Drugs Are Illegal. Reform’s Scary. Coffee Fixes the World.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 4.45.17 PMI want to have coffee with a friend. We struggle to squeeze it in.

“How about two Fridays from now?” Why can’t we get our calendars to stop fighting so we can drink coffee? Eventually, one calendar wins. Coffee arrives.

What starts as coffee with a good friend ends as vision. Always does. Soon, note pads, pens, Macs, iPhones and iPads clutter the table, pushing our freakishly healthy foods aside.

Usually when two or more teachers are in the room, venting begins. Bitching even. Everyone opens the valve a little. My husband doesn’t understand this. He wonders why teachers bitch. He hates it. He won’t go to “teacher things.”

“It’s not bitching,” I explain, “It’s ‘looking for solutions.'” Sure, there are People Who Bitch. They’re the ones speaking negatively about others–students, colleagues, and leadership. When good teachers gather, it’s not bitching. It’s seeking answers for real problems. When the fixes are out of reach, there’s frustration. Especially when frustration takes good people down.

“I’ll never go back into the classroom,” I hear it more and more. “I can’t do all this testing and stuff.” People go into leadership, guidance, or whatever because, they say, they’re “done with the classroom.” Others–good people–jump into those roles to save the world, finding windmills to fight on that side of the fence, too.

“This isn’t for me. I’m no good. Didn’t realize it would be this way–I wanted to change lives, not tabulate test scores.” That was roughly the quote I got from someone leaving the profession–literally, box in hand. Midyear.

Good teachers fear tests and evals. Sure, accountability’s in every profession. Can we do it better though? I heard Steve Blank talk at last year’s Business Innovation Factory conference. “Fire the idea, not the person,” he said.

Steve Blank is a pretty smart guy. As one of Forbes Magazine’s “30 Most Influential People in Tech,” he’s not only written textbooks on how startups should be created and grown, he even changed the way the National Science Foundation spends money to align with the systems of successful entrepreneurs–systems he invented.

Anyone who changes the way government spends money has the ear of this lowly teacher.

His thoughts were simple. Sometimes you need to fire the idea, not the person, he said. Run the numbers without blame. Then fix the problems.

Getting rid of judgment helps people be objective and take risks. Risks produce results. Taking risks in education can get a person low scores, though, so there’s fear.

Fear about things real or imagined shuts good people down.

Fear does not produce vision.

Fear is conquered by vision.

Vision, luckily, is found in a cup of coffee with a friend. It pours out our hearts into the vortices swirling throughout the mugs into reality. All the little things mixing and colliding in the swirls…that’s the vision. Every sip, gulp, cup waiting for a sip–vision. Leaving the cup on the counter to go cold is missing the possibilities–so easy to do when rushing around. Steam goes uncaptured into the universe. Vision lost.

But sitting with my friend, vision pushes aside inconsequential girl talk. It says things like, “Sounds like you might consider,” and “That happens to me. I’ve tried…” or “I notice you write a lot about this, but I’d really like to read it if you wrote this…” or “I’d buy that idea…”

Every single time I meet Vision Friend, I leave with a dozen working plans. On a good day, I have pages of notes. On a crazy day, we’ve got blogs, businesses, books, and concepts racing around the room trying to get to the finish line first so we might convert them to reality.

Vision conquers fear. And accountability defeats complacency. Inaction. Inertia. This is why vision needs company. It needs someone to say, “Hey, you told me you were going to….how’s that going?”

Otherwise, we’re tempted to “forget” we promised to do something, and vision dies. Vision often requires courage, support, and the swirly things in a cup of coffee to produce results. Follow-through. Reality.

I know vision’s in the room when my heart leaps just a bit and the notepad comes out. The more I surround myself with friends who make my heart leap just a bit and pages fill on notepad, the better I become. I want to be better. And I want to make other people feel that they are better for having known me.

It’s a simple goal. One I hope I can meet. I think I can, if I have just one more cup of coffee…with my good friend.

Notes: 

My “vision” friend, Alicia, blogs here: WriteSolutions under the tag “Student Learning Is No Accident.”

