Lower expectations

Honestly, this is going to sound lazy. But, a recent epiphany I had is why being relaxed and lowering expectations yields greater results. With grades, in sports, and with relationships, the way to bring success is to be prepared but also, and more importantly, just do it. Do it without giving setting the bar too high. Do it without making a plan on what has to happen. Yes, this goal-setting mama has witnessed firsthand the benefit in not worrying about the end result and just enjoying the race.

Anna miraculously completed her first 5k race last weekend. We had trained for months with the wonderful Girls on the Run program. And much like a good running program, the weeks of workouts prepare the young girls to have the endurance to complete 3.1 miles. But, Anna hasn’t been hardcore because this running group is just as much about friendships and self-discovery as it is running.

She surprised us by only stopping 3 times throughout the race. She finished in 33 minutes. This is not record-winning. However, she wasn’t winded. In fact, she seemed happy and finished with a smile on her face. We didn’t talk about it beforehand. There were no expectations so she certainly exceeded them!

Then there was Brody who half-heartedly decided to also run the race. He planned on not running with Anna and Bo as he assumed he’d run faster than them. However, we also didn’t talk about it or make a plan except that maybe he could start by running with me. Well, that didn’t last long and he broke away from the group. He won the race. Yes, won first place in the race.

I was equally surprised with both accomplishments. But when I think about my children’s accomplishments, they tend to be most successful in the areas that we don’t harp on. Grades. Test scores. Sports. The less we stress about it, the better they naturally do.

There is preparation along the way. Discipline, practice,  and focus on daily tasks are important. We expect for them to do their homework, finish their chores, and have good behavior. But with most performance-based activities, I believe that we can sabotage our children’s efforts, despite the best intentions, when we expect them to perform. The pressure to succeed can make children and adults cave under pressure.

And, as parent, we can be pleasantly surprised instead of disappointed when we don’t have concrete expectations. Valuing best effort, a good attitude, and hard work will result in a good outcome without the stress of pleasing. Do I want to abandon goal-setting? No because it provides growth in self-awareness. But, I do think with our children, we should let them guide their goal-setting. Studies show time and again that intrinsic motivation is more important than extrinsic anyway.

And, I’m now seeing that we can even encourage our children to be easy on themselves too. This week at school, I met with a super, engaged student about test anxiety. Digging deeper into the topic, I discovered that she currently has a ‘B’ in math. But as a type ‘A’ personality, this isn’t good enough (or so she thinks). So after going through some concrete test-taking strategies, we ended with me having her speak to me as if I were a close friend in the same situation. I asked if she’d put her friend down for not finishing first and getting a ‘B’. Of course not so why would be that demanding of ourselves? She coached herself in this activity, practicing kindness and grace.

When parents or teachers berate a child, the child feels small and incapable.  That’s not motivating and inspiring. I know of an adult who once told a 7-year old girl  that didn’t read fast enough on the silly, mandated reading assessment; she needed to do better.  She is  an ESL student who speaks Spanish at home.  Needless to say, the next time she read to her teacher, she was in tears. The pressure doesn’t motivate. Pressure only sets unnecessary stress. And, we know stressed out kids don’t do as well.

It’s ok not to shoot to be first or get straight A’s. We don’t have to win every game. We don’t need to be first. We actually only need to win being a good person. That’s not performance-based. By removing expectations, talking less about the end result, and allowing things to naturally play out, kids just do better. We can allow natural talents and gift to shine.

Just do it.

(And, if you do your best, be happy with the results!)



In my daughter’s eyes, there is no boy on earth that is as funny and as cool as her brother. As far off as that may be, in her mind, he’s the king. Nothing makes her happier than for the rare moments that he gives her attention. When he says, “let’s play dawg”, which is code for wrestling, she’s pumped. If he elbows in her in her eye, like last night, she is quick to forgive and wants to go again tonight!

Every night she says, “I love you, Brody. Good night” before bed. If she’s lucky, he will say I love you too, but that’s not common either. He rarely compliments her but is quick to put her down. Most days lately, he’s just plain mean! Yet, she still worships him. And, deep down, he loves her too. Life just wouldn’t be the same without their bickering, tattling, and put-downs! And, that’s ok because there are moments like these:


I didn’t see this paper until this slacker-mom checked her backpack Sunday night. Inside, I found this treasure. Two and a half years later, it still makes me do a double-take when reading these words.

