WTF is IVF?

Listen, I spend far too much time thinking about (read: obsessing over) the social emotional health of my staff. I check in too often. I will occasionally overstep. I have their backs. I don’t know any other way to be.

As I cleaned up my Drive, I stumbled upon a piece I wrote over ten years ago that, though unpublished and apropos of nothing, helps to bring into focus why I choose to lead the way I do. Ultimately, our humanity in any field, but particularly in education, is what leads us to and makes it nearly impossible to leave each other. We all have “stuff,” and the moment we forget that, we’re doomed.

So here we go. From the fall of 2009:

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WTF is IVF? The other side of infertility

I’ve really only been fooled by women twice in my life.

When I turned 21, my mom told me I needed to go to the proctologist for a consult because “you know what happened to your father.”  I agreed, begrudgingly, and made my appointment with the Ass-Man.  While the first ten minutes would fall under the category of a consult, as my mom had promised, the final five would belong under the more appropriate banner of “exploration.” When the doctor said, rather matter-of-factly, “while you’re here, let’s just have a look,” I’ll never forget the silent arsenal of swear words I unleashed at my mom, no doubt smiling to herself over her duplicitous deception, which ended with some combination of fingers probing my caboose.

The second time I was duped was when my wife talked me into visiting our fertility doctor with her because it would help me understand what she could only loosely translate after each weekly visit.  I hadn’t been putting off joining my wife for any particular reason. Besides, she assured me that my presence was really only necessary in cup form during the early stages of the process.  Again, I marched dutifully to yet another doctor’s office, still reeling from the last time I was asked to go some fifteen years ago, and again, I was hoodwinked. 

What I thought was going to be a routine meet-and-greet, “you’re-the-husband-I-keep-hearing-about” kind of appointment rapidly disintegrated into a “now-that-your-wife-is-in-the-stirrups-do-you-want-to-see-her-ovaries” fright fest.  No amount of ER episodes or George Romero films could have prepared me for that legs-up position usually saved for nights when we’ve both had a bit too much to drink.

But that became our life, and as I hopped, skipped, and slid over fertility handbooks, how-tos, and metric equations on a regular basis, I noticed that there really was a dearth of literature about infertility from a man’s perspective. Ironically, the books my wife had wallpapered our house with seemed to borrow titles from their bizarro world counterparts in pornography.  In the same way that porn gives us The Boobyguard (nee: The Bodyguard), I woke up to find A Few Good Eggs (nee: A Few Good Men) staring up at me from under our bed.  As I thumbed through it, I was met with a cornucopia of now germane phrases and acronyms I once thought reserved for 400 level grad school courses in Anatomy and Physiology. 

No longer would my acronymic lexicon be limited to DVD, DVR, and PS3.  From then on, I’d have intimate knowledge of any combination of the following: PCO (Polycystic Ovaries, from which my wife suffers), HSG (Hysterosalpingogram, a horrifying procedure featuring an unclogging of the female machinery through the use of dye inserted directly into the uterus), IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination, the gynecological version of “capture the flag,” which we tried once and then bagged), and COH (Controlled Ovarian Hyper Stimulation, which amounts to Roger Clemens doses of uterine steroid injections meant to get those “few good eggs” ready to party).

If that weren’t enough, my actual vocabulary had been sullied as a result of words like retrieval (what my baseball players do after an overthrow), sample (borrowing old riffs and chord progressions to create, largely, hip-hop jams), and even shot (Jolly Rancher, Lemon Drop, Mind Eraser) morphing into pregnancy specific terms far superior in form and function to their predecessors. 

Then came the mother lode of all OB/GYN acronyms, proven to cause a sigh of resignation or a cheer of jubilation, in one fell swoop, depending on the clients to whom it is spoken.

 IVF (In Vitro Fertilization).

After our woefully unsuccessful IUI attempt, our doctor breathed this possibility in our general direction, which elicited a distinctly antithetical response from each of us.

