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 


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.


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.





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.









A Bias Towards Action


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.


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

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.