Countdown is on!

When people have asked about taking this trip I’ve said, “It’s time to shake things up a bit!” and that pretty much sums it up. It is time to shake things up and break from our hamster wheel life. It seems we are being run ‘by life’ and losing sight of ‘intentional living’ (thanks Elizabeth for your words on this one Sunday morning in June). It is time to step back, do something different, learn new insights and live simply. All we need is a backpack for our essential belongings, food, lodging and each other to experience people, places and the world. Don’t get me wrong, my intention is not to reject my life, I want to change my life without changing my life by finding more happiness and making it better. I’m looking forward to a new breath of air.
Years ago when I was working with a MECY team creating the new Social Studies Manitoba Curriculum and this write up by Michael Angier was used in our presentations to educators. Thanks LM for this. My favorite is the last line.
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SHAKING THINGS UP
by Michael Angier

Let’s face it. It’s easier to go along with the crowd than be a maverick. It’s easier to blend in than stand out. It’s less stressful and causes fewer problems.

But only in the short run.

To really make a difference in the workplace we have to be able to confront the tough issues. We have to be able to set boundaries and challenge the common wisdom — or lack thereof.

Sure, you can keep your head down, avoid conflict, play safe and try to be invisible, but that’s no way to create breakthroughs. The question is, do you want to be effective or at the effect of everything else?

Caution: Do not take this advice and become abrasive, obnoxious or combative. That’s not what I’m talking about.

What I AM talking about is learning how to stand up for yourself and your cause(s). Take a stand, but do it with dignity and professionalism. Far too many people think the only way to get things done is to run rough-shod over others. They think they need to be intimidating to accomplish anything.

This is simply not true.

I love something that Gandhi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” He certainly proved that to be true.

But he didn’t liberate India from the powerful English Empire by being a milquetoast, either. He was able to confront effectively, and most of the time, without force or violence.

Where are you hiding out and playing it safe? What do you feel strongly about but are doing nothing about it? This is your life. Are you in the game or are you on the sidelines?

One of the most effective ways to confront issues and individuals is to ask questions. But be careful about this. Eighty percent of all questions are merely statements in disguise. They’re used to manipulate and often intimidate.

The key is to tell your truth with compassion. And the more you do it the better you get at it. Yes, there will be times when people will not like what you say. They may even get upset. But if you’re respectively making your case with compassion and understanding, you will begin to affect positive change.

You’re not obliged to make everyone comfortable. You’re paid to impact the world — not be impacted by it. To do that, you need to be able to address inequities, set boundaries, share your ideas and pursue your passion.

The way I see it, you can create breakthroughs or you can be broken down by the system. There’s not much middle ground. I’d rather be accused of coming on too strong than being irrelevant.

Go ahead. Shake things up a bit. Not just to make waves but to make things better.

More info about Michael Angier can be found at http://SuccessNet.org.

Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

“This day…is the one day that is given to you today. It is given to you as a gift… The only appropriate response is gratefulness… Open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you… Let the gratefulness overflow into blessings all around you. And then it will really be a good day.” These are words spoken by Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and interfaith dialogue pioneer.

I showed the video of Brother Steindl-Rast (below) to friends and staff members several months ago, the day I announced I’d be taking a semester off from my work. Living intentionally and with gratitude is what having a good day is all about. This is a good goal to strive for in the coming months.

More information about Brother Steindl-Rast’s work is found at http://www.gratefulness.org/brotherdavid/.

The Denouement

Aristotle stated that something whole has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Gustav Freytag proposed that a story has a dramatic structure containing an introduction or exposition, rising action, a climax, falling action, and, finally, a denouement or resolution. I recall teaching these concepts in my English classes, many moons ago.

Obviously, this structural metaphor can be applied to segments of our lives, adventures lived, and is a reflection of life itself. Anticipation and preparation for our impending travels is the beginning, the exposition. Awaiting us are the other four elements of our travel story. I spend sleepless moments in the dark at night wondering how those components will feel during their encounter and how they will read once written. How will the plot unfold? What of the crises and climax? How well will we get to know the characters? What will be their fate? Who will they become? What will be written in the denouement?

I hope for both a storied past as well as a storied future. Perhaps a sequel will be written…

It’s Not Rocket Science

Remember Robert Fulghum’s poem, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? You can watch a rendition of it below (I trust the spelling and grammatical errors won’t put you off your dinner). I want my kids to become strong, independent, competent, ethical, contributing, and compassionate adults with a desire to embrace diversity and to work together for a better world. Their ‘world-schooling’ will be a healthy step in that direction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ER867XoM474

You Don’t Know Jack

Several travel writers have been recommended to me. I’ve read some of Theroux’s work before but never that of Beat Generation pioneer Jack Kerouac. I purchased his iconic book On the Road for my Kobo and have read a portion of it. Several Kerouac quotes that have sparked my curiosity…

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”

“I was surprised, as always, by how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.”

I’m looking forward to getting to know Jack a bit better in the coming weeks.

Planet of the Apes

How different are we from each other? Maslow’s hierarchical triangulation suggests we are all the same in what we crave and require. Different from each other but, at our root being, we all put our pants on one leg at a time…unless, of course, you wear a sari, toga, lungi, dhoti, khimar, sarong, dishdasha…

While we do ape each other, I trust we expend at least some energy removing the various nits from each other’s lives.

World Schooling

People have asked us if we are home-schooling our children as we travel. While we’ll take some mathematics with us, much of the rest of their schooling will be completed through their experience. I like the way this is stated in Manitoba’s provincial curriculum for Social Studies.

“Social studies is the study of people in relation to each other and to the world in which they live. In Manitoba, social studies comprises the disciplines of history and geography, draws upon the social sciences, and integrates relevant content from the humanities. As a study of human beings in their physical, social, and cultural environments, social studies examines the past and present and looks toward the future. Social studies helps students acquire the skills, knowledge, and values necessary to become active democratic citizens and contributing members of their communities, locally, nationally, and globally.

Social studies has at its foundation the concepts of citizenship and identity in the Canadian and global contexts. Intended to reflect the many voices and stories that comprise the Canadian experience past and present, the Framework is inclusive of Aboriginal, francophone, and diverse cultural perspectives. Social studies engages students in the continuing debate concerning citizenship and identity in Canada and the world. Through social studies, students are encouraged to participate actively as citizens and members of communities and to make informed and ethical choices when faced with the challenges of living in a pluralistic democratic society.

Social studies enables students to acquire the skills, knowledge, and values necessary to understand Canada and the world in which they live, to engage in active democratic citizenship, and to contribute to the betterment of society.”(http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/socstud/framework/introduction.pdf)

Free at last

As an educator, I’ve spent more than 20 years working with other people’s children. Teaching and school administration is amazing and fulfilling work, a true opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. I know that our travels abroad have made me a better educator and school leader, with a broader and yet more focused perspective on the appreciation and protection of diversity, the importance of inclusive education, and the ‘human condition’ as a whole. As much as I love my job, it was high time that I invest more intentional time (24/7 for 6 months) with the most important people in my life.

It’s strange to think that I have no job to return to this September. Someone else will take on my duties as principal. Someone else will use my office. Strange perhaps, but exhilarating and just a bit reckless at the same time. Walking out of the school at the end of June was a freeing experience. School’s out for summer indeed!