Archive for ‘Communication’

August 26, 2018

To Educators, everywhere

by Rod Smith

Etched in the Heart

To the Teachers I Know And Those I Don’t

Thousands of lives are enhanced because you demanded your students do their homework, tell truth, stand up straight, and look you in the eye.

You showed them how, and when, to use commas, solve x, and how to exercise and care for their bodies and run on and on and on, but not with their sentences. You helped little hands measure, cut, paste, and draw, and, then, when they got a little older and their hands were a little bigger, you taught them how to march and blow a bugle or beat a drum and pass a baton in relay races and score touchdowns and dance and sing on a stage to crowds of proud and adoring parents.

You showed them why bullying is not a good idea, and why it is wise to share, and unwise to dig in your nose, but wise to cover your mouth when you cough, and to turn away from others and say “excuse me” when you sneeze.

And to wash your hands. Always, wash your hands.

You taught them the power of “please” and “thank you,” and calculus, algebra, and pi, and that “i comes before e, except after c” and how to apologize and to play fair and how to make a paper doll and a paper airplane.

You told them about the planets and volcanoes and why Rome fell and about the International Date Line and salmon in Washington and Oil in Texas and corn in the Midwest and why the Big Apple is called the Big Apple.

You told them about the painful history of our nation and of its victories.

When they told you something was unfair you told them, as if for the very first time it has ever been said: life is not fair.

They cried on your shoulder when a crush crushed them, or a friend betrayed them, or a parent walked out never to return. They cried on your shoulder when you stood with them at a graveside as a body was lowered into the waiting ground; the body of a friend, or a dad, mom, brother, sister. They cried on your shoulder, yes, your shoulder, because they trusted you.

Why? Why did and do they trust you?

They trusted you because, because you trusted them. They trusted you because you had an ocean of patience when you taught them and you demonstrated the necessity of humility, generosity, kindness, and grit, and why we need verbs and adverbs and conjunctions and why we learn things we will never need once we leave school.

A thousand times, when they asked, “Can I use the restroom?” you said, “I don’t know, CAN you?”

Yes, teacher, yes, head of school. Yes, principal, librarian, coach, administrator, referee, custodian, lunchroom lady, superintendent of schools. They trust you because you taught them to play and to win with grace. You taught them that when they lose they could applaud the opposition and lose with courage. You taught them to hold their heads high in defeat or victory.

You taught them to look life in the eye and not back down.

You taught them to forgive when people didn’t deserve it and to love the unlovely, and to respect their elders and to protect children.

You taught them the difference between “lend” and “borrow” and you corrected them when they said “me and my friends” when they really meant, “my friends and I.” You taught them to love books and stories. You showed them they are made of the same stuff as the greatest writers and heroic sports figures world has ever known. You showed them that they too could win a Nobel Prize, the Booker Prize, a Pulitzer or the Superbowl.

You told them they had it in them to be astronauts, artists, acrobats, architects or all of them all at the same time.

You gave them the greatest gift of all: your faith, your trust. You believed in them and, by believing in them, you paved the way for them to believe in themselves. You showed them that if they did none of these things, like write a best seller or score the winning touchdown or get a call from the Oslo and the Nobel committee, their value and worth as humans was unsullied, because they were loved and treasured for who they are and not because they could spin a fine sentence or write a water-tight thesis or slam dunk a ball or run like the wind or play a piano like Beethoven.

When a woman or a man who is not your mom or your dad teaches you to tie a shoelace or how to be nice or helps you read a difficult novel to the very last page and get the thrill that only reading a novel to the very last page can offer – that person gets etched into the heart of a student, forever.

And that’s you, dear Educator.

Thank you.

August 2, 2018

The power of impartial listening

by Rod Smith

If you can find an impartial listener when you are troubled, or when you are embarking on new adventures, facing tough decisions, or find yourself in a relational impasse, you have found gold.

This person will listen attentively and ask probing questions. Questions will serve to drive you deeper to the heart and core of what you are facing. He or she will be unafraid to challenge you, evaluate your logic, and draw your attention to your blind spots.

Such invaluable encounters usually lead to greater objectivity. The very act of preparing and then articulating an issue can expose necessary steps or unearth essential nuggets to finding resolution, with or without the impartial listener’s help. Talking helps. Listening, even to your own voice can lead to new insights that may be unavailable otherwise.

