Doing Life

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is doing life with kids.  I feel as if I was put on the earth to take part in this grand experiment of helping middle schoolers through what I feel is the most difficult portion of their lives.  And doing life with them is how I do it.

What is “doing life”?  It’s really simple, going through the daily trials and tribulations of pre-puberty, puberty and post puberty.  Or maybe even simpler, I walk beside them and try to feel what they feel (I’m really just a big kid who still doesn’t know what I want to be when I grow up).  Need simpler? I do life, what ever that is, without judgement and with empathy.

When they need a cheerleader, I cheer.  When they need a laugh, I tell stupid jokes.  When they need a push to get started I tell them to stop picking their nose and eating boogers. But most of all, I allow them to get through the day and be a kid, because that is truly the most important thing my students should be.

In today’s world everything is fast forward (I’m still traumatized by all day kindergarten).  We forget what it’s like to get home, have dinner at a table with our family and then watch TV (with our family) until it’s time to go to bed (9 pm when I was a kid).  And who could forget those special days when, because you were ‘good’, you got a bottle of pop or a handful of penny candy from Murphy’s on the corner.

I miss those days (and my Grandma Murphy) so I try to slow things down, be more like her and let those darn kids do life.

Now that I think about it, maybe I’m not doing life with them…maybe they’re doing life with me.

RAIN

This has been on my mind for a while now and the day of our first snow of the season felt like a great day to let my fingers do the talking.

Recently we had a stretch of rain in my area and I was forced to take a walk on one of the days we were blessed with the wet stuff.  It was during this jaunt I finally figured out why I like rain.

Over the years, some of my favorite activities have taken place during a rain.  Like the time I shot 39 in a down pour.  Or that time I made it home from a run just as the storm hit (trees were down everywhere) and I got soaked.  Then there is that time we drove home in a torrential weather system, hail and all, moving along at 35 MPH and probably still going too fast.

There are many more moments like these but I’ll spare you the trip down memory lane.  The point of this is to share with you how I finally figured out why I enjoy rain during my most recent adventure.

What I realized was thatnduring all of those events, the isolation forced upon me through the curtain of rain was in fact a meditating experience.  I know this now because recently I began my journey of mindfulness practice and the similarities between them are striking.

The calm, quiet focus of that round of golf is unforgettable.  Even though I was in a foursome, I was alone because of the rain.  Dripping water off of the bill of my cap placed a wall between my companions and me.  The solituted was incredible.  I was able to eliminate the chatter of meaningless conversation (with my playing partners, but also myself) and elevate my concentration.

The rainstorm I almost beat home was a similar experience.  I could see the clouds move in and feel the still in the air.  Instead of focusing on the aches and pains of the run, I focused on being efficient and beating the storm.  Although I did get drenched, I felt like I still won the race.  The calm I felt as I pushed my body to it’s limits was exhilirating.

Back to my recent walk in the rain.  Once again, rain drops were creating a wall of solitude, this time off of my umbrella.  I was getting wet on the edges of my body, my feet, my elbows, my knees.  Just the places I couldn’t get covered adequatly.  But the dampness was a reminder that it was the elements and me.

In that moment of solitude, I realized I was meditating.  I was following my breath and focusing only on it.  Time slipped away and I was transported back to the time I was running with a buddy and the sound of his breath and my ability to focus on it, gave me the greatest feeling I have ever experienced.

My practice will get me there again, but this time it will be my breath and I will be dry.

All Full Up

It won’t be long and we’ll be sitting around a table, looking at the mounds of food in front of us and trying to decide the right way to sample a little of everything.  If you are anything like me, you try a lot of everything, go back for seconds of your favorite, get stuffed to the gills and repeat the process with the pie and whipped cream.

Miserable, we loosen our belts, recline in our seats and hit the snore button.  Only to wake up in the middle of a meaninless football game with indigestion and a pit in our stomach, too full to even think about leftovers.  Why are we so gluttonous?

We won’t go down the path of gluttony, but I do wonder if there is a relationship to what ails us.  Regardless, the reason I’m here today is because my love of learning is a lot like my Thanksgiving apetite…bigger than my capabilites.

At this moment in time, I have at least twenty books which are on a book shelf, unread and begging for attention.  Add to that the numerous books on my Kindle and Audible apps, the umpteen Youtube videos I have bookmarked, dozens of podcasts and how many DIY projects I want to try.  Did I mention I dream of building a house from the ground up and I want to run another marathon?

Yep, my capabilities are overwhelmed by my percieved abilities.  Granted, it doesn’t help that I am ADD, but on the bright side I am well medicated.  My biggest struggle is even when my meds kick in and I decide to start, I feel like I’m all full up.  Then all I want to do is hit the snore button and lay back in my recliner.

So what’s the solution?  Believe it or not I do have a solution… PRIORITIZE.  Easier said than done, I know, but at least I know what to do.  It’s just so difficult.  Just like the first time through the line on Thanksgiving, I struggle with saying no.

But this year it’s going to be different.  Bye-bye mashed potatoes.  So long green bean casserole.  No more salad with the mini-marshmallows.  It’s turkey, stuffing, candied yams and gravey for me.

That is after I take the advice of an old friend who told be years ago how to beat the bloated belly of Thanksgiving.  It’s really the ultimate in prioritzation. So ridiculously simple I am stunned it’s not a tradition everywhere.

What is this secret of all secrets?  Eat your desert first.

Now, pass the whipped cream while I decide exactly which of my dreams is the pumpkin pie of my learning deserts!

Create something today. Even if it sucks.

One of my favorite quotes or sayings is “Create something today.  Even if it sucks.”  Not sure where I first saw it or even who it’s attributed to, but I love the clarity and direct nature of the communication.

Recently I listened to Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. Da Vinci was a person who exemplified the statement. In my opinion he drove The Renaissance with the volume and breadth of material he created.

In my role as a teacher I stress the 4 C’s of 21st Century Learning (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication). I feel strongly that these four soft skills are essential to future success regardless of what career path a person takes.

Of the four, creativity is the most elusive for me on a personal level. It is also something which I look for ways to attempt to develop in my students.

While creativity is technically different from creation, they are linked. To create, for me, is the essence of creativity and possibly the most difficult thing for a majority of my balls of clay to do.

Why is it so difficult to create? I think it’s because we all fear sucking! Simple enough. And as simple as this problem is, my solution matches its simplicity.

So, later today, when you are sweating bullets over the looming deadline and your inability to be creative…

Create something today. Even if it sucks.