Listening, Slowing Down, Stopping



Today I celebrate listening, slowing down, and stopping.

Last fall…

Principal: “When do you shut down?”

Maya: “I, uh, well, when I…”

Teacher Friend: (hearing this conversation–looks at me accusingly and chuckles at my attempt to respond to the boss) “You don’t…”

Maya: “Okay, I don’t…not really…not often.”

Principal: “At least for an hour or two each night, you should…”

Months later (about a week ago)…

Principal: “You should really think before you over-commit to things this summer. You need to recharge. You need to shut down. You will be better for it. I take a few weeks each summer and shut down. Schedule your down time this summer…how old are your kids…I get the idea that you actually like your family…you need to take a break, let go of all the work related stuff, and  you need to spend time with them. When we get back from your break, I’m going to ask you about your plan for it.”

He went on to say something about being recharged in the fall, about positivity/energy and needing me to be a cheerleader (aargh, I hate that wording–Rah! Rah! Go team!).

Yesterday & Today…

SUMMER SHUT DOWN?  I can’t wait for you. Yesterday I told my husband that my mom and I had made plans for today and asked him how he felt about going to his parents without me. Today I let the family go away without me to the in-laws, so I could take my mom shopping and grade papers. Today I spent time with Mom, and I’ve graded one class of essays. I will begin another class of papers tonight, and tomorrow I will grade one more.

I’m going to have a birthday dinner ready for my husband and family when they return tomorrow, and at that point, I am going to put away the schoolwork. NO SCHOOL WORK Monday through Thursday. Ahhhhh…no guilt. No papers that I “might” grade. No mountain of papers I carry with me to the mountains. No grading. No school work. No planning. Nothing school related. No vacation emails to the boss. No reading of school emails.

When I truly listen, I hear what I need to hear. Shut down. Rest. Make time. Schedule time. You, and everyone around you, will be better for it. 

When I slow down, the swirling thoughts begin to settle. As I make sense of what is actually obvious, I know that I need to go beyond slowing down, I need to truly stop and rest.

If I actually stop for awhile, who knows what will happen?  Giving rest to my swirling frenetic thoughts, my passion, my intensity, and my teacher identity will be good for me to help me truly rest and be in the moment. Not only will I reap the benefits of this time but so will others around me–my students, my coworkers, and my family.

Tomorrow at 4 PM

My hamster is going to step off the wheel for 4 days. I am going off the grid. I am going to find time, space, and a place to relax and enjoy my family.

Deliberate (One Word 2016) actions

  • Staying home today to be with mom and to grade
  • Getting a jump on the grading, so I’m not doing it at the end of break
  • Getting a jump on grading so I’m not overwrought by guilt
  • Some time away in nature with my husband and kids
  • Time with Mom
  • Time to my self
  • A good book to read
  • A written plan/commitment to do NO SCHOOLWORK.

Hey, One Word 2016, today you are mine!

While I rest sporadically and while I sometimes go several days without grading the papers I carry, I rarely schedule and plan time to do NO schoolwork. When the time is planned, I feel like I must prepare for it. Get some papers graded, make the time away doable and practical even with what I have to do. With the time scheduled, I doubt I will feel the guilt for not getting done what I feel like I need to do.






Letter of Reflection/Encouragment

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.









To Do: Pairing Stretch Goals & Smart Goals

SOLL 27 out of 31

In chapter 11 of the novel Hatchet, Brian begins to think forward and mentally prepare and look forward to what he needs to do to survive as he repeatedly thinks, “There were these things to do.”  As he looks forward and breaks down what things he needs to do, his ultimate focus is on the stretch goal of  wilderness survival. When he begin to break this down into small steps, his actions begin to change and he does what he needs to do. He is not transformed all at once, but these small steps combined with his stretch goals related to survival ultimately lead to his survival and transformation.

For some reason (perhaps the reason is I have taught this book 3 years in a row), when looking at the things I have to do, this quote resurfaces. Mentally preparing tasks has never worked for me because I don’t prioritize well, my goals are unrealistic, I don’t know where to begin, and I can’t remember the items.Physically preparing tasks has never worked for me because I can’t find the list and I don’t maintain a routine long enough to develop a habit.

On yesterday’s blog, I wrote about Charles Duhigg and his book about becoming more productive at work and in life.  I want to try his way of creating and executing a To Do list. Ultimately, I’d like to see if I can say, “There were these things to do, and I did them, habitually, efficiently, and effectively.” Until my Duhigg book comes, I’m relying on reviews and articles about his recent book.  The recent article from Business Insider, “Too Many of Us Make the Same Mistakes with Our To Do Lists–and It Ruins Our Productivity,” outlines Duhigg’s take on writing and executing to do lists.

