How NOT to Multitask – Work Simpler and Saner

MultitaskGuest post by Leo Babauta

You’re working on two projects at once, while your boss has placed two new demands on your desk. You’re on the phone while three new emails come in. You are trying to get out the door on time so you can pick up a few groceries on the way home for dinner. Your Blackberry is going off and so is your cell phone. Your co-worker stops by with a request for info and your Google Reader is filled with 100+ messages to read.

You are juggling tasks with a speed worthy of Ringling Bros. Congratulations, multitasker.

In this age of instant technology, we are bombarded with an overload of information and demands of our time. This is part of the reason GTD is so popular in the information world — it’s a system designed for quick decisions and for keeping all the demands of your life in order. But even if we are using GTD, sometimes we are so overwhelmed with things to do that our system begins to fall apart.

Life Hack recently posted How to Multi-task, and it’s a good article on the nature of multi-tasking and how to do it while still focusing on one task at a time.

This post is How NOT to Multi-task — a guide to working as simply as possible for your mental health.

First, a few quick reasons not to multi-task:

  1. Multi-tasking is less efficient, due to the need to switch gears for each new task, and the switch back again.
  2. Multi-tasking is more complicated, and thus more prone to stress and errors.
  3. Multi-tasking can be crazy, and in this already chaotic world, we need to reign in the terror and find a little oasis of sanity and calm.

Here are some tips on how NOT to multi-task:

  1. First set up to-do lists for different contexts (i.e. calls, computer, errands, home, waiting-for, etc.) depending on your situation.
  2. Have a capture tool (such as a notebook) for instant notes on what needs to be done.
  3. Have a physical and email inbox (as few inboxes as possible) so that all incoming stuff is gathered together in one place (one for paper stuff, one for digital).
  4. Plan your day in blocks, with open blocks in between for urgent stuff that comes up. You might try one-hour blocks, or half-hour blocks, depending on what works for you. Or try this: 40 minute blocks, with 20 minutes in between them for miscellaneous tasks.
  5. First thing in the morning, work on your Most Important Task. Don’t do anything else until this is done. Give yourself a short break, and then start on your next Most Important Task. If you can get 2-3 of these done in the morning, the rest of the day is gravy.
  6. When you are working on a task in a time block, turn off all other distractions. Shut off email, and the Internet if possible. Shut off your cell phone. Try not to answer your phone if possible. Focus on that one task, and try to get it done without worrying about other stuff.
  7. If you feel the urge to check your email or switch to another task, stop yourself. Breathe deeply. Re-focus yourself. Get back to the task at hand.
  8. If other things come in while you’re working, put them in the inbox, or take a note of them in your capture system. Get back to the task at hand.
  9. Every now and then, when you’ve completed the task at hand, process your notes and inbox, adding the tasks to your to-do lists and re-figuring your schedule if necessary. Process your email and other inboxes at regular and pre-determined intervals.
  10. There are times when an interruption is so urgent that you cannot put it off until you’re done with the task at hand. In that case, try to make a note of where you are (writing down notes if you have time) with the task at hand, and put all the documents or notes for that task together and aside (perhaps in an “action” folder or project folder). Then, when you come back to that task, you can pull out your folder and look at your notes to see where you left off.
  11. Take deep breaths, stretch, and take breaks now and then. Enjoy life. Go outside, and appreciate nature. Keep yourself sane.
 

3 Lessons Rejection Teaches You

Admit it.  We’ve all faced some sort of rejection in our lives.  Sometimes, it feels a lot like failure, but in reality, it can be a blessing in disguise.

I never really liked paying attention in school.  I tried…I really did.  Honestly, there were just too many distractions.  But by the time I got to college, I knew I had to buckle down and so, I decided to graduate at the top of my class.

However, the truth is, none of that stuff matters if you get a degree, go out into the work place, and decide after doing this job for x amount of years, that underneath it all, it was definitely not what you thought it’d be. 

No one ever tells you about all the red tape associated with being a teacher.  There really should be classes on handling policy changes, curriculum changes, then going back to the old way you taught, then handling the parents, and, well you get my drift.  It wasn’t the teaching that I didn’t like.  I loved the learning and the beautiful children I taught.  It was the fact that I had absolutely no creative control what so ever.  Period.

