Friday, January 30, 2015

No answers today!

I remember walking into my 5th grade classroom during January of my first year of teaching and getting bombarded with the usual questions from my kiddos.  They were typical school questions for a first year teacher.  I remember noticing that the kids actually knew the answers to most of them.  I guess they were asking me just to be sure they were right.  I also remember that my answers were typically one-worded responses, some spoken with an occasional pointed finger, "Yes....No....There!"

After one too many, I jokingly stated, "I'm not answering any more questions today!"

A few kids giggled and a few looked at me with a perplexed grin.  They all knew I was probably up to no good!  There was silence for about four seconds, then the questions continued, "Can I work on my project?"

I responded, "I don't know, can you?"

The next student, "What should I do next for my writing?"

My answer, "I don't know!  What should you do next for your writing?"

Both kids already knew the answers.  A few more interactions like this and the class took notice.  For me, with each question and answer, things got more fun!  I wondered if I could go all day in this manner!

"Come on, Mr. Shanks, you KNOW what I need to do next!  Just tell me"

I said, "Hmmmm....I don't know....I wonder who could tell you?"

I continued answering questions this way and made the HUGE realization that I had trained my class to ask me a million questions a day!  By answering them, I trained them to keep asking!  I didn't want to answer a million questions per day!  I really wanted a classroom where the kids knew how to find their answers without needing direct guidance from me.  During the last several months of the year, I changed the dynamics of the classroom immensely by changing my responses to their questions.  Throwing most of the questions back to them made our classroom a different place.

This process also unveiled the difference between the regular questions and the fun questions!  Mixed in with the requests to go to the bathroom and how to solve #4, were questions like, "Can dogs really count?"

These were the questions that were more fun!  At first, I turned those questions right back to the students as well.  However, I learned that without some level of guidance, 5th graders didn't always know where to begin the search for answers to these questions.  In today's world, most kids simply Google the question!  Not so, in 1994!

I believe fun questions like these deserve to be honored and respected.  These are the types of questions I want students to ask.  Questions like these lead kids to explore and learn.  More importantly, when questions like these are respected, kids learn that it is a good thing to ask questions that don't necessarily have easy answers!

When kids regularly ask the impossible, then strive to find an answer, we all win!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Submitted for your approval

My current job requires most assignments to be submitted to management for approval.  Sometimes I am the submitter and sometimes I am the approver.  Sometimes, I am one of the funnels it most go through prior to final approval.  Confusing?  Yes.

There are a few purposes for the approval.  When something is going to be published, it is always a good idea to get a 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th set of eyes to check it out so that it can be ready for publication.  Another purpose is for the approver to simply determine if the words are to his or her liking.  In other words, does this say what it needs to say in the way that I would say it?  This often leaves the writer trying to guess what is in the manager's head!!

This got me thinking...

When kids turn in assignments, how often are they trying to guess what is in the teacher's head?  I have seen some incredible examples of learning tasks that included simple, yet perfect rubrics so kids could judge their work prior to submission.  Wouldn't it be excellent if a student knew how well their efforts met the expectations for pretty much every assignment?

When teachers design a learning experience, they first determine, "What exactly do my students need to learn?"

Then they ask, "How will I know if they learned it?"  To go deeper with this one, start asking, "How will my students know if they learned it?"  If your students know, they will not be submitting their work for your approval, they will be submitting their work stamped with their own approval!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Passion and Goals!

Can you have a goal without a plan?

There was a time that I believed a goal without a plan was just a dream.  Now, I think that some of the best goals swell our hearts with anticipation before we have a clue how to get there!  Big, audacious goals can take time.  Early on, that time may simply be spent figuring out exactly what your "End in Mind" actually looks like.

I have heard the goal, "I want to write a book," from several folks.  The next question is always, "What will your book be about?"

The was a time when I gave very little credence to the answer, "I don't know."  Not anymore!  Perhaps finding the answer to that question is the burning question!  The burning question that causes the writer-to-be to seek out his/her greatest passion and bring it to life through words.

