what are your plans for the future?

this is the question that all high school seniors face every year…the dreaded, unwanted, ill-fated question…

and here, is the absolute best answer ever given…

congratulations, graduates!

 

our last day with our day care provider…

yesterday, we said goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives…our day care provider…

given the impact this woman had on our lives, i am re-posting (below) a post i shared more than 3 years ago…

everything in this post is still true today…or, more true…meaning, you just need to “times” all of the good shtuff i said below by ten thousand (x 10,000) and then you’ll be close to just how much my wife and i love and appreciate her, our day care provider…

note: in the first version of this post, i didn’t give out her actual name–for privacy reasons–but i’m gonna do that now…because if you’re out there (in the twin cities)–looking for a place for your kids–look no further, sign up today!!!

thank you, stefanie berge/sharon (owner/operator of tender heart childcare) you’re the best around!

to see what i’m talking about, please keep reading…

before i was a teacher, i worked with kids in many different settings…coming through a gauntlet of years in youth work & (now) teaching, it takes a lot to impress and inspire me in this field…

but, i have been truly impressed and inspired over the past 3+ years…

with our in-home day care provider…

and yes, i said in-home daycare provider!  …in-home daycare programs are often regarded as marginal, “fly-by-night” operations that may be alright in an emergency….but not as a “serious long-term consideration”…because people think that “they’re just not as good as centers” or a mom/dad staying home with their children…nor are they viewed as “safe places”–you get the feeling that this is one of the most horrific decisions you can make for your children–tantamount to sending a kid cross-country on an orphan train (esp. from my parent’s generation) …like your kids will end up abducted, abused, neglected, abandoned, in the emergency room, dead in the street and on the nightly news if you leave them there!!!  i heard the world saying, please report to the shame corner and turn in your parent card, now!

…this is not the case with our person, sharon–yes, her name has been changed to protect the innocent–or in the many cases of parents who use amazing in-home daycare providers each and every day…anyways, my wife did the first drop-n-go routine, through a river of tears (mind you, this is a person who cries over  the voice🙂 and i did the job three days later…and this is what happened…

i entered the house, took off my shoes, and proceeded downstairs to find my children…i was excited to see them…arriving downstairs, i made eye-contact with my son and daughter…they recognized me and smiled…but, they weren’t that excited to see me…they stayed where they were–by the side (son) and in the arms (daughter) of sharon…i thought, what the hell is this?!  i’ve been your father for nine months–you think that was a piece of cake–i was there when you were colicky, when you wouldn’t sleep, when you had that “projectile shit”–the rapid fire, .50 caliber shtuff that ‘took out’ the nursery room door–and this is how you repay me…how dare you?!  i mean, i had envisioned my children running from sharon, bounding towards me–their father–with outstretched arms (press play on can’t hold back by survivor)…but, it didn’t happen…so, i made funny faces, talked to them, waved for them to come to me…but still, they stayed with sharon…so, i hiked back upstairs, put my shoes on, went out to the van and grabbed the wonder bar…so-to-pry my children off of their in-home daycare provider!

…since those early days, we’ve seen and heard all about the amazing things they’ve learned from sharon…sign language, “how to wear a helmet with style”, music, how to pronounce their “t’s”, please and thank-you’s, “how to help”, potty training–you name it…she is unbelievable …so, let me just take this moment to say…thank you, thank you, thank you, sharon…for teaching our kids, for loving our kids like that…i am impressed and inspired…you’re the “+1” to my wife and i, you’re the best around…

kickstart my heart

it’s new year’s eve…the end of one year and the beginning of another…a time to think back on all that’s happened…a time to reflect on life…

with that in mind, let me tell you one of the best stories of 2015–it happened about four weeks ago…

so, there i was…

out on the street corner in downtown minneapolis, waiting for a cab to take me and my friend, LA, down to the motley crue concert — final tour, baby! 🙂