It didn’t matter if I got on the curriculum planning committees, which I did, if I went to all the meetings on “brainstorming” new ways to teach this material, which I did, if I became a chair of a few teams, again, did that.  Nothing seemed to change.  Year, after year, after year.

So the same thinking was yielding the same results and it really was very difficult to live in this situation.  I decided to take a year off, and by that time, I was already dealing with health issues, so it really seemed a good time to think about what was happening in my career.

3 Lessons I Learned:

  1. Sometimes, rejection is a new lesson in what you don’t want.  I decided that I wanted to help a non-profit in some sort of form…at least I really thought I did.  As I looked at tons of job listings, I found one that looked “too good to be true” as it appeared made for me.  After applying, I thought to myself, why did I just do that??  I panicked.  I wasn’t ready for this big job.  I was actually called by a head hunter and had about 3 interviews, before the 2.5 hours interview in person.  The head hunter loved me…and at least one of the ladies in the panel seemed to love me.  The two who I would be working with; however, did not.  My ideas were too radical, except for the part where they were taking notes and saying “I’ve never thought about it that way.” I got a gut sensation that for whatever reason, the head lady instantly didn’t like me.  I was much better off as this job was actually 40 minutes from my home.
  2. Trust your gut feeling.  So I wish I had just turned around and walked out upon shaking the CEO’s hand, but I was actually invited to a lunch after…when I knew that I would never want to work there even if they offered me the job.  Energy never lies to me.  I stuck it out to make a good impression, and because honestly, I have manners.  Just because she was a prickly witch didn’t mean that one day I wouldn’t run into one of those people…somewhere down the line.  I knew it wasn’t right for me, but I stayed for my peace of mind.  Not theirs.
  3. Turn the lesson into a positive one.  Do NOT think about what you could have done differently.  That is what you are doing, isn’t it?  Instead, think about the ways in which this has taught you something.  For me, it taught me that I was actually one of the top three with almost zero experience for this really high-powered job, because I believed I could do it.  I had some of the qualifications and a true passion for what the organization was about.  That didn’t actually turn out, but to be a top three, the head hunter, who does this type of thing all the time, said my answers were the best.  I was still proud of myself.  And ermmm to be honest, I was proud of myself for not answering snarkily to the really dumb questions that I was being asked.  I could tell they were trying to catch me off guard, but I just kept on answering.  Two and half hours.  <<< I can’t get that back, but it taught me to stay cool.

I hope whatever your rejection is, that in the end, you see it really is pointing you in a better direction!

Rejection Note:  You might like this post on using gratitude to move forward.

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3 Things You Can Do To Supercharge Your Ability To FOCUS and Create POSITIVE Outcomes

I’d like to introduce you to my friend, Maria.  She is my guest blogger today, and her bio is at the end of this post!

We all have dreams, ideas and goals…but it’s only when you take ACTION that dreams take shape. Action makes dreams come true. Action is the only way to achieve results.

With hectic schedules, a society so heavily indebted to instant gratification and “bigger, better, faster, more…” how is it possible to stay focused on what you want to achieve?

“Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.” ~Peter Marshall

When big projects and big ideas are in front of you…sometimes the enthusiasm from your inspiration gets watered down and you experience analysis paralysis. The reality is, however, that it’s better just to get things done and they don’t have to be perfect.

In fact, there are very specific things you can do to achieve massive success, if you’re willing to open the gateway to more clarity and improved action that help you stay focused:

1. Invest in your mind and body by starting your day between 4am and 5am doing the same ritual you can easily commit to EVERY DAY. Your ritual should nourish your mind and body AND be so simplified you can do it on “auto pilot.” For instance, begin by hydrating your body with warm water and lemon, stretching and meditation. More important, as you become accustomed to early hours, you’ll find that no matter how many people live under the same roof with you…YOU will find time alone without interruption. You’ll discover your body will benefit from the hydration and stretching and your mind will also find clarity, flexibility and more inspiration about the things YOU choose to focus on.

