Monday, April 10, 2017

The Wind & The Trampoline

This is a story of teamwork and determination. Sometimes the smallest events in our lives reinforce our greatest leadership lessons.


A cold, rainy, incredibly windy day in April. Gotta love the Midwestern weather. A typical Thursday routine. We left the house, heading for school. Bundled up and ready for a great day, we left the house in good spirits despite the undesirable weather.

It rained all the day. The ground was saturated. But more than that, the wind was nasty. It was nothing we hadn’t experience before, but combined with the rain, it was just ugly outside. Honestly, it was a perfect day for a warm fire and chicken noodle soup.

After a good day at school, the boys and I headed home for another regular routine for the evening. As we pulled in the driveway, looking at all the little pools of water everywhere, we noticed something was not quite right when we drove up to the house. Our trampoline was missing!

The wind today was nasty, but nothing we hadn’t experienced before. Typically, the trampoline doesn’t even move in these “wind storms”. But, as we looked around the yard more closely, we all saw the image at the same time. The wind won today! The trampoline was trapped in the woods!

The wind was still blowing. The rain was still pouring sideways. I got the boys inside, put on my Muck boots, and headed outside to check out the damage.

The trampoline took a bit of a beating, but not as bad as it could have been. It was wedged tightly in a small clearing just on the edge of the woods, finding its way on top of thorns and a bunch of brush and limbs we had just recently cleared out of another part of our yard. The jumping mat was still intact - no punctures even though the trampoline was stuck in trees, limbs, and thorny bushes. The enclosure poles were a different story. The wind definitely took them for a ride, twisting them around as the net became the parachute to carry the trampoline 100 yards away from its “home”.

I went back inside to check on the boys’ progress with their homework, debating on my next move. Should we wait until the wind dies down and move it? Wait until my husband gets home so he can help? Or should the boys and I give this a try?

I went back outside in the rain and wind to survey this a bit more. This was a tough decision. Sometimes decisions take an extra glance or two. In the end, I determined that we had to get this trampoline out of these nasty thorns, vines, and branches. This wind would bend the frame more and possibly tear the jumping mat. So, we couldn’t wait.

I went inside to break the news to the boys. “Boys, we have to move the trampoline now. If we don’t, we might not be able to keep it. Yes, you are going to get wet, but that is ok because we can wash your coats. Yes, you are going to get muddy, because there are pools of water and mud everywhere. It is cold, and we know the trampoline is very heavy, so it will take all of us. Let’s do this guys. We can do it.”

We all put on our gear - boots, coats, hats, and gloves. We marched outside together, rain and wind battering our faces, talking about the strategy we were going to use to get this heavy, 8 foot trampoline out of the muddy woods. It was clearly stuck, and we were going to get it out. Mom, 6-year-old, 8-year-old, and 10-year-old, in the 40 degree rain and wind.

I made my way through the woods so I could get to the back side of the trampoline. I was going to push while the boys pulled. I trudged through the swampy mess of sticks and thorns, getting to a position, as the boys were on the grassy side of the trampoline, ready to take my direction. I put all of the enclosure poles down so the wind could not mess with them anymore. Here we go.

“Ok boys, on the count of 3, you lift with all you’ve got and pull. I will lift up as high as I can and push. 1, 2, 3!” And we did. The trampoline went nowhere. “Ok, let’s try that again. 1, 2, 3!” This time, we put a little more kick into it. The trampoline budged a few inches forward.

We did this over and over again. At one point, we stopped as I pulled larger branches and thorns out of the way. We went inch by inch, moving branches and vines as they pulled and I pushed. We grunted and cheered each other on. At one point, I fell into the muck that surrounded me, but we pushed forward. Each of us stopped after 10 minutes of this, looked at each other thinking we weren’t going to make it, then we all said in unison, “We can do this. One more time. This last one is a big one. 1, 2, 3!”

Our final push/pull was an amazing one, as the thorns and branches fell from the bottom of the trampoline. We set it down in the grass not far from the wooded area, seeing the small bends in the main frame, but happy we pulled through. We grabbed a couple of wood pallets and bricks, using the tools around us to make sure that trampoline wasn’t going anywhere without us moving it again.

With high fives, exhausted faces, and drenches clothes, we walked back inside, ready to wash our clothes and eat dinner.

