It’s 8:30 Friday morning the 15th of February and I’m working on my putting in the Creekside middle room. There are no students because this is day three of SVUSD Professional Development and I am theoretically going to be presenting, “Connecting Education to Life: Using Thematic Units, Cross Curricular Planning, and Positive Teaching Strategies” to whichever teachers choose to show up in my classroom.

I say theoretically because my previous two days of presentations have not been well attended.

Of course, to me, my presentation is the most important of the 30 presentations offered but that’s just my big fat ego getting in the way of reality. Maybe L4 is too far away for teachers to walk, maybe leading with the Prince EA video “What is School For” turns people off, maybe 19 years of alternative teaching methods, coaching and screaming in the darkness scares people. Maybe people wish that I would just stay in my lane.

I pivot and go back to putting.

This is sadly how the machine works; everybody is too busy spinning in his or her own little world to think about my little world or the bigger world. I get it. But c’mon people, all I’m asking is for a little awareness. 100 blogs whining about making a difference, changing the world, educating the masses, and what impact has it had?

To quote the great philosopher Bill Murray, “It just doesn’t matter.”

It’s OK though, I fail all the time, it has a different meaning to me, failure is growth provided you get back up and learn from it, which I usually do. Plus success to me means sitting by the ocean with my wife while our kids prepare their Nobel Peace Prize speeches for ending violence and homelessness, inventing flying cars and curing cancer… you can see my bar is kinda unattainable.

But it is interesting to think about how little has changed in these three years. How are we all working so hard, staying so busy and accomplishing so little? Sure we can blame and hate and whine about our Sysisifusian lives or we can think about the starfish.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

I didn’t know this story until I was talking with Dr. Leonard Sax after his presentation at Hanna Boys Center the other day and when I asked him about how to get his message to the masses, he mentioned the above story. One starfish at a time, I love that.

A week later I was in a teacher training with Dr. Paul Porter about finding your personal strengths using the CliftonStrengths method. One of the foundational ideas is to think about what is right with people rather than fixating on what is wrong with them. Also knowing and developing your own strengths takes one much farther than focusing on weaknesses.

And there it is. We all have strengths and the more we nurture and develop these strengths, the better we will be. Are you an orange and your wife is an apple? Then stop trying to make her into an orange and appreciate her appleness. Is it a productive use of your time to focus on what is wrong? Maybe you should pivot, praise and celebrate what is right.

Plus stop trying to be an apple for other people and celebrate your orangeness.

But enough about fruit, three colleagues have shown up for my presentation and it doesn’t look like they’re here to improve their putting so I better get to it.

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