Me: So, we still have a shot?

Wife: No, this is it. This is our last shot; then it’s over.

The fact that three letters could cause euphoria and devastation at the same time speaks to the procedure’s awesome power to create life or to forsake it.  What once was a perpetual education in science was now a profound and life-altering test of faith…in science.

Almost four years ago, we ventured into our first IVF retrieval and transfer process. One miscarriage and another IVF later, we had our daughter, Abby, a process that took two-and-a-half years. 

Finally, my wife and I could add three more letters each to our life’s Pinterest board. 

M-O-M and D-A-D.
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Never forget the awesome responsibility you have to protect, support, nurture, challenge, and connect with your staff.

Because we all have “stuff.”

Level Up Leadership: Advance Your EduGame is now available on Amazon!

Outkick the Coverage

In the pantheon of ambiguously worded, cleverly passive-aggressive, pseudo compliments, “outkicking the coverage” lands firmly in my top 3. I’ve used it ad nauseam and have reveled in having to explain it to the unsuspecting buddy to whom it refers.  

Derived from a term in football, outkicking the coverage means you’re dating a woman who is far too attractive to be seen with you, let alone date you on purpose. Though I don’t know if there’s a female equivalent, I remember my friend Jennie, herself a beautiful blonde mother of three, asking me if I knew what it meant because someone said it about her and her ex-husband. 

Yes, of course I have. I love it! And yes, your ex definitely outkicked his coverage. 

Therein lies the complexity of the euphemism. It simultaneously suggests that a woman is beautiful and her partner is, well, not. What’s the proper response, then?

Thanks?

Um, that’s not very nice (but thank you!).

There’s more to a relationship than looks (but thank you!). 

Somehow, there are couples all over the world whose very existence evokes eyebrow raises and elbows to the ribs from gawking onlookers. Inquiring minds just want to know how those couples are even a thing. 

Because sometimes things just don’t make sense, and that’s okay. 

Think about some of your “best” kids. Your interactions with them are universally pleasant and positive, you look forward to seeing them, you miss them when they graduate, you know they’ll be happy, successful people. Typically, behind those kids are functional, empathetic, kind grown ups who once had the very same things said about them in their youth. So, it adds up. 

Now think about some of your most challenging kids. Your interactions with them are universally forced and generic, you notice when they aren’t at school because it means they won’t be in your office that day, you worry about them when they graduate, and you aren’t sure if they’ll be happy, successful people. Typically, (way) behind those kids are dysfunctional, aloof, or absent grown ups who once had the very same things said about them in their youth. So, it adds up. 

What about those kids, however, who outkick their parenting coverage? Whose temperate, well-adjusted, anomalous existence, despite having little to no grown up influence, makes us question everything about everything. Moreover, such kids inadvertently, and simultaneously, dim the brilliance of the “best” kids (because of course they’re set up for success) and shine a light on the challenging kids (because of course they’re set up to fail). 

When we recognize such kids, it’s vital that we call attention to them. Praise them effusively, elevate the otherwise mundane or expected results to hero status, empower them by asking them to help us support other kids, thank them for sharing space with us. 

Because as much fun as it is to make fun of our friends who have outkicked their significant other coverage, myself included, it’s just as important to remind our kids that they are so much more than the sum of their parts, especially when their parts equal a grand total of one. 

Level Up Leadership: Advance Your EduGame is now available on Amazon!

Jailbreak!

As a kid, I couldn’t wait until Friday night. Without the specter of another school day looming, my friends and I would play “Jailbreak” for hours on end, losing time and making memories. The street on which I grew up, Princeton Road, was full of kids, fifteen to be exact, separated by five consecutive houses. Add to that our friends who would come from all over town to play in our weekly game, and we could easily be mistaken for the kids from Lord of the Flies, without all that pesky murder.

