Everyone who arrives at your classroom door asks themselves a form of the question: Can I trust you? This is true even if they are an administrator, a parent, a colleague, or a student. How we answer that question is important because an essential part of trust is understanding that it carries the possibility of loss whether of tangible things or intangibles like respect, according to philosophy professor Carolyn McLeod. She writes that the act of trust involves four separate actions:
- Allowing yourself to be vulnerable to others
- Thinking well of others
- Believing that the other is competent to do what you ask
- Adopting a generous mindset about the motives of others (2015).
Continue reading We Become Who People Say We Are
Recently, a person I admire asked me to tell another person some of the lessons I’ve learned from my leadership experiences. I wanted to come up with a better answer than:
To stop saying, “I’m sorry” all the time.
But as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized the truth of them. Apology is as reflexive as breathing for me. If someone bumps into me, I’m immediately apologizing. When someone robbed my house, I apologized to the investigating officer for inconveniencing him by making him fill out paperwork.
Continue reading Don’t Apologize For Your Strength
CBS This Morning introduced the 2017 National Teacher of the Year today and as I watched her poise and professionalism, I was proud to see such a great representative of our profession. But I also have to say that hearing Charlie Rose’s voice gave me a slight case of PTSD. It reminded me of the media training I’d gone through to sit in front of him, Nora, and Gayle in April, 2015.
To prepare me for the intensity of interviews, the Council of Chief State School Officers sent me to media training. This consisted of simulated interviews that were then recorded for playback to a panel for a critique. At the best of times, I am uncomfortable seeing and hearing myself on video; in this instance, it was excruciating.
Continue reading Stand Up To Stand Out
After my father died suddenly nine years ago, I thought I was a model of stoic grief. I wrote his obituary, delivered his eulogy, and I believed, tastefully handled the sadness that spread over the week of his funeral. None of that prepared me for the suffocating depression that overtook me like viral pneumonia six months later.
I didn’t realize that grief is a tsunami and what looks like low tide is really a gathering wave. When the full force of the loss hit me, I could only manage to lie in bed and cycle through alternating periods of crying or apathy. After weeks of this, the only thing breaking through paralysis was anger. It settled in the center of my chest, near my heart, warping my personality, overriding my senses to see and believe that everything was black and hollow.
A tiny pilot light of hope somewhere inside my head reminded me that books are my best medicine. “Why don’t you find a book that will make this make sense to you? If it makes some sense, then maybe you’ll start to feel better” it seemed to suggest.
Continue reading How To Pay Rent For Being Alive
Fear is a central fact of my life and my ever-present companion. From the time I noticed that my list for Santa didn’t include the Barbies, makeup or other things the girls in my class wanted, I knew I was different. No other girl asked for a chemistry set, a BB gun, and walkie-talkies. That, along with the stacks of Spiderman comics in my closet, set me apart and made me afraid that I wasn’t the kind of girl anyone in my family expected.
This led into a pernicious and lingering fear of being judged. When you grow up Southern Baptist, there’s a particular way to gossip about people and still seem godly: the prayer chain. It sounds kind of like this:
“Lord, we just want to raise up Lorene’s daughter, Father God, and her drinking. Lord Jesus, we grieve that her babies have different daddies, even though all the men she knows are nice…”
For my Meemaw’s sake, I knew a baseline expectation for me was to stay off the prayer chain. Waiting in line at the grocery store in my small town, I heard people talking about my parents. They were one of the first couples to get a divorce – and it was an epic, operatic production involving both those in high standing and those in low places. I learned to achieve to distract away from all the unpleasant truths about my parents and myself. Continue reading Learning To Fight What Scares You
Birthdays, in my experience, become more odd the older you get. My friend Gini, when I told her I would be 52 this year, said: “Your fifties – you just live them. You’re not old or young. I never remembered how old I was in my fifties.”
So, on this even birthday year, I decided to make it more memorable by writing about things I’ve learned. My inspiration for this came from Srinivas Rao and Eleanor Roosevelt. I’m always inspired by her and I decided to give myself time to reread her slim, yet profound book: You Learn By Living: Eleven Keys For a More Fulfilling Life . Written in 1960 when she was 76, Roosevelt positions her ideas around the practice of lifelong learning because, she writes, “When you stop learning you stop living in any vital or meaningful sense.”
Continue reading Yes You Can Get Smarter Every Year
You can tell the depth of my fear based on how big my smile is. The bigger the smile, the bigger the fear. It’s an odd defense mechanism, but one that’s served me in all the places and in front of all the faces that scare me.
“What are you doing on this side of town, white lady. You lost?”
This, from a six-foot-tall, seventh-grader on my first day of teaching. It was almost like he could see the fear radiating from me in little shock waves, like a cartoon. And certainly, I looked cartoonish. Dressed in an ill-fitting “ladies suit” from a department store, I resembled nothing so much as a frumpy bank teller.
Continue reading Slap A Smile On Your Face And Get Out There
We can’t expect those few who are well-served by the current reality to give us time to think. We need time to develop clarity and courage. If we want our world to be different, our first act needs to be reclaiming time to think. Nothing will change for the better until we can do that. – Margaret Wheatley
The most radical thing I’ve done in the past month is to do nothing. It was also the scariest because I’ve never faced a busier 28 days. Every one of them screaming at me to DO SOMETHING RIGHT NOW!
Continue reading Who Is Served By Keeping You So Busy?
This is what I wasn’t brave enough to tell you because the force of your pain scared me when we saw each other last week:
Tell me who and what you love and I’ll show you that it’s the light when all others go out.
When it’s dark here in February and you feel like quitting. When you find yourself starting to envy the people you notice on your way to work. When you feel like maybe it wouldn’t be so hard to just completely change careers because this – what you’re doing now – feels too big and too difficult to do for even one more day.
Continue reading You’re Saved By What You Love
“Everyone had a very top-down approach, and it brought the same individuals as always to the table.” — Antionette Carroll
This quote, from the founder of the social justice nonprofit Creative Reaction Lab, struck me as astute and succinct.
Top-down approaches are easy. They’re controlled, predictable, and efficient. Those aren’t bad things, but they risk becoming the central values and vision of any enterprise if you exclusively rely on them.
The second part of her quote — bringing the same individuals as always to the table — is another simple, but overlooked truth.
Continue reading Discomfort By Design