Adjusting and CopingPosted by Brian Peters on 10/9/2019 3:25:00 PM
Adjusting and Coping
We’ve all done it. We’ve all experienced it.
We have dreamed about the perfect vacation. We have thought about the ultimate family holiday gathering. We build up the expectations in our mind and there is no other way to go, but down. Something happens along the way that torpedoes the plan we have made or the vision we have had in our head. An unexpected delay in travel occurs. The location in reality just does not measure up to the pictures shown online. Several members arrive late or not at all. Sibling rivalry escalates into a squabble at the worst possible time.
We all make plans, sometimes to a fault. I am someone who constantly creates and recreates my lists. I have my calendar usually in line a year or more in advance. I like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing. Plans can be important. How do we react when plans don’t go as planned?
The Allied invasion of Normandy on D-Day may represents one of the most intricately planned operations. Eisenhower is remembered as saying, “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.” He was quite right. Once the day dawned and the landings began, the plans were no longer relevant as commanders and individual soldiers had to adjust to what was relevant and right before them.
This summer I went to Ironman Boulder expecting a typical summer day in the foothills of the mountains. That is what I had planned for. That is not what I got. On that day, temperatures were much lower than usual. It rained. It was cold. I could have taken my bike and went home, but instead I adjusted to what was presented. It was not what I had built up in my mind, but it still ended up okay.
The baseball playoffs are currently ongoing. Managers and coaching staffs have made plans on how their pitching rotations would roll out. However, once the games begin these leaders have adjust during the game based on circumstances. These decisions can change plans for that game as well as for upcoming games.
Planning is important. We want to know where we are going and what we are doing. Soldiers want to know their mission or task. Pitchers want to know when they will start or how they will be used. However, what happens when things do not go as planned? We have to appropriately cope and adjust. We cannot stick rigidly to what is on the paper or what was visualized in our mind. So the flight is delayed. Let’s make the best of the situation. Maybe we now have a chance to get lunch. Family members choose to not attend the event? It’s okay; those who are here will have the best time and make memories.
This is something we want to pass on to our children as well. Children build up an event in their mind or expect something at a particular moment and it doesn’t happen. Anybody who has children or works with children has seen this. It can evolve into pouting or worst case scenario into a tantrum.
People make plans. Organizations make plans. The importance is still being flexible. Circumstances can change anything. At the moment, the plans are not what is important. What takes precedence is how we respond to the circumstances. By modeling productive reactions, we help our children learn to cope with the unexpected or when things just don’t go their way.
Be Like Curious GeorgePosted by Brian Peters on 9/12/2019 3:05:00 PM
Be Like Curious George
Sometime last month I watched a movie/documentary about Woodstock. It took several sittings to complete it. In between viewings, I was looking for more information about this event that happened in 1969 in upstate New York. I was 5 years old when the original Woodstock occurred so I have no memory of it, but I did have some knowledge of it. What I reflect on is that I was not satisfied with this. I wanted to know more. I was curious to know more about the band lineup for the concert festival. I added to my collection of knowledge about Woodstock, but more questions were raised. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know more about subsequent attempts to repeat the event at the same and other locations. Watching the movie piqued my curiosity.
My wife reminds me that this is a common occurrence for me. I see something. I read something. I hear something and this creates more questions. I want to seek and find more information. I think this is what it means to be curious.
Curious George is aptly named. He sees something or hears something and he wants to know more. He wants to experience more. For George, this often creates an adventure or in his case, a misadventure. Fortunately, my curiosity does not get me in trouble as it does for Curious George.
I reflect on what drives curiosity. I do not think it is the answers that are gathered. It is pleasing to gain that information, but I think the driving force is the quest for the knowledge. The process of questioning and then searching for answers is what is most satisfying. That quest for answers can require different actions. It could be more reading. It could be more “doing.”
I really have no idea how I developed the trait of curiosity, but I do wonder about how can we develop that same trait in our children.
We definitely should encourage questioning. This is natural for our youngest. We laugh at the thought of “why is the sky blue?” or just the continuous “why, why, why” that might come from a toddler. I think this is our inherent curiosity. What we do not want to do is squelch it. Everything we read, hear, or learn can set us up for additional questions. It does not have to end with the “correct answer.” A curious mind is a learning mind.
