Pretty Paper Napkins

Polkadots, whales, flamingos, watermelons, stripes, butterflies. Choose your napkin. I have a slight obsession with pretty paper napkins. I  have a roll of “fancy” paper towels in my office that has been the target of more than a few snarky comments.

I make regular stops at Tuesday Morning to refill my stockpile. I keep a pile of napkins at home. I have an assortment at work. I have even been known to carry a stash in my car.

Messes, spills, and mistakes are unavoidable, but not unpredictable.

I could blame my deep and thorough knowledge of spills and stains on my boys, and though they have provided a significant amount of data-that wouldn’t be a completely honest picture!

You are going to spill your coffee in your lap some days. The drive through taco should not be eaten while driving. You are going to be served spaghetti when you wear white.

Sometimes you laugh so hard at lunch you spill (or spit out) your drink. Sometime you will feed a little one squash for the first time and watch the messy magic.

Here are a few words for you: Mascara, Bar-B-Q, Toothpaste, Cupcakes, Watermelon.

Pretty napkins are my way of signaling to myself that I know mistakes are on the way, I have what it takes to attend to the inevitable messiness, and I get to choose my attitude about it.

Hard to cry over spilled milk when you are drying it up with a napkin covered in purple butterflies.

Easier to sop up the stain with a smile when you are holding a multicolored chevron print paper towel.

Things are about to get messy (if they aren’t already)!! There is no way to avoid the mistakes and missteps headed our way as educators this fall as we navigate a whole new way of doing school. We will have a to adjust our practices, stretch our skills, relearn and repurpose strategies that we have been using to plan, teach, and assess. We have big learning ahead and learning is rarely a “clean” endeavor! The good news is-we are up for the task!

The teaching equivalents to pretty paper napkins:

1. Permission: This fall can feel like an ordeal or an adventure. There will be days that it is both! You will get to decide how you approach every new challenge, tech tool, online interaction. Give yourself permission to be excited, scared, and not perfect!! Set out a stack of napkins and get ready to get messy!

Brené Brown has shared some thinking about giving yourself permission to be who you need to be, but the first time I heard the “permission slip” idea was from Tina Boogren. She had written herself a note, signed it, and put it in her pocket before a Learning Forward presentation. As teachers we know the power of the “permission slip”, it has to be signed, it has to be specific. It is like goal setting with a twist-when you give yourself the green light to try something, learn from the try, and try again.

2. Scheduled reflection: Put it on your calendar. When do you plan to look back, get out your proverbial pink polka-dot napkin and wipe off the edges of what didn’t go the way you planned?

Do you know what gets done in my life? Things that are on my calendar. Do you want to sneak something on to my to-do list? Send me a calendar invite…I love a good calendar invite!! If it is on my calendar, it is happening. I sometimes feel like things aren’t real unless they show up in Outlook (which is why I REFUSE to add the date that my big guy goes back to college or my baby turns 18-we can pretend those things aren’t happening, right?)

Sometimes we get caught up moving so fast, looking ahead, we can leave a lot of learning on the table. There is always something to learn, even when everything goes well. Scheduled reflection is like buying the napkins-having a stash of time and energy-the two supplies you really need to reflect. If you really want to get fancy, schedule it with an instructional coach, a teaching partner, a trusted friend.

3. Release: Throw it away!! Don’t keep things are meant to be single use! I am a firm believer in pretty PAPER NAPKINS! Don’t hold on to, lament, rehash, and relive the lessons or strategies that don’t work for you and your students!! Reflect, learn, and MOVE ON!

Messiness is inevitable, but so is learning, so is growth. And it is all part of the process and the practice of being an educator.

We serve in a profession that is a practice, not a perfection.

This year is going to feel messy…but that is ok…I have a “few” spare napkins if you need some…

Still learning,