A Giant Timer

Today I celebrate with Ruth Ayres Writes:

celebrate-image Each weekend teacher-writers from all over the world celebrate the week.

Today I celebrate insight from a good plan well-executed. When charged with 15 minutes to share at NCTE, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to spend each minute of my roundtable presentation. At first, I was afraid I couldn’t do what I needed to do with the limited time I was given. I knew that for me 15 minutes was merely a segment of class time where I’m talking too much and the kids aren’t talking enough. When I executed my plan, I paid attention to the giant timer on the LCD screen and made the best use of my time.

My Insight

My mentor/friend/former boss/sometimes nemesis advised me as I prepared, “You have a good plan, but you have to stick to your timing and keep your focus!” This man is not really my nemesis (not anymore anyway)–he is the person who continually challenges and pushes me to focus on overcoming my weaknesses. So here I am applying insight from 15 minutes and the advice and support I received to the bigger picture.

  • A Giant Timer: There was a giant timer projected for each rotating roundtable I presented. I need to be aware of the time I have in each class, each day, and each week. And, I need to stick to my timing and keep my focus.
  • The Plan: The plan/to-do list needs my attention each day. Not only do I need to make it. I need to look at it and check off what I do.
  • My Focus: The challenge of prioritizing my focus continues to be a struggle for me in all areas of my life.
  • Feedback: I need to continue to seek feedback in order to do what doesn’t come naturally to me.
  • Belief: At first I didn’t think I could pull off a 15-minute presentation, but in the end, I nailed it. Believing is the first step in achieving.

As the new  year approaches, I’m thinking of what my One Word/One Little Word will be for 2017, and I think my answer is somewhere in this insight I’ve gathered here.

I understand that I need to have flexibility and adaptability in all areas of my life because things come up that require me to change my focus. At the same time, I need to see the writing on the wall and envision A GIANT TIMER as I plan and prioritize and make time for what’s most important in my life. If I can make the most of a 15-minute presentation, I need to seek out new ways to make the most of each 15-minute block of my day in all that I do.

15minutes

Yes, today I celebrate a giant timer that made me aware of each moment.  In reality, we are all given a limited amount of time, and we should strive to make the best use of each moment of each day.

 

 

 

 

NO

Meghan Trainor’s song came to my mind at a department head meeting last week. I told a friend that when it comes to this summer I’m like Meghan Trainor and my name is no.  I’m so glad my principal encouraged me to think before I over-commit this summer.

I gave 3 BIG NOS–NO to curriculum writing, NO to writing project, NO to field-test item review. This will give me much needed down time for me and my family as well as some reading/prep time for my new curriculum.

Maya’s teacher version of Meghan Trainor’s song “No”

I think I can’t refute and this year I’m so beat.
How I’ve let my time discourage me and take away from me
But you need to stop me here, oh, before I speak

Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class–oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no

First I’m gonna play the teachin’ game, thinkin’ I’m needin’ extra cash
Call me professional, so incredible, telling me I need to teach this class.
I need some time my own, before I go insane, and maybe I’ll be needing therapy

Blah, blah, blah, I be like nah to the ah to the no, no, no
All my teachers, listen up
If you feel like giving up
Purse your lips and take this tip
Teacher all you gotta say is
My name is no
A class–oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
Pay me in advance, I need my summer dance (yep)
I need a break–a summer just for me
If I want a class, then I’mma get a class.
But this year’s summer’s my priority.

This summer is my own,
I need to sing my song,
don’t want you to take this personal
Blah, blah, blah, I be like nah to the ah to the no, no, no
All my teachers, listen up
If that break you giving up
Purse your lips and take this tip
Teacher all you gotta say is
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
(nah to the ah to the, no, no, no)
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
(nah to the ah to the, no, no, no)
All my teachers, listen up
If that break you giving up
Purse your lips and take this tip
Teacher all you gotta say is

My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no
My name is no
A class-oh no
My summer says no.
I need to let it go
I need to let it go
Need to let it go
Nah to the ah to the no, no, no

I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Unbreakable, unbreakable
I’m feeling
Nah to the ah to the, no, no, no

Letter of Reflection/Encouragment

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Day 31 of 31 of Year 5 Slicing & First Year I’ve Posted Daily before Midnight

The other morning I was listening to the Jeff and Jenn Show ( & ) on Star 94.1 and I got an idea for a my last blogpost of the month. You see the DJs both wrote letters to themselves (Jenn’s letter, Jeff’s letter). These were letters they wrote to themselves, letters of reflection and encouragement inspired from a producer who had done the same thing when first moving to Atlanta.

After a month of daily blogging, I feel like an inspirational letter of challenge would be a good way for me to think about how I can heed my words moving forward.

