Why I Embrace Technology…

I’m sure that I’m like a lot of people.  When the house is quiet, the TV is off, and I’m doing mundane but necessary tasks like putting away laundry or watering my plants, my mind wanders to places I hadn’t visited in a long time.

Like today. I was enjoying my first Saturday of summer break.  The house was quiet and I was unencumbered by the pressures to do other things.  I meandered through the house putting away the things that pile up while I’m working.  In women terms, I believe I’d call it tinkering or puttering.

Nothing ground breaking about putting away laundry or changing the sheets, except that when I try to sing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Mama Cass Eliot.  I’d heard it recently in a 2014 movie and was surprised because I wondered how many millennials actually knew who she was or what her music did to the music scene back in the day.

So there I am, puttering this morning and I begin to hum… or at least try to hum the song in my head.  Of course I then tried to put the words to it and was grateful that I was alone in the house with no one to hear my crackling voice.

I remembered that there was a day that I had a pretty good voice.  I sang in the Madrigal choir in high school and I loved music and ballet.  But I grew up in large family.  And what I remember most was always feeling invisible.  My parents were busy doing what parents with five girls do: work, cook, clean, delegate.

That’s why I embrace technology

Technology lets everyone be visible to someone.  As my thoughts continued to chain together, I thought about how lucky the children are today.  They never have to feel invisible.  There is always someone just a click or two away with whom they can connect about whatever they’re interested in.  Granted, this idea can be a scary proposition, which is why not all school boards and administrations embrace social media in our schools. But let’s stay positive.

Technology let’s everyone be heard.  Every child can have a voice.  Every child can find a mentor who will help them get to where ever they think they want to go.

Wendy Whelan started her career in Louisville, KY at the age of 3 as a mouse in the Nutcracker Suite, ultimately joining the New York Ballet from which she retired in 2014.  I bring her into this conversation because a statement she made in the documentary I recently watched about her really stuck with me.  She said that someone had said to her, “Wendy, there are people in other places who can help you become the best dancer you can be.  You should go find them.”

There are people in other places…

And that’s why I embrace technology.  Not because it’s got great gizmos.  Not because it’s the lasted craze.

I embrace technology because it truly opens windows to a world we would otherwise not see.

In education, we use the words ‘career and life skills’.

I think what we should say is that we need to embrace all the amazing people and ideas that are speeding about us so we can be inspired to do what we love, even if it seems like a long shot.  We need throw the world of moonshot thinking at our students, particularly our high school students.

There really is a fabulous world out there.  And we do a disservice to our students every minute we restrain them to minuscule work in our classrooms.

An Open or Closed Porch?

My husband and I recently updated the front of our house.  We’d had a closed in porch that I loved from the inside.  It gave us shelter from the winter winds, kept us dry from the summer thunder storms, and gave us some spare ‘kid’ space whenever we needed an extra play room.

But from the outside, it was uninviting. We knew 25 years ago when we married and moved into this house that the porch needed… redoing.

Over those 25 years, my husband and I often discussed what we’d like to do when we changed and updated the porch.  I, of course, wanted a closed in porch. Not because an open porch was a bad idea, I just thought that giving up the extra 150 square feet wasn’t a good idea.  Our family is still growing and when we need it, it’s a great play space.  Add on the fact that I liked the shelter it provided from our southern exposure during bad weather, and I thought it was a no brainer.

He, of course, wanted the porch open.  As many times as we had discussed it over those years, I didn’t find out until the porch was actually finished why his heart was so set on an open porch.  As it turns out, he wanted to be able to see outside without screens or windows.  He wanted to be immersed in the peacefulness of the street on which we live.

Ultimately, we  decided on an open porch with two rocking chairs. While I begrudgingly acquiesced to the open concept, once I truly heard his heart, I was glad I had caved.   As it turns out, we really love it.

The Open Porch

I have made a surprising discovery.  The porch has given us the opportunity to have wonderful conversations.  We drink our morning and evening coffee there.  Together. We talk about stuff. And it makes me feel more connected to him.

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Are people like porches?

As I thought about how our conversations made me feel more connected to my husband, I wondered about how great it would be if I could have those kind of conversations with my students. You know, conversations about ‘stuff’. I wondered what kind of things I would learn about them.  What kind of stuff is happening that really makes them smile? What keeps them from doing their very best?  How can I help them do better?  As a teacher, I wondered about my most challenging students.  The ones that I like despite their determination to sit inside a closed porch. The ones who work hardest to make themselves unapproachable.  I wondered if my students knew I was an open porch with an empty rocker just waiting for them to sit down so I could listen and connect to their heart.

Leaders should be like an open porch.

Leadership means modeling the behaviors that will bring your staff to the best they can be.  In “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” John Maxwell lists listening at number eleven.  Maxwell says, “leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. That’s the Law of Connection. But before a leader can touch a person’s heart, he has to know what’s in it. He learns that by listening” (p.41). Many school administrators wall themselves into their office, accessible to only those in the the golden circle. They are missing so much.

According to My Future, people work because they like to be productive and to contribute to society.  People also work to feel a sense of well being and accomplishment and to meet and interact with people of different backgrounds and cultures. Work provides a social life and makes us feel good about ourselves.

Administrators who do not freely flow among their personnel miss making the connections that bring meaning to the staff’s work as well as, quite frankly, their own. The people in his/her building have many great ideas swirling around it.  Making time to chat to all members of the staff opens this administrator to the lives of the staff.  Perhaps someone is dealing with a dying husband. Perhaps another has had her son hospitalized.  Perhaps others have heard news of a new baby or a new house. They call this relationship building.

As I continue my journey toward leading a school, I reflect back on graduate school where we discussed that one of the first qualities that distinguishes a leader is his/her ability to move people toward a joint vision.

John Maxwell says that before you can ask for a hand, leaders need to touch people’s  heart.

I’m thinking that have a rocking chair mentality just might be the first step a new administrator should bring with them.