Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Who Is In Your FAMBAM?

It’s Spring!

And that means you are in the deep work of state testing and trying to clean up the end of the 2016-2017 school season. It is almost over! You can see the finish line on the horizon.

Last week in San Antonio at our annual National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics (NCSM) conference, I had the privilege of receiving the Ross Taylor/Glenn Gilbert national leadership award. It was a very rewarding experience and my deep thanks to so many colleagues for your gracious words of congratulations.

But that is not the real reason I am writing this specific blog entry. 

In my message to our attendees upon receiving the award, I mentioned: 

We find and build our community here – so that we can go to our home districts, provinces, and universities and build community there

And speaking of family and community, I am only standing before you today, because of the influence of, and the community with, so many incredible persons in my life. And like any family, we do not always agree, but like each of you, we have had the common bond of improving the learning of mathematics for our students. 

After recognizing many of my professional colleagues, I leaned in and recognized the most important persons in my life: Our texting fambam as we like to call it!

Here is what I said:

My wife, Susan, who is here with me today - somehow loves me enough to accept my passion for this great profession. She is willing to laugh with me and love me as we walk through these later stages of our lives together. She is the stabilizing force in our family life and for me. From her time in the peace core alone, she has taught me how to be more mindful of cultures and people different from our own. And, most importantly, she has taught me how to live my life, with no regret.

Her ninety-year-old mom, Jean, went through a challenging time in life during this past year and recently passed away, and I want to thank her Mom publicly today, for always asking me how my work was going and being interested in my professional progress, despite her own pain.

In our profession, we dedicate our lives to improving the lives of children, including our own. Our children Jessica, Tim, Adam, Jaclyn, and Anna are carving out their own journeys and finding their way in this world. I want to thank them, for letting me tell a few of their stories along the way! My love, friendship, and heart for them know no bounds.

There was even a picture of our Fambam that came up on the screen with two Golden Retrievers to boot. We looked like a pretty normal family. And, at least based on the 2015 Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends report, we are. We are part of the 54% of Americans living with some type of blended family other than with two parents in a first marriage.

In 1960 the dominant family form was two parents in a first marriage (73%).  I was age 9 in 1960 and had already lived with my Mom and Dad, then my Mom, then my Aunt (my Mom’s sister), and eventually my Aunt Dottie (another one of my Mom’s sisters) and her husband, my Uncle Al. By age 12, I would join back up with my Dad and my Step-Mom, and a Step-brother and later would spend time with a half-sister. In total I went to 7 different schools in 6 different towns or cities during my K-12 years. We were less a blended family and more like a family in the blender of life. As such, I did not really grow up much with my siblings.

And, I know my story is not unique. You have some variation of this blender too. 

As the Pew Report indicates – my situation was “very fluid” even through my college years, and continued to evolve and change throughout my adult life as I started my own family that eventually morphed into our wonderful blended family we share today.

As K-12 educators – teachers and leaders, the growing complexity and diversity of families for our 54 million K-12 children is to some extent the new reality we face in this 2016-2017 school season. Pew declares that roughly 3 out of every 6 children you teach comes from just such a blended family as ours (Either two parents in remarriage or not married, one parent, or no parent). The report is heavy in data and graphics with demographics of all types.

The report also indicates the importance and awareness of family design as part of our understanding the nature of the life our students experience at home. It may not be like the one we grew up with in our past. Or, it may be just like it. We each decide to join this profession for a variety of reasons- sometimes it due to that teacher that brought stability to an unstable life at home.

A few years ago our youngest daughter coined the phrase Fambam for our texting group. This includes all three of our children and their spouses and my wife and I. We are a blended family indeed! 

And yet, at least for our blended fambam, there is so much love and compassion. My texting group fambam blew up last week (meaning there were a lot of texts!), as each member reached out to my wife and to me with love in his or her heart for each of us.

This is just what fambams do!

So I ask, who is in your fambam?

And, I leave you with this thought from HEART! 

A fully formed heart, a heart that pursues happiness in its work for students, for colleagues and for you, finds completeness in its compassion.

This April, may your fambam, however constructed, find its compassion in and for one another!