We didn’t think we could do it. Honestly, there was a point in time that I didn’t think we would be able to finish what we started. That trampoline was stuck and it was heavier than what we probably could have managed on a typical day. But, we knew we needed the teamwork to work for us, persevering through the challenge, moving something that probably wouldn’t have moved if our urgency wasn’t pushing it along.

I think of the many challenges we face daily. Alone, overcoming these challenges are truly impossible. The “wind” will win every time. But, when tackled with a team, with the urgency and tenacity to pull through, even the toughest obstacles can be overcome together. Then, together, “the trampoline” will move through the mud, water, thorns, and branches, because we are determined to make it happen.

As an educator, we face challenges head on, always striving to do what it takes for each and every child. It may be messy along the way. There may be thorns to step through or branches to clear from the path, but as long as we keep the clear goal in mind, we will achieve it. This is not an easy job, but it is worth it. I am so blessed to have an amazing team, who each day tackles “the wind” with me, moving “the trampoline” so we can help our students become their very best.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Something New

I love the excitement that comes with something new. There’s nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill that the mind and body experiences during a new event or activity.

Take my youngest son for instance. His first wrestling tournament was just a couple of weeks ago. He was literally counting down the days for an entire week.

“Is it our wrestling tournament tomorrow?” he would ask multiple times a day.

“No buddy. It is on Sunday. Just a few more days away,” I would reply.

On the morning of the tournament, he woke up without a fuss. He got ready without multiple prompts. And, as we waited for the brackets to be posted, he was right along side his brothers and teammates, warming up, taking it all in. This little 35-pounder had enough adrenaline rushing through him to hand it off to others who needed it. And I love every second of it.


I think about his excitement in this tournament and the excitement we bring to school each and every day. This is how we want our students to walk into school every single day. Anticipation and thrill for what is to come. What learning will happen? And how will it take place?

I think of a recent activity that was done with our 3rd graders. A parent and professor at our local university brought in water and clay so that students could learn about how boats float. Hands-on excitement. The students were not sure what they were about to experience, but you could feel that buzz in the air. Purposeful exploration and making. When I walked into the cafeteria, students were in full swing. There are no words to describe the conversation about how to mold the clay so that it would float in water. The pictures could not capture the jubilation when their “boat” did float. Problem-solving. Thinking. Intentional creating. Trial and error. And failure was not devastating. It was an opportunity to try again without worry or criticism. Labels were eliminated and every child was on an even-playing field. Awesome learning.

So the question is, are these moments or excitement, trying something new, limited to random opportunities? Are these opportunities solely created every once in awhile?

I do agree that it takes quite a bit of time to develop these kinds of learning opportunities. But, I believe it is worth it. I believe it is worth it to take time and create these units, activities, lessons, where discovery happens more often than not. We need to give teachers time make this happen. We need discovery and inquiry to be the norm.

We need to be intentional about building experiences for students to learn within. Worksheets aren’t experiences. Test prep isn’t an experience. These are chores. Experiences stick with us. We remember them, relate to them, refer back to them. Learning is an experience, and for educators, it is our duty to ensure our students are experiencing their learning.

However, this will not just happen by talking about it. I can write about it until my fingers hurt, but that will not make it happen. The resources are out there. There are teachers and schools who do this. Let’s share even more. Let’s carve time even more and make this “something new”, this excitement an everyday part of school.

No fuss getting out of bed. Only, “I wonder what we will be doing with our learning today?”

Monday, January 16, 2017

My 3 Hats

Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/photos/hat/

We all wear various hats. These hats define our task at hand. It may be a work hat or a home hat. With that hat comes the responsibilities underneath it. At any moment, our hats change, rising in priority according to the time of day or issue at hand. There might even be hats within those hats that determine our immediate role or responsibility. We all have hats.

My hats are no different than any other, but I feel compelled to write about them since I’ve been thinking quite a bit about my hats and when and how I wear them. My hats define who I am, bringing different perspectives into what I do. This is not ground-breaking material. Just the reflective story of my three hats.

I am a mom of 3 boys, a hat I wear proudly.  I wear this hat 24/7/365. It never comes off. They are all boy, involved in sports and other activities, keeping them busy. When we are not at practices or games, my boys play, rough-house, and fight like brothers. Sometimes my mom hat is more of a referee hat, but it is one of those roles within the mom hat.

