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Saturday, December 21, 2013

More Concerning Bridges

Lessons Learned…

More Concerning Bridges

The fifth grade class was down by five students due to early holiday family vacations, to some dangerously icy road conditions, and a bit to various colds and other bugs which kept a few students home. This meant our sixteen remaining students were going to have to really project as well as pick up all of the unaccounted for lines and scenes. Changing up a program on the spot while performing to accommodate for absences, such as this, requires a significant amount of confidence, memory, and ability. This is certainly an experience which would make most adults offer their most sincere apologies and then quietly bow out because this sort of “winging it” before an audience simply has far too great a risk of embarrassment. These dear fifth graders, however, were fearless.  With the audience excitedly gathering in their seats before us, we quickly accomplished some critical line reassigning.  With a room full of Christmas clad guests at the retirement center, our shining fifth graders sang and shared with great joy, flawlessly projecting every word and filling the hall with magical delight. Bright smiles and generous encouragement met each and every piece shared, and the connection between audience and performers was warm and strong and right. A bridge. They shared an emotional bridge of hope and joy, and it was precious and powerful. Minutes before our first song, we had learned that Ida, who sat in the front row and was wearing a purple sweater, would be celebrating her 100th birthday tomorrow, and in honor of this and her, we added “Happy Birthday” to our repertoire as our concluding number. After the final song and the final bow, the fifth graders strengthened the bridge as each student carried out artwork gifts they had created for each resident. Heart to heart, the students and residents mingled and shared thanks for invitations and received thanks for singing. Eyes met, smiles erupted, conversations commenced, and bridges were built. The hall was filled with the warmth and beauty of friendship and kindness, despite the heavy drape of freezing rain covering the world beyond the walls.  Bridges bring blessing. After each student had greeted and brought an art gift to each resident, it was time to say good-bye. The fifth graders were anxious to know when they might be able to visit these friends again, and the residents unanimously extended an open visiting invitation. Smiles, hugs, and handshakes sealed the promise for more bridge-building to come.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Gift Of Being Read To Is A Gift Of Imagination And Creativity

Lessons Learned…

The Gift Of Being Read To

I have always contended that reading a book is to the mind what being on vacation is to the soul; a brief, delightful, adventurous respite from the status quo and daily routine. It allows, no invites, us to disengage from the rat race pace which seems to swallow up our joy and drive up our blood pressure.  It is a place where the lockstep of life is temporarily replaced with wandering wonder of imagination and relaxation. Reading fully engages the imagination. As one journeys through the pages of a book, the encountered printed words paint vivid pictures seen clearly in the imagination and catch one completely in the creative swirl of plot, scenes, settings, and characters. Engaged. Captured. Enthralled. Have you ever been read to? Do you remember the magical feeling of being lost in a story, happily tangled in its moods and actions and relational webs? Do you remember not wanting the story to end? When did you last read to someone, whereby offering them a self-less, generous gift of a vacation to imagination? If we desire to foster imaginative development and creativity in children we must read to them. We must let them play, to be sure, but we must also read more than regularly to them. Their minds must practice the art of imagining, seeing the pictures made by words, and resting in the stillness of attentive listening. To build creativity, to stretch attention spans, to revel in the happiness of sitting side by side on the couch and sharing the adventure of a story, this is a deep and lasting treasure that costs nothing more than time. When there is not enough money for a family vacation, travel together to the library and check out a large stack of books to read together. When the busy-ness of the day has exhausted all reserve energy, sleep has been a bit sporadic, and tomorrow and the next day are looking to be more of the same, sit together on the couch and read, read, read together. When it rains the entire month of June and three little boys are longing to get outside to play, pitch a tent on the porch, bring snacks, a flashlight, a few toys, and a large stack of books, and travel imaginatively together to exotic, exciting places far and near.   Between the infusion of excessive screens and the cultivated impatience of continual demands for extreme immediate gratification, the quiet creativity of listening to a story has become desperately endangered. The gift of being read to is indeed priceless and needs to be high on everyone’s list this Christmas.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Gift Of A Bridge

Lessons Learned…

The Gift Of A Bridge

Bridges connect east to west, uptown to downtown, north to south, city to city, and because of these bridges, we can easily cross one side to the other.  This is significant. Our cities today are under siege from a desperation, a loneliness, a despair that originates in hopelessness and chronic dysfunction and culminates in a fear-wrapped paralysis that can no longer see possibility. Our families today are under siege from a materialistic world that paints a spectacular mirage of how successful life ought to look, despite the fact that the closer one steps toward that lie, the more one horrifically realizes that it is not there.  So the pace is quickened, the dial on the treadmill is turned exponentially up, blinders are donned in hopes that faster and more focused can conjure OZ. It cannot. We wallow in the frustration of our delusion and live angrily because what the world tells us we want, we cannot have. Our schools today are under siege from a bureaucratic system so heavily laden with infinite, infernal paperwork, that the attempted fulfillment of our metrics obsession which is theoretically designed to enhance individualized instruction, does in fact consume an inordinate amount of prime, meaningful, relational, teachable time, leaving our students more stressed with little to no academic gain.  Our lives are under siege so we build walls and live alone. We give up.  We strike out at those around us and weep quietly in the darkness.  This is all wrong. Our lives are designed to be lived relationally, in community, sharing hearts and gifts and hope one life to another. Our hands are designed for reaching and helping not hoarding and hiding. We need each other. We need more bridges. Bridges to connect east to west, uptown to downtown, north to south, heart to heart in our cities, our families, our schools, and every aspect of our lives. Within our mirrored walls we see only ourselves and, truth be told, we do not like what we see. It’s selfish. We need us. We need bridges. We need to look out, reach out, for then we will find out that in serving and caring and connecting, we ourselves are blessed. We all fully know that a far deeper satisfaction is felt in giving a gift than in receiving a gift. The thing is, each life is packed with gifts, heart gifts that cost nothing to give yet mean everything to receive. The gifts of time, of compassion, of gentleness, of listening, of smiling, of helping, of patience, of generosity, of forgiveness, of willingness, of mercy; these gifts and so many like them cost little to nothing but have the strength and power to change a life, to balm a wound, to heal a pain, to offer hope. These gifts are bridges, the bridges needed by our cities, our families, our schools, and by all of us. This precious holiday, perhaps we need to consider the gift of a bridge.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Do You Bind or Liberate the Creative Spirit?

Lessons Learned…

Do You Bind or Liberate the Creative Spirit?

