A Sense of Wonder

I came across a passage that suggested that we should always “maintain a sense of wonder” in our lives.  I love the idea of seeking wonder, or magic, in the mundane.  

Life isn’t always about the things we have to do, and even when it is, that doesn’t preclude us from seeking the good and something special in every situation.  This is important to recognize and acknowledge because there can be good everywhere and at any time.  It’s simply about maintaining that sense of wonder.

 I think, often, that we rush through our lives.  We get so busy shuttling ourselves and our kids back and forth to so many activities and events that we often don’t stop to appreciate each of these experiences.  We get so caught up in rushing around that we really don’t even consider what it is that we are going to and from.  All we know is that we’re rushing and there is something more to do.

As I consider this, I’m not advocating doing less.  That’s not in my nature or character.  I can’t do less.  (In fact, I’m always trying to do more.)  But, I am suggesting that we add an element of attentiveness to the activities that we are participating in because when we do this, the activities become more meaningful. 

Maintaining a sense of wonder (or looking for good in the mundane) isn’t easy to do:

 – It isn’t easy to find the good as your kid is playing right field, and then striking out three times on a forty-two-degree day in early April. 

 – It isn’t easy to do when your child is struggling through word problems with a tutor. 

 – It isn’t easy to do when you are at one location and know you need to be somewhere else. 

 – And it isn’t easy to do when you have other obligations that are all screaming for your attention. 

But I am saying that we should try, because there is always another perspective:

 – That child playing right field is part of a team.  That’s something special.  She wears a uniform (or a t-shirt) that signifies that she’s on that team.  That’s also something special.  There is something good and valuable and wonderful about being on a team.  And, while it seems that teams and games will be part of your child’s life (and your lives) seemingly forever, it’s not.  It all ends, far too quickly. 

 – There’s also something special about struggling through any endeavor, even word problems.  In the example above, watching a child struggle can be frustrating for a parent.  But it is that very struggle that teaches the child such important life skills as perseverance and tenacity.  And, when the child finally succeeds; well there is magic in that.  That’s learning.  Throughout that child’s life there will always be struggles and things he has to work through in order to understand.  There is good there.  When we take the time to maintain a sense of wonder, we remember and recognize that.

 – As for the other obligations that are all screaming for our attention, the sad truth is, most often, they can wait.  The text, the phone call, the e-mail…most often, they can wait.  And there is a benefit to this because if we rid ourselves of unnecessary distractions, it allows us the space and time to maintain the sense of wonder in our lives and in our children’s lives.

 And, when it comes to our children especially, there is so much wonder there, that our focus should always be on capturing it, gathering it, and cherishing all of it in our hearts!

Always.

Where will you find the wonder today?

 

A Little Lesson in Latin

(This passage comes from my upcoming book of essays, “Impossible is an Illusion” which will be published by Ravenswood Publishers in May 2017.)

There is a Latin phrase that reads, “Crede quod habes, et habes.” 

This can be translated as, “Believe that you have it, and you have it.” 

As we look to find ways to (continually) improve student performance, the key might be in that little Latin phrase.

“Believe that you can do it.”

I have always found that by telling people they can do things, they have found that they can… do things.  It’s a pretty simple formula.  When you think you can, you can.  Confidence and belief are strong motivators.

I know when people have believed in me, I have often tried very hard to make their belief a reality.  Most often I have rewarded their belief by achieving what they thought was possible, which was not necessarily what I thought was possible.

As I think of many of my life’s “accomplishments,” each time there was a person, or people, that said, “Paul, you can do it.”  These encouragers made me believe in myself. 

Today, when I have self doubt about being able to accomplish a task, I think about the faith others have in me.  This often leads me to say to myself, “You can do it.”  And I usually do!

Next fall, I’ll be struggling on the streets of New York City as I run the New York City Marathon.  There is something glorious, magical, wonderful (and horrible, painful, upsetting, and ugly) about struggling through the New York City Marathon.  I will be ready for the race, but throughout the long training process I often have to tell myself, “You can do it.”  Along with this, I have family members and friends who encourage me in times of doubt.  And don’t be fooled, no matter how good my training, no matter how prepared I might be, there are always periods of doubt.

I have participated in many races and have been a spectator at many others.  You might be surprised but an encouraging word, even from a stranger, such as,  “YOU CAN DO IT!” or “YOU LOOK GREAT” or “I BELIEVE IN YOU” can have an amazing impact on a runner’s state of mind – even when he is in the depth of misery.  Words like that have helped me find something deep inside and push through the disbelief in myself.

BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE IT, AND YOU HAVE IT.

Could it be possible that these nine English words (or six Latin words) hold the ultimate key to success?

If strangers can impact on a runner’s performance (and I know that this helps many, not just me), imagine the impact of a child’s teacher?  We have said, often, that the teacher is one of the biggest influencers in a child’s life.  Our words are powerful.  Our actions speak volumes.

Imagine then, the power of these words spoken to individuals and groups:

BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT, AND YOU CAN DO IT.

In 1973, the New York Mets had a remarkable pennant run that was inspired, in part, from the words of pitcher Tug McGraw.  He said simply, “Ya Gotta Believe.”

The Mets did believe – and they took that belief all the way to the World Series against the longest of odds. 

As we create ignition for children, as we inspire them to learn, as we motivate them, we must remember to continually tell them:

“YOU CAN DO IT!”

Then, take it even one step further.  Tell them not just that they can do it, but, tell them

“I BELIEVE YOU CAN DO IT,” and “I BELIEVE IN YOU.”

Those just might be the most powerful words any person can tell another person. 

“I believe in you.”

When we tell our students that we believe in them, they will believe us and believe in themselves.  They will give that extra effort.  They will rise above their own fears or skepticism. 

The results will be spectacular!

Birthdays

January 21 will be here soon.  It’s a big day for some people.  Many famous people were born on January 21. 

These include:

Charles V, King of France, born on January 21, in 1338

Ethan Allen, a famous American general, in 1738

John C. Fremont, “The Pathfinder,” in 1813

Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, the Confederate General, in 1824

Christian Dior, fashion designer, in 1905 Continue reading “Birthdays”

Life is Simple…

I’m not a philosopher.  (It would be tough to call anyone who often quotes Rocky Balboa as someone who philosophizes…). Still, I do try to share some ­­deep thoughts on these pages.  As I have aged, and collected a lifetime’s worth of knowledge, I have been drawn to some great thinkers.  For example, I have grown very fond of Ralph Waldo Emerson. I recently purchased a text (“Self-Reliance and Other Essays”) penned by Emerson that I greatly look forward to reading.

Confucius is one of the great minds of history.  His philosophies, written 2600 years ago still resonate today.  I figured that I’d take some time to examine just a few of the many statements left to us from Confucius to see how they relate to our lives as educators and teachers of children.  We’ll begin each section with a quote from Confucius and follow that up with my own thoughts and reflections.

“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated.”

Continue reading “Life is Simple…”