If you have a goal, and you are not sure how to bring it to life, keep asking yourself questions until your answers lead you to your plan!  Passion and goals lead to plans for success!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sharpen the Saw

The second semester is rolling.  Middle-of-the-year benchmarks are done.  Data is ready for analysis.  The end of January is when the gas peddle hits the floor and time seems to fly.  It is also when the typical teacher experiences a bit of stress as testing time approaches and some of the kiddos aren't progressing as planned.

If you have done this for a few years, and felt this way for a few years, you know that the stress will wane and you will make it through this time.  Say this to yourself, "I will make it through this time of year because I have done it before."

Then ask yourself, "How will I make it better for my students and for myself?"

One of your answers to this question must be, "I will sharpen my saw!"

Dr. Covey explains Habit #7 so well:

Sharpen the Saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have--you. It means having a balanced program for self-renewal in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Here are some examples of activities:

Physical:Beneficial eating, exercising, and resting
Social/Emotional:Making social and meaningful connections with others
Mental:Learning, reading, writing, and teaching
Spiritual:Spending time in nature, expanding spiritual self through meditation, music, art, prayer, or service

As you renew yourself in each of the four areas, you create growth and change in your life. Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other six habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you. Without this renewal, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish. Not a pretty picture, is it?

Feeling good doesn't just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It's all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalize yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal--a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Passion is Energy!

I just took a quick walk through The University of Texas campus. The 2nd semester has recently begun and there were tables and students everywhere!  They were holding posters, giving away candy, playing music, and handing out pamphlets.  They were trying to recruit, advertise, raise funds, or promote for their cause.

It was an impressive sight!  I started thinking about all the reasons they were participating.  They weren't getting paid for it.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves.  They might simply be involved to make friends.  But most of the groups were service-oriented.  To me, this means they got involved because they were passionate about the cause.

I know that our local high schools have some advocacy efforts led by their students.  This made me wonder, how can we create an environment for our youngest students to become involved with a service effort?  I'm not simply talking about the projects that are led by the school.  Don't get me wrong!  School-led efforts are excellent and worthy vehicles for teaching kids how the service to others is a win-win endeavor.

I'm just curious if we can build systems in elementary schools where student-led, passion-driven efforts will flourish?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sway Bar Success!

Yesterday, my family finished a few days of camping at our favorite state park.  The weather was gorgeous!  High temperatures were around 70 degrees and the nights were perfect for sitting around the campfire.  Each day, we hiked the trails and took in some incredible Central Texas views!  We also hit the water in our kayaks.  Only one fish was caught on this trip, and I'm sure he swam back to tell his catfish buddies about his out-of-water adventure!

When it comes time to pack up and head out, usually my two boys are willing to help out in whatever way necessary.  While they would prefer to act like kids at the lakeside park, they also like the idea of getting home to play with their friends.  After an hour or so, I enlisted their help to finish the process of camp clean up.  They took care of a few of the obvious things, such as gathering the kayak gear and picking up any little piece of trash.  All in all, they do a good job!

Once our gear was packed, it was time to hook up the camper.  My oldest son did a great job of lining up the ball and hitch and getting the truck in place.  The next step was the weight distribution bars and the sway bar.  I typically take care of these, but this time, I wanted to see if my son could figure it out.  He has watched me several times, but not in the last two months.  I asked him to take care of it and he responded, "How do they go on?"

My typical reaction would probably be to tell him exactly what to do.  That would have been more efficient and easier.  He would have complied and the task would have gotten done.  A lot of times, we think that if we tell kids each step, they will remember the process next time.  But really, the teacher in me knew better.  Instead of telling him what to do, I said, "I bet you can figure it out!"  Then I walked away.  I knew it might be counterproductive to stand and watch.  I just might have blurted out some statement and taken away his autonomy.

Sure enough, he figured it out and got it done!  Sway bar success!  This made me happy!  He was proud of himself too!  Giving him the autonomy to get it done helped him learn the process way better than telling him each step of the way.  It also made him feel better about his accomplishment than he would have if I had told him each step and he had merely complied.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The best compliment for an educator

Yesterday, I ran into a parent from my old campus.  We were both attending a forum for improving early childhood education.  We talked about her two, fantastic children.  One is in middle school now and the other is still in elementary.  The younger one loves his teacher and is quite proud of his leadership on campus.  Of course, every one is a leader at that campus, thanks to some incredibly dedicated and talented teachers and The Leader in Me!  She told me that her daughter was an excellent middle school student, making all A's and excelling in band, but she missed her old school.