For the uninitiated, the rules of Jailbreak are simple. Two teams decide on a playing area, a grid, in which one can hide. Then, one team tries to capture the other and keep them in jail. However, despite being captured, players can be freed by a teammate who approaches the jail, avoids the sentry on duty, and touches the jail while yelling, “Jailbreak!” Once all the members of that team are captured, the teams switch roles. The beauty of the game is that there are no winners and losers because it is just as fun to hide as it is to seek, so the game can go on for hours.

In our case, it went on for years. 

For me, the intrigue of jailbreak was in the darkness. Playing a game at night seemed somehow dangerous, somehow adult, like being in the very same yards in which we played wiffle ball during the day made us renegades. The darkness made what once was familiar an undiscovered frontier full of danger and wonder. Moreover, it was never in my own yard that I would prefer to hide. To do so would be commonplace, safe. 

As I hid from my captors, I remember tiptoeing around backyards just noticing things. 

The Thomases rarely used lights at night, so how did they see?

The O’Brien yard always had way more fallen branches and detritus than any other yard. 

The Johnsons’ was the only yard with a chain link fence surrounding it.

The Kramers’ yard had a majestic treehouse, which no one ever used. 

The Fishers’ yard, like the people inside, just seemed sad. 

Make no mistake, there’s something special about a backyard at night. Whether you’re supposed to be there or not, the yard maintains its integrity, its personality.

This is what it’s like when you visit another teacher’s classroom. You know what to expect, you know how things are supposed to look, but somehow you know very little else. 

At first, a cursory glance around the room provides a backdrop for the class and teacher personality: walls adorned with content specific visuals, anchor charts, and character ed reminders; a desk with understated glimpses into the teacher’s personal life or a slew of yet-to-be-scored papers; desks in rows or pods; a box of tissues or band-aids. 

Then, watch that teacher in action. Notice how she pulls a small group to the back table and is still able to manage the other 20 kids during centers. Listen to the subtle way she compliments a student after an answer that had absolutely nothing to do with the question. Marvel at how his affect and intonation are the only classroom management strategies he needs. Steal every great idea that teacher has.

Next, watch the kids. Better yet, only watch the kids. Whose constant movement and inattentiveness are you noticing again and again? Which kids are natural leaders, able to lead and carry group work through to presentation? Whom are you just now noticing for the first time as if she just transferred in yesterday? Whose parents do you need to call to thank them for sharing their amazing kid with you daily?

It’s funny. Back then, I would have done anything to not get caught during Jailbreak. Now, I will do whatever I can to make sure that I’m seen.

Space Invaders

Let’s face it. They’re everywhere. 

In the gym, they stand directly in front of the weight rack while completing an exercise, making it impossible to access what you need. 

In the supermarket, they leave their carts in the middle of the aisle, usually on a diagonal, while they browse a shelf, daring you to breach their line of demarcation. 

At the soccer field, they meander behind you, cell phone in hand, discussing loudly how they’ll break it to the kids that sometimes grown ups make mistakes and have to “go away for a while.”

At the concert, they assault your field of vision with repeated selfie sessions while singing largely inaccurate lyrics.

They are the Space Invaders, and like their video game namesake, they just keep coming. 

What’s even more menacing is there are two types of Space Invaders: those who know exactly who and what they are and simply don’t care and those who have no idea they take up the space they do. The former are beyond reproach and the latter are simply clueless.

So where does that leave the rest of us who just want to grab a bottle of Hidden Valley Fat Free Ranch off the shelf and be on our way. 

The answer, my friends, is not to fix or cure the Space Invaders; rather, we need to practice self-awareness to the point at which we don’t become Space Invaders. 

Presence

What true Space Invaders are incapable of understanding is how their physical presence affects those around them. Whether they constantly hover over a particular student’s desk or find themselves parked in a familiar spot in the faculty lounge, Invaders can dictate a mood, a day, or a culture. 

