OLW 2015

One Little Word

Last year’s word was balance; the year before my word was sacred. This year I do not believe I ever chose a word; if I did, I do not remember it because it was a fleeting inspiration that was not blogged, embraced, or lived. In the past, the inspiration for my words was founded in challenges I wanted to overcome, in the type of person I would like to become, and in the life I would like to live. The selection of my word was an ideal I wanted to achieve.

OLW 2013: BALANCE-I chose balance because I wanted to be more balanced. I wanted to keep the balance between family, work, health, etc. I have still not achieved this.

OLW 2012: SACRED-I wanted to seek the sacred in everything I did. I wanted to use this to find a way to be present to each moment. Yet I had no idea of how I could do that.

2014: WORDLESS-I have been wordless (haha–if you know me, you’re laughing because I’m never wordless), yet as the year comes to a close, I am realizing that I am still wishing I had a better sense of balance in my life. Balance. The dormant word emerges again to rear its ugly head. This word, balance, is an abstract concept, a noun that looks great in print but is hard to conceive, believe, and achieve. The word has appeared countless times on my blog as I try to achieve it or when I know I am so far from balanced because of a deadline or a challenge or a distraction. It rolls off my tongue nicely as I share with my friends my desire to live it. At times, I feel good when I say it, as I find a moment of balance (usually on break). Eventually, though, balance plummets from an ideal concept and becomes my dystopian tormentor. My reality is an abstact noun/utopian ideal cannot be achievable without concrete steps/actions.

OLW 2015—ideas that surfaced for me included the following:

  • Balance-I want to achieve balance in the all areas of life: relationships, health (physical, mental, and spiritual) and work. Hmmm…not sure about recycling a failed word never realized.
  • Perspective-I would like to maintain a realistic perspective of what I can do and what I need to do. Hmmm…while I like it, I do not know how I will achieve it.
  • Time– I would like to value the time I spend on various tasks. Hmmm…aren’t we all looking for time we never find?
  • Present-I would like to be present to all things requiring my attention. Hmmm… this will frustrate me.
  • Focused-I would like to be focused on the task I am doing and not try to do too much at once. Hmmm…while I like this idea, I realize this is one of those things my ADD brain will always be seeking.
  • Forward Thinking-I would like to spend my time thinking of what I am doing and what I will do and quit focusing on what I meant to do that I did not get done. Hmmm…I like this word, but I think the OLW concept is all about forward thinking.

The above words are nouns and adjectives. I want, no, I need a word of action—I don’t need a utopian ideal.  This shift on my part is from listening to the “nuts and bolts” thinking of my fearless leader. He is most definitely a man with a plan—he is all about breaking things down into logical steps. He gets things done, and when things need to change, he prioritizes and adapts as needed.

If I could pinpoint the most significant area of growth he has promoted in me, that growth would not involve any of the 10 domains of our new evaluation system. Instead the area of growth would involve, taking my abstract ideals and breaking them down into smaller parts, “nuts and bolts” as he calls them. While my big picture, abstract, ADD brain has resisted this type of thinking for years, this has limited my growth as well because sometimes I can only see the forest, and I neglect to see all the leaves on the trees.

Finding the nuts and bolts of planning, assessing, and teaching has helped better my teaching practice (while helping me reach higher bars on the domains of the new evaluation system), but more than that finding the nuts and bolts is helping me to look at life differently and communicate more effectively with people.

So…I need to find the “nuts and bolts” of those ideals in a way that I can achieve them. I need a verb, an action, something doable that will lead me in the direction I want to go. What I’ve been wondering lately is what can I do to achieve what I’m seeking: balance, perspective, time, presence, focus, and forward thinking? When I told my principal that great work evaluations and an organized notebook (yes, my lesson plan notebook is stellar for the first time ever!) really mean nothing if I find myself at the point where I  feel I am neglecting my family, my life, and my health.  I even referenced the PL book The Energy Bus telling him I felt like I was neglecting the most important part of vision while trying to do my job.

In his response, the OLW  that surfaces from his words was “prioritize,” and so after a great deal of reflection, that is my plan for 2015.


  1. The Year of the Verb. My word is prioritize. PRIORITIZE. My word is an action, doable and achievable (with hard work, help, and the right attitude). This word involves ranking and ordering and executing, nuts and bolts and concrete steps. To prioritize means to determine what is most important and put my attention there. Hmmm…this is the word I have been looking for, a word of action.

Putting my word to the test with my other words:

  • If I prioritize well, I will be closer to achieving balance.
  • If I prioritize well, I will be seeking to maintain perspective in all things.
  • If I prioritize well, I will be making good use of time.
  • If I prioritize well, I will be present to things requiring my attention, I will be more focused, and I will be forward thinking.

YES! I have found my verb. I have found my word. In seeking to find my word, I prioritized in my writing. Yes, of course, I still meandered a bit, but just as a meandering stream finds its course, so have I.

Bring it on, 2015.


Looking for Some Resources and Ideas for Finding Your Word?

Check these sites out:





23 thoughts on “OLW 2015

  1. I loved reading your post because I could connect so closely to your journey (with your earlier words – especially balance). Then when I got to your 2015 word, I realized that once again we will be very close, except that my word is a noun, rather than an active verb. I am going to have core be my OLW for 2015 as in focusing on what is at the core, the most important and then prioritizing in order to make sure I am living a life with the core in mind.

    If you have not taken Ali Edwards OLW class before, I think it would be really valuable for you. This will be my 6th year with an OLW. When I started the class 4 years ago, I noticed a huge difference in how present I keep my word throughout the year and my growth as a result. If you are interested, here is the link to her site and it is less money if you sign up before the end of the month: http://aliedwards.com/shop/classes/one-little-word


  2. Maya, you are such a gift. I like your new word and as I was reading your blog, I was wondering if you planned your life like you plan your classroom, how effective could you be? You put so much effort, skill and love into your passion, maybe you can become as passionate about your life as you prioritize and plan YOUR days and take time to find the sacred in all that you do, see and touch.


  3. Loved reading your OLW journey…which I am still making. I’m waiting for the ah-ha moment that arrived for you, too. Your new year is off to a great start with this brand new OLW.


  4. I think having a verb will be a great choice. Hopefully it will push you to take the actions that will allow you to be balanced. Good luck! Merry Christmas Maya 🙂


  5. I have never selected an OLW and have been thinking about doing so this year. Reading your journey has been very helpful and I love the idea of a verb. I have yet to pick my OLW, but I may have just moved a little closer.


  6. It’s so interesting to me how everyone approaches their OLW, & how they “make meaning” from and for it. I really think if this word pleases you, Maya, then that’s what counts more than anything. Best wishes on your journey!


  7. I have had a OLW for two years now and both are verbs. But I had not thought about that until now. I have had little signs lately about this year’a word, but still working on hearing that message a little louder. It is fun to read about everyone’s journeys.


  8. Your wonderings disturb me because I know that life has often taken a backseat to work, not because I’m not passionate about life but because I haven’t known how to do all things well. Enter new word: prioritize. My work is cut out for me. I’m counting on accountability–you can Hey Tell me and check in. It may take a village, but it’s time for me to figure this out; it’s past time


  9. Prioritize. Perfect.
    You have inspired me to write longer and stronger in search of my word.
    I agree an action word seems best.
    Thank you for sharing your meander!


  10. I love how you turned your noun into a doable verb. Thanks for wishing me luck. I have found a framework I want to put into action, I’m beginning to create my picture, and I’ve asked some teacher friends to travel this journey with me.


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