Celebrating Dog Piss?

Ruth Ayres celebrates each week with other teacher-writers who link up and share celebrations for the week.

Discover. Play. Build.

Today after showering I noticed my dog nudging her new bed across the floor. With her nose, she was scooting her bed incrementally across the floor. I moved the bed to the other side of the room for her, and she continued to nudge it some more. As I gazed down at the brand new bed making its way under the Christmas tree, I noticed the puddle and smelled the smell–yes, my sweet Annabelle had urinated all over her brand new dog bed. This dripping dog bed leaving a trail of urine down the hallway and onto the floor and bathmats. No longer feeling clean, I tackled the mess feeling futility because once the dog decides she doesn’t like a bed, she probably will just repeat her pissing protest until I decide that the old ratty dog bed is better than the protest pad.

As I spent an hour cleaning the magnitude of mess: the living room floor, the dog bed cover, the dog bed cushions, the bathroom floor, and the rest of the urine trail, my mind eventually wandered to what has been on my mind for the past week and that is what will be my ONE WORD for 2017 or my OLW for 2017? You may wonder how I went from dog piss to my One Word–suffice it to say, I meandered. And you know what, I’m okay with that. Meandering led to insight.

Looking at the molding of the bathroom floor and thinking about how I’d like to prepare this house for resale took my mind to what I think my word will be: INCREMENT.

As I thought of how getting ready to sell a house can be such a long process, I also thought of how incremental growth has been huge for me in transforming my outlook on life and my teaching practices. Earlier in the week, I thought maybe my word would be chunk or focus or consistency or routine or to-do (is that 2 words). I wanted my word to be one of those things that I think will get me to better prioritize and to be more deliberate.

Scrubbing the bathroom floor,  I thought of lasting change over the past 5 years;  lasting change is made by small steps, by incremental growth, by continuing the process, by making small steps towards bigger growth. I thought of my words of the past: 2016-deliberate, 2015-prioritize 2014-balance, 2013-sacred

Yes, today I  celebrate dog piss because it led to new insight as well as what I think will be my OLW. Whether I’m preparing to eventually sell a house, or changing habits and routines, or trying to find balance in life, I have to build my growth on the foundation I have and make small incremental changes in order to build on who I am and where I am and sustain changes that help me as I continue to become.

 

Yes, increment. Small steps forward. Lasting change. Building towards betterment step by step. I think of Vicki Davis, Cool Cat Teacher, who says to innovate like a turtle–as one who has spent much of life like the hare with spurts of unfocused and scattered energy leading to unfocused and scattered success, I now see the wisdom of the tortoise whose incremental steps lead towards success and victory. Whatever lasting changes I’m trying to make, an incremental system based on small changes over time seems to be what my brain truly needs to sustain change. Slow and steady wins the race.

And even obstacles and stressors like dog piss that might put me back a step or two can eventually lead to forward movement as I pause and look for meaning before I continue taking small steps forward.

Vocabulary.com celebrates increment, too.


From https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/increment 

Increment

Consider expanding your vocabulary by a small increment, or increase, each day. Increasing your vocabulary by an increment of just two words a day means you’ll learn more than 700 new words a year!

Increment is often used in the context of a series of regular increases, so this word comes in handy whenever you’re expanding or improving something over time. Maybe you contribute to your bank account in modest increments each week. Or, when working out at the gym, perhaps you increase the number of sit-ups you do by a small increment each day.   

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Details Matter

I’ve always struggled with the details touting that I’m a conceptual/big picture person. In school, I got Cs when I couldn’t memorize the path of the Big Mac through the digestive system, when I got isolated definitions confused, and when I couldn’t remember the sequence of historical events. I bombed multiple choice tests that asked me to know that one isolated detail. I could show what I know when given a chance to write out answers, but I second-guessed myself and lacked convergent thinking skills.

I suppose that’s why I’ve always liked that quote about the devil being in the details. It works when I rationalize the t not crossed and the i not dotted.  Of course, when I want to better myself, create new habits, or solve a problem, I need to zoom my focus in on the details I detest.

While on the road today, I began to think about how my big picture visions will never be realized without conscious attention to details. And then, I had the epiphany, “Details matter.” Details matter in first impressions, teaching lessons, parenting children, serving others, working on a team, and achieving goals. Details are the ubiquitous force that move people forward.

Yes,

 

Take a look at the quote below:

top-10-startup-quotes-5-638

Innovators build off other designs by focusing on the details in all that they do.