Great comfort can be found in spending time with a person who has no ulterior motives, who can help you to reflect and act as your sounding board.

Perhaps even better than finding such a person is to be such a person.

Offer your mature, impartial ear to those who need it and you will be offering, and discovering, gold.

July 31, 2018

(quiet) Rage

by Rod Smith

I have met a few people who demonstrate what I call “quiet rage.”

They are usually very controlled, accomplished people who are often known for their ability cope with stress and difficult circumstances.

In truth, deep inside, they are often seething.

The controlled demeanor serves to bury agitation.

The façade serves a dual purpose: it gives others the sense that things are fine, it gives the perpetrator the idea that things really are under control.

This condition is filled with schisms and chasms within and among people. It creates separation both among others and within the self.

While quiet rage might not impact casual relationships in a meaningful manner (and of course it might), quite rage can be damaging for the host and all who love those who harbor it.

If this observation “rings a bell” for you I’d like to suggest quiet rage is deeply rooted in a few sources: disappointment, the desire to control the often uncontrollable, and in the painful discovery that each of us struggles to live up to our own expectations, never mind the expectations of others.

Quite rage will only be quiet and cooperate for a season.

Then, it grows. It wants out. It manifest in overt anger and illnesses.

Talk it out before it breaks out.

 

July 26, 2018

Friday (hearty) applause for:

by Rod Smith
  • Parents who hold demanding jobs, yet are involved in their children’s academic and sports lives.
  • Men and women who love and enjoy their in-laws and who break the stereotypes of the alienated or rejected in laws.
  • Grandparents who lavish their grandchildren with love and attention while supporting the family values treasured by their grandchildren’s parents.
  • Men and women who work the late shifts and serve their communities while most of the population are asleep.
  • Men and women who have beaten their addictions and live productive, sober lives as recovered addicts.
  • Teachers who have worked faithfully, decade upon decade, so their students may learn and grow and be equipped to find great success.
  • Bosses and supervisors who are kind, who listen, who seek to understand more than they seek to whip things into shape or to wield their power.
  • Churches and places of worship that embrace and welcome all people.
  • Single parents who are able to hold things together and provide stable homes for their children.
  • Divorced parents who are able to be kind and cooperative with their former spouses, even if it is just for the sake of the children they co-parent.
  • Men and women who deal graciously with the pain of the distance of having family living overseas.
July 18, 2018

Good with people?

by Rod Smith

Do you want to be an excellent employee especially when working with people?

  • Look people in the eye. Listen with your whole body. Listen to others before you speak. When you do speak, speak up and speak clearly. Avoid thinking you already know what a person is going to tell you or is trying to tell you.
  • Anticipate needs and wants of your clients (customers) while simultaneously being aware that you may anticipate incorrectly. It’s a fine balance. When you near perfection at this you will regard your work as art and not a job.
  • When faced with complaints or problems do not escalate matters, take sides, or assign blame. Focus on understanding and solving, not diagnosing.
  • Don’t chew gum at work, ever. Dress well and be well groomed, always. Shower, often (not at work).
  • Tell the truth efficiently and kindly. A good reputation, which can take years to build, can be permanently ruined with one lie.
  • Don’t date co-workers or anyone with whom you work. You’re at work to earn a living not find a spouse.
  • Turn your phone off at work.

Seeking a fellow teacher: A teacher, whom I know well, wants to have her 40 students (eight and nine-year-olds) correspond with similarly aged students in KwaZulu-Natal. Teachers, please reach out to Stacy directly at SGraber@SRESDragons.org.

June 26, 2018

The power of a really good friendship

by Rod Smith

He or she is able to sit, stand, walk, and rest with you when times are really wonderful and when times are not.

He or she is almost always able to finish your sentences and complete your thoughts but chooses not to. Similarly, he or she is able to predict most of your moods, needs, and wants while simultaneously offering you all the room in the world to be unpredictable and spontaneous.

You notice, after years, that he or she has been a transformative influence in your life even though that was not the reason you became friends; you were not looking to be “fixed” or changed but it happened and is happening because your lives have touched.