Time. Patience. Non-judgment. Safety. These things all are mandatory for a creative spirit to feel free to create. A creative spirit comfortably and frequently dwells in a place of great vulnerability. This place is one where wide open emotions, wild imaginings, and novel, exciting connections intersect.  It is an exhausting and exhilarating place all at once. The birth of an idea occurs in a place where a brave creative spirit is willing to take a great risk and expose his or her heart. For example, a composing artist might be inspired by a landscape, an event, a relationship, a life story, or any other of an infinite number of inspirational sources, and then the seed of that inspiration takes root in imagination’s fertile soil. While germinating, the inspiration, for a composing artist, develops an identifying sound and a musical color which will ultimately be creatively translated into a melody. Sometimes this creative process takes a great deal of time, sometimes it unexpectedly bursts forth from seemingly nowhere, but in any case, it cannot be timed, measured, demanded of, or really even controlled. It just is as it is. Which comes first, the lyrics or the melody? There is no standard recipe. There is no prescribed order or flow chart design.  It just is. And when pen finally puts creativity to paper, we see the fruit emerge. The fruit of this particular creativity is a song.  A unique melody.  A unique combination of words.  A unique color of emotion extracted from the original inspiration.  This unique musical composition depicts the artist’s very own musical connection to the object of inspiration, and to be invited to hear this melody by the artist’s hand is to indeed be considered a trusted confidant.  Words need to be few in this moment of hearing a new song.   One who snaps to reckless judgment, one who values to the highest priority the narrow parameters of extreme efficiency, one who typically favors status quo in general, one who is easily distracted and unable to simply breathe in the awesomeness of newness, one to whom nothing is ever quite good enough, these would rarely be the ones invited into this moment of creativity unveiled.  These are actually the ones who bind the creative spirit within boxes of ordinary, predictable, beigeness.  Within these boxes creativity suffers and dies, for creativity must be free if it is to exist at all. Be gentle with the creative spirits in life, in your home, in your classroom, in your workplace. They see the world a bit differently. They see possibilities unnoticed by others, and possibilities stir hope.  The gifts they bring to the issues of life we all grapple with individually and corporately may just hold the promise of a solution.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Patience And Creativity

Lessons Learned…

Sometimes Creativity Requires Great Patience

A conversation with a class of young students began with this question: What do you call the room where you sit with others before you are called into the doctor’s office? The waiting room. And if you are waiting in the waiting room to see the doctor, what are you? Probably sick. Well, that’s absolutely correct! The collection of everyone not feeling well in the waiting room would be known as the doctor’s what? We would be patients. That is also absolutely correct. Patients wait in the waiting room. The word patients is not the same as the word patience, but both are inextricably bound to the word waiting. The attribute of patience is learned through the discipline of waiting, yet, in our culture of immediate, we are not well accustomed to nor very amenable to waiting. A delay of game, a traffic jam, a black Friday checkout line, a power outage, these types of waiting circumstances frequently are accompanied by rising blood pressure and  angry outbursts, which do decidedly nothing to eliminate the required wait. We hate to wait. Now. We want what we want and we want it now. Waiting is for everyone else in line, but not for me.  I am too busy to wait. Too important. We rant and whine and complain and pound our fists on the steering wheel resembling our toddlers who throw similar tantrums when they have to wait. We are in such a hurry to not have to wait that we barely remember to breathe. Why? Why do we do this? If we never have to wait, we will forever suffer from impatience.  Children are not yet burdened with the consuming nature of over self-importance, because the wonder of play still fills their hearts and waiting for a turn on the swing or the slide is really very okay. Unfortunately, they do observe impatience in us and occasionally try it on for size, which is desperately sad to see. Waiting is not a bad thing. Waiting can be a time of great creativity; a contemplative time when ideas can swirl and connect in new ways. Our frenetic, impatient pace squeezes out creativity. We race to the finish line of whatever task is before us, driven madly by a competitive compulsion to be first. Relax. Wait. Smell the flowers. Hear the music. See for the very first time since childhood the wonder and beauty all around. Savor with patience the great gift that is life, which passes all too quickly. And in the patient savoring, who knows, one might just find a unique idea or even an original song.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Lessons Learned…

Angry Words Suffocate Gentle Curiosity, Wonder, and Imaginative Thought

“When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.” Thomas Jefferson
These days, it so often seems, there exists in our personalities a smoldering rage that bubbles just below the surface of our socially acceptable facades. This is a rage that is fed by our frustrations, inadequacies, insecurities, failures and all such negative attributes which derive their energy from all of the “I can’ts” and “You can’ts” being shouted into our self-esteems by the world. Not good enough. Not strong enough. Not fast enough. Not smart enough. Not rich enough. Not attractive enough. Not funny enough. Not serious enough. Never ever ever enough. In the shadow of that glaring though unachievable truth we pout and stew and lament that there looms an elusive something that we, who have prided ourselves on having it all, cannot have. Unacceptable. Anger is stirred. We run faster, jump higher, work longer, laugh louder, and even so, it is never ever enough. Rather than jumping off this ludicrous merry-go-round, we hang on more tightly, as the world whirls by, never advancing, only in place. If we could just jump off and steady our feet in the stillness, we might begin to know the feel of being content. The peace of looking inside one’s own heart and realizing that enough means simply having what one needs. But we cannot jump off. We are compelled to stay on because everyone else is staying on being angry alone together about all that we do not have that we really believe we should have, we deserve. We silently seethe. Because the bubbling rage we feel dare not be seen at work where its appearance could cost position or among those whose power or prestige might be beneficial in the climb toward more, we save our rage release for home, where temporarily we can slow the merry-go-round at least long enough to allow our emotions to catch up with our pace. With no one to impress for gain, we become ourselves and the anger shows. Impatience, inattentiveness, annoyance are all manifestations of our anger, and these become the norm for our children. Our collective fuse is short, our tempers flare, and we raise our voices with angry eyes flashing for incidents and behavior undeserving of such wrath. This persists as the expected culture around home and our children who long for our hearts receive this toxic and sad culture instead day after day after day after day. They learn from us. They learn this from us. They then bring this to school, to their friendships and all interpersonal interactions, because this is what they know. As a teacher, this is very challenging to undo. This is very challenging to penetrate and to heal. Children live what they learn is a very old adage and very true. Where there is anger, there is also fear, and where there is fear, optimal learning can never occur. Where there is anger, there is a clamoring for protection which is driven by the insecurity that a culture of anger creates. Where there is anger, curiosity, wonder, and imaginative thought will suffocate because gentle musings will always retreat when met toe to toe with the fierceness and fear of anger. Who pays the price for our inability or unwillingness to understand beauty of contentedness? Who bears the brunt of our endless, exhausting merry-go-round ride? Who just wants us and our time undivided, while we race about chasing one more material item to make our children happy? We have this all wrong. Our children long for our love, our smiles, our hugs, story time, joyous laughter together, silly fun projects worked on together; our children long for us. We give them our anger because we cannot give them the things that the neighbors have. Things. We pay far too high a price for things. We need to jump off the merry-go-round and play with our children.  And if we feel angry, we need to count to ten. Thomas Jefferson surely had that right.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Disrespect. What Are We All Teaching Our Children?

Lessons Learned…


Rampant. Pervasive. Epidemic. A malignancy. Disrespect, it surely seems, is the MO of today, and its insidious presence in classrooms, in locker rooms, in homes, and in most every interpersonal interaction among all ages, is tragic, immature, and growing. Its obnoxious presence dominates every setting in which it is allowed. Disrespect is the new neighborhood bully whose unrelenting selfishness very meanly distracts and destroys the direction of a gentle soul. Just today, I read of another broken-hearted teacher throwing in the towel on education because of the uncontrollable rudeness of students. Students are not the sole possessors of a disrespectful demeanor, however, for disappointingly, we adults all around them are flagrantly modeling this distasteful and atrocious behavior as well. Shouting at refs, demanding rule changes to suit personal circumstances, brazenly and constantly talking back, rolling the eyes, sarcastic remarks, an above the law attitude, an excuse for every act of non-compliance, a sneer to meet genuineness and humility, a spirit of laughing at, an unasked for opinion to make all decisions the matter of a personal committee, a loud dogmatic voice that hears only itself;  all of these and countless more are mere symptoms of a deeper malady; an inner  discontentedness, a distrust, an over-inflated ego due to a desperately diminished self-esteem, a cry to be noticed or heard.  Disrespect will not go away if it is ignored, because somewhere deeply imbedded in disrespect’s DNA it’s itching to fight and will not stand down until it is challenged and put in its place. It resembles an alpha dog syndrome, where the leader is unmistakably identified and leads, despite efforts of wannabes to assume the lead. Disrespect simply cannot be allowed, for everything about it smacks of a breakdown of order and fully impedes accomplishment. When we speak of being committed to student learning, we would be remiss to avoid addressing and nipping the culture of disrespect which will most assuredly undermine even the best of best practices. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Self-control. A display of manners. Selflessness. Generosity. Graciousness. Humility. Can these be taught? Our students truly need to learn them. Demonstrating these attributes will boost students’ self-esteem and success and radically enhance accomplishment in the classroom, on the field, and in life. Don’t we desire this for them? Respect must be expected and demanded. Trust must be earned.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Looking At The Creative Spirit

Lessons Learned...

