One Thing Everyone Needs

Photo Credit: thefathersdayquotes Flickr via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: thefathersdayquotes Flickr via Compfight cc

“Thank you!”

“I value your participation.”

“What an interesting idea – let’s follow up on that.”

“What do you think?”

We all want to be noticed, valued and to belong. A big fanfare is not always needed, but those moments of quiet recognition that say, “I see you, and you are valued” are powerful.

When people feel as if no one cares they become disengaged and then cynical. That’s harmful for them and bad for the organizations they work for.

We all need to take responsibility to help others belong.


Riding Around Town

img_2518I unlocked the Sobi bike, threw my work bag in the basket and set off. Last week, I used our Hamilton Bike Share network (aka Sobi) to get from school to school for some visits. It was amazing! I love riding my bike, but I didn’t imagine that it would be so fun. The combination of a beautiful day, riding around a city I love, and seeing staff hard at work for our students made for a great experience.

I have a wonderful job. It’s hard sometimes – some days I really need to go home and cocoon on the couch. But mostly it’s exciting and interesting. Oh, and did I mention that the schools I work with are in downtown Hamilton, a very bikeable city, so getting around is quite easy?

Last Wednesday was also International Walk (or Roll) to School Day and I wanted to participate. Any little way I can reduce air pollution and be active seems like a good idea.  But I had school visits. Earlier in the week, I had seen Principal Mary Finstad biking to and from and meeting, skirt, helmet and all. So, why not ride?  I am a regular user of Hamilton Bike Share, although usually on weekends. It was fun to plan to use it on a work day. I parked at the first school, got permission to leave my car there for most of the day and headed out after my first visit. No athletic clothes necessary – I was riding Amsterdam style in my work outfit. The Sobi bikes are modelled after Dutch bikes, so you’re not competing in the Tour de France, you’re just bopping around town. I stopped for a coffee then on to the next school. Visits over, I biked back to the hub near my car and then off to my office for a meeting. Pretty great.

What about you – have you ever considered walking or riding to school or work?

How Do You Want Families to Feel on the First Day of School?

With thanks to Pernille Ripp for title inspiration.

My nieces and and nephew just started at new schools in Washington, D.C. after a move across the country. They were excited and nervous, as you would expect. And so were my brother and sister-in-law. They didn’t know exactly what to expect either and wanted their kids to have a great first day. As educators, we often forget how parents may feel approaching a new school year.

Photo Credit: baggyjumper via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: baggyjumper via Compfight cc

I’ve recently read some excellent back-to-school posts by amazing educators Jose Vilson, Pernille Ripp and Stephen Hurley about caring for students, planning for the emotional side of the classroom, and co-creating a classroom with students. This stuff is really important!

And yet… we also need to think about families. We might be able to come up with a list of words to describe how we would like them to feel, like welcome, happy, included, or confident. How do our actions actually achieve these?

I was not always the most welcoming teacher or principal. In fact, when I look back over some of the things I did, I cringe. I acted like I knew what was best for students and their families. But I didn’t, a fact that it took me a few years and experiences and the modeling of some really great teacher and principal mentors to realize.

Have you ever done this exercise after a learning session?  “I used to think…. but now I think…” It’s a great way to give yourself permission to leave behind old ways of doing things that were not the best and commit to making a change. So I’ll go: “I used to think that parents should leave me alone and let me do my job, but now I think that if they know how much I value their child and their input, we can do a great job together.”

So what does that mean for the first day of school and welcoming families? How about a big fat smile that stretches your face and no curt or frustrated words? How about having parents bring students to classrooms for the first day (or maybe a first week?) How about free coffee or tea on the playground for adults as they arrive? Expand on these to fit your school and your context.

I’ll let Maya Angelou have the last word with a quote I always need to keep in mind:

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”