“Seeing My Daughter Dare Was Wonderful”

I’m doing some work that involves a new teacher colleague in Costa Rica, and I took three years of high school German.  What little Spanish I know I’ve picked up from my wife and children’s conversations around the house. I’m a crummy listener.

Enter Google Translate.  For the last week or so, I’ve been dutifully copying and pasting my writing in English into the service to translate into Spanish.  And vice versa for the new colleague’s words. I expect this to become a habit, but it’s not one yet. Right now, it’s a chore. But sometimes it delivers prizes.

I don’t know if Google Translate is serving us well, but in our first exchange about our holiday breaks, my new colleague shared that his daughter has been horseback riding.  I shared that my daughters love riding, but it’s not my thing.  His response was the title to this post.

I don’t know if the translation is accurate, but that phrase is sure poetry:

… seeing my daughter dare was wonderful 

I hope you get the chance to see someone dare soon. I hope you notice how beautiful it can be.

And I hope that maybe some one gets to see you dare beautifully, too.


Skating Along

Last month, I took my three daughters skating.  They’ve all been to the skating rink plenty of times, and are at different levels of skating expertise.  Ani and Teagan both motor along at their own paces, leaving their four-year-old sister, Quinn, and me behind as they skate it up to whatever loudly pulsating track is pounding through the speakers of the skate sound system.  Ani will even play some of the inevitable games that creep up during a perfectly fine all-skate, limbo-ing her way into the second or third round of competition.

Quinn skating

Quinn, though, until last month’s trip, had never put skates to feet.  Her idea of roller skating was playing in a big indoor jungle gym they’ve set up for the pre-skating crowd.  But it was time.

When my older daughters learned to skate, they pretty much just fell down.  A lot.  Until they figured out the mechanics of wheels on their feet and their centers of gravity.  Quinn had some new options.  In the picture to the left here, you can see the frame on wheels she used to help her find her way with a little less falling down.

And while she was trying out the skates and the helper contraption, she had a safe space on the skate floor, behind a row of colored barriers, set up for new skaters and their teachers.  Her sisters on the other side of the barrier could see her progressing and she could wave and smile as she scooted across the floor.

But the greatest thing about the divided skate floor was that she could see the “real” skating world she was learning to use.  She could get there at any time, and, in many ways, it was the same place she was skating in.  She was skating with everyone else, even though she was off to the side.

Quinn was immersed in a real-world learning experience – not separated from it.  She wasn’t in a special carpeted room that bore no resemblance to what skating was really like.  She grooved to the same music, heard the same announcements, and could smell the same pizza1.

I’m probably making too big a deal about it, but I find that lots of learning spaces don’t ever really resemble the environments where the learning gets put into practice.  The learning, too, doesn’t resemble the way that life or work or whatever the students are learning about is enacted in the “real world.2

I loved Quinn’s experience because she was immediately in control of her experience – she could lose the cage and leave the protected area whenever she wanted.  But it was also connected to the goal she set for herself – to skate like her sisters.  It wasn’t a walled garden.  It was the actual garden – she just had some extra tools to help her make sense of her experience and transition out of the training area.  I guess in a way she was in the garden with some hedges – but not walls or gates or anything exclusionary or separating.

If the learning you’re facilitating, or the learning space you’re facilitating it in, doesn’t resemble OR connect to the places or opportunities you’re attempting to connect your students to, then it seems to me that you’re doing it wrong.

How many contrived spaces do we build for students, spaces that don’t even approach the real world, much less connect to it?  What does it mean to build classrooms or learning spaces that connect, physically or otherwise, to the spaces we are teaching our students about?

Take a look at the picture below of Quinn gazing over the boundary between her classroom and the real world.  She’s curious and eager and ready to move beyond the barrier – when she is ready, that’s just what she’ll do3.

At least sometimes, learning should look like that.

