2024 #OneWord: Patience

Over the past couple of years it’s been fun to see others find a word they want to embody and use as reminder or focus. Last year I officially joined the ranks using the word “savour“. In past years I’ve unofficially used words like delight.

I was generally pleased with how savour became a focus. Not perfectly but with a greater intent and it will remain something I remind myself to do on a regular basis. For 2024 I want to be more patient. I don’t think of myself as particularly impatient but I also think it’s a very contextual term. There are instances when I am patient. I know I’m much more patient as a grandfather than I ever was as a father. When it comes to travel, I’m very patient with travel delays and mishaps and I even pride myself at how much more calm and patient I am than most. As I work to savour more of my life, I can see how patience is often required. But I do know that I could be more patient in a number of areas.

I tend to take great joy in efficiency, particularly efficiency of time. My kids laugh at how much joy I get when I go through a string of green lights or when I fast forward through a program and remark at how “time we saved”. I like playing golf in under 4 hours and so on. I’m not sure it’s about stopping these practices entirely but you see how much I value these perceived time saving practices.

As a result of that it often creeps into areas where it shouldn’t. When it comes to work, I am very quick to respond to emails and messages. I get somewhat annoyed if others don’t respond as quickly as I think they should. However, in my earnest desire to be responsive, I think I often miss opportunities to be more clear and thoughtful with my responses. I need to be more patient. I need to sit with ideas and conversations more.

When it comes to seeing results in health choices, financial goals and even work goals, I tend to want results more quickly than is reasonable or necessary. Being persistent but patient is usually a good formula for success. Changing habits and actions rarely offer instant results. In this case discipline and patience make a great partnership.

As I mentioned, I like playing golf and I like playing fast. That said, there are occasions when it’s not in your control. Rather than getting frustrated, I need to have patience. I need to remember, I’m outside, with my friends, playing a game I love in beautiful surroundings, why do I want to rush that?

While I’m relatively patient with my grand kids, there are times when they are telling a story or playing at the playground and I’m tired or bored and want to move on. I need to remind myself they are at the most wonderful stage of life and it’s going to be gone soon. Why not enjoy those moments and let them linger, rattle on and just be kids.

Even when I’m grocery shopping, maybe don’t look for the shortest line. Maybe use the time in line, not to look at my phone but maybe look around and have a chat with someone. The extra 3 minutes I might save aren’t going to matter in the end.

Life moves faster than we want most of the time. Not that patience changes that but for me patience is about acceptance of things I can’t control as well as making better use of my time to be more thoughtful, caring and attentive. I’ll report back in 12 months.

Passing the Torch

Demarcus Ware is one of those athletes I knew of but didn’t really appreciate his legacy. I knew he was a great defensive tackle but didn’t know his story and how respected he is among his peers. As a sports fan, I’m always intrigued by the way star or veteran athletes pass down their knowledge to rookies. I’m a sucker for those who talk about “the game being bigger than they are” and also those who reference how great players helped them and how they feel obligated to pass things down for the next generation for the good and well-being of the game.

Listening to Von Miller and others talking about the impact of Ware’s efforts to support their growth and leadership development was powerful. This type of passing down of knowledge and wisdom is part of the tradition of so many sports. Those who do this intentionally are beloved by teammates and fans alike. Once again, we are seeing the best in the world getting even better because of sharing. As a pickleball fan, I appreciate how this sense of community and mentorship is prevalent in all sports, fostering a spirit of camaraderie and improvement. For those new to the sport, knowing how do you play pickleball for beginners is essential to getting started and becoming part of this supportive community.

I had a conversation today with a first-year teacher. She’s not doing particularly well. She has a challenging class and some difficult parents and administrators who are not as supportive as they could be. It broke my heart to hear about someone who has invested 4-5 years of her life toward a dream and is now facing that critical point where she may not choose to stay in the profession. This is not an isolated issue. If you’re reading this, you may have someone who mirrors this situation. The answer is not easy and the problems are complex.