Then she told me what I consider to be one of the best compliments I have ever received, "It is clear that your school was all about relationships, yet the expectations for excellent academics was equally amazing!"

This was music to my ears!  I have always believed that people come first.  Make sure you take care of their hearts and their minds will follow.  Yet I also know that learning is the reason every school exists.  Academics are paramount.  By no means was I perfect in my efforts.  Most assuredly, I made many mistakes along the way.   It is still one of my burning questions, "How do we ensure that the little people we get for seven hours each day leave as caring human beings with as much smarts as we can get in their brains?"

School is not only meant for filling brains and creating a growth mindset, it is also meant to create little humans who genuinely care for the people and the world around them.  I loved hearing that we did both!  I still say all the credit goes to the fantastic teachers and staff that made it happen, but it was nice to be included in the best compliment an educator can hear!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Suspend Judgment and Enable Curiosity

Elementary school teachers are the ultimate action researchers.  They constantly monitor the subjects in their laboratories for optimum learning, then tweak or change variables when needed.  They also find times when they need to seek the opinion of a fellow researcher, so they ask another teacher for ideas that might address a specific barrier to a child's learning.

Some of the most important conversations that teachers have are to answer the question, "What do we do for the kids who struggle to learn this?"

After many years of involvement with these discussions, I have seen a wide range of responses to the ideas that get thrown on the table in efforts to help struggling students.  Most of the time, teachers are willing to listen to as many strategies as possible, then choose one or two.  Naturally, the strategies that are typically chosen are the ones that feel most comfortable to each teacher.  Each teacher chooses the ones that seems most doable.  If three teachers hear fifteen different ideas, they may choose three completely different strategies, based on their own personal preference.

This has me wondering...when we hear ideas during a brainstorming session, do we make our judgments immediately?  As the ideas hit the table, do our experiences cause us to keep or discard ideas too quickly?  When brainstorming, what if we were better able to suspend judgment and enable curiosity?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Be a No Man!

The best plans for success often follow the toughest arguments.  We don't always recognize it, but a really good disagreement typically shows how far apart folks are thinking when the improvment process begins  Once the work is done, the result that follows the argument must be good if everyone supports it because it has overcome the differences that caused the argument in the first place.  Unless you are a "Yes" Man.

Don't apologize to people for having a difference of opinion.  Use your differences to build something greater than any one of you could have done on your own!

When your team is looking to make things better, first be sure you share a common goal.  If you have that, be sure team members are not copies of the same thoughts.  Most of all, be sure you are not simply saying yes to the rest of the team, just to keep the peace.  It is OK to be a "No" Man!

Saturday, January 10, 2015


A little bit of fear is not always a bad thing.  That little feeling you get as you face a challenge.  It may be your new job, a new student in your classroom, or even walking in the building with a new haircut.  The deep breath you take as you approach your challenge is a sign that some level of fear is with you.  Butterflies in your stomach!

Many coaches believe that the feeling of butterflies in your stomach prior to a competition is healthy and contributes towards a strong performance.  The same can be said for singers, dancers, and actors.  Teachers get the feeling on the first day of school every year, just before the kids walk in the door!  This fear is not the opposite of courage!  Courage is what you use to overcome your fears!  A little bit of fear always loses to bravery!

Embrace those butterflies!  Step up to the starting line and run!  When the curtain opens, smile and shine!  When you feel those butterflies in your stomach, you know you are doing something that takes courage.  Smile as you reach beyond your comfort zone and let your bravery show!

Brave and Happy!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Do what you can!

Make it happen.  Get it started.  Get it done.

These statements are not always so easy for a lot of folks.  Fear gets in the way.  Oftentimes, we look for some kind of answer to be given to us or we wait for a new factor to play into our actions.  We wait for someone else to influence our decisions and our actions before jumping in.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. - Arthur Ashe

Great advice!  If you begin with the end in mind, then focus on these three phrases, you will be able to take that first step to action.  This doesn't mean you shouldn't seek the help of others.  Seeking assistance may be step #1.  Sure, it may be risky, but will it be worth it?  Probably.  Do what you can, then continue to do it better!  We want kids to do this in school, so shouldn't we follow the same advice?