A walled skating garden

  1. I’m not certain the pizza smell, as good as it was, was entirely necessary. []
  2. The mythical real world is a fascinating place for me.  It’s often invoked as a reason why an experience has to be terrible, or hard, or boring, or involve showing one’s work – but I’ve not found the “real world” to be necessarily boring or work-showing.  The “real world” is often what we make it to be, and can be pretty great. []
  3. And part of my job as her teacher there in that moment was to not push her too fast, but to provide some steady pressure. Her goal was to get out on the floor, not to muck about forever with the support structure. Knowing just how much pressure is the right amount is an area of my practice as a teacher AND a parent that I’m certain I’ll never quite master. []

On Quinn’s Second Birthday

Earlier today, we celebrated Quinn’s second birthday. My youngest daugher is officially less young than she used to be.

Her world will happen faster than mine.

And while she’s sleeping off a cupcake-induced late afternoon nap, I had the chance to catch up on today’s paper1. And read this.

And, yes, I watched the video. It was painful. On multiple levels.

This is just to say, mostly as a reminder to me, that when a father resorts to a public airing of grievances concerning his concerns over his daughter’s behavior, using the behavior he claims to despise, then he doesn’t win.

Or help.

And while it’s certainly not my place, nor am I able, to judge the father/daughter relationship here, I feel certain that this video, or the actions it captures, will not do much to improve the general state of relations between fathers and daughters.

There are people on both sides of a relationship. Even if the people are children. Still people. And all people should be treated a little better than that video represents.

And perhaps children sometimes are harder on their parents than the parents deserve. As the world flies to a place of ever-publicness, and the perpetual ease of slinging shots at each other through the public sphere will only grow, let’s be careful with what we’re slinging.

Teagan, isolated from the birthday party, feverish and lethargic, down with a cold and quarantined upstairs with an iPad and TV, reminded me today that she, not quite five, like all of my daughters, will never live in a world where the world isn’t ever-pulsing in a device a finger’s touch away. Part of my job, as a parent, is to create for them moments of boredom in a world of Everything-All-The-Time.

Boredom just happened in my youth. Connections were harder. The reverse is true for her. Her world will happen faster than mine. Time for sitting still and wondering will be something we will have to fight for more and more.

I wish that father and his daughter had some more of that time. I think it might’ve made a difference. I hope they find some soon away from the Facebooks and the YouTubes.

So, Quinn, and Ani, and Teagan, whatever is coming for us as father and daughters, let’s work very hard, all of us, to make sure it isn’t that. Let’s take time to talk and pause and be sure to honor each other, and to keep what might be better said offline offline.


  1. That I only ever read electronically, so it won’t be “the paper” for much longer, I’m guessing. []

On Skinned Knees & Lessons Learned

It’s skinned knee season in our home, with two girls riding bikes of the two and four-wheeled variety, and a third toddling along just behind – ready for far more than she’s capable of.

And I’m not one to stop someone who’s trying to make progress, even if that progress might be dangerous.

So we’ve been through lots and lots of boxes of Band-Aids for hurts both real and imagined. And we’re quick to wash out wounds and make sure that we keep them looked after.

But no matter how well we wash and watch, some of them are going to leave permanent marks. Like the time Ani discovered that you can’t make a ninety-degree turn on a bike. Or the time that Teagan realized, in a most unfortunate way, that you cannot stop a tricycle like Fred Flintstone could stop his car.1 Quinn forgets, sometimes, about “down.” She’s still kind of new.

Each of those moments hurts. But hurt can have an upside. In fact, some would tell you that hurt, or pain, has an evolutionary advantage. It tells us when we hit a limit of some kind.

And those marks will help them remember the stories of the injuries one day. They’ll proudly show the little scars and blemishes that never quite go back to normal and explain that they rode a bike early, or took a chance on a curb or wrestled with a cat or went head over handlebars in a moment of panic.

But hurt, like fear, well, it just hurts. And to know someone you love is hurting is the worst kind of pain, a pain of helplessness and empathy and doubt.

Oh, how I wish I had a suit of Nerf and armor that I could force my children to wear when they go out into the world, or want to wrestle that cat. To be able to ensure the safety of my children, be they walking to school or traversing a steep hiking trail along the edge of a narrow cliff, would make my sleep come much easier.

But I don’t. And the marks and memories would be hard to accumulate from inside an impenetrable shell of foam. I also suspect it’d be mighty difficult to hear with all that Nerf so close to one’s ears.