“I am also thankful for my brother to live because he had a brain tumor and we were very thankful that he’s alive. “

(Amen, sister! Isn’t that the truth!?) This is our truth, and we are ok with this truth. In fact, we are thankful with this truth. As a parent and a counselor, I want my children to stay positive, show gratitude, and be mindful. Are they always? No way. But, moments like these make me recognize that we are teaching them to rejoice in the triumphs instead of wallow in what’s history.

When Brody read this tonight, he didn’t say a word but his face lit up. He immediately asked her to go play ‘dawg’ (code- I think you’re pretty cool!).

The last sentence that runs onto the back of the page is the simple summary:

There is so many things that I am thankful for.

Yes, yes indeed.



Home for the Holidays

When I reflect back as my week as a School Counselor, I barely know where to begin. Our weeks aren’t all fun, guidance classes and simple friendship issues. What stands out most this week? Is it the 2 suicide assessments I conducted, the DCS referral, the allegations of inappropriate touching, the conflicts, the panic attack, or the tearful 3rd grade girl who feels abandoned? Honestly, they all hurt to hear about but usually I am able to separate and sleep at night because I am truly exhausted.

This morning as I sit here in the comfort of my home with both of my precious kids awake and awaiting a breakfast menu they will choose, a moment keeps coming back to me. It’s a sad moment that brought tears to my eyes, which is unusual. It’s a sad situation with a good lesson, though, so this morning I want to tell you a little about a girl my own daughter’s age. She’s precious and usually wears a sweet smile on her face while facing a painful reality day to day.

We will call her J. I see both J. and her brother once a week. They ask to see me every time I am there. Why? Because they’ve been removed from their home. Just this summer when they were going into 3rd and 4th grade, the court decided to take away their parent’s rights. I don’t even know what happened as I serve as a support and not a nosey-body.; I’ve never asked and they’ve never told me. I assume it was drugs but they are still living with aunt and uncle now, months later. And, that isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Unlike many other children I know, they aren’t living with complete strangers. They have 2 caring adults who are taking care of their needs. Sure, they lost the comfort of their familiar surroundings and now are dealing with sharing space, time, and conflicts with their cousins. That’s a challenging shift but one I listen to them vent about. They are the fortunate ones who have adults actively caring for them. I always notice how pretty J.’s hair looks when her aunt french braids it.

To see these kids in class, you probably wouldn’t guess they’ve been through this recent trauma. They are the UNusual suspects, not acting out and often flying under the radar. But, deep down when I visit with the kids, I feel their hurt. The very first time the boy, just a little bit younger than my son, asked to see me, he burst into tears and sobbed about missing his mom. We sat on a bench in the garden while I rubbed his back.

Yesterday when J. asked to see me, we talked about her week as usual. No friendship problems and everything is normal, except that it was the family Thanksgiving lunch at school. This is when many parents and grandparents come to eat Thanksgiving dinner with their child. Those who don’t have a family member coming eat in the classroom with their teacher. J. seemed sad yesterday before lunch and I knew why. I felt why. As she got teary so did I because she has a right to feel sad . So, we sat in the hallway with this feeling for a moment and accepted it.

Just last week, there was a court date. She had talked about it in our small group of girls. They were choosing pictures with various emotions and sharing an example in which they experience that emotion. J. drew the card “HOPEFUL”. She was hopeful that her parents would get weekend visits with her. She went to school on the day of court (can you imagine sitting in class, being expected to stay on task and learn, while a judge is making decisions about who you’ll live with!?)….The parents “didn’t show up”. She told me yesterday with tears brimming that maybe mom is out of the state. Neither mom nor dad showed up so there is no change in custody or visitation.

On a day when children are all hyped up because they’re eating with their mom in the cafeteria and then going to the book fair, J. and many other children will think about their parents, not knowing where they are.

The holidays are a joyous time for many of us…but not all. The holiday season with time off from school and work can be extremely lonely , unsettling, and disappointing for some. While the moral of this story may seem sad at first, I’d want you to know that these kids are resilient. They are cute, thoughtful, and normal kids on the outside. They put a smile on their face and remain hopeful in the face of a tough reality. That is inspiring. If you are fortunate to be able to spend time with family over the holidays, be grateful. Others are craving that one simple thing.

