It is funny when things hit you, things from the past. Revelations suddenly pop up out of the blue. I think I need to thank my parents for this one.
When I tell people I didn’t have a typical childhood it is a little hard to explain. My parents are both ministers of a church (yes both) but that isn’t quite the whole story. They weren’t always ministers (that’s a story for them to tell). When I was six my parents sold everything they owned, packed us up, said goodbye to family and traveled half way around the world to go back to school. 29 years later I am realizing how much my childhood experiences have affected my philosophy of education, who I am as a educator and leader (small L kind).
Follow your Passions
I don’t think as a child I appreciated how much my parents sacrificed to follow their passion. We often hear about grit and perseverance, but going back to school at 30 has to be the best lesson for it. When money was tight, when the grades weren’t fantastic, when family was miles away they stuck through it because of their passion. I think too often we see grit as sticking with things just because, but we do it because we are passionate. No matter how hard things are, how frustrated we become passion drives our belief that it is all worthwhile: one day it will/can/should change.
Everyone has an Equal Voice
As a kid, I thought the group in Switzerland was just the coolest, young and hip no matter their age. They also hung out all the time (think spaghetti dinners at midnight). Having a model of a caring trusting community was a lesson in itself but to me the most valuable lesson was how each of us was a valued member. I mean each, it didn’t matter that I was 9 I had an equal voice, I was engaged in conversations and dialogue. I had a colleague once note that I spoke to one of my media club students like an adult, just like I spoke to her. I didn’t quite understand what was weird about the moment. I realize now how great of a gift it was to have adults actively listen without judgement. What a gift for a kid and a reminder as I can get sucked in to the busyness of routines.
It’s About the Learning
The joys of living in 3-4 countries in 10 years, is 4 different school systems in 3 different languages. I had to let go of marks pretty fast and focus on my own growth which for a first born perfectionist like myself was probably a bigger blessing then I will ever know. The constant between the different languages and systems was that I knew who I was as a learner, strategies, tools and techniques that I could use to cope. I’ve really struggled with the Back to Basics comments I see on social media and I couldn’t understand why till I realized I didn’t really ever get the basics, in English at least. We left Canada when I was in grade 2 and came back at 15 when they put me in grade 12. That first English class was torture since my teacher was a grammar lover but I graduated with honors the following year. I had no formal English reading instruction I was just an avid reader (not high quality literature either, more along the line of the Babysitter’s Club). That active learner stance that I had to acquire out of necessity was probably one of the greatest gifts.
Love Them Anyways
My parents worked with drug addicts in Italy. I have seen every Van Damme movie out there as a result. As I watched my parents pour into a community of wonderful young men, it was hard to watch as your hope for success turns into failure. Every now and then though you would see that hint of change, a moment and for some that moment extended and became a new path. It is beautiful to see a transformation but they are few and far between and never as fast and frequent as the self help books make it out to be. My role is not even close to that of my parents but I think the biggest lesson I have taken away is that you love them anyways. You help people no matter what, no strings attached. I am reminded how human our roles can be when supporting others to change. Sometimes we just have to listen. Sometimes we push. Sometimes we just have to wait for that moment of transformation.
So I guess I need to thank my parents for dragging me half way around the world. I thought that was where the lesson ended till I heard Lucy West last week in a coaching clinic.
She made an interesting statement: Your reality is not everyone’s reality.
So as I reflect on my story I’m reminded that my reality is not everyone’s reality. As educators and students, we each bring our own experiences and stories to the learning community. Again I am reminded to #listenclosely!