Looking At The Creative Spirit

A creative spirit frequently lives in a lonely place. Not bad lonely, just slightly misunderstood lonely. To create, one needs to be comfortable with vulnerability, and if not completely comfortable with vulnerability, then at least aware of the weight of this demand. To create, one needs to imagine possibility and unexpected connection and to do this one needs to drop the wall of fear that neatly and typically holds us captive and safe within our prescribed conventions and protocols. Dropping the wall of fear to see beyond it, is terrifyingly and exhilaratingly vulnerable. A willingness to live there is risky, but it is the only place for a creative spirit to feel the freedom necessary to dream and imagine. Creativity flows like a faucet through the imagination of the one who seeks to see a new connection or hear a new combination of sounds, but living in this refreshing flow is inefficient and immeasurable, whereby rendering it inconsistent with the standard rhythm of life which is much more lock-step and non-threateningly predictable. So in choosing to be a creative spirit, one is choosing to be different, and different is vulnerable and can be lonely.  The process of creating is extremely intense and focused, yet at the same time wildly invigorating. In the process of creating, one hears and sees through the heart of imagination in response to an idea or thought and then captures that idea in a new way through any of an infinite variety of creative vehicles. My choice is music, and it has been since I was a child. Unexplainable as it is, other than to say it is a gift, creating music fills my soul and gives voice to the emotion wrapped around an idea, a thought, a situation, or a chapter in a life story. Inspiration for the creative process can occur at most any time and it compels the creative spirit to engage; convenient timing or not is rather inconsequential. From the moment of engagement, out pours the creativity unrestrained.  When at last the creative piece is complete, there is a frozen moment of awe, when for the very first time the one who has dreamed and created views in actuality what previously had existed only in the heart of imagination. Breathtaking. Perfect. Thoroughly and absolutely unique. This precious moment of awe is a very vulnerable place where no judgment or critique is ever welcome and only the gentlest of viewers are allowed.  The creative spirit is strong of heart and faith and optimism, but in this moment of awe, the creative spirit is indeed fragile. If you are ever invited into this moment with a creative spirit, accept it as the true gift it is, offer nothing but your stillness, and allow the awe to bless your heart.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The One Hundredth Blog Article

Lessons Learned…

The One Hundredth Blog Article

In a word, love. Thirty years of teaching, twenty-seven years of marriage, twenty-five years of parenting, and fifty-four years of life have taught me that in triumphs and trials and everything in between, a strong, good answer to every circumstance and every relationship is simply to love more, to be patient more, to be gentle more, to be sacrificial more, to listen more, to believe and hope and encourage more.  The world is hard and clearly in need of gentle helpful hands and tender serving hearts. When burdens become too great to bear, we so frequently stagger alone under the crushing weight of it all somehow erroneously believing that either others do not want to be troubled or even worse that in sharing a burden we are admitting weakness or that something about our lovely fa├žade is less than all we are hoping it will appear to be.  We are designed to live in community. Together we are stronger.  What we share in common is far more important and valuable than the differences that divide us, and yet the differences draw fire and judgment from our bully pulpits of dogmatic and highly opinionated insecurities. The differences erect thick, impenetrable walls of fear and distrust. We need each other desperately still we struggle to move past the firing squad of suspicion.  Rather than exercising compassion, we often opt to exert power. Rather than crossing the street, we pull the blind and lock the door.  Rather than engaging, we turn a blind eye and blame our accursed, albeit self-created, busy-ness.  In our classrooms, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, each one we see is in dire need of love, acceptance, affirmation, connection and the joy that these gifts bring.  These gifts are free to give and to share and yet their value reaches infinitely beyond the bounds of the world’s greatest treasures. Perhaps it is time to make some changes. Perhaps it is time to build bridges, for the only tool necessary is one that has existed in our hearts from the very beginning; love.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The ABC's Of What To Do With Five Spare Minutes (for early elementary-aged students)

Imagine you have finished the project. Everything is cleaned up and put away. The next activity, lunch, is in five minutes. Question: Do you...

1. Ask everyone to sit quietly with heads down for five minutes?
2. All twiddle your thumbs together?
3. Let everyone free play?
4.Tap dance for them?
5. Read to them?
6. Slowly explain the "after lunch agenda," then move on to explaining tomorrow's agenda and the next day's, etc. etc?
7. Walk in extreme slow motion to line up one at a time at the door. If more time is left, sit back down and try it again, and again until five minutes have passed?
8. Play "I spy" or "Heads up 7up" or "Clap the syllables of your name" one student at a time?
9. Have everyone do jumping jacks?
10.Learn how to count to 10 in another language?

If you have tried any or all of the above, welcome to the world of teaching! Each day we will add a new, simple, short, easily implemented idea to coincide with each letter of the alphabet to offer you another option when that five-minute window strikes again:) Each letter of the alphabet is represented with a simple, creative activity and a short rhyme, and all can be found on this blog site as well as on Google+ Communities at "Five Minutes? Start A Parade!" 

"Popular" Is Deleterious To Creativity

Lessons Learned…

Popular Is Deleterious To Creativity

What is “popular?” Is it a status? Is it an aspiration or an achievement or a goal or a scheme? Is it even real? I believe it is illusive and fleeting regardless of whatever else it is. I believe it is synonymous with power, that is, until it suddenly dissolves. Anything wrapped in power such as “popular” has high bully potential, and this certainly is the case. Popular is most often maintained through fear; fear of being in, fear of being out, fear of being nothing but invisible as deemed by the “populars.” I have even observed teachers who have so feared the wrath of the populars, that they allowed accountability inconsistencies to exist in their classrooms; accountability inconsistencies clear to all but addressed by none. The power of popular is very tricky to handle and almost always causes some degree of pain to someone.  I believe it has some very treacherous and destructive propensities, as well. I believe popular emotionally resembles a house of cards, which, upon its collapse, leaves a horrific wake of devastated, shattered self-esteems and desperately exposed and tramped upon feelings, which in some instances never in a lifetime recover. Why? For what purpose?  To be the king or the queen of the pile of what? And yet dreams of “popular” dominate an adolescent mentality until alas this hope of all hopes is ruthlessly dashed by another heartless aspirer, whereby one is overtly and publically deemed uncool and thereby thrown out of the running for popular. Who picks and chooses? Who sits in this omnipotent judgment seat of exalting one aspirer and crushing another with frivolous flippancy?  Is popular a supreme to the absolute extreme rendition of the classic tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” where everyone but the emperor sees the lunacy and the tragic hilarity of the situation?  To pour one’s heart and energies into the pursuit of this particular illusion of popular, which seems to be very real and important when caught in the swirling sea of it, with thrashing and drowning part of its diabolical protocol, is to leave little heart and energy available for the pursuit of more meaningful, more lasting, more healthy, and more honest aspirations. Fear and creativity cannot coexist well. Creativity’s very nature denotes uniqueness, originality, imaginative freedom, and wonder-filled curiosity, none of which bend to the conformity expectation of aligning with popular. Popular remains the best possible copy of what the world tells it to be, and creativity simply will not be contained as such. To not align is to be discarded. To be discarded is to be relegated to nothing status, to invisible, and if a heart is strong enough to bear this, it will emerge liberated and peaceful; a wonderful place for creativity to dwell and flourish. Can we help our children with this, or are we just as tangled up in it as they?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Sarcasm Extinguishes Creativity In Children