Be brave and happy.  Get it started!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Think, then do!

Dan Millman is one of my favorite authors.  I devoured his books in my 20's and 30's, yet many of his ideas still resonate strongly 15-20 years later.  Over the last few weeks, I have been doing a lot of thinking about a potential upcoming assignment.  Then, as I was thinking, I thought to myself, "I am doing way to much thinking and not enough doing!"  Dan Millman says it this way:

As a guy who wants to be proactive, I decided to make a call this morning, just to ask about the assignment timeline that I am quite eager to learn about.  The timeline is not in my circle of influence, but it is in my circle of concern.  First I thought, then I proactively chose to ease my concern by making a phone call and asking!  Not so tough!

Dan Millman would be proud!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Is this good enough to try?

So you have been working on something new,  You are excited about the potential benefits of your efforts and you are passionate about finding success.  At some point, you might ask yourself, "Is this good enough to try?"

The answer to this question is almost always yes!  If your new endeavor is good enough to call good, it is good enough to try.  Give it a shot, learn from your efforts, then make improvements.

If you are waiting for the perfect plan before making it happen, you could be waiting a long time.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Study Time!

I was looking at my weekly plan this morning, and I realized my weekly ritual of creating this plan and taking care of my big rocks is something I have done for almost two years now.  It has given me many successes and it has certainly improved my level of a fruitful life in all of the important roles I play in this world.

Then the thought popped into my head, "Time to study those Seven Habits again!"

During the last year, I have been honored to facilitate The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Leader in Me at several campuses.  Each faculty uniquely set the stage for their learning and implementation of these habits.  When excellent educators learn something that will benefit their students, they almost always begin talking about how to implement their new knowledge with students.  This discussion excites the staff more than any other!

Some schools chose kick off their implementation of the Seven Habits by teaching one habit per week, or one habit per month.  Some schools did the first three habits, the private victory, for the first month, then the next three habits, the public victory, during the second month.  Different ways all lead to the same end in mind.

So, like these schools, I am going to invest my time in a bit of study.  One habit at a time.  Like reading a great book or watching a great movie, I expect to see things I didn't see before.  Here I go!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scary things!

On December 1, 2014, I wrote about doing one thing each day that scares me, 31 Scary Days.   After 31 days, I have actually learned a lot about myself!  Some of these items were more scary than others.  Sometimes, I simply noted something I said or did that may have required even just a smidge of courage.  These items are also definitely not the scariest thing I did each of the days.  They are simply examples!  It was fun to note something for each day!  I think the point is that if I ever have a day that nothing worth noting happens, perhaps that day was wasted.

December 1, 2014
Today, I had a conversation with a friend about his health.  He mentioned that he needs to lose about 80 pounds.  From his words, I heard that he was desperate to turn things around.  I took a deep breath, and bravely told him that I was worried about his health too.  I told him that every day he waits to turn his health around will make his turn-around tougher to accomplish.    I looked him in the eye and honestly told him that he his fully capable of making it happen and that I believed in him! I offered to do some push-ups with him too.

I think he was surprised to hear me say it. I was a little surprised too, but what I told him was the truth.  Usually, we want our friends to tell us what we want to hear.  Sometimes, we want our friends to tell us what we need to hear.  It can be quite difficult to know the difference.

December 2, 2014
It wasn't easy, but I listened to the whole story.  I didn't want to do it.  I wanted to interrupt and cut to the chase.  I've heard this particular story before so I felt like I knew where to go.  Instead, I focused on the words and the delivery and simply restated what I wanted clarified.  I asked for more information when my own picture wasn't clear.  I listened to the whole story and it wasn't easy!  But I listened to the whole story, and a real solution was found!  Empathic listening isn't easy, but it is worth it!

December 3, 2014
I volunteered for an assignment that was out of my comfort zone.  I don't think I have the experience required for the job.  I did it, because it will relieve the anxiety of a coworker and it will add precious gold coins to our emotional bank account.  I'm a bit scared about getting it done effectively, but I know I am willing to put forth the effort to make it happen!