Similarly, in the realm of online gaming, finding reliable and supportive environments can be challenging. For example, many players are now turning to Casino Anbieter Schweiz for a more dependable and enjoyable experience. These platforms often provide better support, a wider range of games, and secure payment methods, addressing many of the concerns players might have. Just as new teachers need supportive environments, so do online gamers in their pursuit of safe and enjoyable gaming experiences.

As I watched that documentary about Ware though I couldn’t help but wonder how we pass along our knowledge and wisdom to young educators. How many of you could like Von Miller in the clip above point to a veteran educator who helped you become a better teacher? I’ve worked with many good teachers but I don’t know that I can point to any that took time to do what Ware did for Miller and his other teammates. Yes, a football team and school staff do not work together nearly as much and the opportunities are not as accessible. It’s not that teachers are withholding their insights but the opportunities to see each other in action remains a conversation we talk about but don’t act upon.

I realize that this sounds like a call for mentorship and while that would be ideal I’m not sure it’s realistic or even necessary. It’s a bit daunting for both parties. I’m trying to imagine a culture where the passing down of learning and experiences happen more informally. I won’t write about a solution here but rather plant a seed for leaders to think about what it could mean if we honored veteran teachers by celebrating their work and achievements which would in turn help young teachers identify potential mentors. I’d also plant a seed to consider more opportunities to share stories and reflect on tips and strategies for success. My life as an educator has always been blessed by the many who have found time and space to blog and share online. The final seed I’d plant is for leaders to model what that might look like if they started unsolicited, and pass along wisdom to their new teachers. It seems that in professional sports there is an unwritten rule that since the game has been good to you, you owe it to pay it forward. I’m not sure that same sentiment exists in our educational institutions.

The collective knowledge of our institution is enough to sustain us and keep us relevant and essential. Our problem remains designing structures and opportunities for that knowledge and care to be shared and experienced more broadly.

We Don’t Need Good Leaders…We Need Great Ones

My post asking Who Would Want to Be a Leader has received a great many responses both on my blog but also in conversations with leaders. It’s not hyperbole to say we are in a leadership crisis. The conversations on my podcast almost always explore succession challenges and the continued struggle to find good school leaders, particularly at the principal level.

I know many districts have and continue to have programs and initiatives designed to develop leaders internally. I also know many who are struggling to make these effective and produce the desired results of more great leaders. What I do know is that unless school districts are actively working to develop great leaders we are going to be facing a further acceleration of burnout and teacher shortages beyond what we’re currently witnessing. While there are multiple reasons and factors creating dissatisfaction, one that is referenced either directly or indirectly is the degree to which they feel supported and valued. More specifically, this is about leadership. Leaders who actively support, encourage, and work to reduce workload and stress are going to have a huge impact on teacher burnout and teacher retention.

My oldest daughter has a teaching degree and spent a few years as a classroom teacher. She had 2 early short-term contracts at high schools. The first one had a principal who was “okay” but when she was struggling with a few students, didn’t get the support she was hoping for. The second experience was with a principal who checked in on her daily and let her know regularly that she was doing a great job. After those contracts ended she began looking for another position. She was far less concerned about the role but very concerned about which school it was at and who the principal was.

When I look back at my 14 years as a classroom teacher I didn’t have a bad principal. I had mostly good principals. I didn’t really need much in the way of support. They were for the most part good administrators. I don’t think I needed a great principal, just a good one. Today, I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I think the vast majority of school leaders are good. I think most teachers are good. I don’t know how many are great. The job has become more demanding and the need to have colleagues that have your back, can keep you encouraged, and provide you with the things you need to be successful is critical and perhaps the linchpin to recruitment and retention. Don’t get me wrong, we do have many great leaders it’s just that we need more and that good leaders just aren’t good enough anymore.