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For a Bad Time, Invite Me

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 6.35.40 AMThey call it “The Curse.” Kids started begging me not to attend their games. Me! Their one fan. We didn’t get a lot of fans in those days because we’re regional and we didn’t win.

“Casey! You’re cursed. Don’t come, it’s a big game.” I began to test “The Curse” with baseball games. I’d pass by. Dropped ball. I’d stay home. Victory. I’d hide behind a tree. Triple play–other team. I’d stay away, home runs.

The Curse applied to basketball, too. Ever the skeptic, I tested it again. Sure enough, if I went, more turnovers than an Italian bakery. I collected more and more data–as anyone in education knows, the more data the better. Sadly, my scientific study proved The Curse real.

Little did I know The Curse extends to other things, like trips and events. Invite me–your event will be canceled, postponed or a disaster. The Curse controls weather, too. Hurricanes and snowstorms may seem like acts of God, but if I’m on your roster, they’re not. They’re The Curse. One event figured this out and said, “Sorry, stay home.” They’re lucky they caught it in time. Their event was global. If I’d gone for real, world peace would’ve been off the table for good.

Today I was supposed to participate in an awesome event, so the National Weather Service predicted several feet of snow in a radius of 1000 yards around my car. The event’s 35 minutes from me if I speed and seven days away if every Rhode Islander suddenly gets their bread, milk, and Dunkin Donuts coffee in the storm. Rhode Islanders can’t drive on a good day, let alone snow.

The event is called Choose2Matter. The point is this: Kids think school sucks. School sucks because it “doesn’t matter.” I surveyed about 50 of my students both before and after listening to parts of Seth Godin’s and Sir Ken Robinson’s TEDx. Exactly two told me “School’s awesome. Especially this class.” My future Yes Men. The rest wanted something more from their education. They wanted “it to connect–to matter.” They cited “Genius Hour” as the thing that “made it real.” Genius Hour’s based on Google’s concept that downtime makes for productive ideas. Creativity generates value. Employees get 20% of their time to work on whatever they want–provided it could potentially benefit Google. Gmail was created this way.

Good idea! I squashed five days of work into four and cleared the slate on Fridays. They’re actually doing 20% more work–not Google’s intent. But heck, I’m in education. I can bastardize anything I want as long as I mix in some math.

Kids love it. Much more than I thought. They work outside of class. “We can use this in real life!” Kids doing extra work? For no additional credit? Hmmm… Could be onto something here.

“Hey, Kid! Why wait four years before you make your ideas real?” Showing students they have the power to convert knowledge to action–that’s magic.

School matters when we make it matter. Choose2Matter asks this, “What breaks your heart?” Kids solve those problems. When kids matter, they’ll change the world.

Turns out, adults will, too. We want to feel we’re not replaceable cogs, easily retrofit with the next guy down the road. When we matter, we transform things, too.

“There aren’t many history jobs out there these days…You’re lucky to have one,” someone said to me.

I should’ve replied, “You’re wrong. There’s only one of me out there these days…They’re lucky to have me.” Maybe if I’d said stuff like that earlier in life, I could have converted “The Curse” into “Magic.”

That’s what I want for my kids.

Still, there’s no denying the weather. The event’s postponed. I’ll be teaching tomorrow, so I can’t go. I’m disappointed. Anytime kids stay up praying there won’t be a snow day, a snow day’s a sad thing. Don’t worry, guys, you still matter. You’ll matter tomorrow, the show must go on.

Here’s the secret–you’ll matter for the rest of your life, too. Maybe a little snow makes everyone all the more determined to make a difference when the work starts tomorrow? Maybe it’s not a curse after all.

Maybe–just maybe–it’s the start of magic.

 

[image: digitaltrends.com]

Why This Teacher Hates Gum

Gum is evil.

It’s something I didn’t understand in my younger days. Now I do. I used to think gum was good. When kids’ mouths are closed, I teach, kids listen. I used to use Jolly Ranchers for this. I’d give loud kids two Jolly Ranchers each. I wasn’t rewarding students for misbehavior. I was punishing them.