And also, these kids remind me something else. Don’t judge from the outside. Many children and adults may look like things are perfectly normal. They may wear smiles and pretty hair styles on the outside but be hurting on the inside. It reminds me to treat everyone with empathy and kindness because you never know what’s going on in their home and in their lives.

And lastly, and always, it reminds me to be grateful for what I have. Instead of thinking about what we don’t have, we should count our blessings, for they are many. It’s sweet children like these whom remind me to give thanks for those around me every day.


It’s been awhile, my friends. As I warn against, this past month has been a whirlwind and I felt like my head was barely above water for a couple days there leaving me less time than I like to pause. But now that the Starry Night race is over, I can take a minute to reflect and give thanks for all the good in the world.

grateful heart

Many of you were there with your children, spouses, and friends so you know what it felt like. There were around 75 more registered runners than last year, including the fun run. There were more spectators, more brain tumor survivors, and more buzz than last year. This event is definitely growing, along with an energy that is contagious.

Because of this event, we are making new friends and reaching new families. It both amazes and inspires me to see strangers show up with no personal connection to brain tumors, yet genuinely wanting to help. If you give people a chance to be good, they are good. This community is generous, loving, and supportive. Whether is was being a sponsor, donating money, registering for the race, taking pictures, working a table, or buying a t-shirt, you showed up. (And, are still showing up.)

This is such invaluable lesson for our children, giving back whether it directly impacts you or not. We best teach empathy when we SHOW empathy. When we are true friends, we show our children what friendship looks like. When we volunteer, we show our children the power of doing. When we give encouraging words, we show our children that words matter. When we push on even when we hurt, we show our children that we can all do hard things with the power of love.

A mother named Lisa contacted me months before the race. She reached out because she lost her son, Cody at age 13, to brain cancer. She wanted to not only run in his honor but also to help. You may have seen her dressed in a super man costume because he loved super heroes. She had his picture on his cape. From the moment, she emailed me, I felt a connection. From the moment I met and hugged her, I felt her energy… loving, good energy. Strong energy. Courageous energy. Her son lost his battle on earth. If only the outcome had been different and he had more time. Yet,  she’s still showing up and keeping him alive. Love doesn’t end. lisa

Neither does hope. My hope is that we can prevent other mothers from losing their children to this deadly disease. When we take a tough situation and make something good out of it, that’s hope. There’s hope in knowing that we can still do good in face of something horrible and hard.

When I last blogged before the race and envisioned something I feel so passionately about, I pictured these signs. I passed the torch to Bo and he designed them. They were better than I had imagined and tears welled in my eyes when I first saw them. This is what it’s all about, pressing on for those kids who are still fighting the fight. Continuing to remember and love those who have not been so fortunate. Those children are the reason we ran. And after the race, many, many runners commented on those real faces of children we now know. Real kids who didn’t sign up for this race and some who truly cannot run but they are the warriors fighting on.


As I went to Ijams on my day off after race-day, I went on yet another run to collect any remaining signs and thoughts. Like before the race, I was alone but with music as I reflected on what the race had meant this year. As I got right to the end of the trail at the turn-around for the 8.5k, I approached a steep hill (that I know runners cuss me for) and this song came on when I saw the sign above. (I encourage you to listen below as you read and think about what difference you are making.) Again, tears rolling down my face.

You are my brothers and sisters. We are in this life together, and TOGETHER we do make a difference. Many families and individuals made a point to say thank you and offer encouraging words. I cannot say thank you enough for fighting for Brody and all those children you now may have seen and met. Or, even for those we haven’t met. This is love.

There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

For as many evil, unhappy, or unkind people and diseases there are in the world, there is still more good. Hope shines through even the darkest of times. Thank you for giving us hope.

If you close your eyes…

I just got back from the most wonderful morning run at Ijams. It was amazing, really. And while I probably can’t put into words the way I felt, I have to try because this feeling isn’t common; this experience wasn’t ordinary.

