By Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach

Photo credit: Lasára Allen

There is no past we can bring back by longing for it. There is only an eternal now that builds and creates out of the past something new and better. – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This post is inspired by the anger, jealousy, weariness and frustration from educators I have seen and heard lately as I have traveled from school to school around the world. In fact, people in general are full of discontent and fear. Rarely do I meet someone filled with purpose, joy and hope, but when I do it grounds me. It brings me back to my purpose and path.

Strife Kills
It is as if we are all working harder but accomplishing less while our children, our students, are more disengaged than ever. In an effort to save kids, we are in a frenzy to try anything–everything– all at once– without much real consideration about purpose, intentionality or outcomes. The more radical the idea, the more true we believe it must be. We are told that the answer lies in not accepting the status quo. The message is that we need to be shifting and that shift has to be huge, fast, transformational and result in higher test scores. We are told it is about the tools and how technology is changing everything. Then another voice calls out and says, no, it isn’t about the tools, it is about the learning. And in our hearts we are frustrated because we feel things are changing so fast that we do not even know what we do not know — much less how all this makes sense in our classrooms, schools and homes.

And all the while, the more convinced we are that schools and the world cannot change, the more frustrating the situation becomes for everyone. The more we strive, the more strife it produces. A quick read from my network connections on twitter shows that many of us are becoming cynical, angry, and discontented. Many of us crave an easy solution, a quick fix that will slow things down and still help the children we serve. We buy books, attend conferences, sit in workshops, and carry signs at marches and yet, we are still unhappy, confused, and tired. The fads, accusations, and rush to action have gotten us nowhere close to what we wanted in terms of helping children. In addition, the amplification of our frustration through social media is creating what some are calling media fatigue. More and more we are hearing a desire to unplug, slow down, find balance and return to high touch in terms of meeting the whole child’s needs.

The Next Big Thing
So what’s the answer? How do we find peace and still be a revolutionary for children? How can we shift, connect and collaborate without giving up a piece of our soul? How do we find the time to learn and grow while still making time for our own kids? How can we get what we want?

What if the “next big thing” was already here? What if the answer could be found inside each of us? What if our peace and satisfaction with ourselves, each other and our work could be found in our own contentment and satisfaction? What if working on ourselves resulted in becoming the answer to the changes we seek?

I believe that:

  • Learning is a joyful exploration that has organically embedded within it just the right amount of challenge and motivation to keep us focused.
  • Anger, jealousy, resentment, and offense have no place in education and when we entertain them in our lives they kill creativity.
  • If we are not happy for people who get what they want, then there is a good chance we will never get what we want.
  • Our values, beliefs, and dispositions define the quality of our experiences — what we think defines who we are and what we become.
  • Emerging technologies are invaluable for the sharing of our lessons learned in unplugged moments.
  • Technology is a medium, a canvas upon which we share the art of what happens in our natural lives. Done right, it becomes an extender of who we are and what we believe.
  • Sharing leads to connections. Nurtured connections lead to innovative collaboration. Published collaboration leads to collective action. Collective action results in making the world and ourselves better.
  • Learning organizations begin with individuals who are committed to learning themselves first and then extending that learning experience beyond the school house doors.

Serendipitous: Sometimes life hands you a gift
I love serendipity. My appreciation for it has shifted to a belief in how the serendipitous moments of life bring to you what you need at just the right time, if we will relax, focus, listen, reflect and quit striving.

Each day you need to look for what life is handing you. Look for what there is to learn from those around you. Those you run into and come across in your daily activities. Share with each other what you are learning.

Today I am learning…

  • How character is developed most when I do not get what I want and yet still do the right thing.
  • How strife comes from jealousy and that often those who stir up trouble are simply unhappy people who are not satisfied with who they are or what they have.
  • That it is foolish to be jealous of what someone else has if I am not willing to do what they did to get it.
  • I have learned that if I keep focused and do what I know is right — when I am ready and have learned enough to handle it — I will usually get what I need. Time and time again when I have tried to manipulate things to get what I thought I wanted, it turned out to be too soon, too late or not what I wanted at all.
  • Discontentment isn’t about your circumstance but rather it is about your character. I have found that often when I am operating as a learner, that serendipity will march someone by me who has what I want. I have a choice at that moment to be happy for that person or jealous. Every time I choose to be happy I move ahead three spaces on the game board of life. Every time I choose to be jealous I skip a turn, and opportunity passes me by.

I frequently hear people say “I wish I could travel and speak and live the life” so and so has. It sounds so glamorous and fun. I find myself wondering in response if they are willing to do the things that so and so has done to get it. One thing is for sure — whoever they are talking about certainly didn’t get where they are by simply wishing. Besides what we really need is to find the idea or answer that lies within us, not become a clone of someone else.