and there’s a couple (husband and wife) waiting for a cab right by us…so, we start talking to them…small talk…which normally i hate…but, i’m “super-amped”…i’ve always wanted to see the crue in concert (and my amazing wife got me a ticket for christmas!)…and, here i am…in this surreal place, within hours of the metal storm that will ensue…so, i engage…

turns out, that the couple we’re talking to is going to the concert as well…they make special mention of really wanting to see the opening act–alice cooper–which takes me a little bit off-guard…i’ve never heard anyone say that before 🙂

anyways, i don’t judge it (i’m seeing motley crue, after all;)…and they seem friendly and as excited as we are to see the show…so, we continue to wait for the cab, which takes way longer than it should to pick us up…so, as the conversation goes on, it turns out that they’re from the town that i teach in…so, right away, upon hearing that, my shields go up, i pull back and regard them suspiciously…

and i think to myself, do they know my school?!

[LA recognizes this reaction, he’s seen it before…occasionally, i’ve crossed paths from community members and parents that are familiar with the alternative/career-technical school that i teach at…usually it turns out o.k., but you never know how it’s going to go–because of our school…because despite having amazing teachers who do amazing things for students…we’ve been fighting some negative perceptions and stereotypes for years…as an example, some of the reactions we get sound like this…oh, you work at the ‘alt-school’ (the tone lets you know what they really think–that it’s not a real school, it’s not real education, it’s just a place for outcasts and throwaways)]

and i know it’s coming…the what do you do for a living question…so, i come clean and tell them where i work…

[at this moment, i risk a side glance towards LA and i can tell that he’s ready to jump in and change the subject, if need be–possibly even throw down, if necessary…he’s a good man to have watching your back, if things get tense]

and then, the most unexpected thing happens…

immediately, the woman’s eyes light up…and she smiles…

[important thing to note here–she seems sober 🙂 ]

she goes, NO WAY–WE LOVE THAT SCHOOL–YOUR SCHOOL SAVED MY SON’S LIFE (turns out he was a student at my school a couple of years back and he and his family had some really tough years)–anyways…

she gives me a hug (i’m pretty sure she’s sober, seriously 🙂 …the cab arrives…and that’s that!

so, with that story in mind, i’d like to raise a glass to all my colleagues–here’s to you and the work you do! cheers!

happy new year and rock on!

name game

early in the semester…i was digging in…trying to guide my students and get ’em all moving in the right direction…you know, this is when they want to go their own way (press play on the fleetwood mac song of the “almost-same” name)…this is when they want to “buck you”…test you…see what you’re made of…

well, it was the last class of the day…and i had move three kids to new seats within 20 minutes because their behavior “told me to”:)

i was getting impatient and just wanting them to listen…and i didn’t think that was too much to ask?!

but it was…because when you’re at this point…it’s on, baby, it’s on…and, one student is always going to push it further…take it to the limit…and you’re always going to push back, even harder…

so, he started acting up…a young man in the back row (yep, back row crew)

so, i looked over the room (there wasn’t a lot of extra space with 40 kids in my classroom) and identified a spot for him to be moved to and said…

brandon, i want you to move up here.

he didn’t move…so, i said it again…with a little more edge…

brandon, i want you to move up here–to this seat. 

he didn’t move.

i couldn’t believe it!

so, i went again…

brandon, i want you to move up here, now.

he didn’t move…and after an uncomfortable silence…another kid piped in…

his name is bradley.

i cursed myself.

then, i said…

bradley, please move up here.