Lessons Learned…

Please Leave Your Sarcasm At The Door

Sarcasm, like bullying, is about power, which is really about weakness covered up, which is really about insecurity. The response it draws, however, is fear; fear to speak up, fear to suggest, fear to offer, because sarcasm chooses to cut and splay rather than to hold gently and encourage. Sarcasm laughs at, points at, and mocks with its words cunningly crafted and delivered as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sarcasm scoffs at trust and faith and hopefulness and promise because perhaps somewhere deep down, sarcasm comes from a place of distrust, disillusionment, and maybe a pinch of anger and resentment; most probably a very sad soul. Sarcasm seeks to evoke laughter and a false levity at the expense of genuine-ness and pure delight. Sarcasm is not a friend of creativity in children, for instead of liberating the wonder-filled spirit of free and imaginative play, its ridiculing and overbearing nature crushes creativity and buries it under a pile of shame and embarrassment. We nervously laugh along with the sarcastic comment so that we can avoid being the wounded spirit laughed at. The target. The brunt. The loser. I have seen sarcastic teachers at work in their classrooms methodically dismantling student self-esteems with their well-chosen knife-like words all under the guise, the pathetic guise, of some sort of demented humor. It nauseates me to observe this insidious possibility thrasher which drives the creative spirit to retreat.  It’s not intelligent, and it’s not clever regardless of what the world may say. It is demeaning, however, and needs to be recognized as the menacing bully that it is. If we truly long to establish classrooms where creativity and imagination are welcome and thriving, we must sweep out from every corner every trace of sarcasm’s poison.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Before Creativity There Is Confidence...

Lessons Learned…

Arrogance is not Confidence

We have muddled something up with respect to our children, whether they are our own kids, our students, or the players on our team, and it’s probably about time we take an honest look at what we’ve done. Beginning with the assumption of excellent and honorable intentions fully aligning with the best interests of the children, we adults shower the children, perhaps more likely deluge them, with superlative accolades for each and every good action accomplished. Although in and of itself, praise is lovely and right and affirming, but just as with so very many aspects of our lives these days it seems we chase it to the absolute extreme which in its overdoneness has the propensity of rendering itself meaningless, insincere, and drippingly excessive. This overkill of superlative accolades then hits the waves of social media and paints a bigger than life picture and surprisingly seems to build an ego much more readily than it builds confidence.  A torrent of glowing adjectives may impress and tickle the ears of others standing by and in turn sharing their torrents, but in terms of building the confidence and not the arrogance of the child we would do much better to encourage them to make good choices and assume responsibility for their actions and their time.  There is nothing superficial about confidence as it emanates from a place deep within an individual, a place of deep trust where he or she has learned from those significant in one’s life that his or her ideas, thoughts, actions, plans, dreams, schemes, and solutions have value and validity; a significant one who has listened intently and in some clear way said yes. Confidence is strong but it is also gentle. Confidence is bold but it is not brash. Confidence is willing to stand alone or stand up for something, but confidence will also patiently, quietly sit without demanding because confidence trusts and believes that its time will come. Arrogance demands and struts and bullies because at the root of arrogance is insecurity, an insecurity grounded in the superficiality of excessive, superlative accolades. Words of the glowing adjective variety take no time to spew and require no investment of time in the child for whom they are uttered, they simply float in the air and puff up ego’s sails without reaching meaningfully in to a child’s heart with an affirming yes. On the sports fields, in the classrooms, on the playground, on television and all around we witness a malignant and myopic arrogance that is disheartening, discouraging and truly represents the antithesis of confidence. We need to speak quiet, honest, and specific affirming truth into the ears and hearts of our children, and then intently listen as they reveal their hopes and dreams, encouraging them to press forward confidently, which they will then do.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Looking At Creativity 9

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 9

It was an ordinary July morning about to become an extraordinary one as well as an indelibly etched memory simply because of the word “yes,” which is creativity’s favorite word. In a world of “no’s,” where everyone has a reason why not, why you shouldn’t or can’t, why it’s ridiculous or a great waste of time, or what would clearly be better, which is all about those who are the naysayers and how their ideas trump anything thing else on the table, the brave, small voice of yes fiercely fights to stand firm and hold open the door of possibility. Nothing crushes the possibility or the actuality of creativity more completely than a no face, a no spirit, or a no personality, yet no is easiest answer, because, like a hot knife through butter, it cuts off the inefficiency and messiness associated with creativity and keeps us all neatly in lock-step, robotic and only superficially engaged. Once you say yes, the lid of Pandora’s box flies to the wind and time is caught up in the swirling wonder of imagination; a place of play and a place of seeing things differently.  This is a precious place where joy and innovation collide and burst together into a splash of technicolor brilliance. It was pouring with rain this hot July morning, and it had been pouring with rain on and off over a number of days in a row. Inside activities, experiments, and projects were ongoing in every corner, when one of my sons casually presented the genuine wish of his heart in that moment, “I really would like to go snowboarding today.” In the nanosecond subsequent to the proclaimed wish, my mind raced between yes and no, why and why not, practical or impractical, possible or impossible, ridiculous or exhilarating, and I attempted to buy a pinch of time with the obvious  question,  where could we go in July? As if the entire seemingly problematic gap between winter and summer had been fully scrutinized and mentally bridged, hence resolved, prior to the question, the response was simply and immediately, mud is as slippery as snow. Hmmm. Of course.  So with the yes door flung wide open, we loaded the board in the car and set out in the pouring rain to find steep enough muddy hills adequately suitable for mud-boarding. The perfect hill was discovered.  He was absolutely right about mud being slippery as snow.  Run after run after run with increasing laughter, increasing rain soaked mud caked clothes, and increasing competence on the mud slope, my son lived his July wish. Joy. Test and full affirmation of what to some no faces might have seemed a ridiculous impractical impossibility. An idea dreamed, an idea tried, a wish fulfilled. All because of yes.  Every yes most certainly builds significant confidence toward the next new idea, which is exactly the place where creativity loves to dwell. Are there enough yes’s at school? Are there enough yes’s at home? Are we wearing yes faces enough so that this next generation of dreamers can imagine, then plan, then build an exciting and hopeful future?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Looking At Creativity 8