He or she is unafraid to tell you where you may have blind spots and shortfalls but  delivers the message with such grace and kindness it feels like you are hearing really good news or discovering something wonderful about yourself and your life.

He or she is almost always excited to see you no matter how many times you cross paths and no matter how intertwined your lives are.He or she remembers things you’ve talked about and remembers things that are important to you.

He or she opens possibilities for you, extends your friendship circle, and is not possessive or jealous.

June 7, 2018

Both must come to the table….

by Rod Smith

“I told you a little bit about friends and family that we have had to cut ties with over the years. Recently you have written about reconciliation in families. In our sad experience it always takes both parties to come to the table and if they don’t then it’s pointless. For three decades we’ve had to put up with verbal abuse, insinuations, insults, and then being completely ignored by a family member. How does one even begin to try and reconcile with such an obviously troubled, unstable, irrational, angry and downright nasty soul?” (Edited)

Reconciliation takes at least two people. If you have done your part in searching your soul and cleansing your heart and clearing a path toward estranged family members, and you are willing for reconciliation to occur, then you have done all you can do.

Forgiveness takes one person. You are able to forgive the person who has treated you in the manner you have described. I’d suggest you do so, for your sake, not for the sake of the “downright nasty soul.”

Reconciliation is always better than estrangements and tension; forgiveness is always better than resentment and anger.

There are times when reconciliation seems impossible.

May 16, 2018

Finding your voice (1 of 2)

by Rod Smith

Every person has a voice designed for full expression. Some have allowed their voice to be stolen or silenced and might find it necessary to take time to find or re-establish the voice they have chosen to deny or ignore. Thankfully, suppressing a voice seldom kills it. It can usually be found even after years of denial.

Any person who refuses to hear what you have to say or who tries to silence you doesn’t love you even if he or she proclaims otherwise. It is never a loving act, except in extremely unusual circumstances to stop another expressing who he or she is. Likewise, it is not a loving act to withhold your contribution to the world by maintaining your silence.

You were not created to be silent. You were not created to silence others. The world will benefit for hearing who you are and what you have to say. Part of having a voice, and using it, involves the process of discovering how best to package and express your voice so others can hear what you have to say.

One should not confuse talking with having a voice. Many talk and talk and talk and yet have never found their voice.

May 6, 2018

Abandoning mother?

by Rod Smith

Somewhat of a theme has emerged of late in my private practice. I’m seeing several parents, particularly mothers, who have difficulty treating their adult sons and daughters and their families as whole, separate entities from themselves. They appear to want mothering to continue when their mothering is over.

Yes. Mothering ends.  I’ve written on this theme often in this column.

It is as if the adult women are saying, “I raised them to have wings but I did not expect them to use the wings,” or, “I gave them wings but they need me to show them how to use them and where to fly.”

I have compassion for these parents. It is pronounced for those who have lost a spouse to death or divorce and who then see the natural separation their adult sons and daughters rightfully and appropriately enjoy as another evidence of abandonment.

If the adult sons or daughters are prone to guilt they will quickly capitulate to the pressure to take care of mother and/or come under her control. This will often expose stresses and stimulate conflict within the marriage.

It’s even more complicated when both spouses each have a parent who inflicts a couple with such expectations.

Am I suggesting abandoning mom? Of course I am not.

Remain loving, remain out of control, and remain connected. That’s what loving adults do. 

Write to RodESmith122@gmail.com

April 16, 2018

His ex-wife asks the children questions….

by Rod Smith

“My husband’s ex gets involved in our lives by asking their twins (12) about our lives. She snoops through the children by asking them questions about their visits with their dad and with me. I don’t like this. Some things are none of her business. How do I get this to stop?”

You don’t get it to stop. Just as you correctly think that what goes on in your home is none of your husband’s ex-wife’s business, so is what the children talk about to their mother none of yours. The mother of the twins is at liberty to ask her children whatever she wants. The children are at liberty to talk about whatever they want with their mother – and with you.

If you silence the children you may meet your short-term goals but you will also send the unwanted message that the children cannot divulge other matters you may indeed want them to speak up about.

A better option than trying to monitor conversations of which you are not a part, is to live in such a manner that you’d be proud of anything the twins wish to report to their mother.

Shutting children down is not a good idea. You may pay the price of them shutting down around you forever.