Tag Archives: Arabian Sea

Everyday a New Day, School Improvement is Real, or Life is Ordinary; add some Extra.

6 Mar

(No Playlist this month…I’ll reinstate it, if you’re interested  Please enjoy!)

If I could be the leaves, then like jade I would stay evergreen

and Spread my limbs out wide and pull love so close to me

and If I could be the roots, I would dig deep like ancestry

and If I were the fruits, you’d make the sweetest cherry pie from me

and If I could be the night, my moon replace all electric lights

and Magic music would transmit from outer space on satellites
If I myself could be the ocean, you would feel the motion all the time

and If I were the words, then everything that everybody said would rhyme

Michael Franti – What I Be

Too many shadows in my room
Too many hours in this midnight
Too many corners in my mind
So much to do to set my heart right

Oh, it’s taking so long
I could be wrong, I could be ready
Oh but if I take my heart’s advice
I should assume it’s still unsteady
I am in repair, I am in repair
John Mayer – In Repair

Through excessive reliance on thinking, reality becomes fragmented.” Eckhart Tolle

So much contradiction in my day today, I don’t know where to start. (Can’tcha tell from the lyrical selections? Hey, it’s been an interesting day. Gotta love that!)

Typical Day in Mista Lee's office.

Typical Day in Mista Lee’s office.

See! PLCs are fun!

See! PLCs are fun!

I am writing on 14 February (that’s how long I’ve been in The Dhabi, I’m inverting dates), Valentine’s Day. I woke up with a sadness. Normally, I spend the day, or night, with my girls. We cook their favorite meals, pick up a few bottles of bubbly (sparkling grape juice) and have a “date night”. I love it. I miss it. I miss them. I love them.

I love the architecture here. This is the pool at the Intercontinental in Chicago. I stayed there with my daughters over winter break for a Christmas shopping trip.

I love the architecture here. This is the pool at the Intercontinental in Chicago. I stayed there with my daughters over winter break for a Christmas shopping trip.

The John Mayer lyrics came to me before I even turned on my music this morning. There were shadows in my room, there was a darkness feeling that lasted too long. I was spending too much time in the corners of my mind (umm, I think I still am)…and I am working really, really hard to set my heart right.

The Michael Franti lyrics fueled a really good walkabout the other day and they stuck with me. He is really adept and pointing out the Whitman-esque beauties in the world that we tend to overlook. I am really grateful for Michael Franti’s music. (Check him out if you haven’t yet, you will love it…no matter who you are.)

So, back to my brief, heavy heart from this morning. I felt some homesick pangs today. I have many, many more good days, than bad, but there are some holidays that get to you when you’re 7700 miles from home. School (work, as some might call it) is awesome. It’s an amazing challenge every-darn stinkin’-day. Our school is seriously improving by leaps and bounds. The teachers are banding together and bringing us up to competitive heights. We have solid lesson plans, learning centers in classrooms, visible behavior management systems, testing strategies, PLCs…yes, the Al Bawadi Unicorns are on the brink of legendary improvement. THAT, is a serious source of joy for me.

Yes! Grade 6...in a line...without their teacher! THAT is amazing!

Yes! Grade 6…in a line…without their teacher! THAT is amazing!

PD Gallery Walk, outside. A luxury when it only rains 5 days a year.

PD Gallery Walk, outside. A luxury when it only rains 5 days a year.

Senior Leadership Team--doin' some strategery.

Senior Leadership Team–doin’ some strategery.

However, there are setbacks…for me, away from school. There are struggles. There are obstacles to growth. You know who puts them there? I do. I find that my resistance to things happening stops me from learning. I rarely ever say “sh*t happens”, but it does. There’s nothing you can do about it. You can resist, put up a fight, complain to anyone who will listen, tell people “should this/shouldn’t that”…but, it still happens, so acknowledge it, have your emotions, but see it for what it is. This is so basic to how we learn.

Not as strange as one might think.

A lesson in adaptation.

Recently, I watched a TEDtalk by Tom Wujec (Build a Tower, Build a Team—see it!) I won’t give it away, because he does a much better job of explaining this phenomenon…you will never get everything right, the first time you try it. Children know this. They build, and play, and make up games, and they don’t always work, but children don’t focus on the failure, they focus on the process…the game…the creation. This is why project based/inquisitive-based learning is so important. Tell them to memorize the right way to do something and they’ll have to succeed at it a number of times before it is perfected. Let them discover their own way to learn it, and it becomes their practice. This should be applied in all arenas of our lives.

