You teach your children some fashion sense
And they fashion some of their own
- Gordon Downie

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Take Time

Time. There seems to be too much of it, too little of it. Time can be on our side. Time can be ticking. However you look at it, time is a relative concept. I'm writing this post on May long weekend and since we decided to stay in town, I feel like I have an abundance of time. Today is Sunday, but it feels like a Saturday and I'm really enjoying the luxury of time.

In my career, I have to remind myself to "take time". One joy of being a teacher and school administrator is that my job is never boring. Time flies, usually because I'm having fun! It is, however, easy to get wrapped up in what I do in my classroom and forget to take time for the other people in the school - teachers, parents, and even the kids in my class. When I really think about it, it's important to take time to do three things.

The first, probably most important thing I have to remind myself to do is say positive things. I give encouragement, pats on the back, and support all the time in my classroom. What I am talking about, though, is genuine praise. This is the type of praise where you take someone aside, look them in the eyes, and tell them something they have done very well. Last week, one of my students found a teacher's wallet in the parking lot and brought it to me. It was the perfect time to make a big deal about doing the right thing. At times, I have to remind myself to say something positive, write a positive e-mail, make a positive phone call home. When it is genuine, directed and earnest, saying something nice to someone else is incredibly powerful.

When we get wrapped up in our lives, we sometimes forget to listen. Years ago, I heard Dr. Michele Borba speak about the importance of consciously building empathy in children. According to her, teaching children to LISTEN is one of the crucial elements of empathy. When I was a middle school administrator, I took pride in the fact that I would listen to every child, every parent, every staff member who came into my office. It feels good to know that you can be trusted. As a parent and husband, it is equally important to listen carefully. At times, this is a struggle with my 10 year old son who is an endless stream of facts, ideas and information that is incredibly important to him. I have caught myself saying "Not now, Connor" and feel terrible when I do so. Listening, really listening, is so important.

The final element of the "take time" triad? Take time to acknowledge people. When I moved to Red Deer, one of the things I really enjoyed was the fact that people nodded and said hello when they passed one another on the street. A few weeks ago, our family got the opportunity to be greeters at our church. It was so nice to see my children experience the joy of simply saying hello. One of the most important things a teacher can do is meet their class at the door. The simple act of saying hello is remarkably powerful. The first time I heard Todd Whitaker speak, he said that, as a principal, he would never walk by someone in the hallway without acknowledging them. It's simple, but it takes a conscious effort and it takes a bit of time.

I'm not perfect. I don't manage to do all of these things all of the time. It takes a conscious effort and I have to remind myself to do these things. In the end, though, it is time well spent. There is no rewind button in life. You don't get "do-overs". So, I try hard to take time the first time.


  1. Really good stuff in your head today. I was from the old school were they taught us just the opposite. I had to learn to see all students as individual human beings and to acknowledge them individually was the best way to succeed. It was also a much less stressful way to work in a classroom.
    Good post. I'm sure it would be of great help to rookies.

  2. Thanks for nice feedback, Red! I remember you telling me about your "trial by fire" teacher training in normal school. I've learned so much simply by making mistakes, correcting them, and doing things better the next time.