Delight 3: Kaleb Rashad and his Icebreaker

Part of the new series on delight.

Many people, including myself, have an aversion to the icebreaker. Too often it’s a somewhat disingenuous activity assuming that random people have a desire to connect with other strangers in a confined space when in reality they had no intention of doing anything other than listening to a presentation or at most working with people they already know.

You’ve probably been in that room where it’s just awkward. If you lean towards introversion, these experiences can be painful. If the speaker engages in a long setup of the activity, you either get up to use the restroom or pretend you have an urgent phone call and leave the room. (Confession, I’ve done both)

But when one of the goals of a meeting or gathering is to build community, then it can actually make sense and if done well provide purpose and context to the upcoming work or learning. At this point, it’s not an icebreaker but a learning activity.

I’m currently involved in coaching 4 school divisions in Virginia as a part of a larger initiative called VaLIN or Virginia is for Learners Innovation Network. This is year 2 and we kicked off the year with a 2-day kick-off event where 50+ teams of 7 gathered to begin their work. Leading us was Kaleb Rashad who is self-described as the “director of doing badass work”. Kaleb provided some wonderful context that focused on equity and care.

On day 2 he opened with an icebreaker although he never called it that. It certainly had all the potential of awkwardness. He asked us all to walk around the room slowly and silently and simply acknowledge others’ presence in a non-verbal way. He stopped every couple of minutes and added a bit more complexity from adding verbal acknowledgement to specific prompts that emphasized listening over interactions. He closed this by discussing its purpose around connection, being, presence and slowing down.

Photo courtesy @TaraEdu https://twitter.com/TaraEDU/status/1234840682302451712

I take a great deal of delight in those who identify unquestioned trends and go against the grain. There’s no doubt our lives continue to race. Typical education events feel rushed and just being present with others is often not acknowledged, inconsequential or even superfluous. I love being asked and encouraged to slow down and breathe. When others lead this work, I’m immediately a fan. Thank you, Kaleb.

Delight 2: Spring Tease

There’s no way to measure this but I believe those of us living on the prairies of North America have a deeper appreciation for spring and summer. When you endure -30 temperatures for a significant portion of the year, the hope of warmer weather keeps you going.

In fact, there may be a conspiracy to make sure we keep that hope.

To be fair, this has not been a particularly harsh winter but today was one of those days that prove spring is coming. Temperatures jumped up into double digits Celsius (50F for those living in backwards places who haven’t yet converted to the worldwide standard temperature format)

I don’t know how our bodies interpret this temperature in March as glorious and warm when if it was like this in September or May we may consider it chilly. It doesn’t matter. What I know is that while I’m not seeing tulips coming up yet or leaves on trees bud, you do see people ditching their coats and a few overzealous teenagers in shorts. I saw someone out hitting golf balls and kids riding their bikes. And in the true spirit of spring, I was sent out to get DQ Blizzards.

I’m not stupid enough to think winter is over but and taking delight in experience this little tease or spring trailer of future warmth.

Delight 1: Marie from RDU

Travel is a big part of my life. For the most part, I love it. I don’t just mean the destinations. I like airports, airplanes, hotels, booking travel the whole bit. I’m sure many of my delights from my delight project will be travel related.

When I travel I have certain routines and habits that allow me to move quickly and efficiently out of new places and spaces. However, I’ve not been travelling as much thus far in 2020 and admittedly have been a bit out of sorts. Case in point, a couple of weeks ago I was deplaning in Edmonton and didn’t check to ensure I had my Airpods and lost them. I wasn’t entirely sure whether they were in Edmonton or if I left them in Calgary. Still having the highest status on Air Canada I called the Concierge and they kinda tried but had me complete a standard Lost and Found report which basically made me believe I’d never see my Airpods again.

I had had them for almost 2 years. I wasn’t sure I would like them but they’ve been a part of my routine and have gotten accustomed to the wireless and size of them. I was hesitant to fork over the money for the new ones and researched less expensive ones. I ordered the SoundCore Life P2s which I was quite impressed with. The fact they have the rubber tips make them fit better and block out more noise than the Airpods.