December 4, 2014
An interview is a scary thing!  The idea of balancing the dialogue between what I believe in and bragging about myself is a tough one!  This is further challenged by the balance between talking about the past and talking about the future.  During an interview, some folks want to know what you have accomplished and some want to know what you are aiming to do next!  Finally, there is the wait!  Kudos to Manor ISD for making the wait 24 hours rather than an unknown time frame!

December 5, 2014
I am facilitating an improvement team en absentia.  This team really wants to find solutions with only the folks who do the hard work.  In order to maintain confidentiality, they do not want anyone outside of their group to be present for the meeting, including me, the facilitator.  It is a bit scary to think that I am supposedly helping steer the efforts without going along for the ride!  This challenge does offer facilitation experience to a few others on the team, which is a good thing!  Can I do this blindly???

December 6, 2014
Soccer tournament time for my youngest!  I love watching him play soccer!  over the last few years, I have really made sure that my cheers stay positive and model good sportsmanship.  Today's referees made this a challenge today!  I have no problem with refs who make mistakes.  They are human after all.  Today's ref simply didn't care and he treated our 11 year olds poorly.  Nevertheless, I remained a good sport!

December 7, 2104
This morning, I talked with my boys about going to see a movie.  My oldest son wanted to see Interstellar at the IMAX Theater.  My youngest son did not.  He insisted on seeing the new Hunger Games flick.  Since we disagreed, we looked for a third alternative and simply didn't find another movie to go to.  We talked about doing something else, but we had gift cards for the theater!  In the end, My youngest son got a few tears in his eyes and said he just wasn't going to go.  When I asked him why, he had a difficult time telling me.  I tried to gently and calmly ask him for more information so we could solve this together, but he didn't really want to explain it.  I didn't want to leave him this way!  I felt like if I waited patiently, he would somehow be able to verbalize his reasoning.  That is tough to do when his reason was, "I saw the trailer for Interstellar and it looks like the stupidest movie ever."

How do you respond to that?

I said, "Tell me more."  He initially refused, then opened up a little bit.  Tough conversation, for sure!

December 8, 2014
Today, I spent a good deal of time thinking about who I am as an educator.  I revisited by belief statements and my personal mission for education.  I asked myself, "Are these things guiding you to be the best educator you can be?"  I tweaked a few things here and there and made sure my dedication to these words was still strong.

December 9, 2014
I spoke with a few district leaders today.  They heard my ideas and beliefs with open eyes and open ears.  It was an enjoyable experience because they were quite engaged in the conversation and appreciated my input.  I was proud of myself for sharing without compromising my beliefs.  Oftentimes, it is easy to say what you think people want to hear rather than your actual thoughts.  This can be especially true when the group consists of passionate and dedicated educators.  It was a great time!

December 10, 2014
I attended a training session today for the second time.  I wanted to be sure that I didn't miss anything the first time.  Even though it would have been easier to skip it because I already attended the training once, I went again and made the most of it!

December 11, 2014
I facilitated a meeting with the enrichment unit today.  We needed to determine how this group would best take care of the requirements for monthly update reports for our ongoing projects.  As with any change, a few folks responded to the new requirements with rolled eyes.  By sticking with the purpose of these updates and discussing ways to make them more meaningful to the group on a regular basis, we walked away with a positive plan of action!

December 12, 2014
I accompanied the associate commissioner of education for academic standards and programs to meeting in our state capital.  A state representative wanted some expert opinion on a bill she wants to file.  In this case, I was not the expert!  But, it was very interesting listening to the conversations at a state legislative level!

December 13, 2014
Courageously, I did not much today!  It was our first non-soccer weekend in a long time.  I love watching my boys play soccer.  It is absolutely one of my favorite things to do!  It sure was nice to sit back and relax.  I don't sharpen my saw by doing nothing too often.  Today, I did!

December 14, 2014
I am anticipating some news today.  It might be good or it might not be good.  Because I have already done my part to make the news good, the decision is now outside of my control, so I will now focus on things that are actually within my circle of influence instead of worrying.