The Ayurveda lifestyle believes in routine and that one should wake up about 1 to 1 ½ hours before sunrise so that your body can synchronize with the rhythm of the sun. They consider this time most auspicious and meditation at this time helps your mental performance.

As an early riser you’ll discover time to work on the projects that matter to you. By waking up early you get a head start on your day and your schedule. The most creative and productive hours tend to be early morning hours (while most others are sleeping).

Think about it. If you have an average 40 hour work week…adding even only one hour a day to your day, you’ll have nearly one additional work day added to your week! Early morning will give you the biggest benefit because it’ll be uninterrupted. You’ll own the day, rather than the day owning you.

“If you are willing to do only what’s easy, life will be hard. But if you are willing to do what’s hard, life will be easy.” ~T. Harv Eker

2. Schedule Your Day using the Ivy Lee Method. At the end of each day write down a list of the 6 MOST IMPORTANT things you need to accomplish for tomorrow. Prioritize them. Each day concentrate on the first task until it’s complete and then move on to the second task. Repeat the process every day. This may sound simple but it has some very deep roots that inherently force you to stay focused and it’ll have you make the (difficult) decisions necessary to fully complete the task at hand. You can read the story about how one of the richest men in the world, Charles M. Schwab, President of Bethlehem Steel paid Ivy Lee $25,000 after receiving this advice for free solely because of the tremendous value it brought him and the progress it gave his company.
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” ~Jim Rohn
3. Remove the mind clutter from decision-making. In other words, instead of having to make choices every day about various things in your life (stealing time away from your focus), make more of your decisions and tasks streamline. Like item #1, starting your day with a ritual so easy you can do it on autopilot…what other things can you do to save time so that you can invest more time in other more important actions?

For example, did you ever notice Steve Jobs wear the exact same thing every day when he was with us? That’s right, jeans and a basic black turtleneck. Or how about Mark Zuckerberg…aside from Facebook, he’s known for wearing jeans and a hoodie. They both saved time by eliminating the burden of daily choices via their apparel. This alone has been documented and found to be a common trait and mindset of the successful entrepreneur.

Another way to remove mind clutter from decision-making is through meal planning. I choose the same breakfast smoothie every day. It’s a no-brainer, healthy, and easy. I also encourage busy moms to make Saturday or Sunday your cooking day and make foods to have available the rest of the week for lunches (chicken, lentils, washed/cut greens for salad, soup, cut apples with lemon juice, etc…). It saves time thinking about what to eat and removes the incentive to go out to eat (something less healthy). This goes a long way to saving you time during a busy week AND it keeps you healthy AND if you’re eating healthy…the mind stays clear, making it easier for you to focus.

There’s a reason Mind-Body-Spirit are lumped together. When they’re working in alignment, you’ll be operating with everything you have available to you (coming from you and through you).

“We are the creative force of our life, and through our own decisions rather than our conditions, if we carefully learn to do certain things,
we can accomplish those goals.” ~Steven Covey
The three tips in this article give you the ability to master your day so that you can invest your valuable time rather than spend time on less valuable things.

Mastering your day is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself: magnifying your focus, improving your action plan, ultimately gaining you results.

The bottom line is this…no matter what plans, dreams, goals you have…if you can’t lead yourself in doing them, there is no way you’ll be able to lead others no matter what area of life you’re wanting to focus on (from personal to professional).

Maria_bioBIO: Maria Flynn is the creator or OneWiseLife.com (OWL) an online magazine dedicated to helping you tap IN and turn ON your inner wisdom and create the life you love. A Reiki Master and Intuitive, Maria has also been researching and writing personal development articles for nearly 10 years, using this medium to help herself and others around the globe.

3 ways to motivate yourself…

Are you in a rut?  Read on for motivation.

Have you ever heard the old saying “do what you love and love what you do?”  Well, if you haven’t heard it, stop and think about it for a moment.  If you can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed one more morning to go to your J.O.B. (Just Over Boring-Ass-Work), then it might be time to change things up a little bit.  But before you write your resignation, stop for a minute and take a good hard look at how you are coming into work.  Do you come to work fully prepared or are you scrambling everyday to get things done?  Do you greet people, you know everyone, not just the people in your work “clique”, with a smile?  What about that guy who gets on your nerves?  Mr. Loud on the phone?  Instead of blowing up at him one day, try giving him a compliment.  I know it’s difficult.  Trust me on this.  But try.  See if you can love what you do, and after trying this for a while, then think hard on what you want out of life.

