Recently I was watching CBS sports commentator, Bill Reiter interview NBA rookie, Grayson Allen out of Duke.  Bill asked Grayson about what he would bring to the NBA and how he’d prepare.  In Grayson’s answer, he began noting his competitiveness and talked about summer training.  Bill reminded him, “Yes, it’s well known that even the likes of LeBron don’t take the ‘summer off’; he always has some part of his game he is working on to improve – like shooting.”

For a basketball fan like myself, I shouldn’t have been surprised that LeBron James, who some would call the best ever, is working on improving his game.  I love the paradigms in life when something is interesting, surprising, and a no-brainer all at the same time.  Notice, he’s not working on a 4-point shot, nor on a new dribbling technique. No, he’s working on the basics, the fundamental skills.   The things he learned at the very beginning, and he just keeps practicing, practicing, practicing.   

For some reason during this interview it hit me like a ton of bricks.  In education, we keep adding initiatives, trying new things (not always a bad thing), but we are struggling with some basics.  Serious basics.  Sometimes it seems the intention for newness is truly rooted in meeting the diverse needs and interests of our students which is great.  Yet, at other times it seems we struggle to say ‘no’ to free things, we need something flashy to attract more kids or teachers, or we are somewhat satisfied with mediocre and want something new to bring excitement and innovation.   It’s like suddenly we’re trying to dribble behind our backs when we haven’t mastered the cross-over dribble. 

Recently, in working with a colleague on new initiatives for next year, I had to question, ‘What about the core of your program?  Your vision and mission?  Is it spot on? Is there room for growth there first?’   Of course there are a lot of amazing programs with great outcomes for kids, but with some of the basic needs missing, I often wonder if new programs can be implemented successfully and with integrity?

Aside from our teachers and school leaders’ sanity, I think our schools and children could really benefit from some more time in the basics.  And by the basics, I’m not talking about curriculum.  I’m talking about fundamental basics, the human need for connection.

SAY ‘HI’.  I’m currently working with my two-year-old on this one. Saying ‘hi’ acknowledges presence, it connects and breaks down barriers, it’s kind and it’s caring.  Many schools are struggling with school culture and climate, asking themselves ‘How do we get our kids and families to feel they belong?’.   Although we try with special events and programs, we often miss the opportunity each day to greet our students at the door, or as they get off the bus.  We miss the opportunity to say hi to our parents waiting for their kids at the gates or picking their kids up from practice or detention.  We walk silently by our colleagues in the hallway. 

We are human beings and we are designed to connect.  A hi, especially when accompanied with a soft smile, sends and creates peace amongst people.  It changes the game.  It softens the space and enhances moods.  As hard as we try as educators, and yes, I truly believe educators are some of the hardest working people on the planet; sometimes we get bogged down with work and our lists and we forget to look into the eyes of the kids and parents whose lives we are trying to positively impact, and just say ‘hi’ 

While LeBron is hitting shots this summer, amp up your game.  Say ‘hi’ to people!  Those you know and those you don’t!  See how it feels, you might be surprised how good it makes you feel to initiate warmth, peace, and connection.  

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