Where’s Your Mountain? Where’s Your River?

September 15, 2015

By the time you read this I will have started my month-long stint on the road to New Zealand, Shanghai and Mumbai. I am likely to be jet lagged but also wildly excited about the new vistas I am going to encounter, both literal and metaphorical. It should be quite a journey.

Massey University is sponsoring my two-week sojourn to both the North and South Islands of NZ and in preparation for the trainings I had a Skype call with Colleen Douglas, my ‘roadie’ for this trip. She told me I needed to add my ‘mihi’ to the set of slides I was to present each day.

If you don’t know what a ‘mihi’ is, don’t worry. Neither did I. Your mihi is your introduction. Traditionally in New Zealand, you share your mihi with those with whom you will be working so that they can place you in a location. Others will ‘know you’ by how you introduce yourself and you share answers to the following questions: “This is my mountain. This is my river. This is my family.” Then you literally share with the group pictures of your mountain, river and family. Your ‘place’ – your roots – where you are from.

The request sent me, a Minnesotan by birth, Californian by choice, semi-unfamily-ed (no husband, no children) into an existential crisis. Some colleagues wondered about the ‘need’ to locate myself somewhere at all and, how for some of us West Coasters it isn’t about where we are from that matters to us, but where we chose to place ourselves. Another colleague mentioned how even distinctly American and coastal it was to not have as much of a tie to the land as others might, even in the USA. My Irish friend could immediately answer the questions – Dublin Mountain and the River Liffey. My friend who was a homegrown Californian could respond too – Lake Tahoe and the Sierras. But me? I was, and continue to be, a bit at sea. Here is my best guess for now.

My river and my mountain could have been the 10,000 Lakes in Minnesota and the little hills of Braemar Golf Course in Edina, but I haven’t lived there in 27 years. So, in all honesty, my river is the Pacific Ocean beneath Esalen where I hot tub naked and watch the moon when I need to be more grounded. My mountain is Mt. Kuchumaa, which I hike in the early morning when I am staying at Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico getting centered. I join the mountain before I go to meditation and crystal singing bowls. Both the river and the mountain are mine by choice, not by birth.

My family. Well, they are with me. I call my Dad, who will be 84, daily. He is amazed I can call from anywhere, and I have. Even from Machu Picchu. I Skype with my nephews who, at 4 and 6, are going to be taller than me within no time. They don’t always want to talk as they are busy playing catch or hockey or on their iPads, but I call. And I talk to my mother’s spirit all the time. She comments on my clothing choices and holds my hand in the car when I am nervous. She has no location. She goes with me all over the world. It might not be the most ‘traditional’ answer the folks in NZ will hear, but it is my mihi. And I am pretty grounded in it. Where’s your river?

If you have any questions, comments or topic suggestions, please feel free to call me, 650-868-1916 and we can Face Time, Skype me at jenniferabrams, or email me at jennifer@jenniferabrams.com and we can set up a time to talk voice to voice. I look forward to hearing from you!

Cool Resources

Here are a bunch!

Please vote for a panel entitled “Where are All the Women in Educational Leadership?” I am organizing with Corwin to be featured at South by Southwest’s Ed U Conference in Austin. SXSWedu® fosters innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education. We need 500 ‘likes’ to be considered as possible participants so here is a direct request to my colleagues. Please go sign up on the right side of the page, and then return to this link to hit the thumbs up button on the left. Thank you!

The Instructional Leadership Group is a set of teacher leaders and administrators who have jointed a Public Group on Facebook to share blogs, upcoming events, questions about practice and great resources. Join us!

The Atlantic has a great August edition and an AMAZING cover article, “The Coddling of the American Mind“. “In the name of emotional well-being, college students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education—and mental health.” Generational Savvy mixed with Having Hard Conversations. Read it.

Last up… Corwin Press and I will be holding a Women in Educational Leadership Institute in either Fall of 2016 or Summer of 2017. You are my focus group. Which time of year is better for you, if you were to join us? (Hoping you will!) Send me an email with the best time of year and if you have a suggestion for a city, send that too! More on the details as the year continues…

About Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams

Jennifer Abrams considers herself a "voice coach," helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague and supervising an employee. Jennifer holds a Master's degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor's degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California. Jennifer's publications include Having Hard Conversations, The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicating, Collaborating & Creating Community and Hard Conversations Unpacked – the Whos, the Whens and the What Ifs. She has also created a Corwin Press e-course by the same name.

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