The best part of being a mom is watching them grow and learn on a daily basis. There is no replacement for the look that comes my way during t-ball practice after a great hit. Or the smile that comes after a music program showing the pride that comes from accomplishment. Or the question that spurs a conversation about our favorite team. Or the hug of reassurement that finds its way into my arms after a tough day.

Being a mom is awesome. It is not all giggles and smiles, as there are tough conversations and learning that comes with being a parent. Our fun family adventures never cease to bore!

Another hat I wear daily is the hat of being a wife. My husband is my best friend. He is my sounding board, someone I have fun with, can be serious with, and who shares similar passions as me. We have been married for nearly 17 years, and each day is still an adventure. While we can easily get on each other’s nerves, we know when to walk away and leave the other alone. We know when to help one another. I am here for him, just as he is here for me. We make a great team. We each have to make sacrifices at particular times, and that is what our good marriage understands and respects.

He is a high school principal and is often gone to events. His days are long, and so that leaves my mom and wife hat on at the same times many days. I love my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My other hat is one I wear proudly as well, and that is of an educator/principal/lead learner. My daily quest is full of opportunity, different tasks and activities. Let’s just say, it is never dull, as I never know what the day will bring my way! I humbled by the responsibility on my shoulders, but also fully believe in those around me, the leadership of those around me as we have an awesome task at hand - educating the next generation.

This hat too stays on, or close by 24/7/365. I never know when duty may call. It is at 5:30 in the morning finding a sub for a sick teacher. It is at 9:30 at night responding to a parent email. It is on the weekend, reading a leadership book or working on tasks for the next week. It is during the summer, attending a conference to learn in order to share with others. This hat has multiple hats within it, from learner, leader, disciplinarian, coach, counselor. But all reside under this one hat.

All of my hats are never set aside. One may sit on top of the other at various times in the day, but they are always both there.

I once had someone ask me, “How do you balance it all?” I really am not sure how to answer that, other than, “I just do.” I don’t think of anything I do as a balance, however. Balance doesn’t exist in these three hats. Does that make me a bad mom, wife, or principal?

We often compare ourselves with others in our abilities. But each one of us is dealing with the cards we are dealt and create the best we can from them. I have battled with this for a while. How do others do it? Am I doing anything wrong? Am I giving all the people in my life what they need from me, or am I burning myself out?

It probably is not fair to my boys to take that phone call from a teacher during our dinner time. But it also would not be right for me to ignore my staff either. It is what it is, and how we handle those circumstances determines how well we wear and juggle those hats we take on in our lives.

I love my three hats. Each day is an adventure. I believe my three hats make me who I am, give me the perspective I have in order to be the person I am within those hats. Are these hats easy? NO. But they are definitely worth every moment I can give.



Monday, January 2, 2017

Heart - #OneWord2017


Heart.

The courage and strength to push forward. Believing in oneself. Conviction and determination. Passion in purpose.

This may not be the true definition of “HEART”, but to me in 2017, it is the definition my #OneWord that I will focus my energies toward. Heart.


2016 was not an easy year for me. In fact, it is one that tested my inner strength in many ways.

Everything around me was progressing and thriving in 2016. We moved to a new house. My boys had great school years and were growing and changing in great ways. Our school accomplished some awesome and amazing feats in curriculum and instruction with our power standards and common assessments, and we built a Makerspace! In this sense, 2016 was an awesome year.

Yet, I’ve been troubled inside, trying to find my way and my purpose. I have no idea what triggered my inner struggles. I just know it has been there. On the outside, I was focused, determined, and energized, but on the inside, I was just the opposite. I saw the passion and purpose of others. I saw their strengths. Daily, my students and staff were outstanding. My PLN was continually inspiring. But, at every turn, I questioned myself.

I forgot to take care of myself, draining the life right out of me. I forgot my inner strength. I stopped believing in myself and my abilities as a leader. I doubted my every turn. It became unhealthy. And then, I stopped writing and conversing with my PLN. I stopped reading. I became quiet because I didn’t believe in what I had to offer anymore. I began comparing myself with others.

I have wondered if other leaders have gone through these feelings before. But instead of reaching out to them, I kept to myself. I poured everything I did have left into my family and my school, but something was definitely missing. I wondered if I could find the inner strength, the inner belief, the inner passion to pull myself back. I wanted it. I couldn’t rely on others to pull it back for me. This had to come from within me.

