Slow Down to be Fulfilled, Focused, and Purposeful

Kansas Sunrise – cc photo by J. Delp

We have several dogs. One is a West Highland Terrier (a Westie) named Kosmo. Kosmo has a personality that matches his name — he is mischievous, full of energy, quirky, and strong-willed. One of my favorite things to do is take Kosmo to the local dog park where he is free to run wild and socialize. There is only one problem. Kosmo has F.O.M.O. — fear of missing out. Although the park is a small one, Kosmo runs miles as he darts from one dog to the next and from one person to the next — rarely spending more than a few seconds in any one place. It genuinely appears that he is so concerned about what might be happening elsewhere that he must check out every potential source of entertainment, even if it means leaving something good behind. When we leave, Kosmo is typically exhausted from all of the running in his effort to greet every creature at the park (human and canine).

There are many times in life that I feel a lot like Kosmo — running from one thing to another out of concern that I will miss out, or fear that I won’t get everything done. More of my days than I would like to admit are marred by chaos and a lack of focus. In the end, in spite of my busyness, I am left with an empty feeling in my soul and a full to-do list. The frantic pace of my day is counter-productive. Like Kosmo I run all around, spend little time focused on any one thing, wear myself out, and accomplish very little.

This week I ran across a blog post by John Spencer entitled, The Difference Between Being Busy and Being Productive. The post resonated with me, because even though I know better, I still struggle immensely to avoid busyness and stay on the productivity tract. If you have been following my blog you know that I have been considering ways to challenge my current practices as a principal, get back to being a passionate leader/advocate for my staff and students, and redefine the principal position (at least for me). John (for whom I have a great deal of respect), writes about his ideas on the benefits of “breaking up with busy.” In addition to sharing his written thoughts on the issue, John put together this video:

As I explained in a post about my “not-to-do” list, busyness has been my nemesis — even though I am very cognizant of the difference between being busy and being productive. John’s post helped me out by reinforcing the notion that it is worth the time to ensure that I have a plan for being productive — focusing on the “big rocks.” I have always loved this quote by Goethe, but constantly be guilty of allowing “things that matter least” to dominate my days.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This morning, I found a wonderful piece in the Harvard Business Review that touches on the notion of living a balanced life. In her post, In Praise of Extreme Moderation, author Avivah Wittenberg-Cox explains what she means by investing in extreme moderation.

I want to do a reasonable job at the different parts of my life and a stellar job at the balance between all of them. – Avivah Wittenberg-Cox

As consider what I want as a professional, and as a person, this seems like a pretty sensible approach. For me, the suggestions given by both John and Avivah are not so much earth-shattering as they are humbling. I know what productivity looks like, and I know that is what I want (as opposed to busyness). I know extreme workaholism and I certainly have a sense of what it would be like to live a balanced life. So far, I have just been too stubborn, or to lazy, to make either a priority. The trick (at least for me) is taking the time to slow myself down and be deliberate about my daily activities — moment by moment (i.e. don’t be like Kosmo).

Are my actions moderate in nature? Are they contributing to a sense of chaos, or do they leave me fulfilled, focused, and with a sense of purpose?

While responding to the siren call of email may seem like an act of productivity, in reality it may just be a distraction from what is truly important. Responding to email does not leave me feeling fulfilled, focused, or purposeful.

One of my favorite things to do during student lunches is to go outside and pick-up trash or scrape gum. It isn’t because I am overly concerned about the campus (although I want it to be clean), or because I am a neat-freak (although I can be). This activity provides an opportunity for me to interact with students and model actions and behaviors I want to see in them — allowing them to see that doing little things can make a difference. When I am out scrapping gum, here is a typical conversation.

Student: “Mr. Delp, what are you doing?”

Me: “Scraping gum?”

Student: “That’s gum (pointing to the black spot on the concrete)?!!!”

Me: “Sure is. Would you like a piece. I can’t guarantee the flavor.”

Student: “That’s gross. Can I try (scraping the gum)?”

This pattern of conversation typically evolves into a discussion about what has been going on in the classroom, the book the student is currently reading, the plans they have for the weekend, and a plethora of other topics. What seems like a custodial activity turns into an opportunity to build relationships. All because I spent a few minutes outside scraping gum. Fulfilled? Check. Focused? Check. Purposeful? Check.

