Monday, December 19, 2016

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

At least, that's what it's supposed to be, right?  The "most" wonderful time of the year?  While for many this is true, there are too many for whom this is simply not the case.

This time of year is particularly challenging for those of us who have chosen education as our profession.  The time between the Thanksgiving break and the December Holiday break is quite difficult.  It is a number of weeks, book-ended by vacations in which educators, and those dedicated individuals who work with us in schools, are dared to bring some sense of normalcy into a time of the year that is anything but.  It is the "most" wonderful time of the year, right?

This time of year is particularly challenging for those who have uncomfortable family dynamics.  Everything we see on TV and hear on the radio is about the perfect family dinner, the perfect gift, the perfect holiday celebration.  For some families, just getting in the same room together is incredibly hard given the relationships.  That would be a gift in and of itself.  It gives an alternative interpretation on what the "most" wonderful time of the year is.

This time of year is particularly challenging for those who struggle to make ends meet, or for those families who simply are overwhelmed by the poverty they face.  While some are trying to figure out the "most" unique gift to buy, many families are wondering if they will have heat, hot water, and food.  While some of the students we know are excitedly anticipating the coming vacation, many others are worried about where they will find a warm place with something to eat regularly.  That cannot be the "most" wonderful time of the year.

Might I suggest that we put our efforts toward kindness this time of year?  Toward our students, toward our colleagues, toward our families, toward each other.  During a poignant reflection I heard this weekend on the coming winter solstice, the woman delivering the reflection used a beautiful quote from Mother Teresa: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."  Perhaps kindness and peace can transcend the many realities of what the "most" wonderful time of the year looks like for everyone in our lives.

Finally, I came across this image this week and it expresses my sentiments for the MPS Faculty, Staff, Students, Families, and Community.

I truly hope that you all can feel happy, safe, and loved this holiday season.  If that is the case, then it will go a long way to making it the most wonderful time of the year for me.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Faith in Children

This past weekend, our oldest son Patrick had an indoor soccer game.  He's been playing indoor for a couple of years and we found a team that shares the vales that we want as a family from sports: practice hard, play your best, and have fun.  It's been a wonderful experience for him and by extension our whole family.

At this weekend's game, we were sitting among the families from the other team.  The teams were very evenly matched and it was an excellent game.  What I struggled with were the comments from the families who were around me.  When we scored, what was said aloud was about how "cheap" and "weak" the goals were.  When they scored, it was a "tremendous" play.  When we made a play, we were "lucky", when they made a play they were "talented".

The reason I struggled so much with the comments was because while I was watching the game, our youngest son Brendan was sitting on my lap.  At one point he turned to me and said, "Why are they talking like that?"  I started to get annoyed just based on what I was hearing and that I really didn't have a good explanation for Brendan.

Patrick's team ended up winning the game and I was really proud of how he and his team played but I was also really discouraged about how the folks around me were speaking.  Brendan asked me again on the way out to explain why those people were talking like that about our team.  The truth was, I really didn't have a good explanation for what they were saying.

Since it was late, we ended up going to a pizza and pasta place right near where the game was played.  We ordered from the counter and sat down to wait until the food was ready.  At the booth next to us was the coach and his son from the other team.  Our food came and we started eating.

The next thing I know, I looked up and Patrick and the young man from the other team are having a conversation.  "Your team was really good," "No your team was really good."  "You played really well," "Yeah, so did you."  From there, the conversation quickly went to the NFL and their favorite players.  Soon Brendan got involved and before I knew it, these three boys were laughing and joking together.

Seeing these boys having such animated conversation, listening to their laughter, watching their smiling faces, made me forget what I heard during the game.  Neither the coach of the other team nor I said anything to any of the boys, this happened naturally on their own.  They saw past the game, they had no idea what was said by the fans, they were just three boys sitting in a restaurant.  It was a beautiful moment to be a part of.

I'm afraid that too often in education we forget that it is about the children we are serving, not the adults in their lives, and frankly not about us as the educators.  Seeing these boys enjoying each other's company and forgetting about the game they played just moments ago was exactly how I needed to end this confusing night.  It was not about the parents I was sitting with and it was not about me.  It was and always needs to be about the children.  That's one of the main reasons why I am in education, I have faith in children.