Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Learning from Beads to Blogs

Learning is unique to each of us. Several famous researchers have talked about learning styles trying to help educators make learning easier for children and less perplexing for the teacher. The truth of the matter is, we are innately wired to learn and to seek to knowledge and understanding. From the time we roll over in our cribs, until we take our last breath, most of us are curious. Knowing how to guide your own learning might be more important than having a teacher, or someone else, tell you what it is you need to know. Not that guides aren't necessary - but why go it alone when someone else may be able to lend us a hand.
Looking at how we learn can be a bit perplexing. Take for example, some of the things I like to do; making prayer beads and writing my blog. I didn’t know how to do either of those things until a few years ago. Learning to bead came out of volunteering for a program with young adults with disabilities. Our objective was to find a way for these young people to work side-by-side with more abled people, so a task that fit us all was what we hoped to find. The prayer beads seemed a natural fit - how hard could stringing some beads be? And we could sell them at the retreat center where to group was meeting.
Low and behold, beading was not so simple. After a trip to the craft store this idea seemed more amusing than fun. There were hundreds of types of beads, string and gadgets. I needed expert help to navigate this sea of ceramic and glass, hemp and nylon, tassels and grommets. After wrestling with the string and beads, trial and error, visit after visit to the local craftspeople, we had a product that looked good and might even sell. We made templates and work lines, we counted beads and packaged them for production. We sat together and one suggestion after another lead to a system that had us all working at what we did best. Doing made the difference - for me and others as well. We learned from one another through trying and failing, getting up and trying again.
While beading started as a group effort, writing a blog came out of my personal journals and workshops. It didn’t happen all at once and writing in this manner was a personal journey. In fact, writing was not what I trying to learn, blogging was about learning to trust my own instincts. I penned my thoughts freely in journals for myself. I walked in the woods observing nature and metaphors. I drew pictures in pencil as sat and listened, working through my own fear, joy, pain and life. I had written in the academic world for years - more than I want to count. I wanted to tell a story then, but was always called back to the data points. I had faces for each child that didn’t make AYP (adequate yearly progress). Now, sitting with others, walking in the woods, observing life in airports, the sacred in the moment, I was pulled to tell the story of these faces through my heart. Little by little I shared with strangers at workshops, considering going public.
A blog is public. The choice to step out into the world took time. I was really trying to start a conversation - wider than my circle of influence. A snippet of my view of the heart and soul of education. From the line of a poem - ground out as I listened to the words of others as I was beginning to gain courage. I was getting better with practice. Yet, I worried, what might others say or think? I don’t remember exactly why I let go of the fear of failing or that my stories would seem trite or vain. I was Riddled with doubt about my own ability and value. I remembered the first time I read a poem aloud in a group with fear and doubt surfacing. I had good stories to tell about children and learning. Yet, it was like jumping off a ledge - into cold, dark water and I emerged - alive and renewed. Writing had been mostly a quiet and solitary affair, that changed when I went public with my words. While I thought of writing as a solitary experience - with the push of others and a button it was public and I was OK.
Learning for me has almost always a community effort, but I found I also learn in other ways; by creating, observing, listening, trying, failing and trying again. Alone and together, trying to make meaning of the day to day. I like synthesizing ideas, culling the best of what each person has to offer, working together to shape the plan - but other times I like to learn alone and then seek feedback. The next thing I want to learn is when to let go - and move on to the next adventure! There is so much to learn - so much to do. Leaving the fear of failing behind, the voice in my own head that keeps my from stretching my wings, that’s what I want to learn next. We only really fail when we don’t try, right?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Welcome Heart

Be kind to yourself!

(Inspired by Wendell Berry's A Purification)

My broken heart:
The barrage of useless words
Finished with one of our journey's
I confess my sins;
My good fortune, too loud, 
Lusting after praise.
My broken open heart:
I forgive myself
The rubbish of my past, the joyful noise,
The celebration
Ready to hold it all,
Reclaiming it all.

I begin again.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Learning from The Sneetches!

I keep the book "The Sneetches" by Dr. Seuss on my desk. I read the book to my kids growing up pretty regularly. I must admit, not because they asked for it, I think it was because I liked it so much! Lot's of people reference it.
The Sneetches, for me, is really about honoring our differences! If you haven't read it the story is about Sneetches who have stars on their bellies and those who do not. The "star bellied" are popular and envied. Along comes a bright entrepreneur who, for a sum, will place a star on others bellies. You would think everything would end there! Happily ever after! But no, as you can imagine, stars went out of fashion. Waiting in the wings to remove the stars the entrepreneur swoops in again, for a sum, to remove those stars. The entrepreneur was quite happy as the Sneetches went in and out of his star-on/star-off machine! When their money was gone he packed up and he left -smiling all the way to the bank! The story ends well and the Sneetches finally figure out that neither is the best - and they all get along!
I wish life were that simple. We all want to be recognized and not isolated. Star, no star, whatever our "brand" might be, we all want to be seen as useful, viable and worthy. The age old tale of the Sneetches, published in 1961, still tells the human tale. What is your "star"? What is mine? Today I want to try to remember what makes me unique and valuable - and see the same in others. Often that is hard as I measure myself against someone else's "star".
Imagine a school(s) where we all honor the gifts we bring and the unique gifts of others. In a world that measures often by conformity - I hope to lead quietly and by example, honoring the gift each soul brings - and by honoring my own gifts. Each star unique - contributing to the beauty of diversity - of all kinds! 
Think about schools - think about how kids learn differently! Blended Schools Network and The School at Kirkridge - ideas for new thinking!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day (Parent) Wishes