With the Starry Night race on my mind daily, I went to run the 8.5k course. I have been planning on it all week because I wanted to know the exact distance and feel it out. It’s a gorgeous morning and it was very still and quiet at Ijams when I started at 8 a.m. For some reason, I was feeling emotional as I began the run. Often I run without music but today I brought headphones and Bo’s Garmin to help measure the longer distance than I’ve been running. When I have music, the distraction usually means I think less but not today.

I didn’t really feel energized or up for running today as I’m fighting a cold and feel worn out. But, there’s so little time that I get for myself that I have to seize the day. The first couple miles were easy, really, and then I hit 3 miles. I was starting to think about how tired and sluggish I felt. But, then my thoughts came back to Brody, the course, and why we are doing the race. If he does life everyday with a tumor inside his head, then I coud do the last 2 miles or so.

Along the course, I envisioned the signs of brain tumor survivors and angels that I will post on race day, the sweet faces of children I know and have met because of this race. Thoughts of children I don’t know were inspiring me too, thinking of children who are about to endure an all-day brain surgery. Or, children that are waking up from their resection in pain, unable to walk. Or, the children who will have a port put in to start their chemo treatments that may or may not work. Or, finally those children who have unfairly lost their life to brain cancer. Those are the kids that made me want to keep running this morning.

Will Skelton greenway really is a beautiful place to get moving so it was easy for me to feel inspired this morning. One song really stood out during my run, bringing both feelings of joy and sadness, a theme of today’s run….a theme of life. “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing’s changed at all. And, if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? Now, how I’m gonna be an optimistic about this?…”

Along the trail, I was noticing beauty. God was sneaking in. I was aware that it’s a magnificent time of year where you can see the death and life of nature all at the same time. Leaves are turning and falling , while fall wild flowers are in blossom. This is also the place where there are those acres of sunflowers, which have now died off. Even the dried stalks were pretty in the fields but it wasn’t until the end of the trail where I turned around that I found a hidden surprise. There is another field of smaller, blooming, new sunflowers! If you look for beauty, you can find it. Within death, there is also life.


Because I was so pleasantly surprised, I decided to start snapping pictures with my phone while still running. The more I snapped, the more beauty I noticed. In fact, just a few snaps in, I looked down the see what the scene looked like while I was moving. Was it blurry? Was it of my shoes? No, what I saw was confirmation that God was with me on my run, pushing me on and encouraging me. Telling me that I am right where I am supposed to be.

To the naked eye, the sky was bright blue. It’s the crisp blue that we don’t often get in Tennessee, or that’s what I saw. But, when I looked back at the picture, I saw more colors. What appeared on the screen was not what I saw with my own eyes. The picture is filled with colors and the sky shows a type of colorful rainbow. Several more pictures surprised me and appeared this way with a bright glow in the center that definitely wasn’t visible to the naked eye.

That also made me realize that things can be even more beautiful than we imagine. While running,  I was reflecting back at the moment that Dr. Savage finally came to tell us that Brody was awake and talking, I was overwhelmed. I was so relieved that I started crying. My mom asked me what was wrong and I’ll never forget. I told her, sobbing,  I was just so grateful. Tears of joy.

When I first saw Brody in the PICU, it was so HORRIBLE and also so WONDERFUL. Just like the paths on my run today, the journey has been rocky and smooth. There have been hills and also easy, flat areas. With a brain tumor diagnosis, there is light and dark. There are bending paths that lead to surprising, pleasant places. And, I don’t think is a message just for me or just for brain tumor families. This is life.

Birth and death

Light and dark

Fear and hope

Smooth and rough

Life has seasons, and sometimes there are times we get to see how they overlap. We get to see all the colors at once. There are magnificent times when GOD comes clearly to tell us that this is the way it’s supposed to be and good is shining though, pushing us on. Beauty is everywhere. It’s in the bird house. It’s in the dried stalks. It’s in the new, bright sunflowers. It’s in the moving forward. Keep going to the end of the trail, and you’ll find beautiful surprises. Push on.

