Professional Hammocker

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Professional Hammocker that is the job for me. Right now I think I could make a career out of finding the perfect branch, altitude, and scenery. Yes, I think I will be a career hammocker. This week I have hammocked  in several trees on Driftwood Beach at Jekyll Island, at the boardwalk of the condos, and at Cumberland Island.

Friends, if I don’t make it back to town for preplanning, you better look up. You might find me in a tree hammocking, relaxing, and rejuvenating instead of in my classroom unpacking, organizing, decorating, and planning.

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Running From or Running To

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This weekend I celebrate binge watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix  resulting in a simple yet powerful takeaway about leading others.

As one who follows, I appreciate a leader who recognizes and believes in who I am and what I’m capable of and provides encouragement to help me continue to better myself.

As one who leads, at my best I don’t parent, teach, or mentor with an “or else” attitude. At my best I help people build on what they have as well as their potential.

At my worst, as both leader and follower I tear down others or myself, and like Bailey did in this episode, I set the scene where others and/or myself  are “running from” someone or something instead of “running to” what they can achieve as well as who they can become.

Webber explains that if you want people to run 4 minute miles, you don’t give them something to run from;  you give them something to run to. You  get to know them and let them get to know you, and you show them you believe in them and help them see how and when to use their brains.

Because leaders aren’t all or nothing, I must also realize that as an adult I need to make sure my mindset is focused on what I’m running to more than focused on what I’m running from. So much depends on perspective, mindset, and attitude. So much depends on my takeaway.


Grey’s Anatomy, Season 12, Episode 2  http://www.hulu.com/watch/851628


BAILEY: If this is my first day, then I don’t deserve a second. I wanted it to go…

WEBBER: Perfectly. It won’t. It can’t. This job is too much for one person.

BAILEY: You did it.

WEBBER: Because I listened to those who came before me and counted on those under me.

BAILEY: I tried…

WEBBER: No, you barked like a general. They are generals. They know how to mobilize. What they need is a leader. If I did my job well, it’s not because people listened to me; it’s because they believed in me, believed that I knew them well enough and believed in them enough to tell them how and when to use their brains. I’m talking about people like you.  That kind of belief–you have to earn it, and you cannot earn it in a day. You want someone to run a 4 minute mile. You don’t chase them. You don’t give them something to run from; you give them something to run to.

 

Stay the Course: Adjustments and Awareness

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By nature, I am a night owl. Getting up to paddle a kayak at sunrise does not appeal to me; however, experiencing God’s grandeur in nature appeals to me. Plus, the photographs from last year’s sunrise kayaking were gorgeous, so this year I got up with my friend Rozlin to paddle.

I found myself out of luck at 6 AM on my paddling morning because I couldn’t figure out the dang Keurig coffeemaker. Caffeine deprived and frustrated I made my way to the dock.  As I began to paddle, I was trying not to get soaked, trying to paddle with finesse, and trying to enjoy the only caffeinated beverage I could find (Diet Coke is NO substitute for a hot cup of coffee).

Once my sloppy rhythm began to smooth out a bit, I let go of my morning crankiness and looked around me and took in the beauty of the placid lake and morning quite. After a moment, I noticed I was veering off course and  thought of how paddling a kayak is just like making it through a class, a day, or even life.  

 

Adjustments

Veering off course, I thought of how the slightest change in the my paddling could get me back on course.  Just the slightest and finest adjustment could right my wrong. How like life this is:  when I veer a bit off course in a lesson, in my day, in my response to another person, often I only need to make a slight adjustment to make things right. This, of course, is when I’m paying attention, when I have an awareness, when my mind is in the present moment/situation.

However, when I’m paddling unaware: oblivious, unaware, or distracted, I can find myself turning into the wrong cove, paddling into my friend’s kayak, or otherwise wayyyyyy off course. Yes, these are the days that I didn’t plot my course and plan my lesson well and/or the days that I couldn’t navigate or fathom the direction my lesson would take. On these days, a fine tune adjustment is never enough–I can’t just paddle twice on the right side and find myself back on course.

Awareness

When kayaking, I need to be aware of my current location, my intended destination, the weather, the wind/current, and my equipment. This is true in the classroom and life: I need to be aware of where I am, where I’d like to go, what might get in my way, and what tools I have. When I’m aware, I can more easily stay the course and reach my intended destination. I anticipate obstacles, I overcome struggles, and I move towards my destination.

As well, sometimes this awareness may change my course, yet rarely does it change my final destination. As Rozlin and I sought to find the sunrise, we realized that we needed to change our course in order to find the sun. We still sought the sunrise; however, we realized that we needed to paddle towards the other end of the lake. We paddled hard, we covered distance, we changed our course, and eventually the sun appeared over the trees and through the clouds with a shimmering reflection over the water.