Finally, slowing down has a positive impact on our personal lives. It allows us to see beauty and enjoy the little moments of life. We are currently visiting family in Kansas. You might be surprised to know that Kansas is not a popular summer vacation destination. Go figure. However, there is so much beauty to be seen here if you just take the time to see it. The intricacies of an ant pile, the brilliance of a Golden Rain tree, a sunrise, a Sunflower…the list goes on and on.

So while I have developed a “not-to-do” list, I am ready to begin adding to my “to-do” list. The first item — slow down, breathe, and find the beauty and joy in the little moments.

This post is a part of my Redefined Principal Project. Throughout this school year I am looking for ways to purposefully disrupt some of work habits and routines in a manner that will benefit my teachers, my students, and my school community. If you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments, or tweet them at me. I look forward to hearing from you!

Eyes Wide Open

About a week ago, on a hot afternoon in Arizona, I stopped at a convenience store near work for a bottle of water and a soda. As I was walking in, I noticed a young lady leaning against one of the store’s cinder block columns. There was something vaguely familiar about her. I searched my memory for a clue. Former student? Parent? A sibling of one of our kids? Nothing. It was evident that she was in some distress. Perhaps, it was exhaustion, a rough day (or a rough life), or simply the heat. She avoided eye contact, so I continued into the store where I made my purchase, grabbing an extra bottle of water.

I’m not sure why, but as I was making my way back to my truck, I turned and asked, “Young lady, are you okay?” For the first time she looked at me, and asked if I could spare any money. I handed her the two dollars in my pocket and a bottle of water. She thanked me and said, “God bless,” and that was the end of our interaction. I wasn’t able to make any connections and she either didn’t recognize me, or chose not to acknowledge if she did.

However, several days after the encounter, I have been unable to shake the thought of how frequently I walk by people without consideration for their circumstances. Some of them, like this girl, are obviously “in a battle.” In other cases, it might not be so apparent — an averted glance, a solemn quietness, or perhaps, nothing. Almost unnoticeable. It’s like voluntary blindness. Oblivious to the problems of anyone but myself.

I recently began reading the book Refugee by Alan Gratz. One of the characters in the book, Josef, is a young Jewish boy fleeing Germany as Hitler began his reign of terror. In the story Josef described the yellow Star of David he was forced to wear as a “talisman that made him disappear.” Others acted as if he did not exist. As if he wasn’t even there.

The people chose not to see them.

How often are we guilty of this? How often do we “choose” not to see those who are in distress, those who are suffering injustice, those who are grappling with burdens too large to bear without assistance. It is easier to walk on by, to turn our heads, or to simply wander with our eyes proverbially closed. Perhaps we are afraid to fully acknowledge the pain and injustice in our world because to do so we be an admission that we feel incapable, or that we are unwilling, to do anything about it.

The principle suffering of the poor is shame and disgrace. – Marcus Borg

I don’t have a solution. I have a feeling it isn’t two dollars and a bottle of water. I do think it has something to do with acknowledgement. Acknowledgment that we are all in “this” together. Acknowledgement that we have the capability to help one another.  Acknowledgement of our shared humanity. 

One of the best books I have ever read about recognizing the immeasurable value of all human beings is Tattoos on the Heart, by Father Greg Boyle. In fact, it is one of the best books I have ever read…period. It is so good, that I am currently listening to the audio version. Again.

In one particularly poignant anecdote, Father Greg describes Carmen — a heroin addict, a prostitute, a fighter, a lady who is dealing with a tremendous amount of baggage and trauma. She stops to see him just prior to a baptismal ceremony he is scheduled to administer. She tells Father Greg she needs help and begins a narrative of her issues. Time ticks away and the scheduled baptism grows closer.  Father Greg grows impatient. As they talk, she tilts her head toward the ceiling and her eyes fill with tears. She looks at Father Greg, and says, “I…am…a disgrace.” The next line in the book is extremely moving, and convicting.

Suddenly her shame meets mine, for when Carmen walked through that door I had mistaken her for an interruption.

There are boundless opportunities for us to be difference-makers in the lives of others. Daily. To do so requires that we live with our eyes wide open — ready to receive others, to acknowledge their existence, to recognize their worth, and to view them as human. Not an interruption.

