I love taking Lead Like a PIRATE challenges. They continue to push my thinking as well as my actions. Beth Houf’s most recent challenge, in Honoring the Moment, pushed my awareness.
Whether you are a parent, educator, or both I imagine you can probably empathize with the situation I am about to explain. Monday morning I dropped my daughter off at school. A typically happy six year old, she is usually full of conversation as we make the walk from our car to the front door.
This particular morning was different. For the first time in what seems like years, she allowed me to choose her outfit. Of course I chose the shirt above, given to her by a parent of a former student. It made me smile and even laugh that I was the one selecting it. Those that know me well I’m sure are not surprised by my decision.
A proud mom, I headed out of the house with my both of my kids. The tears started as soon as we got in the car. If only the weekend could be longer. My daughter just couldn’t snap out of the Monday morning blues and all I could think was, “Too bad she’s not surrounded by the magnetism of #tlap and #celebratemonday” like all of us. I had hope, however, that she would feel better once we arrived. Unfortunately, she only felt worse.
Holding her hand as we walked, I suddenly remembered her shirt. What an amazing opportunity to rise to the occasion and save the day. Here I was, her “superhero” ready to give her my wisdom. I told her that whenever she became sad to imagine me zapping my superpower of courage right through her hand. I reminded her how much she loves school, that she had music in the afternoon, and that we could do whatever she wanted when we got home. Absolutely nothing worked.
I began to realize as we approached the school that no matter what I said, her sadness was so strong that it outweighed my words. She wanted me to stay with her and my mere presence was clearly escalating the situation. Suddenly it felt like the doors, open and welcoming, were closing in on me and I was running out of options. What was I going to do? I couldn’t let her walk in like this. The quiet crying was starting to break my heart.
I snapped out of my own fear, jumped into practicality, and gave her three choices. She could try to be brave and just go inside, let me explain at the office that she was sad and see if I could walk her to class (although I told her this would make it even harder), or I could mention to her principal who happened to be standing right by the door that she was having a hard time. She chose the third option. I was a bit hesitant as I didn’t want to slow down student traffic, but we went for it.
I remember speaking, but I didn’t have to say a word. This principal, who admittedly I don’t know all that well, immediately sensed what was happening. With open arms, she drew my daughter in, wiped her face with one hand, and consoled her with the other. She told her that sometimes Mondays are just tough, that she would not only be okay, but that she would have a great day. And that was it. She took her inside and brought her to class. My daughter was fine and she had a great day.
Here I was, my child’s “superhero” unable to do anything in my power to make her happy. I realized soon after I left that maybe the best thing I could have possibly done was not only trust someone else to take over, but capture the moment she did. Being in a serious rush I could have easily said “thank you” and walked away, but I didn’t. I stayed and I watched. Had I not stopped and paid attention, this beautiful interaction between my child and her principal would have slipped right by me.
In thinking about Beth’s recent post, I knew this unexpected moment was worth honoring. This was a moment that reminded me about compassion and humanity in education. This administrator led with both.
I challenge all of us to push ourselves to become aware of the interactions that fly by. Whether we are watching them or making them happen, there is so much good that lies within the words and actions between us. Whether it’s an administrator we hear, a conversation among colleagues, or my personal favorite, students talking to each other, let’s slow down and listen. Let’s pay attention. Let’s do something to honor what’s happening right in front of us.
I decided to write my daughter’s principal an email and I concluded like this:
The interaction I saw was only about 10 seconds, but that’s sometimes all it takes to save the day. You did that for her (and me:) and I’m sure you do it for students and staff daily.
Have a great rest of your week and Happy Principals Month.
If part of our mission as educators is to catch what happens in those tiny unexpected fractions of time, those interactions that bring humanity and compassion, they can become a part of us. We can honor them, show our gratitude, and spread their importance. Just ten seconds can save the day.