The Reflection Pool

How Will I Use My Wild and Precious Life?

Photo Credit: SortOfNatural via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: SortOfNatural via Compfight cc

Have you heard Mary Oliver‘s great poem The Summer Day? Since I’m no poetry analyst, I’ll leave you to read it for yourself. The poem has inspired joy and reflection for me. For example…

I used to feel guilty about not gardening, or painting, or odd jobbing it around the house. I know some people really enjoy that stuff. I’m OK with dishes and laundry, but I’m no handywoman.

But I started to really think about it, especially after I read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less and chose essential as my #oneword. It seems to me that many of us, me included, spend a lot of time feeling bad about what we are not, instead of embracing, enjoying and trying to make better what we are.  My faults and shortcomings are easy to point out, as are everyone’s.

The truth is that I do not enjoy house chores. I love sitting on my front porch or back deck. I enjoy keeping space for my shoe collection (it’s a bit of a problem). I enjoy a little separation from my neighbours. In other words, I like living in a house. It’s a privilege that so many in our country and around the world do not have.

Instead of feeling bad about what I should be doing, now I focus on what is important and try to do it. First, reading, thinking, planning, and writing. What else? Being outside, walking in the woods, running, swimming, riding my bike. Hugging my family. Connecting with friends. Giving to others. Trying to be a better person. That’s enough for me.

And what about you? How will you use your wild and precious life?

Do people do well if they want to, or if they can?

The phrase, people do well if they can, has been echoing in my head for the past few weeks. It’s a new way of thinking about others.

My upbringing included the “work hard and don’t complain” belief.  One of its underlying messages was that people do well if they want to.  That meant if you didn’t do well, there was something wrong with you. You were lazy. You didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t want to. You chose not to do well.

I suspect that I’m not alone in this.  I can see it clearly in how our society deals with people in our homes, in our workplaces and on the streets.

What if we switched the script? 

Dr. Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, has done just that.  He believes that people do well if they can. Under the leadership of Shelley Woon, our district is beginning to try to change the script as well. Educators are using Greene’s ideas with children in classrooms to create environments where they can do well. We start with this idea that students want to be successful, to be happy, and to do well. If they aren’t, we try to figure out what is missing for them and what we can do to help. It’s not about children choosing to behave well or trying harder.

But it’s not just about our kids.  It’s about all the people we serve.

I’m thinking about the employee whose attendance is very irregular. Or the dad who comes in to the office yelling about a situation. Or anyone else whose actions seem problematic to you. Understanding what is behind someone’s behaviour is an important part of working with them. It doesn’t mean that we accept the behaviour or want them to shirk their responsibility, simply that there has to be more to it than someone who doesn’t feel like doing well.

If I believe that people do well if they can, what part can I play in creating an environment for them to do so?

Up the Ladders and Down the Snakes

My siblings and I loved Snakes and Ladders. Zooming up and down the board was fun. You would land on the ladder and advance, only to find the snake, groan, and slide back down. It’s a simple game with parallels to life and learning.

I thought about this game at a recent training session for Adaptive Schools with the amazing John Clarke (yes, my mind goes odd places).

Photo Credit: espressoed via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: espressoed via Compfight cc

Clarke mentioned the Ladder of Inference, a concept first proposed by Chris Argyris. I was introduced to the ladder of inference during Instructional Rounds training.  In chapter four, the authors talk about “Learning to See and Unlearning to Judge.” It is a powerful way to think about how we see people. Do we watch and listen carefully without judging? Or do we go up, up, up the ladder of inference to draw conclusions  about people or situations before we listen carefully or seek to understand.

In my last post, I challenged myself to have the courage to do the effortful work of changing how I think about others and being open to everything they are and have to offer without rushing to judgment.

So, even though I loved playing Snakes and Ladders as a kid, I don’t think I want to play it as a leader.  I’d rather advance carefully on the game board, seeing, listening and learning.

Do you have any favourite childhood games that have parallels to your practice?