With winter break, I have had a lot of time to think and I started pondering my #OneWord for 2017. So many words to choose from that could bring me back to who I really am. Yet, I still struggled. Then, Christmas Eve, it hit me, like it always does, surrounded by my family.

We were baking cookies for Santa. The boys were “helping”, and I was simply enjoying this most meaningful time with them. Treasured moments.

My oldest asked, “Mom, is there really a Santa, or is it you?” I was clearly taken aback. My little 6-year-old can’t hear this! My next words were so important and would define our next 24 hours.
“Alex, I believe. I believe in Santa because of what Santa believes in. He believes in the good in the world. He believes in the children of the world, and they are good, and he brings them gifts of love to share.”

I knew after I said all of that, he was still skeptical. But my other 2 boys jumped in to say they believed in Santa and then went on to share which cookie they would leave out for him that night.

The next morning was pure excitement. We all believed in the magic. We were the magic of that day.  We played together. Built together. Cooked dinner together. Our day was filled with so much heart. We poured ourselves into each moment, and at that point, I felt it coming back. I felt the passion in my purpose as an educator and as a leader. My heart was filled with strength, in believing in all around me, and in myself.

In 2017, I will pursue all my quests and journeys with heart. My heart. Who I am, the person I believe to be. The inner strength that I create. The determination and conviction in all I do. The courage to take risks. My passion for what I believe in shining through every step of the way. While I may still question myself, I will do so in a healthy way, not filled with self-doubt.

With this renewed spirit and pouring my heart into all I do, I will continue to lead by example, building our team, inspiring others to pursue their passions. I want to be the best educator for kids, the best leader for my team. I want to be the best mom for my kids, the best wife for my husband. I give my heart to others through the life I live and lead. What I forgot was that those around me fill my heart with so much, giving me the strength and the belief to carry on and take on the next challenges that I may face.

I will lead with HEART. Be who I am with HEART. Believe in the strength of myself and all of those around me. More than ever before, my HEART will drive me in all I do in 2017!


PS - To my PLN - If I grow quiet, wake me up by reminding me of my heart!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

King of the World


“Mom, when I go to college, what do I need to learn so I can be king of the world?” said my 6-year-old son one morning as we were driving to school.

I was a bit taken aback. First, a 6-year-old is thinking and talking about college and what he wants to be when he grows up. That is pretty cool. Second, I don’t want to squash his dreams because there is no king of the world. However, there is a leader in those aspirations, so my next words are important.

“You study the world, big guy. And you learn all about how to be a great leader,” I tell him. He satisfied with that reply, continuing to think and then move on to the next topic swirling in his head.

I tell this story for two reasons.
  1. It is just awesome how kids think and dream. They are ready to take on the world and learn all about it. It is not our place to squash those dreams, only foster and develop them so our children can pursue their passions.
  2. Each child is different, and we need to celebrate and develop it, not standardize their thinking.

I have three boys. I tell the many stories of my three boys because they bring me back to thinking and dreaming. While these three boys have been raised by the same two parents in the same household, they are each very different. Call it birth order or whatever you want, but each of my boys has a completely different personality and different passions and strengths.

My oldest is my debater and analyzer. He is my mathematician, rule-follower, and perfectionist. The world is black and white with very few shades of gray, and those shades of gray better have some reason for being there. He loves sports. He pours his heart into it all, wanting to be the best he can.

My middle son is my easy-going, fun-loving, hard worker. He doesn’t mind putting sweat and tears in the work that needs done. My heavy-lifter, put your head down and go guy, he is loved by everyone for his humor and work ethic. He is built like a little athlete and does well in the sports and activities he plays.

My youngest son melts everyone’s heart with his sneaky little grin. He is a smart, but quiet little guy, who has a hilarious sense of humor and a loud cackle to go with it. He is perfectly content to play with friends or play by himself, and will do so for hours on end. He builds, constructs, but also watches and learns from others.

Each child is different, has different likes and dislikes, and completely different personalities. And while this is my reality at home, they enter an educational system that expects each one of them to reach particular milestones in learning and skills at the exact same time. I am not saying anything against their school, because I know their school is amazing with each of them, noting their strengths and weaknesses, differentiating for them. I know this because I am the principal of that school, and I know their teachers and our school is fantastic.

But, this isn’t about their school. This is about our educational system. We have constructed an educational system that touts differentiation and telling kids to pursue their passions, but bleeds standardization and conformity. Our schools are publicly judged on test scores and flawed accountability systems, thus pressured to conform to teach in this manner. The cycle is defeating as an educator, and many are clamoring to find ways to bring the joy back to teaching and learning through this system.