There’s no magic solution to addressing this challenge. There are those who are naturally gifted leaders and inherently do the things that make leaders great. But I’d argue that most of us have to learn what it means. As I mentioned in the aforementioned blog post, teachers play a role here as well. They need to be able to step up on occasion to support and encourage their leaders. The one piece of advice I would give that is certainly easier said than done, is that leaders need to act like their having fun. While the job is certainly not always fun, the view from the outside often suggests that it’s not only not fun but it’s drudgery. The message that is sent to teachers and students is “I don’t want their job”. For many, it may be drudgery but I also think that for many spend too much time talking about and focusing on the difficulty of the job and not nearly enough time on the good stuff. As my friend Joe says, “Start and end your day with joy” We have to begin with those already serving in leadership and help them be conscious that others are watching and wondering if they should pursue leadership. In the same way teachers model to their students that while their job is hard they love it. Again, I know not everyone feels this way and those are the ones struggling. But we do have principals and teachers who are choosing to stay in the profession because they think it’s worth it and they find joy and satisfaction in their work. Many of those aren’t actively modeling that disposition to others and my argument is they need to in order to encourage young people to consider education as a profession. Many will talk about managers vs leaders. That’s part of it for sure but I think it’s more than that. There are those who are leaders more than they are managers but they aren’t excellent leaders.

How are you working to find and create great leaders?

Delight 30: David Ayres and Drafts

I’ve been blogging since 2005. That’s over 100 in blog years. I’ve written over 1,200 posts. I actually go back and read stuff I’ve written in the past and consider how much my ideas and thoughts (see what I did there) have either evolved or remained the same. One of the other things I noticed in a recent review is the number of blog posts that are in draft form. I have 42 unpublished posts. One of those posts was part of my delight series entitled “David Ayres”. I had a moment when I wasn’t even sure who that was and why in the world I would be writing about him. But then I quickly remembered.

David Ayres was the emergency backup goalie sitting in the Air Canada Centre in the early winter of 2020 when the unthinkable happened. Both of the visiting team’s goalies for the Carolina Hurricanes were injured and David was called into duty. This is one of those rarities that has only happened once or twice before in the history of the NHL. I recall being at home and not watching the game when social media exploded. I quickly turned on the game to witness the second miracle of the night…he won! Essentially you have a man on the street being pulled into the biggest stage and succeeding. While Ayres was indeed a top-quality amateur goaltender, he wasn’t anywhere near the level required to play in the NHL. And yet for one night, one moment, he stood his own and had the experience of a lifetime.

Everyone loves the underdog story and this was the ultimate story. In fact, it appears it’s going to be made into a movie.

The delight I experienced from this comes at 2 levels. First, the shared experience that many had to watch this event unfold was joyous. Surprise is often associated with delight and this was not on anyone’s bingo card that night. Knowing what this meant to him, his family, and even the way the Carolina team embraced him was pure delight.

The second aspect here is a bit more meta. This event took place on February 22, 2020. I began writing this article on March 12, 2020. One look at those dates and you can figure out perhaps how this ended up in my draft folder for 3 years. But looking back and recalling the event, it still makes me smile. I spent a little time looking at videos of the event. Drafts are a bit like photos that you forget about and emerge on your timeline or other random places. They spark a memory that if you’re careful to savour, can bring you back and allow you to relive something nice. I’m grateful that that post didn’t get lost. It’s a 3-year-old story that still makes me smile.

Delight 29: Apples

I grew up in a small town, a farming community but I’m not a farmer. Even growing up, my parents never had a garden. I really am more of a city boy at heart. That said, I grew up with a lot of farmers and can at times fake my way through a discussion about agriculture.

13 years ago we moved into our current home and I planted an apple tree. I love apples. We all know store-bought apples are a gamble and of course, we’re all trying to understand who are the people buying Red Delicious apples. They are putrid. But like any freshly picked fruit or vegetables, they are in a different category altogether. Add to the fact they are my apples from a tree I planted and these apples are amazing. I’m sure if you tried them you’d think they were fine but for 3 weeks, I looked forward to each day I’d walk into my backyard and eat these beauties.

From early spring when the tiny apples began to appear I would regularly go out with my grandkids and talk about the day when we would pick and eat them. The anticipation most likely added to the delight.

We ate them right off the tree, my wife made apple crisp and the boys simply liked lining them up and counting them.

It’s not lost on me that my ramblings about this can seem overblown, inflated, or even pretentious but I truly do find delight in these seemingly trivial moments. The practice of savoring is not easy. I write this as part of that practice and maybe spark others to find delight in the things others miss.