We all need to start enjoying life more. Every day that we miss enjoying the life we have been given is a tragedy. Spend time listening to the voice inside you. The one that decided to go into education to make a difference in the lives of children.

Try things out together and then talk about what works and what doesn’t. Use technology to reflect and learn together with others. Use technology to create and to be creative.

Enjoy your life and cherish the impact you are making on children. So much of what they learn from you is caught and not taught anyway. Laugh together. Learn from each other.  Develop a learning community mindset.  Set your mind toward an openness to learning something each day with and from each other in your school. Make up your mind that if you do not get what you wanted today, you will relax and enjoy life anyway.

As I was typing this, Carole King came on the radio, singing these words. Talk about serendipity.

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

Waiting at the station with a workday wind a-blowing
I’ve got nothing to do but watch the passers-by
Mirrored in their faces I see frustration growing
And they don’t see it showing, why do I?

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

I have often asked myself the reason for THE sadness
In a world where tears are just a lullaby
If there’s any answer, maybe love can end the madness
Maybe not, oh, but we can only try

You’ve got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart
Then people gonna treat you better
You’re gonna find, yes, you will
That you’re beautiful as you feel

So I would love to know– What have you learned lately?





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11 Responses to “How to Get What You Want”

  1. Fran Bullington October 9, 2011 at 5:11 pm #


    Talk about serendipity! When I opened my Reader this afternoon, your post was front and center. Your words resonated with me.
    At the SLJ Leadership Summit, I heard an acronym for the first time that summarizes what leads many of us to frantically “hunt for the next thing” that will be the magic bullet: FOMO. Fear of missing out.
    I have always believed that the answer IS out there; it leads me to read and search daily. But what if the answer instead is IN me? Wow. Then I have spend way too many years searching in the wrong place.
    Thank you. This post is one that I need to re-read when I am feeling lost and ineffective.

  2. Royan Lee October 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    I have learned that simplifying my personal and professional life is helping to change the world. I have also learned that being as authentic and transparent as possible is helping others (students, family, friends, colleagues) do the same.

    Thanks for the great post.

  3. Mary Beth Hertz October 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

    Thanks, Sheryl, I needed this. I have always believed that if we are always reaching toward and working toward our goals and dreams that things will naturally fall into place. This has been my experience, at least.

    As for what I’ve learned—if I am not happy and I don’t take care of me or educate myself, then nothing will ever fall into place and I will fail in my efforts to be the best educator, friend and person I can be.

  4. Kari Weston October 10, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    I have learned that I am still (and always will be) learning…thank goodness smart is something you can become! Timely words of wisdom, my friend…thanks for sharing!

  5. Karen Szymusiak October 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    I really appreciate this post. I am trying to simplify my own life and experiences right now. It isn’t easy.
    I am focusing on family (being a grandma is great, isn’t it?)
    My professional life needs some fuel right now so I am trying to get centered on what is the most important to me. As you know, leading a school is tough work. Helping to shape it into the best place for living and learning is even harder. So I am sharpening my lens and looking for the answers that seem right for kids.

  6. Bill Gaskins October 10, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    Wow! When I read your list of the things you are learning, I had a moment of serendipity. Most of what you wrote would be on my list, but what stands out the most and I have been thinking much about keeping “focused and do what I know is right — when I am ready and have learned enough to handle it–I will usually get what I want. ” I am seeing lots of changes in my professional life, but have a deep passion for teaching and learning. I have always believed in doing what it right when the rest of my colleagues are doing things differently. I am still learning and thanks so much for this post.


  7. Janice Shanno October 11, 2011 at 12:15 am #

    I have learned that the joy of learning an come from sharing and passing on knowledge with others. Last week, I had an opportunity to share some of the experiences from our journey with PLP at a 1:1 conference with other educators in our area. It is an amazing feeling to make those personal connections with a group of educators that are trying to venture out and find ways of using the technology.

  8. Ewan McIntosh October 11, 2011 at 7:54 am #

    You’re about to spend 48 hours with someone who is, generally, very optimistic and positive about the way education is going. It’s maybe of the paint-drying velocity, but it is happening and I see the efforts I put in along with collaborators paying off every day. I’m just learning how to balance trying to improve the lives of youngsters around the world with making sure my own kids’ lives are as rich as they can be – and that includes seeing their dad. I’ve not learnt how yet. But I’m getting there.

  9. Sue Smith October 27, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Thanks for such a great post! I’m learning that I’m a lifelong learner, and that my students need to be inspired to be lifelong learners also.


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