Dear Maya,

Congratulations! For the first time in 5 years of slicing with Two Writing Teachers, you have  met the midnight deadline in your daily blogs. Wow! Way to go! When you focus on  a goal and set your sights on it, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to achieving. That is something that you are finally seeing at the age of 47. 

Even though the blogging takes a lot of time, you become much more cognizant of the little things in life as you write daily. You have an outlet for your swirling thoughts, and you are able to process things and gain a more realistic perspective. With the encouragement from reader friends who discuss your posts with as well as teachers who you’ve never met who leave comments, you are able to make sense of the challenges you face.

Just this month you have written and reflected and come to a greater understanding of the nuances of your principal as you wrote of his “Button Pushing Hyperbolic Subtlety” as well as with “The Best.”  

You dealt with writer’s block with parodies, haiku, and bad poetry. Haikuing your way out of writer’s block and filling your blog space, baby, that made for fun moments.

You squared off with your #oneword2016, deliberate, asked some tough questions, and tried some new things. Of course, remember what your “nuts and bolts” principal tells you, “Maya, you’ve got to try something for longer than a few days to know if it works.” Maya, reflect on what you’ve written and tried this month but not for too long. Remember you’ve decided that you need to have a “Bias Towards Action.” Remember that you getting things done will give you more of what you need and more of what your family needs.

Spend your break rereading some of your posts, so you can take reflection into action. Maya, you’ve come a long way. Your words on your blog help you process, but you know, girl, that without action reflection is nothing. Reflection needs to turn into something. You need to set goals–stretch and smart goals, so you can begin to accomplish what you set out to do.  Your kids are growing up. Spend some time with Duhigg–read the rest of Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. You’ll find it refreshing to read a book from outside of the realm of education, and it might be just what you need, a new perspective to fix old problems–deliberateness, prioritization, balance. Remember, though, if you can post and comment for 31 days straight, you can build routines and habits in other areas of life as well. Don’t let the process culminate as words on a screen–make this process something that can be seen. 

Today as you walked with Sarah through the parking lot, you were holding hands as you walked.  A part of you wanted to freeze that moment in time as you began to fear the time that would come when she would no longer hold your hand in parking lots. 

Yes, you have a stack of papers. Yes, you want to engage your students. Yes, you get pulled up and down the hall to help people with technology. At the end of the day, though, you know who the most important people are in your life. Live that love for family. Prioritize. Be deliberate. Figure out how to be Smarter Better Faster

Your boss is right about that. You need to take down time. You need to calendar your down time. In fact, you need to figure out  over break because you know he’s going to ask you when you plan to shut down. Don’t even say you can’t shut down for a few weeks. You can. You will. You must. For your family. For your students. For your coworkers. For yourself. Your health and well-being depend on it. Remember that blog post about letting go

Remember, Maya,  what Jon Gordon wrote. Remember that post you wrote about it–when you feel like you haven’t done something to the best of your ability, when you feel less than successful. When you see a 2 on an evaluation based on a 10 minute window–the way you see each moment is a matter of your perspective. You are not failing; you are becoming. Continue the process of becoming each and every day.

Love,

Maya

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Husband

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Day 29 of 31

My Husband

My girlfriends sometimes
tell me to quit talking
when I speak of my husband
Why?
because he is just that amazing.

In fact, don’t even start
with the slacker stereotypes
about husbands
because I’d be the slacker husband
He runs circles
around me
and the rest of the kids.
Did I say the rest of the kids?
Sadly,
yes.

Taking care of us all–
lunches
driving
trips to the
store
doctor’s office
school
practice.

He takes care of my mom–
When we were dating
I knew he was the one
by the way he took care
of his grandmother
mowing
shopping
at multiple stores
for sales and coupons
fixing things
just being there.

Now he is all about being there
but where am I?
Must–find–time.

Maybe tonight…
blogging early.
there are those papers to grade,
a sick child
soccer practice.

In the busyness of life
I must capture the moments
for this man I adore
who adores me, too.

Maybe tonight I’ll grade,
so the break will be ours,
a family getaway.
Mountains.
cabin.
hot tub
and no
daily slices.

 

Wing it, Tweak it, Schedule it

Today has been a day of  powerful messages from Tweets, an email, and a conversation.

This morning a friend retweeted this as a follow up from my full moon post yesterday:

winging it

I loved the quote about winging it as well as what Mel Robbins tweeted; however, I find the two an unlikely pairing and somewhat ironic.

WING IT (Quote to the Left Above): “To be honest, I’m just winging it…my life motherhood, my eyeliner, everything!”

