Posted in differences, hope, know better do better, mindset

Breaking barriers

I get an email every weekday morning from “the universe.” Some of them say just the right thing on just the right day. Some … meh.

Today’s tied in to a post that I had a skeleton for already and decided to use the inspiration to fill it in.

“Performing miracles, Heat, isn’t a matter of doing the impossible, it’s a matter of redefining the possible.”

Running a mile in four minutes is an easy example. It was impossible, but once it was done, it was replicated hundreds of times. It’s not easy (and man, that’s fast!), but over 1400 men have done it so far. They just needed permission.

Another that comes to mind for me is climbing the Dawn Wall. In the last year, I saw the movie by the same name (on Netflix—watch it!) and read Tommy Caldwell’s book (The Push) about it. It’s a 3000-foot rock face in Yosemite, a place renowned for climbing. This particular bit of rock had never been free climbed and was considered unclimbable.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson free climbed it in 19 days (after years of working on it). Not long after, it was climbed in eight days. It went from unclimbable to climbed to climbed in less than half the time in under a year.

Of course, this has application all over life, not just in elite athletics.

Women, people of color, queers are breaking barriers all over the place, which on one hand, is excellent! It’s about time!

On the other hand, it’s not cool or neat or fun that there are so many firsts for women, people of color, non-Christians, queer people. Because it’s 20 freaking 19.

But it does ask the question: what are we “not able” to do just because it hasn’t been done yet?

Posted in audience participation, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mental health, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness

Can you go a month without complaining?

A while back, I read a few articles about complaining and how it rewires your brain. Not in a good way.

Also a while back, I used to run 30-day challenges on Facebook.

Two of those challenges have been “life-changing” as per feedback from people in the group.

One was no added sugars (which we ended up doing for 45 days, because we started mid-month) and the other was no complaining.

The no complaining challenge was inspired by a meme challenging the reader to go 24 hours without complaining and “see how your life changes.”

Why not expand 24 hours into a month?

It made us all aware of how much we complain. Several people over the course of the month said it significantly improved their marriages, whether because they had a habit of complaining to or about their spouses.

We had interesting conversations about the differences between talking about negative things and complaining. (How would you distinguish between the two?)

I wrote a bit about my experience at the mid-month mark:

Talking about my no-complaining challenge last night, I was asked if I genuinely feel good, or if I’m just stuffing all the bad stuff. Thought about it, and 95% of the time, I genuinely feel good. The rest of the time, the feeling good does come later. I don’t, after two weeks, feel like I’m accumulating crappiness and am at some point going to explode.

I was thinking about this more, and I think it’s a simple shift in what gets attention. (Simple does not necessarily equal easy, though it’s not been as difficult as I expected. Especially because it positively reinforces itself constantly.)

For example, yesterday, I felt like crap. I’ve been fighting off a cold, and the cold was slowly starting to win. I was slightly stuffy and had absolutely no energy. Something I’d eaten or drunk made my stomach hurt every time I ate or drank (severely bloated), and I just felt miserable.

Any time prior to these two weeks, yesterday, I would have complained to people about not feeling well. I would have complained to myself about not feeling well. Instead, I just did what I needed to do and just didn’t talk about how my body felt. (Not lying, just not bringing it up.)

And you know what? I had a good day. It wasn’t a great day—I felt like crap—but it was definitely a good day. And I don’t think it would have been if I’d been complain-y all day. (I did slip twice, but both short-lived.)

Today? I feel better. Energy is back. Most congestion is gone. Tummy feels better (and I don’t look like I swallowed a balloon).

Happy Friday, everyone!

Recently, I’ve made this adjustment again. Not avoiding complaining altogether, necessarily, but minimizing.

I don’t run the 30-day challenges any more, but I am going to take this opportunity to challenge you to eliminate complaining today. And tomorrow. Maybe the whole weekend? Then see how long you can go.

See what differences you notice.

Report back.

Posted in education, know better do better, mindset, motivation, thoughtfulness

“But they need to be ready!”

I wrote over the weekend about K-12 school standards and their inappropriateness.

A loud argument in favor of the standards is “kids need to be ready!”

Ready for what?

Preschoolers need to learn their letters so they’re ready for kindergarten. But we decided that they need that for kindergarten.

It’s top-down. We want them to know xyz when they graduate, which means they need this in 11th grade, this in 10th, and on down. (This leaves, in some cases, parents going nuts about where their kid is going for preschool, because of the trajectory to college. Seriously???)

As I mentioned the other day, this top-down thinking doesn’t take cognitive or emotional readiness into account.

It also never leaves space for us to be present, if we’re always looking ahead to what’s next. What about what’s now? Can we learn something and just enjoy it now that we know it? Can we take time and learn things just for fun? Can we learn that learning is fun, so we continue to pursue it when we’re not obligated?

We’re still operating in the mindset that created public schools over 100 years ago. The world is different. Jobs are different. Societal survival skills are different. What we know about human development (physical, mental, emotional) is different. Schools need to be different.

We need kids who can work with one another. We need kids who are creative. We need kids who are willing to be vulnerable (because you can’t be creative without vulnerability).

But teamwork, creativity, and vulnerability aren’t measurable on multiple choice tests.

We’re applying assembly line thinking to an era of opportunities that aren’t assembly line.

Also in the mix: we need to recognize and celebrate growth. A third grader who reads at a first grade level is seen by many as a failure and is a ding against a school’s competence. But if that child started the year without knowledge of the alphabet, completing the year at a first grade level is fantastic!