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 8

The first day of summer vacation could irrefutably be the most eagerly anticipated and longed for day on the calendar of all school children. In a word, freedom! My own boys were faithfully counting the minutes, starting weeks before the late winter snow had fully melted in the upper Midwest. On the eve of the day above all days, much discussion was occurring in my home among the boys as to exactly which television program might kick off the glorious three month hiatus. From my couldn’t help but listen post at the kitchen counter, I knew we could do better than this to usher in the summer, a beautiful season of different learning.  The woo hoo day arrived with torrential rain but none-the-less great jubilating joy. The race to the television was stopped in mid-step with the pronouncement that everyone needed to hop in the car. What? Why? Garage sale-ing. Ughhhh. Everyone gets five dollars to buy a broken appliance to take apart. It’s raining! All the better for a day at the workbench.  Garage sale hosts are exceptionally enthusiastic to have customers during a rain storm, so the deals were extremely good and it was clearly the peak season for broken appliances.  With three items and quite a lot of pocket change in our possession, we headed dripping wet to the basement workbench. Although the start was a bit slow with excitement in the project noticeably underwhelming, the momentum quickly picked up and soon tools were flying and the chatter of creativity was escalating in volume and speed. The project lasted hours, days, and weeks, and grew to include the neighbor kids who were already tired of watching television and much more interested in engaging their hands and ideas in the project. Early on, it was determined that all three appliances were completely unfixable, but by pooling all of the parts and adding this and that from various nooks and crannies in the basement, the garage, and the neighbors’ houses, a brand new idea emerged. The new idea led to drawings, plans, suggestions (only when asked) from engineer dad, and many phone calls (by the kids) to a variety of local gear shops. Fund raising efforts were organized to have money to order and purchase parts to continue work on the project.  The project was brilliantly and delightfully consuming and exhilarating and half of the summer whooshed by in a flurry of creativity before a calendar was ever noticed. Camps, family vacations, and assorted lessons punctuated the project efforts, but it all was good and fun and happy. In what seemed to be a snap, we were buying school supplies and shoes again readying for a new school year. Impossible. On the magnificent wings of creativity, the summer flew in the most joyful way hovering over the well-lit basement workbench, while the piece of furniture known as the television collected a good amount of dust.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Looking At Creativity 7

Lessons Learned…
Creativity Unwrapped 7

Untidy. Creativity is frequently on the untidy side because if one’s imagination is to fully cut loose, it cannot be troubled, encumbered, or held guiltily captive to neat and orderly cleanliness. We were city slickers, albeit  creative city slickers, who moved heart and home to the country, place of boundless imaginative exploration and wonder amidst rolling acres and nature’s treasures.  Toys schmoys. All we needed was to be outside, for high adventure existed everywhere in nature’s magnificent playground. In every season, the creative tools of play included: rocks, mud, creeks, sticks, flowers, trees, ravines, leaves, and winding mysterious paths. The cast of our creative play included: brothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors, several Labrador retrievers, a few barn cats, and occasionally invited guests such as parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents, but only if they brought their imaginations and didn’t mind getting muddy. Imaginations  grow and flourish in this wonderfully  rich potting soil known as the countryside. It was late October, and the colored leaves had all come down. Rain had soaked this leafy carpet leaving a rather spongy, springy floor. The paths of the ravine as well as its steep sides were covered in this soft, springy, muddy carpet.  It looked delightfully slippery to the very knowing eyes of the cousins who were well acquainted with every nook and cranny in every season of this beloved playground. Guests, friends were coming over to play while the moms shared coffee and conversation. The guests were very neat and clean and looked unmistakably like inside playing kids. We were crushed but readied our inside play accouterments to accommodate our guests. Could we play outside, they queried? Really; it’s a bit dirty out there? We never get dirty; it would be fun. Yes, it definitely would, but are you sure? It’s really, really dirty out there. Good. Okay then. So off we cousins went with our guests to the slippery slopes of the ravine, while the moms enjoyed their fellowship. Time and mud and hilarity and unmatchable fun swirled around these cousins and guests as run after run after run after run we rode down the side of the ravine on the back of our pants. Caked head to toe in thick, thick mud, we all looked as if we had been dipped in creamy milk chocolate, and the sight of us to one another evoked constant, raucous peels of wild laughter from each of us as we trekked back to the house. Our mothers saw us coming from a long way off and surely heard us as well for they met us at the door with cameras first and then towels. They knew the deep value of creative play, they knew the blessing of play’s joy, and they knew that under all of that mud, which would eventually wash away, there were gargantuan heart smiles and spectacular memories of some slightly untidy, delightful childhood play that would last a lifetime.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Looking At Creativity 6

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 6

Creativity dwells within a playful spirit. If eyes contain a playful sparkle, you can be certain that a deliciously creative scheme is lurking ready to spring from just around the corner. This sparkle is highly contagious and extraordinarily irresistible to children who have not yet swallowed themselves in a plethora of doubts and self-consciousness. We learn to push the sparkle away as we grow older because it feels silly and childish and an extremely inefficient use of our highly structured scheduled and accounted for time. We instead draw ourselves closer to the comfort, security and measurability of conformity. As we move away from the sparkle, we seem to lose a little joy, a little lilt in our step, and a little piece of our ability to see possibility, because these things are all swirling around within the wonder and delight of playfulness. Why do we allow ourselves to be herded down this sad and tired path which so easily can become a sad and tired rut? Why do we opt for sparkle-less when we surely could choose sparkle-full? Why are we surprised and then disappointed when we cannot come up with a new idea, a new plan, a new solution, a new possibility, when we have deliberately discarded the playful sparkle which is exactly where all of this originates. Perhaps it is time to instead discard the clock and regain our sparkle.  So as an elementary creative drama teacher, I am allowed the excellent privilege of playing every day. Bliss. Sparkle. Joy. No one plays better creatively than children, whose eyes and hearts are full to the brim with sparkles and whose imaginations are perpetually ready to fully engage. To the kindergartners I mention that a blue heron is sort of a shy seeming bird with very long legs;  let’s walk like blue herons. Instantly, twenty perfect blue herons filled the room. Let’s walk like a scissors. Twenty perfect scissors. Let’s swish like a sprinkler. Twenty wonderful sprinklers. And on and on we played and could have continued forever that way, because children never run out of imagination. They never run out of playful sparkle. They never run out of new ideas, new stories, or new reasons to play. Growing older shouldn't have to mean turning our backs on that glorious, happy, wonder-filled sparkle that thrives on a playful spirit which drives imagination, creativity, and ultimately innovation.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Looking At Creativity 5...

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 5

Our fourth grade students were invited to sing at a beautiful event, An International Day of Peace. They needed a sweet, beautiful song. Here is my gift to them:, “Peace for the Children” by Darcy Hill. Their precious gift to the event and to our community was their excellent singing. Creativity at work.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Looking At Creativity 4

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 4

Play is the root of creativity, and creativity is the root of innovation.  Children need to play.  We all need much more time in the course of our days to feel the joy, the freedom, the absolute delight of eye-sparkling, imagination exercising, friendship building, playful fun. Such time would do us all a world of good.
Scene 9:
(President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton at the White House discussing war plans while President’s boys are running and playing all over the White House)
Stanton: They’re a little rambunctious.
Abe: They’re boys.
(more playing)
Stanton: We are trying to save our country.
Abe: They are playing.
(more playing)
Stanton: Can’t you tell them to stop?
Abe: Of course I can, Mr. Stanton, but I won’t. These are sad, dark, painful times.  Agony and grief are everywhere. These little ones are lost in the joy and wonder of childhood play. They lift my heart, and they remind me of the hope we must have. Let them play, Sir. Let them play.