We have more knowledge and pedagogical know-how today than ever before. And we know that our system is not what is best for kids. We have brain research that tells us about learning and growing.

It is time we throw out the old lesson plan books and take a good look at the students in front of us, designing learning experiences for our kids in the way we know is best. We need to stop worrying about the test and focus on building skills our students can carry on toward their future, listening to them, developing their strengths, supporting their areas for improvement. We may feel like first-year teachers all over again, but isn’t that exciting? It will rejuvenate the school of the past, bringing it into today.

I don’t have the answers. But I believe our educators together will. We are an insightful group of people who want to do what is best for kids. That is why we became educators. While we can each continue to try different tactics and programs in our schools and districts, we are not changing the greater system. We are infusing what we know works for kids into a system that is still riddled with problems.

Today is a different age than when we grew up. And our system looks the same, but with more standardization. Change needs to be huge, not small and incremental. It is time we throw out the lesson plan books and start over. We can get excited for education again. We need to throw out the old “box” that we continue to pile more “stuff” into, and build a new box for an educational system. It is time to revolutionize education, change “the box” entirely, because that is what is best for kids.


Then, if they want to dream to be “king of the world”, we actually have a place where they can dream and flourish.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What Does It Mean, Really?

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/familymwr/5011829582


On a hot, fall day, I am sitting in the lawn chair, watching football practice. Clusters of boys lined up, running drills, listening to their coaches, sweating under their gear. Quite the sight! I could be bothered by the little sweat bees that swarm my feet, or the humidity that stifles the air, making my hair fizzle and make-up melt. Instead, I am in awe of the new perspective that has rushed over me. A perspective that is now pulling me to reflect on a particular word that seemingly has infiltrated all aspects of education.

Collaboration.

A buzz word in education. We hear it all around us. We even have meetings called “collaboration”. I hear that word in interview questions, in standards. We expect it from the staff and students. In order to become better, we must collaborate!

But what does it mean, really?

During football practice, I saw it. This is not to say I haven’t seen this level of collaboration before. However, before me, I saw kids working together for a common goal - to become better individually so the team would become better. I am a sports enthusiast, so it was striking to me that I have watched many practices or games, not noticing it before. This is what collaboration is. Collaboration is teamwork and learning, all in one. Using our individual talents, sharing those talents while also listening and learning the talents of others so that the whole can become better for all.


Collaboration is defined as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something”. (Webster’s Dictionary) We need collaboration in our schools in order to become better, creating the schools we want for our kids.

So, how do we lead and foster the level of collaboration we seek in order to better our schools for all?




Build Trust
Anyone would say relationships are absolutely critical in every walk of life. If we want to get something done, we must first invest in the people who are involved to get that work done. We must get to know them, learn their strengths and areas for improvement, being a listener and one others can trust to get the job done. I have found that the greatest practice I can offer to my staff is to lead by example, trusting my staff to do what is best for students. I do not want to micromanage them; they are professionals and I believe in all they do for our kids. I go to them for answers, not have all of them myself, as I trust their experience and judgment. I pull teams together to problem-solve, working on a common goal. All of this is done in order build trust, not only of me, but of each other. When we trust each other in our schools, we can have frank, open conversations. True collaboration cannot happen without trust. When I look out at the football field, players are building trust for one another, trusting that each person will do their part on the field, putting in effort to get it done, and encouraging each other along the way. They have trust.

Share Openly
With trust comes sharing. Once we trust each other, believe in each other’s capacity and ability, we can share what we are doing with each other. This is yet another cornerstone of collaboration. More often than not, teachers WANT to share ideas with each other. What worked? What didn’t? How did your students do on that quiz? What activity were you doing because that looked like fun? How do I help this student? What curricular goals are essential for this grade? With so many questions that flood our minds on a daily basis, we cannot do it alone. We must seek others for ideas and comradery, as this is the only way anyone can positively impact our educational realm these days. Our sharing has a great impact on our kids. They see it. When they see our positive interactions and sharing, they have great role models right in front of them, building their own collaborative skills to use in the classroom. We can have a great impact on our students by simply sharing what we do with each other. Not only does it support each child academically, but we become what we wish them to be.

