Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sharing Begets More Sharing

Since I've returned to work, so many people have stopped me to check in to see how My Wife is doing, and many have been thoughtful enough to ask me how I'm doing as well.  A funny thing happens when I share my story, others share theirs.

Since my first day back, since literally the first time someone stopped me in the hall, I learned about others who are also caring for a loved one.  I had absolutely no idea.  These are people that I have passed in the hallways, seen in classrooms, or had conversations with in my office. They are faculty and staff in our district and they have been able to carry out their assigned duties without a noticeable difference.  It reminded me of this sign I have seen in people's offices around campus:

When I was a baby teacher back in the late 90's, I was told to never smile before the holiday break in December.  Boy did I fall short at that.  It was so against my nature.  But a funny thing happened when I started smiling more in my class, my students smiled more too.  And as I started to share more of the story of who I was with my students, they started to share more of the stories of who they were with me.  It made me such a better teacher, because I knew my students.  Our classroom was a better place because we had a better understanding of each other.

This idea that sharing begets more sharing resonates in Marianne Williamson's book A Return to Love.  "And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same." The more we allow who we are to come forth, others feel welcome to allow who they are to come forth.  The same principle holds for any relationship - sharing begets more sharing.

We are in the midst of an era of personalized learning plans, ways in which students and their families are making education more meaningful, identifying places that learning takes place outside the classroom, and building better connections to what happens away from the school building.  It seems like a natural time to be more vulnerable and open with our students, and with each other. Sharing begets more sharing.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

#Kindness Matters

This month at Union Elementary School, there has been a kindness challenge, complete with wristbands!

I was given a wristband last week and started wearing it right away.  Driving to basketball practice with My Boys last weekend, Patrick noticed it and asked me about it.  I explained that the entire elementary school was given a challenge to be kind and that completing a certain number of acts of kindness, earned a prize.  One of the prizes in the first week was lunch with the UES Head Custodian and a tour of the basement (very popular in the car at that time) and another was lunch with the UES Principal at Positive Pie (one of My Family's favorite pizza places in Montpelier). There was silence in the car.

Then Brendan spoke up, "What if we were a part of the challenge?"  He wanted do something with the students at UES.  "What if we got to eat with one of the winners?"  I started to think about that...

This past Friday was a non-student day in Chittenden South Supervisory Union, My Boys were coming to work with me.  The idea started to percolate with me a little more...

Once we got to practice, I quickly e-mailed UES Principal Chris Hennessey and Cathy Clements who gave me the wristband that started this whole conversation.  I heard back from both that it could work.

With a little legwork from the fine folks at Union Elementary School, this past Friday at Positive Pie in Montpelier, two deserving first graders from Mrs. Dostie's class and Mr. Hennessey joined Brendan and me (Patrick was home sick) for a #kindness celebration!

I am proud of the commitment to relationships that we have in MPS, starting with our youngest learning community.  I am proud that adults lead the way by developing and maintaining relationships with our students, and demonstrate in words and in deeds that this is important to being a human being on this planet.

It is incredibly important to me as well.  In my role as Superintendent, I would rather be kind than be right and while it doesn't happen every time, it is something that I consistently strive for. People and relationships are central to the work we do, so for me it is critical for all to understand that #kindness matters.