FullSizeRender 6

Duhigg suggests that you mix stretch goals (ambitious aims that almost seem unachievable) with SMART goals. I have a huge pile of papers, and I still need to figure out what the SMART goals are.

S-specific (what papers)
M-measurable (how many per day)
A-achievable (Per day max)
R-realistic (yup)
T-timeline (chunk it)

My stretch goal is to get ALL papers graded before my break, so that I can truly break without papers awaiting me with a last day grading marathon.

Duhigg tells readers not to cheat. Don’t write what you’ve already done on your to do list. Don’t write the things you do each day that you don’t need to write (showering, eating, etc.), the things that are easy at the top, or things you’ve already done–he calls that mood repair. This is not a feel good psychological repair list. This is about productivity. Hmmmm…this system makes sense. I will work on figuring out the SMART goals, so I can get things done. My stretch goal is designed to remind me of my larger ambition and to show me I’m not checking things off to feel good. My SMART goals keep me from getting lost and help me know what to do next. More on this soon. For now, though, I need to shift my focus to the goals related to family.


IMG_0496Today I’ll be journeying to my brother’s house for some family time. I suppose my Duhigg style stretch goal for that would be to BE PRESENT.

Maybe in the 1.5 hours in the car I will work on those papers.


What I’m wondering is if this system of Duhigg’s will help with the block I’ve always had in the lists–I’m conceptual, I’m big picture. I struggle breaking things down, but this system totally makes sense to me.

  1. Start with the big picture–the stretch goal.
  2. Break it down.
  3. Make it happen.
  4. Achieve.


Maybe, just maybe, I can become a more productive person with some systems that allow me to achieve a better balance between work and home.

For the rest of this month, I will write with the purpose of getting things done. There are these things to do, and more than anything else in this world, I want to get these things done, so that the list on the right becomes a daily reality and so the sadness, regret, and guilt that plague me daily dissipate and are replaced with me becoming the wife, mom, sister, daughter, and friend I am meant to be. I believe much of this hinges with To Dos that actually get done.





Losing my Mind or Governing My Mind

SOL Day 26 of 31

This afternoon while driving to and from a wedding I decided to entertain myself by listening to a podcast. For awhile I listened to an educational podcast featuring a retired educator who talked about the call to teaching, how teaching is a 24-7 job, how her family knew she was a workaholic, how her family just accepted that in her. Also, she talked about how passionate she was about creating great lessons (ditto here), and how when when she found how valuable written feedback was to students she became very passionate about that as time consuming as it was. She joked that her free time was non-existent, that as a teacher with a calling that her life was dedicated to her job, to planning, to grading and that it was just who she was and her family accepted it…blah, blah, blah… While listening to her, I envisioned my life unfolding with me having absolutely NO time for my family and with my unbalanced life never changing and with me losing my mind….AARGH! STOP PODCAST!

Scrolling through my podcast feed, I found the title meant for me, “The Unconventional Habits of Highly Productive People,” an episode of  The Growth Show, a business podcast about growth from different areas of the business world. This episode features Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit and most recently Smarter Faster Better.  Duhigg recounted a story from his past about how as a journalist working on a big story about Apple for  The NY Times that he came to a point in his life he felt the harder he worked and the more successful he got the more behind he got and the more work he had to do and how he would see his kids less and less and work more and more.

At some point Duhigg came to the realization that some of the most productive and successful people had more time than he had. He found he was doing things the wrong way. What he found was that these people were reflective and that these people have the ability to govern their own minds. They understand how choose goals, self-motivating, they get more done with less waste. He went on to explain that people who know how to think differently, who govern their minds, and control how they think, are more effective in choosing goals, and they get more done with less waste.

He went on to discuss some of the characteristics of productivity (their are 8 that seem to come up again and again). These people are more reflective, they have a bias towards action, they self-motivate, they manage their focus by building mental models or envisioning what they want to see so that when discrepancies or distractions come along they can manage those and keep focused, they innovate differently by focusing  on the creative process.

Duhigg explains, “People who are more reflective, people who understand how their thoughts function and therefore are in a position to shape their thoughts, to shape their mind and govern it.  Those are people who tend to make better choices and decisions, they  tend to choose better goals, and they tend to end up being more productive.”