Let them run, let them be, full of fun and perfectly free, let them play oh let them play.
Let them laugh, let them hide, let them sing inside or outside, let them play oh let them play.
They are children too quickly they grow; give them joy, give them hope, give them room so they’ll know that you love them.
Let them dream, let them build, imagination can only be filled when they play oh let them play.
Let them care for many a pet, let them splash and get themselves wet, let them play oh let them play.
They are children too quickly they grow; give them joy, give them hope, give them room so they’ll know that you love them.

Tad and Willie played and played through the halls and gardens of the White House with all of their pets and toys. Their happy interruptions and antics warmed the heart of their dad and always brought a smile to his mostly serious face.
(from Forever Honest Abe by Darcy Hill)

If we value innovation, we must value creativity, and if we value creativity, we must value play. We simply must.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Looking At Creativity 3...

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 3

With bright, wildly excited eyes, he exuberantly shared with words spilling over words that the long awaited and much anticipated huge science project was to be a creation of the solar system. Artistic, creative, original, unique, any medium, any materials were all descriptors from the teacher concerning this wonderful project. What do you think you’d like to do? I have thought about this all day and all the way home from school, and I think origami planets in different colors of different sizes all connected with pipe cleaners would be perfect. That sounds fantastic! What do you think we need to get for you create this just as you imagine it? With supplies gathered and work space cleared, the imaginer set to creating. Other than peeking in now and again, we, the support team, were to not distract or disturb the imaginer. Colorful origami planets began to fill the space, while pipe cleaner connectors held them in their proper orbits. Evenings filled with brilliant, beautiful creativity flew by punctuated with awe speckled giggles and other sounds of pride.  When at last the stunning, fragile solar system was complete, we were invited to a viewing. Magnificent. Perfect. The imagined solar system had at last become the created one, and  hearts were dancing with joy as they do when creativity is swirling in the midst. Although this humongous creative science project was due on a Friday, several students had decided to bring their projects in Thursday, and what our imaginer saw on Thursday crushed the zeal that had set his spirit soaring through the numerous previous evenings. Most, if not all, of the Thursday solar systems were made from purchased kits with every component perfectly set in place per the specific directions contained in the box, which made them actually, perfect; quite the same but nonetheless perfect.  Friday morning in the parking lot, as other beautiful boxed solar systems streamed by, a very sad thought struck our imaginer. Suddenly, pipe cleaner connectors and origami planets were the tools of losers and others who created without directions in the box. The bright, wildly excited eyes dulled and from the previously jubilating heart came the whispered words, I can’t turn mine in; it’s dumb. My solar system doesn’t look perfect like boxed ones do, and the teacher will think I didn’t work as hard. Gentle, encouraging words from the support team were not quite enough to get us beyond the parking lot crisis occurring in our car, but an intuitive, sensitive, empathetic teacher saved the day, the moment, and a creative heart under siege. This wise and good teacher, upon hearing of the crisis, tenderly pulled the student aside, reminded the student of the excellence of creativity and imaginative work, and affirmed the highest priority and value to be placed upon all of the extra effort involved in creating a unique project, which was, in fact, the assignment.  The imaginer’s smile returned thankfully.  When do we actually trade in our out-of-the-box imaginations for boxed kits complete with perfect directions? Once we make the trade, are we able to go back?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Looking At Creativity 2

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 2

Here is a page out of the Elementary Drama Teacher’s playbook. We, the students and I, like to tell stories by acting them out with scenes and songs, which not only is extremely cooperatively entertaining and fun but its additional academic gain is that this process thoroughly enhances retention of story facts, details, and plot. Most stories we know can be depicted in this creative manner.  We hear the story first, followed by a student retelling or two. Once we are quite confident that we have adequately familiarized ourselves with the plotline, we list, in order, the story events on what we call an emotional line. The story’s emotional line is, in fact, a line that waves up or down depending on the happy or sad, angry or enthusiastic feelings stirred by the various events of the story.  The up or down waves determine the “sound” or the mood of the music to be written(or found) which will, as accurately as we can imagine,  represent the feelings the story events evoke from the story characters. We construct scenes around the songs filled with the characters of the story. We enact the scenes portraying the story characters, sing the songs to enhance the various waves of story feelings, and frequently add a pinch of extemporaneous narration to connect the scenes and drive the story telling. It’s fun. It’s memorable. It’s never the same twice. It’s creative, imaginative, and collaborative.  It’s meaningful arts-based learning.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Looking At Creativity 1...

Lessons Learned…

Creativity Unwrapped 1

“Where does an idea start? How does an idea grow? Deep in the mind of a daydreaming kind, ohhhh.” (youtube: Where does an idea start? by Darcy Hill)
“I’m all alone as I can be, just me, the stars, and restless sea; they’ve given up too easily, the precious dream that set them free. They stopped believing, they stopped trying. When you stop believing you start dying; oh no not me.” (from Christopher Columbus by Darcy Hill)
“My dream of a place where learning can be, ongoing and vital and honestly free; where we plan and we dream and we sketch and we build, and each seed will be sown and the earth will be tilled.”(from Frank Lloyd Wright- On Being Wright by Darcy Hill)
“There’s still room for a dancer, there’s still room for one who’ll dare to dream; in this world of high pressure, it’s the only hope it seems.”(Dancer by Darcy Hill)
“When your way is very weary, when the road is ever long; when your heart is not so cheery, and your spirit’s not that strong; just remember I love you and in that love you will find light, and your family loves and needs you to be home with them tonight.”(from The Little Match Girl adaptation by Darcy Hill)
“Home is where you belong, where you feel strong, helping each other along; Home is where your story starts, we all play parts, in this story called home.”(from Hometown History by Darcy Hill; youtube : This story called home  by Darcy Hill)
“Let them run, let them be full of fun and perfectly free, let them play, oh, let them play.”(from Forever Honest Abe by Darcy Hill)
When I was three, my parents moved the most amazing item I had ever seen into our living room. It was a baby grand piano and it thoroughly captivated me. They said I would listen to the radio and then run to the piano to try and play what I heard, over and over again.  I remember that I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember praying as a young child that I would be able to write beautiful music; an unending prayer through the years. One day in college, a need arose for an original song and before the powerful stream of doubts and pessimism flooded in, I offered to write. The  offer was jubilantly accepted, and then came the siege of the doubts, which were to be quickly squashed by the adrenalin of possibility. Song written. Song performed. Affirmation. And on and on and over again tens of hundreds of times through more than thirty years of creating and basking in the rush of answered prayer and a childhood dream coming true. The joy of creating music fills my soul to the tips of my toes, and the even greater joy of being a teacher of children, a creative drama and music teacher, providing daily opportunities for students to imagine and play and dream bigger than themselves is infinitely rewarding. Free to create. Free to be creative.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It's About Time 7; Wrap Up...