Our Current PD Project. Do what we do...better. Use our expertise to help each other raise the bar.

Our Current PD Project. Do what we do…better. Use our expertise to help each other raise the bar.

As adults, we sometimes fail, and we let that failure discourage us. Really, that failure is a way of getting a mistake out of the way. Or, we use something that happened to us to stop us from attempting something. Imagine as a kid, if when you fell off your bike for the first time, you never got on it again. “Hey, well that didn’t work…so much for bikes!” Ever see Adam Sandler’s “Mr. Deeds”? There’s a scene near the end where he reminds a room full of millionaire stockholders that as children, we believed in our dreams and nothing (but growing up) could stop us from believing in them. As adults, though, some of us let “what happened” stop us from getting back on that bike, or from the beliefs we once held. John Mayer also writes, “Is there anyone who ever remembers/changing their mind/from the paint on a sign?” No, belief is stronger than that.

No Old-Timey Horns! These are around the hospitals in the Dhabi.

No Old-Timey Horns! These are around the hospitals in the Dhabi. I wonder if the paint on this sign makes people change their mind?

So, what happens? Life happens. Things out of your control slow you down, create problems, create resistance. Sometimes, we focus on those things, and we let them slow us down. (Ego…again.) If you resist what happens in your life then you put yourself at the mercy of it, and you let something, or someone, else determine how you feel. I’m talking about things that happened, not future choices. Of course, we can’t just let go of making good decisions. That could be disastrous.

What’s my advice…for me? Sometimes life presents you with limitations. Like physical distance from loved ones, or impossibly small budgets, or…ya know? I’ll spare you the advice. To each his own, correct?

One of our boys expressing his freedom to choose....incorrectly.

One of our boys expressing his freedom to choose….incorrectly.

Soooo, I wrote everything above this paragraph 14 days ago. Here’s what’s strange. I don’t really like it, but I’m sticking with it. The other strange thing is I saw “Boyhood” today. If I had seen it 14 days ago, the first half of this blog would have been totally different. Well, not totally different, but from a different perspective.

You see, I think the advice I held back was to live each day as it’s own, to stay present, to appreciate what you have in front of you, right now. In fact, that advice is doled out in the movie, as well. Here’s the thing, though…balance. I need to balance my thinking. Yes, today is…well, whatever today is, but chances are, today might not be memorable. It’s a string of todays that really become a life…many non-memorable, though we’ll characterize them as “good”, days. Life really is dominated by good days.

TED Talk The Case for Emotional Hygiene. Please watch this. It’s really good. 

Anyway, as I watched “Boyhood”, I went through it all. I watched as a boy, as a brother, as a boyfriend, as a student, as a son, as a husband, as a father, and as a father away from his children. Needless to say, there were some tough moments. However, I can’t put my finger on any one of them and I just saw the movie today. Why? I know I went through the emotional spectrum watching it, but I can’t recall any certain scene and the emotion it evoked. None were remarkable or extreme, but all were special. There’s that balance.

The need for...

The need for…



I kept watching and waiting for some tragedy to befall the family. My instinct as a parent, and as an avid watcher of films, was to look for the cringe moment when something really bad happened to anyone. Ya know? That urge to protect the kids as they grow. Yes, some bad things happened, but there was so much more life around than the bad things.

So I asked myself…”Hey Lee, I have a question for you?” (Yes, I answered. Yes, I know that’s an issue.) The question is, why was I waiting for something bad to happen? Why did I expect it? Does a story about life require a tragedy in order to be life-like? Has my lifelong study of literature boxed me into formulas? Do we assign the word “tragedy” to life events that really should be called “learning opportunities” or, just “life events”. Really, that’s all they are…events that happen during life. So, change of thought for me. Life is not like in the movies…even the really good ones. So, the next time someone says, “…ugh, my life is like a movie…or soap opera…or bad sitcom…” remember, you’re making it that. It simply isn’t true, unless you let it be.

Love the architecture and the landscape architecture here.

Love the architecture and the landscape architecture here.



I know you've seen this before. Sun Tower on your left, Sky Tower on your right.

I know you’ve seen this before. Sun Tower on your left, Sky Tower on your right.

Ok, so, that one question became 4 questions…that I can remember. Do we require tragedy to “begin” the life we’re really looking for? I don’t think so. Certainly, we’ve all had our tragedies. I could list the loss of people and events that were traumatic, but did I require them to grow. No, I didn’t. I don’t.

