Embracing Interruption

Today was the first day of the school year, the day when the hallways of our middle school are jam-packed with beaming 12-14 year olds.  They are beaming with delight at being reunited with their old friends, beaming with suntanned faces full of braces, and beaming with shiny new school supplies, locker decorations, and fresh-out-of-the-box Nikes.
back to school
It’s pretty exciting, really, even for a guy who has socks older than these kids.  The buzz is real.  You can feel it all day long.

And on day one of school, it feels right and very innocent.  Every one is curious all day, going from classroom to classroom, anxious to discover who they will be with all year.  Teachers feel the same way about it, checking out the kids, seeing if we might know their parents or siblings.  We are all trying to get a feel for what the whole year might become and trying to make the best of the fact that there is a year of hard work ahead.  There is great hope that this might just be the best year yet.

I had that exact thought this morning just before school started.  This might really be the best year yet, of all my 16 years attending the first day of school as a teacher.  Then, just before the apex of this blissful moment, I was interrupted by the piercing bong of the PA system and an excessively loud announcement, which was irrelevant to about 998 of the 1,000 people on campus (myself included).  I hate that PA.  Buzz killed.
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Role Models

Charles Barkley, the great basketball player and television personality, once said at the height of his NBA career, “I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids. If you want a role model, look up to your parents. A lot of guys can dunk a basketball who are in jail; should they be role models?”

Chuck caught a lot of heat for his seemingly callous remarks because it sure seemed that he just didn’t care about kids or anyone other than himself.  However, if you listened to his follow-up remarks, he clarified that kids should be looking up to their parents, coaches, teachers, and other adults who are sacrificing and training them in the real world.  In addition to being obnoxious and entertaining, Sir Charles was “tipping his cap” to the real heroes in the world and downplaying his own ability to inspire young people to true greatness.

He knew that he was not even remotely qualified for the job of role model.  And he certainly didn’t want any of that responsibility.  He half-joked, “I heard Tonya Harding is calling herself the Charles Barkley of figure skating. I was going to sue her for defamation of character, but then I realized I have no character.”

Now, some of us want to be role models for kids.  But if we are honest, we must admit that we aren’t worthy of the title “role model.”  We are all broken people with insecurities and character flaws.  And that is on our good days.  However, perfection is not a requirement for being a role model.
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iLife

Five girls are all smiling and screaming excitedly at each other in the lunchroom, even though they are well within a four foot circle of each other.  Katie squeals, “I can’t believe I got an A on the science test.  I didn’t study at all!”

Sally yells, “I totally bombed the test!  It was so unfair!”

Susie shouts, “I have a math test this afternoon.  But I’ll ace it!”

Adrianne yells, “One time, I saw Jake cheat in Mr. K’s class and nobody told…”

Katie interrupts, “I can’t believe Jill still likes Jake.  She’s such a flirt.”  On and on, each girl in the huddle shouts louder and louder because nobody is listening.  Not a single girl responds directly to any of the other girls’ comments.

Nobody says, “Really, that’s amazing.  What’s that like?”

Nobody says, “Cool, tell me more.”  Or “Wow, that must have hurt.  How do you deal with that?”

Instead, it’s just one long and loud string of statements, beginning with the word, “I…”

What is going on here?  The first two answers are simple.

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Don’t Baby Them

BENEFITS OF STRUGGLING

“A man found a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole.

Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther. Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily.

But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened!

In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It never was able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life.  If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.”

chrysalis

I got this in an email forward, years ago.  It’s simple, yet profoundly important in relation to helping 10-14 year olds in their struggle in the chrysalis of adolescence.

Too often adults expect too little of the kids in their care.  Adults can cripple kids by solving every problem for them or by removing every painful thorn in their path.  It’s best not to baby them too much.  They need to stretch and writhe in solving their own problems in order to grow up strong enough to solve much bigger problems later in life.

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Success and Significance

Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, had some words to say about success.  It starts with a quiz.

Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
Name five people who have won either the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor or actress.
Name the last five World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remembers the headliners of yesterday.  They are not second-rate achievers.  They are the very best in their fields.  But the applause dies.  Awards tarnish.  Achievements are forgotten.  Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Now, try another quiz.Father Daughter Lake

Name five teachers who helped you through your journey through school.
Name five friends who helped you through a difficult time.
Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
Name five people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
Name five people with whom you enjoy spending time.

How did you do?

The point is that the people who make a difference in your life are NOT the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards.  They are the ones who care.

They are significant, not merely successful.

Growing Up and Away?

A friend of mine recently expressed frustration with the way that everyone seems to write off their kids around the age of 12.  He said that he hears people say very matter-of-factly things like, “Well enjoy your little boys now because it won’t be long before they are teenagers and they stop loving you.”  Or they sadly bemoan, “Yeah, I miss those days when my kids hugged me everyday and meant it.”  Or they state in exasperation, “I don’t even know who this kid in my house is anymore.”

My friend is worried about this happening to him.  He has three boys under the age of 7, and he is absolutely loving them.  He told me about how his oldest boy is learning to share and sacrifice for his little brothers at times.  He described it as absolutely beautiful.

And then he said, “I don’t want to lose my connection with them.  I don’t think I have to, but everybody is telling that it will happen, as if there isn’t anything I can do about it.”

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