A habit of mine has always been to ask the big picture questions. Absorbed with answering the whys and the hows, I sometimes neglected the what. I have sometimes neglected the details.

minor-details-quotes-3

They key for me is giving details attention without agonizing over the questions that get in the way of getting stuff done. Also, I need to realize what details matter, what details need to get done, and what details can wait.  I suppose that leads me back to challenge myself to prioritize.focusonthedetails

Letting go of  useless details that cause my wheels to spin, that distract me from what’s important, and that get in the way of me. When my wheels are spinning and when I’m distracted, I need to acknowledge that and work to refocus the situation whether with students, colleagues, or a shiny light of distraction.

Yes, I need to not let the useless details take over,

1543718230-past-quote-quotes-separate-with-comma-text-favim_com-219117

so I don’t miss out on the world around me and this beautiful life I have.

williammorris386448

Details matter. When I csee the details and connect the dots, I get a better appreciation of the big picture.  The vision might propel me forward, but without the details, the vision is never realized. After all the big picture is actually art created by design–a design that is the sum of all the details.

Pretending to be Normal

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Tonight I pretended to be normal. I think I even looked normal. Casually, I sat next to another soccer mom, and we chatted for an hour and a half while Sarah practiced. I let my papers remain in my bag, untouched and ungraded. I didn’t even pretend to grade papers to assuage my guilt. I didn’t reach into the bag.  NOT ONCE! I didn’t lift my grading pen. NOT ONCE! I didn’t answer any emails. I sat and talked and watched the team practice. I enjoyed just being there. I enjoyed being present.

Basically, I pretended to be normal. I let go of my frazzled overworked self. I let go of the things unfinished. I set aside my teacher identity (well, except for a few slip ups in conversation). I allowed myself to be normal. I allowed myself to be present. I let myself stop and relax.

The masquerade is over. The papers await.  In a little bit, I will wield my pen and grade some more, tap on the keyboard and plan some more, look at some resources and read some more, go to the LMS and post some more.

I think I need to pretend to be normal more often. Normal might be boring, but at this point in my life, I think I’d like a little boring.

Maybe I shouldn’t open my school bag; maybe I should watch mindless TV. Maybe I should indulge in more normalacy. I used to talk of a “school free” night where my husband and I wouldn’t grade papers or do any schoolwork. Maybe the school free night needs to come back to my house. The whole family could pretend to be normal, and we could celebrate Normalacy Night.

Not sure I can do it, but right now the idea sounds like something I’d like to try.

Normalacy. Presence. Relaxation. Stopping. Family time. Yes, these sound good.

Don’t become concerned. I won’t stay normal long. I’ll just play the role every now and then.

 

 

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

Perspective

 

Perspective leads to bias.
Bias to interpretation.
Assumption to conflict.
Conflict to anger.
Anger fuels assumptions.
Accusations hurled at me.
Vitriolic threat.
Anger.
Defense.
Accusation.

Who is right?
Where do you stand?
A black and white world.
You see malice.
You see right and wrong.
In a corner.

Who is right?
Where do I stand?
I see grey.
I see difference.
I see misunderstanding.

Who is right?
I assume your intent.
I’m wrong.
You assume an act of malice.
You’re wrong.
You interpret my motives.
You’re wrong.
You assume my dislike.
You’re wrong.

I am wrong.
I am right.
You’re wrong.
You’re right.

I see gray. I see shades.
You see black and white.
I’ve crossed the line.
I don’t want to fight.
I try to make it right.
I’d like to smudge the lines–
reveal the grey.
Acceptance.
Tolerance.
Understanding.

 

 

Letter of Reflection/Encouragment

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h
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

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bias Towards Action

 

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h
Slice 30 of 31

I looked up this phrase, “a bias towards action,” and I was like the mouse given a cookie. I read an article about bias towards action, I clicked on some links that took me to some cool products to help with to dos and action.  I read a bit in my new book.

Wait, this is not what I was going to do. I wanted to write about having a bias towards action not read all night about it.

A bias towards distraction is what I have!!!!

I discuss, I think, I read, I research, and then, I repeat.

Really?!!!!??!!! No wonder I spin my wheels.

Late at night–my focus is gone, but still my grading pile is large.

What makes a person have a bias towards action?  The knowledge that he/she can take control of a situation and ACT–and not just the knowledge—the act of doing.

Too much pontificating, Maya!

Hmmm…how do I take control of my grading pile?

See, Maya, just go grade some papers!!!!

The pile is large. I am tired. I don’t want to.

Pick a number–any number…take control.

8

Go grade 8 papers–it’s late.
I will grade 8.
Good night. Go grade now.

But…the blog isn’t done.

End it!

I have a new book that I hope will help me figure out how to be smarter, better, and faster, but for now–one step. Control. Control to make the pile wane.

A bias towards grading action.
Now I will grade–maybe 5.

 

To Do: Pairing Stretch Goals & Smart Goals

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h
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

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h
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.