Byron's Babbles

Temporary, Quick, or Permanent

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Agriculture, Global Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on October 27, 2020
Wire Vs. Zip Tie

I am writing this post not exactly knowing where it will end up. I’m not sure if I will end with an opinion, advice, or just a collection of thoughts. This post, like many, was inspired in the barn this morning before the sun came up and in an hour before most even think about getting up – it’s such inspirational time for me. A lot of people spend their morning mindfulness time on a yoga mat or in a gym; mine is spent in the barn. I wouldn’t have it any other way. This morning when I got to the barn a feeder that hangs on a gate for one of our baby calves had come loose. It had come loose because I had done a quick fix the other night just using a plastic zip tie. I remembered thinking at the time, “this is not going to last very long, but I don’t feel like getting the wire out and fixing it that way.” In full transparency, I wanted to get inside and watch Game 4 of the World Series.

Well, this morning the plastic ties were broke and I was faced with fixing again. So, I got the wire out and did it “right.” This got me to thinking, “what constitutes right?” Think about all the “fix” decisions that are made whether by company, school, government, community, et cetera. Think about the names we assign “fixes”: makeshift, stopgap, salvage, life hack, workaround, and so on. Call them what you want, but almost every day we need to come up with temporary fixes and move on. I would not necessarily call this a bad thing.

Take for instance if I have one more round in a field mowing hay and something breaks on the mower-conditioner. I might be able to make a temporary fix (using wire or duct tape, of course!) and then make the permanent fix later. Not a bad thing – the job got done. Or, let’s use a school example. The internet goes down during a lesson. The creative teacher has any number of plan B’s that can come into play – learning goes on and the tech people make the fix (notice I did not say permanent fix – it doesn’t seem that problem can every be permanently fixed 😉). Additionally, sometimes there is no solution even developed yet, so a temporary fix must do.

Example of temporary fix to think about: Donut spare tires are not made for extended service, but they will get you home or to a tire store for repair or replacement of the tire you have put the donut on in place of. An innovation because it takes up very little space in your car.

The stopgaps of the temporary fix do allow for time when devising fixes or developing a whole new product. Workarounds show those we serve that we do truly understand there is a need for a solution. The one thing I have experienced first hand here, however, is that companies should not over-promise, particularly related to timeline. Do not tell the customer what they want to hear – be honest and conservative on the timeline. The old saying “under promise and over deliver” applies here.

The other thing I will note here that warrants a new paragraph is that sometimes admitting that there is not a solution available is refreshing. Sometimes there is a solution available from another provider. I do know it is very refreshing to have a vendor say, “We can’t do that, but here is someone who can.” Guess what? I will probably be back with the vendor who tells me that at some point.

Some time a quick fix is needed, if nothing else, to make the customer happy in the moment. Think about about my zip tie fix; I knew it was not permanent and that it would not last, but it got me through a moment that I was not wanting to spend a lot of time repairing something. We are such creatures of instant gratification and sometimes the quick fix just seems to be the way to go.

Lastly, there are many instances that temporary and quick fixes that were very creative, have turned into innovations. Some would argue that most individual attempts to innovate are makeshift, quick fixes. I even recently saw the term “improvised quick fix” used. As a farm kid I know that farmers have been doing this for years. In fact, really paying attention to quick or temporary fixes needed, might be the best way to monitor customer needs for new innovation.

No doubt we should always be looking toward the permanent solution, but we don’t want to forget to really put thought into our temporary and quick fixes. They have value as well. In fact we might just be devising the next great breakthrough idea.

Leading Like Elastigirl-Hulk

So, if you could combine two superheroes into one, which ones would you bring together? During our Georgia 3D Leadership gathering this past weekend I had a participant that did just that. One of our activities had attendees pick or create a superhero that best described themselves. One of our participants blew me away with a combination of She-Hulk and Elastigirl (Mrs Incredible). I have included a picture of her creation with this post.