You see, we have the freedom to start the life we want right now. There’s risk in that. There is fear; self-generated. What’s the alternative, though? Living the life you don’t want? Is that an option? In my past, I didn’t take the emotional risks, or make the changes I needed to make. So, the problems stacked up, and so did the obstacles to happiness. The obstacles I made. However, I wasn’t expecting them. I didn’t feel they were necessary; they were definitely part of the plan. However, problems are not the definitions of your life. You face them, you breathe, you live.

Space to breathe. The Campers of Abu Dhabi ride again.

Space to breathe. The Campers of Abu Dhabi ride again.

That’s the beauty of the film. With a scope of 12 years as the setting, the tragedies and their impact seem to diminish in emotional damage because, frankly, life is too busy and too short to cling to them. Watching these lives as they grow over 12 years creates an emotional balance. Life is bigger than the tough moments; they fade and life gets more…more…more everything.

Ya think these dudes are focused on tragedy? I doubt it. They climb over the top of a 76 story building, then slowly work down it hanging by two lines of knotted together rope. Yes, connected by knots. That's trust.

Ya think these dudes are focused on tragedy? I doubt it. They climb over the top of a 76 story building, then slowly work down it hanging by two lines of knotted together rope. Yes, connected by knots. That’s trust.

So the family in the film they just lived. They weren’t extraordinary people, they didn’t fight some Goliath, there were no severe, extreme measures to take in order to survive. They just lived. No typical story arc, none of the stuff I forced my poor English students to remember that every story had…just life. That’s why I think I liked it so much.

So, where’s the balance? Life is long, but made up of moments that are characterized by the choices we make and the labels we attach to them. If we take the tough moments and pick and pull at them like skin on a hangnail, they will get bigger and bleed. We run the risk of making those short bad moments into a life. Then one day, a switch flips and you say, “…life’s too short to hold this or that grudge…” But really, life is long, and you chose to string short bad moments into one long one. I’m choosing to balance my perspective today. I will appreciate the extreme moments as catalysts for growth and change. I will keep in mind that life is long enough to get over anything…as long as I choose to get over it.

AWOD-dhabob=fog. It can be so thick that school is delayed or cancelled. Don't dwell on the fog, appreciate the clarity that follows.

AWOD-dhabob=fog. It can be so thick that school is delayed or cancelled. Don’t dwell on the fog, appreciate the clarity that follows.

Thus the Tolle quote way up at the top. Analyzing a moment over and over again suspends you in that moment, and you lose reality. I bounced the first half of this blog off a friend who is a writer and extremely intelligent. She said, “It’s like you’re not even here!” Six words that stopped me. She was right. All this “now” talk and I was sitting here discussing the past. I felt it, I acknowledge it, and today is a new day. Thanks for the kick! 

Sunrise and Snoopy. (Fujairah, UAE) A new day...everyday. What will you do with it?

Sunrise and Snoopy. (Fujairah, UAE) A new day…everyday. What will you do with it?

Do you know the Serenity Prayer? I do, and I still forget.

We are an impressive work in progress.

Peace and love to you, my friends.

Love, Lee

Speaking of Hygiene-yes, there are sporks here. I am not going to tell you that this boy did not and will not wash his hands. Licked clean and dried on his pants. Eat well, my friends!

Speaking of Hygiene-yes, there are sporks here. I am not going to tell you that this boy did not and will not wash his hands. Licked clean and dried on his pants. Eat well, my friends.


Patience is a virtue; so are small feet, apparently!?

15 Sep

Saturday September 14 and Sunday the 15th, 2013

Music today– “Groove Holmes” by the Beastie Boys, “Hand in Glove” by the Smiths, and “What I Be” by Michael Franti & Spearhead, and “Soil to the Sun” by Cage the Elephant.

Sorry, I messed up the dates during my travel. My first day here was the 10th, not the 11th

As if any of that matters…boy, our desire to be right can really be distracting, huh? 

I met some other educators today, which is always interesting. Regardless of the setting, the issues are usually similar. For me, it is, how do we make the system the most effective for the students? Of course, “the system” means you and me, whatever our capacity as a human might be.  We ALL have a responsibility to education…even if your kids are out of school. Schools make our families, our communities, our cities, our world…so support them, actively.  More on that later.

