Category Archives: Small People

Chew on this!

I was recently reminded of the power of criticism when two diametrically opposed viewpoints hit my email inbox on the same day. I will spare you the details, but one was highly complimentary of a website I maintain. The second was not so much so. While expressed as a concern, the uncomplimentary message evoked some pretty strong emotion from me. Frankly, it took me several hours to calm down enough to poll several folks I respect regarding the validity of the criticism. I was assured it was, in fact, baseless.

But here’s an interesting phenomena. While I was ultimately able to “chuckle” over the criticism, guess which one of those emails I spent the most mental and emotional energy on? If you guessed “the negative one,” you’d be correct.

Ironically (unless you believe in fate), a few days later I happened to listen to an inspiring TED talk. The speaker introduced the concept of “mental hygiene” noting that while we take care of our bodies with healthy practices, most people do not have a regimen that addresses mental health. One point that particularly hit home was that we human beings have a tendency to “ruminate” over incidents and conditions in our lives. (In animal terms, “chew over and over.”) His challenge was that we might do well to consider what we are consuming and chewing over and over. Our choices affect not only our mental state, but also how and what we communicate. And, of course, what we communicate dramatically impacts those we are around.

If you're going to get trapped by your own thinking, it might as well be positive.
If you’re going to get trapped by your own thinking, it might as well be positive.

There’s both a personal and an organizational lesson for us in this. Chewing on the negative isn’t going to make it positive. Sometimes we have to spit it out and find something better to chew on. That is a choice we can make.

I substitute taught kindergarten recently. One of the things I love about five year olds is they haven’t get figured out why things can’t be done—they try stuff. One of my best moments was when a young lady came up and tugged on my sleeve. “Mr. Boomsma, I want to tell you about something nice (another student) just did for me…” We work really hard to create a positive learning environment at school. There are official positions assigned every day: class messenger (delivers notes to the office) and cubby inspector (makes sure no one has forgotten anything at the end of the day) are two. But my personal favorite is the kindness reporter. A different student each day is challenged to spot and report kindnesses happening in the classroom.

I wonder how our lives would change if we decided to be a “Kindness Reporter.” We could simply do it personally and randomly or we could self-appoint ourselves to the position with our family, our workplace, or organizations we’ve joined. Maybe we also could be a “Thinking Monitor”—someone who decides to point out negative thinking and try to stop others from chewing on it.

If you’re not willing to do it for others, at least do it for yourself. Monitor how you’re thinking and how much kindness you’re doling out. Chew on the positive possibilities. It will improve your digestion!

2014 — A Year in Review

Wh2015_crush_2014ile writing Christmas cards, I found myself sitting with pen poised and brow furrowed, pondering whether or not it was truly possible to condense a full year into a few short sentences. Several friends and I exchange annual greetings that qualify as very short updates of how the year has passed. Unfortunately, contemplating how to do that didn’t mean getting the job done, so I ultimately selected a few key words and activities and scribbled my note.

The activity left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied, so I decided to look back through an entire year of posts on this site. Here are some that represented important events this year. (Click the title to read the entire post.)

Mr. Boomsma, I Really Love You! tells a short story of a five year old who helped me learn an important lesson as she learned about balancing love and respect.

In the post titled Yesterday  I confessed to “fooling” some kindergarteners regarding my abilities. The experience reminded of why I feel so lucky that I get to work with them. No, it’s not because they are easily fooled.

“Gotcha!” marked one of the more meaningful days of the year… “Johnny” has enjoyed pulling one over on me since second grade. He got me again (he was in sixth grade last spring) and reminded me that the line between teacher and student is supposed to be fuzzy.

This Is Important suggested we can find comfort in the truth that “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

On Going Amish was written in the middle of a battle with technology. I’m still not sure if I’ve won.

When Teachers Go Fishing was about process (fishing) and results (catching); teaching and learning. “You can’t say you haven’t caught any until you’ve quit fishing.” In non-fishing terms I tell the kids I work with, “You haven’t failed until you’ve given up.”

Before the Birds Start Singing suggests that writing rituals and thinking rituals are closely aligned and worthy of consideration. I confessed to considering some writing rituals that might be considered “odd” so I develop a writer’s reputation as a “character.”