This sort of thing has already been done. In the late 1990s Marvel and DC tried a big crossover event in which their superheroes met, fought, and came out friends. Thus was born the Amalgam Universe. Put simply, two super-cosmic beings arranged to have the Marvel and DC Universes merge with one another, such that their finest heroes also merged to become amalgams of each other (hence the name). Some were merged because they were similar in powers or purpose, some because their names sounded alike. In like fashion, our participant created “Elastigirl-Hulk.”

Jennifer Walters, an attorney, who is the She-Hulk got her powers after being shot and needing a blood transfusion. Her cousin Bruce Banner (Hulk) gave his blood for the transfusion and the rest is history. Jennifer got a mild version of the radioactive powers. She-Hulk taught us to never accept more than we deserve. Because of her ability to self-transform between Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk, she taught us that work-life balance is achieved by recognizing that work and life are both important. Finally, she taught us to have a sense of humor.

Now let’s take a look at Elastigirl (Mrs. Incredible). Her superpower is elasticity, allowing her stretch, shape-shift, and be flexible. Elastigirl understood the importance of developing teams to be capable of becoming a strong support system for all members to achieve their own goals and the goals of the organization.

Therefore, combine the flexibility and community building abilities of Elastigirl with the strength, intelligence, and the ability to control between being tough and being gentle and we’ve got quite an incredible (pun intended) woman. What superheroes would you combine?

Leading Like A Murmuration

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Communication, Consensus, Global Leadership, Leadership, murmuration by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on September 12, 2020

There is nothing better than seeing, hearing, smelling, and feeling the farm wake up in the morning. This morning was awesome as a foggy mist gave way to a very cloudy dawn. There was first an owl letting everyone know she was awake. Then came the first sounds of other birds. A calf moo-d, letting me know I needed to tend to the breakfast needs of her and the others instead of enjoying the morning come to life. There are so many sights, sounds, smells, and things to feel. It’s almost overwhelming!

Well, I got all of the animals fed and cared for and went back to observing the cloud darkened misty morning. I was drinking some coffee from my Hong Kong coffee mug (you all know I collect coffee mugs from places I have gone and love to use them) and looking out over a field of Berseem Clover I mowed for hay a couple of days ago. Then the show began! A murmuration of birds was feeding in the field. Hundreds of them flying together in what looked like controlled chaos; or maybe it looked more like synchronized swimming. A murmuration, or bird dance, is basically an aerial ballet with hundreds or even thousands of black birds, starlings, grackles, cowbirds, or red-winged blackbirds flying together as if they had one mind or a choreographer conducting their every move. This eye-catching display reminded me of a computer generated effect from the movies. It was spectacular! I was spellbound by the murmuration’s twisting, swirling, morphing, shape-shifting animation.

While it is not known for sure why the murmuration happens, it is thought by ornithologists that the birds do the choreographed dance to avoid and confuse predators, like the owl I had heard earlier. Some also believe the murmurations are done as a cooperative effort for finding food. George F. Young studied starling murmurations and he described this synchronized aerobatic show as, “…remarkable ability to maintain cohesion as a group in highly uncertain environments and with limited, noisy information” (Young, Scardovi, Cavagna, Giardina, & Leonard, 2013). Basically, the research team found that the birds have the ability to manage uncertainty while maintaining consensus. To do this, each bird attends to seven others. By only attending and working with seven other birds, there are many dynamic parts that make up the entire group that then performs the murmuration.

So, what can leaders learn from these dazzling and beautiful illustrations of complex adaptive systems? In the context of this mixed flock of birds, the leadership is distributed, it is inclusive, and there must be effective, ongoing, and multi-directional communication. In other words, every bird needs to be a leader and follower. Because the birds, as the research found, are only tending to seven others, leadership is distributed for all. The prompt for a new direction (flight pattern) can come from anywhere. Just like in our organizations, leadership should be able to come from anywhere. This allows for quick real-time change in a complex adaptive system.

Think if our organizations were set up like a murmuration; anyone could discover and share good information. Then, seven others would be paying attention, so needed shifts could happen efficiently and effectively. Now, this culture is not without risk; distrust, the rumor mill, gossip, and false information could turn the murmuration into a crash site. Think about the trust that Blue Angel and Thunderbird pilots put in each other.