May God grant me the patience, the perception, and the willingness to do this. To live my life with eyes wide open to the needs of others.

 

 

Our Lenses Matter…

I used to have 20/20 vision. I could see perfectly, except for the fact that I have a bit of red-green color blindness which — at worst — led to me wearing blue instead of my preferred purple ties.

But, time…

And age…

Now, I am unable to read anything without the aid of a pair of glasses with relatively strong transition lenses. Nothing. My lenses make all the difference.

Yesterday I was reading, with a little too much intrigue (and with my glasses), the comments on a Facebook post about the current immigration crisis — specifically the separation of children from their parents. It reminded me that the lenses through which we see the world are highly individual and shaped by many different factors. So many variations that no two people see things from exactly the same perspective. Even, perhaps, when we should (i.e. in cases of injustice).

Representation of the world, like the world itself, is the work of men; they describe it from their own point of view, which they confuse with the absolute truth. — Simone de Beauvoir

I certainly don’t have this all figured out, but I am aware of the lenses through which I view what is happening around me and I’m fairly certain I have not always possessed that awareness. I grew up in a fantastic community (a small town in Kansas) which I still consider home. When I was living at there, I was unaware of diversity in the community because at that time (using the lenses I had available) diversity meant race, or ethnicity, and the overwhelming majority of people in my hometown were white.

My first teaching job was at a public school in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. I chose to student teach — and then take a job — at this school because it was so dramatically different from anything I had ever experienced. I was an ethnic minority on campus. There was overwhelming poverty and violence in the surrounding community. Many of our students experienced unspeakable trauma. The culture was extremely different from what I had experienced in Kansas.

During my time teaching in Phoenix my lenses began to change. This change not only impacted how I viewed my present situation, but it changed how I viewed my past experiences. In that small Kansas town that seemed to lack diversity, I now recognize families who undoubtedly struggled with poverty. Friends who experienced the pain of broken families, abuse, and other forms of trauma. People with a plethora of diverse experiences and stories. The diversity was there — it just wasn’t in a form that I was able to recognize or define.

I will never know what it is like to be a person of a different race.

I’ve not personally experienced poverty.

I am fortunate that I have not been a victim of abuse, or trauma.

I’ve never had my child taken away from me (although I have experienced an agonizing separation).

But privilege does not prevent me from stepping back from a situation and listening to the perspective of others. In this way, I am able to catch a glimpse through their lenses. This allows me to develop understanding and demonstrate empathy. Upon careful inspection, in many cases we share common perspectives (as a parent, a sibling, a spouse, an educator, a human). The willingness to momentarily pick-up the lenses of our fellow human beings is ultimately a critical factor in our ability to treat one another with the respect, dignity, and infinite value that all people deserve.

Our lenses matter. Our ability and willingness to look through the lenses of others matters most.

There is nothing insignificant in the world. It all depends on the point of view. — Goethe

Have We Forgotten that We Belong to One Another?

Screenshot 2018-06-15 at 2.11.51 PM

Disclaimer: as with all posts on my blog, the views expressed in this post represent my personal opinion and are not intended to be associated with my employer. This was posted with my daughter’s permission.

My daughter is an immigrant.

Perhaps not in the “legal” sense, but by Google’s definition she would qualify. She was born in the Russian Far East, adopted by us, and traveled to the United States (on a Russian passport) just before her first birthday. She was a newcomer. She was a nonnative. She was an outsider. Now, she is a beautiful teenager who just finished her freshman year of high school. She is the pride and joy of her parents and the best thing I have ever done in my life.

Those of you reading this who are adoptive parents know that the process is long and arduous. During the two trips we made to Russia, we experienced multiple miracles — more than enough to convince me that this beautiful little girl was always meant to be our daughter. But, those are stories for another time.

Recently, the United States has begun a “no-tolerance” policy for deportation of illegal immigrants. As a result of that process, children — seventeen and under — have been torn from their families. At the time of this writing, the Los Angeles Times reported that 1,995 children have been separated from their parents. This is a tragedy, an immoral abuse of power, and a policy that demonstrates a lack of value for human life. It is wrong, and it must stop.