Intentionally Create Opportunities for Teams to “Practice” Together
Without time to collaborate, we become isolated silos once more. While isolation is a choice, we also do not want to make it impossible for people to come together to share. Building trust and sharing are the foundations of great collaboration, but without the time to actually practice this sharing, teamwork, and problem-solving, the idea of collaboration only happens in moments throughout the day. We need collaborative opportunities built intentionally throughout the day and week, not just quick exchanges during lunch or in the hallway. This can come through creative master scheduling or simply designating a specific time each week for 30 minutes either before or after school for the staff to come together and focus on the work. That time together should not be a laundry list of things to do or housekeeping. Those tasks are left for another time, or even flipped for the staff. Collaboration is give and take in conversation, and that conversation needs time to develop and grow. As a school, it is my job as a leader to protect collaborative time so that teachers have time to share and build the experiences we want for kids. If we have a shared vision that we are striving toward, our time must be set aside to get that work done. It will not happen by chance. It will not happen in mini moments throughout the week. We need time to practice our collaborative skills, sharing, building our teams to be open and trust one another.

Build Capacity for the Leaders Within to Lead It
I am one person. While I may be the leader of the building by title, I will have a greater impact by building other leaders throughout the school. I cannot meet with every group at the same time, but each collaborative group needs a leader. By having clear expectations and the same group norms throughout the building, the leaders within ensure we are continuing to strive toward our shared vision. They will have a greater impact than I ever will have. Our collective efficacy depends upon the leaders within to model and build our collaborative capacity. Just as a coach leads the team, there are other players on that team that lead as well. Together, they work to achieve their goal.

Collaboration may be a buzz word, but it is an essential component in making our schools better. Every school and every person can grow and improve, and together, through collaborative efforts, we can make that happen. We must build each other up, support one another, intentionally creating the time for our school teams to “practice” the art of collaboration. When we do this, our students will benefit most of all. Not only will they have fantastic models for what great collaboration looks like, but they will also have amazing learning experiences to expand their minds.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Move


Image credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=105703&picture=hand-truck-with-two-boxes

Moving 16 years of 5 family member’s accumulated “stuff” is quite a task, but we did it. This was not our first move, but it was our largest, since we had more to move than ever before. It is quite a story, one I have to write down, but a day I would not like to repeat any day soon.

The move was more complicated than most, as we were swapping houses. The person we were buying the house from was also buying ours! It just happened to work out that way, and we were up for the task. Since the move of both houses had to happen at the same time, we exchanged phone numbers and began planning for the move weeks in advance.

The seller was quite gracious, allowing us to move some storage items into the barn before the official moving date. We rented a U-Haul and moved quite a few small truck loads of “stuff” to the barn, soon realizing we were not as young as we used to be, and we would need some help. We hired movers that night, a company that would help us load and unload the truck on moving day.

A few days before the official moving date, my husband and I moved as much of the house into our garage as we possibly could. Everything but mattresses, big furniture, and our kitchen table was piled into the garage. I cleaned, repaired walls, washed windows, and trimmed bushes. We were ready.



MOVING DAY!
Moving day was here! We were up bright and early, excited but also anxious for this day to be over. My husband and I had moved plenty of times before, so we knew the hard work that was in store. The day was going to be a hot one for June - 90 degrees with high humidity. We would need a lot of water.

We picked up the U-Haul trucks - 2 large trucks - at 8:00am. We also borrowed a horse trailer from a friend knowing we would need this for our lawn mowers and other odds and ends. The movers were set to arrive at 9:00am, so we needed as much in place as possible to make this happen. Move-in time was 1:00.

At 9:00, our movers arrived and went right to work. They were very appreciative that we had moved everything from our upstairs and basement into the garage so that they wouldn’t have to deal with stairs. The doors of the house flew open, and the boxes, furniture, and stacks of personal items started filling the trucks. The family didn’t just sit back and watch. We loaded our vehicles and the horse trailer as the guys filled the U-Haul trucks.

At 12:30pm, the last few items were loaded into the trucks. We were done! I swept the floors one last time, and we said good-bye to this house. It was a good house, one where many memories were made.

The U-Haul convoy was on its way, driving through the country roads to our house. The seller and I had been texting all morning, so the swap was about to begin.

We arrived at the new house around 1:00pm, but we had not had lunch yet, so our plan was to drop off the vehicles, eat, and then start unloading. We were greeted with a bustle of activity, and their movers had only moved boxes at this point. So our lunch plan was perfect. This would give their movers time to get some furniture out so we could unload ours.

