Educators Need To Do Hard Things

As an educator, it is important to remind myself that learning new things and mastering new skills isn’t always easy. I think educators and those in the business of education often found learning to be easy.. and so we forget that for some, learning is HARD.

So for the third time, I’ve selected the month of May to be my month of hard things… in the form of my Handstand Challenge.

Why? Because handstands are HARD. Because handstands force you out of your comfort zone and require not only that you trust your hands and shoulders to hold you up, but require you to balance and hold your core tight at the same time. In essence, handstands require physical effort and mental strength.

I also really enjoy watching my progress over the month. It fits my grit mindset of 20 times to learn it, 200 to master it. So over the course of a month, I’ve captured my learning process over 20 times (31 to be exact) and I’ve done more than 200 handstands because with every up there are 5 to 10 failures. By the end of the month, I haven’t mastered handstands, but I’ve made a lot of progress!

And interestingly, each year I start from a stronger place. Just like the educational foundation that we hope students have as they are given new content; my handstands are significantly better than last years handstands when you look at the data (date and photo).  Even better, when you go back three years, the progress is quite impressive. In 2015, my day 1 handstand was up against the wall outside of my house. I remember clearly being scared that I would fall, that I would slip, that I would break something!

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But even braced against the wall, I was so proud of the fact that I DID IT!

Moving to 2018, my day 1 handstand this year was in the middle of my living room with no wall to brace me, no helper to stabilize me and no pillow to catch me should I fall. The difference this time was that while I knew the handstand would be ugly, I knew I could do it. In fact, my Day 1-8 handstands are all pretty awesome in my opinion.. even though they only last a second or two!

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Isn’t that what we want for our students? Yes, some learning and some processes are ugly, but students NEED to know that they can do hard things! Progress needs to be celebrated and efforts acknowledged.

When was the last time a student was asked to CHOOSE something outside of their comfort zone that would be hard and then given the tools to accomplish it? And I’m not talking about passing the STAAR (state mandated test) test.. but a student-driven academic goal.

So as I look out at my classroom and watch 150 students pass through my door each day, I tell them about my handstand challenge. I invite them to follow my progress on instagram.. not so that they can make fun of me.. some will no matter what… but so that they can see adults in their lives doing hard things.. things that aren’t in their comfort zone.. things that don’t come easy. Because maybe, just maybe, some of these students will remember my sad attempts at handstands when they are in the midst of their own handstand struggles in life and keep going.

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Yesterday you were a child, Today an adult..

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Photo by Derek Dodson

Maddie turned 18 this week. Of course I knew this was coming.. but I still wasn’t ready. We have been working on college scholarships and planning graduation events, but somewhere along the way I forgot that with graduation and college, my “little” girl was going to become an adult.

Unlike many parents, I’m not worried about Maddie being a responsible adult. Maddie has been responsible pretty much her entire life. And it’s not that I can’t let go.. I will and am..

But here is the deal.

For 18 years I have spent pretty much every breath that I have in me protecting Maddie’s health. I have spent thousands of hours in doctor’s offices, in waiting rooms and researching diseases and cures when the specialists didn’t even know what to do or how to treat her.

And then, starting at 12:01am on Maddie’s birthday, I started getting the emails.

“You have been unlinked to Maddie’s account”

“This email has been removed from the account”

“You have been removed from this account”

over

and

over.

I have been removed and unlinked from Maddie’s life.

There aren’t even words to describe how that feels. Maddie didn’t choose to unlink or remove me. An automated system that just the day before wouldn’t allow Maddie to make a single decision for herself now requires her to make all of the decisions and excludes me from even seeing her account!

It hurt.

But more than that, it scared me.

I wasn’t ready and I hadn’t downloaded all of Maddie’s files. I realize now that I should have been more proactive, but dang.. just living in the trenches is hard enough. Someone should have warned me! That automated system should have sent me an email 30 days prior saying that unless Maddie authorized it, I would be removed from her accounts.

For those of you out there that have never had the struggles that come with having a child with 13 different diagnosis codes and almost a dozen different specialists, I’m sure you think I’m overreacting. Just hang with me a moment…

This week along with Maddie’s birthday, she has had some ongoing and new health issues. She saw her primary doctor who did blood work and is working to get in to see two of her specialists next week. Both specialists will need to see the results of the blood work. None of these three doctors work together or are part of the same network. My job for the last 18 years is to be the manager and provide all of the paperwork and logistics for each of the various doctors. Now it’s Maddie’s responsibility. A responsibility that Maddie will take the lead on, but truly wasn’t ready to take on. As she said, when the doctor’s office calls with results from the blood work, she isn’t even going to know what they are talking about! And Maddie is an educated patient!

I can’t help but be a little terrified.

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The quest continues with Specialist #22

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Today we are meeting specialist #22.

Yes, today will be the 22nd time we have sat down with doctors who have chosen to specialize in a branch of medicine and have hoped for answers for Maddie.

I’m hopeful. I have to be.

But I’m not “getting my hopes up.”

Over the last 17 years we have learned resignation. Dang.

But we have never given up. We have never quit. We have never stopped searching for answers.

So today, we go meet another doctor. We tell Maddie’s story again.

Maybe, oh please, maybe today we will meet a doctor willing to captain Maddie’s uncertain and uncharted medical ship.

We have to hope.