A Teacher Named, Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbara Jan

Over the past several months, since my colleague, ORT Chicago director, Barbara (Barb) Statland announced her retirement as our region director, I’ve tried to sit down to write about her.

Each time I’ve tried to write almost anything about Barb, (and I have tried countless times), several things happen:

  1. The Beach Boys’ Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann runs through my head, but instead of “Ann,” I change it to “Jan.” Barb’s middle name is Jan, so it obviously works great. It repeats and repeats in my head and drives me totally nuts.
  2. Still, I riff a little bit with the whole, Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan song idea. I create a sketch in my head about “The Teach Boys” singing the song for our Barbara Jan. Instead of being on the beach, the band, along with ORT students and educators sing and dance in an ORT 21st Century Classroom.

    21st century classroom
    Picture The Teach Boys singing Ba ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan in the classroom at an ORT School in Israel. Welcome to my head.
  3. Now, I start to get teary because Barb is kind of like family to me.  I’ve grown accustomed to her face, her attention to detail and her Fuji apples and peanut butter at 11:16 AM each day. I think, “What will it be like not to hear her cutting apples? How will I know it’s 11:16 AM?”
  4. I stop trying to write because I get emotional and even nostalgic. I am generally not a nostalgic person, but Barb and I have walked through a lot together. Side note: I also happen to be a very ugly crier.

Now, I am not crying. Oh good. We are making progress.

Here’s how I see my professional partner in crime and friend, Barbara Jan Statland:

  • Barb has been one of my best educators.
  • Her attention to detail is superlative.
  • If she wanted to, she could be a theater director and/or theater teacher.
  • She could also do voice-overs. Great voice.
  • Heck, she would make a fine actress.
  • She is one of the biggest reasons I was hired by ORT America. Thank you, Barb.
  • She has more patience than any colleague I have ever worked with, anywhere.
  • She is extremely creative and incomparably tenacious.
  • She loves ORT and its people very deeply. (P.S. ORT = People)
  • She is hilarious even when she’s not trying to be.
  • She is a powerful communicator.
  • She is reasonable.
  • Her commitment to and her belief in ORT programs never, ever wavers.
  • Barb’s leadership has sustained our region where most others would have failed.
  • I have never heard anyone better on the phone. Yes, she knows I eavesdrop.
  • Barb really loves the ORT Teacher’s Fund.

There’s a lot more to Barb than what I’ve stated here. It has been my privilege to partner with and to learn from her.

The love goes both ways. ORT loves Barb so much, there’s a whole ORT International Seminar for Leading Educators dedicated to Barb, in honor of her retirement. This seminar, (which I believe starts TOMORROW!), is a key part of the ORT Teachers Fund which is a fund dedicated to the professional development of educators. A few words from Barb about the ORT Teacher’s Fund:

So many ORT students are motivated, passionate, knowledgeable and creative BECAUSE of their teachers.  Their teachers instill these traits within their students.  ORT knows that this is key and provides a network of peers for their teachers to whom they can turn for support and to share ideas. This Teachers Fund will provide so much – including training in the areas of digital technology, physics education and Bio Research, learning technologies training, math and English.  Collaboration is key in all of these initiatives. — Barbara J. Statland

Barb has been around ORT for 30-ish years. She’s been an employee for 13 years and a region director for the past five or so. Most of us see Barb as a lifetime ORTist.

If you’d like to honor Barb’s Herculean leadership at ORT, and/or you seek to invest in professional development for educators, and/or you want to witness my ugly crying because thanks to you, we have raised our $40,000 goal, please stop reading this post and click on Barb’s photo below!

Barb gorgeous2
The tenacious, beautiful, and dedicated Barbara J. Statland

Thank you for reading this, and of course, for your investment in Barb, ORT, teachers, students, me and all who make a positive impact on our world.

May we all draw strength, knowledge and courage from Ba ba ba ba Barbara Jan.

In gratitude and love,

Pam

The Fable of the “Safe,” Boring Label

Please forgive the obnoxious length of this post. It’s 4:00am and I stole most of it from an article I published in June, 2016, on LinkedIn. At this wee hour, it seems applicable to where my head is right now.

I’ve been engaged in recruiting for ORT America’s Annual MeetingEVERY SINGLE TIME I utter the words, “Annual Meeting,” I feel like this: CLICK ON CARTOON SOUND EFFECTS for accurate representation of my opinion regarding the title/label, “Annual Meeting.” 

