2015 has presented a new challenge for me - committing to one-word...
One-word on which to focus for 2015.
This was not going to be easy.
For those who know me, once I get started on a topic about which I'm passionate, I'm never really at a loss for words. While a 140-character limit imposed by Twitter has helped recalibrate my disproportionate word-to-idea ratio, Voxer has re-enabled my tendencies. I can be loquacious and verbose...and sometimes, just flat-out, blabby.
I've also never really been a "New Year's Resolution" kind of guy...so I hesitated, procrastinated, and grew impatient with myself.
In my pursuit of one-word, I "successfully" narrowed it down...to about ten words. Then five, then three, and finally, one.
As the days and hours of 2014 ticked down, I sensed a mounting pressure...to make a decision. I told myself, "Pick one word, commit to it, and 'announce' it." Just do it.
So I haphazardly composed a blog post, to tell the world my word, and why I picked it. And I went to click publish.
Then I stopped. I realized...
It's NOT about telling. Or sharing. Or impulsively purging words, spewing thoughts, and rambling.
Perspective is about listening. And reflection. And contemplation. And process. And revision. And growth. It's about seeing a situation through someone else's eyes. It's about walking in someone else's shoes.
Perspective is enhanced when we notice subtle details; facial expressions, body language, intonation, word choice, and when and how a speaker pauses.
And it's about empathizing.
Following a late night school meeting, I stopped off at a local roadside eatery to grab a quick, long overdue bite for dinner. I had passed this establishment dozens, if not hundreds of times through the years, a local Latino place, easy to miss if you're not looking for it.
I approached the front door, held by a greeter who was no older than 20 years of age. He smiled, nodded, and welcomed me inside. I returned the smile, thinking, this was how I start and end each of my days as a middle school principal. (I've always loved holding the front doors open for our students, because I feel it sets the tone that I'm glad to be there for the start and end of their days of learning.)
As I entered a warm, dimly lit nook, the soft soothing sounds of Spanish guitar filled the room. A muted soccer game played on the flat screen television. Several couples and small groups of people were dining by candlelight and a group of men were sitting at the bar, eyes affixed on the game, as they ate. The faint murmurs of conversation suggested I was the only native-English speaker in the restaurant. There was a warmth, a tranquility to being there, at that moment. It was the first time I had sensed stillness that day.
While a man dried glasses and a woman waited tables, I watched two young children, each under the age of ten, chase one another around a podium where a hostess stood.
In only a few short moments of "people watching", I could easily surmise that I was seeing a glimpse of life...family life...community life. And while unfamiliar to what I was accustomed to, past and present, it was comforting.
Waiting for my food, amidst my best conversational Spanish, and the waitress's best conversational English, I learned that this was a family business. The young children were there, because their parents were both there, working. The children were dressed in school clothes, and appeared to be happy, fun-loving siblings. Situated at one of the quaint tables sat a small stack of picture books, an iPad, and a large box of crayons, spilled all over the place mats, next to two small half-full glasses; one of milk and the other, apple juice. I quickly gained the sense that, the children were familiar with this routine and the restaurant. They were at their home away from home.
I spent a few minutes thinking: How was my "broken Spanish"? Did I effectively express my point, which was, in part, to make "small-talk" and to show that I was relatable and comfortable in my own skin? Did I choose the right words? And did I say them the right way? Was I "being myself"?
Drifting back in time, I remembered my own childhood routines. My dad, leaving for work in the morning and returning home, always in the dark. My mom, running the house, preparing every meal, every day, for my sisters and I.
And then I considered my own everyday life, starting and ending each day at home with my own family members. I marveled at how I get to connect with so many different people throughout each work day. I was amazed, thinking how each person has his or her own story, the details of a life that I don't know.
Last week, the mother of a middle schooler whom I've known well for a long time, shared a video with me, telling me, "You've got to watch this!"
Viewing this clip confirmed for me that perspective was the right one-word for me.
It also made me think about the frenetic speed at which the education world is moving and changing, these days. Despite the pace, I wondered, do we stop often enough to hold a door, to offer a smile or a generous ear, to empathize, or to appreciate someone's life circumstances before we act? Before we...judge?
As a person who values relationships, communication, teamwork, and connectedness, I often wonder...
- Am I listening to others' perspective, in my life? In my work?
- What might I learn and how might I grow if I was more receptive to expanding my perspective, and even shifting my perspective?
- What could happen if I invested in listening more closely and intently to the perspectives of…
So in 2015, I've decided to recommit myself to considering others' perspectives. Like the restaurant stop, I'm committing myself to slowing down, seeing more, and investing more time to understand what's inside.
If more of us did more of this, for our students in our schools and our communities, what may be the result?
I'm going to take my chances...on opening the door, holding it open, and understanding what's beyond it.