Gee! Haw! One very little girl named Julia reminds us that it’s way too easy to underestimate kids.

Mr. Boomsma Makes Mag celebrates an honor this year—being featured in Maine Seniors Magazine. The photo section created a fun opportunity to work with my (then) third grade future pop star friend. I also ended up being called a “hunk” by some seniors after the article was released. I briefly considered adopting a tag line “working with people from eight to eighty…”

What’s in the Gift You Give? Simple gifts really can be the best, but it still depends on what’s in the package.

Happy Holiday Wishes was my attempt to resolve the debate about how we greet each other in December. While many responses were complimentary, I managed to give at least one person the fodder necessary to become very angry with me, proving once again that in spite of the writer’s best efforts, readers read words and then read meaning into those words that is sometimes way off the intended mark!

Of course there are other posts—some regarding classes, some shared articles and videos by others. A quick analysis of site activity showed that the most popular posts were those with information about activities at school: the PCES Winter Concert and the SAD 4 Veteran’s Celebration. Since I think that’s pretty awesome, I’m planning to give some thought this year to some site redesign that will make that sort of information even more accessible.

And therein lies a final lesson of the year. While it’s true that nothing is ever really lost as long as we remember it, we shouldn’t forget that our future memories aren’t simply a matter of fate and chance. Our choices will greatly influence what we experience.

I don’t tend to make resolutions, but I do try to keep my priorities in order and stay focused. I expect if I spend a lot of time fishing I will catch some fish. Since I do actually go fishing, that’s not just an analogy. But it might be a metaphor. I may not know the specifics, but I do know what I’ll be writing about and remembering this year. Do you?

Mr. Boomsma Makes Mag!

SR Mag Clip“Mr. Boomsma” is the subject of a special article in the October Issue of Maine Seniors Magazine. The article was originally going to focus on the Grange, but as her research developed, writer Donna Halvorsen found a slightly different focus. She writes, “Each Grange can choose its own projects, reflecting local needs and interests. That’s how the Valley Grange, whose area stretches from Monson to Milo, came to focus so strongly on children. And how Boomsma—who talks with his hands and quotes Socrates—built a life around it.

I knew I quoted Socrates, but didn’t realize I talk with my hands. Although it makes sense because I happen to believe that a teacher can and should be his own greatest visual aid. I like to draw, too! (I didn’t say I was good at it… in fact I’ve been working on forming my letters correctly so I don’t embarrass myself in Kindergarten.)

One interesting side bar story… when the article was going through it’s final edits, Donna requested some pictures of me “working with kids.” Since I’m usually the photographer at school, I didn’t find very many so we decided to have a photo shoot. But who to invite?

I remembered how several years ago Kendall Kimball (then a second grader) announced to me she is going to be a “pop star” when she grows up. She also provided a detailed explanation of the difference between a “pop star” and a “rock star” and her determination has not waned. Needing a young model, it occurred to me that we might launch her career and establish her identity as a media darling. When you see the photo of us on page 35, I think you’ll agree–the camera loves her.

As for me… well, when the magazine hit Park Danforth–an assisted living center in Portland–my Aunt called to inform me that some of her girlfriends think I’m a real “hunk.” So I guess I’m popular with the eight year olds and the eighty-somethings.

Maine Seniors is a high quality magazine published right here in Maine and distributed throughout the state featuring “community icons” and “prime movers”— seniors who are making a difference in their communities and state. The article features some of Valley Grange’s initiatives such as Words for Thirds, Bookworming, and the GrowME project while telling some of my favorite stories about working with kids. But it also makes clear the fact that Mr. Boomsma believes it’s not about programs. The programs I like “are really just an excuse to do the real work.”

I would quickly add that it’s hard to think of something that’s this much fun as work. If  you  haven’t guessed what “the work” is, read the article.

A  complete digital copy is available on http://wboomsma.com. (Thanks to the publisher for generous reprint rights.) The entire issue will be accessible at http://meseniors.com before the month of October is over.

An outtake of the pop star and the hunk!
An outtake featuring the pop star and the hunk!