Connections Revisited

Back-to-school ads are everywhere. Supplies are stocked at all the local stores. As a teacher, I cannot ignore the fact that school will start soon. This realization leads to a renewed focus on connections.

Why have I not read this before?

I was recently speaking with some young educators preparing for upcoming New Teacher Induction. Such a stressful time with so much information. My advice to them? Focus on making connections!

The first year of teaching truly is the hardest. There are so many unknowns. Setting up a classroom, school expectations, new curriculum, etc. But one friendly, helpful colleague makes all those unknowns less scary.

Positive relationships with other teachers lead to positive relationships with students. Making time is key. Students come to school with personal stories. Stories they are eager to share. And they want to know about their teacher as well. Sharing these stories lays the foundation for learning.

Since I am transferring to a new school this year, there will be many new stories to hear. I am thankful for some familiar faces sprinkled throughout the building. Previously established connections which offer encouragement. But my students? A sea of unfamiliar faces and new names.

Some days the task feels overwhelming. Then there are days like yesterday. A much-needed visit with an encouraging mom and her two sweet kids, now former students. Laughing and talking, saying “Thank you” and “I will miss you.” I left with renewed confidence for the coming year and a reminder of the power which comes from making connections.

Bright spots. 🙂

That first day will be here soon. I will stand at my door and greet those new faces with a smile. The music playing in the background will be the next step in creating new connections. Connections which will grow and be revisited right when they are needed.

Endgame: The Mom Perspective

My husband and I saw the much-anticipated Avengers: Endgame last night. He saw it the night before with the kids, but I was not able to go. No discussions were allowed until I also saw it, so that meant a 10:00 P.M. showing for us! I think we were the youngest people in the theater. 😉

Wow! It was amazing!

Today has been peppered with many discussions concerning the movie.

“Did you notice _____ ?” “Yes! What do you think happened to ____?”

Of course, many of the discussions went right over my head. There are some Marvel movies I have yet to see. And although I am able to appreciate the insight and knowledge of the Marvel world experts in my life, I don’t know all of the character origins and intricate details.

My take away from the movie was a bit different. As my daughter and I discussed our favorite scenes this morning, one thing stood out; the emphasis on family. There were multiple, meaningful parent/child moments woven beautifully throughout the film.

The perfect placement of these scenes created a powerful common thread through this tale of superheroes battling evil…the love of family. Some scenes showed previously established relationships.

• Scott Lang (Ant-Man) and his daughter
• Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and his daughter
• Thor and his mom, Frigga
• Thanos and his daughters, Nebula and Gamora

Other relationships were new and pleasantly surprising. Don’t worry. No spoilers here!

Looking at the above list, all but one represents a positive, loving relationship. Relationships where the parent is the provider, protector, or comforter. In number, the positive outweighs the negative. Again, no spoilers.

I hope to watch the movie again soon. New things will certainly catch my attention the second time. Maybe I will even gain a little more understanding of this Marvel universe.

One thing is for certain, I will pay even closer attention to those parent/child scenes. I don’t want to miss even one.

And yes, I am aware that this is an epic sci-fi superhero action movie. What can I say? I’m a mom. 🙂

Life is Letting Go

We’ve had some important family events in recent weeks.  Celebrating our youngest son’s 18th birthday with extended family and friends, marching band senior night-our third and final ending a 10-year period of being band parents. Milestones for our family of five to be certain.  And even though the focus was on the celebration, my mind often drifted to change.

The two days previous to senior night, I found myself fighting back tears.  As Friday approached, I worried about not being able to get through the coming events without uncontrollable crying. Thankfully, I was wrong.  But oh, was it exhausting.

I am one who believes in expressing your emotions.  Crying in front of others is not uncommon. I also recognize that there are times when those emotions must be pushed to the back burner. This was one of those times.  Truly it was a time to celebrate, and I’m happy to say that’s exactly what we did!

The following week it was time for senior pictures and finishing college applications. More changes coming…too soon. Positive changes to be certain, but my emotions rose to the surface once again. That’s when I realized, this process of letting go was starting over. Part of my life as a parent for which there is no handbook, no warning-until it hits me in the face.

As a parent, I’ve experienced this in both big and small ways while watching my children grow. Taking their first steps, climbing up that slide ladder independently, their first day of school. Driving off alone in their car for the first time, going on a first date, and moving off to college. Each time I have to let them go, tiny pieces of my heart go with them.