Yes, I have been here before like the song told me. I have had practice runs last year while preparing for the first Starry Night. I have been at this same emotional place too, and I’ve asked myself “how I’m gonna be optimistic about this?”. As soon as I took this last picture, a new song came on that said, “And, you see the light.” My phone suddenly went black and died. (This has never happened before). I knew I had plugged it in to charge last night so I was confused that it would die so suddenly. I tried pressing the power button to turn in back on while running my last half-mile. Nothing. Black. Dead. So, I ran the last half-mile in a strong silence. (weird, I thought.)

When I made it back to my car and got in, I again tried starting it back up. It fired back on with 55% power. Then, I put Pandora back on. This is the song that was playing. Yes, it’s a “good, good life”.

Coincidences? I think not. God is talking to us if we pay attention.


Be Kind

On a day like today, or any day really, there cannot be too much kindness. How can we have a grateful heart? Practice being kind. Say kind things. Do kind things. Think kind things. Look for kind things. Just be kind.

It was 2 weeks ago when some girls at one of my schools were not being so kind. The fall drama was amping up as the honeymoon is over. In fact, many 9-10 year olds that I know have been looking for trouble so I’ve had no trouble with getting business! (#schoolcounselorbusiness!) When this has happened at one of my schools and I’m feeling a negative climate, I think it’s best to focus on what’s going right and not what’s going wrong. I mean, for real, we can complain all day long but watching for someone doing something right is lot more rewarding and fun.

So, I gave the girls a kindness challenge. They choose to meet at recess to make a plan to recognize others for being kind. They write simple kindness reports and distribute kindness cards to those who are ‘caught being kind’. Then, the person who practiced the kind deed gets a prize from me. So, really they are choosing to let others be rewarded, which isn’t always so easy for kids. But, they are my “kindness ambassadors” so I think they are kind of proud to have this responsibility. Not only that, I believe that they are getting some intrinsic reward too. It feels good to be good and to tell others they’re good!

I found many, many ideas on my fav, Pinterest. Here’s this week’s list that not only am I sharing with my school girls but I also shared with my children. be kind.jpg

Now, why is this one written on? I encouraged and challenged Brody and Anna to also complete 12 of the squares on this chart when I printed it yesterday. I even said I’d give them a reward if they did it. Anna was anxious to start. She asked several clarifying questions. And, she started yesterday, as you can see.  She’s on it! She’s so on it that this is what I just found on my pillow. (#meltmyheart!)love letter.jpg

Do I write about this to brag on my sweetest angel? (kind of!;) But, I really thought I should share because with some kids, it’s this easy. Ask for kindness. You too can reap the benefits! You provide the prompt and then the kindness spreads.

Am I making them do this? No…and Brody hasn’t done a thing about it! But, I think just talking about what it looks like to be kind helps build empathy. Just encouraging a random act of kindness can excite some children. And, giving freely pads the heart, making us less hardned.

When there is so much sadness and hurt in the world, there is also a lot of little things, amazing things happening too. Look for them. Ask for them. Encourage them. And, reward them. This is a grateful heart.

My #1

1Every child deserves to someone’s number one. Every child needs to hear they are loved, feel adored, and be given hugs before bed. Every child deserves to have someone read them a bedtime story. Every child wants to hear they are good at something. Every child not only wants these things; they need it. It’s something many of us take for grated. It’s something many of us do for our children without thought.

“You’re my favorite boy in the world. You’re so smart. You’re such a good girl. You are so responsible. I love you…..”

These are things I say to my children every day because I mean it, and they need to hear it. They need to feel it. And, many, many children are not feeling like they are anyone’s number one.

The list of children that I spent time with this week is long. And when I think of a commonalities, there is one depressing theme. Many, if not most, of the children who had angry outbursts, who had a conflict or made a bad choice, or asked to spend time with me are lacking one or both parents. They are abandoned and feel unwanted. Their parents have different priorities.

They’re in jail. They’re on drugs. They have a new boyfriend. I’ve even had children tell me that they have new kids now. They have a new family. How does that make a child feel to have their parent care about something or someone more than them? It leaves a void. They feel incomplete. They feel insecure. And, they are longing for attention.

And, they look for attention wherever they can find it. In PAC (in-school suspension), in conflicts, in rebellion, and even within themselves. I had a boy tell me at the end of the day that “he would never earn a reward from me” when he saw another girl picking her toy from my ‘joy jar’. “I’m stupid and I never do anything right.” This is not how children are supposed to feel when they are nine.