I love my Dad, in fact both of my parents are awesome. I learned a lot from each of them - and together they are the most amazing parents. I have great siblings (and in-laws), too! We are all better people because they spent time with us, pushed us to be our best and taught us a great many lessons. 
Thanks Dad! Thanks Mom! 
I am glad that I can echo the words of Dan Zevin - and hope to be the great parent that my parents have been to me!!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Beginnings and Endings

Both fear and joy can be associated with endings, and that is normal! The same can be said for beginnings. Often, at this stage of my life, I fear endings. So much seems out of my control. Maybe it has always been that way – and I never stopped to worry. Risk, which had mostly been a welcome friend, has me a little out of kilter these days. I have taken risks to help myself and often to help others. I stand for what I believe in. I have integrity and courage. Yet, when times get tough and the endings come, I have often felt like I was standing alone. True or not, when I doubt my own value I rarely appreciate all that is right in front of me. I am sure of the end, but not the beginning. Finished, but not there yet!

Beginnings can rise slowly and sometimes we don’t even realize they are happening. Unsure of whether I am at the beginning or end, I want to pay attention to the invitations that may be right in front of me; The emerging sun, the blooming flower, a remote opportunity, or the growing child could be lost in entanglement of uncertainty. Out of the spotlight of beginnings and endings, I find friendships and family - unending gifts from my life, not to be ignored or taken for granted. Tugged at by the call to make meaning I push and pull to create my own beginnings and endings. Breath in, breath out…. Let it go! Pay attention – endings are beginning and beginnings are endings.

I think instead of worrying about those beginning and endings, today I will live in the in the space between! Holding the joy of living and honoring each moment. 

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Just Wait

Just Wait

Right Now!
Do it, just do it.
Right NOW!

Do what she said?
Do it NOW she said!

Waiting for what?
A sign, a way, a light
A word, a phrase.

Do IT she said!
Right now – don’t wait!

But if I rush, she said
I might miss the sunrise,
my childs’ story, the sweet
kind words of a friend.

Wait I say, just wait.
It will come to you.
Just wait,

You are worthy.

Friday, May 16, 2014

We Wrote a Book!

I was honored and blessed to be invited to participate in a writers’ Circle of Trust this fall and winter - exploring my own journey. Sally and Megan, as facilitators and editors, helped guide us gently through the landscape of our own story. When I write I share my story from the inside out! In my vulnerability I have found that many of us share a similar heartbreak and joy as we travel this world in all of our humanity. 

I am blessed to have had parents who always told me I could do anything I worked hard to achieve - and I am doubly blessed that they still cheer me on! A walk in the woods or a look out the window often inspires my work. In this effort I was inspired by the work of Parker Palmer, and the process I learned in Circles of Trust, as I work each day to live undivided. It took all my courage to share my story, in Let the Beauty We Love Be What We Do: Stories of Living Divided No More.  I am thankful for the gentle holding of Megan and Sally as I shared my story about my journey inward that was both challenging and life-giving! 

I titled it, Not There Yet: The Journey to an Undivided Life.

Here is a brief excerpt:
I looked in the mirror as I was talking to my sister on the phone. I told her that I was heading to a concert at a place where I thought I could be myself, a gay woman, and maybe even meet someone. She asked if I could try, just one more time, to meet a guy. I remember laughing, and with a resounding NO, I recounted my failures when I had tried to please others. I smiled as walked out the door. I had spoken my truth.
Looking back, I guess what happened was what I now would call an inner knowing. I never imagined that a Carrie Newcomer concert, at Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center, on a cold November night would be such a significant entrance to my journey toward an undivided life. The night before, I had been sitting at the computer in my living room, alone again on a Friday night, reading and re-reading the invitation from the director of Kirkridge to hear Carrie Newcomer. I had never heard of Carrie, so I downloaded an album from iTunes. Not bad, I thought..... 

I invite you to share my story and my work. As an educator I hope that each person can come to school each day and be safe, both physically and emotionally. I have facilitated conversations and worked with groups both large and small. My work in the area of non-discrimination, equality and education is adaptable for families, parents, schools and other groups as we all struggle to welcome the "other".

You can buy our book online -  click here.