I was recently struck by a piece by Elena Aguilar, the “coach’s coach,” about acting in one’s sphere of influence to create change. She writes that when looking at making change in the world, the best place to start is within one’s sphere of influence. In other words, systemic change is not just a collective responsibility, it’s also an individual responsibility.
Whoa. 2020. I became a mom this year. My daughter Emily Ruth was born on April 1, 2020. My husband and I knew immediately that she was going to be a mix of wicked and wise, given the birthday she chose: April Fools Day - so perfect for 2020. She was born 2 weeks into the first COVID lockdown, and 4 days after my labor had started (she was in no rush to enter into these circumstances). So I spent all of April, May, and June hunkered down in a bubble of love and sleeplessness with my newborn, while the world outside was descending into the scariness and unknown of COVID.
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The pitter-patter of toes on our wooden floors, reminiscent of a spring rain pinging against a tin roof, grow louder as they approach our bedroom door. A moment of silence occupies the space as our door slowly opens. Seconds later, we hear a soft breath pressed against my wife’s ear that says, “Good morning Mom, the sun is up.” My youngest son stumbles across the bed to nestle his buttery brown cheek against mine and mutters to me, “I love you so much, dad”. He has a way to melt his parents’ hearts first thing in the morning (and avoid being told to go back to his bed). His older brother lumbers in, stiff legs resembling the Frankenstein impression he uses to terrorize his brother at Halloween. Thankfully, he “sleeps in” until 7:45 am most days before he graces us with his presence. His deliberate steps thump against the floor as he makes his way to my side of the bed with silence and morning grumpiness. His little brother is now aware his big brother is in the room and meets him with the same daily surprise as if this is the first time they have met. Unfortunately for the little guy, his exuberance is not met with the same zeal by my oldest son who can do nothing but let his lanky seven-year-old body collapse on my chest as he tries to find his way back to sleep.
There has been a lot of research done on what makes teams great. Google committed an entire research team to answering the question: What makes a team effective? Daniel Coyle explored the ins and outs of some of the world’s most successful teams in his book The Culture Code. And, leaders right here at Education Elements have compiled some of their learnings in The New Team Habits. I have found – ever since I started thinking about how teams work and what makes certain teams great – that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this question; even when I was 7,620 miles from home, 5,895 meters (or 19,341 feet) above sea level, on the trip of a lifetime.
When we started the Bring Your Own Thoughts blog our goal was simple: write good stuff to help good people do good things for kids. And so far, it's been working. In 2017, we published blog posts from our team, our districts, and thought leaders from across the country, ranging from examples of personalized learning in real classrooms, to how to think differently about the purpose of curriculum, to how to change the mindset of a district, to why we do what we do (and why we have made some changes to what we do!) and beyond. You can read more about all of the ways we have supported districts this past year in our reflection on 2017 here, and catch up on our best blog posts below. We are continually inspired and encouraged by the leadership and innovation we see from administrators and educators everywhere, and make an ongoing effort to honor and reflect this on the B.Y.O.T. blog. We are grateful for every single piece of content which is created for and shared on the blog, and today, we're sharing the top 10 posts of this year. Let the countdown begin!
Lately I have been meditating. It is only somewhat by choice – we are doing a company-wide meditation challenge and I am usually up for competitions, especially when they get me out of my comfort zone. Within the course of a few days of the challenge I discovered that just sitting and breathing doesn’t work for me – I have one of those brains that doesn’t turn off. It is not always full of important things, thoughts range from how to support a certain school to what I should get at the grocery store to if it’s going to be hot or cold tomorrow but you get the point, focus can be a challenge. So I started to do themed meditations and have recently been enjoying seven days of focusing on gratitude. Because while December may be the season of giving, November is the season of being grateful.