But, when your mom has left you, you rarely see your dad, and you’re scared of your caretaker, you feel lost. When your mom tells you that you won’t be seeing your dad anymore, you feel sad. When your dad is in jail and you haven’t seen him since you were three, you feel disappointed. When your mother chose drugs over you, you feel angry. Children are hurting everywhere.

But, we can’t give up. We have to be the ones to love them. Maybe they aren’t our number one, but we can try to find them a number one. Today I checked in with a friend who is being raised by her aunt and uncle. She’s been with them for years now while some of her other many siblings are living with a drug-addicted mom and other family members. In fact, one of her brothers now attends the same school yet lives with step-mom and father. He was born addicted to drugs and the impact is huge. He is so delayed and almost incapable of functioning in school. Today, he didn’t want to leave his sister when he saw her this morning. Since they don’t live together and hardly see each other, he gets so excited to see her. He became so upset upon her leaving for class that he began screaming, “I want to kill myself” over and over and over again down the hallway. It was a blood-curdling scream. It was so painful to listen to so I cannot imagine how he feels. He’s in first grade.

But, this girl who shares the same mother and doesn’t have a relationship with a different father is doing great. It was her birthday today. And while she was understandably upset by the morning incident, her ‘Big Sister’ from the Big Brothers Big Sister’s program surprised her for her birthday. She’s been matched with this girl since first grade. Her Big Sister comes to eat lunch with her often. She takes her to do fun things outside of school. And, she delivers wonderful, fancy birthday presents to this one girl. She has made her her number one! She even asked her ‘little’ to be in her wedding this winter!

So when there are children who have had bad luck and received the short-end-of-the-stick, we have to find them a number one. A mentor, a school friend, a family member who steps in….someone who will treat them like they are the most important thing in the world. And even if we can’t actually find them a mentor, we make the time we spend with ‘our’ kids meaningful. When I spend time with a child, even if it’s 5 minutes, I really try to make them feel loved. They aren’t always the most loving kids but they can be when we show them how to.

At the end of the day today, I invited a boy who’s been abandoned by his mother to come help me with my kindergarten leadership class. I had to conduct a suicide assessment on him yesterday. But today, he wanted to come with me as I taught the sweet kindergarten students about ‘filling buckets’. He was so well-behaved in this class as he served as my assistant. A boy who is desperate to be loved and is feeling really depressed chose to spend his afternoon explaining to other children how to fill buckets and make other people feel loved.

Fill someone’s bucket today, and make a child feel loved. They all deserve it.



When you hear the word hero, what do think? What comes to mind? Often children have a vision of a superhero like Batman, or even their favorite pro football player or pop-star. Sure, they have fame and fortune. Maybe they do have super hero powers or a magic that children want to capture.

But, let me tell you about my hero. He’s 11. He’s just faced his fear of needles again and he’s having an MRI under sedation with contrast as we speak. He’s aware that he has something in his head that other friends do not. He’s living with a brain tumor.

So while his sister and friends were waking at 7 to go to school ,  we arrived at the hospital at 6 am for the first appointment. After the routine paperwork, we have to wait in the same radiology waiting room where Brody was first diagnosed, an eerie feeling to say the least. He gets the numbing cream and then we wait. There was an emergency MRI so we wait a little longer, me imagining why that poor child that bumped us is in there.

We get into the room after 7 to check blood pressure and get the IV. We wait some more. Then comes the dreaded time when we know he’s going under. Brody doesn’t say a word but his heart is racing as we hold his hand and tell him it’s going to ok. The hospital bed waits in the hall right outside the MRI machine that’s been buzzing from the last patient.

Brody sheds no tears, takes some deep breathes and quickly closes his eyes. It’s a scary feeling every time, to watch your child’s eyes robotically close before you. It’s a harsh reminder of a surgery no child or parent ever wants to face. It’s flashbacks and unknowns. It’s letting go.

He will awake and he knows that they are checking for regrowth. He’s old enough to be aware, and knows the magnitude of what regrowth means.

Yet, he faces every day like an ordinary boy while also wearing his super powers inside. He chooses to have an amazing attitude and live like he’s any other boy, knowing he still has a growth inside his brain. That amazes me every day.

