Incredible Shapes Everywhere

I felt compelled to post this for my colleague @mbstruble mbstrubleblog.wordpress.com. She has been collecting the most amazing photos to showcase that math is everywhere on her blog, so here is one more… St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. As an Irish Catholic girl I just could not resist! Look at the beauty in this structure.

Living with an Injured Athlete

All three of my children have played on sports teams since they were little. The risk of injury is always present, but I am well aware that simply playing in the backyard, or riding a bike in the street hold their fair share of potential injuries. At some point, a child who is passionate about their sport and plays with that passion will go down. You stand there on the sidelines watching and waiting, hoping for the best. As a parent it is devastating to watch a child go down on the court or the field, but even more devastating is watching their face when the doctor tells them they will need surgery. Then the final hammer comes…. you cannot return to the sport for 6-9 months, or maybe even not at all. No one prepares you for what to say to make it all better (all you really want to do is make it go away). This has unfortunately been a part of my parenting journey for the last three years, and twice in the last four months. Taking care of a patient after surgery is exhausting, but it is hardly the worst part of the recovery process. In the weeks following an injury and surgery, an athlete can become increasingly depressed about what the future will look like. There is the physical pain to deal with and often that is excruciating. There is sleep deprivation that comes as part of not being able to even find a comfortable position to sleep in. Then there is the loneliness. Life goes on for everyone else. People initially come to visit but then must get back to the routine of their lives and the athlete becomes an observer, often feeling like an outsider in their own life. No parent can fix this for their child. Getting back into the routine of school, while difficult, can be good and often helps some of the feelings of isolation to subside.

Going to physical therapy is a positive. Yes, it is one more thing to add to a busy schedule, but it does provide a way for a young athlete to begin to see what their body can do.(potential for hope here) This can be exciting but all too quickly can make them aware of where they “want to be, and not where they are”. Again, the feelings of depression can set in. I have learned (the hard way) to say less and just be physically present. This is hard for someone like me who likes to fix things. It is also important for the athlete to continue to be a part of their team. I was not a believer on this one at first, but I have come around. This part of the journey is much like the worst roller coaster ride you have ever encountered. They put their uniform on, sit with their team, maybe even keep the stats…. they look fine, and yes kids are resilient. They would not be strong athletes if they had no resilience. But there are many tears of frustration, loneliness, and isolation. Yet again this is not a pain you can take away for them. If you try too hard to suggest you understand what they are feeling you run the risk of angering them further. It is hard to find a way to connect. What I recommend at this juncture is patience (and maybe a friend to make you laugh a bit). As your athlete is able to return to various levels of physical activity you will see improved mood but this too is a bumpy road and requires patience. Ask what they would like from you. Sometimes you will get lucky and they will tell you. Again, this is all about being emotionally present in the moment (if you have read any of my blog posts in the last 10 days you should be seeing a pattern) I began running again as part of my daughter’s recovery process three years ago. I am currently swimming laps and doing lots of ab work with my two athletes recovering from ACL injuries. While this is a challenging process the benefits of time spent together are endless and incredibly meaningful.

How We Listen

I finished my graduate program well over 20 years ago. The very first class I took is the one that still resonates most clearly today. It was called “The Helping Relationship” The entire semester was a deep dive into how we listen to and validate others. First and foremost there is eye contact. Arguably this is somewhat of a lost art among our culture today as many of us find ourselves talking to someone who is looking at their phone! I have found that often what others want is to simply feel heard. If I try to hard to think of what response to give  or what solution to offer then I have failed the other person because I have stopped listening.  Things such as tone of voice and body posture are equally important. Asking questions that show a desire to understand at a deeper level  help to set the stage for validation. Validation occurs by responding in a way that is neither condescending or judgemental. Validation is not stating to the other person “I know how you feel” it is instead a process of reflecting back to the other our understanding that something must be scary, or sad, or difficult for them. Our questions need to reflect our belief that the other person is truly the best expert of themselves. 

In one of my earlier posts I talked about the importance of being present in the here and now. I cannot emphasize enough how this relates to the art of listening. How we help is as important as the fact that we helped at all. 

Try to make one small change today. Be mindful of how you really listen to another person. How focused and present can you be?

Hint…. It takes more practice than you think!

Wait What????

How many of us have heard our children or our students say the phrase “wait what?” Have they really not listened to what we have said? Are they just stalling to avoid the work ahead of them? Maybe they are asking for clarification. James Ryan, in his graduation speech at the Harvard School of Education, suggested that in fact this question may be a good one. It suggests, in his words, that it is important to slow down and make sure you truly understand. Further, Ryan explained that asking the question “wait what” indicates a desire for inquiry over advocacy. In other words, that there is a desire to understand before arguing for or against something. We discussed this very point in our team meeting today!

Inquiry keeps us curious, and it keeps us asking questions. So the next time your teen responds with the phrase “wait what” smile and enjoy it. Take the time to let them ask questions. Engage them in conversation and try to understand what they are getting at. You never know where the discussion will end up taking you. 

Learning Should Never be One Directional

On my recent visit to NYC I wandered through the Modern Museum of Art and came across this picutre. It immediately reminded me of the many times our team has discussed the process of learning, and how it connects to our mindsets at MVPS. Just look at how the process of learning is depicted here. The words are so interconnected in so many interesting ways that allow for all types of learners to observe, collaborate, and create!

Get Moving

Movement benefits the mind and the body! Any amount of physical exercise quiets the brain and allows for clarity. I took an exceptionally long walk through New York City and across the Brooklyn Bridge today. Not only did I enjoy the physical aspects of the walk but I was surrounded by water. Water provides such a calming effect. It is incredibly important for us to determine what calms and quiets our minds and our bodies.