My Thoughts: I’m still winging way too much in my life–the unimportant things like eyeliner–I just don’t know how to do that well, but I don’t really care about eyeliner. I’m no longer winging my lesson plans and my day to day teaching practice. I even have 8 notebooks to prove that as well as scores that deem me to be at the acceptable level of performance. Yet there are still some areas of teaching, family, and life that I’m winging. These are areas that need my deliberateness. 

TWEAK IT/Mel Robbins (@melrobbins):  My secret to success: Take action, adjust, take action, adjust, repeat until desired result is achieved…

My Thoughts: Mel’s Tweet is an unlikely pairing for the “winging it” quote. When winging it, I assert I’m unprepared, and I just go for it. Up until about 4 years ago, I would sometimes come to school not knowing what I would teach that day. I remember, one day in particular, when I flipped through Awakening the Heart and decided the 6 room image poem would be fun. That day I was observed and my AP raved about how wonderful my lesson was. I felt guilty because the lesson was a last minute unplanned success.

These days that no longer happens. Rarely do I jump into the deep end unprepared. Instead, I try to wade into the deep end with a clear plan of the steps of the day. I guess you could say that I’ve taken action, adjusted, taken action, and adjusted.

SCHEDULE IT/Principal’s Email: “Before you book up your summer, come see me.”

I knew what was coming in that email response to me asking about doing some work over the summer with the state. “Don’t give up too much time of your summer. Be with your family. Rest.”  What I didn’t anticipate was the challenge for me to schedule time, actually calendar time to shut down. Calendar down time? Calendar relaxation? Plan my time of no school work? I don’t even plan my time of school work (other than the lessons). Give myself permission to spend some time with nothing but family/friends, relaxation, and down time. Adding to that, my principal also told me why he needs me to do that–how without that time, I won’t be energized when I return, the positive cheerleader (I hate that noun used simply to convey positive energy–oh well) he needs me to be. And then, he said, “Unless you don’t like your family–if you don’t like your family, just fill every moment of your summer, so you can stay away from them. But…I actually get the feeling that you like your family.”

My Thoughts:  Calendar down time. Calendar family time. Calendar? My calendar–do I have a calendar? I have some apps I sporadically use, and occasionally look at and use, but I have been really bad about calendars and to dos and all that sort of stuff. 

My Take Away from Today: #myoneword deliberate. 1st quarter of the year–almost done. My One Word, however, seems to be something I’m just winging. You can’t wing deliberate. Winging it doesn’t mean taking action then adjusting either. 

I suppose now is the time for me to consider how to adjust and take action. Ultimately, shutting down is needed not just in the summer but also each day (yes, boss, I heard you the time before and the time before–just haven’t figured it out yet). Ultimately, my patience level, my disposition, my productivity, my creativity, my longevity, and my family depend on this. I’d like for this year of striving to be more deliberate to ultimately result in me finding a way to lessen the disequilibrium between work and family.  

Today I am thankful for my friend and my boss friend.  Now it’s up to me: schedule, take action, adjust while at the same time realizing that habits are developed through repetition. This takes me other words today that moved me today, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act but a habit.”

What this means for me is creating the right habits–not the habits that lead to scatteredness but instead the ones that lead ultimately to down time that will make me more effective, more positive, and probably more productive. Must-jump-out-of-vortex…quick someone grab my arm and pull me out and grab me a calendar while you’re at it.

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Anxiety Attack in the Classroom

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Any of my teacher friends ever need a little grounding?  Would you consider trying this?
By the time I finish going through all 12 things on the list, I think I will have forgotten what I was teaching.
Here  is my attempt based on the infographic below.
anxiety.jpg
Not meaning to make fun of anxiety attacks—really, I have been known to have them at times when I’m feeling unprepared or having a less than stellar teaching day.
 
Anxiety Attack in the Classroom?
Here’s what I envision during an evaluation as I try to avoid an anxiety attack by “grounding” myself. I don’t think I would get through all the grounding of my surroundings without losing my focus, but here’s my attempt.
5 Things I can See: 1) posted vocabulary 2) standard/objective 3) an anchor chart 4) my lesson plan notebook 5) some data for differentiation
Adding to anxiety–where did I put the notebook? Is my data current? Should I flip through it? Is that last week’s vocabulary? Aaargh, I meant to change the board!
4 Things I can Touch: 1) The lesson plan notebook I deliver to my visitor 2) The data that I forgot to put in my notebook 3) Hopefully the supplies I need 4) More coffee
Where are those handouts? Aargh, I just had the notebook with my lessons–where did I put it? Oh my gosh, I need another sip of coffee–where did I set the cup down? The remote!!! Has anyone seen my remote?
3 Things I can Hear: 1) The brief yet peaceful sound of silent thinking 2) The excitement of certain learning activities 3) The impulsivity of a “pick me” kid
Oh, the quiet–I love the sound of thinking. How long will this peace last? The words I’ll hear later…Nuts and bolts. Keep it simple. Connect the dots. Too busy. 
2 Things I can Smell: 1) Mr. Marker flavored  scenty markers 2) More coffee
Too much cologne–this is beyond smell–I can taste it. I can’t bring this up. It will disturb the silence. 
1 Thing I can Taste: 1) Dove dark chocolate with funny dark messages
Mmmmm…chocolate.