If I had my druthers, I’d never call anything I’m deeply passionate about, or other people are supposed to be inspired by, “Annual Meeting.” I’d call it:ANN MEET BLOG

As you’ll see below, I am not a fan of labels. I’ve also started writing shorter articles, but I hope this lengthy post (that I’d shorten if it wasn’t 4:38 AM), relays to you what I really think of uttering the words, “Annual Meeting.”


I really dislike labels. When someone asks what I do, or who I am, I almost always dislike my answers. My responses are usually, “I’m a fundraiser,” or, “I’m divorced,” or “I’m J and C’s Mom.” When I ask who you are and what you do, I hope for more than two or three words. As it stands in our society, labels and an individual’s outer image are inextricably connected and hold a hefty weight. How we choose to label ourselves and put ourselves out there, leaves a mark, but is it accurate? I don’t think so.

I recently attended my first strictly Orthodox Bar Mitzvah for a friend’s son. A few weeks ago, my friend suggested that I wear a long skirt to the service, as I’d be more comfortable being dressed like the other women, in accordance with Orthodox Jewish culture and tradition. She was very kind, but as she advised me, I could feel myself rebelling against the idea of following such rules.

On the morning of the Bar Mitzvah, I dressed modestly, but chose wide leg slacks, rather than a skirt. To be honest, I looked like a twin sister of Bea Arthur as the character, “Maude.” I didn’t love my outfit, or even like it, but I sort of appeared, Jewish-ish, (whatever that is), even though I wore pants.

Maude
I kind of looked like this.

As I walked into the women’s section of the shul, a nice woman asked if I wanted a prayer book, and so, I took one. I asked if I should wear a head covering. The woman responded, “You’re wearing pants.” When I heard her utter those words, I knew I’d made the wrong wardrobe decision. She continued, “Are you married?” I told her I was not. She then asked, “Are you Jewish?” When I exclaimed, “Yes, I’m Jewish,” she told me I didn’t have to wear a head covering because I’m not married. She also told me not to feel badly about the pants debacle and that next time, I should wear a skirt. She was lovely.

I started thinking of labels and of the image I’d put out there that morning, but what I hadn’t shared with her. Had I been honest, I’d have told her, “I’m rebellious against wearing a long skirt, but it’s really no big deal, and I should have had more respect for you and your house of worship. I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” I could have said, “I was raised Jewish, and feel most Jewish when I pray with my feet, but you may not think I’m Jewish because I don’t have 100% Jewish genes and we may disagree on specific political and religious issues.”

Okay, okay. I know most people don’t want to hear these lengthy, honest answers, but when I label myself, “Jewish,” there are assumptions and perceptions, but how do we correct these inaccuracies? How many of us are inquisitive enough to ask more questions?

I admit, I’m inquisitive to a fault, and perhaps that’s one of the most accurate labels I wear. My interest in people is what propels me to love them so much. While I’m not usually so rebellious as to not wear a skirt in shul, I don’t think the nice woman at the entrance of the women’s section labeled me as “A rebellious, stubborn woman who should have had more respect.” This would have been an accurate label on that day. Instead, she knew I was “Jewish, unmarried, and made a mistake.”

I find labels most prevalent in business, and they’re chock full of rules, expectations and “shoulds.” I don’t really subscribe to that type of thinking, but I go along with the image and label that is expected of me, depending on the occasion.

My resumé is diverse and usually makes for an interesting conversation. I have followed an atypical career path. Today, when I present as “Fundraiser,” or tomorrow, when I present as “Trainer,” or in a few weeks when I’m an, “Emcee,” how do these labels and images encompass all that we really are, and especially at our core? Aren’t we interested in going deeper?

What if we stopped submitting resumés, and started submitting, “Truthés?” Here’s what one of mine might look like:

Pamela Klier-Weidner. People Lover and Inquisitive Seeker

Legally, my name is Pamela Klier, but I kept, the Weidner, because I didn’t want to confuse my kids by having a different last name after my divorce

Objective: To listen, demonstrate love and tolerance, communicate the truth, guide people, and allow the cream to rise

Truthful Stuff:

  • Lover of people and the direction/s they really want to go (which is the basis for everything, I think)
  • Inquisitive (that too, but also have a sense that if you aren’t comfy, I’ll shut up and respect your comfort level)
  • Super fun (if we aren’t having fun, why are we doing it?)
  • Perfectionist (not proud of this, but truth is truth)
  • Periodically stubborn (don’t love this about me either, and sometimes I’m right to be stubborn. Other times, not so much)
  • Creative risk-taker (this usually pays off, or at least it has historically)
  • Non drinker or drugger (no judgment: if you can do that without impending doom, fine)
  • Weak at accepting compliments
  • Compliment giver, and almost always means them
  • Very generous which is periodically caught up in people pleasing, but this is improving
  • Not entirely at peace with physical appearance, especially when it’s humid and coif is out of control. Working on accepting physical appearance, and working harder on it not mattering as much

Yep. I would consider hiring someone who gave me a “Truthé,” in a hot minute.