Sunday I flew into Raleigh-Durham (RDU) and was wearing my new earpods as I got off the plane. The second I got to the baggage area I realized I left the charging case on my seat. I’m an idiot, I know. I again called and again filled out the form. Knowing this was likely a dead end, I called the next day to see if there was some way to simply call the agents in RDU because I knew exactly where they were. They said that wasn’t possible. I enquired further about how they handle lost and found and was told they hire a third party and everything gets shipped to Montreal where they try and match up items with lost and found reports. That sounds like a disaster.

Wednesday I got to RDU and went right to the Air Canada gate. I sheepishly approached the counter and said, “I know I’m looking for a needle in the haystack but I left my charging case on the plane on Sunday. I don’t imagine you have it here”. She turned around and handed me an envelope with my charging case in it.” It’s kind of dumb how good that makes you feel. It’s a $60 item at best but it felt like it was worth a lot more. Her name tag said Marie and I told her how grateful I was. She explained that she knew that sending it to Montreal would almost guarantee I’d never get my charger back. She found it on the plane, matched the seat with my name and knew my return flight was Wednesday.

Marie from RDU, thank you for knowing when it makes sense to break the rules and do what makes sense. It seems like the best educators are the ones who break rules. Not to be defiant or disrupt but to do what’s right and perhaps bring delight to the world. Do you have any examples of you or others breaking the rules and in turn bring delight?

The Delight Project

My journey as an educator and human has always been centred around joy, even when I didn’t realize it. The more I reflect, the easier it becomes to see. Admittedly in my early years of teaching, I didn’t seem to have the time to reflect both and articulate that I was always seeking joy. Joy was somewhat of the antithesis to the prevailing narrative of education which was and perhaps still is focused on achievement and results.  Joy is an afterthought in many instances.


So I wrote a book. I shared those ideas in presentations and talks. Occasionally I think, “Well, you’ve exhausted that topic, maybe focus on something else.” But then I remember it’s not a trend, it’s a life long pursuit that requires our attention and effort. It’s also one of those things I have to practice daily. I appreciate that I can’t avoid thinking about and working towards joy. I look at the things I read and notice that in some form or another they support that pursuit. 


One such book is Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. It’s one man’s quest to document daily moments of delight.

Delight is to joy as a microscope is to science. It allows us to dive deep and be specific. Delight is about specificity. Describing in detail something you may have missed or glossed over. Sometimes it’s obvious but when I hear someone use the word or talk about something that delighted them I get a sense they are a person who pays attention to detail. 


Comedy is about specificity. I love hearing comedians talk about crafting a joke. They labour or exact phrasing until it comes out just right. The podcast Good One invites comedians to break down one of their most popular jokes and share its origins but also how important it was to use the words they used. Song Exploder is another podcast asking musicians to talk in detail about a song, the notes, the chords and just nerd out on things that you may not have thought of even if it’s a song you’ve heard hundreds of times.  

Delight is about gratitude. The book Thanks a Thousand is AJ Jacobs’s journey to build more gratitude in his life by trying to thank a thousand people who in some way, shape, or form contribute to making his morning cup of coffee. Even reading that sentence quickly you might gloss over that idea and not consider that your morning coffee isn’t just about the barista whipping up your java with a few machines and tools but really goes all the way back to the farmer who grew the beans and the truck driver that pick up the beans and all the thousands whose work lives are dedicated to making sure you get to enjoy that coffee every day.

So I want to think more about delight and I’m going to challenge myself to a delight project. I’m going to try and share something daily that brings me delight. I’m going to try writing here but it may be a tweet, video, audio clip, image but share something that brings me delight. Every day might be ambitious but I’ll try. Maybe you can hold me accountable. Remind me if I’ve missed a few days. As well, maybe you want to join me? I’ll take your thinking about delight and post it here if you like. I’m going to try and think about delights with an educational lens but no guarantee. Delight pushes me to pause, reflect, linger, wonder and just drink in things that make me smile and bring me joy.