There are plenty of days I want to say “Today, let’s stay here, where cars and cats and cliffs and sticks and stones and words can’t hurt us.” But I can’t. Because that’d be parental malpractice. As a dad, it’s my job to listen and bandage and help my children to be brave, to not stop when it’d be a whole lot easier and may well hurt a great deal less and be more safe to just stay still. Being brave? It’s important. And I hate it. Oh, there are days I very much dislike that job.

As a teacher, that’s my job, too.

I hope you’ve got a kit full of peroxide and Band-Aids with you as you take your charges out into the world. I hope you, and they, are being very brave.

  1. Of course, Teagan would have no clue who Fred Flintstone is. Or was. Whatever. But I do find it interesting that “Flintstone” is in my Web browser’s dictionary. []

Connective Children. Nothing New?

This afternoon, Mary Ann and WIll were talking a bit about Kindergarten standards.  I butted in.1

And Mary Ann and I, and some others, worked our way into a conversation back and forth talking at one another chat about a post of Mary Ann’s.  You should read the post2.  As I read it, I was struck by the notion of connectedness – and the implication that it was about online.  Now, the Gee concept she references3, and I’m about to requote, does state that:

An affinity space is a place where informal learning takes place. According to James Paul Gee, affinity spaces are locations (physical or virtual) where groups of people are drawn together because they share a particular common, strong interest or are engaged in a common activity.[] Often but not always occurring online, affinity spaces encourage the sharing knowledge or participating in a specific area, but informal learning is another outcome.

But even though these spaces don’t have to be online, I got the sense from the post that the online-ness of connected children’s experiences might be the unique thing.

And I want to push back on the assumption that connected of today is somehow significantly different than the connected of yesterday.  Just as , so, too, would I wonder about the necessity of the Internet for the creation of the modern connected child.

That’s not to say that it’s not a factor, that speed and access are not better than they’ve ever been4.  But I want to push against the idea that they’re new.  That wanting to know what’s going on somewhere else as quickly as possible is a trait of only the 21st Century.  That seeking an audience for one’s efforts is a notion of those of us born after 1985.  That being in conversation with someone from a different place didn’t happen prior to Skype.

Easier?  Perhaps.  Likely, even.  Faster?  Often.  But new?

I don’t think so5.  And when I say that I wonder about connectivity, or connectedness, this is what I’m talking about.  Certainly important.  I want my children, and their schools, to be about connectedness through the tools of today. But what makes them differently different than all the children that’ve come before?

But I’m not so sure that’s new6.

  1. That’s one thing Twitter’s good for – having open conversation – both so that you can model what that might look like as well as allow folks to intrude.  And, yeah.  I know I just wrote this.  And am now praising Twitter.  It’s a contradictory night. []
  2. And most of what she writes.  She’s wise. []
  3. By way of Wikipedia []
  4. Too many nots there – of course it’s faster and better than ever.  But that’s mostly been the case for the last several hundred years. []
  5. I may well be wrong.  I argue with myself about it.  Frequently. []
  6. I’m grateful for Pam Moran’s gentle suggestion that I should pause to write this up.  She was right. []

Hey You: Please Stop Bribing (My) Children

Dear Teacher/Sunday School/Summer Camp/Person I Trust with my Child:

This is a rather embarrassing letter to write.  See, I brought my kids to you because I trust you and know that you have something important to offer – your experiences and the things you want my children to be able to know and do when they leave you are essential, I think.

My children need to learn from you.


I’ve noticed that, when you want my children to experience something, or you want them to take a risk or try something new, or to do something that might be hard, you often, not always, but certainly more than I’m comfortable with, tend to offer a reward of some kind.  Sometimes a snack, other times a small toy or a few minutes of a special game.

Every now and then, I see something like this:

Bribing My Kids

Really?  That seems like a bit much for bringing a friend along for what should be a rewarding experience of its own.

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I just want to call those rewards what they actually are:


You’re bribing my children.

Could you please stop?

See, the thing is that we’ve worked really hard at home to help our children realize that there are difficult and challenging things that they’ll have to do from time to time.  Clean their rooms.  Do their homework.  Look after the pets.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Take risks.  You know – the important stuff of life.

And we can’t really be bribing them every time they do those things. If we did, then they’d only do the things we think they should be doing when there’s a bribe waiting at the end.  Or sometimes, in the middle.