Becoming

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Yesterday  while walking the dog together, Sarah and I looked for signs of spring. Beautiful blossoms everywhere. Honestly, I hadn’t noticed much of the color before I took the time to walk and take pictures. The vibrancy, the new life, nature’s miracle unfolding and becoming anew, and I had been oblivious. Yesterday, though, I noticed the myriad of colors bringing luminous life to the otherwise sort of drab neighborhood.



 

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I AM NOT FAILING. I AM BECOMING.

 

 

In a moment, I decided to capture the yellow dandelion for no reason other than its vibrant color and the way the flower was low to the ground but still such a vivid splash of color.

Now I wonder: why the dandelion?

The dandelion, a pesky and hard to control but vibrant weed.

When I’m criticized, I internalize and see myself as the pesky weed, the dandelion not as the azalea,  dogwood, or tulip.

I think of what Jon Gordon wrote about perspective and failure, and I think about the nature of the dandelion. The dandelion is strong, resistant, and hardy. It may not shine as brightly or stand quite as stately as some of the above flowers, but it is in its own unique process of becoming, and there is little one can do to keep a dandelion down.

When Jon Gordon writes about looking back on failure, he explains that he realized that he wasn’t failing that he was instead in the process of becoming. What a great perspective, one that the dandelion close to the ground seems to subtlely state in its strength and its hardiness.

I AM NOT FAILING. I AM BECOMING.

Tonight the frost might kill the tulip and the other flowers, but tomorrow the dandelion will reign. The dandelion is in the process of becoming. Yes, I’m a weed you can’t get rid of–constantly regenerating, growing, and becoming. Take that pesky failure. I am the dandelion. I am becoming.

 

 

 

Let Go

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Maya: I don’t know if I’ll ever find be able to do it all well and find the balance.

Principal: The things you love to do take so much of time. Your blogging, your planning, your technology…

Maya: Yeah, but those are the things that I love to do, the things that fuel my passion.

This is not the first time he and I have had this conversation, the conversation about me going and going and going without shutting down, without balancing school and work. The truth is I blame it on him sometimes: his high expectations, his ever-increasing bars, the standard he sets of being the best/being excellent all the time, his challenging me to keep climbing his proverbial mountain. And yes, I know I’ll never reach the peak, so I do sometimes wonder why I’m not just happy to stop and rest along the way.   Perhaps on some level this is about my will to be the best as well as his push for me to be the best challenging me to face setbacks with the attitude  of, “BRING IT ON!”

At the same time, I think my self-created distractions get in the way of my climb. I think of what takes my time, what wastes my time, what could be pruned, and what needs to be kept. I love blogging daily for the month of March. I love the way I see things differently, more deeply, more introspectively. I love the way it gives my thoughts somewhere to live. At the same time, at the end of the month, I’m always glad to let go of that commitment.

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How can I be a person who lets go of something every day instead of a person who keeps trying to acquire? Where is the balance of those two things? On some level, I think I have to discern what I need to acquire while at the same time discerning what I can let go of.  I think that if I am truly to find the complete and balanced person I seek to become this will be where the wisdom is found.

Words of wisdom do come from unlikely sources–my principal who pushes my buttons–he inherently gets shutting down, turning off the phone, taking time to get away from things. He gets letting go.

In his mind, there is little ambiguity; instead there is compartmentalization, prioritization, strategy, and deliberateness all developing seamlessly in his mind and working out naturally in his actions. His tasks are written and checked off as completed and deleted and pruned or set aside for a bit as deemed unnecessary because of shifting priorities.

Pursuit of knowledge. Questioning. Seeking to grow. Seeking to know. Fueling my passion. Finding the balance. I’m not sure where my answer lies; I’m not sure what to prune in order to gain room for balance and perhaps even wisdom (I mean I’m getting closer to 50–wisdom should come soon, shouldn’t it?).  I just know that some things need to go, yet how do I know what needs to go that won’t affect how I grow?

Perhaps an all or nothing approach isn’t the answer–perhaps the answer is in my OLW, my OneWord, deliberate. Deliberate wisdom. Deliberate balance. Deliberate living. Perhaps I don’t need to seek an answer or force an answer; perhaps I just need to let go.