Unplugging-a Principal’s Challenge

This post is co-written with three amazing Principal friends of mine –
Lindsy @lmstump – Kas @kasnelson  – Adam @AdamWelcome 
All four of us are educational leaders, we all have a spouse, children of our own and are very connected with social media in our personal lives and for work.
Being connected is amazing, but when we spend more time unplugged, we see so much more, your kids will see you more – and those little magic moments that happen won’t slip away, they’ll be captured. They won’t be captured on your phone, for Facebook or Instagram, but imprinted in your memory.
 
It’s really up to us. Nobody is telling us what to do. The social pressure is real, it’s there, we can feel it, we see it and it’s so easy to give in. But when we make the choice, we see so much more – and our kids experience more with us!


At the end of our years will we look back and say “wow I wish I would have emailed more?”….probably not. Work will always be there-but our families will grow up and be out on their own so the time we have with them is precious and shorter than we really know. The #KidsDerserveIt Challenge really made us stop and think seriously about what and how we are spending our time while transitioning back into the business of school and really wanting to balance home and work much better than the year before.  


Lindsy Stumpenhorst @lmstump


It has been a busy summer and I found it difficult to balance my whole family’s day without the set schedule that the school year provides. As the summer progressed the batteries of our ipads, ipods, and macbooks were draining faster and faster. When I saw Adam Welcome’s video with his daughter stating challenge 5 for #kidsdeserveit I had no hesitation to accept.


This weekend I took a day and was disconnected while my family went on a day trip to Lake Michigan. I felt such renewal that I decided my 1st grader and 4th grader were going to follow in my footsteps and have a disconnected day as well!  Monday morning, when they both woke up, I collected their devices. This was an actual conversation between my technology dependent son and I around 9:00am (please don’t judge me)…
Cole – “My brain is hurting from not being able to have screen time.”
Me – “That is probably your brain trying to regenerate from the mush I’ve allowed it to become.”


The following is a summary of a conversation that I had with that same child around 7:00pm…


Me – “How do think today went?”
Cole – “It was really hard because I feel like electronic devices are used so much that I am dependent on them and it’s hard for me to get away.
Me – “What have you learned?”
Cole – “I’ve learned that even if I’m not playing an electronic game like “minecraft”, which expands my creativity – I can expand my creativity in the real world instead of starring at a screen.
Me – “What would you tell someone if they asked what you did today?”
Cole – “Today I was disconnected, because my mom told me I had to be, and I built a super-amazing multi-purpose rocket launcher. I think I was used to being on my ipad when I was bored so I was magnetized to it. You know when you pull apart a magnet, that’s what kind of happened to me – the ipad and me were stuck together, and then when my mom pulled us apart we lost our magnetism.”


Me – “Anything else?”
 

Cole – “You don’t always have to be on a game to be creative, learn new things, or pass time – today I built cool stuff, read a chapters, painted, swam, and spent time with my family (I may also have been annoyed a few times, but I got over it).”


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A disconnected day was recharging. Observing my kids doing the same, powerfully reminded me about the importance of balance – practice it, model it, encourage it.


Kas Nelson @kasnelson – This weekend, my husband and I had planned a get-away with our kids because we didn’t take much of a vacay and we’d promised them a water park all summer. I wasn’t really planning to go “device-less” because, well, (don’t judge) I am almost physically attached to my phone. Going on a mini-vacay so, of course, my phone is going everywhere I do. Except that it didn’t. Our first stop was the water park, and I’ll admit, I took my phone in. However, I tried to limit myself to only checking the time, but I “slipped” and (I took 2 pics of my kids).
 
We had a great time, and after guilting myself about getting my phone out to take pictures, I decided I didn’t need pictures of every moment. See, I was missing precious moments with my children because I was so worried about capturing their best smiles, favorite activity or moments together. I admit, I did take one more family-selfie that night at the movies. (Is there a hashtag for weaning yourself off your phone? #justonemorepicture)
 
 
Then, the next day we did a lot of shopping and running around the city, laughing, kids pestering each other…being a family – and no thought of my phone (other than my littlest guy exclaiming “Mom, watch this! Get a picture of me!” And then I got to tell him that even though I didn’t have my phone out, I took a picture of him with my eyes (blinked like a camera shutter) and have it stored right here. (Pointing to my heart.) ❤️ At our last meal before heading home, I didn’t even take my phone into the restaurant. When my kiddos didn’t see my phone: Mom, where’s your phone? Did you lose it? Me: Nope, I didn’t even bring it in.
 