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 6.15.05 AMIt’s science. When a person chews a Jolly Rancher, the mouth fuses shut. There are two choices–fight it and lose teeth, or go with it, enjoy. Then wait twenty minutes or so until it releases its death hold. It’s almost like meditation training. Forced quiet. I was a new teacher. When you’re new, you use what you got. It was a good strategy–using the principles of adhesion to get kids to listen. Does that count as integrating curricula?

Fast forward to present time.

One student offered me gum. I politely refused, telling her I don’t chew gum.

“I don’t see the point in it,” I said. She looked mystified.

“Candy, yes. Good chocolate, absolutely. But gum gets chewed twice and tastes like an eraser. Why do all that work for nothing?” I recently saw an article correlating teen gum chewing with migraines, too.

In principle, gum’s cool. In reality, it’s nefarious. Why do kids put it under desks? They’re only going to stick to it later. They can’t remember to pull up their pants or bring their homework–how will they remember where they stuck their gum? Maybe there’s someone from Wrigley’s out there who can invent gum that doesn’t stick? A gum version of a Post-It note.

Once I had a vandal scrape gum. She flicked dirt near her eye. Then everyone was scared about kids poking eyes out cleaning messes they made on purpose, so now we have to make them say sorry instead. The gum remains.

It’s the middle of class. I’m explaining something. A kid stands up.

“May I help you? I’m about to impart the meaning of life here.” I’ve lost my thoughts.

“Just throwing out gum.” He saunters in front of me to the can farthest away. This gum, which has been flavorless for two class periods, cannot wait another moment.

It’s a teachable moment.

“Picture a business meeting.” I say, waving my hand across the imaginary board room. “My boss is giving a presentation. I stand up. I walk in front of him, sagging my pants. I nod. The Board of Directors look on…”

You sagging, Miss?” someone says. It’s an image that once imagined cannot be unseen.

I explain etiquette. Walk on the outside, don’t disturb, when eating or gum chewing at a meeting, be polite. Don’t crunch, munch and chew. If you have trash to toss, do it at a break in the activity, not while The Boss is speaking. Etiquette’s important. Conference etiquette. Meeting etiquette. Arriving late etiquette–there’s a finesse. We don’t teach it enough in schools. Maybe I should be grateful to gum for the opportunity to teach higher-level skills.

Classes ban food, drinks, and gum rather than teaching what to do with them in high society. I want my students to behave properly at fancy functions. “Gum” and “food” aren’t in the curriculum but food is a central focus of business. Employees are hired over lunch, companies built over coffee, investments solidified over cocktails or tapas. No one sticks gum under the table while talking with an investor.

But that’s not really why I hate gum. I hate gum is because Declan discovered it.

“Mommy, can I have gum?” At first, it was cute. A six-year old walking around chomping like a cow. Every once in a while, he’d spit a piece across the room like he was shooting a cannon. “I’m blowing bubbles.”

Next, he’d play with the gum, taking it out of his mouth, looking at it, wrapping it around his finger. What followed, naturally, was gum on things. Gum on shirts, furniture, toys. Gum strings, gum residue. Gum slime trails that looked like little slugs walked across my counter. Gum sculptures. “I made a dinosaur.” The germy “I’m saving this gum for tomorrow. I’m going to chew a world record of gum.” He chewed that piece for days, placing sticking it on stuff while he ate, drank, and slept.

The last straw was gum on my computer. Understandable. With iPads, phones, and tablets around, who’d know the iMac wasn’t touch screen? It’s the digital generation. I explained.

“Oh, I know that, Mommy.” What six-year old can’t program a computer these days?  I was talking down to him. “I wasn’t touching it. I put gum on it. I made a picture. It’s nice.”

There will be no more gum. I’ll ban it like Singapore.

I banished him from my computer for willful destruction of parental property.

“No more computer? Don’t you want me to learn?”

“Yes. I want you to learn. That’s why I’m giving you this paper. It’s what Mommy had when she was little.” Meanwhile, I used the computer to learn “How to remove gum from computers.”

Gum–a tool for learning. An instrument of utter destruction. It’s here to stay. The best I can do today is hope not to step in it.

The gum, I mean.