If you did the math from the first paragraph, you have figured out that I have had over a half century of curiosity. It has not been squelched in me. I am still asking questions.
To Infinity and Beyond - Thoughts and Lessons from Toy StoryPosted by Brian Peters on 7/29/2019 3:05:00 PM
To Infinity and Beyond – Thoughts or Lessons from Toy Story
In two weeks the 2019-2020 school year begins in Humble ISD and at Groves Elementary. As in the movie Toy Story, we want to go “To Infinity and Beyond.” Let me share some thoughts on beliefs and practices related to the plot and characters of Toy Story.
There are so many phrases and mantras tossed around about believing in yourself. Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying, “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” “You must expect great things of yourself before you can do them,” was stated by Michael Jordan. These statements are correct. If we do not believe in ourselves, we cannot accomplish anything.
In Toy Story Buzz Lightyear has a very high opinion of himself and his abilities. He does look quite incredible with his wings and his laser. Woody is ever the pragmatic. He continually tries to remind Buzz that he is “just a toy.” This builds into a rivalry between Buzz and Woody that would lead to nothing if continued. It takes a belief in self and a willingness to trust the others to achieve. What is eventually accomplished is amazing. The belief grows within the toy community and through trust and collaboration; the rescue from Sid is a success. As individuals, we can accomplish much with a belief in ourselves, but let us not forget that we can accomplish so much more by adding trust and collaboration with others.
Jealousy begins to develop in Woody even before Buzz is revealed to the toy community. Woody has emotions that he will no longer be good enough. This jealousy begins to grow within Woody and he uses the only known defense since he cannot build himself up. He puts Buzz down. “You’re just a toy” and “That’s not flying, it’s falling with style” are two well-known phrases. Eventually, Woody has to accept his weaknesses and treat Buzz as a partner. The lesson is that jealousy gets us nowhere. The best route is to accept who we are and accept what we can do. Also, acknowledge the strengths of others and gladly ask for and accept their help.
The plot moves along in the movie and shows how the toys need each other. They all have strengths and they all have weaknesses. Who could forget a severely insecure Tyrannosaurus Rex? Relationships are precious and should be nurtured. Friends are needed and the toys show that so much more can be done when we all work together.
You've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
You've got troubles, and I've got 'em, too
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you
We stick together and we see it through
'Cause you've got a friend in me
You've got a friend in me
Perhaps the message is that we CAN go To Infinity and Beyond………with the help from our friends.
It Isn't a Failure Unless You QuitPosted by Brian Peters on 6/19/2019 9:55:00 AM
It Isn’t a Failure Unless You Quit
Recently I completed Ironman Boulder. I will repeat, I completed it. It wasn’t pretty. I was pretty sure after the swim that I wasn’t going to have it that day. I was certain after I finished the bike leg that I wasn’t going to have it that day. My best discipline, running, was nullified. I had a decision to make. I could pack it in and just admit that on this day I wasn’t at my best, or I could finish what I started, no matter the appearance or result.
It just so happened that at this event the daughter of a good friend and fellow triathlete left a note in one of my transition bags. I don’t recall the exact words, but it basically read, “It isn’t a failure unless you quit.”
Those words resonated with me. I was struggling. At that moment, I had many reasons in my head of why I could and even should quit. However, I did not quit. Those words banged around in my head for the next several hours as I put one foot in front of the other to reach the finish line. I did not fail. I did not succeed to the standard I had hoped for, but I finished what I started.
This is a lesson for all of us, and most importantly for our children. Too often, I see children who quit when it gets hard. Often they barely start, perceive that it will hard, and quit. This is no way to make progress.
Imagine if Edison and his team had quit when the work to develop the light bulb became difficult and frustrating. From what I learned at the Franklin Institute, it took the team about 3,000 attempts to achieve success. That’s many failures without quitting.
Most people from my generation know that Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns. That was an iconic number that carried great meaning. However, it is not commonly known that he struck out 1,330 times in his career. That’s a lot of failure. What if he had quit?