Be mindful of your presence as often as possible. Consider if a disaffected kid needs you to move closer or to stay away. Think about how often you speak during group conversations or staff meetings. Ask yourself if your staff would describe your presence as hovering or lording. 

Swivel

Space Invaders tend to lock in on a certain target and allow the rest of the world to melt away around them. In some ways this can be a virtue as they are keenly focused on what’s in front of them, often literally. 

To borrow from my former life as a basketball coach, keep your head on a swivel. Build an awareness of what’s going on around you, both the seen and unseen, to determine if you’re invading space or if someone needs you in their space immediately. 

Reflect

Like their video game namesake, Space Invaders don’t have time for all that pesky reflection. Because they’re so laser focused on what is, it doesn’t dawn on them to consider what was or what will be. They just keep invading, daring the world to stop them.

For the rest of us, reflection is what helps us determine how to best use our space daily. Whether it’s through a journal, a blog, or a happy hour, reflecting on the space we inhabit for and with our schools is what keeps us from joining forces with the Invaders. And for the daring few (like me), it’s totally worth it to ask your teachers what they need and expect an honest response. If that response is, “yeah, man, you’re kinda all up in my business, and I need you to back off,” then stand down. 

Whether they’re pixelated and falling from a digital sky or wearing a sharp pants suit and standing uncomfortably close to your clearly private discussion, Space Invaders aren’t going anywhere.

So be warned, friends. And if you are an Invader, kindly let the rest of us through. We come in peace.

Want more leadership ideas? Pick up a copy of Level Up Leadership: Advance Your EduGame today!

Many Problems, One Solution

#formerstudentFriday is an occasional series in which former students and I team up on topics of their choosing. Through their voices and perspectives, we can level up in everything we do

When I first met Mickey Welde, I had already heard about Mickey Welde, and between us, I wasn’t buying it. There’s no way, I convinced myself, this kid is that good. Sure he was uber positive, creative and energetic, and a born leader. But there had to be some smudge mark on this kid’s record, some glaring character flaw. Nope. When you read his piece, you’ll see how wrong I was.

I’m riding the train on my way home from work. The window to my right faces south. Beneath the bridge the tide flows north. In the distance I see the stadiums.

I appreciate this part of my commute. This short stretch over the Delaware River generates gratitude and wonder. A peaceful moment to ponder the questions, “What’s going on here? What’s the purpose? Where are we headed?”

I grow still. My thought process slows. I feel present.

We complete our pass over the bridge and go under the streets of Camden. This momentary experience of intense awareness reduces as the train stops at City Hall. Strangers enter through the opening doors.

A woman sits down in front of me and a dude stands in the aisle next to her. They’re having a conversation as they approach. I hear the dude say:

“Well now that I’ve given up on all my hopes and dreams I have a lot of free time.”

[Actually… let’s have you read that correctly.]

Here’s the dude, very gossipy:

“Well NOW… that I’ve given up on all my HOPES AND DREAMS… I have ALOOOOTTTTTTTTT of free time.”

Talk about a first impression.

He continues:

“College lied to me… College said I would make a difference in kid’s lives. And now… AND NOW!… Well… Now I believe it’s all a WASTE OF TIME! College was a waste of money! I wanted to be a teacher in the 80s90s… and early 2000s…PRETTY MUCH BEFORE I BECAME A TEACHER!”

It sounds like a story he tells often. I think about how painful it is to be around negativity. I put on headphones as the dude continues talking:

“He asked me… Where’s your word wall? And I’m like … MY WORD WALL! Where’s my word wall? I never once saw a word wall in high school! I CAN’T BELIEVE HE EXPECTS ME TO MAKE A WORD WALL!”

It feels like an in-person Facebook rant. I catch myself being impacted by the negative energy. I pick the first song I see, “Crack the Case” by Dawes.

The dude’s voice disappears. I watch the familiar sites go by. I feel relaxed.

Intense focus and presence re-enter my being.