Yes, in the class and life, when what I’m doing isn’t working, I change course a bit and continue to seek my destination. Had Rozlin and I just sat in one spot waiting for the sun, we would not have experienced the joy of the sun rays appearing through the clouds over the lake.

Having an awareness of where I am and where I’m going and knowing when I need to make adjustments are hugely important in knowing how to navigate the waters of life.

Part 2 will focus on response and routine. Response-how I respond when things aren’t going my way. Routine-how maintaining a rhythm and routine helps me stay the course.

 

 

I don’t like that man.

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Yes. I suppose you know this blog’s for you. I suppose you also know that over the past four years there has been a time or 2 or perhaps 50 where I didn’t really like you.

As you strategically connected the dots, readjusting along the way, working to create a  picture, from my myopic perspective many a time you were mean, controlling, cutthroat, unappeasable, and inflexible. Like I have blogged before you were an eight feet tall presence, the man in black with a scary gameface.

As you know me better now, you know that without a big picture and a vision, I am lost. The path wasn’t clear to me, it flat out didn’t make sense, and many a time I felt misguided. Perhaps that’s why a time or two or fifty I was perhaps your path of greatest resistance. You, on the other hand, with your nuts and bolts strategies didn’t always find it necessary to divulge the bigger picture you were seeking to create.

Add to that, I’m not a backing down sort of woman. I’m impulsive. I’m passionate. I’m pedagogical. I lack a filter. I like to impulsively share many ideas (even the ones that aren’t best), and I have a hard time building and maintaining procedures. These traits of ADD and otherwise are what make me engaging, knowledgeable, and rigorous. These same traits make me seem self-righteous, egotistical, and disrespectful. 

Today as I hold up the dot to dots you connected and see a clearer picture of myself as a better person and our school as a much better place, I look back at the dots and understand why you connected them in the order you did, and I realize that the  big picture I had in my mind was missing quite a few dots needed to make it complete.

Here are a few of the dots I have connected:

  1. There is a time, a place, and a way to share what I believe.
  2. Sometimes I need to seek the advice of someone who thinks differently than I do. 
  3. I can change things about myself that I didn’t think possible.
  4. In a moment of sharing, my passion, pedagogy, and vision may be perceived by some as know-it-all rhetoric (see number 1).
  5. Take the bad with the good. Let the good remind me of my worth–use the bad/constructive feedback as a building tool. 
  6.  Focusing on too much at once is a sure fire way to get lost and lose others (both young and old).
  7. As I seek to understand others, I will find myself better understood, but more importantly, I will better understand myself and ultimately others as well. Plus, it will make me a better teacher. 
  8. I won’t make it to the top of the mountain. Accepting that and continuing my own personal climb is truly what defines me.
  9. I need to do better at shutting down, winding down, and family time. Ultimately that time will make me better as a teacher and person.
  10. Being open-minded, suspending my disbelief, and letting go of what I think is true is at times crucial to my own growth and learning. Wisdom might come from where I least expect it.

 I got to know that man better, and I kind of like him.

For those times you didn’t like me and for the time you invested in getting to know me better, I am thankful.  I’ll miss our witty banters, our deep conversations, and your continuous push. 

Undeniable Force

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Tagged in a Tweet by @melrobbins

I love when a simple quote leads to self-awareness and self-discovery. I love when I find myself in a quote–especially when I see both my past and present self as well as my future self.

Yes, the force is within me, but as long as the force resides inside or merely manifests itself as words on a blogpost, my growth lies dormant like an animal hibernating. Some parts of me were like that for years, wishes and aspirations without action.

The force is within me, but as long as the force is scattered or misdirected, I will do little to make visions and goals reality. For my first 17 years of teaching, I was unable to guide the force within me because I did not how to harness and channel that force. As a result my passionate energy, my pedagogical thinking, my content knowledge, and my mad skills were scattered and unfocused. The growth was happening, but like young Skywalker in the swamp I was held back by my own fears.

Until my undeniable force that wanted to grow, move, and expand met my current principal, my thoughts and visions of what I could become remained unrealized and my passion and energy were scattered.

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At one point, he told me I give him too much credit. Perhaps I did, and perhaps I do. All he did was awaken  and channel what was already in me. Of course, I could call him a Jedi Master and remove the villainous title of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but that would detract from our witty banter and would go to his head.

Yes, indeed, there is an undeniable force within us all that makes us want to grow, move, and expand.  When we awaken that force within ourselves, we have the potential to awaken it in others as well.

Here’s to awakening the force of growth, movement, and expansion in ourselves and in others as well.

