Everything Matters by Aaron Maurer

Thanks to Aaron Maurer, guest for Episode 68, for allowing us to re-post the article below. You can find the original version on his website, Coffee For the Brain.


Being a parent and an educator in the same school district is tough. I would go so far to say that being a parent and educator no matter the school district is tough. Heck, just being a parent OR an educator is tough.

However, having children in school district where you work does help to provide little subtle reminders about the power of being an educator.

As a family, we are in a year of transition. My son has now entered 6th grade and attends the middle school where I work. My oldest daughter is in 4th grade while my youngest has entered kindergarten.

As an educator I love learning. My wife and I are both teachers and we just have a deep passion for learning and for kids. We want our children to be happy, to love learning, and to feel successful. We also want that for every student that we come in contact with as an educator.

As an educator it is easy to lose sight of the idea that everything matters. We become so used the routine and atmosphere of our school and our classroom that we sometimes lose sight of the small details that are the most vital for successful learning. We become so stressed to meet the needs of data, standards, spreadsheets, forms, and other elements that we all know are not always the answer. Because of this we don’t pay much attention the pieces that have long lasting impacts on a student. We feel rushed to get through more and more and more that we sometimes skip over or gloss over the little moments that can make monumental gains in the life a child. We simply strive to survive a job that is proving to be more and more difficult each day.

My daughter, the one in kindergarten, is just a spitfire in life. She says the craziest things, holds her own to anyone, and can go from giggling to pure anger in a nanosecond. As tough as the tries to act she is very sensitive and thrives off emotion. And so it has been an interesting year as she has moved to kindergarten. Letters and numbers are not her thing because they don’t come easy. She has had problems with speech and a few other things. She tries her best to not act like anything is wrong, but there are times when she shifts from acting angry to tears. She wants to be like her brother. She wants to be successful like her sister. She wants it all to come naturally and easy as it appears it does for her siblings. She is five, but is smart enough to know that mom and dad are intelligent and wants us to approve of here work.

She does not want to disappoint.


Her mom and dad

Her family

In one of these moments of anger the other day my heart broke as a parent. You see my daughter wakes up every single day during the week and instantly starts yelling. She throws a fit about her clothes. They don’t fit. Therefore, she won’t be able to go to school. Her socks don’t fit right. Her hair is a mess. She won’t eat breakfast. She yells. She screams. She is angry. Why? Is it because these things are true? No, it is because this is how she copes with the idea of heading to school where she does want to go. She wakes with stress. She wakes with fear. She wakes not with excitement to learn, but fear of what she can’t or won’t be able to learn. And this hurts me to the core.

She celebrates days when her class does not have centers. She was talking about school one day and she broke into tears. She was sharing how she always gets smaller stars on her paper because she is not as smart as the other kids. I don’t for one second believe this is intentional. I believe what happens is that during the work time the teacher simply marks the papers with stars as they finish and get things correct. However, in the eyes of a five year old who lacks confidence these stars are everything. They mean the world to her and are a gauge of her self esteem. These five pointed symbols are a sign of how others view her in her mind. It explains why she draws monster size stars at home when she plays school for hours upon hours on end.

Even if it is intentional to showcase the difference between right and wrong this small act, this small nanosecond of a quick scribbled shape on a piece of paper is the difference in the outlook and feeling of school to a child. This split second moment is everything.

Yes, we talked with her. Yes, we are working on things at home, but it is tough because she does not like to work on them because she “knows it already! DAD!”

The moral of this story is to make sure we take notice of the small things. Do we say hello to everyone? Do we acknowledge all kids regardless of how they act, perform, and behave? Do we provide positive reinforcements to help bring a smile to their faces? Do we do the things necessary to create positive relationships? Do we ensure that the stars we draw for our students are big and beautiful?

Because without relationships nothing else matters.

But with a relationship everything matters. With a relationship these small moments can be the difference between a smile and tear on the face of a child in which these two factors can be the greatest impact on any spreadsheet or data set that everyone seems to require these days.

Helping Students Develop a Growth Mindset

Former guest John Spencer has a fantastic podcast, The Creative Classroom (iTunes link). This week, he talked about how his son wanted to start a cubing club where kids would get together and talk about how to solve Rubix cubes together. No one showed up for the first month, but his son didn’t give up. John shares how we can cultivate a growth mindset in our students like his son exhibited in this situation.

Click here to read the story, here to listen, and check out John’s sketchy video on Growth Mindset below. Be sure to give him a follow on Twitter.

From Heartache to Hope via Tom Murray

Be sure to check out former #dadsined guest Tom Murray’s post “From Heartache to Hope.” Tom was in the air flying from Ft.Lauderdale to Atlanta when a gunman opened fire and killed passengers in the same Terminal 2 from which his plane had taken off. He shares some great points that he learned from Gus during his layover in Atlanta. Great lessons that many of us want for our kids.

You can check out our interview with Tom here.

Struggles with new learning

Sometimes I don’t enjoy learning new things. I like to be right. Sometimes knowing I’m about to fail drives me back to my comfort zone. I don’t like wasting time and money, neither of which I have in large quantities. So I’ll just sit back and rest in what I know. That’s not a good habit to model for my kids.
In the last couple years, I’ve started making breakfast for my kids on most Saturdays. I don’t do a lot of cooking and rarely is it healthy, as evidenced by the Flipboard magazine I curate related to the topic. Making pancakes has been a been a great opportunity for me to try something new that helps make memories for our family.evernote-camera-roll-20161226-160724 I’ve learned a lot about my kids – make some good, basic pancakes and just add whip cream. Maybe add some chocolate chips. Make them too fancy and run the risk of them not being eaten. Earlier this fall we mixed in some doughnuts, but for Christmas we tackled a breakfast food my wife and I had long been scheming to conquer – the big, fluffy, frosted cinnamon roll.
We’ve got some opportunity to improve, but the toughest critics (the kids) gave some great reviews. It felt great to be able to share these with my family on Christmas morning.
We also made a few more Christmas items than evernote-camera-roll-20161226-161639normal this year. Actually, I’ve never made anything like we did this year. We created stacked present decorations for our front porch, painted a “joy” sign out of some old wood we had in our garage that also went out front, and two Christmas decorations we gave to grandparents as presents.
Both the breakfast foods and Christmas presents have given me plenty of opportunities to model learning new things with my kids. I try to talk through both struggles and successes with whoever is helping. Our second Christmas present didn’t turn out so well because of some old semi-gloss. So we’ll be re-making it this week. We talked about what we learned from our experience and what we can do to improve. I’ve tried to be a good model in hopes that they can learn from these experiences and are able to struggle through their own new learning in the future.

Cross posted on Josh’s “Noted” blog