Welcome to my life 40, I think you will like it here!

Welcome to my life 40, I think you will like it here!

To me, 40 is…

  • Going from “what do I have to do?” to “what do I get to do?”
  • Embracing mistakes rather than being embaressed of them
  • Figuring out how to make sure I NEVER wish a day, an hour, a minute away. They are too precious.
  • Accepting who I am–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Understanding that learning and growth will never end, and being excited rather than annoyed by that.
  • Smiling as often as possible.
  • Laughing as often as possible.
  • Crying sometimes.
  • Letting the ups and downs of life wash over me and finding peace in not being in charge of everything.

Welcome to my life 40, I think you are going to like it here!

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To assume or not to assume?

To assume or not to assume?

That kid doesn’t want to learn.

My colleague hates change, she won’t ever listen to my idea.

He didn’t even look at me as he walked down the hall. Why is he mad at me?

My sister hasn’t called me in weeks. I must not be important to her.

All of these thoughts have traveled through my mind at times. They are HUGE mistakes I have made. When I think back of all the mistakes I have made in my life (and they are many), some of the worst mistakes are these type of assumptions.

In reality, I have often have no idea what someone else is going through or what they are thinking. Who am I to assume I know? Who am I to think that what they are thinking or feeling is about me?

It took me a while, longer than most, to realize that the world does not revolve around me. That when someone giggles as I walk by, it is most likely not about me. That when someone is looking toward me with an intense expression, it doesn’t mean that I am on their mind.

Though conversation, really listening, and paying careful attention to what people do, I discovered that 99% of the time, others want good things. Their own fears and insecurities get in their way, not feelings about me.

As for students, they want to feel good, they want to be successful. They are scared, or have learned coping mechanisms to protect themselves. Through making positive assumptions about their intentions and building relationships, we can help open students up to learning and challenging themselves. Let’s make work meaningful and engaging. Let’s empower students through their strengths and interests. Hey, while we are at it, let’s do this for teachers too.

Assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in. -Isaac Asimov

And if you insist on continuing to make assumptions about my character, I’ll advise you only this: assume you will always be wrong. -Tahereh Mafi

Hey Justin Timberlake, I can’t stop the feeling either!

I got this feeling inside my bones…

Got that sunshine in my pocket…

I can’t stop the feeling, just dance dance dance 

A friend sent me this song the day it came out, saying that it made her think of me. I loved it the minute I heard the first notes. It is exactly how I want to live my life…with sunshine in my pocket, dancing through just about everything I do. However, I feel the need to confess, this doesn’t always come naturally. In fact, sometimes it’s pretty darn hard to do.

My life, just like everyone else’s, is full of ups and downs. I have cried my share of tears and had more than my share of belly laughs. I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow…wait, that’s another song! Whoops! Actually, I decided long ago to try to be a ray of sunshine in the lives of others. I have a goal that when I walk into the room, it feels better because I am there. Does that always happen? Yeah, no. Do I keep trying every day? In the words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

Why not share my grief with others? I probably could get lots of attention because misery loves company. But, I don’t want to take my crummy stuff out on the people around me. They have enough to go through without having me bring them down. Instead, I want to lift them up, help them feel stronger, help them look problems dead in the face and have confidence that they can conquer them. I cannot help others feel more positive if I am negative.

I have also found, when conducting my own non-scientific research, that problems feel huge when we are negative. They feel solvable when we are positive. I like solvable.

Language matters, so I try not to exaggerate or use big emotional words. When someone comes to me and says that people are saying something negative about me, it feels like the world is falling apart. When someone says this one person is saying something negative about me, I still don’t like it, but it feels much more under my control. Using words like always, worst, horrible, etc. get in the way of problem-solving rather than helping.

So, in summary, to keep that sunshine in my pocket, I…

…try not to take out a bad mood or my problems on others. That doesn’t mean that I don’t tell people about bad things in my life, it means I don’t act negative or take out my emotions on them.

…keep problems as solvable as possible by staying positive and getting to the root of the problem.

…am careful with language, so I don’t exaggerate. Using big emotional words or exaggerating the situation hurts problem-solving efforts.

Thank you Justin for another fantastic song. Let’s keep dancing!

 

Lyrics courtesy of Justin Timberlake Can’t Stop the Feeling and Whitney Houston The Greatest Love of All.

 

Summer: Our Beautiful “Do Over”

Summer: Our Beautiful “Do Over”

This time of year I am always reminded what a beautiful gift summer is to educators.

Not just because of the beach time, time to rest and rejuvenate our passion for students.

Not just the extra time to spend with our children, families, and our friends.

Not just because we get to see what the rest of the world does during daylight hours and finally watch The Price is Right again.

No, there is another reason that the summer is a huge gift to educators. A really important reason. Even more important that daytime television.

What other profession in the world gets a yearly “do over”?

We get to take everything we learned this year, our failures and the challenges we faced that made us better educators, the successes we had because of our hard work, everything we did this year and all the preceding years and START OVER next year.

What a gift to us, what a gift to students. Of course, it is up to us to determine what value that gift will have in our classrooms, our schools, our districts. Here is what I plan to do between naps to make the most of summer for the benefit of students.