Today I must put one foot in front of the other, dry my tears, and face the day with hope. Hope because these three I get to call mine are already making a difference in this world. Hope because the people they are becoming causes my heart to overflow, as those missing pieces return.

In order for them to continue flying, I have to continue letting go. That’s how life works.  I can either fight against it, holding on for dear life or embrace the truth-life is letting go.

Big World~Small World

There are times when the world seems so vast. An endless list of landscapes to explore, beautiful nature to witness, charming people to meet. In reality, places I may never visit, sites I may never see, people I may never know. Not enough days in a single lifetime to physically travel the miles required. Such is life.

Other times this world feels so small. Communication is instant and constant. Phone calls, text messages, emails-right at our fingertips. Breaking news reports from places close and far away. With this shrinking outlook of the world, my focus moves to what is right in front of me.

I believe it is important to view our planet from both perspectives-big and small. Marveling at the grandeur we may only see in pictures and film reminds us to always consider the big picture. Realizing that even without seeing a person or place, I still have a responsibility to consider the unseen with an attitude of respect and value. This viewpoint also has a way of putting me in my place, one small dot on the atlas.

What are the positives gained in the small world perspective? This is where my daily obligations reside. The places where my spoken words and actions have the power to lift up or crush. My family, co-workers, students live in that path. Here it is crucial to recognize my ability to influence those around me.

Remaining only in the small worldview, I risk an enlarged ego. Such an inflated view of my importance certainly would cloud my outlook on life. Residing only in a big world existence, I risk missing my potential-seeing myself as small and insignificant. The key, as with most things in this life, is a balance.

Interestingly enough one place I currently find that balance is right here, in the thoughts and words I type. This forum allows me to express feelings, tell stories, and be creative. People I’ve known my whole life along with those met in more recent years celebrate, cry, or remember with me. At the exact same time, someone I’ve never met who lives half-way around the world offers encouragement simply by reading my words.

Our world is both immense and tiny, all at the same time. It may sound like a paradox, but it is the reality. Each one of us resides in both spaces. The responsibilities may fluctuate depending on our circumstances, but we are always accountable for making contributions either way.

Big world~Small world…where do you see yourself today?

Time

Hanging on to its coattails as it flies by… faster with each passing day.

 

Time passes quickly

Years like months

Months like days

Days like minutes

Not logical

Yet true

 

Holding on tight

Wishing years would slow

Months would stretch

Days would linger

With no result

Passing more quickly

 

I must respond

Dream changes each year

Plan work each month

Find good each day

Hope for the future

Embrace this moment

 

“Secret ‘O Life” James Taylor

Forgiveness~Empathy~Friendship

Experiencing forgiveness, whether on the granting or receiving end, is powerful. Crucial life lessons are learned on both sides of a transgression. The one being forgiven feels a great relief and hopefully learns from their mistakes. The one offering forgiveness appreciates, even more, the instances when they have been on the receiving end. Sounds simple, yet not always the case.

Children often unintentionally demonstrate these truths clearly, if we take the time to watch and listen. Picture one of my kindergarten classes sitting around our music circle, coloring pictures of pumpkins and leaves.  Their fall themed artwork was also to include rhythmic patterns based on phrases about their subject.  For example, “leaves are falling” or “pumpkins everywhere” or “jump in a leaf pile.” Vivaldi’s “Autumn” playing quietly in the background.

Yes, I know it sounds very picturesque, but don’t be fooled.  This is one of those class times that is a struggle for me-giving up a certain level of control and giving students the chance to be social and creative.  It lends itself to a higher noise level and a tiny bit of controlled chaos.  Results are usually pretty cool!  That is until there is a transgression… one student marking on the beautiful, in progress, artwork of his friend.

Typically, it is the student who has been wronged that seeks my attention.  “She stuck her tongue out at me!” “He pulled my hair!” “She told me to shut up!” You get the idea.  On this particular day, the opposite was true. The artist didn’t make a big fuss although disappointed.  I told him he could start a new work if he’d like and asked the other student to apologize. Everyone back to work, all is well. Right?

A few moments later the student who committed the “coloring on my friend’s paper” infraction was standing in front of me with tears in his eyes. “Oh dear, what’s wrong?” I asked. “I apologized, but he wouldn’t accept my apology.” Hmmm…what to do? So many ways I could respond to this conflict. I’m not sure if my choice was the best, but it did have an interesting result.

