Tag Archives: security

Won’t You Guide…?

For readers who do not know, I’ve worked with elementary kids on a volunteer basis for quite a few years… this year (at age 65) I’ve embarked a new “career” as an elementary substitute teacher.

When I got the call last Monday that I’d be needed at school, I was momentarily struck with the reality that going “to work” included the distinct possibly of not coming home. Like many, I’d been mourning the huge loss we experienced in Connecticut. As a society we’ve trusted teachers with our children’s education for a long time. The Newtown tragedy has demonstrated that we also trust those teachers and staff with our children’s very lives.

While I in no way want to diminish the loss of those children and adults, as time has passed I think we might consider that we are also mourning the loss of safe havens for children to learn. The grief that we are feeling calls out for answers and brings with it a rush to prevent this type of tragedy. We want to bring back those safe places.

One of the most meaningful things I learned about “classroom management” while preparing to become a substitute was the observation that “the only behavior you can truly control in your classroom is your own.”

boy_girl_flying_on_pencil_150_clr_186One day this week I was working with first graders on an art project. I’d been warned to keep them busy or “they will make your life miserable.” We’d been doing quite well, actually, when I suddenly lost control of the classroom. Amid the coloring and cutting and pasting and cries of “Mr. B, can you help me with this?” very suddenly and spontaneously one child started singing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” Within seconds fifteen little voices chimed in and I was left to stand and watch the unfolding of what might be described as a “Normal Rockwell Moment.”  For at least six renditions of the song (the part they remembered) my life was anything but miserable.

But it was not because of anything I did.

Every sane person wants to prevent the type of tragedy we experienced on December 14. As we work through the grief, I believe we need to remember that six year old who decided to sing. To be sure, somebody taught him to sing. But he decided it was time to sing. If we don’t remember him and his choice, we are in danger of deluding ourselves into thinking we can fix this by controlling things (guns, videos, the media, etc.) and perhaps even people.

I’ve asked myself what I might do to prevent this type of tragedy and believe the long look answer lies in another truth:  “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken adults.” While we cannot ignore those broken adults, we (collectively, not just teachers) are “breaking” children every day by missing opportunities, failing to provide structure, and in too many cases engaging in outright abuse and neglect. The same newspaper that headlined the Newtown events also carried a story of an eight year old girl who was raped. These tragedies deserve equal outrage.

Anyone who spends any time working in schools has met them–the kids we are breaking. A kid who is constantly angry for reasons we don’t yet understand–copes by screaming and pushing his way around. The loner who is always seen off by herself during recess…

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Just this week a nine year old confessed to being tired first thing in the morning explaining that her dad goes to work at 3 AM and she’s required to get up to care for her younger brother. She’s a real good kid and I think will grow up to be a responsible adult. I’m not indicting her Dad, because it’s likely an economic necessity. But she’s carrying a lot of weight on her young shoulders–can we be sure whether it will make or break her?

What happens to us shapes us, but we decide who we are. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work with kids have a key–we need to focus on building strong children who learn the skills–including the skill of self-control–that will allow them make good decisions about what they will do and who they will become.

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!

You Can!

You Can—Raise cash as a crop! This fast-paced, participative program will explore the opportunities we all have for “non-traditional” ways of raising cash through cost avoidance, part time work, cash crops from your farm, gardens and hobbies. You may want to start a home-based business… or just explore the value of bartering with friends and neighbors. When your wallet’s almost empty, this class will encourage you to open your mind and develop a plan. Part of the You Can Series sponsored by P.V.A.E.C. and Piscataquis County Extension… class will be held two weeks from today, March 13–call 564-6525 and sign up today!

Solopreneuring and Security

Neil Matthews is an interesting bloke. I say that because he’s from the UK. I “met” him several years ago when I had a technical issue with a WordPress installation and hired him to fix it… which he did from across the ocean. That experience was the epitome of “solopreneuring” and “globalization.” Neil recently explained his passion for solopreneuring. While our businesses are very different our issues are very similar. His post started my wheels turning when he asked readers to share their reasons for not building a team (of employees). What follows is an expanded and edited version of my reply.

My last official “job” ended nearly 30 years ago when I realized that no organization was going to share my commitments and passions. Tom Peters was making a ton of money and fame from his book “In Search of Excellence” and somehow I came to the conclusion that it might be easier to stop searching for excellence and start creating it.

I also came to realize that independence was/is an important value for me but that independence is also about security and less about bosses and freedom. Shortly after I started, a young fellow bought me lunch because he wanted an informational interview. He spent most of the time whining about his bad boss and the company that employed him. I started whining along with him about my similar situation. We really got into a sympathetic groove and it was quite a while before he looked at me and said, “Hey, wait a minute! You work for yourself.” I assured him that was less true than he thought. You don’t go “out on your own” for the freedom–at least not in the short-term. It’s real easy to swap one bad boss for a lousy situation where all of your customers become your boss.

He was one of many people who’ve said over the years that they envy me but they can’t live without the security of a paycheck. I sorta have to chuckle. For employees security is a  bit of an illusion. A solopreneur may actually have more security.

(By the way, notice that I’ve not said “self-employed” — a familar term but it still about being an employee.)

Bill Gates has been quoted as saying that he constantly reminds himself that Microsoft is never more than two years away from failure. We can certainly debate whether or not practice reflects his thinking, but he’s at least aware that a major screw up or cataclysmic event could wipe out Microsoft in two years. I’m not sure how the Microsoft Payroll system works, but assuming it’s weekly, most of his employees are one week away from “losing it all.”

As an old retailer, I remember well the truism, “Volume covers a multitude of sins.” When you’re on the way up and customers are beating down your doors you can afford to screw up. Growth and success creates another illusion of security.  More customers, more employees, more divisions, more products… go, go, go!

A solopreneur has to question that logic because the very nature of solopreneuring is… well, solo! A solopreneur understands that his “more” options are limited and that’s a good thing. There are other ways to build security (and the independence that goes with it). The good news is that the opportunities for solopreneuring are better than ever. The better news is that solopreneuring prevents “collective dumbness” whereby a group of reasonably intelligent people come together, engage in group think, and make really bad decisions.

Let’s remember, a solopreneur is not truly working for herself. But a solopreneur better know exactly what she is working for and better have a plan for getting it.

Have you got what it takes to engage in some solopreneuring? (You may not have to – or want to – quit your “day j0b.”  We’ll explore this in the workshop sponsored by P.V.A.E.C. on Tuesday, March 6th at SeDoMoCha in Dover Foxcroft. You can register online or call 564-6525. The cost is only $10… and it will be fast-paced and fun!