Monday, April 29, 2013

Finding your balance and letting go...

   Another lesson of life: Finding your balance and letting go is a matter of context and perspective. Change the circumstances and you change the meaning.

     This past weekend, my six-year old granddaughter faced the dreaded "no training wheels" time on her bicycle. I had secretly begun to feel out what I was up against a couple of weekends earlier when I nonchalantly mentioned it might be time to attempt such a monumental feat when the weather warmed up. When she replied with a firm "No!", I knew I had my work cut out for me. But, another weekend passed and I gently prodded again, this time implying that many of my kindergartners at school had probably taken their's off by now. This time, there was a faint acknowledgement of the possibility when she replied with a "maybe."
      I don't know what finally motivated her, but she was barely out of the car on the next weekend, when she proclaimed to everyone that she had decided to take the training wheels off of her bicycle. So, it was off to the garage, and because I can't resist a good teaching opportunity, I gave her a mini-lesson about numbers and leverage and how a 9/16 Craftsman wrench worked.
     First, it was all around the grassy yard with me pushing her until my back was aching, and imploring her to "find your balance, find your balance." It was after many easy falls and trying again and again, that she was truly beginning to find that elusive feeling. She was not going to give up easily and it was time to move on to the large blacktop parking lot next to our garage. I figured that the next childhood memory to be burned into her brain was going to either be one of glory and victory, or it could very well be one of traumatic terror, blood and stitches.
     With her chin held high, she shouted for me to let her go as I gave her one final push and sent her on her way. She peddled and peddled, around and around, smiling, giggling and shouting as only six-year old girls can do. She had found her balance and let go! She is going to be okay....


     My dad is loosing his fight with cancer and I don't know how much time we have left. Lately, when I am alone with him, we quietly talk of finding a different kind of peace and balance, and letting go. He will be okay, too.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Truck Driving 101

   I could have been a truck driver, except for one small problem: I hate to drive, especially long distances. Instead, I am a school principal.
      I am one of the lucky ones. Fifteen minutes from home to school, five days a week, 210 days a year. Mostly two-lane road, most of the traffic going the opposite direction.  And this may sound strange, but a lot of times I never even turn the radio on. It's just me, corn fields and trees for 15 miles.
     On my morning ride, I usually find myself prioritizing the several tasks for the upcoming day,  reminding myself that it's "people first, paper later", putting on my "game face", and bracing for the onslaught of unknowns that are sure to arise the instant crowded buses pull into a school and 300 kids come together for the day.
    On the ride home, it's reflecting on what got done, or more often, what didn't get done, and wondering if we made a difference today to the one's who really matter: our students.
     I've come to notice a few subtle things out on the road as I travel to and from work. If you pay attention, you can learn a few life lessons from truck drivers. Truckers are really the stewards of our roads. They control how fast we go, or how slow. They honk at us when we aren't paying attention and are constantly looking out for us even when we aren't looking out for ourselves.  Oh sure, we think we are the kings of the road passing and weaving at will as we go about our business, but that's just because they let us. Truckers are like the mom or dad watching over their children, letting them flirt with danger, but keeping everyone at a manageable pace and always going in the right direction. They will flash their lights when it is safe to merge back in after a pass, and give you a thumbs up when you do it politely.  If you are signaling to turn at the last minute and they are behind you, they will move over a little so the truck driver behind them can see your blinker and your intention of turning. That way, he is covertly heading off a potential surprise slow down and a possible accident for his fellow trucker. They just can't stop like you and I can in our little cars. Sometimes they warn us about the police cruiser with radar around the next corner, and sometimes they don't. It depends on whether they think you have been following the road rules, or whether you need a reality check. All of these things are happening around us and mostly go unnoticed by the vast majority of travelers. For the most part, they probably don't get much credit. They are usually not recognized for what they do just out of sight of our rear view mirrors, but they are one of the first to be blamed during the dreaded traffic jam.
      I think a school administrator is sometimes like that truck driver. They are always watching over their staff and students, teaching them to weave and pass safely, reminding them to play fair, encouraging them to explore new "roads", keeping them out of harm's way whether they realize it or not, and stressing over the speed or direction everyone is traveling. They remind them to do this and that, and sometimes have to use their bumpers to get things done.  Smiling to themselves and bragging to other administrators when they all learn to merge new initiatives with old, or show how they have grown.  And the whole time, proud that they do it all everyday without causing a full blown traffic jam.
      Who knows? If this job doesn't pan out, maybe I'll buy a truck.