Regardless of political leanings, I would hope that most people would agree that children should not be used as pawns in the fight over immigration policy. The fact that our current politicians are incapable of working cooperatively to develop a reasonable solution to the immigration issue is no excuse for taking actions that are clearly detrimental to kids. And, although I am not a religious scholar, I feel confident in saying there is absolutely no biblical basis for separating children from their families. However, I can reference many verses that indicate we should love our neighbor, care for children, and act justly.

Imagine the level of trauma inflicted upon a child who likely does not speak English, has just endured a difficult trip, and is now ripped away from their family. Their “legality” has absolutely nothing to do with our ability to treat them as fellow human beings of infinite value, worthy of respect and empathy.

We began to bond with our daughter and love her the first moment we saw her. We immediately wanted to provide the best care we were able to offer her. Fortunately, we had the means and privilege that allowed us to complete an adoption, navigate oceans of paperwork, and bring her to the states legally — as our daughter.

The parents who are currently bringing their children to the United States are undoubtedly seeking the same things we wanted for our daughter — the best possible care, education, and opportunities. Unfortunately, most are coming from poverty and do not possess the material, financial, or political capital necessary to navigate the immigration process. They are not people of privilege. We are.

This is not a post about immigration policy, it is simply a plea to do the right thing for kids and keep them with their families. I work in a profession where we are taught that the best interest of kids should always come first. That should be no different in this circumstance — the needs of children should come first. As Mother Teresa so wisely stated,

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.

I fear this may be true. We have forgotten that we belong to one another. I pray that our citizens will make it clear that the current situation is unacceptable and that our leaders will step in and do the right thing for the sake of these kids. We must demand nothing less.

My “Not-to-Do” List [first draft]

This post is Part II of The Redefined Principal Project.

And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important. — Iain Thomas

They say the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. Well, I am addicted to lists. For me, lists are a double-edged sword. They help me get things out of my head (calming the squirrel that runs around in there), but I can also be a bit obsessive compulsive about their organization. However, lists can serve a practical purpose. In his book, The Checklist Manifesto (yes…I have read it), author and physician Atul Gawande outlines how good checklists can be critical to our efficiency and effectiveness.

Good checklists, on the other hand are precise. They are efficient, to the point, and easy to use even in the most difficult situations. They do not try to spell out everything–a checklist cannot fly a plane. Instead, they provide reminders of only the most critical and important steps–the ones that even the highly skilled professional using them could miss. Good checklists are, above all, practical. – Atul Gawande, The Checklist Manifesto

But, this post isn’t about making a list of things I need to do. As I explore the notion of redefining my role as a school principal, I am intrigued by the notion of a “Not-to-Do” list. As the name would imply, this is a list of things I want to remember NOT to do. You can read a little more about the “Not-to-Do” list in this Life Hacker article (just one of many resources on the idea).

As I reflect on my past seven years as a principal, there are many things I have learned, including things I shouldn’t be doing, but continue to do. These are the things that I want to capture on my “Not-to-Do” list. Below is a list of ten things (along with a brief rationale) that I am proposing I will “not do” during the upcoming school year. I picked ten, because it was a nice number and it fit’s in with my “ten things” writing project. In the end, I may end up with more (or fewer) than ten. So here is the first draft of my “Not-to-Do” list (in no particular order).

