This weekend my wife and I were vendors, or exhibitors, at the What Cheer Flea Market. Either one of those words, vendors or exhibitors, seems a little fancy to describe the 450 plus people who brought their trash and treasures to sell. Every time I sold something that my wife had previously commented about like, “Do you really think anyone will want that?” it brought a smile to my face. Rather than, “I told you so,” I went with a more diplomatic, “It just takes the right person, and there’s someone for everything.’ I sold dozens of cheap golf balls to a guy who makes yard art out of them. I sold a nye of pheasant (I’m an old English teacher, but I did look nye up.) wall hangings to a guy who was absolutely thrilled. We sold some good things, too, but the unexpected sale was always a lot of fun. Less chaotic than an old-world bazaar and less crowded than the Des Moines’ Downtown Farmers’ Market, if you haven’t made the pilgrimage to What Cheer before, you ought to consider it.


As I process the weekend, which included some great family time, I know another busy week is just around the corner. However, before it gets rolling, I want to stop and share a few thoughts about the flea market community and how it is emblematic of school and other human institutions:


  1. It takes all kinds . . .

You’ve probably heard the expression, “It takes all kind to make the world go ‘round.” There are definitely all kinds at What Cheer: it’s like people watching at the Iowa State Fair. There are all kinds in a school and community, too, and that’s a good thing, not a judgmental statement. There are attention seekers. There are people pleasers. There are difficult people. There are friendly folks and those who are gruff. There are experts and complainers. There are people ready to pitch in and help and others who go their own way. It’s a big ecosystem with lots of different species, just like a school. This is an obvious truth, but it’s one we should remember because it helps us be tolerant. We can work to see the good in people and make that our focus, even if they aren’t just like us. We can enjoy people who aren’t like us and can learn to respect divergent opinions. The skills and attitudes involved with those actions used to be called socialization and were considered an important part of learning, along with learning content. Today, these things are more important than ever and are part of what employers call soft skills and educators recognize as part of the core curriculum’s 21st century skills.


  1. Everyone likes a good deal . . .

Life’s full of bargaining, isn’t it? Much student behavior (and, if we’re honest, adult behavior) occurs to either get something they want or avoid something they don’t want. At a flea market, both are in play. We want to get that little gem or piece of rusty gold we have our eye on, and we want to avoid paying very much for it. Think about all of the little bargains struck between students and teachers and administrators and participants and coaches on a daily basis. One person tries to communicate the value of something to another. Someone else decides if what is desired is worth the price. A “good deal” is one everyone benefits from and walks away satisfied from. It’s a win-win. There are times when there doesn’t seem to be a positive way forward for anyone. There are other times when there are unavoidable winners and losers. If we keep in mind that everyone likes a good deal and try to provide that for others, we can really have an impact, though.


  1. To every thing there is a season . . .

Setting up for a flea market is a lot of work. Think of it as a huge mobile garage sale. Sorting, organizing, pricing, packing, lifting, carrying, loading, driving, parking, unpacking, weather watching, arranging, dickering, selling, and repacking are some of the required activities. There also is some sitting and waiting involved. I’m fine with that. A great book or a lively conversation is a good way to fill a slow moment, along with the aforementioned people watching. None of the steps I mentioned can be eliminated from a successful flea market.


I think people in schools would tell you there are very exciting moments, lots of busy times, and probably some tedious moments, too. The work world can be that way, too: hurry up and wait, sheer boredom punctuated by an adrenaline rush. Life would be less fulfilling if there weren’t some variety. Everyone knows the accomplishment that results from hard work is a little sweeter.


In Iowa we get to watch the seasons change. Sometimes we see three of them in a week. Watch how the earth changes with the seasons. Study the life cycle of an organism. Notice a student change and mature before your eyes. Be at a friend’s side through triumphs and challenges, or just see the world through the eyes of a high school senior, and you know to every thing there is a season.


Every blog must end, too, and soon I need to stop reminiscing and start looking forward to a busy upcoming week. I’m glad, though, that I got to hit pause, do something different, have a good time this weekend, and do it all with my family. Until next time, enjoy each other, think win-win, and embrace all of the different moments in your lives.