[which he did]

later that day, i thought about how i messed it up and about the importance of knowing kids’ names…and it made me think of someone i know…

it made me think of one of my wife’s best friends…

her name is nikki and she knows just how powerful it is to name someone…and she’s got it down to a science…she always makes a point of calling a person by their name…not only at the “meeting point” in an interaction, but throughout an entire conversation…i’ve never seen someone do that before–never, ever…but, it is an authentic, genuine, intentional thing…it’s something that captures your attention right away…it’s something that makes you want to listen…

it’s the kind of thing that you want to replicate, to mimic in your own life once you experience it…but, no one does it quite like nikki…

anyways, knowing kids’ names is really important, for a lot of reasons…not just during times of discipline…but, more often, when you want to start building that rapport, that trust…things that you need to have to do the job…calling a kid by their “right name” makes all the difference in the world…

post #100 – surveillance

yesterday…

there was a kid in my class who was being mildly disruptive during “reading time”…i had warned him a couple of times, but he wasn’t heeding my words…

since there wasn’t a lot of time left for reading …maybe 5-7 minutes…i sent him out to the hall (instead of sending him to the ISS program) and said…

i want you sit out there, right there (pointing to the mid-point on my classroom wall) in the hallway, where i can see you, where the video camera is.

i could tell he was a bit puzzled, so i walked out of the classroom with him…when we were both out in the hall and he was seated on the floor, i pointed up to the ceiling, to the small camera above my head and said…

see that, that’s a video camera…that’s how i can make sure you’re reading–i can see you on that camera.

i left him in the hall for a minute, then i went back out there and said…

you’re a little out my view/picture…move down the hall a foot.

he did…he got up, gave a weary stare to the camera, grabbed his backpack and book, and moved down the hall…thinking that i could see him on my laptop…

which i couldn’t…of course…the only people who have access to the video feed are the school resource officer and administrator…but, he didn’t know that…

[my goal was to separate him from his classmates while simultaneously making sure that he didn’t “make mischief” in the halls–mission accomplished!]

about 6 minutes later, i brought him back into class and we went ahead with the rest of the day — no other students were in on it, or really even knew what was happening…i’m not into the “shame game”, people! yet, it was still a jolly good time for me, myself and i 🙂

who says you can’t have fun as a classroom teacher these days?!

cheers!

keep striving

“excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.”

-pat riley

in a few weeks, i will begin my ninth year as a high school teacher and my 17th year working with kids (of some sort and in some kind of setting)…

i don’t know how it is with other people in other careers, but in teaching, there is (lurking in the shadows) that ever-present temptation to get complacent or to “phone it in”…i mean, after you’ve been teaching for a while, there are certain things you’ve got down, things you know, like the back of your hand…

but, going down that road is precarious…

at the same time, you can see how it can happen, how all of us can fall into that trap…for instance, when i first started this “herding cats work”, i made great strides right away and really “wowed ’em”…my achievements were shiny and could be seen (by myself and by others)…but, as time went by, day after day, going through the same routines–it made me weary (on occasion) and i’d think, “what more can i do?”…

well, as an answer, i was recently re-inspired by a little japanese man named jiro ono…jiro is the subject of a 2011 documentary film (by david gelb) called, “jiro dreams of sushi”…and the story, his story is completely captivating…

jiro is the owner and head chef of the three-michelin-starred* sushi restaurant called, “jiro sukiyabashi” in tokyo, japan…and there’s five important things you need to know about this guy:

  1. jiro is 89 years old.
  2. jiro works every day.
  3. jiro has been making sushi for more than 70 years.
  4. jiro is widely recognized as the best sushi chef in the world.
  5. jiro still believes his sushi can be better.

[*important detail: michelin is a french company that publishes an annual guide on fine dining and accommodations–and, a three star rating is the highest–in this case, it means “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.]

the last fact is the most remarkable to me…that, after all this time, after all this work…

jiro still believes his sushi can be better.

think about that for a moment…talk about inspiring!  at 17 years into my profession, i’ve got nothing on this guy…absolutely nothing…yet, there is a silver lining–the strides i make, nowadays, might not be as big, bold, or bright as the one’s i’ve made before…but, they are still significant little steps…

so, along these lines, i’ve tried to challenge myself for the past couple of years…by asking myself one simple question (to stoke the fires)…

how can i better “my last year self”?

and if i had to give an answer to that question right now…it would be…

i don’t know, but i know i can…and then…maybe, just maybe…coming to my classroom will be worth a special journey…

jiro

“always strive to elevate your craft.”

-jiro ono

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