Delight 33: Invitations

I’m going to take a little time to brag. Contrary to popular belief, blogging is not dead. While for many in education, it’s not what it was 15 years ago, there are still a few of us who maintain a dedicated space to reflect and share. For me, this space is in its 18th year and after over 1200 posts, remains a place I can always go back to even if I don’t write as regularly as I used to. This series on delight, which I started 4 years ago is a great example of always being there. No pressure to write but is like a place always ready to welcome me whenever I return. Which kind of relates to the idea of an invitation.

It’s just nice to be asked. Whether it’s to go for dinner, coffee, a tee time, a work project or a speaking engagement, getting asked to do something or go somewhere brings me delight. I think particularly about invitations that are specific to me. They are an acknowledgement that someone needs me. Getting an email from someone asking me to speak reminds me I have something to offer and that my experience in education and ability to communicate has value. When a work colleague asks me to help them with a project, it reminds me I have specific skills that are valued. When my grandkids as if I can play with them reminds me that they enjoy spending time with me. When I get invited to play golf, it reminds me that I’m a good playing companion and someone enjoys my company. My first response to these requests is delight, a feeling of gratitude that someone is thinking of me and wants me to participate and engage with them. But beyond delight, I feel a sense of obligation to honour those invitations by being and bringing my best. I want the invitations to continue and repeat.

I think about teaching specifically and how much of teaching is about invitations. One of my favourite quotes is from Stephen Downes:

I think there is an important transfer of ownership in this quote that requires an invitation. Inviting kids to learn, to engage, is the art of teaching. Great teachers are continuously inviting students to learn. They don’t force them. Not all invitations are accepted, in fact in many cases the percentage might be quite low. Thinking about the delight I experience when I receive an invitation makes me wonder how we can create those kinds of invitations for students. How do we get kids to feel like they are important, and that we need them the participate? Maybe that’s impossible. But maybe we could be better at making kids feel like it matters to us.

Dan Meyer has been talking about inviting kids to learn his whole career. This video that Dan recently shared shows a teacher creating invitations for a less-than-engaged student to join. It’s hard to know if this student felt any delight with the invitation but it’s obvious while he’s not always accepted these invites, he does accept this one.

Invitations are wonderful to receive and probably more wonderful to hand out, especially when you didn’t expect the RSVP box to be checked “I accept”.

Are You Sacrificing Your Joy and Playfulness?

I’m at the age where I think a lot about retirement. I’m not that close but many of my friends are either already retired or close to retirement. The other day I was talking with a doctor friend and it was somewhat of a heart-wrenching conversation. He described how he has been so consumed with his job and how he regrets how that has gone and the struggle he’s facing about if and when he can retire. It was a combination of a flawed system as well as his failings. I didn’t know what to say.

I don’t know anything about the medical profession and can’t imagine the times when you’re literally dealing with life and death. While it’s hard to relate to the life of a doctor, I did think about those in education who may face some similar challenges. It’s not hard to see that many educators are not thriving. They aren’t experiencing the joy of the profession and the system at times makes it difficult.

While I’ve spent the last decade or so talking about joy, I’m always somewhat hesitant with that message. I don’t know how much of it is based on individual experiences and circumstances. and how much of it is based on personal dispositions and personalities. I’m always suspect of anyone who tells you to “get over it” or “be happy”. I’ve always prefaced my message but saying, I’ll share my experience and I trust you can determine what and if it applies to you.

What I can tell you is that when it comes to my relationship with my work, joy has always won. I’ve certainly been blessed to work with people and organizations that have supported me for the most part. But there have certainly been times when it’s been difficult, when people have been challenging when I’ve felt like quitting. Like everyone, it takes time to get over those moments but I think because I decided a long time ago that play and joy were not ideas that were only for the young they are the basis of who I am today. There’s no question that the amount of time I’m able to spend with my grandchildren makes this much easier but I know even before that, I knew these things mattered. When I wrote my book, it was before any grandchildren and it was my desire to help educators get back to their own childhood and keep it with them. I’m still committed to that work and am grateful for any opportunity I have to share that message. While I’ve been doing it for a while, I forget the message remains and in fact is likely more important to share as time goes on.

I used to think this was just about a lack of joy but it’s also about the need to justify our existence through our work. Many times those that either act like work is the most important thing or think that work is the most important thing sacrifice joy and play in pursuit of…I don’t know what. Unlike my doctor friend we rarely are dealing with life and death issues in education and while I know many things are serious, I’m not willing to take myself that serious.

I was prompted to write this after a friend shared this video with me. It is eerily similar to the doctor friend shared with me and it serves as a reminder to remain playful and joyful no matter what age we are or what we do. It’s not easy but it’s what I believe makes for a beautiful life.

Delight 32: The Pocket Museum

2 years ago, on one of my many drives between Florida and Manitoba to move my Father’s vehicle to and from his winter and summer homes, my wife and I stopped in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. As is our habit, we like to find hidden, lesser-known places and spaces to explore. My wife came across the Hattiesburg Pocket Museum. Without knowing exactly what it was, we arrived on a Sunday and struggled to find the exact location. That’s because it’s in a back alley. This museum is a series of tiny toys and figures placed carefully on the various objects and infrastructure of this back alley. You’ll find these strategically placed in cracks and crevices, on metal boxes and benches. Each time you find one you shout “Oh look” or “Come see this one”. It’s a true surprise and delight scenario.

This past week we returned to see some new displays and once again were delighted and enjoyed this little detour.

Thinking about this made me think about how simple this idea is. It’s something that could be done almost anywhere. We love finding little treasures and elements of beauty that happen simply because someone thought it might be nice. I hope the creators of this museum realize how much pleasure and delight it brings to visitors. I think it’s a reminder that creating small moments of delight might be missed by some but for those who are paying attention and seeking out these simple but brilliant acts of creativity, it’s something very memorable.

Delight 31: My Dad the Celebrity

My Dad turns 92 in a month. He’s active, plays 100 rounds of golf a year, and regularly shoots his age or better. His mind is sharp and he’s still loving life. I’ve been blessed in so many ways to have him as long as I have. We’ve been golfing together for about 45 years and he remains my favourite golfing partner. Along with my sisters, he’s one of three people I’ve known my whole life.

On the other end of the spectrum of favourite people are my 3 grand-kids. As I’ve mentioned often, they are truly my pride and joy. Biased, I unabashedly brag about them and show them off whether in person or via social media. I love them and am proud of them and take delight in them. I feel very similar about my Dad.

When we golf in Florida, we’re often paired up with people. Without exception, they are amazed at how fit and how well he plays the game at 91. Probably for the last decade, I’ve seen this response over and over. People envy his health and all desire to be able to golf as well as he does when they reach that age. I watch in delight as he gets asked lots of questions about his life and they watch in awe as he still can hit a drive nearly 150 yards. Yesterday the couple we played with was a man and a woman in their 70s. Dad is a great golf partner for several reasons. He plays quickly, compliments and encourages his playing partners, and always shares a story or two that makes people laugh. At the end of our round, they asked if they could take a picture together. It was like watching a celebrity with his fans.

It’s not lost on me how fortunate I am. I’m grateful for all the time I’ve had with him and understand like he does, that this is all bonus time. My Dad is a delight in many ways and this was another cool example.