I realize and respect that labels, stereotypes and images present a level of safety for us and that the appearance of and/or acceptance of “Truthés” is not likely to exist, except in my own head, and now, in this post.

So… if you seek to help repair this world through education while we engage in creative and collaborative idea sharing, please join me at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Chicago on March 18th, 2018. In fact, come on March 17th at Pinstripes, for our “DAY BEFORE THE ORT Day of Collaborative, Visionary Genius.”  I’d be delighted to play a friendly game of bocce ball with you, as we get our creative ideas prepped and flowing before the next day. (I am pretty good at bocce ball. You’ve been warned.)

I love ORT. I love the 138 year history, its stories, the students, families and communities who have needed, benefited from, or still need ORT educational programs.

We need at least another 138 years. We need you.

STA
Shelly Dreifuss – (one of my favorite humans), will receive the ORT America President’s Award. 1871’s COO, Tom Alexander,  Keynote Speaker – (Genius who has more impact in three words that long-winded humans who write blog posts that are waaay too long, and finally, our Featured Speaker, Alina Gerlovin Spaulding, who is a rock star in philanthropic and impact giving

REGISTER RIGHT FREAKIN’ NOW! 

The Quiet Transformers

I may be obsessed with examples of great leadership. Naturally, great leadership is defined differently depending on who you speak to and who you listen to. It’s kind of like the whole, self-proclaimed”expert” definition I also find myself rolling around with.

I have never considered myself to be particularly thoughtful over things that have nothing to do with me. I’ve noticed a major shift in the past few years and like Alka-Seltzer, “oh what a relief it is.”

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved the play, Cyrano de Bergerac. What I didn’t realize until much later in life, is that what I enjoy most, both personally and professionally, is behaving with a very similar intention that I perceive the Cyrano character to have. The rewards of virtual anonymity and a full outside view of the fruits of my labor, satisfy me more than anything I have ever experienced. Continue reading “The Quiet Transformers”

West Side (Nonprofit) Story

For the love of driving a mission. PLAN. LISTEN. BREATHE. SING.

With an abundance of vim and vigor, I work in the nonprofit sector. As with much of my life, I tend to think in choreography, musical theatre and improv comedy sketches. No matter how long I’ve been out of the performing arts professionally, I still have an artist’s brain with an obsession for the implementation of logical and accessible systems. I am grateful for both sides of my brain.

I have known for more than a decade that the nonprofit sector is exactly where I belong. Whenever my Dad mentions, “Hey Honey, you can always go the corporate route again,” I smile, and sometimes, I even nod.

I thrived in the for profit sector for a few decades. I was so lucky to travel the world, earn a terrific living, engage with lovely people (mostly), and learn a great deal about a host of industries that have since changed dramatically. Growing up (hungry) in the performing arts for much of my life was helpful to my flourishing in the for profit sector. With a starving artist mentality, (because I wanted to be skinny, not because I didn’t have food), I showed up to each gig, grateful for the job, interested in learning, and excited to be around so much innovation. What sorely lacked for me while working in the corporate world, was the feeling that I wasn’t really doing enough to help humankind. The mere thought of collaborating with other like-minded people to move a nonprofit mission and organization forward, to make this world better, often led and STILL leads to thoughts of West Side Story and other musicals I’ve performed in and/or loved:

Something’s coming I don’t know what it is, but it is gonna be great!

When I’m in a meeting with executive leadership, or with a colleague who needs to feel more valued, or with a disappointed donor, or when I choose to eat humble pie, because I KNOW it’s what’s best for the collective good, it always helps to recall and celebrate my musical theatre roots.

When I entered (head/heart first), into the nonprofit world, I was immediately inspired:

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men? It is the music of the people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start When tomorrow comes.

Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade, is there a world you long to see?

les-miz
Lis Miserables: GREAT show, HEINOUS film.

Truth be told, the music from Les Miserables often plays in my head. Much to my dismay, I never performed in that show, but I was called back a bunch of times for Broadway and the National Tour. My singing wasn’t good enough, and I always knew that. I think I might have had nine callbacks, so I guess I didn’t completely suck. P.S. I guarantee that my Mom, Lois Klier, absolutely knows the exact amount of callbacks and what I wore at each one.

So, while I was undeniably inspired by nonprofit work, I made a shocking discovery:

nonprofits sometimes forget that they’re a business.

In the nonprofits I’ve had the honor of working for, as staff, as a consultant, and as a member of the board of directors, I have noticed a trend:

  • So many meetings, and meetings that are usually not well-organized and that last way too long
  • Poor planning or no planning with reactive rather than proactive actions. Passion for a mission is not enough. Planning is key
  • Too much reliance on gadgets and gizmos to help learn more about the organization’s donors and donor prospects. The best prospect research tool I’ve ever located, is having a conversation with the prospect, and doing more listening than talking. The relationship evolves from there
  • Too much work on staff members’ plates, but in actuality, prioritization is usually out of whack because systems have never been put into place
  • Enormous dependence on fundraising events with no plan for donor retention, post event.
  • Weak marketing – lack of clarity or connective tissue between the organizational mission and its marketing and communications materials
  • Not spending enough time on strengthening the case for support
  • Not celebrating victories. Even small milestones are worthy of a two-minute party. The mission and workload will still be there when you’re done. Praise the collaborative effort, praise your colleagues and leadership.
  • Inserting too much pressure on the Board of Directors and lay leadership for fundraising – THIS is not great cultivation and stewardship if your donor is uncomfortable doing something. It’s the staff’s job to craft a fundraising strategy that works well for the organization. Where do gracious volunteers want to go? What excites them? Have them do that. Support them and develop leaders
  • More than all I have listed above, nearly all of the nonprofits I have been involved with attract the very best, kindest and most talented human beings on the face of the Earth. It serves a nonprofit very well to raise already extraordinary people up, so that the organization has the strength to do what it’s there to do. Elevating people is at the heart of every mission I have ever seen, pondered or worked to move forward

Today, I don’t have to tell you that there is a great deal of fear, worry, anger and shock that is practically suffocating us. While I am not immune to the current climate, I have forced myself to implement a system of boundaries that help keep me free to do what I must do in order to make this world better.

I do fear really well, I just choose not to.

While wallets may tighten and nonprofit tax benefits might change, it doesn’t alter the fact that important nonprofit missions have to be carried out. I would argue, NOW MORE THAN EVER BEFORE.

And while I’m a pragmatist, I might also be a secret optimist. I do believe:

There’s a place for us, A time and place for us. Hold my hand and we’re halfway there. Hold my hand and I’ll take you there Somehow, Some day, Somewhere!

west-side-story-jets-vs-sharks
West Side Story

While the Jets and the Sharks in West Side Story, hated and sought to harm each other, they never really knew each other in the first place. Heartbreaking tragedy struck and that’s what it took for communities to come together. Tony and Maria were more evolved than their peers because they led with love. I choose to lead with love, especially within a storm of chaos.

And from the very first show that bit me in the tush, I urge anyone, even in such challenging times, to think:

When hardship must be faced;Life obliges us with hardship, so the words of wisdom shouldn’t go to waste. To us and our good fortune, be happy be healthy, long life! And if our good fortune never comes, here’s to whatever comes, drink l’chaim, to life! To life, to life, l’chai-im,! L’chai-im, l’chai-im, to life! Life has a way of confusing us, blessing and bruising us, drink l’chaim, to life, to life, l’chaim! L’chaim, l’chaim, to life! A gift we seldom are wise enough, ever to prize enough, drink l’chaim, to life!

fiddler-on-the-roof-2
Fiddler on the Roof

And l’chaim to a nonprofit’s life, and its organizational sustainability. Breathe, listen, pay attention, and please plan the exact moves (ahead of time), on how you’re going to safely get down from the roof without breaking your fiddle, and when you get down, you must already know how you will implement a system of collaboration for the entire community of Anatevka. You are a matchmaker. Make matches for your donors and the organization you work for or serve.

I have faith in you, and in human beings all over the globe. Happy Valentine’s Day.

You’re my favorite work of art.

babes-in-arms
Babes in Arms