Time Yet for A Hundred Indecisions

Posted: 6th December 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
excerpt from The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot

 

One interesting thing about having a professional blog is that you (and anyone else who reads it) have a concrete artifact detailing when and how your thinking changed.  Like when you go back and read something you wrote and think “what was I thinking?”  However, I think I may take a page out of Eliot’s thinking and consider it just part of the decision/indecision process; subject to a hundred visions and revisions.

The example that prompting my thinking about this is my assertion about good learning is hard learning.  There is some truth to the fact that sometimes learning is difficult.  Sometimes it requires perseverance and problem solving.  Sometimes we need “grit” (in all my revisions, I’m still not a fan of this word), stick-to-it-iveness, or a firm determination to grin, bear it and just do it.

But, is that always true?

There are times when I have also asserted…in black and white within this blog perhaps…that learning is fun, inquiry natural, and life long learning an essential condition of humanity.

But can it be fun or natural or essential if it is always so hard?

But I tried to think about those examples of when I felt learning was difficult to see what I would revise.  What I came up with was a tapestry woven of shades of grey, and the black and white of my assertion gone entirely.

  • Learning is hard, sometimes.
  • Learning is easy and enjoyable, sometimes.
  • Learning is sometimes easy but the application of that learning into our practice is difficult.
  • Learning is sometimes difficult but, once mastered, easily applied.
  • Learning is enjoyable, and frustrating, and interesting, and tedious, and thought provoking, and mind numbing.
  • Learning is not the same for any two people, and no two learning experiences for any one person are the same.

Under my heavy blanket of shades of grey, I had another thought.

What if what’s really hard about a learning process isn’t the learning itself but our ability to reflect on it, refine it, and accept that it is a messy kind of wonderful?

And is it any wonder that all of us educators struggle to find the magic formula to teach our wide variety of students a wide range of learning items in a relatively short amount of time?

Take a breath.  There’s time yet for a hundred indecisions.  Keep learning.  Keep teaching.  Keep struggling.  Keep enjoying.  Keep wondering.

 

Birthday Cupcakes

Posted: 8th November 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Tonight I have been working on making cupcakes because I need them for breakfast tomorrow.  Yep, that’s right.  Breakfast.

Several years ago, it was the eve of one of my kids’ birthdays.  Figuring out our schedule was always tricky; two busy educator parents plus four active kids meant problem solving daily to figure out how to get everyone where they needed to go, plus fed, plus rested before the start of a new whirlwind of a day.  On that day, I hit a problem solving wall.  There was no way we would all be home after school the next day for a birthday dinner.  The only time we would all be home, and at least partially awake, was at 6:45.  In the morning.  For 15 minutes.

Now I know this admission will not make me mother of the year, but that’s my life.  However, I plugged ahead with making the cupcakes birthday kid asked for and ordered everyone to be in the kitchen at 6:45 a.m.  There was groaning and grumbling.  There may have even been eye rolling or foot stomping.  But, in the morning, in various states of dress and school-readiness, all six of us were in the kitchen.  We lit some candles, sang off key as only family members can do, and ate sugar-laden cupcakes before orange juice, toast or cereal.  For that few minutes, we enjoyed our sugar and company before running off in all different directions.

The next kid’s birthday approached and we asked what he/she wanted to do.  The answer?  Cupcakes for breakfast.

Since then, we have had cupcakes for breakfast whenever someone has been home for their birthday.  We’ve eaten them in a road side stop in West Virginia, at the cottage, and of course, around our kitchen island as we rush around getting ready for school.  For a few minutes, we cling to this simple tradition that grew out of necessity (or parental desperation) one day long ago.

As I made my cupcakes tonight, it reminded me of all of the traditions we have in school.  Each school and classroom has any number of events and procedures that become meaningful traditions in the eyes of the students, staff and families that participate.  From the outside, they may look silly or simple; the way a teacher greets her students at the door each morning with a catch phrase, the game the class always plays when they want to celebrate some success, the song the kindergarten class sings (adorably) every winter concert.

When we ask our kids “what did you do at school today?”, the simple pleasures of school aren’t likely to be talked about, or if they are, to be understood by those people outside of the experience.  Instead, our kids tell us about the extraordinary – good and bad, like the problems they had with a peer or the super awesome game they won in phys ed.  But, as someone who gets to observe, and when I’m lucky participate in, some quiet, mundane, amazing traditions in a school every day, I have to tell you that these are the moments that help build a school and class community.  These are the heartbeat of a school; the steady pump that pushes life through the system.  They are so critical and yet rarely noticed because they just quietly keep doing their job.