There is so much to learn from the striking murmuration display:

  1. We need to lead and follow at the same time
  2. There is no single leader
  3. There must be shared leadership
  4. There must be trust built so that every individual trusts each other implicitly, and are prepared to move in response to each other
  5. Sharing information must become a pervasive instinct

Watching a murmuration as the birds swoop, dive, and wheel through the sky is one of the greatest performances to watch in nature’s theater. While we not ever be able to reach the perfect synchrony of the birds, if we will but follow the principles that make the aerobatics possible we can become effective complex adaptive systems. Remember, everyone is a leader and everyone is a follower.

Leaders Crashing & Flying Higher

IMG_9434So what traits do great leaders have? That’s such a loaded question – different great leaders demonstrate different traits. If you ask a group of teacher leaders to select the top traits they think are important in a leader, you’ll find as many answers as you have teacher leaders. No one has ever been able to come up with a definitive list of leadership traits that everyone – or even a majority of people contemplating leadership – agrees on. This doesn’t stop me from trying however. During our August 3D Leadership gatherings I always do a discussion/activity called “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher.” This involves an activity where participants fly paper airplanes to each other with good leadership traits on the left wing and bad leadership traits on the right wing. They then keep adding to the lists as we fly the planes. This is really fun virtually on Zoom. Yes, you can fly paper airplanes virtually! Ultimately, their task is to develop a top five good leadership trait list and a top five bad leadership trait list,

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.10 AMThe exercise enables a great discussion and thought provoking debate. What we find is that each person’s list of good and bad traits is heavily dependent on her or his experience with different leaders. I get to do this activity 9 or 10 groups per year and every group’s lists are always at least a little different, but many times are very different. Things like who is leading the school, turnover of leaders, style of leadership of leaders, culture of the school, et cetera. This activity somewhat reinforces the idea that the trait theory of leadership is not the end all be all. “The trait theory of leadership focuses on identifying different personality traits and characteristics that are linked to successful leadership across a variety of situations. This line of research emerged as one of the earliest types of investigations into the nature of effective leadership and is tied to the “great man” theory of leadership first proposed by Thomas Carlyle in the mid-1800s. The idea with trait theory is that if you can identify the personality traits or characteristics a great leader has, you can look for those same traits in other leaders, or even develop those traits in people who want to be leaders.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 9.29.48 AMThe differences that I see when doing the “Good Leader/Bad Leader: Crashing & Flying Higher” activity suggest that this may due to situational variables in which different leadership skills emerge when opportunities for leadership arise. These situations might include turnaround work, poor leaders in place, war, a political crisis, or in the absence of leadership. As a believer that everyone in an organization is leader, I believe that there must be adaptive leadership for many situations.

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 7.20.28 PMI just finished reading Robert Gates’ great new book, Exercise of Power: American Failures, Successes, and a New Path Forward in the Post-Cold War World. Having served for eight Presidents of the United States, he certainly saw different leadership styles and traits. He explained that most want to put Presidents into ascribing to idealism, realism, or transactional. As he stated, great leaders must be all three. He gives examples of Presidents being all three. In other words, to be effective, leaders must be able to adapt. When I reflect on the top five “good leader” traits that our 3D Leadership group from Tennessee came up with this past Saturday, I believe they are traits that would serve all leaders well. Here is there top five list:

  1. Listening to understand
  2. Authentic
  3. Being consistent
  4. Straight forward
  5. Relationship builder

Here of the top five “bad leader” traits causing leaders to crash, from our Tennessee teacher leaders if you are interested:

  1. Insecure
  2. Belittling
  3. Negative
  4. Leads by intimidation
  5. Doesn’t walk the talk

 

Adaptive Leadership – Great Blue Heron Style

It’s a great morning when I can enjoy wildlife on the way to the barn. There was a Great Blue Heron out in one of our freshly mowed hay fields this morning. The background for this tall, majestic, and shaggy feathered bird this morning was a corn field (see the photo I took, featured in this post). At first I thought, “Wow that corn is really tall for the 3rd of July.” The old saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” is very outdated. As you can see from the picture, we are way past that. Think about it; if Blue Herons are 53-55 inches tall, the corn in the background is well past that. Ok, back to the point; it’s just hard for the farm kid not to talk corn.

