Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I'm Not Superman

Facebook is a weird partial record of parts of my life that I decide to show online. It's always a little interesting to see what pops up in my personal "this day in Facebook history" each day. For instance, this one was today, six years ago:


The comments in response to this post (there were 20 of them!) were pretty funny to read through. Some were encouraging, like a former student who said, "People ask you for help cause your AWESOME!!!"  Some were a little more pointed, such as the family member who said, "Build a bridge and get over it..." Others were empathetic, along the lines of a friend from church who responded, "I had that too!" And still others were just a little weird, like a college friend who suggested, "Just duct tape your thumbs down and explain it can't be down without opposable thumbs." (I love that last one...)

I'm reflecting back, trying to remember exactly what the context was. I know I was serving as Technology Coordinator in a K-8 school at that time, and given that it was nearing the first day of school, I suspect this was in response to a whole slew of, "Hey, Dave...can you help me a minute with ________?"

There were a lot of those kinds of questions, honestly. And it's in my nature to try and be helpful. This comes out of a sense of obligation to doing excellent work at my professional commitments, sure. But, when I'm honest about it, it's also partly out of a drive to want people to think highly of me, to see me as some kind of Superman who can swoop in to save the day.

That's insidious, isn't it? But, as I've written before (here and here), the challenge for me is that if I can do something, it's often a quick slide to I should do something. When people come asking for my help and I can help, does that automatically mean I should do the thing they are asking me to do?

I'm not Superman. I cannot do all of the things. I should not do all of the things.

And yet...there is this awful pull for me that somehow I feel like I'm letting people down if I don't.

So this year, I'm practicing saying "no." I am working on making my default response to requests a kind, gentle "no." After four crazy years of grad school while working full time, my hope is that I'll be able to better prioritize in my life. By saying "no" to most things--even the good things--I'll be better able to say "yes" to things that I really need to devote my attention toward, and be excellent at those things. Call it a year of Sabbath...or a Year of Jubilee, even.

So, if you ask me to help out and I say "no," please don't be offended. It's not you. It's just that I'm not Superman. :-)

Image by Cia Gould. [CC BY 2.0]

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Worry and Trust: A Reflection from Camp

Last week I again had the privilege of serving at Royal Family Kids Camp, an annual, one-week camp for kids in the foster care system. Each summer I've served--this was year 3 for me--I feel like I need to process the week in writing, to make sense of the things that I've experienced, felt, and learned through my service. This summer is no different, though it's taking longer for me this time around.

Image courtesy Royal Family Kids of NW Iowa. All rights reserved.

We returned from Camp on Friday afternoon, and I was wiped out. I suspect most of us were, actually. We had 53 campers, and almost 100 staff members working with them both in 1-on-1 roles as Guides ("counselor" often has a different connotation for kids in foster care) or, as I was serving, in a supporting role. It's a demanding week, no matter the capacity in which you serve. Our goal is to lavish love on the kids who are there, being fully-present, nurturing influences in their lives for a week. But that kind of "always on" takes a toll, and by Friday I was wiped out.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Sending Work to School?

Oh. Man. My twitterfriends Matt Miller and Alice Keeler recently published a book called Ditch That Homework: Practical Strategies to Make Homework Obsolete. (I still have to get my hands on a copy...hoping to read and review it this fall...)

Here's the zinger of a tweet Matt posted earlier today...


I have plenty that I could say about this, but I think I'll just raise a few questions to my colleagues in the teaching profession...and anyone else who wants to chime in on the comments section...

What do you say in response?

Is this fair?

Is this any different than teachers sending work home with kids?

And if so, what's the difference?


Friday, July 21, 2017

Teaching and Ramen Noodles

Seeing the title of this post might make you think that it's about teachers' compensation packages. While that is definitely a topic we should discuss sometime, that's not the point of this post.

Instead, a story in contrasts, and a thought I had in response to it.

Earlier this summer, my wife and were vacationing in Hawaii. (Yes, it was fantastic.) We enjoyed every part of it, including the food. Near our hotel, there was an area where there were many food trucks parked, and we had lunch there a couple of times, trying different cuisines offered through the window of a mobile kitchen.

Here was my favorite:

When the signs on the truck are in both Japanese and English, it's a good omen.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

American Division?

Are you familiar with the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon? You've probably experienced it, even if you don't recognize this name. It's that feeling that happens when you encounter something new, and then suddenly you start seeing it everywhere. For example, when we got my wife a new car a few years ago, I suddenly started noticing that make and model of vehicle absolutely everywhere we went. Weird, isn't it? (If you want to learn more, go a-googlin' and I'm sure you'll find out plenty about this.)

I bring it up because I had a bit of this feeling just this week. I'm still thinking about how impossibly divided the American public seems to be along political lines. Every time I check my Facebook I see some political posts either decrying our President or defending him. It's bizarre to me how divided things are.

And then, I had two very different media experiences in short succession that have me thinking about the implications, and possible causes for this division in a new light. (And a little Baader-Meinhof feeling, because I encountered these things back to back...)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

QR Tour: A First Day Experience

In my last post, I challenged my fellow educators--and myself--to consider making the first day an experience for students. Rather than just going over the rules and expectations, to consider how to draw students in, get them engaged from the very first day, and help them understand how we care about them and their learning.

Well, this idea resonated with a couple of my former students who are now teachers, and a few of them got in touch with me, either asking questions about how to do this, or--in the case of one passionate elementary school teacher--suggesting an idea for how she would like to take this approach.

In her own words (with her permission to share here):