There’s a lyric that says, “It’s really hard to hate anyone when you know what they’ve lived through.”

When deciding to share this story I thought about you. Many of you are teachers, administrators, and leaders who deal with tough situations, undedicated students, and unnecessary word walls. We all have complicated lives.

No one on Earth knows your complete story. Just like I don’t know this dude on the train’s full story. This interaction doesn’t define the dude’s character; however, it gives us a glimpse into some pain he’s going through.

Life is difficult. If I had the chance again I would smile at him.

Teachers and counselors are on the front line of acclimating this world’s youth into society, which is a near impossible (but important) job. People depend on you to bring positivity into your teaching and to speak life into young people’s situations. Despite the resistance I know you’re up for the task.

However, for anyone considering “giving up on all your hopes and dreams” like the dude on the train, take a moment to step back and appreciate the position you’re in. Breathe.

If zero things are appealing to you about your job, that is okay!

Your potential students and I will appreciate it if you try a new career path.

[That’s a win-win for everyone!]

If teaching is no longer making you happy, it’s cool. Sorry you wasted money, but do something else that is fulfilling and motivates you every day.

No matter what field you’re in, you are constantly influencing the people around you. A person’s past interactions, relationships, or disputes do not matter today. Gratitude is contagious so find things that make you appreciate your life.

Everyone deserves your best moving forward, especially you. Be a teacher or mentor who spreads love and appreciation. Be a role model of compassion and kindness. Be grateful and find a way to inject positive outlooks into the lives around you.

Love.

———-

Mickey Welde lives in Mount Holly, NJ with his three favorite ladies — wife Julie, daughter Quinn, and cat Beefy. For the last five years he’s worked at the Curtis Institute of Music as Assistant Video Editor and Audio-Visual Arts Coordinator. Mick likes spending time outdoors appreciating this beautiful planet and documenting the mysteries of life. He serves as Production Team Leader at LHT Church in Lumberton, NJ and is a firm believer in spreading kindness. Go love everyone!

IG: @mickeywelde

Old School

The 2003 film Old School didn’t take long to cement itself in the pantheon of must-watch-whenever-it’s-on, quotable comedies. From its absurd plotline (three 40-something dudes decide to start a fraternity to offset their otherwise humdrum lives) to its ensemble cast featuring heavy hitters (Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn) and clever cameos (Snoop, Warren G), Old School invites us to laugh both at and with it. 

I admit that I’ve fantasized about what it would be like to be back on a college campus (major networks have yet to accept my proposal for a “reality show” to this end), studying, partying, and dating like I did in the often wee hours of 1995-1998. I often have dreams about being back in college but invariably I am misplaced, lost, ill-equipped, or lonely in those dreams, my brain’s way of reminding me that I am, in fact, too old for school. 

But I’m not “old school.”

As our district embarks on meaningful, if not overdue, trauma informed care work, I am equal parts excited and panicked. I know our staff will embrace the philosophy and strategies covered in the trainings. But I also know there are countless people in education who will harrumph at TIC under the guise of being old school. 

I’m sorry, I’m old school. Everyone deserves consequences. 

These kids just need to suck it up. That’s what we did in our day. 

There was no such thing as trauma informed care when we were in school, and we turned out just fine. 

Sound familiar? 

Now picture thinking that in reference to a child whose in-and-out father once held him by the ankles over a balcony and threatened to drop him if he didn’t behave. Or to the kindergartner who spent the first sixty days of her life detoxing, in the dark, from her mother’s drug use. Try one on for size with a fifth grader who is routinely beaten by his mom while he cares for his three younger siblings and blind grandmother. 

Man, kids today are soft. Am I right?

I recognize that education, like most fields, operates as if on a pendulum. Stick around long enough and you’ll have seen it all; each initiative re-branded as something revolutionary and necessary. As such, I understand the implicit skepticism and exaggerated eye roll when the pendulum swings in a familiar direction. But in this case, we’re not talking about a math program or discipline policy. 