What makes the heartbeat of your school?  What are those understated but really important birthday cupcakes that define – and enrich – your experience?

Observations, Conversations and Products

Posted: 18th October 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

If you have kids somewhere in the education system, how are they evaluated in their classes?

How were you evaluated when you were in school?

Here’s a regular conversation at my breakfast table:

One kid:  “Ugh.  I have a test today.”

Another kid:  “I have 2 tests today.”

And another kid:  “I’m supposed to have 3 tests but I’m hoping I’ll get to do one of them tomorrow.”

Tests have played a role in school evaluation for a very long time.  We’ve all been there.  But, I started to wonder, after one of these breakfast conversations, when was the last time I was evaluated using a test?

Well, there is the ever favourite annual WHMIS testing we are required to do but that doesn’t totally count because when you don’t get the right answer you are sent right back into the learning module to get the information.  Not exactly a test in the true sense of the word.

I honestly don’t think I’ve taken any formal test since I graduated from university.  But have I done lots of learning since then?  Oh yes.  Have I been evaluated?  Definitely.  Has my learning been negatively impacted by not having tests?  I don’t think so.

So how has my learning been measured since I left my school student days behind?

  • interviews and conversations
  • personal or collaborative reflection
  • journaling (and blogging!)
  • observation of my practice
  • by teaching others
  • projects I’ve completed or been involved in
  • demonstrating new skills/knowledge practically

In other words, through a variety of observations, conversations and products.  A wide range of choices that allowed me to show off my learning in meaningful ways.  And nary a multiple choice question in sight.

We want students to have choices to represent their learning.  We want students to demonstrate their learning in meaningful ways.  So, I guess I’m wondering:  are we doing our best by our students by relying heavily on tests to represent their learning?

Don’t get me wrong; there are times that a test may be the most appropriate tool.  But are there times that we use tests because they are easy (or easier)?  That might mean that they are easier to implement, easier to control the information the evaluator is seeking, easier to evaluate, easier to demonstrate to parents/students how the student is doing, or easier for students to prepare for.  And while one or more of these might be true some of the time, it is doubtful that it is true all of the time.  Plus, easier doesn’t necessarily mean better.

I love that Growing Success tells us that evaluation is based on the use of observations, conversations and products.  I wonder if we all, as educators, need to be reminded of this from time to time.  Perhaps the time we put into planning tests, preparing them, having students write them, and then marking them could be used differently.

For those who love to say that our job is to prepare students for the real world, maybe we need to consider how many tests we have written as an adult in the real world.

Tests have their place, but other sources of evaluation should also have a significant place in our schools.

If you are an educator, how would/have you expand(ed) your use of other products, conversations and observations?  How do we make these alternate sources of evaluation more mainstream and accepted?

 

Run For, and Learn From, Terry

Posted: 27th September 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I just wish people would realize that anything’s possible if you try; dreams are made possible if you try. It took cancer to realize that being self-centered is not the way to live. The answer is to try and help others.
Terry Fox

 

Every school has traditions and yearly events.  One of my favourites has always been the Terry Fox run, which our school is running tomorrow.  Can I be a little indulgent and tell you why I love it?

We all know that there is so much more than academics and curriculum to teach at school.  Learning how to be kind, to socialize, to earn trust, to gain responsibility, to take risks but be safe, to problem solve and to be creative are just a few.  To teach these lessons, great educators use a wide variety of resources, including other students, staff, volunteers and visitors, and the messages from role models from outside our school sphere.

Terry Fox is one of those role models who articulates so well what it means to dream big, to stretch yourself beyond comprehension, to try, and to succeed (even in failure).  There are so many messages here that resonate with our students whether they are 5 or 18 or beyond.

When I was a high school student, I was prodded into applying for the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award by a kindly guidance counsellor.  Beyond my wildest dreams, I was chosen as one of the national winners.  Crazy, right?  I already felt unworthy, and then I started going to the conferences for the award winners and members of Terry’s family.  As much as I valued the scholarship that paid for my degrees, I valued all I learned at those conferences even more.  To be surrounded by people who embodied endurance, care, challenge, kindness, community/global mindedness, and positivity was so humbling.  I have tried so hard to live up to the high standard that Terry Fox and all of those award winners exemplified.  If you’ve been in a school with me, I hope you’ll know that these are the traits I try – always – to model for students.  I don’t always succeed, but it is always my goal.