 

[images: jamiewasserman.blogspot.com]

I’m Not Looking for The Yes Man

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 6.01.58 AM“Tell me how you liked the book.” We sat in the professor’s parlor–about ten or twelve of us, a small history cohort. The professor was an old-style academic from the Midwest, who had completed his masters’ degree at the university where I’d been an undergraduate. He held class in his parlor, like Socrates would have done. With coffee, not hemlock.

“Well, I thought the insight he showed into the presidents was very intriguing,” said one student. He went on to outline the amazing revelations he received from the book in unabridged detail. I was confused. Did he accidentally read the Bible?

“It was good,” said another. “I thought last week’s was better, but I enjoyed it.” No further details.

We went around the circle, a few saying little or even passing on their turn, a solid handful giving adulations. Others shifting in their seats.

“And what about you, Dawn?” I hesitated. I had a very different experience with this book.

 

“Um,” I looked around the room. Half a dozen pens and notebooks were at the ready, as they tended to be in graduate school before we had laptops and iPads. “I thought this was the worst book I’ve ever read.”

Silence.

“Go on,” the professor said, his face without emotion. It was too late to put the top back on the can of worms. I continued.

“Well,” I said, “The author doesn’t seem to have any academic credentials in this field–I researched him–but that’s not my issue. I might’ve still enjoyed it.” I looked around the room. The one kid seemed ready to revolt. To throw tomatoes. I looked for tomatoes in his hands. Relief–just a pen. And a notebook. With angry notes.

I bent down and extrapolated the offending manuscript from my bag.

“Look,” I said leafing through the circled text and notes in the margin. “Spelling errors. Editing errors, and I’m not sure this event,” I opened to the page, “ever happened,” noting one historical event in question.

“Also, what’s his thesis?  I couldn’t find it….he spoke in vague terms. I couldn’t nail it down. My mind drifted. Sorry. I just didn’t like this book.” I listed a couple of others I did like, historians that gave me deep insights into the dead presidents.

Silence. Pause.

“Congratulations. You got the answer!” he exclaimed. “THIS…is a good example of a really bad book.” The professor excoriated the book for us all. “Sometimes you need to look at the worst of the worst to appreciate the best.” We’d just learned a lesson as historians.

It’s true for life as well.

 

I do this to my students. I give them a passage, video, or assignment that requires they examine something that stinks worse than a grocery bag of meat forgotten in the trunk of a car in July. I let them debate, argue, and kiss up. Then, I lay on the truth. Sometimes, a kid stands up for his or her belief in the face of everyone else “loving” the passage to seek my approval. That’s the kid who’s going to get through the system and be great.

You see, it’s not about a bunch of minions reading my assignments, and obeying my instructions. It’s about developing keen minds and confidence where students research, connect the dots, and refuse to be the yes man. And can back it up. These are the students who will innovate and iterate the solutions for the future. If you don’t give them things with flaws to examine, then they don’t see anything that needs to be interpreted or fixed.

“A good example of a bad book.”

That was one of the most valuable lessons I learned in school.

Ever.

 

 

[image:  nibiryukov.narod.ru]

Don’t Sell Jesus in a Soup Kitchen

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 7.47.12 AMMy parents worked for the church. Dad left banking and my parents started soup kitchens, writing grants, working with people, and trying to solve problems for those society left behind.  We moved. Since I couldn’t stay behind on my own, I went with my parents to a small mill town in Connecticut. I helped do the work of the Lord as best a seven-year old can.

I attended parochial school in the small village. The school had thirty-five people per grade. I was the new girl. One of the ways the school kept the door open was by selling things. Everything. If it wasn’t nailed down, we sold it. We sold wrapping paper. We sold cards. We sold enough candy to bring the down wrath of Jamie Oliver on the entire region and make insulin manufacturers smile. We sold Jesus stamps. We had raffles and events. I’m pretty shocked we didn’t have poker tournaments and shoot craps. God likes poker tournaments and craps. They raise a lot of money. Any money funnelled into the church makes God happy. They say God was particularly upset about the construction of casinos in Eastern Connecticut because they were competition for the church bingo empire.