Add some movement to your day.  This might seem like a little thing, but if you are working in a cubicle with no windows, set a timer.  Grab an office buddy and say hey, we need to take a walking break at lunch.  Let’s get out for a bit.  If you can’t leave your office, walk around it for a while.  I know this sounds funny, but do it.  Take the stairs, take extra hallways, just add extra movement.  I know someone who stands to use their computer…and I recently read an article on a treadmill system for the computer.  I am definitely not there yet.  But do some research on how being inactive harms the health…and then present a plan to your boss.  You know adding a pull-up bar to your doorway for folks.  Ha.  That’d be funny.  Nope, not today Fred.  You can’t come in until you do a pull-up, we’ll have to reschedule.  Only not so funny if Fred is your boss:)

Make small goals…that are actually achievable.  I love lists.  I have paper everywhere in my house.  Calendars.  Notebooks.  But I just bought this awesome list type notebook with quotes at the bottom of each page.  I might have a thing for quotes you know.  Anyway, I am jotting down 5 goals for each day.  Today I did yoga first thing in the morning at home before all my other work.  Erm…thus me writing later than usual, but HEY, I did one of my goals.  It feels good to be able to mark something off a list.  I have no idea why, but it does.  Maybe because I work from home and I am my own boss, but still.  Goals are important to me.  I made sure I followed up with clients, posted wellness tips, talked to another person I am helping with some goal planning, and finished writing another article I needed to write.  I like to get things done.  If you are not getting things done, put them where you can see them!  Mark those bad boys off.

As always, thank you for leaving me a comment on what works best to motivate you through your day.  And don’t forget the little social media sharing devices when you like love my tips!  Thank you readers.3 ways to motivate

See the top tab on Head|Heart|Health Club if you loved these tips!

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Choices…

changeLook at that.  Right there, I made a choice to change the way my blog looks just by adding this quote at the top.  Wouldn’t it be fabulous if all choices were that easy?  When Deepak Chopra writes about Applying the Law of “Karma” or Cause and Effect, he has this to say:  Whenever I make a choice, I will ask myself two questions: “What are the consequences of this choice that I’m making?  and “Will this choice bring fulfillment and happiness to me and also to those who are affected by this choice?”

Choices do have consequences.

How often do we genuinely pause and ponder these two questions?  You see the problem is, I think we don’t stop to think about it at all.  If you are about to do something, but you have not given much thought as to what happens next, it is best to actually pause and consider this.  The last year I was teaching, I made a plan to begin changing my career and go after what I really wanted.  I wanted to write, and I found that I had a knack for social media.  I knew that the consequences were going to include struggle as I continued to build up a writing portfolio.

The first time I was contacted by an editor who wanted me to submit an even longer piece for publication, I felt the excitement and happiness of my choice.  The first time I got a rejection letter in the mail, smeared with some sort of greasy substance, I felt the doubt of my choice.  All in all, I knew that my well-being was better off for having made the choice to take a chance.  I knew that without a doubt, my life would not change working all the time and coming home too exhausted to write.  I am happy with change.  Hopefully, my life is about to change again as I am ready for something new. 

Brand Yourself…

The quote “Better to bend than to break.” has been attributed to many different authors.  Social Media is a lot like that.  If you don’t believe me, look at how I seemingly lost 1,000 fans the other night, but I keep on going.  What appears to have happened is this…I checked my FB fan page admin stats right as they were apparently rolling out the “Call to Action” button on my page that I have been waiting on.  So I got the button…but somehow a glitch lost me a few fans.  Since I really wanted this button and sometimes get in on a few beta testing opportunities, I don’t mind because it sends the fans over here to sign up for the blog.  On my Vitalize You page, I was given the button even earlier and I set it up as a direct shopping cart for those of you who want to know what products I am using.  See the tab Vitalize You up top here for more.