Tomorrow I am not in the school when the students will run for Terry Fox.  I’m so disappointed that I won’t be there – it is like missing Christmas morning – but I can’t wait to share with them in the morning message a little of what I have learned from a life lived with Terry Fox as a role model.

Academic learning is important, but life holds far more (and more complex) learning outside of curriculum.  I am thankful that I get to help educate students about these valuable lessons.

So, we’ll run for Terry, learn from Terry, and grow better human beings in our schools.  Thanks Terry.

Passion Projects – Aiming Our Marshmallows

Posted: 25th September 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

 

I found this quote when I was surfing the net to find some “food for thought” to contribute to a professional learning day for my staff last week.  I like it – it’s a little quirky, not too serious, but also thought provoking.

But the quote kept nudging at me.  I am keen to support voice and choice in student learning, but that’s not what was getting to me.  If we are working to convince educators to support student voice and choice in their learning, shouldn’t we also support voice and choice in educator learning?

Now, that’s not to say that educational leaders don’t support educator voice and choice, but sometimes the structures of learning we are provided limit this.  For example, in my district we are engaging in four cycles of Continuous Learning and Improvement this year.  (This is, essentially, just a new acronym for the plan/act/assess/reflect cycle of various acronyms we have participated in for many years).  These cycles are fast paced in our already fast-paced school year.  As a result, it will be really difficult to focus on teacher professional learning in a meaningful way and the time will be spent on focusing on looking at student data, planning instruction, measuring progress and planning again.

Student learning cycles may be good for focusing on student learning, but does it always help educators:

  • reflect on their own learning?
  • feel their interests and passions in education are valued?
  • find their own voice?

I’m not so sure it always does these things.  Also, I worry that having only a few months for each cycle of learning will not give teachers enough time to find their niche in deep learning.  I don’t want to just throw marshmallows at my teachers’ heads and call it professional learning.

I strongly believe that the best teachers are those who are excited about learning, invigorated by their jobs and keen to create new experiences for their students.  And I also believe that the best way for them to be excited about student learning is to allow them to be excited about their own learning.

So, we’re going to try something new for our school.  In addition to participating in the CLI cycles to focus on student learning and improvement, we’re also going to engage in teacher professional learning that is a little different.  It has:

  • educator voice
  • educator choice
  • an open learning stance
  • opportunities to share and learn from one another
  • opportunities to learn ABOUT one another
  • time to mull
  • opportunities to learn how to connect to student learning and student needs
  • passion

We’re using the premise of passion projects that are so popular in our classrooms and bringing it to the staff room.  Why?  Well, one of my colleagues asked me to create an “elevator speech” to explain why passion projects for staff.  Here’s what I came up with:

To me, a teacher passion project is the opportunity for learners to invigorate their practice or experience by digging into learning that connects to their interests, questions and passions.  It allows for self-directed, self-paced learning, reflection, collaboration and sharing.  It’s benefits include further professional knowledge that will affect one’s own teaching and student learning, and an excitement for personal inquiry.

I don’t know yet how it is going to go.  Right now, the staff at my school have discussed and researched some passion possibilities, and have started to plan some of their learning and how it connects to what they want for their students.  As the year goes on, I hope to learn whether this is a good way to support educator and student learning.

So that’s how a quote about marshmallows led me to educator passion projects.  But now I’m curious.  How do other people ensure that educator learning is as valued and important as student learning in our schools?

 

Caretaker of the Dish with One Spoon Wampum Belt

Posted: 13th September 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Did you ever go to a meeting expecting the usual information sharing and end up smack dab in the middle of a ceremony?  It’s a little like heading to the hardware store to zip through your to-do list and ending up attending a wedding.  This happened to me today.  It was awesome.

At our system Administrator’s meeting, we were welcomed and educated by the board’s Indigenous Education team.  We were then each offered a Dish with One Spoon wampum belt to be used in our schools.  This wasn’t our typical “go get in line to take these new resources for your school” kind of giveaway but a ceremony; we had to thoughtfully and publicly acknowledge our willingness to accept the responsibility of using the wampum for school education and community building but also to accept it as a treaty of friendship.

