The Strongest Classroom

Connection, courage and possibility help me to navigate a strongman contest (insert any challenge in the blank).

Noticing the connection of the process that I share with all of the competitors to improve and grow builds a feeling of community for me. We share struggles, worries and adversities. We share gains, wins and celebrations. Noticing the frustrations and the joy, and experiencing this contrast of emotions together builds “a bonfire of belonging”(a beautifully strong phrase I heard from author Brad Montague).

It takes courage for me to get out there, to push to my edges and possibly beyond in a public setting. At the competition when I look around I see courage in action from the other competitors, the coaches, the judges, the spotters, the host who was brave enough to undertake and organize the event. All the different ways of being brave that I see, and the courage that I know I can’t see, motivate and inspire me to keep going.

Being in that atmosphere of connection and courage I can bravely try. I can go for it!!. I can risk being seen trying and failing, because I know, they know, what success is. I may leave bruised up from the all out effort, and with failed attempts, but I gained insight into how to try it again. I leave feeling fired up for the possibility that’s ahead of me, next time!!

Knowing that I am not alone in this difficult endeavor and bravely, repeatedly choosing to keep going, leads to success no matter the outcome.

From this environment of bravery to try and a community connected by growth, there seems to be a high level of encouragement and care. Care for myself, care for performing to my best and  care for others. That is an AMAZING byproduct of being in a strongman contest (insert your challenge in the blank). 

That is exactly what I want to foster as the teacher  in a classroom (challenge), a caring and encouraging community. Students need time to build a “strongman community” in their classroom before they can take risks to make learning gains. If we don’t allow for that time to build that strong community, and nurture a safe space to grow, which leads to caring, we are limiting great potential and children’s joy of dreaming big and going for it!!

The Beginning of More


I haven’t written here in a while. In the world I have been feeling small and not enough. Feeling pressure from heaviness. I have been thinking that at almost fifty I should have life figured out, I mean talk about a late bloomer!

Recently two things have happened that have inspired me to share some of my experiences and ideas again. I watched a musician, John Batiste, and his wife Suleika Jaouad, interviewed on TV. My heart opened when I listened to the way he talked about music and song writing. He shared that music is the way for him to express day & night, dark & light and the connection between them. They mentioned that we all have different ways to express that. We should seek that out, our own best way to express what seems impossible, so then we can shift or rotate. Listening to him play the piano while he shared his ideas about the struggle with light and dark and adversity was so, so beautiful. 

The second thing that happened was a student reminded of what I love. I was in a third grade classroom and it was free choice time. The children could build with blocks and other materials, draw, play board games, etc. When there were ten minutes left one student asked me if she could continue reading the book that I had shared during read aloud time. Of course. I gave her the book and she walked halfway to her seat, turned around and said, “Could you read it to me? You are so good at it.”  What a wonderful compliment. We sat down at her desk and I started to read. When it was time for free choice to end, four kiddos were gathered around listening. I was so surprised that students would choose to listen to me read aloud when they could do other fun things?!!  She had just given me the gift of seeing what I had forgotten to notice.

Over the next few days I really began recognizing that I read children’s books when I am feeling lost. I take notes from the book. I think of art projects to go with the book. I share them with my family, I send them to friends. I read them aloud to children. All of that helps me to see a path again, to find clarity, to see connections.  As unflashy and simple as that is, I think that is my way. It is a practice that I return to to shift, rotate, connect all that  life holds. It helps me to see the beauty of everyday life and when I share the books in my way I see a difference that I can make. It’s in those moments of recognition that I feel that I am enough, that I am reminded that hope lies within each one of us.

With these two events, and talking with friends and family I came back to simplicity, to just me. I began to see, again, that better begins with me. When I express myself in my own way, and I act on that then I feel content. I can expand to my family, the classroom…and contribute from my heart outward, just as others have done for me. When I try to make sense and find answers to the”big”, the all encompassing world and work back from “way out there” toward myself, that’s when I experience disconnection and hopelessness. 

Right now, I don’t feel like a late bloomer because I remembered that it is a lifelong human practice to figure out how to navigate the world community, and that there is not one perfect path or way. We are all finding our ways! This time I see it as a heartbeat, I expand outward towards others until the connection gets murky and I get pulled so far away from myself that I  forget my way. Then I have to return to my center to recognize the way I shift through light and dark again and see the beauty. I think with practice my heartbeat slows and I will be able to encompass and contribute further and further out becoming better able to navigate through the darker times. 

I will continue to practice and I will get better at becoming aware of my singular responsibility to choose to create, take action and move forward with compassion so that I can contribute to my community and the world. I believe there’s magic somewhere in this practice because every now and then a spark lights my way. A spark that says each individual can make a difference, that’s the beginning of better together. Each one of us is enough.