Returning: A Couple of Nuggets to Consider

First, once again, to all my educator friends, I know you are working hard right now to continue to deliver learning experiences to your students with commitment and integrity…keep it up and do not underestimate the importance of keeping kids and families engaged and connected. Maintaining community as much as possible is important and schools are the potential glue for such community.

So a few days ago was a perfect day to dig through some boxes and do a little sifting, sorting, tossing.  Oh, the treasures stuffed into this box of letters and documents from the past.  Photos galore of life in the 70s and 80s.  High school memories with some incriminating photos to say the least.  I mean a treasure trove of moments in time.

I found my report card from the end of Kindergarten – June 1962.  Who would have thought that “Geoff has trouble settling down during story and conversation time” or that “Geoff works well when settled down and separated from Nelson and Peter”.   Those two were a bad influence on me….for sure.  My guess is that my name appeared on their report cards as well.  Mrs Hughes also told my parents that Geoff  “often has interesting experiences to tell us”.   It was all code for being attentionally challenged, which I freely and humbly admit to. By June of 1965, after third grade things were looking a bit better “Geoff has good work habits.”  That’s the good news.  “However, he gets rather silly at times.”  Who would have thought? Me, silly?   As much as I enjoyed Mrs Pitt in Grade 3, maybe she didn’t appreciate my humor!

Speaking of attentionally challenged, The Coronoa Virus certainly has my undivided attention and, frankly it has for the past few weeks.  We’re hanging at home, taking walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the woods, and today a bike ride.   Still no cases of CV in Asheville identified. But, as we know, that doesn’t mean it’s not here.  We went to the grocery store this morning at 8:00 am.  We were there a week ago, last Friday as well.  Likely it was me, but it had a different level of gravity today. Not alot of small talk, everyone wanted to get in, get their stuff, and get out.  At least so it seemed.  Rhona and I went to the store with a level of anxiousness that caught me off guard. As someone said on the news the other day, the CV is something we will have to learn to live with over the coming weeks and months.  This will require not only taking vigilant precautions but also taking care of our own mental health, our own stress and anxiety. Paying attention to our individual self-talk.  Several years ago (as in 11 years ago…ouch, I could have sworn it was just a few years ago..) Rhona and I were in a personal leadership class while working at JIS.  The takeaways from that class, the 6 elements of Personal Leadership, are so relevant for this moment in time.

  1. Know, Understand, and “Align with your personal vision” – What is your personal vision of how you wish to live your day to day life?
  2. Engage and Embrace Ambiguity – certainly plenty of ambiguity in the air these days
  3. Cultivate Stillness regularly – calm the mind
  4. Attend to your Judgments, how are you passing on judgment regularly?  What are you judging? How does passing judgment impact your thinking and attitude?
  5. Attend to the Physical Feelings within your body, your physical comfort/discomfort
  6. Attend to the Emotional Feelings that sweep across/through you

I’ve always liked these statements/recommendations or ways of living.  I’ve come back to these statements often over the last decade in trying to be a better school Principal and leader of a faculty.  Rhona has carried a little card with these highlighted in her wallet ever since.  As I reconsider these elements, I think there is really good advice iwthin these words for right now.

These 6 elements come from an organization called

BTW…..The conversation around the closing of public schools around the country has truly highlighted the important role of public schools in fighting food scarcity. The conversations have been less about lost learning time but more about the challenge of supporting children with food.  Public schools provide so many children in the US with their essential, and often singular, nutritious meal for the day, it is absolutely amazing.  Schools have taken on the role of bridging the food security divide.  This, in the richest country in the world….The crisis is highlighting this reality and it is incredibly disturbing.

Be vigilant, be safe, stay in touch!


Returning: Don’t Tell Me That I Live In Interesting Times

I’m certainly glad I’m not in an administrative role in a school these days.  I know how hard it is on everyone in schools, trust me, Been There Done That.   SARS, Ebola, H1N1, riots, evacuations, bombings, threats….etc   Managing crisis situations is stressful.   And this one Exceeds Standards by a long shot; this one re-writes the rubric, re-writes elements of the playbook.  Haven’t seen this one before……

In a moment of complete seriousness, my hat goes off and my heart goes out to all of my educator friends and colleagues who are challenged right now.  Take care of yourselves and your families, friends and colleagues, and of course your students. The range of stress with adults and kids is all over the place, no doubt.  Projecting calm is important for establishing confidence and reducing anxiety.  Clear, thoughtful, timely and transparent communication is essential.  I don’t envy my friends and colleagues who are working hard every day to take care of kids and families.   Good luck with it as we all move through this pandemic.

So, I’ve spent all those years abroad……malaria, dengue, giardia, ameobas, lyme disease……and my first year of retirement it’s the damn corona virus!  After a steady diet of CNN news for days I have to say it’s just not a healthy way to spend time right now.  I have to wean myself off the news.  Stay informed….but not obsessed, right now I am both informed and obsessed!  I think I’ll take a bike ride or hike today….

Let’s see….besides news, what else can I watch besides news?  Sports (omg)…..unbelievable.  I’ve waited 35 years to be back in the US to watch March Madness in prime time. I retired so I could watch March Madness in prime time (not really)!  ….March Madness 2021 will be that much more fun to watch!!

It’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, and banging on my computer keys……oh, I forgot, I can watch the stock market, continually, as my retirement account sinks….that’s entertaining for sure….ugh and ugh and ugh.  That’s it….it’s clear….I have to win the lottery if I’m to make it to 95.

This morning the local grocery store was packed at 8:00 am. I commiserated with another old man (I am feeling old because I’m officially over 60 which has been identified as the age for people at higher risk….I’m actually in a high risk category now and all I get for that is a cheaper ticket at the movie theatre plus regular invites to join AARP). Anyway, the fellow Senior citizen and I were making our beer selections (anything but Corona, good line, huh, get it?) and we were both wondering what sporting events on TV we would enjoy a beer with…..the answer is none – maybe re-runs from the 90s….come to think of it I didn’t get to see many bball games in the 90s so perhaps that’s okay, and in prime time!   Beyond the beer aisle…..Toilet paper, canned goods, and frozen food aisles were thin and bare, having been picked through pretty well in recent days.  Walking down the aisle towards someone, we both veered right to maintain “social distancing”.  How quickly an expression becomes part of our vocabulary.

But, the fact is that this serious situation will be resolved by all of us taking individual actions that support the community. This morning an email thread went through our neighborhood in which people were offering their help and support for those who are in a more compromised health state, and really are at greater risk, by running errands or delivering food.  It was a brilliant thread of community support.

Anyway….I well remember how often, in times of crisis, we’d find humor in the expression “may you live in interesting times” or “crisis gives way to opportunities”, etc etc.  Ugh….if anyone says that to me in the coming days, I’ll vomit.  Stay well, keep your head up but sneeze into your elbow, wash your hands for 20 seconds while singing happy birthday, and listen to Dr. Fauci (the short doctor who is the voice of authority these days)!