If you aren’t familiar with wampum belts, and the Dish with One Spoon Wampum specifically, here’s a synopsis that our board team provided:

“The Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt represents the treaty relationship between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Anishinaabe with respect to sharing the land and resources thereon.  Wampum guarantees a message or a promise.  The “Dish” or sometimes called the “Bowl” represents what is now known as southern Ontario.  We all eat out of the same Dish with only one spoon ensuring that our Dish is never empty.  This symbolizes our roles and responsibilities of sustaining the land and natural resources and treating each other and all living things with equity and respect.  By utilizing the spoon, as opposed to a knife or fork which could draw blood, we are consciously choosing to maintain peace between all people who come into agreement under this treaty.  Treaties mean nothing unless they are accompanied by wampum.  Belts were given and received as treaties as seals of friendship.”  (HWDSB’s Commitment to Indigenous Education document)

Tonight I’ve been reflecting about what this means to me.  First of all, I love the symbolism and messaging that is the background story of this wampum; it aligns so well with many of the other messages we share and teach at school.  However, I don’t currently feel that I have enough learning to be comfortable supporting the education of staff and students on the ideas, perspective, history and traditions of the Indigenous people and their experience.  But, I am willing (and eager) to learn.  While the wampum belt I received today is a symbol of the treaty and a tool to be used in education, I feel like it is also a concrete anchor – a catalyst – to the learning that needs to happen.  And learning IS uncomfortable at times.  I feel fortunate that we have such an accessible team of people that can help me and the staff and students to support this learning.  So, while we’ve been asked to find a champion at each school to lead the learning on this, I am selfishly going to take it on myself.  I don’t want to just say a land acknowledgement statement or display the wampum belt in the office.  I want to know how to learn from it, to minimize my ignorance and bias, and maximize the effect it can have on those around me.

It feels like I’m starting a “new” year with excitement about the unknown in front of me and where I can go and what I can learn.  What’s your new September learning excitement?

Be Careful, There’s a Baby in that Bathwater

Posted: 8th September 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

My first car – in 1990 – was a 1978 Triumph TR 7 hardtop.  It was, perhaps, a little quirky for a brand new driver.  No power steering or power windows.  A cranky manual transmission that required me to engage the clutch (with my heel), the brake (with my toe) and the gas (with my other foot) every time I stopped so it wouldn’t stall.  An engine – in a tiny two seater car – that roared louder than the big diesel powered school buses of the 80’s.  But it was a great car.

Then I started attending university in one city and working in another and needed reliable transportation.  After that, a herd of kids followed, which meant more reliable…boring…predictable….transportation.  My name is Kristi and I am a minivan-driving soccer mom.

But, for the next couple of months I’ve got some “new” wheels due to a transportation crisis in my house during baseball coaching/school start up season.  I’ve borrowed my mom’s summer car so that we can all get where we need to go with the fewest headaches.  What am I driving?  Take a look:

My new ride is about as far away from my minivan as a vehicle can get.  It’s a little 1988 Mazda convertible.  Flip-up lights, obstinate manual transmission, am/fm radio with an actual dial to tune in the channels.

On my (loud) ride home in this baby, I was thinking about the proposed changes to the Ontario math curriculum that have been making news this week in education circles.  Old cars to math?  I know.  Stay with me.

I am the first in line to applaud the fact that the math curriculum is going to be updated.  It is outdated and, worse than that, really difficult to teachers to implement well.  Since the purpose of curriculae is to provide structure, direction, and consistency to instruction and learning, anything that can’t be implemented well will fail or at least falter.

Our new math curriculum needs some updates to improve the quality of math learning for our students.  I think most people who have experienced it would agree.  There are far too many specific expectations and massive overall expectations.  Big ideas are hidden.  Process expectations hold a minimal role.  Some concept learning trajectories are clumsy, disjointed or unreasonable.  There’s little scope for differentiation.

As I drove today, I realized that there were a lot of features from my modern-but-uncool minivan that I was going to miss in the next few months.  Good suspension.  Heated seats.  Rear window defroster.  Air bags.  But there are other features that I won’t miss – 12 cup holders, Sirius radio, automatic side doors, back up camera, automatic transmission.

I think the tricky part with a curriculum update is going to be picking the right modern updates that will meet the need without cluttering it up with new features just because they are shiny and new.  My list of must-haves and can-do-withouts might be different than yours.  You’d trade the heated seats for Sirius radio?  Me, not so much.

There are going to be some updates that we’ll probably all agree on, like cleaning up the expectations so they aren’t so overwhelming.  That might mean reducing the number of specific expectations, it could mean combining several specifics under meaningful big ideas and common conceptual learning, making the overall expectations more meaningful, or maybe it’s a little of all of this.

