When is when?

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Maya Angelou

Dr. Angelou has been on my mind lately. My wife and I are just back from a spring break trip to Washington DC. It was a 2 year postponed anniversary trip. It hit all the targets we love in a vacation. Nice place to stay, vibrant city, lots of museums, art, food, family, and friends.

The first place we visited was the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The impact this museum had on my wife and me was profound. The subject for a separate blogpost entirely.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Dr. Angelou’s quote was in my mind leaving the museum. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Such an elegant, clear, and seemingly simple idea.

My wondering is when is ‘when’?

What has happened for doing better to commence? I was just chatting with my buddy Ben Ramirez, solving all the day’s and world’s concerns. I asked him. He contends that the ‘when’ is when you have learned something. A solid place to start. I fall back to Katz and Dack. “Professional learning results in a permanent change in thinking or behavior.”  That seems like a pretty good indication of a ‘when’. When one’s thinking or behavior has been permanently changed, then do better.

What causes the permanent change in thinking or behavior other necessary for learning? The impact of a trusted friend’s thinking and influence? Reading something? Experiencing something? Hearing something?

Going through the museum, I had the words of a colleague in my mind. I thought about the balance between trauma and celebration. I thought about the opportunities kids of color have to be their authentic selves. I thought about the exhibits that prohibit photography.

Now I’m thinking about my when. And doing better.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” -Dr. Maya Angelou

Kindness

Been thinking about things we, as human beings, can do to make things better for each other. Kindness is a good place to start.

I don’t often sit at my desk at the start of a day with tears in my eyes. But as I was thinking about this blogpost, I did a quick search on Youtube for ‘acts of kindness’ and ‘acts of kindness ripple effect’.

Whoa. All of them. This one. And this one.

“Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always try to be a little kinder than is necessary?” -JM Barrie.

I wonder what a day would be like if 10 people in a school, kids, staff, community, parents, made it a point, a conscious effort to do an act of kindness. I wonder what that ripple effect in the school would be. Would it stay in the walls of the school? Would it go beyond the school to the community?

“Somewhere there’s a stranger who was kind to someone just because you were kind to them.”

#myroommessage

I have snagged one or two of Monte Syrie’s messages before. I highly recommend that all educators take a look at this hashtag daily. And give him a follow.

The one below recently grabbed me. As a middle school teacher, I told kids, “You will never get in trouble with me for asking questions. Never. When you ask questions, it’s a guarantee that 7 other kids have the same question or a version of the same question.”

A quick heat check for learning in a classroom is the quality, frequency, comfort, tone, and distribution of kids’ questions.

#myroommessage for today is, “How’s the question climate in the classroom going? And how do you know?”

#myroommessage is an amazing, daily resource!

Must mean something.

Well into my 38th year in our district, I’ve learned some things. I’m pleased to say that I have also unlearned some things. Learn, unlearn, relearn.

One of the things I’ve learned is that if an idea is still banging around in my head, I still have more to think about. It just keeps bugging me. That must mean something.

Here’s an example.

My last blogpost had me thinking about kids finding representation of themselves in books in libraries.

Now I’m thinking about the 12 years of my career where I was the principal at our junior high school.

The picture below is of a group of junior high kids. These kids are now seniors.

The wondering I have, based upon the thinking I had in the last blogpost, is could each of these kids find books in our library in which they see themselves represented? And further, how long would it take?

Just kids.

I know why this image hit me so hard. I have a nephew with special needs. His sister though reminded us all that he’s just fine. He doesn’t need to be ‘cured’. What would help him is for other around him to know that he’s just fine. Probably one of the happiest human beings I know. Want to know how to treat him? Watch his sister. She treats him like a loved sibling, with a smidge of extra love and patience.

She’s a just kid and he’s just a kid.

Here’s something you may not know.

If you have never worked in schools, you may not know about the restorative necessity of the holiday break. Teachers pour all of their all into kids, getting relationships and learning in place and growing. And it’s work. And then there’s ‘these days’.

They’ve not only, as usual, earned this time to rest, connect with family and loved ones, but this time is important so they can continue, with renewed energy and focus, when the new year begins.

Thank you teachers for all you do!

Could Have Heard a Pin Drop

Been having lots and lots of conversations about kids and schools lately. Turns out that kids being away from in-person school for 18 months has repercussions. Behaviors that schools haven’t seen before….they’re seeing. Not most kids, not the majority of kids, but enough to make school a different place.

So what to do? Here’s one thing. Gather up a group of kids and talk with them. Make clear expectations. Remind them that they are loved. And that they are loved enough to be held to reasonable expectations.

This picture is of two of our building leaders having that conversation with kids. A principal and a teacher. Mark Robinson and Andy Michel. I happened to be in the building at the time, and sat in the back and listened. The message was delivered and heard. You could have heard a pin drop. When gifted educators talk with passion, share compassion, and show their hearts, kids listen.

I checked in with the teacher a couple days after the meeting. Notice any improvement? His direct answer, “Attitudes improved overall. Students spent an entire period brainstorming solutions in small groups.”

Step by step, we’ll rebuild school culture and climate. Conversation by conversation. Kid by kid.

The Power of Positive Words.

Thank you @SicotteDanielle

One of my favorite things about learning via Twitter is the seemingly simple ideas that show up every day. The quote above illustrates a beauty. As we continue to work with kids coming through the pandemic, the ideas that help kids are the ones into which we lean. This idea can be implemented today, yesterday, tomorrow, or next week.

And it can be implemented with grown ups too. Imagine asking teachers to write down the words they need to hear on tough days, collecting them, then returning them as needed. Bam!