Friday, June 16, 2017

Cut the Fat. Be more Simple.

Go! Go! Go! That's what it always seems like around here. For all the awesome things we're doing, it always feel like too much.  My family's just as busy as everyone else's I'm sure. Over the past couple of years, I have decided to simplify a lot of things. Not because it's easier. But for the fact that less is indeed, more. Less time on some things, leads to more time on things that really matter. 

Watch this intro video to Rend Collective's album entitled Campfire II. If you're not familiar with Rend Collective, I suggest you give them a listen. I added the whole playlist, so you can listen if you'd like. I've found that it's really good background music. It keeps me energized and it's almost impossible to not tap your foot. You can't go wrong with banjo music. 

Whether you believe in the same religion as this band is non-important. What they are championing is a return to what really matters. To fellowship. To community. To connections. 

Some thoughts from the intro video.

"Simplicity is the art of restoring a clear and unobstructed view of the things that really matter. Unplugging ourselves...Our lives are so full, distracted and stretched. Learn to clear away the clutter and detox our hearts." 

We've got to realize that we are crazy busy. We need a return to simplicity. We, as people, are busier than ever. We're also filling our spiritual voids with busy-ness. We have to come to terms with this notion. 

"Authenticity is not a style. It's a state of the heart. It's about substance."

We have to be intentional about simplicity. I had to learn to say, "No." to some things. I've turned down some pretty good things and opportunities. But what would I have gained? I'm not sure. I said, "No." to basically say, "Yes." to something better. In most instances, time with my family. Being authentic is saying, "No." and not feeling guilty. Say, "Yes" to what really matters. I've spent a lot more time with my family over the past couple of years. I've hugged more. I've still got a long way to go, of course, but I try to make it a point.

In the realm of the classroom, we can do way too much. We can over teach. Over prepare. Over plan. Over (insert anything here). We're teachers. We know we answered a calling to help and serve others. However, we can't help and serve if we're not taking care of ourselves first. That brings to mind an airplane flight attendant.  In the advent of an emergency, they always tell you to put your mask on first before assisting others. Why? Because you can't help others, if you don't help yourself first.

Maybe this means, doing less grading and giving more feedback. Plan for student inquiry instead of you being the "sage on the stage" all the time. Only grade meaningful things vs practice assignments. Come to school one hour early instead of leaving one hour after school. Really use your prep time to complete tasks. (That's something I struggle with big time by the way.) I've developed a really good format for what is important to my classroom. I try to keep on those things. It centers on consuming to create and innovate. If it doesn't align with those things, then why am I having my students do it. Cut the fat. Be more simple.  Almost every day I do these things: Pun of the day, quote of the day, read to my students, consume, and then create. That's it. Be clear. Be concise. Be simple.

Focus on three things. Read this about how to be more productive. Choose one word to represent your entire year or better yet, your entire life.  After almost 15 years of coaching basketball, I haven't gotten more complex. I've went the other way. I keep things extremely simple. The more you have to think, the slower your feet get. I find pleasure in keeping things as simple as possible. My teams build off of things I teach early on in the season. My communication has sharpened because of trying to think of the end first. You have to know where you're going.

Make meaningful experiences instead of have them complete a checklist. Some might gasp as this next one. My favorite days of teaching are when I have planned a great project, where the students are deeply engaged and they really don't need me besides for clarification. I can sit around the room and just chill with my students. This is when I really get to know them. To swap stories. To share my life and for them to share theirs with each other. Which leads us into...

"Share our real selves and our stories. Our deepest fears yield our deepest connections. That is how true communities are forged. Our testimonies, no matter how dark, are powerful weapons of light."

Over the past couple of years, I have really started to put an emphasis of relationships. You know, because that's what really matters ;) I've reached out to some people and we meet regularly. We use voxer. We meet at the local diner. We share life together. Every year one of the last things I have my students do is to write their favorite memory of my class. I'd say 95% of the time, it involves at least one other person and something funny. No one says things like the Rome test, the feudal pyramid, or latitude and longitude. Why? Because none of that stuff really matters. What matters and is the most memorable is the connection they made with others. The friendships. What are you doing to share your story with someone else? Better yet, whose stories are you listening to? Find a trust-worthy friend.

"Calling us to risk and danger, so we might change the world... Our God loves us too deeply to smother us with safety. He knows we don't combat our fears by living sheltered lives we fight fear by developing courage."

I remember a couple years ago, I joined into a Voxer group of some pretty awesome guys. They run in some pretty big circles. I run in such small circles that they are more like little dots. I was nervous. When I say nervous. I mean I didn't say anything. At all. I just listened. I eventually said stuff. I eventually had dinner with a lot of them. I worked on some projects with them. One of which was way out of my comfort zone. I have designed logos for some of them for their awesome projects. (Here's my design portfolio) I shared my life. I listen to their stories. I now consider some of them my best friends and mainly because I talk to them the most besides my family.

Courage takes time. The only way to be brave, is to well, be brave. My son, who just turned 5, has had a really big fear of heights. When I say fear, it is a legit fear. I mean terrified. Over about a year, he has developed confidence in himself to tackle playground equipment. It's taken time. He's taken baby steps. Literally. Lol. But he has gotten to places high up off the ground this summer that were not possible last year.

In the classroom, what are you waiting for? Try that new thing. Never tried Genius Hour? Do it. Thinking about a shift to Project Based Learning? Do it. Try it for one unit or lesson. Get out there. Dance in the street. Watch out for cars, of course! Seriously. Ships weren't meant to stay in the harbor. They were meant to sail. No one ever changed the world sitting in their living room twiddling their thumbs. Being safe is okay. But okay is just, okay. Don't be okay. Be great.

"No longer want to be half-alive."

This goes along with the last quote. A couple years ago, I felt like I was in a funk. I needed more. I was so engaged with school, that I was missing out on other things. Those things were the things that really matter. Marjorie Pay Hinckley says is pretty well, “I don't want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully, tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbors children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone's garden. I want to be there with children's sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here and that I really lived.”

"Mission is the ignition."

You have to make a decision to live with simplicity. To focus on what matters. To give up things that are meaningless. What is your mission? If it's getting your kids "As" that's not a mission statement, that's an endpoint. When students leave your classroom, are they just going to remember a letter on a report card? I hope it's more. I hope it's way more. Your mission has to transcend today.

For some more ideas on this topic -

Minimalism Documentary - I watched it on Netflix. We have too much stuff.
The Kindness Diaries - a man travels around the world based on the generosity of others. Thanks to Dean Shareski, who is always full of joy and really gets life, for the tip on this one.
Happy - I watched on Netflix.
Platon : From the Abstract Series on Netflix. I love the opening about how he can tell a story through the picture.
Tales By Light Series on Netflix - Himalayas and Life and Death are really good on culture
72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life