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mothers day

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK (a.k.a Mother’s Day). I have been writing this post for a few months now. It seemed appropriate to finish today and publish on this day. I have a wonderful relationship with my mother. I want her to know how much our relationship has meant to me. Mum, you are loved and appreciated. Here are four things that I value that you have given me (if not all of my brothers and sisters). I hope you have a wonderful day! 

A Passion for Education. 

My mother is a lifelong educator. She has spent many years teaching in the classroom and tutoring students. She has served on various boards and advisory panels for different educational institutions. She genuinely cares for other people and meets them where they are. My mother instilled in me a love for the scientific disciplines. I enjoy our conversations about pedagogy and her mastery of teaching principles. 

I have always enjoyed discussing education with her. In particular, science pedagogy. I remember one time we were discussing the value of graphing data. Sometimes students don’t understand what a graph means. So the activity that she showed me was phase changes in a substance. As a substance changes state, it basically stays in an equilibrium (solid ← → liquid). The temperature of the substance stays the same and then rises once the state change is complete. The activity showed the graph of this, but it also had various phrases that students watching the state change might say. The assignment’s goal was to label the graph with what the students might be saying at that point in the experiment.

As a result, this inspired me to write two different versions of this activity. One is the physical/science version with melting/vaporizing. The other version is part of the RowingSTEM curriculum that I have developed for Tulsa Youth Rowing Association’s gROW Tulsa curriculum, currently serving in Tulsa Public Schools and now Union Public Schools. The RowingSTEM version includes time/distance graphs for two boats on a 2000m racecourse. One boat starts at the start line, and the other starts at the finish line. As the two boats row down (or up) the racecourse, a student must identify the part of the time graph corresponding to the coxswain commands.

You can view both files below if you wish.

Bottom line, I attribute much of my creative spark for teaching and science instruction to her example and guidance over the years.

Being There For Us

My mother has done a wonderful job teaching me that I need to be there for others. She has invested in me and all of my siblings. Over the years, we have scattered to the various four corners of the world. My mom has traveled far and wide to spend time with our children and us. She is as engaged as anyone could be. 

In general, my parents did attend some of my rowing races during high school. In my first race, my mother rode on the towpath on the riverside on a pink bike. However, as the story goes, I saw her on the pink bike at the start and I had neglected to inform her that the race was in the downstream direction towards Kingston and not towards Hampton Court, so she waved at me and then promptly cycled off in the wrong direction and never got to see us row the quad down the racecourse.

The family at Reading Town Regatta, the year we took the Tulsa Youth Rowing Association to Henley Royal Regatta

My mother has had her work cut out for her. My brother and sisters are located in Scotland, England, Australia, and Tulsa, OK, USA (me!). The point is, it didn’t matter which way we were cycling or rowing. She has found the time to be there regardless of geography.

Sense of Humor

Both of my parents instilled a sense of humor in all of us. However, one of my favorite things to do with my mum is to watch the Blackadder series produced by the BBC starring Rowan Atkinson. We can pretty much sit through any episode and say each line while we watch. But these one-liners also tend to permeate through daily life. When something happens, we will usually quote Blackadder. One of our favorites is the courtroom scene in the fourth series of Blackadder, where Baldrick, the resident village idiot played by Tony Robinson, gives his testimony.

Another favorite of ours, is the scene in the second series of Blackadder where Percy turns his hand to Alchemy and tries to create some “Gold.”

If you can drop a one-liner at any point and the other person knows exactly what you are talking about, that’s a sign of a special thing between you both. I hope that you have friends and family like that. Shared experience is important, as is the ability to laugh and have fun.

Empathy and Vulnerability

My mother was never afraid to show us how she was feeling. This authenticity has allowed me to understand that it is ok to let your guard down and show others how you are really feeling and that vulnerability displays strength and character and is not a weakness. Let’s say how we feel and be authentic with others whenever possible.

In addition to this, my mother has the ability to step back and think carefully about a situation. My mother does not tend to have a polarizing attitude to things. She has a sense of fairness and that has been handed down to me. It is important to see all sides of the issue and look at things from the other person’s perspective. In short, my mother has taught me to have compassion for others, accompanied by a sense of empathy and fairness.

That ability has helped me as coach and educator. Managing youth rowing programs is much more than knowing the Xs and Os of training and technique (which you do need). Often coaching and managing comes down to communicating with people. Leadership is contextual and one size does not fit all. In order to have a successful program or classroom there must be an understanding of how all of the pieces fit to together that work to bring the whole vision in focus.

As a result, I tend to be a lover rather than a fighter. I always try to build consensus and listen to other points of view before making my mind up and plotting a course of action. 

Conclusion

The reality is that my mother has given me many more than four gifts. However, these serve as an excellent start. My mother has been one of the great teachers of my life. I am proud to be her son, and words don’t really do it justice. I want her to know how important she has been to all of us, and I appreciate her strength despite all of the storms of our lives. Mum, you are loved more than you can know, and it has been my privilege to be your son. Happy Mother’s Day!

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