Some of the changes are going to be more controversial.  Do we need more of an emphasis on procedural/computational learning or less?  (I’ve heard both argued).  More real world math or is this just a shiny extra?  Have the process expectations been overlooked all this time because they are buried in the current curriculum or because they don’t have a place there?  What do you do with differentiation?  Spiralling? Cross-curricular links?

Those are just a few of the questions I can see being asked.  But there is one more question that I think we need to consider.

What good can come out of the current curriculum that we can carry forward into a new one?

I’ve spent enough time with the current curriculum to know that there was a lot of thought and research that went into making it.  And while it has it’s problems, there is certainly a depth a math expertise and knowledge in it that alludes most of us – me most certainly included.

Driving my minivan and driving this 1988 convertible are very different experiences.  Each has positives and negatives.  In an ideal world…or an ideal car…we wouldn’t be swayed by either nostalgia or novelty when creating the perfect driving experience.  I hope the team that will work on the new math curriculum will be similarly grounded.  Don’t throw out everything just because it is old, but don’t keep it just because we liked it at one time.  Don’t try to cram in every new buzz word/concept because it’s new, but don’t ignore the evidence that points to changes that will be good for students and educators.

If I ever have a mid-life crisis and go out and get myself a crisis car, it will have a cranky manual transmission, heated seats, air bags and an energy efficient engine that roars like a diesel powered school bus.  I want it all.  And I want it all in a math curriculum.

What do you want in a new math curriculum?

 

Play is the Thing

Posted: 15th August 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

This morning, a twitter conversation between Andrew Campbell (@acampbell99) and Matthew Oldridge (@MatthewOldridge) caught my eye:

I respect and appreciate the work of both of these gentleman and I wondered:

Andrew responded with his thoughts:

I wonder still, though, is that true?  Is the playfulness of an action in inverse correlation to the challenge it possesses?

As it happens, I’ve done a lot of playing this summer.  Some of it was not at all challenging:  paddling at the cottage or inventing new cookie flavour combos were fun things to do, but weren’t overly taxing cognitively, physically or otherwise.

I also engaged in some forms of play that were challenging.  I decided (a while ago, I’m slow at play apparently) to write a novel, just for fun.  Purely recreationally – while I hope one day to get it published, when I set out to do it, I did it just to see if I could.  I like writing; it is fun for me.  For me, writing a novel was totally play.  It was also one of the most challenging things I have ever taken on.  That didn’t make it less fun, but possibly more.  It was a mountain that I challenged myself to climb and I wasn’t giving up until I was at the top.  I’m not sure if I would have had as much fun if it wasn’t quite so challenging.

I’ve also watched others play this summer.  One of those I’ve watched pretty closely is my 11 year old daughter.  She is a perpetual motion machine; the kid never stops moving.  During the school year, she trains 4 days a week as a circus performer and plays on every possible team and sport at school as many days of the week as she can.  This summer, due to scheduling glitches, she only trained two days a week and didn’t play any sports competitively.  For the first time in a long time, she had ample time to play.

I wasn’t surprised that many of her play choices were physical ones.  What I was surprised by was how much she challenged herself in her play.  She used a wide variety of equipment (climbing ropes, trampoline, balance beam, trapeze, aerial hammock, balancing canes) in our house and taught herself a ton of skills that exceed those she does in her required training, both in complexity and strength needed.  For her, playing meant doing stuff that was hard; over and over again, for fun.  This was pure recreation – no coaches or audiences were watching – and the challenge was the carrot to make her play worthwhile for herself.

I can’t help but make connections to the experiences of play I see at school.  There are times that it isn’t challenging at all.  At times, students want to engage in play that is repetitive or mindless or easy for them.  But, I would argue that more often than not, play IS about the challenge.  Whether it is a challenge to see how well they can do at something they couldn’t do before, how well they can do against another person, how to explore new or novel ideas or situations and align them with their schema, the commonality is that it is a challenge.  Further, the challenge is part of the intrinsic motivation – it is what makes the play fun, or recreational, and therefore makes it actually play.

Maybe my definition of play is different than the one Andrew provided, and if that’s the case, we may end arguing on the same side.  But the original quote from Matthew was about using play in mathematics.  Using play – making math fun – is good for mathematics and for the students who need to learn it.  Making the play in math challenging is also a good thing because it provides some of that motivation students need to continue pursuing it.  And, I would say that I have seen really good math teachers who seamlessly combine the two – challenge and play – to the benefit of their students. Math may be the mountain many of our students need to climb and if making it playful and challenging is what helps them get to the top (and want to get there), that sounds like a worthwhile endeavour, doesn’t it?

