In January of 2019 I began a deep dive in Elena Aguilar’s Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators and the accompanying workbook. I hope to share some of my reflections as I build daily habits to strength my own resilience and support that growth in others. Aguilar outlines a habit and a disposition for each month of the year. Follow along as I reflect on each month’s key ideas.
May’s habit is celebrate and appreciate and the disposition is trust.
As we near the end of the school year, it’s a natural time to celebrate. Appreciation, or expressing gratitude, is a way to make connections, enjoy our life, and focus on the positive. I appreciate Aguilar’s message to celebrate the small things, and find ways to be grateful in our daily lives.
“How you tell the story of your life matters.” Onward, p. 290
I go through phases where I am focused on expressing gratitude, whether through a journal practice or by telling others what I appreciate about them and their work. Until I was rereading this chapter, however, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I slowed down and reflected on gratitude. Pausing and thinking about what I am grateful for, in big and small ways, always puts a positive spin on my day and my outlook.
I have been working on making public and private appreciations as well. I recently just wrote a number of hand-written notes to be delivered to colleagues who work in other locations across our district, expressing that I appreciate them and their work. I know that I always love receiving messages like that, so I build in time to give them as well. I like all of Aguilar’s suggestions for appreciating yourself and others.
There are many examples of how to cultivate a habit of gratitude in the Onward workbook. This reminds me of making positive phone calls home early in the school year as a teacher. I’ve also taken this idea and written notes to the families of my employees. It’s so nice to be able to tell someone you appreciate their child (or their parent/spouse!). Aguilar mentions something that reminded me of an activity I recently saw one of our schools do at an assembly. I did this activity at a staff meeting early on as a principal. I called it, “Talk Positive Behind My Back.” Each staff member was given a piece of construction paper. They wrote their name at the top and then they hung the paper on their back (with a safety pin or a string necklace). The staff then got up and began walking around the room, writing positive notes about each other on the papers. When we finished the activity, everyone had a chance to read the nice notes their colleagues had written behind their back. You could literally feel the energy shift in the room, as people smiled, and some even cried. If you’ve never experience this, I encourage you to try it at a meeting soon!
Trust is such a critical part of leadership, of building relationships, and school culture.
“Resilient people trust themselves, and they trust a process.” ~ Onward, p. 309
I love Aguilar’s message that when you need support, trust in the process, trust in yourself. I’ve been thinking about why she chose to make this month’s disposition trust, and what the link might be between trust and celebration. I believe that we are more comfortable to celebrate our big and small moments when we are working or living in a trusting relationship. Trust allows us to feel more comfortable recognizing the work of others without competition or animosity.
I recently read The Power of Moments. The authors share specific ways we can create impactful moments in our lives, for ourselves and more importantly for others. This reminds me of this month’s habit, to celebrate and appreciate. I want to intentionally create more moments that matter.
And for those of you who read last month’s update, I DID get to see the Underwater Sculptures that Elena Aguilar writes about in Onward! Below are two of my favorite pictures from my snorkeling adventure. These sculptures end up being a place where coral can grow and develop, supporting the oceanlife. It was such a fun experience and I wouldn’t have known these existed if I hadn’t read this book. For that, I AM GRATEFUL!
Posts in the Building Resilience series: