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edu180atl: bo adams 9.5.12

“Okay, I’ll act it out. You guess the G-word.” I raised my arm above my head and made my hand a mouth.


“That’s an E-word.”


“Yes! Whose turn is it now?”

Breakfast is my new favorite time during the workweek. Dinner is a close second. For years, as a school administrator, I advised parents to eat as many family meals together as possible during the workweek. Folks like Ned Hallowell, Dan Kindlon, and Wendy Mogel have written about the close correlation between number of family meals and good children. Yet, I must admit that as a school administrator I ate only 3 to 5 meals a workweek with my wife and two sons, ages 7 and 5. All of these meals were dinners.

For breakfast, I usually ate a banana and a Clif Bar while I traveled to work or as I started my first meeting. Most mornings, I would kiss my family goodbye as they were still wiping sleep from their eyes.

Now, we eat breakfast together everyday. Since starting a new chapter in my educational career, I have doubled the frequency of family meals during the workweek. We’re growing into stronger sharers of stories, values, and play. This morning, we played a game to help Jackson, my kindergartener, with his G-words.

Identity is fascinating. Years ago, during a conference, we had to make a list of ten words that described our identities. Then, we had to strip away all but two. One of my words that survived was “Dad.”

I’m grateful to have heard my own advice…finally.

Bo Adams (@boadams1) is a learner, husband, and dad. He strives for school transformation and serves as Director of Educational Innovation at Unboundary.

20 Comments Post a comment
  1. I can’t imagine stripping away all of my identities but two. I could make do with just three (wife, mom, learner), but demanding I give up one more just seems too cruel. It’s an important exercise though to remind us of who we are, what we prize, and where our focus should lie.

    September 5, 2012
    • Holly, I very much remember the conference when the facilitator asked us to cut from three to two ID descriptors. You could feel much of the air being sucked from the room. We were relieved to discover that we would not have to cut to one. It was a powerful exercise to discover what we would give up about ourselves… and what we would not. The facilitator challenged us to live our lives making more choices based on what we would not give up about ourselves. It continues to be a powerful challenge for me.

      September 6, 2012
  2. Glad to see this new found time has crept into your life. Makes for establishing a different set of tentacles to the people that matter most in our lives. With our daughter off to college and one less person at the breakfast or dinner table, it leaves a hole that needs to be filled. While the time is ripe, it is so important to make these connections. Bravo!


    September 5, 2012
    • Thanks, Bob. What a blessing it is to bookend my days with Anne-Brown and the boys. It is interesting the choices we make in the name of work. Then, when we tell others what matters most, I think many of us find that we might be overly defined by work. I am finding a better balance, and I appreciate that I can continue to pursue my deepest professional passions while devoting more time to those who I say matter most. I hope L is having a great first few weeks of college. And I hope you and R are adjusting.

      September 6, 2012
  3. Great post; makes me miss my grown children a lot and the moments gathered as a family over a meal. A real communion and a sustaining one! Thanks for the memories…Peter

    September 5, 2012
    • Thanks, Peter. The aspect of communion is powerful, and I can certainly feel the creation of morning memories that will serve me better than eating a bar while I march to the office. Looking forward to seeing you Friday to discuss design thinking and educational shift.

      September 6, 2012
  4. Thanks for sharing a “second” breakfast with me last week as we reflected on our work. Love that you are now more able to balance the “loves” in your life. Lovely.

    September 5, 2012
    • Laura, you said it so well. I am able to “have it all” now. I am blessed to be able to pursue my professional passions in education while reclaiming some invaluable time with my wife and sons. It is interesting when we fail to heed our own advice. It is so peaceful when we find the ways to listen and act on what we know matters most. I am thankful that Unboundary’s doors remind me of this daily – “Act On What Matters.”

      September 6, 2012
  5. Cason #

    This is a wonderful post, Mr Adams. As a relatively new teacher, a very new wife, and hopefully one day, a mom, your post strikes close to home. In Connecticut, we’re just gearing up for school to start next week, and I already feel my time at home diminishing. Thanks for a great reminder that quality time with our families and the people we love is so very important.

    Cason Wilson (now Given)

    September 5, 2012
    • Cason, I was so thrilled to get your LinkedIn invite. I am looking forward to following your educational career and learning from your learning. Best wishes to you and your new work and family. I hope we can talk soon.

      September 6, 2012
  6. Maryellen Berry #

    Titles and the corresponding responsibilities perpetually pull at our time and cause us to wittingly or unwittingly whittle away our top priorities. There is nothing like a child’s delight, discovery, or demonstration of her love to remind is of the importance of the title of parent – for th and for us.

    September 5, 2012
    • Well said, Maryellen. The title of parent is a powerful way to think about how we balance our times and our titles. Thank you.

      September 6, 2012
  7. Stephen Kennedy #

    Wonderful post…But if I have triplets, eat half as fast, skip lunch, and give them my breakfast bars on Sunday — do I still get partial credit as a good dad??

    September 5, 2012
    • As I have known you, Stephen, you are a fabulous dad. However, if you want extra credit, you’ll have to surrender your banana, too. Of course, “triplets” gains you stars in your crown right out of the gate! Hope you are well.

      September 6, 2012
  8. Linda Nichols #

    Great post. Just started having similar experiences but can still only manage this interaction during dinner time. We’ve played Rack-o and UNO and practiced saying the alphabet sound without the ‘uh’ sound. It feels as though we are starting a tradition- games during dinner. The only thing is that I realize that I hate losing!!

    September 5, 2012
  9. Lucky lucky boys to have these family times! Thanks for the post, Bo. I love the prompt to reflect on identity… What is our identity? What do we want it to be? Last year a colleague encouraged me to “practice what you value.” Made me think: what DO I value? Does my time allocation reflect that? These are good questions and important challenges!

    September 6, 2012
    • Anna, thanks for the comment. I am finding it a real treasure to have joined an organization whose core competency is around the securing of identity. When we devote the proper attention to who we are, then we can make better choices about what we do and how we do it. A radiance occurs that is not possible when we are more clouded about our deep identity. The work at Unboundary is so strong in that regard, and I am finding that my new team asks me the hard questions everyday that deepen and strengthen my understanding of identity – both my own and that of schools.

      September 6, 2012
  10. Bo,

    Thought of your post when I read this writer’s op-ed in WashPost about making choices as a father:

    Whittling down to our core identities helps us see our values more clearly, but there are other ways too.

    I’ve heard it said that if you follow where someone spends his money, you’ll discover what he values. But to me time is infinitely more valuable than money. Your post and this op-ed helped remind me that I need to regularly reflect on how I am using my hours.

    September 6, 2012
    • Holly, thanks for the op-ed piece. It is brilliant.

      As I wrote my post, I thought deeply about the lessons of where we spend our time. But I did not want to say it that way. Because I have moved into an organization that focuses largely on identity, I wanted to enter the thinking with that door. For our identities are a function of how we spend our times. When our stated identity does not match our time-spent identity, then I think we have to do some serious, serious soul searching…and choice-making. Certainly, my new chapter is about me taking a next step in educational innovation and leadership. However, it is also synergistic with my need to re-balance – to be more of the parent that I encouraged thousands of other parents to be. For so long, I put other people\’s children ahead of my own, to be quite blunt about it. I love children and I want the best for all of them. But if I value my own most highly, then I need to behave more that way. I\’m a work in progress, and I am getting better.

      Thanks for the back and forth. I really appreciate you. Hope to see you soon.

      [Attempt #2]

      September 6, 2012
  11. scootd #

    “Old man, take a look at my life, I’m a lot like you are”. “i’ve always loved that classic Neil Young song (“Harvest”-1972) and it resonates more and more each year as I relect on my own “Dad” and remember those early years with my own sons, Philip and Ricky. My heart still jumps when they use that all time favorite word when talking with me…”Dad”.

    September 11, 2012

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