This year the Apollo program is very much celebrated as we are at the 50-year mark of the success of landing on the Moon and returning. We see the images of the success, but do we recall and acknowledge the great challenge this was and the failures that occurred?
Anything worth accomplishing is difficult. Bumps, bruises, frustration, and disappointment will litter that pathway toward success. We all fall down along the way. That’s okay. We have to model and our children have to learn that the next step is to pick yourself up and keep going. One foot in front of the other.
“It isn’t a failure unless you quit.”
MulligansPosted by Brian Peters on 4/22/2019 12:00:00 PM
Years ago, I played a bit of golf. During some tournaments and in informal play with friends there could be an opportunity for a Mulligan. Actually, it was a chance for a Do-Over. Most of the time the use of a Mulligan or a Do-Over resulted in a more favorable outcome. Hypothetically, let us say that I am hitting my tee shot on a long hole with out-of-bounds penalty lining the right side. I know that it is a long hole and I want to give myself the best chance for success. I reach for an extra-long drive and this causes my hips to fire through too quickly. The opens up the club face on impact resulting in a bit of a slice and the ball sails out of bounds. I have instant feedback on my swing and I take a Mulligan. With the feedback, I know that I need to slow down and make sure that my club is square when it impacts the ball. On the Do-Over my ball flies successfully down the middle of the fairway.
Think about it. I shoot a foul shot and miss. I get instant feedback on why I missed and then next shot falls through the net. The tennis serve goes long. Instant feedback is received and the next one hits within the court. Mulligans are very common in so many aspects of life, not just sports. Ever try a new recipe and the taste just isn’t quite right? Add something or take something away and it is perfect. Ever assemble something and discover that you messed up one of the steps. Backtrack and try again. It goes together just like the picture. Doing something again based on the feedback of being unsuccessful is quite common.
Mulligans happen in industry as well. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company launched the New Coke. This was a change in the original recipe. It did not take long for a consumer backlash that brought back the original formula that we now know as Coca-Cola Classic. The company got a lot of feedback. They reflected on it and took a Mulligan. For those of you who really enjoy Coca-Cola, you are grateful.
We can use Mulligans in our actions and behaviors as well. Sometimes we all just have a bad day. Sometimes we can reflect on it, discover the cause, and be sure to not repeat it. My spouse may be expecting me to do something that I fail to do. My feedback is her response and this can trigger a Mulligan for me to be sure to do that action.
These examples are all about learning. We try something. We reflect on it and/or get feedback. We use the new information to try again. Children in school use Mulligans. A child reads a passage and attempts to sound out a word. The child reflects on it. The word does not make sense within the passage. Take a Mulligan and try again. A multi-step math problem is completed. The answer arrived at makes absolutely no sense. Reflect on the work, get the feedback, take a Mulligan and try again.
Students can make mistakes. It can be in how one treats another student or in the type of response given to frustration or disappointment. If used properly, the feedback and reflection can trigger a Mulligan. The child responds or behaves differently with the Do-Over.
As teachers, we need to consciously think about how we use Mulligans and help our students to use them as well. A Mulligan is reflecting and using feedback. We need to teach our students about how this is a way of constant learning in our lives and in their journey of learning as well. Learning of any type is about Mulligans. Take in the feedback. Reflect on it. Try again until success if achieved.
Focus on Actions to Gain ResultsPosted by Brian Peters on 1/9/2019 1:40:00 PM
Focus on Actions to Gain Results
The start of a new year undoubtedly brings on discussions of goals and resolutions. Some select a word as a mantra for the year. Yes, I have done them all. I have not publicly proclaimed any of the above for 2019, but subconsciously in my thoughts I have continued this tradition.
It is great to have goals. Aspirations to do something, to accomplish something drive us and motivate us. The weakness of goal setting is often the short-lived celebration that usually occurs with achieving the goal. After that brief period of euphoria there is an emptiness. Okay, I did that. Now what? I can relate to this professionally and personally. I was driven for many years on my formal educational journey. At one point in time acquiring a PhD appeared attainable. It was going to require hours and hours of work over many years. There would be a few classes and then the research, writing, and defending the dissertation. This was achieved and I was quite pleased with myself, but then what?
