough?"  How do we engender reluctance in the people that we serve?

While I recognize there is not a direct correlation and my sinus infection pales in comparison to a serious medical condition, I do believe this is an area for growth.  We need to be able to listen to the concerns of families when it comes to their children, make them feel heard, even if there is no action that can be taken as a result.  Sometimes, acknowledging the struggle someone is working through is enough.

And that would be enough.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mixed Messages

I was recently at an indoor soccer game, waiting for our own children's game to start.  While waiting, I observed an interesting interaction between a parent (I presume) and a player who was playing goalie.

The parent was sitting directly behind the goal and was consistently talking to the player.  I couldn't tell who initiated it but when the action was on the other end of the field, the goalie would turn around and walk into the goal to talk to his parent.  I didn't notice this interaction until I heard the first "Pay attention to the game!"  I saw the goalie was walking back to his position, out of the goal.  After that I was intrigued by this and paid attention.

It was repeated several more times throughout the game, initiated occasionally by the player but far more often by the adult.  Each time, regardless of who initiated the conversation, the parent got louder and more demonstrative as he told the goalie to get back into position and pay attention to the game.  I started to wonder how the goalie was feeling each time he engaged in a conversation (mostly started by his parent) and was essentially publicly scolded for doing so.

I've been there - as a coach and as a parent.  Parenting is a constant exercise in learning how to let go, allowing our children out into the world to grow into their own personhood, making their own mistakes and earning their own successes.  Where the line is, I have no idea and I have certainly "over" parented in the nine years that I've been a parent.

Similarly, coaching is about preparing our players in practice the best we can and then letting them have at it in the game.  I've been privileged to coach 8th grade boys to a championship in Chicago and even more privileged to coach our own children in recreation leagues in Williston.  This year, I've stepped back from coaching our own children in soccer, as I never played soccer growing up in New York and candidly, I still don't fully understand offsides!

As teachers and educators we interact with children, in most cases, for more waking hours than anyone in their family.  We must straddle the balance between encouragement and redirection, support and independence, between loving but firm and just loving.  Regardless of the message we send to our students, we must be consistently sending it with love, even if it is tough love.

We hold a tremendous amount of responsibility in our tone of voice, our body language, our eyes, our posture, our positioning in the lives of our children.  Let our messages always be clear: you are loved and you are safe in my classroom, office, building, district.  If they learn nothing else from their time in MPS, let our students know this.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

My Hope for 2016

Happy 2016!  It's hard to believe we are turning the page to another new year.  It is hard to let go of a wonderful vacation with my family over these past days.  The magic, the wonder and awe of the holiday season were palpable in Casa Ricca!

As I reflect on the work still left to be done in this year, I am excited about the future of Montpelier Public Schools.  Our enrollment is projected to continue to rise through the end of the decade, we are largely considered leaders in the state when it comes to personalized learning, and I could not be prouder of the quality of our education thanks to tremendous faculty & staff serving our students and their families.

My hope for 2016 is to further develop and foster more trust in MPS.  By investing in deeper and more meaningful relationships throughout MPS, I hope to grow even more trust in the people that I serve.  Trust is a unique element of relationships, as you must give it in order to grow it.  I am proud that in my five years in MPS, I have built my relationships from a place of giving trust, until it is not earned.  I hope to engender that more and more in the time we have remaining in this school year.

I don't make resolutions at the beginning of calendar years.  I do however offer hopes for my family and for my work.  Tonight at dinner, all four of us shared our hopes for 2016.  And now, I have shared my hope for my professional life.  Will you join me in building more trust in 2016?  If there are ways that I can help grow this trust, feel welcome to share your ideas with me.  I want to earn more of your trust and enhance the relationships in MPS, so that ultimately we can all serve our students and their families.  That is my hope.

What is yours?