I will not…

  1. …say “yes” to requests, projects, and tasks without serious consideration. I am a “people-pleaser” so I tend to take on too much without consideration for how it is going to impact my ability to perform other responsibilities. From now on, I will carefully consider how requests benefit my goals for our school community before making a commitment. Don’t worry — I’ll still be nice.
  2. …skip lunch. I am a bit ashamed to admit that I rarely eat lunch. Sunflower seeds don’t count…right? Or breakfast, for that matter. This “not-to-do” item could be more broadly interpreted as I will not sacrifice my mental and physical health for my job. I will take lunch breaks. I will take breaks to breathe and be at peace. I will do what I need to do to stay relatively healthy — mentally and physically.
  3. …waste time feeling sorry for myself. This is a tough one form me. When I am feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or “put upon,” I tend to wallow in self-pity. I’ve written about this before, and this year I need to follow my own advice (see The Cavalry is Not Coming).
  4. …check email throughout the school day (or expect others to respond immediately). Sometimes I am convinced that email is the bane of my existence. It is like a twenty-four hour shared “to-do” list where anyone is able to add to my workload. As a redefined principal, I refuse to allow email to control my day. I will have set times for checking email, I will triage and respond to what is most critical, and I will leave the rest for another time. In addition, I will not expect others to get back to me right away. Email is something that I believe Goethe would refer to as “things that matter least.” I’m still exploring how to do this effectively, but I like the Yesterbox method developed by Tony Hsieh — the CEO of Zappos.
  5. …do work that isn’t mine to do. Let me be clear that I love helping people out, so this doesn’t mean I won’t be doing things for others. It simply means that I currently do a number of tasks that, as a school leader, I should delegate. Again, there is limited time in the day so I need to be sure I am focused on “things which matter most.”
  6. …miss any of my daughter’s swim meets. I have to make many sacrifices as a school principal. I have early mornings, late evenings, a full calendar, and sometimes work to do at home and on weekends. I love my school community, however, I can no longer sacrifice family events for work. Family will be my top priority and I will not miss swim meets. Go CHS Wolves!
  7. …blame others for problems and challenges. Lately (the past few years) I have experienced increasing amounts of frustration when I feel like things are not going my way, or when I feel like our school community and students are being overlooked or short-changed. I get angry and tend to take it out on others (in most instances it is passive-aggressive action). It’s easy to blame people for problems. It’s much harder to devise a solution with existing resources. I need to stop blaming and start problem-solving.
  8. …compare myself to other school leaders, or compare our school accomplishments to those of other schools. Sometimes I feel jealous about the accolades that other leaders and schools receive. Time to get over that. I am different. WJHS is different. It is certainly okay to be challenged by others to seek improvement, but comparing accomplishments in this situation isn’t helpful.
  9. …place anything above the needs of my students and staff (during the work day). My school community must know that they are my priority — email, paperwork, meetings, and red-tape can be scheduled around my commitment to being visible, building relationships, and visiting classrooms (not the other way around).
  10. …make things more complicated than they need to be. One thing I really want to keep in mind while going through The Redefined Principal Project is that being a principal doesn’t have to be complicated. It really boils down to building quality relationships with the community, making decisions that are in the best interest of students, and supporting those who are directly responsible for meeting the needs of kids. This doesn’t require convoluted systems, detailed organizational systems, or a Ph.D. in Business Management (or education, for that matter). Most of the time it simply requires our purposeful and mindful presence.

So…there it is. The first draft of my “Not-to-Do” list. PLEASE take a few moments to comment and let me know what you would add, remove, or change. I’m also curious about what would be on your “No-to-Do” list (even if you aren’t an educator). All input and suggestions are welcomed.

Now I am going to get busy, NOT doing some things.

The Redefined Principal Project, Part 1b

Part 1b of a series (read part 1a here: The Journey Back to Me)

For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.

– F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is the story of an ending. An ending that is necessary for a new beginning.

This post represents the mental deconstruction of how I have come to define my job as the principal of an urban junior high school. It is the dismantling of my routines, my expectations, and my current expectations for success. For the moment, I am scrapping almost everything to make room for a rebuilding project.

I am starting over.

Next year will be my eighth year as the principal at a school I love. I believe (at least I hope) that there have been many successes. But, there have also been enormous challenges that have left me feeling depleted, discouraged, and at times concerned about whether I am in the right place. Some of this is job related. A lot of it is “me” related. I have high expectations. I want the people I work with, the parents and students I work for, my bosses, and my community members to be happy. I worry. I worry about school and student safety. I worry about school letter grades. I worry about the community perception of our school. I worry about our kids and ensuring that they are prepared for a future of success. I desperately want our school to be successful academically and be a place of physical, social, and emotional safety. This desire and the effort involved in moving in that direction has taken a toll on me (see The Journey Back to Me).

So, time for a change. It is time for me to rebuild my definition, and my expectations, for MY principalship. It is time for me to do things differently.

The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.” — Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

Over the next several weeks, I am going to take the time to reflect and re-evaluate what I believe it means to be an effective principal. I am going to redefine my role as school leader in a manner that prioritizes my mental and physical health and the well-being of my staff and students. This is a work in progress, but I know that my definition and the associated responsibilities will be centered around the famous statement by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe — a quote that has nearly become a personal mantra.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Lately, I have spent too much time on things that “matter least.” My days and weeks are frequently spent reacting to the latest crisis, or hacking through red tape that has little to do with the welfare of our school community. These are more indications that it is time for a change.