Personally, I feel like I am always looking for the “what’s next” accomplishment. For years there has been the quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon. What accompanied that was many years of disappointment as the efforts didn’t bring the desired result. Years ago I had the goal of completing an Ironman. The problem at the time was that I really couldn’t swim. I recall the joy of the moment of completing my first Ironman. That feeling dissipated quickly with the feeling of what next?
In all cases the focus and celebration should not be on what I did at the end, but what had to be done to get there. Gaining a doctorate, qualifying for the Boston Marathon and completing an Ironman all require dedication to actions. Self-discipline and time management probably rise to the top of necessary skills. These behaviors and actions were fine-tuned through the journey to reach these goals. They became part of my character and spread into other parts of life. I eat better. I follow a better sleep schedule. I read more. I continue to learn and better myself.
Those are the actions developed to reach the goal. The goal is not attained without the actions. All goals need a plan of action. Once that is established focus on continuing the plan day after day and week after week. When that is done the goal can be achieved.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
So, what do I propose? Proclaim a goal, but attach an action plan with it. Here’s what I want to accomplish or achieve and here is how I am going to do it.
Our students can and should have goals and we need to encourage them to develop action plans as well. A student may be driven to become a better reader. Perhaps the goal might be to read a certain book independently. The best action steps toward improvement would be to vow to promise to read a designated amount of time each day. This action with fidelity will eventually yield the desired result. Another student may develop a passion and want to know everything possible about a given topic. This is great. Attach a plan. What will be done? What will be read? What and how will it be researched? What might be done with the information?
Blow the party horns. Send off the fireworks. It’s a new year. Set the goal. Make a resolution. Include an action plan.
20,000 Days - Carpe DiemPosted by Brian Peters on 11/23/2018 7:40:00 PM
20,000 Days – I better Carpe Diem
This week I hit the benchmark of 20,000 days on this planet. Get slammed with a number like that and it cause for reflection. Thoughts of the past and future emerge. What is my purpose? Am I living my purpose? These are thoughts as much for me as they are for our staff and students. Age however, makes it easier to reflect in this way.
If I were to stick around for what is the current average life expectancy, I have about 8,000 days left. That’s the kind of number that says, “Get it in gear, start living.”
I am a bit competitive and have said that I am going to beat my grandmother who made it until the age of 93. So if I stick around until I’m 94 years of age I have about 14,000 days. Regardless, the thought and the plan is to make it days of quality. It needs to be days of purpose. It needs to be days of living and not just existing.
The first 20,000 days have not been a wash. I have done plenty to leave a positive legacy in this world, but I want to make the most of the days to come. I recently read a blog that may help me make the most of whatever days are left - https://www.franksonnenbergonline.com/blog/7-ways-to-live-life-with-a-purpose/
- Live by your beliefs and values
I believe that I have always tried to do this. The important piece of this is to know who you are. You can’t live your own life if you don’t know who you are. Seeing Bohemian Rhapsody recently cemented this message. Freddie Mercury struggled through life knowing who he was and living a life of purpose is only possible once this is cemented.
- Set priorities
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might get there.” I believe this was once spoken by Yogi Berra. It is so true. If you start each day without any direction, you will go through life direction-less. Down time is important, but even that has a purpose. Know what you want to do and work to do it first before insignificant things encroach upon the day.
- Follow your passion
Knowing and pursuing your passion is the glue that holds it all together. If you are pursuing a passion then life has purpose and it matches beliefs, values, and priorities. I know my personal and professional passions. These bring purpose to actions and decisions each and every day. It’s not just the big things that make a difference, but the small things over time that add up to huge results.
- Achieve balance
I like what I read recently about Jeff Bezos and Amazon and balance in life. So much is being written about work/life balance, but is it attainable. If you take Bezos’ philosophy it is. If you are living your passion then balance is attained always whether you are at work or with family. Everything you do is within your life mission.