  1. Read-books for fun, books for professional growth, blogs, articles, tweets, basically everything I can get my hands on.
  2. Dream-by the pool, on vacation, at the park, dreams about the possibilities of the upcoming school year can strike anywhere. Being disconnected from daily distractions, we can focus on the forest instead of the trees and get innovative.
  3. Connect-this will be my first summer as a “connected” educator, and I am excited to continue learning and being inspired by my PLN on Twitter, Voxer and through blogging. In addition to this, I will connect with colleagues in our school, district, and at conferences.
  4. Plan-whether alone or working with colleagues, it is important to pick the dreams that bubble to the surface and make a plan to make them come true.
  5. Write-I will reflect through writing about my learning in my professional life and personal life. Reflecting like this helps me be a better person and be more true to who I want to be. I hope my writing inspires others, but truth be told, it likely inspires me more than anyone else.

I hope we all enjoy plenty of fun and freedom this summer, and maybe our houses might get cleaned more than once a month. In addition to this, through intentionality we can also end the summer as even better educators. What will you do to take advantage of our beautiful “do over”?

Feeling dog tired, worn out? Students are too.

Feeling dog tired, worn out? Students are too.

Suffering from sleepy eyes, shuffling feet, depletion of patience reservoir, general irritableness? You are not alone! Your students are feeling this way too.

You have worked hard this year, stretched your creativity, gotten to know your students as people and learners, you have earned those sleepy eyes!

Think about how far your students have come since the beginning of the year. They have put in hard work, long hours, and stretched their creativity too.

The solution to ending the year shedding tears of joy rather than frustration? Have fun together! Find a project to get excited about together. The options are limitless, but here are just a few examples.

  • Come up with a service project to do together–make it your mission to brighten the days of elderly people at a local nursing home, clean up and beautify a spot on your campus, increase the amount of time you spend with older or younger “reading buddies” to extend into other areas of learning.
  • Ask students what they want to learn, and incorporate those topics into reading, writing, science or social studies curriculum for your last units of study this year.
  • Pick a student a day to share his/her passions. They will inspire each other to explore other interests, and soon they will have lots of time to spend on those activities.

Other ideas include daily dance parties, reading lessons outside, anything to add novelty, variety and FUN into your days. Keep in mind that if you are having fun, there is a much greater chance that your students will be having fun too.

You can do this, I believe in you! Make your hard work pay off in a year that ends with all of you wishing for more time together.

My Nashville Half-Marathon: hills, pain, and serendipity

My Nashville Half-Marathon: hills, pain, and serendipity

Hmmm….would I be mad or happy if the race was cancelled due to the thunderstorm?

I remember thinking this the morning of the race, stomach in knots, nervous energy putting a pep in my step and making me giggle. I had never traveled for a race before and I had been anticipating it for months. I knew ultimately I would be disappointed if I wasn’t able to fulfill the goal of conquering the heat and hills of the Nashville Rock N’ Roll Half-Marathon.

Along with the amazing friends I travelled to Nashville with, there were 44,000 other runners that morning of all ages, shapes and sizes. You could see the nervousness in their faces too. The common goals that united us created a sense that we are all in this together.

I was feeling sorry for myself as I was running up a hill on mile two when I came upon a firefighter fully decked out in 30lbs of gear. He was running the full marathon. I thought to myself, if he can do that…if he can run this marathon with the same gear that he wears to enter burning buildings to save lives, I can certainly run these 13.1 miles.

There were many times during the race that I thought I couldn’t do it. Like the time in mile three when we passed by a rack of bikes to rent and I contemplated that if I had my credit card on me, I could just rent one of those bikes and ride to the finish line.

However, the blessing on the course were many, so much so that I had a smile on my face almost the entire race, filled with joy and gratitude because I can run and for all the blessings in my life. Again and again I was inspired by the people I saw around me. 

  • The man pushing a wheelchair so his physically impaired brother could experience a marathon. 
  • The woman holding a sign that said YOU are awesome!, wearing out her voice by saying over and over, “This sign is for you, and you, and you,” pointing to as many runners as she could.
  • The couples running, encouraging and coaching each other along the way.
  • The man with the amputated leg, running on a prosthetic up and down all of those hills. 
  • High fives over and over on the course from spectators cheering us on.
  • The rain held off, and instead we had cool breezes and just moments of sprinkles.

The music lifted me. Around mile nine, right after I saw the man with a prosthetic leg running down a hill, I turned a corner and heard the most beautiful music. A band was playing a Christian song, on a stage in front of a church. Their beautiful voices could be heard for a mile, and the number of supporters holding signs and singing with all their hearts filled my own heart. My eyes filled with tears as I looked up to the clouds and expressed my thanks.

I passed the mile 12 marker and enjoyed a brief downhill stint before we turned the corner and saw the course go up and up and up. My body was aching, but I laughed at those last hills and thought, “Well, you are going to have to earn this finish. It is not going to be handed to you.”

The last band on the course was playing Stairway to Heaven as we rounded the corner to the stretch before the finish line. I appreciated the irony of that song with the runners around me. It was a beautiful way to finish a race full of apprehension, fear, pain, joy, gratitude, peace, and laughter.

This race was a great reminder to me that we get what we look for in life, don’t we? When I looked for nervousness, pain, and fear, that is what I saw and felt. When I looked for joy, gratitude, and laughter, that is what I saw and felt. 

At one point in the race we ran by a store called Serendipity. I stopped briefly to take a picture. That morning I certainly experienced serendipity…I stumbled (literally at times) upon the fortunes of learning, laughing, and celebrating alongside incredible people.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run

There’s still time to change the road you’re on.

-Stairway to Heaven