As Duhigg talked, I heard my story in his and realized that perhaps I, too, as a reflective person could perhaps learn how to govern my mind realizing that perhaps my most growth right now as an educator, wife, mom, and human could come from reading outside of my field–from pedagogy to practicality, from reflection to governing.

Yes, I bought the book.

I think my next blog post will be about writing a to do list the Duhigg way.  This is a step in achieving mastering my one word 2016, deliberate.


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.

Time on Task: Deliberate


I want to see what I can do this evening to be more deliberate (One Word, OLW)  in my evening tasks. I want to get some things done, but I want to do it without wasting time. I set up tasks using a Google Chrome Extension called Task Timer.

taskI used an app called Task Timer. Now I’m going to see what I can get done in the next hour and a half.


1 hour and 40 minutes later, I feel good about tonight. I set times and I stuck pretty closely to them. I got my work done, and I will be in bed at an hour that is more reasonable than usual.

Here is how I spent my time:


Was I deliberate? Yes. It took me a few tasks to realize that I should turn on the volume, so I would hear the warning bing. I wanted to be done at 10:30–it’s now 10:40. Lessons are updated. I have a few more newbie SOL blogs I need to respond to, but I’m going to save that until tomorrow.

My goal: finish my tasks and go to bed before 11. I did better than usual.

Things that threw me off: converting my clipped image from tiff to jpg, emails and messages coming in on my phone and at the top of my computer screen, my daughter saying goodnight a second time, and the dog chomping on her rawhide.

Now I just need to figure out how to add a little R and R into my tasks.

10 minutes–I can be in bed. My body needs more rest. Goodnight.







One Word 2016: Deliberate. As I sought to become more intentional and focused in my actions, I chose the word deliberate for this year. I liked the fact that my word could express my thoughts as a verb, an action. I liked the fact that I could strive to become a more deliberate person as if I could grab hold of this adjective, this trait and think with a sort of conscious awareness that would propel me into action. As if…

One Word 2015: Prioritize.  The result of 2015 was  I felt incomplete and reworded and rebranded myself (and my blog name) for 2016–perhaps a new word with a new slant would change my actions, help me prioritize, and help me evolve into a person who meanders less and becomes deliberate.

Yeah, right…I ain’t there yet!

I get things done. I meet my deadlines. Still, though, I just feel like there is so much to do and not enough hours in the day to do all these things. I feel like I am always playing catch up. For March Madness (blogging madness, that is), I add blogging and commenting to my plate, and life becomes busier.

I have no problem filling my plate with so many things, yet taking the time deliberately to get things done is where I find myself challenged.

I deliberately looked for deliberate quotes/images to examine. Tonight I deliberate about becoming more deliberate.



While this weekend, I gave time to my husband, my kids (not enough, though), my mom, and my friends, now I find myself wondering how to fit all the things to do before tomorrow in this evening while still being deliberate about the sleep my body needs.

I do want sleep. I sacrifice sleep. My husband constantly tells me about the studies that show that sleep deprivation leads to   X, Y, and Z.  Yet still the clock ticks, midnight comes and goes, I’m still awake, and 5:30 AM is sooooo early.

At some point being deliberate should mean getting the rest I need, giving my family the time they need, and turning off my brain long enough to relax and refuel. A person can only go, go, go for so long.


Intentional and Accidental directions.  Opposite traffic sign.

The intentional action produces deliberate results.

The accidental action takes me down my meandering path. Sometimes I make sense of my meandering, yet other times I flounder and get sidetracked.





For me, this means think about what I’m going to do, and then, make it happen. All too often, I have spent too much time considering, and then, the action just doesn’t happen.




For me, I think this quote is what being deliberate needs to become for me–manage my thoughts, focus my attention, and act deliberately. Compartmentalizing anything other than a multiple choice question is difficult for me.



deliberate2bdefinition And therein lies what being a deliberate person truly means. Being this blog is one of eight things I need to do tonight. Checked blog off the to do list I made (Yes, I made a to do list for a change!). Let’s see if I can be deliberate and prioritize this evening as I work my way through what absolutely needs to be done on my to do list.



How true this is! Perhaps this is the essence of being and living deliberately instead of just thinking deliberately.

I liken this to the difference between wisdom and prudence–prudence is the pinnacle of wisdom–this is where the actions match the thoughts.

Now I shall go and see if I can quit deliberating so much about being deliberate. Moving thoughts to action.

My goal in being deliberate is truly the action brought about by focused attention and managed thoughts.

The time is now.