- Feel content
I feel more and more content with age. With age comes wisdom. I have had to work hard to fight the inner thoughts of comparison. I have had to continually battle the feelings of inadequacies and being judged. Recent readings of Dr. Brene Brown has helped me to grow in this regard. I look in the mirror each day and know that I am satisfied. I did the best that I could. Being competitive is who I am. I set goals. I work continually to achieve these goals.
- Make a difference
I am listening to Richard Rohr and reading Rob Bell. These are men with backgrounds in religion, but speak now well beyond the confines of those institutions. Finding purpose and contentment is enhanced when the words and deeds are to help and benefit others. Yes, it goes back to kindness again. If the choice is to do what is right or what is kind, choose kind. People will long forget your words, but will never your words.
- Live in the moment
No regrets. Thinking of the numbers I mention above bring emphasis to this. Each moment has possibility. Don’t dwell in the past because you can’t change it. Don’t project to the future because you can’t control it. Be in the moment. The minutes become hours that become days. Carpe Diem.
This is day 20,001. There is life to live.
KindnessPosted by Brian Peters on 10/23/2018 6:00:00 PM
Beaver Avenue is one of the main thoroughfares leading into the town that I once lived in. A good deal of traffic would make its way into town on this road every morning. For many, many years there was a gentleman who lived along this road close to town. Every morning he was out front of his home greeting every driver as they made their way to start their day. It was a simple gesture. For him it consisted of a smile and wave. If your windows were down you might hear a greeting.
I never met this man. I don’t know his name. I do know how his daily acts of kindness touched many people in the community. In fact this man’s acts of kindness extended beyond the community to a point of others knowing of him. He left his mark on people’s lives each and every day. No matter how someone might be feeling, a smile would have to come across your face seeing this morning greeter.
I recently read of a man in India who lived on an island with thousands of others. Like many areas, over time the forests and trees of this area were being eliminated and destroyed. Deforestation was taking place. This man observed what was happening and on his own began to take action. He began to plant trees. He planted tree after tree for more than twenty years. A forested area slowly began to take shape and at the end of two decades an area about the size of Central Park had a thriving forest.
These two examples represent gestures of kindness. The benefit is seen as going to others, but do we realize the strong satisfied feelings these gentlemen might also have as a result of their actions. Kindness is reciprocal. Those who receive it feel better. Those who give it feel better.
Every time someone makes a small gesture of kindness toward another a small connection is made. This could be pausing a moment and holding a door for someone approaching. It could be just a smile, wave, or greeting that lifts somebody’s spirit. It could be something like planting trees that won’t really show an outcome for many years.
At our school we have the opportunity to generate kindness that is similar to these examples. There are chances each and every day for the small gestures that make connections. We can hold a door. We can greet someone kindly.
We can also take the “long view.” What we do each day with our students can be looked upon like the planting of a tree. We may not see the fruit, or we may not get the shade for many years to come, but what we do each day is important in the growth and development of the student(s).
Simple acts of kindness can make a difference for those around you. Practicing kindness can make a difference for YOU.
Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need RoadsPosted by BRIAN PETERS on 8/10/2018 11:50:00 AM
Roads? Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Roads
How advantageous would it be for us to be able to take quick time travel excursions? Presently, there is plenty of talk of the “uncertain future.” The world economy is shifting. Jobs and careers of today may not continue to exist. There are future careers and jobs of which we currently have no knowledge. What if we could slip ahead 20 years and get a look at this uncertainty? Will we discover if schools adapted and changed enough to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world?
Unlike Doc Brown and Marty McFly, we cannot whiz into the future in a DeLorean and come back with new knowledge. We simply have to blaze a trail. This may seem daunting, but it has been done before. For change to occur, it takes an individual or a group to blaze a new trail, to map a new path. Lewis and Clark did not possess a map as they explored our west to set up our young nation for a future of opportunity. Rosa Parks had the courage to defy law and practice to institute change. Jackie Robinson was a leader who endured hardships to change a sport that influenced society. Sally Ride broke stereotypes and paved the way for others. These are examples of trailblazers. They may not have glimpsed the future, but they knew of a needed change in the present.