The good news is that I have a strong foundation upon which to build my new job description, roles, and responsibilities.

  • I love our school and community.
  • I work with a great staff and wonderful students.
  • I love working with junior high kids (go figure).
  • I am passionate about equity, inclusion, and opportunities for All students.
  • I am committed to success at Willis Junior High School.
  • From time to time, I still have a good idea (or two), and I savor opportunities to use my creativity.
  • I have started asking for help (not an easy thing for me). This is not a job that can be done without the support of our community (a sincere thank-you to all who have responded positively to our Community Cafe).
  • I am willing to be unorthodox in my approach to being a principal and I plan on doing some things that will challenge the traditional definition of this position.

As of this post, I have razed my current job description, leaving only the foundation of my core beliefs, my love for kids, and my passion for justice and equity. Over the course of the next few weeks I will be working to:

  • Develop MY new definition of the principalship.
  • Outline my priorities and key responsibilities for the upcoming school year.
  • Develop a few SMART goals to guide and measure my actions.
  • Create routines and check-lists to ensure I stay on track and reflect/modify appropriately.
  • Create a “not to-do” list to ensure that I avoid pitfalls and focus on the things that matter most.

All options are on the table and I plan on doing whatever is necessary to regain my energy, my enthusiasm, and my focus on being the best possible advocate for the Willis Junior High School community. In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “I can change, or stay the same”. I choose change.

Along the way, I will be writing about my “Redefined Principal Project” and sharing outcomes. I welcome your suggestions, resources, and personal experience with similar projects. Please feel free to comment on my blog, connect via Twitter, or e-mail me at jsdelp at gmail dot com. I appreciate your patience, your input, and your support!

10 Reasons Relationships Matter

Visiting Odines’ Family in Haiti

Several years ago I traveled to Haiti for the first time. It was truly life-changing. Since that first trip, I have been back so many times I have lost count. There are many ways that Haiti has changed me, but most significant is that I have gained family members — Odines, Amy and Dyno (my favorite three-year old). You see, this country where I originally thought I had so much to offer has instead given me the invaluable gift of meaningful relationships. In January, I had the distinct honor of serving as Odines’ best man when he married Amy. I will continue to return, following the lead of my best friend as he works to make a difference for those on the margins, but my primary purpose for travelling to Haiti now rests in the relationships I have formed. I go because of my friends.

I’m not sure that relationships are always undervalued in our society, but I’m also not sure they are given the attention they deserve.

Building strong relationships must be considered a foundational skill. We should teach it, model it, and practice it. It is that important. Relationships are the pivot point for all meaningful change and difference making in our schools, our communities, and our world.

In the spirit of my “10 Things” posts, here is a list of ten reasons that I believe relationships make all of the difference.

  1. We all have something to offer. Positive relationships give all parties the opportunity to recognize and understand that they have value.
  2. You can’t really understand others unless you take the time to get to know them. Deep empathy requires a relationship.
  3. From time to time, other people need help. Relationships are a means to that end — a vehicle for making help happen.
  4. Sometimes we need help. It’s not easy, or healthy, to go it alone in this world. Relationships allow us to share our burdens and humbly accept the help of others.
  5. Strong relationships result in authentic dialogue — people who are willing to “speak the truth, even when their voice shakes.”
  6. Relationships require trust and trust facilitates learning. We typically don’t learn, or take risks, with people we don’t trust.
  7. You don’t change organizations, schools, businesses, or people without taking the time to build relationships. Change requires positive relationships.
  8. While genuine relationships are selfless, people in a positive relationship will sacrifice for one another.
  9. Effective organizations (like schools) are effective teams. Effective teams foster positive relationships.
  10. We have a responsibility to model positive relationship building for our young people. If you haven’t noticed, our society doesn’t do such a great job at this, and building relationships is a skill that everyone needs. 

In some cases, building and maintaining relationships seems to happen naturally (like my relationship with Odines). In other cases, it requires more work. The rude colleague. The disrespectful and defiant student. The angry patron, or upset parent. In those cases, I think we should head the words of Father Greg Boyle.

You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship. You stand with the belligerent, the surly and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.

Relationships (kinship) are not always easy. But they are always worth it.