Monday, September 20, 2010

The third time is not always a charm.

Even though I just posted this weekend, my heart really hurts right now and I want to write about it...

For the third time this year, I have been impacted by suicide.  In February, my best friend's husband died by suicide.  He was only 32.  In July, another friend's sister died by suicide.  She was only 26.  And now, today, a player from my favorite NFL team, the Denver Broncos, died by suicide.  He was only 23.  Even though these last two weren't people I knew personally, the tragedy of their deaths still affect me greatly.  And dealing with the death of my best friend's husband was… one of the hardest things I have ever had to come to terms with--and I'm still working on it.  I was the maid of honor in their wedding.  He was not just my best friend's husband, he was my friend, too.  And they hadn't even celebrated their second wedding anniversary yet.

In this instance, the third time is not a charm.  I have the hardest time understanding the choice…  Every time I hear about a suicide, it forces me to stop and remember.  And think.  Suicide affects so many young people every year.  What is going on in their lives that is so incredibly painful, that they feel the need to deal with the pain by ending it completely?  What do they need help with?  As friends, family members, coworkers, classmates, professors, teachers, school administrators, community leaders… are we keeping an eye out for kids, people who may be struggling and afraid to verbalize their need for help?  Are we doing everything we can to reach out and help them?  Are we making ourselves available and making sure we convey an open mind?  Do we know the specifics of what to do if someone says he or she is contemplating suicide?  Are we as prepared as we need to be in dealing with situations like this, situations that may arise in our lives and with people we love and care about?

Suicide is never, EVER the answer.  Being depressed and in pain is one thing, but making the choice to end everything and all possibilities for making things better--that is something completely different.  It doesn't have to be that way.  Suicide is NEVER, EVER the answer.  It breaks my heart to know that people get to the point where they feel that it is an answer, the only answer.  And as a friend, a family member, a classmate, and a future teacher, I feel strongly that I have a responsibility to help those around me who either directly reach out to me for help or who I notice could use some help even if they don't specifically ask me.  As I say in the poem I wrote here, "Love is great, and life is potential.  There is hope.  There is always hope."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Infinitives I live by

I used Wordle to put this graphic together during the summer. My love for language and my tendency to try to organize my life in helpful ways motivated me to make this: "Infinitives to Live By".

All of these verbs are present-tense; they are actions I try to do as much as possible in the appropriate contexts in my life. This collection of words inspires me to do my best and to be the best person I can be, everyday, on all levels, in all areas.

My favorites: reflect, learn, think, choose, connect, pursue, experience, create, and realize.

Putting my teaching hat on, these words are great to share with students. They're empowering and varied and a great way to encourage students to learn and grow and think and explore themselves and their worlds.

What words here do you do? What words do you do that aren't included in this graphic? Which words are your favorite?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The importance of finding your element

There's a lot to be learned from dogs. Whenever I take my dog, Chloe, on a walk, I am reminded of how important it is to find something in life that I really enjoy doing, something I can get lost in and never get bored with, something I can continually get excited about and never get enough of. In short, this is called being in one's element. When I take Chloe on a walk, she is totally in her element. Before we even go out the door, she's gushing with excitement in anticipation of the journey ahead, jumping up and down, barking energetically, imploring me to hurry up and throw my shoes on and go. Once out the door, she's eager to smell everything and look in the direction of every sound she hears, leading me every which way. She loves quickly running ahead only to stop and sniff every square inch of ground in sight. She wants to take it all in. Oftentimes I have to pull her away from certain spots because she's taking way too long and I'm up against the clock. Even if we were to walk the same route everyday (which I don't actually do, more for my sake than hers), she'd never get bored, never lose excitement.

When Chloe's on a walk, she's in her element, she's a fervent learner, and she's always reminding me how important it is to seek out and choose something that I'm so passionate about, something where I can be totally in my element, too. This goes for both my personal life and my professional career. For the former, I know I'm in my element when I'm reading, thinking, learning, taking photographs, and having intellectual, inspired conversations with bright, motivated people. For the latter, I know that teaching and education and learning are where I genuinely belong. These are the things in my life where I'm totally in my element. Thanks, Chloe, for leading by example and for constantly reminding me how important it is to find and be in one's element.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Taking responsibility, taking initiative

On Seth Godin's blog yesterday, I read a post titled "Responsibility and authority."  It got me thinking of the relationship between responsibility, initiative, and leadership.  In the post, Godin highlights the seemingly subtle relationship between authority and responsibility as it has been constructed in our society.

"Many people struggle at work because they want more authority," he writes.  People believe they have to have authority to do more work, to contribute more value-added effort to the bigger cause.  They feel they need some kind of special entitlement or power to be able to have a bigger impact, to make a bigger difference where they are.

Godin's most powerful argument in the short post counters these typically falsely-held beliefs: "It turns out you can get a lot done if you just take more responsibility instead.  It's often offered, rarely taken."

There are always things we can do over and above our main/primary obligations (both in our professional and personal lives), if we just open our eyes wider and really look around.  Responsibility is there for the taking--either in the form of something on the table waiting for someone to claim and run with it, or in the form of a new idea that hasn't yet been explored but could have some benefit for the cause.  And in most cases, you don't need authority to take this responsibility.  Step up, take it, and run with it.  Not only will it show initiative on your part, but it'll also make evident your desire and will to be a leader, or if you've already established yourself as one, it'll give you an opportunity to show that you're an even bigger, better one. 

Have you been thinking a lot lately about starting a new group or campaign to focus on meeting a specific need in your organization?  Is there a new report or document that needs to be made that your boss or others of your coworkers have been frequently mentioning in meetings or brainstorming sessions?  Or in a similar context, is there a premature idea that needs to be further fleshed out and given more dedicated thought before it can be acted on?  How about an engaging lesson plan or unit idea that you've been mulling and know you should share with the other teachers in your department?
The responsibility is there for the taking, someone just needs to step up and do it.  So why not now?  If you have the bandwidth and you want to develop your leadership skills, or you want to contribute more, or you just want to learn and grow further, take that responsibility you see.  Take the initiative.  Eat it up.  Be a leader.  And be an even bigger impact for the cause.