Next, I am in this beta testing group for Pinterest ads and promoting your pins.  Now when Pinterest first started, way back when, I was a newbie and I made all my own pins from scratch.  I created what I wanted the look of my boards to be at first and didn’t re-pin.  I know, it sounds like I didn’t get it, but I actually wanted my own content to be the foundation of my boards.  I wanted to see what happened.  I remember my first “Geek” board as no one else seemed to have thought of that and my geeky pins were getting really popular.  Next, my inspiring words board still to this day has my most popular viral pin ever and gets pinned all the time.  Finally, I found out people like smoothies…particularly this one I found and wanted to try as “paleo”.  So what it taught me were that there were a few or 10,000 or so people out there like me.

Recently I began doing a lot of research for a company that had not yet hired me.  I like to know who I am going to be working with and what help they might need.  They needed quite a bit of help in the social media department and I had some good ideas, but I don’t think they really understood the value of what social media can do for their business.  I looked deeply at their Twitter, FB fan page, and website and everything was erm old.  Stale.  The links took me to last year’s events.  The FB page actually had some ummm bad spam that I reported to the “FB police”.  And Twitter was vastly, vastly underutilized.  I Googled them.  I spent lots of time studying ways they needed to move forward.  They needed a total social media plan and package.  As I sat shivering through an interview that was nearing 2.5 hours, I could tell they did not quite see the value of spending time interacting with your “fans” on social media.  The story you pitch to others is not just a way to make money, get donors, or help your business grow.  It is in fact, part of who you are.  If we can’t connect to you, as an individual person, if we think you just want our money, then you have, quite simply, lost us.

So when we were nearing the end of this process, I was listening to one of the directors speak about not changing the name, which I strongly agreed with because that’s the “brand” people associate you with…but then she went in another direction about the color.  She didn’t want to be associated with a certain color and I was told to notice that they didn’t have it everywhere.  The problem is, the color is everywhere on the marketing materials…and their page…and their website.  In fact, this color evokes such strong feelings of support that it could actually be part of their current success without her realizing it.

So I didn’t quite understand, and happened to have a few brochures that used this color from her business, and that’s when I knew I definitely lost them…as much as they lost me.  I was no longer interested in this job at all.  Because you see, it was the color pink.  This color represents compassion, nurturing and love. It relates to unconditional love and understanding, and the giving and receiving of nurturing…which in fact happens when you are supporting others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  They had even cleverly used the pink ribbon in their materials…and merchandise.  So clearly I didn’t see their vision if this color was something that they really didn’t want to be associated with.  So trust me when I say brand yourself and tell your story.

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The ghetto…

I’m a 5’2 white girl.  What do I know about the “ghetto” you might be thinking.  It’s cool.  We’re all good.  You can think that way.  By definition, the “ghetto” is a part of the city in which members of a particular race or group live, usually in poor conditions.  Weird fact, the word was first used around 1611.  From Venetian dialect, where the Italians made Jews live on a ghèto island.  Outcasts.  Now, let’s get back to “modern-day.”

Police tape.  Dark shadows in alleys where you do NOT want to go.  Trash littering the ground.  People hanging out on the corners in broad daylight…shaking hands while passing things off.  Run-down buildings and tenements that need to be condemned, but folks call that home.  Crack houses.  Shots fired.  Police on the scene.  Made the news for another murder, but folks around these parts just think it’s another day.

My first job as a teacher was here.  That’s right.  Because I “survived” student-teaching in the east-end, I was offered a job there.  I accepted.  The above was what I passed on my first day student-teaching.  No lie.  Police tape on the ground.  I still went back.

The first year I was a teacher, I was so full of hope and excitement.  I was going to change the world.  I just knew it.  I will never forget that year, or the next, or the one after that.  I was the one who was changed.  Not the world.

I was the new “white” teacher.  I didn’t think it mattered what color I was.  Apparently, I was wrong.  I made some great friends with the other teachers, but I truly was different.  I was white, married to a white man.  Couldn’t get any whiter.  I was a newlywed, with no children of my own.  My principal was a short, stout, black woman who had a smile I was drawn too when I interviewed for the job.  She hugged me on my first open house and could tell I was ready.  I looked like every typical teacher vision you could imagine.  I had on ahem, a dress with teachery things all over it.  I remember that night.  I only met about 6 parents.  I had 15 on roll because it was a Title 1 school.

