#NYR2019 – Do Less

One of my favorite reads of 2018 was Andrew Sean Greer’s hilarious book called LESS.  It is a laugh out loud book that has left me thinking about it for a long time.  What matters in life?  A work-life balance is elusive if work comprises a good chunk of what is in fact LIFE.  This year I have one all encompassing New Year’s Resolution.  A resolution that that I’m not even certain is achievable by me.

  1. Do Less.

I have finally come to the conclusion that more is not better.   More is exhausting and never allows for completion, no matter how hard I am running.   It also has a capacity to suck the joy out of life.  I am a writer and consumer of lists.  Things to do to get in shape.  People to call.  Books to read.  Places to go before I die.  Errands to complete.   Things to do before I finish the school year.  The month. The week. The day. Before I get up from my desk.  Goals, tasks and projects.

It all sounds very exhausting.  It is.  I have loved early mornings and delighted in late nights for most of my life.  As a child, my biggest challenge on long summer visits to see my father and step-mother, was staying in bed long enough to not get in trouble in the morning.  As I got older, I loved to read and dance and socialize late into the night.  However, as my Nanny Keenan reported, time moves faster as you get older.  And the lists move beyond fun to include many things that need to be done but do not fill my heart with joy.  I arrive home exhausted and can barely get up from the couch after dinner and an episode of Modern Family.

Ultimately the things I end up doing are not even on my list.  They are the things that jump up in front of me and require my immediate attention.  The time left over does not allow me to derive a sense of accomplishment from list completion.  I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about the multitude of things not yet done.  Before I know it, I become a slave to my “Things To Do” list, and people are commenting on why I’m sending emails at 2:30 am.  Weekends are easily consumed trying to catch up.

This year, I aspire to change all of that.  The goal is not just DO LESS but to be JOYFUL DOING LESS.  To prioritize the things that matter most.  What are the things that require my undivided attention?  How is my attention to the task at hand going to make the biggest difference?  To my health?  To my well-being?  To my relationships?  To my integrity?  To the functioning of my school?  To my learning?  To my experience of joy in daily life?

The quest is to NOT to get lost in the minutia.  To engage in the things that matter over the long haul.  Yes, I still have a goal to read 100 books this year.  I didn’t make the target last year. Not because I couldn’t, but because I limited my reading to way too many books that I figured I SHOULD read.  This year, I’m blowing that open.  I still have a plan to get in better shape and relieve stress through exercise.  I will take the time to do the ENTIRE circuit around Stanley Park on my bike.  I’ll take the weekend to go skiing.  When I check off those items on the list, I will feel PURE JOY and NO GUILT.  I still aspire to actively participate in the BC Principal Vice Principal Association Committees, Book Clubs, the Wild About Vancouver Steering Committee, write more and embrace other sources of new learning as well.  Learners and learning energize me.  I also aspire to spend more time with students, teachers, parents and colleagues and acknowledge it as time well spent.  Emails, paperwork, and other tasks will not garner my immediate attention.  Everyday, the number one thing on my list will be to do some things that bring me joy.  I will invest in the people and things that I enjoy.  I will accept that I can’t do everything today.  I will do less.

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What Are You Curious About?

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This is the question posed by Dean Shareski for the Ignite Your Passion for Discovery Vancouver 2016 event.  I’m looking forward to hearing the 5 minute / twenty slide presentations and checking out the venue, Relish The Pub.  Yet the best thing about this event is that it invites you to tap into your own curiosity and ask your own questions.  It also provides a room full of the kind of people who want to have those kinds of conversations and to build their network of like-minded people.

I am curious about the outdoor play / technology use balance.  I grew up in Vancouver with a plethora of outdoor activities and in an age where a key around my neck was status and the parental mantra was “Be home before it’s dark”.  I spent a lot of time engaged in outdoor play as did all the kids in the neighbourhood.  Cherry blossom showers.  Trampolines. Puddles.  Trees.  Scrub.  Kick the Can. Fishing. Bikes. The list of things that drew us outdoors was endless, as was the learning once we were there.  It also cultivated an interest in engaging new challenges like biking to the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, getting back home along the shore at the beach before the tide came in, and later learning how to ski and paddle canoes, swim across big stretches and hike up mountains.

We are in different times where media stories of crime and danger surround parents and intensify the concerns over safety of the children in our care.  Now, there is also a pressure to schedule children every advantage perceived to be needed for future success. In some cases, parents did not grow up in the culture of outdoor play and do not understand the merits.  There is also the addictive edge of technology that can easily suck up hours.  I find myself lost in a myriad of tasks on my iPad and iPhone and computer and deviations from the required tasks that consumes hours if I don’t make a concerted effort to look away from the screen.

I love the possibilities that technology holds for our children.  Third graders can use kid friendly search engines like KidRex, take notes on Drawing Pad, generate original text illuminated with sound clips and pictures on BookCreator.  The learning is profound, as is the product that they can proudly teach real audiences about their topic.   I believe that using technology as a tool in education has exciting possibilities for implementing the redesigned curriculum in British Columbia and engaging kids in their learning.

I’m curious about how we help our students navigate the path towards the balance of what seem like competing priorities. The balance between screen time and outdoor play is one aspect, but it also goes beyond that.  It is the balance between participating in active sports outside and taking the time to observe and reflect on nature and what is happening around us when we’re outdoors. It is engaging in playing handheld or other games for enjoyment and using technology as a tool to access new learning or convey new learning.  It may be using technology outdoors to spotlight outdoor learning or make a powerful statement through nature.  Technology and outdoor activity offer possibilities for learning and distraction and socialization that are important and engaging.  How do we help adults and kids to realize that outdoor learning / play and technology learning / play both have a role in the healthy development and in preparing our children to live healthy, happy and productive lives?

I can’t wait to discuss it at the Ignite Night tonight.  Perhaps, I’ll see you there.