Anyway, I have always been fascinated with these great creatures. They are amazing to watch, particularly when they are hunting rodents in a hay field. These great birds with long yellow legs can stand like statues for what seems like forever while stalking prey by site. And, when prey comes by, they don’t miss. I have blogged about these beautiful birds that have wing spans of over seven feet. Click here to read “Blue Heron Leadership.”

Now, as we begin day 115 of the the COVID-19 Pandemic, I think about how we have had to really practice adaptive leadership. Great Blue Herons can occupy a variety of habitats in freshwater and marine coastal ecosystems: lakes, ponds, rivers, flooded farmlands and meadows, irrigation ditches, and wetlands. Think about all these different habitats and the adapting that must be done. These birds are able to forage successfully on a variety of aquatic and dry land environments. They also have a very diverse and extensive menu of prey. Actually, an adaptation of the sixth cervical vertebrae allows the bird to draw it’s neck into the characteristic “S” shape and then strike with lightning speed and killing force.

Each day presents new or recurring leadership challenges. Therefore, we must learn from and draw on the wisdom of prior experiences while learning, in real time, lessons from today. In order to adaptive with the agility necessary, we must be situationally aware and asking the right questions, not just devising answers. During times like these the process of sound adaptive leadership can get lost. A preoccupation with events may lead to a short-term focus and a reactive posture. To truly adapt, we must take the long-view and adopt a broader perspective incorporating data, information, and knowledge. This will allow for the cultivation of wisdom.

Wisdom can only be gained though experience. Wisdom is about understanding and being able to adapt. Understanding is fluid. Wisdom is knowledge that is not seen as being applied rigidly to one thing. By adapting, we understand knowledge’s essence and can see how it relates to everything else, with nuances and contradictions included. Wisdom inspires adaptable versatility and provides textured lenses for dealing with reality.

Day 💯 – Getting To Know People In A Different Way

Well, here we are; day 💯 of the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. During this time of discovering a new normal, I feel more connected than ever before. I have met the children, spouses, pets, and even a grandmother of people I never would have thought possible. I’ve even introduced some of our Jersey dairy cows to others while connecting virtually. Additionally, I’ve witnessed parents attending school events virtually, while at work, that never would have been able to attend before. My point? There are things that we need to consider becoming normal. I’m not saying replace necessarily, but supplement.

Having said that, I now begin to think about what else do we need to be thinking about? How do we leverage technology? How do we stay human? How do we get the right tools in the hands of everyone? How do we decide what the right tools are?

It’s interesting to me that before the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) named this a Global Pandemic we were talking about sustainability and the environment, health care, education, and many other things. While in the education realm we have been focused on connectivity and providing meaningful virtual education, and in healthcare our actions have been around caring for Coronavirus patients and stopping the spread of the disease, we will get back to talking about the major issues in the way we were before the pandemic took over. For example, we will, no doubt, be rethinking health care and how it is delivered. In education, I continue to argue that our conversation needs to shift to the idea that school is no longer a place.

Even though I served as moderator for an awesome global event last month that was virtual with 47 countries represented, I also wonder if our assumptions about globalization have been challenged. We had been talking about distance no longer being a factor, but in some ways I’ve seen us become more isolationist and seeing us care more about the locality we operate in and what we can touch and feel. But, we’ve also seen that we can hire the best talent from anywhere and bring them onto teams. The only remaining question related to that is how to do remote working well.

I don’t think I am alone with all of this thinking and pondering. We are now entering a time of needing to decide which practices still make sense and which need to change. We need to come together as families, businesses, schools, communities, cities, states, and nations to answer the question, “What can we create together?”

“Life Isn’t Fair, But You Can Be”

We need to develop dexterity when dealing with others and leading. One uniform way of doing things will not work in all contexts. We all have micro-behaviors we can use to be agile according to situation at hand. We have seen this first hand from many leaders during the COVID-19 Pandemic. During this time we have become, in some ways, more atomized and insular.