Teachers already know this.

(There is a solid handful of legitimate reasons why or how a child could get to third grade without being literate.)

Taking a small tangent…

I see such a drastic disconnect between “they need to be ready!” in an academic sense versus every other sense.

We (as a society) don’t teach our kids how to interact in a healthy way with other people. (As a society, we’re not very good at it, so it’s not taught or modeled for many many kids…)

We don’t teach our kids how to manage money. How to budget. To save. To prioritize. To value quality. To delay gratification. (I’ve heard many people say this should be taught in school, and it could be, but what about parents?)

We don’t teach our kids good food habits. Good movement habits. Good screen habits.

Don’t they need all of those things to be ready? Why is only advanced math and interpreting classic literature considered “readiness”?

Let’s reconsider what we need out of kids when they’re done.

Let’s take it a step farther and consider what we need out of kids if they drop out. What if we get them for 8 or 9 years instead of 13?

What do you think kids need that is appropriate for schools to provide? What should schools add, and what should they subtract, in your opinion?

Posted in education, know better do better, mental health, mindset, motivation, parenting, thoughtfulness

Standards and accountability and homework

One in three children in the US can’t read at grade level.

For many people, that means that schools aren’t doing their jobs and we need more accountability and more testing.

What if we redefined “at grade level”?

I got into this a bit the other day, but we have completely redefined “at grade level” since I was a kid.

My experience was different (I went to Catholic school for kindergarten), but my sister, two years younger, went to the public school where I went beginning in first grade.

She went to kindergarten for half days. In kindergarten, they learned the alphabet. I remember the rhyme for A. (I don’t know why I know that one at all, or why I don’t also know any others…)

A, A for Alligator Al

Apples, ants, and Africa

Acrobats and animals

A, A for Alligator Al

(I looked for it online but couldn’t find it. Is there something the internet can’t provide?!)

Reading was something we started in first grade. Kindergarten was for basics. (Kindergarten was also not for four-year-olds.)

There’s quite a bit of research that informs us that learning to read young isn’t useful. We can wait until 7 or 8 years old before starting, and the long-term result is better, because brains are more developed and are ready.

(This is not to say that there aren’t exceptions. Occasionally, kids read at 3 or 4 years old because they just pick it up or otherwise show readiness. But we shouldn’t base national standards on the outliers.)

It seems that we need to feel like we’re doing something instead of actually doing what’s best. Small kids need to play. They learn through play. Gross and fine motor skills are important.

What good is research if we’re going to ignore the results anyway?

Speaking of research…

Homework in elementary school isn’t useful.

Part of the homework problem right now ties right back in to the standards. Teachers are teaching content that isn’t appropriate for their kids (because they’re required to), so the kids need homework for reinforcement. Because it’s too hard. And because there’s too much of it.

So.

Let’s dial back the standards to something developmentally-appropriate.

Before we even do that, let’s have a conversation about what school is for. What’s the goal? What do we want kids to be able to do when they leave the system? Then: what are ways we can achieve that? (Separate post on that another day.)

We haven’t overhauled the system in a long time, and the system is in need of an overhaul.

Let’s dial back the standards to be developmentally appropriate.

In that upheaval, kids are more likely to learn to read when they’re ready. Which means more kids will be literate. And also that reading won’t have such negative emotions connected to it for so many people. Which means overall literacy will be higher. More people will read for fun and will be able to read and understand contracts and the like. And the tide rises.

I can’t tell you how many people have mentioned in casual conversation that they’re not good at [reading/writing/math]. That’s because of how it’s structured in school. And because they have negative emotions connected to learning it.

It’s not the schools’ fault. Legislation dictates what be taught at what level. In Arizona (and probably many or most other states), we have mandates on how many minutes per week be spent on the core subject areas, and the state standards outline all of the content knowledge and skills that need to be taught in that time.

(It’s a lot. It’s too much.)

We need people to stand up against the testing movement (which is lining some folks’ pockets while stressing our kids and teachers and stealing time and money from schools). We need people to look at the research and say, “Hey! I want our schools to do what’s best for kids. And this isn’t it!”

Teachers have been saying it for a long time, but our voices have been discounted. It needs to come from parents, from community members, from businesses.

We can do better.

Posted in audience participation, know better do better, mindset, parenting, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Boys will be boys

If we spent as much energy teaching our sons as we do worrying about our daughters, we wouldn’t need to worry so much about our daughters.

“Boys will be boys” is a cop-out. It does a disservice to all people. To girls and women, obviously, because it leads to a society where we live in perpetual legitimate fear of violence. But also to boys and men, because it dismisses them as unable to be civilized.

While we’re here… I hate the “dad’s at home with a shotgun” mentality to girls dating. Instead of being a threatening jerk to everyone, teach your daughter how to stand up for herself.

And again, teach your boys about boundaries.

Actually, let’s teach everyone about boundaries. And consent.

There are sex ed programs that go in depth into consent. Did yours? Mine sure didn’t. (Of course, my teacher also couldn’t say “masturbate” without blushing.) At least it wasn’t abstinence only.

I’m on a tangent.

Teach your children how to respect boundaries and how to take care of themselves. Model behaviors you want them to emulate. “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t get the results you want most of the time.

Expect better of your boys. Talk to them at least as much as you do to your girls. We’ll all be better for it.