What followed was a priceless look of complete astonishment on their faces. Then, I could see their expressions change as if to say, “we” are important to Mom. That hit me like a ton of bricks. How could I have let tech take center-stage, and make my children feel like I don’t pay attention or value them as much? Never again.
 
My 3 take-always from spending a few days with limited access to my phone and devices:
 
1.Being unplugged was reviving. It was almost a relief to not feel the need to check email or anything school related. It was as if a ton of bricks was lifted for those few short days.
2. I believe I can do a better job of “unplugging” on a daily basis. I MUST set aside time to put the phone away and focus on my family. My family deserves it, and I deserve it. I hope I can keep the focus on them this school year, even when things get hectic and demanding at school.
3. Even though turning my phone off allowed me to be more present in the moment and savor my time with my family, the rest of my family did not turn their devices off. So now that I’ve modeled this for my kids, I want them to appreciate our experiences together. I want them to see that the value of relationships far outweighs any game, app or number of likes on an Instagram post. Because of this, I think a family unplugged day is going to be happening soon in the Nelson household!


Jessica Cabeen @JessicaCabeen


Unplugging with two boys who are in that ‘tween’ age really helped me to remember that I need to model a balance of tech and family time for them as well.  This weekend we traveled to Iowa  where my husband grew up for a class reunion.  One of my favorite activities of the weekend was a spontaneous walk from our hotel to a diner for milkshakes and french fries.  Instead of playing on our phones (or mom checking her email) we read a chapter from the book “The Ninth Ward”  by Jewell Parker Rhodes (thanks Todd for the recommendation).  We have started this read aloud as part of our evening routine and now they even ask for it!  Trust me when boys hit 10 and 11 they don’t ask for much from their mom so when they do…do it and right away.  
 
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Part of finding that balance is taking time for yourself as well.  The next am while everyone was sleeping in-I put my headphones on and my music and I started running.  I ended up running by my old apartment, the school I worked at and where we were married.  It was such a great quiet time to unplug and relax without demands from anyone-I even told my @Voxer group I ran further than I had planned because I was just having fun. This challenge reminded me that before all the other titles that I have on my email signature-wife and mom always come first.
 
Rain run through old stomping ground.  Wedding Bridge.  #principalinbalance.jpg

 


I’m ok if I don’t have a photo of everything, it’s kind of stressful if you try to make that happen. Just last Sunday it was just me and my kids because my wife was at a work. We started the morning at my old school where I was Principal. John Swett will always be a special place for me because I was a student at the school and very recently the Principal.


I brought my phone with me as the kids rode their bikes around and also played on the structure. Was I on my phone checking Twitter, Instagram and email – for sure I was. Was I also paying attention to my kids and helping them with the monkey bars and such – I was. Was I missing small moments because I was on my phone – unfortunately I was. Did I take a few fun photos and also a Boomerang while they were playing – I did.


Fast forward about thirty minutes later and we were playing at my friends school in our hometown. They have some really nice shaded play structures and this time I left my phone in the car – and I’m so glad I did.


I didn’t have any distractions, it was me and my two children 100% of the time. We talked more, played more together, my eyeballs were on them the entire time. When they called for me I looked right away, because I didn’t have my phone with me. Did I miss taking a few photos of fun things they were doing – I did. Do I regret not having those few photos now – not at all.


It didn’t really hit me until we were actually leaving the school. They were running through one of the halls and I stopped for some water at the fountain. It was almost 100 degrees on Sunday and they were super hot. As they walked to the fountain I sat down on a bench and watched them go. My older daughter grabbed my sons hand and they kind of skipped together, that moment positively made my day. And I would have missed it if I’d brought my phone, because instead of looking at them, I would have been looking somewhere else.


There are too many social media platforms to try and maintain in my personal life. I only signed up for Facebook last summer and I’m ready to sign-out. When my kids are 20 I won’t regret leaving my phone at home, or going airplane mode. I need to do it more and I will start doing it more – we see so much more without the distraction!
 
Thank you to Lindsy, Kas and Jessica for writing with me, we’re better together for our kids and these ladies are awesome!


I recently wrote an article for Dot Complicated about being a Digital Dad, you can read it here.
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