The is a great line by Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, to his granddaughter, Nicky Reagan-Boyle (played by Sami Gayle), in the television series Blue Bloods where he says, “Life isn’t fair, but you can be.” It’s true, life is not fair. Life happens in the context of others. Our actions affect others and their actions affect us. However, the actions of others are not some cosmic judgement on your being. They’re just a byproduct of being alive.

As I stated earlier, there just isn’t a uniform style of leading or dealing with others that works for everyone, every situation, or every relationship all the time. When dealing with people, we must remember that most are just trying to do their best, under different circumstances than your own.

Therefore, we, ourselves, can be fair. But, the idea of life being fair isn’t obtainable. Nor would we want it to be. Life would be insane if it actually was fair to everyone. There would be no choosing of anything. There would be no failure to understand success. It’s actually mind-boggling to think about. Many times we get too hung up on our view of how the world should work that we can’t understand how it actually does work. Embrace that life is not fair, but that you absolutely can be.

66 Days To A New Habit

First of all it is important to note that as I write this post we are in Day 66 of the COVID-19 global pandemic. I blogged about the day, March 11th, that I am considering our first day of these uncharted times in The Day We Started Down The Path With No Footprints. The other night in one of our 3D Leadership gatherings I had the participants make their own Flat Stanley or Flat Sarah that represented who they had become since March 11th when the WHO (I thought that was a rock band) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. O.k., the WHO is the World Health Organization.

Participants could either make the their Flat Stanley or Sarah using materials in their homes or using an online resource we gave them. The group did a great job with these and they were very creative. I found it interesting that many of the participants discussed how they had picked up, developed new, or restarted old habits. One participant said, “It takes a month to build a new habit.” She was referring to now doing a better job of exercising. Of course, I had to check and see if there was any research that backed this claim of taking a month to develop a new habit up.

Here’s what I found: Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London, did a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. So, what was concluded from the study? On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. But, as was stated, 66 days was the average. Thus, why I chose today to write this post. We are exactly 66 days into this pandemic.

So, why is the length of time it takes to form a habit important? During these challenging times, everyone in the world has been forced to change their routines, be creative, try new ideas, learn new ways of doing things, slow down focus on some of the most important things (in education-the most important content), and connect with people and in the case of education, students, in effective ways we never thought possible. The abrupt shift to remote instruction changed many aspects of our lives. In my case I continue to say I have grown in great and unimaginable ways during this time. In education, I continue to say that we have grown in the aspect of school no longer being a place.

Let me be clear; I realize there are those, and maybe even me still, that the crisis will be catastrophic. This post is not intended to minimize the seriousness of the consequences many people face, or may be facing. I believe that many of us have grown in our ability to be o.k. with feeling bad or being comfortable with uncertainty. Personally, I continue to see this crisis as a challenge to overcome and a conduit for personal growth. The 3D Leadership participant who talked about it having been a good time to use the month to develop new and better habits, I believe, had in mind that we can see the loss of our, pre-pandemic and regular life as a chance to focus on other aspects of your life that have been neglected because we’ve been too busy to address them. We have also identified areas we want to work on or improve in our lives and focus on developing those areas. We need to all use this break from “normal life” to seek balance in our life and pursue aspects of our lives that we did not have time for before the crisis.

We need to use our responses to the crisis as an opportunity to learn and grown and become more positive, adaptable, and resilient which will, no doubt, serve us well when the current crisis passes. We can all create new structures and routines in our lives around school, work, daily activities, and social life. Finally, and most importantly, we can take action. Keep in mind, we’ve already had the 66 average days it takes to make a new habit become automatic. Are you happy with your new habits?

Whether It’s Spinning Plates or Juggling Balls, We Can’t Afford To Drop Either For Our Kids!