That’s not good.

So, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you please stop offering a piece of candy every time my kids do something nice?  Or certainly quit offering them a bucket of it when they do something really big.  And if they read a book, can we skip the pizza, or the trinket, and just go with a high five and point my daughters to the book shelf to find something else to read?

I want them to do the good things anyway, candy be darned. Perhaps we could skip the bribing and just try to have them engage in stuff worth doing.

Thanks again for all that you do for my children.  I really am appreciative.

But enough with the stuff already.


The First Thing Is How to Fall Down

Ani and Teagan are enjoying the start of their summer.  I’m enjoying observing as they dig in.  Today, they began taking some ice skating lessons, and I was very eager to learn how it went.

Teagan mentioned falling and skating and waving to her baby sister, Quinn, who watched from the bleachers.1

Ani mentioned falling, too, but in an entirely different way.  She told me, in her “I’m a 1st grader now, and I know some things” sort of way,  that before they went out on the ice, before they put on their skates even, that she and Teagan and her instructor talked about falling down, and what it should look like.

Actually, she showed me, which was funny.  But I didn’t get the chance to take a picture, so imagine Ani squatting and leaning and falling in a way that didn’t lead to significant long term injury.2

It hit me pretty quickly that what her ice skating teacher did was really, really smart.  I’m sure it was fueled partially by liability insurance requirement, and part compassion for children, but it was a really important lesson.

If you’re going to do pretty much anything worth doing, you’d darn well better be prepared to fall flat on your face.  There’s risk in the places worth working for. And it’s worthwhile to know how to fall, how to land in a way that will minimize the long term harm to yourself.

Just as important, you’ve got to fall with a thought for how you’re going to get back up.

I hope you’re thinking about how to help people fall down thoughtfully.  I hope that someone taught you about how to take a fall, and how to hop back up, raring to go.  Are you preparing the folks you know and work and learn with to go down hard in ways that’ll lead towards more chances to, well, take chances?

You’d better be.

Ani’s sore tonight, but her next lesson’s on Wednesday.  She fell down a bunch of times.  So did Teagan.   But someone showed them how to fall down, and how to stand back up.  They can’t wait to go out on the ice again.

Bring it, ice skating.  My daughters are ready.

  1. First walking.  Ice skating comes later. Today, Quinn was moral support. []
  2. It’s okay if you need to giggle a bit.  I did. []

The Clock's Ticking

Right now, according to Sir Ken Robinson, my children are at the peak of their viagra usa divergent thinking abilities.  And those will diminish as they advance in their schooling.  Uh oh.  So, how do we build schools that amplify, rather than eradicate, divergent thinking?

This is not an idle question. Watch the video and then help me answer it. Quickly.


Ani’s First Day

First Day

Originally uploaded by Bud the Teacher

I asked Ani this morning what she was most excited about on her first day of school. Today, of course, being her first day of Kindergarten.  Big Deal.

“Learning and recess,” she said.

No hesitation.

I’m feeling pretty good about her attitude for the first day.

That day ends in about ten minutes. I can’t wait to hear how it went.


It’s Alive. And I Like It.

Anne Collier‘s sharing a new report on online safety and technology, “Youth Safety on a Living Internet.” I wasn’t eager to see yet another report, as I’ve read a few – but as I skimmed the first several pages, I understood why she was excited by the work.  She was the co-chair of the Online Safety and Technology Working Group, the folks that produced the review, and there’s plenty of thoughtfulness baked in.  I’d encourage you to take a close look.  It’s indicative of a shift in thinking about how the Internet should be viewed and used by kids, teachers, parents and schools. (Notice – How.  Not if.)

In particular, I found the frank discussion of youth risks, while not new, to be refreshingly written.  Here’s a taste:

So, based on the research and the opinions of several experts, one of the biggest risks to children may be adults who try to shut down the informal learning involved in their use of Internet technologies at home or school. (p. 18)

Quite right.

There’s lots to like here.  I hope someone in a position to do something about the working group’s recommendations is taking good notes as they review the report. Anne’s got a full wrap up of coverage on her site.  The report’s below.

Online Safety and Technology Working Group Final Report