Empathy-the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

I began to talk to the teary-eyed transgressor about why his friend was upset. As with my own children, I attempted to help my student put himself in his friend’s place. “How would you feel if you were working hard on your artwork and someone marked on your paper?” On the surface a simple question, but not always an easy place to find yourself. His tears indicated his comprehension, and in a “kindergarten kind of way,” he began to understand.

For the remainder of the class, this particular friend stuck with me like glue. Tears turned to smiles, offers to help with clean up, wanting to have more conversations. Why? Just as being forgiven evokes feelings of relief and freedom, an apology not being accepted brings the opposite-guilt and sadness. However, when we learn to place ourselves in the shoes of the ones we have hurt, then we begin to develop empathy. Our focus moves from being self-centered to others-centered.

Which is more powerful? The ability to forgive or the ability to empathize? I suppose it depends on the situation, transgression, and the people involved. Obviously, consequences come into play, long and short term. But what if we see them as tied together, working hand in hand? I believe if we can help children learn to empathize, having a spirit of forgiveness will naturally follow. And just maybe they will begin to stop and think before making a choice which negatively affects their friend.

But wait, maybe the foundation for this whole discussion should instead be the word “friend.” Becoming a friend is a process. An acquaintance becomes a companion, the companion becomes a supporter, and so on. And if I truly support someone, I’m much more likely to think about the impact of my actions.

Once we learn what it means to be a friend, the potential for both empathy and forgiveness grows exponentially. It still requires effort and work. It does not just magically happen without being intentional. Like everything else worth doing in life, it takes practice. But the results are oh so worth the work!

Here’s to forgiveness, empathy, and friendship.  Especially when witnessed through the eyes of kindergarteners.  May I pay careful attention to opportunities this next week for expressing and teaching these vital life lessons during music class, especially the importance of being a good friend.

You’ve Got a Friend

Schemes to Switches

I’ve previously mentioned that my husband loves referring to me as a schemer.  Once an idea enters my thoughts I work to make it a reality.  This particular trait appeared way before meeting him. I’m certain my mom could testify. One example from my childhood stands out clearly above the rest.

I don’t remember exactly our age, definitely younger than ten.  The “we” was me and my cousin Rebecca, a great schemer in her own right.  Born only twenty days apart, we were always close growing up. Rebecca has five younger sisters. Imagine seven little girls when you added me to the mix!

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~Me and Rebecca~

There was one specific instance when I’d been invited to spend a few days with my cousins. We all piled into their Volkswagen Bug and began the thirty-minute drive to their house.  During the short trip, Rebecca and I immediately began plotting.

Our scheme? Secretly sneak out of their house and walk several miles down a dirt road to visit her Uncle Jack and his family.  Why were we being sneaky?  I have no idea! But we were all ready to go the next morning.

There was one small problem.  Barbara, one of the younger sisters apparently overheard our conversation and insisted on tagging along. What if we said no?  She would tattle on us, of course!

Off went our little trio, down the long driveway, and out onto the dirt road.  We were not even past the house when we heard Aunt Mary’s voice, “Rebecca? Kelley? Barbara?  Where are you, girls?”  We attempted hiding in the ditch, but Barbara started to cry.  Shushing her proved impossible and we were quickly discovered.

Our adventure was foiled, and talk about being in trouble. Aunt Mary took a switch to our legs while we ran around the yard like a bunch of chickens.  Though the switch didn’t really hurt us, it did help teach us a valuable lesson.  Seeing this now as a parent, I’m certain we caused Aunt Mary a great deal of panic. She was, after all, attempting to keep up with seven young girls.

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~The six sisters and me all grown up~

Reminiscing over this little adventure has brought lots of laughter over the years.  But the best part of the story is yet to come. To this day if we mention it around Aunt Mary, she still feels terrible about switching us!  Forty plus years later!  She has to be one of the most kind, patient, calm people I’ve ever known.  Managing all of us girls while keeping her sanity had to be challenging.

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~My mom and her sister, my Aunt Mary~

Did our scheming pay off in the end?  Well, not exactly the way we had planned. We did learn an important life lesson about being safe.  But even more important, we were reminded then and continue to be reminded now, how much we are loved.

I love you, Aunt Mary