IMG_8488Remember, This Is a Marathon: We Want You To Still Be In The Race At The End Accept, Acknowledge, Ask, Adjunct Teaching, Advice

We need to take time to reflect on what it means to truly form a partnership between schools, teachers, and parents and consider how we can shift our practices in ways that will extend well beyond this crisis. I had the tremendous opportunity and honor to be a part of an event hosted by Kevin Eikenberry of The Kevin Eikenberry Group this past week. It was titled ‘Juggling Balls You Can’t Drop: How To Be Successful Parent, Employee, Teacher (And Spouse) Without Going Crazy. Kevin had asked me if this was an important and timely topic, and I very quickly responded with, “Absolutely!” Then it became important to pick a great teacher to be a part of the project that was doing an awesome job of supporting parents and students. Kevin left that job to me and I could not be prouder of who I picked. I had worked with Katty Pacheco, 2nd grade teacher at Renaissance Charter School at Boggy Creek in Florida, before on webinars for teachers and knew enough about the support she is providing parents right now in this time of remote learning to know she would be a great choice. And…she certainly proved me right. The parents on the Live With Kevin event really appreciated her comments and advice. It was such a great event. If you missed it, here is the link to watch the event and see materials provided from the event: Juggling Balls You Can’t Drop: How to be Successful Parent, Employee, Teacher (and Spouse) Without Going Crazy.

Juggling Balls You Cant Drop Sq-01I decided to do this post to share not only the link about, but to share out the thoughts I have developed prepping for the event. I’m coming up on a month of working from home and as long for many of the schools I work with being transitioned to remote learning. During these unprecedented times we all are doing the very best we can. I had the opportunity to present to the SMART Factory League global event last week too, and I will be posting my thoughts on things we need to be thinking about moving forward. One thing we need to keep in mind is what my friend and great author, Nora Bateson, said in Small Arcs of Larger Circles: Framing Through Other Patterns: “No one is qualified to talk about uncertainty. You cannot get a degree in it yet, to the best of my knowledge” (location 437/3376, Kindle Ed.). While learning virtually has incredible potential, the very piecemeal efforts are not a very good substitute for real classrooms, in most cases. The school closures across the country have real consequences for our students academically.

Schools are the cornerstones of most communities and play a role that goes far beyond academics. Our schools support the nutritional, social and emotional well-being, and other health considerations of our children. This situation has many parents overburdened trying to support their child’s education the best they can. There will be gaps in education and students behind as a result of this COVID-19 Pandemic, but we must work to learn from this experience and be ready when the call comes to re-enter our schools. All of our focus cannot just be on making sure every student has internet access, even though that is an important consideration.

Accept that you are our students’ most consistent teachers, and right now you are their only in-person teachers.

  • Remember to differentiate, just like your child’s teacher would. Students who tend to be independent self-starters will thrive in a more unstructured environment. Without “wasting” time on commuting to school and having recess or dead time between class periods, they will likely become increasingly productive. Other children may require more guidance and outside motivators to continue to thrive academically.

Don’t change everything that you are doing (bring old routines to your new normal)

  • Acknowledge that being a working parent from home is the most challenging
  • Do not reinvent your schedule (at least to the extent you don’t have to)
  • Create a daily and weekly calendar (include daily routines)
  • Set boundaries and even assign roles for everyone
    • This can include assigning childcare and “adjunct teaching” time for family members
  • Schedule breaks in and some time for unstructured fun
  • Virtual play-dates for kids and adults
    • As an adult have something to look forward to at the end of the day (eg. Virtual happy hour, cooking the evening meal, family movie night, go for a drive or walk)
  • Zoom (or whatever platform is being used) lunch for the kids. Suggest to your child’s teacher that students have a set lunch time and all the students sit down and eat with their cameras and mics open.

Don’t be afraid to ask

  • We need to lean on our village now, more that ever (eg. Parents, kids, teachers, community members)
  • Ask your teachers for resources, ask your teachers for a weekly schedule, ask your teachers for help
  • Ask your teachers for a weekly “office hours” for parents to explain what will be happening that week or the next week and anything parents need to know to be successful adjunct teachers.