NO

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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

Change

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214770792-0c0491bce794afc9f1b0e40cc6e42d4cThis time of the year I find myself a little more introspective than usual (If you know me personally, you’re probably thinking that’s a scary thought.).

This time of year I am looking back and thinking forward. I’m looking back on what went well this school year and what I’d like to change next year.

This time of year I’m thinking about what will be different next year, and next year I have a lot of change coming my way. From 6th grade to 8th grade with 8th grade ELA, and 9th honor’s with advanced ELA students,  New curriculum and texts.  New teachers for collaboration. Also, I will know most of the students the day they walk through my door for the first time. I’m excited about the changes because I get to work with many of my students from last year again, and they (and I) are excited about that.

6th graders come to middle school with all things new. 8th graders are different creatures. While I know my students will be different from 6th to 8th, they will be comfortable with me, and they will expect me to be the same. Yet, I’ve changed, and I have more things I’d like to change in order to prepare for their return to my classroom.

However, I have changed–a lot. Funny they had no idea all the changes I was struggling through when I taught them. I mean they saw that I moved my desk to the back of the room, developed some organizational systems, and became more consistent with what I wrote on the board.

 

28566146559dcdc1c1e743a010cd7fa9They had no idea that my boss was pushing me to grow, trying to ground me more, and encouraging me to be more consistent. It was a frustrating beginning of the year. I was struggling to find myself in the process of change and became a bit uncertain of my teacher identity. I was on a model tech committee and I was constantly trying new things before figuring them out, and some of the kids were overwhelmed while others thrived. At the end of the year, I felt good about the way I had been pushed and realized that my mindset had been my biggest obstacle that year.

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And now this year is coming to a close–this year has been a great year, not without its struggles but I have become accustomed to the new evaluative measure and more accepting of constructive feedback, even asking for it when it’s not given to me.

I look at things differently. I push myself differently. I ask for help when I need it, and I meet challenges with a different mindset.

And so now I find myself asking, “What do I need to look at differently in order to change?”

 

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Transformation begins with changing my perspective. That is followed by consistent and deliberate actions.

 

 

 

 

Now I  am thinking about all the pieces of the puzzle from this year:

  • classroom management-rituals and routines
  • Class organization/set up
  • Students and staff I struggled to love
  • Collaborative struggles
  • people/situations that frustrated me and had power over me and my mood
  • student survey results
  • inconsistent practices

I think much of finding the inner part of change involves me giving my mind a break, saying no, and letting the hamster step off the wheel. Yes, I need to breathe!

This summer is my summer of much more NO than last year: a summer with curriculum planning, tech committee days, writing project help and Milestones’ item review.

This summer I said no to planning, no to writing project, no to Milestones’ item review.

I’ll say yes to taking care of myself, my family, and my friends. Perhaps the break will help me change the way I look at some of the things, I’d like to change.

Today I look at the students from the past two years and think of how I might see them all again sitting in desks in my classroom, and I think about what I can do differently next time to help them grow as students and humans.

Today I celebrate looking backward and thinking forward. Today I celebrate the ability to reflect, recreate, and change.

 

 

 

On Feeling Valued

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Some teacher leader types  and school leaders  at my school are part of a book study. In the discussion forum another teacher asked how we could assist new and veteran teachers in feeling valued and supported.  I thought about this and made a list to add to the discussion.  What do you think of the list? Do you agree?  What would you add?

  1.  Everyone needs a voice and needs to be able to be heard. We have to invite each person to find his/her voice, and sometimes that requires lettiou ng go of ourselves.
  2. The more I talk the less I’m listening. Before I talk I should listen and hear what the other teachers are saying (this is why I waited to post).
  3. What’s best for me and for my students might not be best for everyone else. I can’t expect someone to fit my mold and become me (Lord, help us, right?).
  4. Walls of negativity won’t go away unless I build relationships. The more I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth by not listening and by speaking too much the more time relationship building will take.
  5. Finding the good in someone and building on that is crucial. Each teacher–young or old, new or veteran, science or chorus–has a unique perspective and something to offer.
  6. How I say what I say is as important as what I say. Tone is everything.
  7. Each person is an individual–even adults need differentiation.  At a meeting once, my principal said, “I have to say 3 nice things to Maya before I can offer her constructive feedback.” Hearing nice things makes criticism more palatable because I feel valued.
  8. Relationship is crucial. I can’t just play my veteran card and expect people to listen. I need to build relationships by listening, empathizing, encouraging, and caring. Plus, I need to prove myself by how I teach, how work with others, how I lead, and how I carry myself. Then, I can offer advice.
  9. Celebrate small successes. Celebrate growth. Encourage.
  10. Don’t get frustrated when you think someone isn’t listening because you never know–sometimes a person needs to let thoughts sit for awhile.