We’re talking about kids. 

Finally.

Want more leadership ideas? Pick up a copy of Level Up Leadership: Advance Your EduGame today!

As A Parent

I remember how much I loathed hearing it. And more often than not, I knew it was coming. Like a high-arcing arrow fired from the opposing front line, I could see it coming but was powerless to avoid it. 

As a parent

Sometimes parents would lead with it, an opening salvo intended to set the tone for the rest of the conversation. Other times, they’d keep it in their back pocket until they really needed a counter punch. And for the first ten years of my teaching career, I was defenseless against it because I was childless. 

But a funny thing happened after my daughter was born in 2009. The assumed parenthetical after the first three words of that phrase changed, and so did my association with it. 

As a parent (which you surely can’t understand because you’re single and childless)

turned into…

As a parent (a role we share so I’m appealing to your sense of paternity to make you see my point)

What once caused me to recoil and go on the defensive became a tacit invitation to a fraternity for which I didn’t know I was rushing. I didn’t consider being a parent as part of my professional identity any more than I considered being an educator as part of my personal identity. But that was short-sighted, indeed, because I can’t shed either part of myself even if I wanted to. 

Moreover, I’ve started to purposely wear my dad hat while at school because it helps to disarm both students and parents. At Back To School Night, I share a photo of my two children and close my remarks with a familiar refrain: we’re in this together. While I have spent more than half my life as an educator and feel confident in my ability to lead every time I walk in the building, I have only been a parent for ten years and there are days on which I have no idea what I’m doing. 

Still, considering my decisions, my students’ lives, and my relationships through my dad lens has only strengthened my leadership and emboldened my resolve. Similarly, I can’t help but visit our fifth and first grade classes with my own children in mind. In this way, I borrow from my professional life to help my personal life because I watch how other children interact with the world and with learning every day, so when I get home each night, I’m better prepared to help my own children. 

I have no idea how often life blending happens in other professions, but I would argue that it’s a vital part of ours. If we preach being a better listener, learner, and person to our students, then we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to do the same as adults. 

Want more leadership ideas? Pick up a copy of Level Up Leadership: Advance Your EduGame today!

Turning 21

The first time I turned 21, I felt like I was miscast in a coming-of-age film about a guy turning 21. With a late September birthday, my firsts were always linked to being last. All my friends—all of them—are older than me, so I sat on the sidelines, or in the passenger seat, while each of them drove, tried chewing tobacco, voted, and drank. So when I finally turned 21, my squad was already over it, the shine had worn off, and I was just a little brother finally allowed, legally, to tag along. 

I think that’s why turning 21 again is so meaningful. Again, there will be little pomp and circumstance, and, just like last time, few people will even care that it’s happening, but I’m proud to be 21 again. 

Because I’ve been in education for exactly half my life. 

21 separate plays with completely different story arcs, characters, and denouements.

21 years of “My bad” and “I’m glad I was your teacher” and “Welcome Back!”

21 first days and last days. 

21 chances to take chances. 

21 opportunities to provide opportunities. 

Of course, catching up to myself just means that while the starting line (21) will always be the same, I’ll move farther away from that line each year I remain doing what I love, until the part of my life that isn’t in education is dwarfed by the part that is. 

And I’ll drink to that. 

How old are you turning this year?

Release

I’ve made no secret about my borderline obsessive relationship with Seattle grunge gods, Pearl Jam. They’re referenced in my bio, they’re always on shuffle and repeat in my head, and they’re represented in my most recent tattoo. But my affinity isn’t about wanting to be Pearl Jam; it’s about how Pearl Jam is a part of me. 

When they exploded onto the scene in 1991, I, like most of the country, was awakening from a long 1980s malaise filled with hairbands and awful ballads. Music that didn’t really speak to me because I wasn’t ready for or interested in the following: (a) action tonight (b) cherry pie (c) Dr. Feelgood or (d) sugar being poured on me. Thankfully, the boys from Seattle showed up and served the scene notice. They’ll take it from here. 