But my parents were starting soup kitchens, working with those down on their luck. They were working with the types of people who didn’t buy Jesus stamps.

Every fundraiser, I’d bring my fliers and try to sell stuff until an adult worker caught me and told me not to worry about selling magazines. I’d ask Angela, who always walked around in curlers, and Ike, who swallowed strychnine so I couldn’t really understand him but he always talked to me so I liked him a lot. I’d ask the lady for whom I wrote letters. Her brother was in prison and she couldn’t write. Turned out she didn’t have a brother. There went a sale. Nobody ever said yes. Not the street people, the mentally ill, the single mother, or the veterans coming into the soup kitchen for simple meal. They didn’t buy Jesus stamps or magazines.

I couldn’t sell anything. Not a magazine, not a chocolate bar, not a sticker with the face of the Lord. Who wouldn’t want the Lord to stick to things? I didn’t understand.

I got in trouble at school.

It seemed everyone did their part to sell for the Lord. Everyone but me. I sold nothing. Every day, the results of the fundraiser would be announced. Jessica always sold the most. Jessica’s parents worked for offices where annoyed colleagues were morally compelled to buy stuff from each others’ kids so they didn’t look cheap. Soup kitchen clients had bigger fish to fry–or maybe they didn’t. It’s why they came to the kitchen.

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 7.51.40 AMThe nuns told me to try harder. I tried harder. The Lord, you know, helps people selling for Jesus if they just have faith.  But he never helped me. I lacked faith.  I got “the look” and I didn’t get any prizes. I didn’t even get the little pom-pom creature with the googly eyes and sticker feet that everyone who sold one thing got. I was the only one who didn’t have a googly-eyed pom-pom. I cried.

Finally, Mom went in and talked to the principal. I never got in trouble again. I got a googly-eyed pom-pom for trying. But I knew, in my heart, I didn’t do my part to help The Lord. In fact, I probably swung the doors to his school shut just a little bit quicker or worse yet, I opened it a crack for the Devil, who could easily influence those who didn’t have Jesus stamps.

From those days forward, I knew I could not sell. I couldn’t market or endure fundraisers. The band sausage and cheese fundraisers in high school stabbed my soul like a knife.  I shook with fear. In the early days of our business, marketing campaigns gave me anxiety attacks. The mere mention of handing out fliers or putting them on cars brought panic, cold sweats, and the fight or flight response. I fought with my husband over this. I shook when cold calling people at my first job. Even though I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt there was no person on the other end of the phone about to reject my Jesus stamps, the negative image of sales and entrepreneurship had been imprinted on my soul.

The truth is, we are all salesmen. Dan Pink proves this in his book “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth about Moving Others.” He proves that we spend most of our time in this new digital economy convincing, marketing, and selling ourselves and our products. Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 7.54.47 AMTalking to people. Building relationships. Showing our awesomeness. Sharing products and things we love. That I could always do. Unless you labeled it “sales.” Sales gets a bad rap. Because of this, we often sell ourselves short as salespeople.

The world is changing. One of my biggest missions as an educator is to teach my students to choose and market themselves, because all the performance in the world does nothing for them if the world doesn’t see them shine. Thankfully, I won’t have to teach them to sell Jesus stamps or sausage and cheese, but to sell themselves. That is their own most precious commodity–and the gift they bring to the universe.

[images: en.wikipedia.org: “The Salesman,” darthphilatelist.blogspot.com, and marblesthebrainstore.com]

How to Walk Your Demons

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 6.15.20 AMEvery creative person has demons. Not just one, mind you. Usually a personal assistant or two with horns and a trident poking him in the keister. It took me a while to notice, but it’s true. I had to travel way outside the ordinary into the depths of the extraordinary, where the visionaries stand and I observe. Only then could I see, that among the greatest of the greats, demons come standard issue. That behind every beautiful book, every zen blog, every brilliant entrepreneur, is a person with a demon he’s working on training–getting that demon to heel, sit, and listen. To obey rather than control. He wishes he could send them away. He can’t. They are necessary.