 

Car Rider: Extraordinary?

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I’ve heard that memoir is all about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary; shouldn’t we live the moments of our lives that way, too?

Take car rider line duty, for example, who loves the monotony of the mundane moments in that line? I suppose sometimes I do. I’m at the front of the line, the line leader if you will. I have the responsibility of stopping and starting the flow of two long lines of traffic. In my own space, next to my own dilapidated orange cone, I am in charge of my domain, my little piece of parking lot.

This daily experience might seem ordinary to many, but given the right frame of mind, this experience can be elevated to extraordinary.

I am the recipient of a daily parade wave from one of my sixth graders, her stiff hand back and forth with a genuine ear to ear grin.  I can’t help but smile. Many other driverbys offer up their waves and smiles as they leave.

I have been the recipient of a small meal, fed through a window. Please do feed the animals. I’m hungry at 4 PM.  An impressive moment when a child’s aunt offered me a piping hot piece of Papa John’s pizza, untouched and fresh out of the box. “Wow, I don’t even teach you!” There was no suck up in that move–just a kind gesture. Last Friday, I enjoyed a cookie handed out a car window.

I have been the recipient of grandparent wisdom. I watch the grandparents–I love them–laid back and conversational–not at all in a hurry. I realize I have much to learn. Oh, to take my time like they do.

I have had car rider conferences giving  parents a little snippet of day to help children get back on track.

I have been debriefed on life as former students behind the wheel proudly grin from ear to ear showing their driving skills. Former students as passengers and riders–give me quick updates on life and school through a window or a walk across the parking lot.

I have met future students who gaze in awe at the future at the big school and who look at me with a mixture of amusement, confusion, and uncertainty wondering if they will ever be ready for me.

Humorous moments in overheard conversations–one high schooler on his phone talking about things people just shouldn’t be tweeting. Realizing I had been privy to this conversation, the embarrassed young man almost ran over a cone.

The space and freedom at the front of the line when I look up at the blue sky and birds flying overhead.

Flipping the walkie talkie with finesse as I relive the “Cocktail” days of a job from decades ago. I wait for the walkie talkie to fall to the ground and envision my principal growling at me. I wonder if he’ll ever make me stop flipping my walkie. I chuckle to myself at the moment that I know would not go over well. So far I’m flipping 100%. Maybe, though, I should switch back to staplers–much cheaper.

Wearing the hat of traffic cop and air traffic controller I sometimes wave frantically to direct newbies to their correct places in line.

CONTROL-I stop traffic. Yes, at 47, I still stop traffic. Okay, so I have to hold out my hand and wear a look of authority, but still I stop traffic.

Seeing the extraordinary is a choice just as is living the ordinary.

In car rider line, I’m often asked about my next break and if I’m counting down the days, and you know what? I’m not. When I count the days and make the choice to live the ordinary, I know that I am missing out on what’s truly extraordinary.

When the flow of the line is smooth, when the sky is blue, when the conversation is good, when people are nice, and when I have the right disposition, these are the times the mundane and ordinary task of car rider duty becomes extraordinary.

The challenge, though, is to find the extraordinary on a day when the sky is grey, the conversations are dull, people are mean, and I’m in a bad mood. Hmmm…I might have to save that for another day.

For now, I’ll enjoy the blue sky perspective of an extraordinary existence.

 

 

Ideas but No Direction

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A few years back I took the Strengthsfinder assessment. One of my top 5 strengths is ideation. Some people might consider this strength a weakness because of how they perceive ideation in action. Ideation is the ability to generate ideas and make connections between seemingly disparate phenomena. I like this strength. I like how I have a lot of ideas for anything I do, and I like how my brain craves to know more, find answers, and seek new solutions.

Still, though, problems emerge with this strength:

  1. I sometimes chase one idea then another then another not knowing where to stop.
  2. Others shake their head in bewilderment as to what my point is.
  3. Ideas come at strange time
  4. Sometimes at the last minute I decide to manufacture a product from an idea and do so before I can envision where I’m going.
  5. Without a clear vision, my dots get jumbled and the mental picture created is unclear even for me.
  6. Oftentimes I chase new ideas instead of just building off an old idea.

In the past, I would take those ideas and jump into the deep end. Lately, though, I’ve realized that easing into the water really is better for everyone.

Because I keep nodding off, I’m going to cut this post short. Perhaps I need to let these thoughts sit in the shallow end before wading deeper.Perhaps I need to rethink the ways I allow this strength to work for me.

Perhaps the time is now for the hamster to step off the wheel and let the ideas rest.

Yes…even my ideas need rest. If I write anymore, the dots will create a jumbled mess.

Goodnight.