Ted Dintersmith writes in What School Could Be how the Committee of Ten established the basic structures and subjects of school in the latter part of the 19th century. I am not implying that school has not changed at all since that time, but has it changed enough?
At Groves, we try to provide an atmosphere within classrooms and the school that promotes learning through the physical context. Classrooms have alternate forms of seating from chairs of different heights, soft seating, floor space, desks, tables, etc. An emphasis is placed on making the location inviting, but not overstimulating.
We practice educating the whole child. This means not just developing each student academically but also with skills that will serve well in any occupation or career. Relationship is important. Students who feel connected have greater motivation. Groves promotes the practice within the Five Mindsets for students and staff. These Mindsets are Connected, Global, Innovative, Intentional, and Reflective.
Students who are interested, curious, and engaged will learn more and be motivated to keep learning. We have adopted Project Based Learning as a method of making learning relevant, real, and engaging.
A recipe or map does not exist for changing schools. This was the same for the trailblazers from history. A need exists, someone makes a move and change ensues. We are making moves at Groves for our students today. We are constantly reflecting on what we do to improve. Ted Dintersmith writes about “Doing things better, or doing better things.” This thinking guides our improvement process.
We are not going Back to the Future; we are going to the future. “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”
The All Star GamePosted by Brian Peters on 7/17/2018 3:35:00 PM
The All-Star Game
Tonight, the annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played. This is a mid-summer tradition that started in 1933. Of course, I am not that old, but I have memories of the game from the early 1970’s. In fact, I can remember sitting in my aunt’s living room seeing Reggie Jackson hit a moonshot off of Dock Ellis that hit the lights high above the right field wall in Detroit. The television was a big box that doubled as a piece of furniture. The picture on the screen was not perfect and probably skipped every few minutes, but it was a glorious time. Why?
It was special. It was unique.
The world beyond the diamond of baseball was different at this time. Seeing Major League Baseball was not a regular option. There was the Saturday Game of the Week on television. There was televised post-season games. There was the annual trip to Three Rivers Stadium to see the Pirates for a weekend double header. Since we had the opportunity to attend perhaps one time each season, we made the most of it by going to a double header.
The All-Star Game was a summertime RED LETTER EVENT. We saw the players we only heard about or read about. There were no daily games on TV. Inter-league play did not exist. We saw these players on television for the All Star Game, or not at all. It was special. It was unique. It inspired me to take a friend or two and go to any available space to imitate the pitching motion of Juan Marichal or the batting stance of Willie Stargell.
As I think about tonight’s game to be telecast I reflect on my childhood and the absolute excitement about this game. As I write this, I think about the apathy that I currently have for this game. This lack of excitement is not because I am a marginal baseball fan. My friends and family could vouch for the fact that I am a fan of this game to my core. My skin has red stitching and I bleed pine tar. I love the game and I would consider myself a scholar of its history, but I am apathetic about the All Star Game. It is no longer special. It is no longer unique. IT NO LONGER HAS MEANING. Baseball has tried to make changes. The Home Run Derby was added. For a while, the outcome of the game determined who hosted more World Series games. But what they are doing is trying to make “something obsolete better” (Dintersmith, 2018). However, the necessity of the day is to “do better things” (Dintersmith, 2018).
Let me transfer this to another passion, school. In many respects, school today is the same as it was for me back in the 1970’s. I am no longer young, but I can see through the eyes of children that school with this look, structure and focus no longer holds any kind of appeal. What is special? What is unique? What is memorable? What inspires the student?
We cannot allow this to happen in our schools. We have to evolve and change with the outside world. We have to make the environment conducive to collaboration, conversation, creativity, and learning. We have to make the learning opportunities inspiring and memorable. We want students to take what they experience within the school and apply it beyond the walls. We have to make the instruction relevant, which makes it engaging.
We have choices just like baseball, but let us not allow our students to become apathetic. Let us do better things and not just do what is obsolete better.
At Groves Elementary we have made decisions to create the environment and to do better things. We are creating the school experience to make learning relevant and meaningful. We are working to make each day at Groves Elementary a RED LETTER EVENT.
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