To tell this correctly, you would have to know that most phone numbers didn’t work.  I still had not met some parents by January.  The guidance counselor became my friend and we talked about home visits.  I became a mentor to a child from another room, and the other “white” teacher and I signed up to take the boys we were mentoring on a school sponsored bowling event.  At night.  You see, I didn’t think that the time of day mattered.  All I knew was we were taking the kids somewhere they probably never went.  We had pizza and sodas. And my little boy had a great time.  We took him home first, it was getting pretty dark.  I walked him up to the door, and knocked and someone let him in.  They waved at me, but didn’t say anything.

I got back into my new white SUV.  It was my dream car, by the way.  It had just come out.  It was an Xterra.  Up until that point, I had always had small cars.  So my friend and I went to take the next child home.  She knew where he lived, but for some reason she said she wasn’t sure anyone was going to be home.  It was a pretty scary drive down a back alley to this place.  She jumped out and went up to the door.  I was looking around…with the child in the back.  Next thing I know some young men come up to my car.  I only had two seconds to ponder what they wanted.  He knocked on my window and flashed me the…peace sign.  I rolled the window down a bit.  He said “Peace, I like your car.”  I’ll never forget it.  I said thanks and my friend jumped back in the vehicle.  No one was home so we had to try a babysitters.

We were driving down small roads, and we went to a group of  tenements that had lights on.  My friend got out and went up to the door of this place.   She knocked and someone yelled and the door flew open.  I couldn’t really make out what was going on, but she came back and got him.  When she got back in the car, she said, um, I have to leave him there because his brother is there, and that’s where his mom will look, but after the cloud of smoke rolled out, I could see a bong on the table before they pulled the door to.  I asked her if she was crazy to leave him there, and she said that’s what she was supposed to do.  There were no numbers that worked, and this was 16 years ago.

I’m not sure what kind of mentors we made, but eventually, the parents stopped thinking of me as that “white” teacher, and started thinking of me as their child’s teacher.  I was requested even.  I have 3 girls on my social media site who sent me FR after they graduated High School.  I kept in touch with one family all this time and check on those girls, and they know they better behave or I’ll have a talk with their momma.

There are so many stories like this that I could tell you.  But that will have to wait.  Do what you can.  It does matter.

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Motivational Monday…code of conduct

One of my biggest faults, or one of my biggest assets depending on how you look at it, is my inability to keep quiet when wrongs are being done.  Whether it would cost me my job or not, which by the way it never has, but I’m just saying it could, I have made it a point to share the things that go on behind the scenes.  Why do I do that?  Because quite simply it boils down to a code of conduct I think human beings should personally hold themselves accountable to whether or not anyone is looking. 

This includes e-mail messages, private messages, cyber-bullying, phone conversations, texts and the like.  Just because you can’t see someone, does not mean they don’t have feelings.  I honestly wish I didn’t have a hard time with people being nasty…maybe I could be like the see no evil monkeys and just sit there and pretend it doesn’t happen like so many people.  But you see, that’s why the world is in the mess we are in now.

As a teacher, the desire to teach tiny people social-emotional skills was very important to me.  We are losing our HUMANITY as sure as I sit here and type this.  Parents were not showing respect to teachers, principals and other school staff.  They were not showing respect to other parents, and they sure weren’t able to teach respect to their children.  This week alone I saw friends post about children doing horrible things out in public and the parents were…on their phones ignoring the children.  The children then acted out more, etc.

So adults have taken on a kind of behavior that was not seen 20 years ago.  They think they can say anything on Facebook, post anything on social media, and it is okay.  We need to bring back social skills to our children.  We need to teach interaction with other human beings and we also need to learn the word “NO”.  No, you can’t treat me that way.  No, you can’t act a fool in public.  No, you can’t come in here on the first day of school and kick your momma.  I am going to have something to say about that.  Just as you can’t “cuss” at folks.  So teachers, hold your ground.  Hold.  Your. Ground.  As you prepare for this year, do what you know is right.  It’s okay to take time to teach social skills.  It’s okay to say no, you can’t act that way in my room.  Period.  Maybe, just maybe, the tiny ones will go home and show some of these very fine social skills to their folks.