December 15, 2014
This is the time of year when the sweets show up in the office.  Today, I only ate one cookie!  I don't know if it was scary, but it sure was tough!

December 16, 2014
There was an Open House environment at the office today.  The chance to walk around a mingle and meet the folks that I often only know over the phone.  I accepted the challenge and can now put faces with names!

December 17, 2014
Today's scare was interesting for me.  I challenged myself to attack a few of my Quadrant One tasks, finishing each one in order.  Quadrant One tasks are both urgent and important.  I am very good at meeting deadlines, but I typically move from task to task to task in a fairly random pattern,  For me, it keeps my brain fresh.  I was able to make it through these tasks one at a time today!

December 18, 2014
We cancelled a meeting today.  There simply wasn't enough on the agenda to get everyone away from more important work.  The only decisions to be made by the group were not urgent.  The best meetings are the ones that make people smarter, better, and more connected.  This one would not have done any of those, so we cancelled it!

December 19, 2014
As the new guy in the office, I have been much more of a listener than a talker.  I work to learn from those who have been here longer than I have.  I want to learn from them.  Not only from their words, but also from their history here.  Sometimes their decisions are based on practices and procedures that I just don't know about yet.  At our weekly meetings, I find that I am asking questions in order to help me see into the past around here.  Today, my supervisor told me that she really appreciated my questions because they are good ones that help the entire team focus on why things are done in a certain way.  She said that it is good for the this group to examine the why more often and she appreciated me for asking!

December 20, 2014
Shopping day!  This day scares me!  I did the majority of shopping online this year, but there are some things that need to be found in person.  I did it!  I got it done!  Hooray me!

December 21, 2014
Packing day!  Even scarier than shopping.  Gotta make sure I get everything in this car before heading north for holiday.  Gotta make sure not to forget something that can't be replaced once we get there!

December 22, 2014
Driving day!  It is not too far.  Just three hours north on I35, from Austin to Fort Worth.  If you have ever driven this stretch of highway, you know it is scary!

December 23, 2014
I taught my boys how to play Spades.  I wondered if they would enjoy the game.  They did!  As they get older, it is really enjoyable to expand the number of things we can do together!

December 24, 2014
Two days ago, I wrote about Beach Time.  Today, I found it.  Rather the hurry that often happens on Christmas Eve, I was able to slow things down and fully enjoy my moments with my family.  We always have a great time together, but this today, I really focused on trying to be in each moment that I encountered in a house full of people doing 14 different things at any given moment.  Beach Time!

December 25, 2014
What could possibly be a scary thing to do on Christmas Day?  I thought it would be to watch my steak intake!  My brother-in-law grills the most amazing steak.  I did not succeed.  I ate WAY too much.  So, I will say that I bravely ate more than I needed to eat.  Yummy!

December 26, 2014
Today, we all went to visit my 95 year old grandmother.  She is an incredible woman!  A former teacher and counselor who truly appreciates educators.  What a treasure to still be able to chat with her.  I am lucky to still have this opportunity!  The past few years, as much as I love every visit with her, it is hard to say goodbye.

December 27, 2014
I spent the evening with my best friend tonight.  I chose to spend a little more money than I typically would have spent, but it was worth every penny.  Our time together was worth way more than those pennies!

December 28, 2014
Time to drive home.  My boys want to stay longer.  They want more time with their cousins and the rest of the family.  I want this too.  Unfortunately, we need to say our farewells and head home.

December 29, 2014
There were lots of folks gone from the office today.  I bravely took on several phone calls that were outside of my area of expertise.  Very interesting!  Several times, I responded with, "That is a great question!  Let me see if I can find the answer and call you back!"

December 30, 2014
I am not a plumber, yet I promised to fix the leaky faucet.  This is a brave move on my part! [UPDATE: I did it!  No more leaky faucet!]

December 31, 2014
Tonight, I made a long trip to buy some firecrackers for my kids.  Both boys are quite responsible and I am very lucky to know that they have good heads on their shoulders.  Nevertheless, they are kids.  I trusted them to use the firecrackers wisely!  They didn't lose a finger or set fire to anything, so I am glad I trusted them!