Back in the Saddle Again

Posted: 9th August 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

So, this is weird…us meeting here like this.  You see, I haven’t been here in a really long time.  I used to drop by frequently; committing my thoughts to paper, engaging in some on-line discussion about school, education, professional learning and whatever else I needed to write to help me organize my thoughts.

Just to add to the weirdness, I may as well just come right out and say it, me coming here is mostly about me.  I mean, I’m happy to chat if you want to engage, but I come here to put my jumble of thoughts into some kind of coherent order.  My box of drafts that have never been published are proof of how often I need to get organized (and how often I fail).  Actually, as I look back at my published posts, there are a whole lot of times where I pressed publish and still failed.  Sorry about that.

What am I doing here after so long, you ask?  Yeah, it feels strange to be here again, but I think I need to be here.  Like I said, I come mostly for selfish reasons (no offense, right?) but in the last year I had to prioritize some selfish indulgences and this one didn’t make the cut.  We’re all busy; I’m sure you understand that kind of decision making about commitments.

I really missed being here, though.  And even worse, I discovered something a little disheartening.  You know how sometimes you make a decision you think is for your own good and it actually works out that there was no good to be had?  Yeah, that.

Lifelong learning is a very important priority for me.  Professional learning is something I try to maintain regularly for the betterment of the staff, students, colleagues and community I work with.  And while I appreciate the learning opportunities I get through my job (principal learning teams, conferences, professional reading), I know that what cements new learning for me to a point that I can apply it (and really, isn’t that the goal of learning?) I need to process it and connect it.  For me, that means writing it down.  This blog forces me not just to write it down but (and this is a big one, if you read some of my posts stuck in draft) make it coherent to others.  Communicating my thinking happens here, not in a conference or a learning team.

If I’m not blogging, then it is more difficult to organize my thoughts.  If I’m not blogging, then I’m not going to do as well at communicating my ideas.  Which means I’m not as effective at being an educator or leader as I could be.  And that has led me to think it is time to shuffle up those priorities again.

Nice to see you again.  I hope to see you again soon.

#OneWord 2017 – Relate

Posted: 9th January 2017 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Last year, I participated in the One Word goal setting for 2016 and chose to focus on the word Stretch.  I was at a place professionally where I was itching to make some changes and try out some things outside my comfort zone.  As I reflect on how I did on the year, I would have to give myself mixed reviews.  I stretched, and it was uncomfortable, and at times I stretched too far, too fast (patience would probably be another good word for me sometime…I can always use more patience).  But I also learned a lot about myself and what I could accomplish.  “Stretch” was difficult, but overall, I’m glad I did it.

This year, I wanted to go in another direction.  We talk a lot in education about the importance of building relationships with the people around us:  students, staff, parents, community, colleagues.  Building and cultivating relationships with individuals is a really big part of my job, and, if you are in education, probably your job as well.  And I will keep chugging along with relationship building in all of the ways that I know:  talking with people, getting to know them, collaborating with them, baking cookies, serving humbly, problem solving, relieving stress, providing direction/hope/a laugh/a hug/structure/support.  Check, check, check.

Somewhere in the midst of my stretching, I came to a new realization.  Building relationships is important, but it can become somewhat lockstep and one dimensional if we don’t also find a way to actually relate.

Huh?

In the educational world, I’ve kind of looked at building relationships as a recipe that we are always adjusting a little and baking, over and over again.  Add a new pinch of this or half a cup of that, stir it up, serve and repeat.  Time consuming work, but satisfyingly tasty when you put in the effort (most of the time).  But it is a recipe in the sense that it is largely at the mercy of the baker – a one dimensional creation.  One that can be reciprocated, of course, but largely something that we set out to do to someone.  The problem with this is that a one dimensional relationship can be ok but it is just…nice.

I want to figure out how to really relate to people that I am trying to build relationships with in my professional world.  How do I get to know the real them?  How do I actually help that real them?  How do I show them the real me?  How do I understand what the real barriers are in what we are trying to create?  How do I honestly and totally look at where they are actually coming from and understand why they (and I) do the things we do?

So, I’m going to try to figure it out.  I want to get beyond the building relationships checklist and do better at learning how to relate to the people I’ve been aiming my checklist at.

Relate.

What’s your goal this year?