So I set out on day 2 (cue the dramatic music) “IN SEARCH OF…” size 13 or 14 shoes. I checked every shoe store in another mega mall, which is redundant, because everything is mega here. I even went to a place called “Shoe Citi”! Well, the mayor took one look at me when I said, “…size 48” and he banished me! In fact, even the Brit trying on shoes looked at me like I was out to smash Tokyo! Can I guy get a pair of brown casual shoes anywhere in this place? Not this guy, yet…I’ll hit Zappos up once I get a permanent address.

Speaking of shoes, here’s something I must get accustomed to…


That’s desert on my shoes…and in the spirit of full disclosure, my big feet wear big shoes and, at times, I kick myself in the ankles. After a day in my suit in the sun, I’m starting to really appreciate the dish-dasha, the traditional white robe-like garb the men wear here. From what I can ascertain through research, they wear only underclothes under it,and it’s WAY cooler than a suit. Here’s me, back in action, before the sweat…


Do not attempt to adjust your screen, it’s blurry…and yes, I still have some bags to unpack (sorry, poor pun). It is strange to start the work week on Sunday. (It’s also strange to reckon with how hard it is to post a pic of one’s self. If you really look at the underlying fear, you’ll have a heck of a conversation with yourself.)

After heading to ADEC Headquarters, we learned that we will not be allowed in the schools until the full health screening is completed, and we go through a full orientation. I’m almost finished with my screening, except for the whole “…in the cup, sir” thing. Not stage fright, technical difficulties…not on my part, by the way. Hopefully, on Wednesday it will all be completed. So God is teaching me patience…in work, and in shoe shopping. Thank you!  Here’s HQ….


Note the Porsche Panamera in front (on the right). Around here, they’re like Pintos in the 70’s–ahem, with all due respect, I’ll take one. Here’s another view…


The BMW 7-series…like an AMC Pacer…kinda…yeah, I’ll take one of those, too. 

Anyhow, I’ll be assigned right here in Abu Dhabi City in a mixed-use school, which means Co-ed…kinda. Same school, but they can’t share bathrooms, or eating tables, or recreational areas. Some of the schools have a bathroom in the classroom, but boys and girls can never use the same bathroom, so among the challenges for a principal is how to organize that issue. One more pic from HQ…


This is an indoor water feature…kinda cool. About 20 feet long and 10 feet high.

Last night I had dinner at a “tourist” restaurant with educators from England, Ireland, New Zealand, Atlanta, and Houston. A few of us are here for the first time. Others have been doing this for years. Nonetheless, it’s refreshing to talk to people in the profession and understand that we all face similar problems. It looks like our problem here will be to obtain and analyze an honest assessment of what’s happening, then begin to ease in the reform. We walked and talked in the hot, wet, wool blanket, night air about how to speak honestly to parents, how to empower teachers, and how to engage students. Honestly, that’s typical conversation for educators (and rather boring for everyone else), but it was our first time together and we’re in the polite stage. Real conversations come with time…is that good or bad? Tawk amongst yah-selves. Why must we wait to jump right in when you meet someone new?

On our walk along the Arabian Sea we wanted to put our feet in the water. The beaches are attended to throughout the night for various reasons. The workers are very helpful and we learned we couldn’t go to any beach. Some beaches are family beaches and only for people with children. There were 7 of us and we hardly looked like the Brady Bunch.  Of course, there are separate beaches for women and men, as well. Here’s a pic from the beach…


 The water is bathwater warm and the beach is pristine…and man made, so no rocks or large waves.

Two more interesting pics, and I’ll leave you alone.

I watched this sport on TV this morning….


 That’s camel sprint racing. They look like freakish greyhounds and the little thing on their backs is a remote control operated by the “jockeys” in the cars in the background. Interesting. The camels get to about 40 miles an hour, and frankly, the cars look like their in way more danger than the animals.


For about $4,500 you can buy this tub and chill. Delivery extra…this is not the deluxe model. Others had multiple pop up screens, extra massagers, and a coffee maker…kidding, most have servants for that…not kidding. Saw this in the mall—there was a whole showroom. For some reason, not one salesman approached me. Was it the khaki cargoes and Rage Against the Machine T?… Yeah, people go to the mall to buy this.

So, I messed up the schedule by not posting last night and including today, but we’ll all get over it. (I’m 9 hours ahead, btw.) I may be moving apartments as my bosses discovered we weren’t in executive suites and thought that wrong. How do you play that one humble? Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to showing you my school and my new place. Keep the comments coming and feel free to ask questions.

I miss and love you, thank you all!