A Little Bit Like My Dad

My father is a great teacher. Growing up I loved learning from him, watching him prepare, and most of all watching him teach. The lessons I learned from him made a big difference as I went to college and started to have some teaching and presentation oportunities of my own. After graduation I even taught for a few years before moving on into another field.

During this school year I’ve been a volunteer teacher for a class my oldest son attends. My father is the supervisor for the program. I get to have monthly teacher training meetings with him as well as quarterly group training. While I’m the one in the classroom teaching, his influence is in just about everything I do. He taught me how to ask questions, tell jokes, pace a lesson, break the ice, build rapport, and so many others.

This evening I watch three of my students chatting together after an activity. Over the last eight months I’ve seen my little class of 15 years olds grow and mature and become wonderful young men and women. They tease me when my jokes don’t land, groan when I call on them to answer questions, roll their eyes at my funny quirks. It’s probably one of the greatest experiences I’ve had outside of the experiences I’ve had with my own kids.

And through it all I think of my father. Of the hundreds and thousands of students he has had these types of experiences with. Of the teachers he has trained, helped, and shaped with his skills and deep empathy. If not for my dad I would never have had this amazing year with my little class.

I hope I get to volunteer again next year.

A Picnic in the Park

Since COVID-19 turned our world upside down, many of the things that were very normal have now become things we have to take great care in doing. Two of my kids have birthdays in July. In years past their birthday parties were at our community pool with a large group of friends and a stack of pizzas to share. This year those kinds of parties aren’t what we want to do. Planning a birthday party during a pandemic is a challenge!

We ended up having the party at a local park. Each party had only three or four friends and involved masks and hand sanitizer. I know it shouldn’t have been much fun, but it was great to see how quickly the kids adapted. We grilled burgers and hot dogs, played horseshoes, and had water fights. (It helped that it’s very hot and the wind was strong. Being outside with good air circulation helped calm a lot of my fears about virus transmission.)

Finding some normalcy is important. Having fun with people you love is important. Protecting each other is important. Spending some time in the park this week has helped me a lot.

Peace with the Present

I feel extremely lucky to get to spend time with my family during the holidays. I am one of five brothers and three of us were able to come back to my parents’ home for Christmas along with our families.

As kids we had personalities and interests that took us in different directions. We also have a pretty large age difference. (I’m the oldest and am almost 20 years older than my youngest brother.) It wasn’t until we graduated from high school and went off into the world that we started to have closer relationships. I’m sure there were days when my parents wished we were better friends. Luckily that has come with age.

Part of the reason we’ve become close is our parents. We might not have paid very close attention to each other, but our parents spent a lot of time with each of us, supporting us in our interests and activities. Today our family has a professor teaching car mechanics at a technical school, a chef, a digital marketer, a cabinet maker, and a jazz musician. My father is a teacher and my mother is a decorator. Our differences are what make us so interesting! The understanding and appreciation we give each other, which we learned from our parents, brings us together.

Peace in our life can come from many sources but it always requires time and an open heart. I’m grateful for the peace and love I’ve felt this year.

Hat tip to Ryan Holiday and Seth Godin for the inspiration.