When I teach young writers, one of the first things we work on is topic selection. We discuss how the challenge isn’t usually having something to write about, it’s deciding which of many topics to choose. That’s how I feel about this summer. In the six weeks since I wrote my last blog, I’ve walked in a rainforest on Vancouver Island, B. C., observed colorful starfish and sea anemones clinging to low tide rocks at Ruby Beach on the Olympic Peninsula, spent precious time in northern Minnesota with my parents, 90 and 93, attended my 92-year-old uncle’s memorial service in Colorado, surrounded by cousins I haven’t seen since I was a kid, and finished a 100 day art project called 100 Days of Grace. Oh, and we started the Seed’s 42nd school year. Choosing a topic from all of that feels a bit daunting. Since it’s a time of beginning, I decided to write about our prep week with the staff.
Relying on material from a workshop on intention I took earlier this year, we asked the staff to reflect on what matters to them, personally and professionally (regarding their own work, with parents, and with children). Each person wrote their four responses on sticky notes, which were collected and categorized. The next day we met in small groups and looked for themes in each of the categories. In the personal category, family, balancing work-home commitments, living a healthy lifestyle, and self worth were among the most discussed topics. We talked about the significance of taking care of ourselves and how that affects the energy we have to do our work and be in relationship with others.
Then we looked at the three professional categories: what we value as professionals personally, and what’s important in our work with parents and children. Each small group focused on one of the categories, picking three themes from the list. A few themes were: being present, organization/preparedness, creating a loving, safe environment, and truthful/kind communications.
We discussed the difference between a goal and an intention. A goal is something you want to do, to quit, to acquire. At times it might be addressing a situation where something is wrong/broken that needs to be fixed. An intention, on the other hand, is more about how you want to be, a directional movement that gives you a pause button so you can change direction. Each group was asked to come up with an intention and a set of practices to support the intention. Here is one example for working with children:
theme – loving, trusting relationships
intention – I listen, am present, and compassionate.
practices – stop what I’m doing and make eye contact with the child, get down on the child’s physical level, speak from the heart, listen from the heart, be welcoming with my body, smile, and relax
In the end we identified eighteen themes, then wrote an intention for each one, along with practices to follow to support the intention. These will be compiled into a small booklet so each staff member will have a set of intentions to work with as we start and move into the year. It seemed like a good way to begin, using our values as foundation for everything we do.