They’re the ones jumping up and down with the ideas. “The world says you shouldn’t write this–do it!” they’ll say. “Push the button! Push the button! Push the button!” “So what if everyone thinks you’re insane, you just cured cancer…”You can’t solve that problem by doing that! You can’t! You can’t! You can’t!! Try this. It’s so much more controversial…”  They snicker. They goad. They pull at the deepest corners of the mind. They know just what buttons to push.

When they do, they provide the struggle that results in monumental solutions. The best writing. Creativity. Vision. Struggle that produces action no one else would take. Conflict generating great things.

I watch these creative greats at work. I study the results…their podcasts, books and blogs, their platforms, products and companies, when they create windmills that power villages in Africa, or generate amazing solutions, I am speechless. The results speak for themselves. Everything seems perfect, designed by superhumans. Unreachable for the normal person. How can I do any of that?

I turn around. My demon jumps up and down. I have one, too. I tell him to heel. “How can I live up to that?” I say. “How can my book be like that? How can I learn to do that in my business? How can I get my vision to change the world?” Bringing vision, individualization, and creativity to public education instead of fear, testing, and standardization–so that my students love coming to school each day again–it’s no easy task. It’s what I want to do. Those are the voices speaking to me.

Standing beside the greats, looking at the peak of my mountain way…over…there…It seems impossible.

My demon shakes his head. He gets me in trouble when he wanders off the beaten path. I have to find him. I go off the path. People give me the look, “Just do what you’re supposed to do and get the job done. Stop thinking so far outside the box. You’re insane…” In teaching, “Casey, you’re 10th step with a masters. Stop ‘solving’ problems. If they want you to balance on a circus ball, that’s what you do!” He jumps up and down. Bites at my pants leg. Chases a vision and brings it back to me. Drops it at my feet. I pat him on the head. “I’ll try.” I say. “I’ll do my best. I’ll be great.” We continue our walk on the obscure path. There are many paths to the top of the mountain.

My biggest epiphany:  Everyone has demons. Every “successful” person. The most successful stop hiding them. They walk with them. And they act. In hiding demons, I don’t  act. I watch and wait, accomplishing little, too busy worrying, telling demons to heel, missing the big idea.  Acknowledge the demons. Let them off their leash. Just a little bit. Act. That’s when you see results.

Anyone can do it. In any field. Even me.

As I walk on the path, I converse with the others out walking their demons. My demon sniffs out another a mile away. He tugs on the leash and goes over, excited.  The demons circle nose to behind, then they play.  I don’t walk mine often. No matter how much I train him, he always does something embarrassing in public. No one wants to be embarrassed in public.

Some walk theirs daily. They show them off. It seems almost vogue to walk demons these days on a big studded leash. People walk demons who made them sick, who pushed them down, who lost fortunes, who broke their hearts. They walk together. They write books about them, they heel them at their side, and when the demon tugs a bit, they smile and say, “Bad demon. Heel.” and finish the conversation with me.  Mine needs more obedience school.

I’m blessed. I meet a lot of people. Creative people. Visionaries. Entrepreneurs. One by one, I noticed their demons were writing the chapters of their books. Their blogs. Their business plans. Coming up with the ideas. I turn to mine. “Can you write?” He nods, wags, and points. There is a file on my desktop. All written. I never pushed the button.

I’ll keep up the training, and walk them more often so they heel more and poke me in the keister less. They drive my husband nuts. But then again, he has his own as a visionary, too. “Can’t you just think normally?” No. “Why can’t you do that logically?” I am. My logic is…different. “Don’t you have any common sense?” Not today. I just had a vision.

I ask myself. “Would you send them away for the chance to be normal? To think like everyone else?” The answer for me–and for the rest of the people I ask–is always, always a resounding no.

[images: maaretta.wordpress.com]

Stupid Human Tricks

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 7.07.35 AMIt must’ve mattered somehow. I don’t remember the exact reason I needed to leap the old, rickety desk to make my point clear, but leap I did. As I bounded over the crumbling seat, which had seen better days in the 70s, the arm flipped. So did I. I landed in what may have been the most beautiful breakfall since Jackie Chan.

