I woke up to the sounds of YouTube videos in the background. I really wanted it to stop, but it didn’t. As I rolled over and came to, I heard the low baritone of my husband’s voice pointing out a variety of musical nuances that only a well trained ear or a complete music wonk would understand. As he flipped from video to video, explaining which artist influenced whom and when this band jammed together with these people on a bus, I came to this sudden realization… He was teaching his daughters a very important lesson about happiness and lifelong learning.
Communication today is instantaneous. We write emails, send chat requests on social media, and send GIFs and emojis via text messages. We know how people feel, where they are, and what they’re up to at any moment in time just by looking at a timeline or feed of information. Party invitations, wedding announcements, and other celebratory life events are now also shared via mobile and online communications. With communication becoming bite-sized and immediate, I wonder if we are losing the art of thoughtfully exchanging of ideas with others. Are we becoming less human when we engage less personally? Are we losing out as we become more efficient?
When was the last time you sat down, penned a letter, and put it in the mail? For many of us, the idea of visiting the post office or using an envelope and stamp is an awkward experience. Why write a letter if you can Skype or FaceTime or direct message? The idea of writing a physical letter might be an archaic concept, but it’s a skill worth cultivating in our children. Letter writing is a great way to improve writing and communication skills. It allows the sender to organize their thoughts into a story, think about their recipient and what they’d like to learn from the other person, practice their writing style and voice, as well as, practice handwriting coordination. Despite the many benefits of digitization, the experience of letter writing can be a great way to substitute a creative writing exercise that also helps social emotional development.
It’s my favorite time of year. The nights are about to get cooler, the bugs are singing their swan songs to nature, the fall sports teams have begun preseason training, and the malls are filled with parents looking for the right supplies and clothes to help their child have a successful and confident school year. This is a time of new beginnings, new promises, new opportunities, a fresh start for teachers, kids, and parents alike. Hopefully your family is using this fresh start to think about your individual and group goals and the strategies you’ll use to achieve them.
It had gotten to a point where I would find myself standing in the kitchen staring at nothing; or I would get angry for no reason; and then sometimes, a random thought would cross my mind reminding me of all of my perceived failures over the past four and a half years. I needed some help but my own personal pride prevented me from seeking such attention.
Moms can be these exotic robots that handle all schedules, delays, updates and changes in a smooth and orderly fashion. At this particular season in my life, I was managing the kids’ needs, being a single mom, work responsibilities, and the demands of school and other external commitments; I’d lost my very tight and very regimented method of survival to a more chaotic out of control (but thinking I’m in control) method of getting things done. I prided myself in my ability to schedule everything in without anyone missing out on the things that they wanted to do. But things began to fall by the wayside. It felt like every bit of me was being pulled apart at the seams and I was barreling quickly toward a very detrimental end.
I reached into the dishwasher and pulled out a dirty cup, then sighed and said the name of the child who last washed dishes... but I wasn’t upset. I wasn’t disappointed. I wasn’t even mad. I dug a little further and I realized, I was picking up a broken glass. It was one of my favorites, a vintage emerald green tumbler I’d found in a set at a thrift store. I let out a heavy sigh in frustration, proceeded to separate the clean dishes from the dirtier ones and began to fill the sink with hot soapy, bleachy water. I was relieved that I hadn’t cut a finger and I was thankful that one of the kids hadn’t cut their hand either. Besides the annoyance of rewashing two-thirds of the dishes, I realized that this was a great teachable moment, for them and for me.
We’ve all heard this before, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”; the loudest most pressing issues are often resolved first. But when we look at our most pressing national issues, it seems as if we’ve either run out of oil or we actually have way more wheels than we thought we did. With limited time and resources, can we expect our government to efficiently address every local and national problem with the care and proficiency that is required? What role do citizens play in solving local and national civic problems? What can we learn from celebrities and private companies that have stepped in to addressed niche community problems and interests?
“Don’t make me drag you to success... get up and walk there yourself” I yelled this to a child who was refusing to work on a language exercise because she wanted to play video games instead.
I stopped after I completed the sentence and thought about it. This is probably how god and the universe feels about me sometimes. Why am I dragging you to your destiny? I think about how I remain satiated by stagnation. It’s because I believe in my potential. Many of us thrive off of the sound of “our potential”. We eat potential up. We meditate on it and orgasm to it. But loving potential is like loving the idea of relationships but not wanting one because you know it’s hard work.
I stood in the kitchen looking at a child facing an all too familiar social emotional learning (SEL) hurdle. “We keep coming back to this place right here to talk about your behavior”. She was remorseless and I was exhausted. Was I going to ground her this time? That was the look in her eye. I wasn’t and corporeal punishment was out of the question... she’s too intelligent for that and I’m way too opportunistic to lose a teaching moment.
I brought everyone into the kitchen and lined them up. It took us an hour but we focused on each person in front of the group. During that hour each family member went on an introspective search and shared their flaws, worked through their positive and negative habits, and solicited feedback from the others. Even I participated. It was transformative. But we didn’t stop there… Each person left with a social emotional learning “promise” to the other members.
As a former college athlete and former high school varsity coach, I’ve seen my share of crazed and excited spectators. And I’ve experienced my fair share of parent feedback from coaching choices I’ve made- some positive and some negative. Now that I’m a parent on the sideline, it’s become really important for me to keep everything in perspective and to observe the learning process as my kids grow into the athletes they want to become… (notice the “they” rather than the what I want or whatever destiny I imagine for them) How can I talk to my athlete after games? What should I be telling my player at home? When (if ever) should I go advocate for my athlete with the coaches? I'm no longer driving this bus, so what is my role and where's my seat on my child's journey?
Experiencing my fair share of positive and negative sports experiences (on both side of the whistle), I kept a list of “nevers” for myself, which has become an introspective Sideline Parent Checklist- nine questions that serve as a personal check-in when observing my kids' athletic experiences.
(This can be adapted to meet any extracurricular experience- dance, art, scouts, etc...)
How do we unify 350 million people around ideas, principals, and beliefs? Historically, many ill-fated attempts to unite U.S. citizens behind the flag or other causes have been rooted in racism, sexism, religion, war, populism, and antiterrorism. Each of these attempts to unite us, have but momentarily satiated our goal of becoming one strong nation. However, when looking at the end game, these attempts have created a polar opposite effect, drawing a wedge between citizens as they attempt to justify our democratic principles with the actual parameters and allowances afforded to some in our society. We’ve paid the price time and time again. The most beautiful principles of our country are lost in an “us versus them” approach to democratic loyalty and belonging. It seems as though the barrier to civility and unification is insurmountable. Something isn’t working. Something must change.
A paradigm shift must occur in the way we teach what it means to be “American” and the responsibility that goes with it. What does being American mean? We aren’t an ethnically homogeneous nation, in fact at our core, we are a band of misfits- those seeking religious freedom, political asylum, and those stolen and transported from far away lands. And yet no matter how we arrived here, we all believe that we have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. How might we capitalize on this feeling that exists in every citizen of this great country? How might we then use that moment to inspire each citizen to act as an informed member of society?
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.