A hero is someone who inspires. A hero helps others…Brody helps me stay strong, have faith, and be brave when I don’t want to be. A hero is someone who helps others. He helps me see the light every day as he soars through life with soaring colors.

Keep the faith, little hero. You sure help me to!

School is in full-swing, and fall is in the air with crisp morning air and football Saturdays. Time flies! In fact, fall break is just a short 3 weeks away. So, as the first interim reports are distributed at school, it’s been long enough to adjust yet we are still figuring things out.

The classroom procedures have been taught. Most kids have someone or something they like to play on the playground. And, we have learned that some of our children’s quirks. If you work in a school, you know that the first month is a whirlwind! Name tags, Open Houses, moving desks, cramming the day with new curriculum, and then also trying to get to know our kids. It’s busy! (for educators and parents!)

It can get so busy that we often forget to recognize the whispers. Sure, we hear the obvious. We hear the children tattling and whining. We hear the fighting. We see the test grades in red ink. We celebrate the goal they scored in the soccer game. Often, we only respond to the loudest and most glaring feedback as parents and educators while overlooking or not noticing quiet signs of growth. With both the good and the bad, it’s easy to overlook the whispers.

What do whispers look like and why do they matter? Well, this year I have met a tiny first grade boy who doesn’t speak….at all. He has not muttered a single word inside the school doors this year so far. In fact, until last week, we had never seen him move his lips or even attempt to communicate. He can and does speak at home but never at school. He’s a selective mute.

This is problematic for many reasons of course. He has to be able to communicate for safety and academic reasons, as well as with friends. So while he’s also slipped through this first part of school, this has become a personal goal of mine, to help this child find the courage to speak.

He’s had the opportunity for the past 3 weeks in my ‘friendship group’, yet hasn’t come around. He comes with 8 other children to my room once a week for 30 minutes. And, he’s my shining star for sitting quietly in his own space. Yet, he needs to be able to also participate in sharing with the group. So, last week before he came, I told him that I wanted his to mouth a couple of words because I knew he could do it (secretly I wasn’t sure he would but I told him I expected him to). The children in this group are working towards a minimum of 5 good choices in which I give them immediate feedback with a check on their paper. If they earn 5 or more ‘checks’, they may play for 2-3 minutes at the end. This little boy hasn’t been able to play so far in the friendship group because he hadn’t made all the choices I needed him to, like trying to communicate. But, this week, I believed he could do, told him I knew he could, and by golly, he was the first student I called on to share how he was feeling.

He chose the happy card and mouthed ‘h-a-p-p-y’! I couldn’t hear his voice but he very clearly articulated the word. I was beyond excited! He was the first child to earn a ‘check’. You might be thinking, big deal? Yes, it was a big deal! He also mouthed, ‘thank you’ when I prompted him to again at the end of the group. A smile was included and that was his choice! It truly was the highlight of my day.

While thinking about my week this week, this moment kept coming back. Then, I also remembered when another student actually took her old school papers out of her folder at home, finally, and did her homework. And, then there was the boy who was so angry and could have easily escalated to fighting another boy yet chose to walk away with me to the hallway. And, another girl who has worked weeks to earn a ‘blue’ on her behavior chart and delivered a signed note from her teacher at Open House that she achieved it. Then, there was the time at dinner when my own son realized and articulated that he has been taking his anger out on me and he’s sorry. These are the whispers I am talking about.

In this society, we want to measure everything. People want to see the the numbers on the scale drop when getting in shape to show they are loosing weight. We want to see A’s on the report card. We wear our Fitbit to track our steps. Shoot, we even measure how effective our teachers supposedly are based on test scores. We measure, measure, measure and we want to see big change fast. 

But, I think we should also listen for the whispers, the little things that are immeasurable. I believe paying attention to the subtle, quiet moments matter just as much or MORE.

So whether it’s simply starting with mouth-ing the words or doing the right thing instead of the wrong, we should celebrate moments that aren’t so loud or that you cannot measure or grade. Even as adults, we need to pay attention to the whispers. Many times, those whispers are telling us a lot more than the noise but we have to listen and wait for them. We have to be paying attention. Subtle, quiet, and humble….good things are happening everywhere.

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