However, there was a kink. The air conditioner in the new house went out. A call needed to be made to get someone there right away, or it was going to be an even more miserable move. The heat and humidity of the day were already overwhelming us all. So I made the call to get someone there to fix the air conditioner as we went to lunch.

Upon our return, furniture was moving out the front door, and our movers were unloading our items into the garage and the house. We went right back to work, moving boxes and furniture in as the seller’s movers were moving furniture out. In the middle of it all, the air conditioning repairman arrived, and worked around movers, boxes, and furniture, trying to get it working once again.

At 5:30, our movers were nearly done. They were amazing. In stressful conditions, they were hard-working and light-hearted, demonstrating that no matter what the circumstances, you can have fun!

The seller’s movers were still working hard, but they only had a couple more trips to go. We decided to take the U-Haul trucks back while they finished.

With one U-Haul returned, we made our way back to our new home, ready to pick up the other truck. I stopped at the end of the lane to check the mail, and when my husband opened the door, we heard a loud hissing sound. The back tire had a large metal trailer pin sticking in the middle of it. Oh no...

I drove to the top of the lane, close to the house, so we could get a better look. We pulled out the pin, and Fix-a-Flat wasn’t going to fix this! We had a flat tire in fairly new tires. Through trial and error, we figured it out with a little help from a YouTube video on how to get the spare tire out from underneath the van with the special tool we found. By now, it was 8:00. We had to get that other U-Haul back - time was money at this point.

We were all hot, tired, and hungry. My boys were amazing troopers through it all. So, I called in a pizza to their favorite place as we dropped off the last U-Haul truck. We took care of the truck, and went to pick up the pizza. I told the boys to wait in the van while I went in to get it. 9:00pm. We were hungry. We were tired. We were sweaty.

I couldn’t wait to get our pizza and get home. We still had to put together beds, and all I really wanted was a shower.

The lady at the front counter asked for my name for pick up.
“Heavin,” I said.

“Um, someone already picked it up,” she said.

“What? I’m the person who called it in. Who picked it up?”

“Some guy came in to pick up a pizza. We asked if it was Heavin and he said yes.”

“Well, he just picked up our pizza.” I walked out in disbelief. Who in the world would pick up our pizza? Seriously?

I opened the van door and started crying. “I’m done. Between moving our entire house, getting an air conditioner fixed, dealing with a flat tire, and now someone else picked up our pizza, I’m done.” I sat in the front seat and cried. My husband, in disbelief, went into the pizza place to figure out what was going on. He came back and said they were remaking the pizzas - it would be 15 minutes.

Patiently, we waited the van, sitting in the parking lot, still in disbelief. It was quite a day.

9:45pm. We were finally home. We found some paper plates, eating picnic style, surrounded by boxes. It felt good to sit and eat. It felt good to be in working air conditioning. It felt good to be done with the day.

The boys showered as my husband put together beds around the house, and I cleaned. I am glad I labeled all the bedding, finding it quickly so I could get those hard-working little guys to bed.

12:30am. Shower. I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.

Why tell this story?
When I look back and relive the day in my mind, I cannot believe all that took place. I could solely focus on all the negatives - the tire, the pizza, the air conditioner, the heat, the timing of the move. I could focus on all the wrongs of the day.

But, I remind myself of this. We moved! We did it! Everything was moved from our old house into a new house in one day. No one was hurt. Everyone pitched in and did an awesome job. Our movers were fabulous and were a pleasure to work with. No fighting. Nothing broken. It was a success.

Too often in our lives, we focus on the negative. I see it every day. We are surrounded by what is wrong. I think about my life in education, and we often hear what is wrong or negative.

Is everything perfect? No. But there is a lot that is going well, and it is time we see it, acknowledge it, and value it. There is good happening. There are positive outcomes. Students are not only learning, but excelling. Kids are doing amazing things! They are creating, growing, contributing to our communities. Teachers, principals, counselors, support staff - all doing amazing work with kids each and every day.
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/positive-negative-contrast-455580/

So, the next time we think about what mistake was made during the day or what went wrong, we need to learn from it and move on, focusing more on all of the positives of the day. The negative default needs to be challenged and changed, so that the default in our minds is the positive. The more we can share our positives, our celebrations, and the good of each day, the better we will all be!