This was entirely unexpected. Not the fall–predictable in Vegas–a highly uncoordinated person leaping not-so-stationary objects? A large armchair quarterback could have called that. The perfect landing–the odds of that in my world, 1000:1.

Historically, I’ve never been able to clear tall buildings and other objects–I tried in high school track. “Casey,” said Coach after I nearly doubled the school’s liability insurance attempting human flight via hurdles and high jump, “YOU WILL stay on the ground!” And stay on the ground I did, physically and metaphorically–for a long, long time.

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 7.14.48 AMNo, falling wasn’t the shock that day. Executing a perfect breakfall–that was the surprise ending. No broken bones or concussion. Practice and preparation kicked in when I needed it. Beautiful. Slapping out, a bit stunned, I got up. “Nothing to see. Move along.”

I earned a solid place in the folklore of that entire crop of students.  Somewhere, there is a Facebook fan page, “Mrs. Casey is a Ninja.” It’s there. Forever.

Often I do stupid things without thinking. Sometimes they pan out marvelously, leading me in new directions, and other times I wake up thinking, “What have I done? How do I undo this?”  When things work out, I see a path, an idea, or inspiration to do more with my life–to avoid fear and stretch my vision, putting vision into action. When they don’t go so well, I reflect, “Hmmm…how did that happen? What did I learn?” There’s a lesson in everything. Good and bad. I try to find it. Often, I try to teach it as well.

I have two weeks left with my seniors. This time of year I’m in the center of the maelstrom cramming in last-minute thoughts about life they’re not really equipped to understand until they gone balls to the wall living. They haven’t lost jobs, been in debt, failed at something, or wondered what the hell happened to the last decade??

In the past, I was desperate to give just one more piece of advice.  Now, I relax–they can find me on social media. I see how they’re doing from time to time. They pop in post-graduation. That’s where the learning begins, because the desire to put the lessons into practice is…real. It matters.

“Wait for it, wait for it….” I can count down to when I get those pings. Questions. “What do I do now?” “What should I…?”  It’s all long after the pomp and circumstance fades.

I take a moment to freeze time. I look around, imagining. I snap a picture of each student in my mind–after graduation, their ghosts walk the hall–I hear their voices. I see them for years to come. I remember where they stood, their spot in the lunch room, the corner where they looked like they were going to bust out some a capella, the daily makeup at the bathroom mirrors, their jokes. Their energy is always there. I look around before they leave, and I see them doing great things. Every one.

Screen Shot 2013-06-02 at 7.10.34 AMExcept this isn’t reality. Some will be dead. Some in jail, some will never get their sea legs solid in the ocean of life. That part, I try to push aside–the curse of a long teaching career. The ones I didn’t get to–the ones I didn’t save. Countless. The girl who wanted to be a vet, the boy holding the single yellow balloon in the snapshot. We were decorating for an event. Smiling. He wouldn’t have many years left to smile.

My stupid human trick, jumping the desk, made me a superhero. His “desk,” put him in the ground. I miss him. I miss them all.

I let the seniors go. Most’ll be back. They’ll tell me what was important, “Miss, I remember when you said…” Not one of them ever says, “Miss, I remember I got an 80 on that test.” They talk about the moments of connection. Things that made it real. That I refused to accept less than–not their best performance, but their absolute best VISION. There’s a difference. That I had a sign on the board that said “What’s YOUR big idea?” and demanded an answer. Some action. A business plan. Movement. Something real. Today–I have a pile of business cards to show for it. Some took their big ideas and converted them. That’s success. Those business cards are gold.

Years later, it matters. They know what I’ve been saying. They’ve done the stupid human tricks. They’ve made and learned from mistakes. And that’s where life begins.

[Quick plug–I’m excited that James Altucher’s book on this subject, “Choose Yourself” is set to release tomorrow, June 3rd…James has been influential to me in helping me convert Stupid Human Tricks not just to vision–vision I have. But to action. And more action. That’s the critical part of the equation. Without action, you might as well stand still. James, I’ll use this in class, probably violating several copyrights in the process when I copy more than a chapter. Don’t worry–I’ll bitcoin you the royalties].

[image: officeprosonline.com and jeaninallhonesty.blogspot.com]