 Your kids will give you good advice

  • This is a chance to give kids a chance to be leaders of their own learning
  • Ask what resources they like best
  • Let your children be a part of developing the daily and weekly schedule
  • Give your students agency and choice

Accept that things are not going to run 100% smoothly and we are not all going to be our 100% productive selves.

unnamedByron’s Book Recommendation:

The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who Our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

 

Resources:

Noble Education Initiative Learning Hub:https://www.nobleeducationinitiative.com/services/learning-hub

The Smithsonian Institution: https://www.si.edu/collections & https://www.si.edu/openaccess &

https://airandspace.si.edu/anywhere

Time For Kids: https://time.com/tfk-free/

Khan Academies Kids:https://learn.khanacademy.org/khan-academy-kids/

Easter Isn’t Canceled

Baseball was not canceled during the Pandemic of 1918-1920

Today, I chronicle thoughts, here in my blog, on a new page in the book that is the story of my life. I have been doing some personal growth studying, with the help of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum, on the pandemic of 1918-1920. My motivation this morning is that I am always moved by the personal stories written by people experiencing an event first hand. The most interesting and compelling speak of what was happening, the mood of the country and those around them, and what he or she was feeling at the time. I’m going to attempt a little of that this morning. I also believe if we are not using this as an opportunity for our children and students to write an account of something that will be undoubtedly written about in textbooks, or whatever our kids’ grandchildren will be using, we have missed a chance to process and save the realness of our experiences real-time.

Queen Elizabeth II shared a video message yesterday that was quite moving. Click here to watch it. The genius of her message was how different parts of the message have and will inspire different people in different ways. For me it was when she said, “But Easter isn’t canceled; indeed, we need Easter as much as ever.” No doubt things will be different today for most of us. But, Easter isn’t canceled, and different doesn’t have to mean bad.

One of my fondest memories growing up was of our Easter morning Easter egg hunt. We’d get up and go find the eggs hidden all over our very large yard that included barn lots. Interestingly, the one thing that I remember most vividly is the blue egg, and it was always a blue egg, put on top of an electric box on the back side of the house. I need to point out that these were real boiled eggs, usually a few duck eggs mixed in because we raised ducks, and my mom and sister colored them – I wasn’t much into coloring Easter eggs (that involved being inside and standing still – some things don’t change with age). My dad was so proud of that hiding spot on the electric box (not sure why). That became a special spot, however, because the first Easter we lived in that house my dad, after I spotted and claimed the egg, had to lift me up to get the egg. The next year I could reach it and every year after that that egg was mine, and my dad would always laugh and say, “You need me to help you get that one?” I’d say, “No!” We’d make eye contact and now having a son of my own I think I know what was going through his mind.

Easter isn’t canceled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic and my son will have an Easter basket (yes even at age 19) this morning. We will go to church via Zoom and then have the traditional Easter brunch of “One Eyed Connelly’s (that is the family name for a piece of toasted bread with a hole cut in the center and an egg cooked in that hole), sausage links, and cinnamon rolls. I’m sure there will be Easter egg hunts with the nieces and nephews to be joined virtually on some electronic platform or another. And, how cool is it we have those platforms? We are connecting more, socially, than ever before. Physical distancing (as I am calling it because I hate the term social distancing) is not keeping us from socializing.

I went to my first virtual Happy Hour last week – very fun. Also, I popped into a teacher’s lunch bunch. She has all her students get their lunch and they all log into Zoom and eat together. Students get social time with their fellow students and teacher. Everyone turned their mic on and it sounded just like a traditional school lunchroom. I hope we use our pandemic experiences to get education in our country to a place where we could say, “School isn’t canceled.” I realize that is a tall order, but we need to contemplate what that would mean. We need to think about the fact school is no longer a place. We need to think about the why behind professional working parents being so frustrated with being adjunct teachers now. Continuing to educate, which I believe we need to be doing, cannot be about providing busy work and crappy worksheets. It needs to be about great content, accessible by all, and delivered in a way the student can easily access. Now becomes the time to decide what education will look like during the next pandemic, other crises, or just moving us into the next decade.

Today, however, Easter isn’t canceled. During the pandemic we are distanced, clouded by the threat of disease, but stubbornly persistent. Realizing this is usually a pastel colored and celebratory day, this might just be a season of clarity about what it means to be a person of faith.