Listen Up

I had an appointment today with a new doctor.  Doctor’s appointments aren’t my favorite thing, and unfortunately as I get older they seem to be getting more and more frequent.  Or is it that now it seems you need to see a specialist for absolutely everything? Whatever the reason, I had to visit this new doc.  I filled out my forms and the nurse came (rather quickly) to the waiting room and called me in.  She did the usual blood pressure, weight, and gather the basic information stuff and then said, “The doctor will be right in.  And by the way, he’s probably the nicest person you’ll ever meet!”  And with that, she put my folder in the rack on the door and left.

Quite an introduction, I thought. We’ll have to see.  Maybe I don’t really care if he is nice as long as he can take care of my health needs. I took out my book and started to read, thinking that I’d probably be waiting for a long time while the doctor made his way down the hallway from one patient to the next. But to my (happy) surprise,  in less than 5 pages, the “nicest person in the world doctor” arrived.  And he was very nice.  He had me move off the table and sit in a chair to talk.  He asked about my family, my health history, my work, and my interests.  And he REALLY listened.  I asked a lot of questions, and he listened.  He took notes (on paper, not on a screen!) paused, answered, and asked me if I had more questions.  All the while he had eye contact with me and seemed like he had all the time in the world to chat (while still moving the appointment along). I left the visit feeling very confident in the doctor and quite reassured about my health.  I would actually call it a great doctor’s visit.

I hope that I do this for the teachers, colleagues, and students I work with.  I hope I lean in.  I hope I slow down.  I hope I REALLY listen.  I hope I give time for them to ask questions and follow up questions.  I hope they see that I have time for them (but would never waste their time). I hope I ask questions and listen for answers.  I hope I give time for them to say more and more.  I hope that my teachers, colleagues, and students feel seen and heard.  Listening well might be one of the qualities I want to make absolutely sure I offer to all.

Traveling Outside Your Comfort Zone

This week we traveled to France for our Spring Break.  I seem to have really caught the travel bug.  I love to research places to go and things to do. I am fascinated to see new landscapes, eat new foods, speak new languages (or at least try to), and experience new traditions.  I read all of the 36 Hours in….. articles in the New York Times, and I love to hear about places that others have traveled.

But traveling to foreign countries can be hard. Things that are so simple in your own country are suddenly mind boggling!  Parking garages, something that seems pretty basic here in the USA, is a completely different experience in France.  The first part is similar.  You pull in, push a button, take a ticket, and in you go.  But getting out is something else.  In some garages, you need to pay in a machine before you leave the garage.  This involves putting your ticket in the machine, paying (with cash: a whole other challenge) or a card (where the machine sometimes accepts your PIN and other times randomly does not), getting a new ticket which is the one that you need to use in another machine at the exit to the parking garage if you hope to be freed.  This became even more complex when we stayed in a hotel where they gave us another card to enter after inputting the first card if we wanted a discount (which we desperately needed).

Tolls seem to be another mind blowing challenge.  Which lane to enter, how much money to put in the machine, whether to use cash or a card, and all of this while driving and trying to read signs in a foreign language.

Facing these kinds of challenges in rather simple situations makes you feel pretty stupid.  It throws you off balance.  How is it possible that a group of mature adults with multiple college degrees can’t seem to figure out how to get out of a parking garage or through a toll?  It makes you feel vulnerable.  It forces you to stop and think and problem solve.

In the end, of course you do figure things out.  You get out of the garage.  You get through the toll.  Sometimes it’s embarrassing.  Sometimes you need to ask for help (and use a lot of hand gestures to communicate with the toll taker or the French person waiting not so patiently behind you in the parking garage). But each time you go through the process it gets easier, and by the end of the week you are parking and going through tolls like a pro!  People might even think you are French. (Not a chance!)



What Does the Way We Pack Say About Us?