The final song on their masterful debut album Ten, “Release,” has served as a mantra since I first heard it almost thirty years ago. Frontman Eddie Vedder’s hypnotic drone takes listeners on a 9-minute journey through his bizarre, posthumous relationship with a father he didn’t think he had. Ultimately, Vedder pleads with his dead father to release him of the man he couldn’t be so Vedder can be the man he needs to be. 

Enduring a tempestuous relationship with my own father, albeit without the same level of confusion, made “Release” seem written for me.  Pearl Jam has this effect on a lot of listeners.

As educators, we have an innate need for control. Bound by bell schedules, state mandates, and rubrics (so many rubrics), we live in a perpetual state of oversight. In this way, control is often imposed on us, which sends our own need for control into hyper-drive. It’s a maniacal cycle. So break it.

As you prepare for the upcoming school year, do so with the idea of “release” in mind.

Release control of a read aloud to your kids. 

Release responsibility over your next PD to your teacher leaders. 

Release feedback on a writing piece instead of a grade. 

Release yourself from the noise of the notoriously negative 10%.

Release your first blog post or podcast episode.

Release your teacher leader so she can observe other leaders in your district. 

Release stress by unplugging and unwinding.

Release yourself from feelings of Edu-guilt over not doing enough, not being enough.

So much of our Edu-identity is made up of what we’re supposed to be. From crowded lecture halls to oddly spaced, platitude-heavy tweets, we’re told what and how to be as teachers and leaders. But it’s when we shed those cookie-cutter expectations, when we demystify prescribed formulas for greatness, and when we chart our own path that we can, like Vedder, release. 

Your Face!

C’mon, you remember using, or at least hearing, this odd non-sequitur in the throes of an argument when you were a kid.

Dude, you totally suck at guitar. 

Your face! 

Though it makes no sense in virtually any context other than dermatology, your face took on a powerful, full stop role in just about every schoolyard in America. Because there’s no retort, the recipient of the your face was left speechless, wondering just how he lost the upper hand. 

But your face, your actual face, is a leadership tool that cannot be undervalued. 

During a Level Up Leadership workshop with Dr. Joyce Jeuell’s ed leadership cohort at Chestnut Hill College this week, I was reminded of what our faces mean to our leadership. The group was discussing leadership in the midst of awful, unforeseen trauma, something each member of the cohort could speak to but only from a teacher perspective. A recent mishandled communication after the death of a staff member at one of her student’s schools led to the discussion during which Dr. Jeuell made clear the first line of leadership defense when the unexpected happens. 

How does your face look when things like this happen? It’s the first thing your staff will see, so what will yours look like?

As leaders, you’ll receive news for which you are unprepared.

You’ll sit with a domestic violence victim as she slides the TRO across your desk for you to put on file. You’ll hold the hand of a seven-year old who can’t process her parents’ divorce. You’ll spring into action when a staff member takes a tumble and is visibly disoriented. You’ll listen as an unstable parent lambastes you for all the world to hear. 

How will your face look?

While we may not be able to control contours, crow’s feet, and laugh lines, we can absolutely control how we use our faces to stem a rising tide. Whether we’re working with children or grown ups, our faces will tell them everything they need to know long before our words will. 

Use it to your advantage. 

Easier said than done? Not really. 

In any situation, there’s a fraction of a second during which your mind is processing what is happening. It’s the time between the pitcher throwing the ball and committing to your swing. It’s the moment when too-hot coffee touches your tongue. It’s the instant when the OBGYN asks if you’re ready to hear the gender. 

In each, and every, scenario your mind has a split-second to tell your face what to do next. Being mindful of that granule of sand slipping through the hourglass is all it takes to instill calmness, confidence, and control over any situation. 

Your leadership style? It’s written all over your face.