#lookingclosely: Kids These Days

I had planned to write this post a while ago. I was debating whether I should put it out there since so many wonderful writers have done a much better job then I will but here it is anyways.

When I tell people I am a teacher, the first thing I hear is usually “That’s nice” and then comes the “Kids today” followed by a long list of complaints. “Kids today are self absorbed.” “Kids today don’t get outside.” “Kids today are addicted to their devices.” “Kids today have no manners.”

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Every fall my nephews get a special day all to themselves for their birthday (they wouldn’t let me call it a date). Luca and I decided to check out the SkyZone this fall: a warehouse with trampolines from wall to wall. After about 15 minutes of jumping I was showing my age so I stepped off and stood back to observe the craziness. Yes, I saw the kids not listening to their parents or others not following the rules but when I looked closely I was amazed.

The amazing:

  • my nephew making a new friend in dodge ball
  • a kid on the other team ensuring a turn for a younger child
  • chatter and feedback on how to accomplish a better dive into the sponge pit.

So I left there reminded that

“Kids today will amaze you if you look closely.”

Over the following weeks, those moments of wonder seemed to pop up everywhere from the Kindergarten kid that invited me to sit down at the picnic table and chat; to my nephews’ vocabulary when discussing historical events, the high school student who greeted a stranger with a ‘Good Morning’ and smile in the parking lot or simply the smile of a 6 year old when they accomplish something new.

Once again I thought I had a lesson for others when the lesson was really for myself. As I was thinking of all the wonders I had observed I caught myself. Was I doing the same for educators, leaders, administrators?  In the busyness of pushing forward was I taking the time to look closely, search out the amazing before providing next steps?

This year I want to make sure to #lookclosely. And when the ‘kids today/teachers today/leaders today’ creeps into my mind I will try to redirect my attention to find the amazing no matter how small.

No Ordinary December

This December was no ordinary December.

Ordinary December: A mad dash of finishing assignments for my M.Ed., marking assignments for an AQ, baking at 5 a.m., racing to get gifts, wrapping at midnight on Christmas eve and trying to avoid the fact that I’m a year older. Hectic- busy-much too fast.

Ok, well this December was ordinary except for the ending.

2013 was a great year with wonderful opportunities, learning and colleagues. With the best of intentions of not getting lost in the busyness this year, somehow I got sucked in. A wonderful colleague reminded me that sometimes we need to step away to better contribute. So when my little brother sent me a message early in December asking if I wanted to come meet him in Italy, I said yes. Now those that know me, probably aren’t surprised. I’ll do almost anything for my little brothers but I have never booked a trip across the world three weeks before hand. I like to have a plan (details are not required but overall picture), to prepare (even if I pack the night before). So Christmas day, after the morning gift giving I went to the airport. For the first time in my career I put an out of office reply on my work email, packed only mobile technologies and got on the plane without a plan for 8 days.

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I learned many lessons from my Christmas adventure.

  • I can survive without my phone. I must admit I have gotten a little attached to my technology. Nothing like overseas’ charges to make you put it away. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t checking email, Twitter or Facebook every 5 minutes. Being connected is wonderful, but I need to remember to shut off sometimes.
  • It’s amazing what you see when you look closely. With the technologies away and worries shut off it was amazing to look closely (which I know many of my Kindergarten friends do so well). The flowers growing along the ancient ruins, the window boxes or detailed fountains seemed to pop. When you look closely it is hard not to marvel at the world.
  • Listening closely is just as marvelous. My Italian is not the best but it is such a wonderful language I love fumbling through and even if Rome is a big city, we seemed to have these amazing conversations each day: waiters, travelers, old friends.
  • Not everything can be planned. Like I said I like to have a general plan. I don’t need details and am up for changes but just waking up and getting lost is not my thing. My 23 year old brother on the other hand was adamant against the plans so we compromised in the middle. Wandering, exploring and relaxing weren’t necessarily comfortable but definitely needed.
  • I can’t do what I did before. I was in Rome ten years ago with a friend on a backpacking trip and we went up the cupola in St. Peter’s. When my brother asked me if I needed to take the elevator I said “No way. I’m not that old!” Thank goodness there is no photographic proof of my panting and puffing as I tried to drudge to the top of the 551 steps. I need to accept that I’m getting older. Just because I did it before does not mean I can still do it.
  • The world continues without me. This was the hard lesson. I can’t be part of everything. Going away for the week meant I had to give up family dinners. It was more a lesson in humility than anything else.

So as I stood on the Fori Imperali at midnight on New Years Eve with the fireworks, ancient ruins, thousands of people and my little brother I was excited for the year ahead and grateful I didn’t say no to the adventure.

It definitely was no ordinary December.

Hopefully this will be no ordinary year.