I think the way you pack for a vacation says something about you.  Some people are planners.  They spend months thinking about what they will wear, how much they need to pack, and they consider all the options -weather, events, travel plans, etc.  (I actually have a friend who makes a spreadsheet for traveling, matching shoes to outfits and even earrings!). Others just kind of throw stuff in a bag and hope for the best. Some travelers pack far more than they need.  Others can travel for months in just a backpack. Some people pack by outfit.  Others put pants together, shirts, dresses, coats, shoes.  I actually think all types of packers probably do just fine in the end.  After all, most of us are not going to places where there are no stores in case we forget our toothbrush or suddenly need a sweater.

Here’s my process.  Let’s see what it says about me.

I do start early.  We are leaving on Friday for a trip to France, and I’ve been “packing” for about a month now.  I start by going through all of my clothes and pulling out anything I think might work.  I pile pants and shirts on the bed in the guest room.  I hang dresses and sweaters and jackets on the door.  I put a variety of shoes and boots along the wall. I pile books and reading material on the table in the corner.  Then as the weeks go by, I start revising.  I take things out that I just don’t think I want or need.  I add a few scarves or accessories.  I change out one dress for another.  I usually buy a few new things just for fun.

At about two weeks out, I start checking the weather forecast.  It looks like the weather in France next week will be in the mid 60’s with some rain possible.  This requires another revision.  I throw in a rain coat and one more light sweater.  I take out the shorts and the short-sleeved dress I was hoping I could wear. And the shoes.  I think I need to be a bit more practical.  Flats it is.  And a pair of sneakers.  That’s all I need.

At one week out (that would be this weekend), I pack.  I make my final decisions, and pack everything into the suitcase to make sure that a. Everything fits, and b. I can carry it myself. I go over my list and check off what I have (electric converter, cell phone charger, tickets, passport, international drivers license, phone numbers, hotel and car info, information on our apartment, a few packs of gum). I even put my makeup, hair dryer, and brush on top of my suitcase so I’m sure not to forget it.  That means each morning for the next week, I need to go to the guest room to brush my hair and put on my makeup!

Of course sometimes this highly organized system leads to problems.  Often, during the week before we leave on our trip, I have to wear something that is already packed.  This means unpacking everything to get at the one thing (usually at the bottom of the suitcase) that I need AND remembering to wash it and put it back.  Sometimes the weather predictions shift and that means another change, or I just think of some new outfit that might work better than the one in the suitcase.

I’m not sure what this packing process says about me as a person.  I do like to be organized.  I am a planner. But I also like change and revision.  I like to be ready, but I’m willing to make last minute changes.  I do get VERY excited about traveling, especially when we will be together as a family.  I love to visit new places and experience new things.

What is your packing process?  What do you think it reveals about you?

And the Slicing Continues

It was kind of strange to wake up this morning and not have to post my slice to TWT.  All month, every day (31 to be exact), I have woken up, come downstairs, poured myself a cup of coffee, added my touch of cream, and posted my slice to the Two Writing Teachers site.  Today felt sort of strange; kind of empty.  OK, truth be told, there was a bit of relief too.

But then I got to school. At 1 o’clock it was time for me to go to the library to meet any second grade slicers who had accepted their teacher’s invitation to slice in April.  I went to the library.  I waited.  Maybe they’d decided to go out to recess.  The sun was shining out there.  It is April.  Spring is coming.

But then I saw them.  Three, no four second graders skipping down the hall toward the library.  The librarian and I set them up on some computers, they signed in, and off they went.  They wrote about April Fools Day, about a cat named Clove and a girl named Amy, and even about galaxies.  They wrote, they commented, they laughed, and they shared. They immediately developed a writing community. When I mentioned that maybe they wouldn’t write over vacation, they looked at me with a sense of horror!  “I’m bringing my computer to DC, and I’m going to slice every day!” one said.

So the March SOLC for teachers may be over, but the energy that this second grade teacher/Slicer has passed along to her student writers is amazing.