CriticizeHold. Your. Ground.

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Motivational Monday…teaching

A long time ago, in a hood far, far away, I was a teacher.  During November, I talked about a few of the hard stories.  I had a student once who had “selective mutism” in first grade.  His parents didn’t act concerned at all and were wonderful and very supportive.  They said, “Oh, he talks up a storm at home.”  The problem was, that didn’t help me in the classroom because I knew I was going to have to do oral exams such as this new test called Phonological Awareness.  It’s kind of hard to hear the phonemes when someone won’t speak. 

I had “G” team up with this other child I thought would be a good role model.  I had the moms exchange phone numbers and I told them what I was doing.  Little by little “G” began to talk.  At first, it was in a whisper.  Then he whispered to his new friend.  He would whisper to me when people didn’t look at him.  The first time he raised his hand to answer a question I almost cried.  I stayed very calm and pretended I wasn’t going to call on him so I didn’t scare him.  When I saw he was ready I said his name.  He answered and the whole class stopped and looked at him.  They gave him words of encouragement.  I almost cried.  Ahhh.  Little “G”, you kind of still are my favorite story to tell.

I just looked through my photo album tonight.  I see you and your friend in almost all of my photos.  I was probably a tad bit obvious that year about favorites, but who could blame me.  It was my very first year and I managed to do something right.  I was a wee bit proud of myself.  Plus I made it through the year without quitting AND the next year, I came back an entirely different teacher; however, that’s another story.  So for my room One first graders, ummm you might be in college, but you know, I am still the same age, anyway, I love you guys and hope you are doing well.  Three of my girls are my Facebook friends so I do check on some of you.  You just don’t know it.

Difference

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Narrow-mindedness…

nar·row-mind·ed (năr′ō-mīn′dĭd)

adj.  Lacking tolerance, breadth of view, or sympathy; petty.  Sometimes you find this word with intolerance – unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in opinions or beliefs.

When I was teaching, I could always tell which children were told that not everyone is alike, and therefore, you shouldn’t treat them the same.  I don’t know if parents mean to do this to their children, or if it just comes from years of being told the same thing.  Their parents did it to them, so therefore, it must be the way that children should be raised.  However, at some point, your inner voice starts telling you that maybe it’s okay to make friends with people who are not like you.  As a matter of fact, not only is it okay, but it is good for you.  You become a more well-rounded person and your view of the world starts to become smaller actually, as you realize that on the inside, we are all the same.

Teaching tolerance will always be something I value.  Like Daryl Davis.  If you are unfamiliar with this man, let me tell you a bit of his story.  Daryl is a black musician and in 1983, well after the Civil Rights Movement, he was playing in a all-white (informally of course) lounge.  A man approached him after his set, and said he liked his piano playing.  That started a relationship between the two…the black man and a member of the KKK.  This was one of the coolest stories I had heard in a long time.  I wish this story was made part of the curriculum in high schools all around the country.  You can read more about Daryl Davis: A Black Man Amidst the Klan or in this interesting piece here.

Of particular interest to me is how he was brought up:
I was raised overseas in integrated schools. I had had a racist experience already but I didn’t know people organized into groups whose premise was to be racist and exclude other people. It seemed unfathomable to me. My parents were in the Foreign Service and I was an American embassy brat, going to international schools overseas. My classes were filled with anyone who had an embassy: Japanese, German, French, Italian. It was multicultural but that term did not exist at that time. For me it was just the norm. Every time I would come back (to the US,) I would see people separated by race. When my father was telling me about (the KKK) at the age of 10 it didn’t make any sense to me. I had always gotten along with everyone.
With a diverse background, he came to the United States.  He had some pretty funny conversations with one of his friends in the Klan about the brainwashing prejudice causes.  When people are confronted with images of something they don’t understand, be it other religions, race, or ways of life, they react as if they are brainwashed.  This is another line I like from one of the articles I read above: When asked about the fear many people feel when confronted with images of KKK members, he says “It’s just material. You have to address what’s in the person’s head and in their heart.”
Indeed you do.  Preach it.
ignorance

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