Lessons Learned…

Time 7 Wrap Up For Now

Twenty four hours. My experiences, a few of which have been briefly chronicled in the previous six blog articles, have taught me that this daily allotment of time can oscillate from interminably long to quicker than a snap depending upon one’s perspective or one’s circumstances. Regardless, however, of one’s perspective, the inscrutable fact remains that this allotment of time is all there is, it’s all we get,  which in and of itself demands a bit of reflection and accountability. Getting tangled in the minutia, majoring in the minors, missing the forest for the trees, these all most assuredly represent, to a certain degree, time wasted. And yet minutia seems so often to be our time-filler of choice, as we hurl ourselves daily into the spin cycle of checklist accomplishment, which, judging by our actual time allocation, we intensely value. Effective checklist accomplishment frequently leaves little room in our time for the nebulous time assignment of effective relational accomplishment.  Perhaps our metrics obsession drives much of this checklist accomplishment priority, but have we fully calculated the price and the cost of it? This is not to say that all checklist accomplishments are the enemy of relational authenticity and strength, for we surely must get things done, and life certainly requires balance, still, far too often our success is measured by numbers rather than by hearts.   In our homes, in our classrooms, in our relationships are we so consumed with the numbers that measure our work that we miss out on substantive and life-changing connections that bring meaning and promise and motivation and joy? Undoubtedly, this willing trade for our time has affected the quality of our relationships, the depth of our commitments, and our ability to enthusiastically engage our passions. What portion of our twenty four hours is given to listening to one another, to sharing with one another, to extending compassion to one another, to building bridges of meaning and hope between hearts and lives, to being creative? These things take time, yet these things are the very life of life and the heartbeat of all that makes us human. Not only must these precious things be taught to our children, they absolutely must be valued and given priority time, so that our children can grow and flourish knowing the gift of connection to one another, which will last in their hearts long after numbers become irrelevant.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's About Time 6...

Lessons Learned…

Time 6

Twenty four hours. In the pediatric unit of a hospital. Any time spent here with your child for a reason other than visiting someone else is equivalent to eternity. RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, was the diagnosis for my nine month old. His breathing was raspy and labored and the discomfort his little body felt from this struggle left him so very restless and irritable. My heart ached watching him fight this insidious enemy as in his hospital crib he attempted to sleep tethered to wires and monitors. With permission, I lifted him from the foreign, strange-feeling crib and cradled him in my arms where rest and a bit of sleep more easily came.  All night long, I prayed over this angel in my arms, as the excellent but stretched-way-too-thin medical staff frantically ran from room to pediatric room tending monitors and needs. Between RSV and the Rotavirus, on that particular night during that particular year, every pediatric bed was filled, and sick, hospitalized children were filling beds in other units. Two children died.  Rocking and praying my son through the night, there was peace in our little room despite the overwhelming  and overarching anxiety  wrapped around a stay such as this. The hospital night in that pediatric unit was noisy with the cries of children whose bodies were in tremendous distress and I wept for them through the night as their painful, fearful cries went on. I asked our nurse why their parents were not allowed to hold these children to calm their little bodies? Their parents were not able to stay the night, for circumstances and reasons that demanded they not stay. These little ones cried and cried alone, and I cried wishing I had more arms and more time to hold and rock and pray over these other precious lives struggling with sickness.  Sometimes there simply is not enough time to do all that we need to do because life is busy and hard and full of choices that frequently leave you feeling that none of the options are really that wonderful. Perhaps this is the place where we need to step in for one another and fill in those gaps with our time. We all have hands and hearts and arms to hold and rock. We all have bits of time here and there that we could offer up to help. All we really need is a desire to do something about the cries filling the hallway.  To be continued…

Friday, September 20, 2013

It's About Time 5...

Lessons Learned…

Time 5

Twenty four hours. Not really that long. Unless you’re alone and it’s Christmas Eve.  Mr. Klinghammer was a recent widower whose wife of seventy years had passed quietly in her sleep. The aching, gaping hole in his heart caused by this excruciating loss was borne in silence but clearly evidenced in his sparkle-less eyes, his curved posture, and his faraway glances. Seventy Christmas Eves together and now alone was more than Mr. Klinghammer could take. We had a family tradition of inviting a guest to Christmas Eve dinner; always someone who was alone. This year we invited Mr. Klinghammer.  The dining room table was festively set, the traditional Christmas meal sent delicious swirls of aroma from room to room, and a small wrapped gift sat at Mr. Klinghammer’s place.  Dad went to get our guest, and, with our noses pressed to the front window, we awaited their arrival with great anticipation. We could hardly contain our excitement as Dad and our special guest walked in. Mr. Klinghammer was dressed to the nines in his suit and tie, but best of all was his big, broad smile, which remained throughout Christmas Eve dinner. We all had questions for our guest and listened intently as he shared stories about his rich, full, blessed life.  Time flew, dinner was almost incidental in light of the amazing conversation, and just as we were about to beg for another story, Mr. Klinghammer surprised and delighted us as he pulled a harmonica from his suit pocket. Mind if I play a couple of Christmas carols for you? Please, please do! Song after beautiful song. We listened with rapt attention, applauded, encouraged, sang along, and together basked in the loveliness of sharing this precious time, a gift beyond measure. To be continued...

Monday, September 16, 2013

It's About Time 4...

Lessons Learned…

Time 4

Twenty four hours.  Times seven. This can feel excruciatingly long when one is anticipating spending that time engaging in a task for which one feels thoroughly inept or severely unqualified. I had the time to give which was why I volunteered, but, despite my willing and sincere heart, the realities of the work to be involved were far, far beyond my skill set and that was terrifying. Who on earth did I think I was to sign on to be a counselor at the muscular dystrophy summer camp for a week? Four adolescent campers were to be charged to my care. The responsibility for their health, safety, and fun at their special week at summer camp and away from home was on me, and I was nothing more than willing. They arrived in wheelchairs wearing various body braces and each one had a sparkle of camp magic in their eyes. Their camp magic eyes melted my fears and fortified my resolve help them find the fun that was synonymous with summer camp. They giggled me through my nearly hopeless ineptness and patiently taught me how to serve them. We became quite the flamboyant little gang o’ fun.  From hilarious costumes and daily elaborate accessorizing, to snappy, chic hairstyles and late night heart to heart conversations, we became a tightly bonded example of lovely esprit de corps. My girls.  Twenty four hours times seven absolutely flew and suddenly the time was expired. In a sad silence, we packed up our camp belongings preparing for the breaking up of our gang o’ fun the return journeys to our homes and regular lives. Regular seemed to somehow represent a significant letdown. Camp magic had infused willingness with adequacy and then lifted and changed us all, and in that change, we would each forever carry a piece of that week, of that twenty four hours times seven, of each other with us. To be continued…

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's About Time 3

Lessons Learned…

Time 3

Twenty four hours. This is an unchanging, unbending, unrecoverable daily allotment of time given to each of us as we awaken each day, and its expenditure is fully at the mercy of our choice-making.  Certain activities need to consume certain amounts of our time; eating, sleeping, attending school or going to work, walking the dog, brushing teeth, filling the car with gas, and so on, but there remains a good deal of negotiable time available for extraneous choices. How do you choose? Or is it easier not to choose, not to be deliberate, and instead allow the minutes and hours to fritter away, unapologetically in the daily complacency of extreme over-stimulation due to bombardment of busy-ness, infiltration of obsessive amounts of technology, and infinite choices? So we throw on our headphones and retreat to our screens where there is peace in isolation albeit unstoppable loneliness.  As a teacher, I hear a great deal about screen time as the time choice of choice.  My concern is that our children, our students, and we ourselves are abandoning our desperate longing for connection, relationship, and community in exchange for something much, much less.  We are too tired for the effort of connection, for it does require a sacrificial exertion of self to become engaged in any relational process.  And although we need it more than anything, we run from it because it demands and life simply already demands too much all day long.  Twenty four hours. It’s the same twenty four hours that our parents, and their parents, and generations upon generations upon generations of parents have had, because it never changes. The problem is, I am not sure that we are getting this right. We hurry and scurry frenetically  filling our minutes and hours with all they can possibly contain and then a bit more only to find ourselves in a puddle of ill-tempered exhaustion at the end of the day, preparing to buck up for tomorrow’s agenda of the same merry-go-round ride.  Jumping off the merry-go-round to enjoy a good book with your children in the shade of a backyard tree seems somehow robbed of its peace and pleasure by the burdensome guilt of jumping off what everyone else is managing to stay on. Somehow I know that we know the error of our ways with regards to our time and our choices, yet we remain willingly paralyzed and incompetent in our truthful effort to seek relational strength and balance with our time.  Our twenty four hours are, ever so graciously, new every day and in honor of this gift we must choose to be deliberate and teach our little ones to be deliberate, investing wisely in each other and experiencing the subsequent contentment.  To be continued…

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

It's About Time 2

Lessons Learned

Time 2

Twenty four hours. A gift to have and a gift to give. She had end stage cancer. Although she had battled cancer twice before and won, this time was different and she was very tired. She was a mentor, a role-model, a light in the darkness, an endless giver, a perpetual hugger, a tireless servant, a champion for the voiceless, a babysitter for my boys, and a dear, dear change-your-life kind of friend. She was the person who, when she entered a room, all in the room were made better simply by her quiet, loving presence. She, in her vivid and brilliant imagination, constructed programs to serve those in greatest need in our community and then somehow managed to graciously sidestep the voluminous red tape of well-meaning committees and enact her loving programs, always serving up smiles, hugs, and assistance. She danced ballet. She painted beautiful pictures. She basked in God’s glorious creation all around her. She fiercely loved her family and her neighbors. She loved. She lived. And in her living and loving she taught us lessons of infinite and eternal importance without ever writing a lesson plan.  She poured more life and living into her short years, than most people do in ten lifetimes. When the end was near and exhaustion was mercilessly gaining, her husband called and asked if I had a few minutes to visit with her.  Dropping everything at the tiniest chance to give to this matchless giver, I raced over. He said she was tired and that a few minutes would be all she could muster.  Whatever she wanted. Whatever she needed. So we talked and talked and laughed and reminisced and before long, she asked her husband for an old photo album which together we wandered through with waves of emotion swinging from giggles to tears. It was precious, precious time. A deep and lasting gift from her which I will forever cherish.  We shared time, the priceless treasure. The gift had nothing to do with the right most eloquent  words to say or the loveliest purchased present; to be sure, and any thought to any of those would have diminished the true gift which was simply shared, treasured, beautiful time.  A perfect time that I was blessed forever to share.  Time. She passed and left the world much more beautiful than she found it.   To be continued…

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It's About Time...

Lessons Learned…


Twenty-four hours in each day is all we have to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished. With our multitudinous lists of busy-ness, we stuff our days from beginning to end in a manner that might resemble an attempt to stuff nine pounds of potatoes into an eight pound sack. So we run instead of walk from thing to thing and find ourselves exhausted when the clock ticks bedtime and our list has not been fully accomplished. Never mind, though, for there’s always tomorrow, and the “unfinisheds” can be added to tomorrow’s list. Tomorrow’s list simply grows and grows in parallel with the frustration due to ever-growing lists. And so it goes, but the truth remains, that each day still has twenty-four hours. Additional hours cannot be bought, borrowed, or traded, despite any gallant attempts to do so.  For instance, standing eight or nine deep in a local checkout line pushing a full cart of  necessary bargains, I turned to the waiting customer behind me and asked if she had noticed which aisle contained “time;” a box or a can, it didn’t matter to me. With a facial response that began as annoyance, then turned to perplexity, and ultimately to a cunning smile, the neighboring customer asserted that she had been unable to locate the time aisle as well regardless of the fact that she was fairly certain that she had heard that they had been running a special on it today. That explained it. Time was all gone, and we were simply too late to have cashed in on the special. After a shared and knowing chuckle, we resumed our silent, pensive waiting. Time. There is never, ever, ever enough, and that is precisely why time is priceless. Time is a priceless gift. Exactly how one spends his or her time speaks volumes concerning one’s truest priorities.  All excuses aside, the picture painted by one’s time expenditures will be the mirror of what one values most dearly. I would contest that relational time invested is far more meaningful and satisfying than “things accomplished” time.  Yet, we lose ourselves in our busy-ness, and sometimes go days without engaging in deep, significant, meaningful relationship building conversations, for there quite simply is just not enough time. This is ridiculous, tragic and completely twisted around. The human heart craves relationship, and yet, this is among the first things cut when the tomorrow’s list is drawn.  Why have we continually sacrificed what our hearts need, to chase an illusion that society seems to demand? In families, what is the picture of our time? In classrooms, what is the picture of our time? Today, what is the picture of your time? The issue of time is gargantuan.  To be continued…

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Little Encouragement...

Lessons Learned…

Chores And Orders

The days just  preceding as well as just  following the first day of school are filled with immensely long  lists of things needing to be accomplished. Lists of things to get, things to do, and things to remember absolutely inundate these hours and days with a frenetic sort of constricting “have to” and “hurry up”  feeling. Very, very  stressful. Whether one is a parent, a student, a teacher, an administrator, or any other school staff individual, everyone is being outrageously pressed to be ready. Each one up and down the power chain is pressing, with best of intentions but very hard, on the one just below to be really ready.  Being really ready seems to mean to have more, to be more, and to know more. More information, more supplies, and more responsibilities are among the “more” list, and in a day of diminishing budgets, increasing class sizes, and highly pressure-filled expectations from every direction pressing upon each and every individual involved in the entire educational experience, this type of  “more” is beyond stressful.  It seems getting ready, chasing down the completion of lists and lists of “more” tasks and things, is fully wrapped in stress, and unfortunately, stress is completely counterproductive to true, rich, deep, meaningful learning.  How should one prepare for school? How might one best be ready to tackle all that will need to be accomplished throughout the year, whether one is a parent, a student, a teacher, an administrator, or any other school staff individual? Might I suggest that the most productive way to be ready for a new school year is to be encouraged, to be affirmed, to be emotionally built-up with kind, positive, and strengthening words.  Chasing the endless list of chores and orders builds inner turmoil when the “one more thing” that needs to be done simply cannot, leaving one to sink into the defeating mire of frustration; just not good enough.  Defeated before the day begins, this chores and orders mentality will take us nowhere strong or creative because it will crush that spirit. Administrators, to have a great day, continually encourage your teachers and other staff and do not assume that they know they are appreciated. Teachers, to have a great day, smile, breathe, and speak kind and affirming words to your students. Parents, to have a great day, remind your children/students that you love them, that you are proud of them, and that you know it’s going to be a great day for them.  Students, to have a great day, listen to your teacher, be kind to your classmates, and do your best. You see, great days have less to do with what we have and much, much  more to do with who we are and what we have been encouraged to believe we can be.  “Often in daily living, the things we need to hear and say; get lost in chores and orders, then time brushes them away.” Be an encourager, and start the school year with great strength.