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.









Responsive Fortune Cookie

Check out other slices each Tuesday at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/.

Check out other slices each Tuesday at https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/.

The other day this was my fortune:


Normally I don’t pay much attention to my fortune, not seriously anyway. However, this fortune made me think about who I am and who I’ve been. Immediately I knew that I had the fortune meant for me. I read the words over 3 times and began to analyze the meaning (LOL, I did a close read of the text, but I did not stay within the four corners). I thought about taking a snapshot of it to share with a few friends and coworkers. It made me think about what it means to be strong versus what it means to be responsive.

STRONG. To be strong is to have power. To be strong is to be able to withstand pressure. To be strong is to be powerful and forceful. I think being strong oftentimes means working to win, to outperform, to come out on top.  In strength, there may or may not be action; there may only be a a flexing of brawn or brains with little action.

RESPONSIVE. To be responsive, on the other hand, does not mean being more powerful physically or mentally in a domineering sort of way. Instead, to be responsive means to react, to respond, to answer. To be responsive means to act upon what you’ve experienced in a decisive and positive way. In responsiveness, there is clear action driven by need.

I suppose I could go all Darwinian with this and apply this to adaptation, change, and natural selection, but I do NOT want to be a science teacher, yet I suppose that adapting based on environment is what I do when I am being responsive.

I spent a good deal of my life meeting challenges head on, fighting to conquer, willing myself to be the best.  In retrospect, I think that was the wrong approach.I was working against what I wanted to accomplish, and sometimes this show of strength served only to isolate me.

I used to say, “That’s not a kid you should go head to head with because you’ll never win.” Perhaps the time to go head to head with anyone should happen rarely. Being responsive means, looking at both the details and the bigger picture to assess, react, respond, and answer.  This could take the form of differentiation in responding to what a kid needs. At the same time, this could be how we approach grown ups with whom we struggle, situations that are out of our control, curricula/standards that we may not like, and so much more.

Being responsive is about the response, but it also involves the process of considering how to best respond. To me that is a sort of moral strength–a deeply embedded fortitude. This is not the strength of winning–this is the strength of character that understands that it’s not about winning or losing; instead it’s about meeting each person where he or she is and responding to the person and situation.  And that is about much more than surviving. That is about thriving.

How might I reword the fortune:

Responsiveness moves you beyond survival.

Grit & Growth Mindest




In class, we have been reading, annotating, and discussing short informational texts related to the themes of our extended text. One of those themes is perseverance.  Some of my sixth graders have been a bit confused by listening to TED Talks and NPR articles and reading articles about growing the brain.  Today when talking to them about growth mindset and the potential to grow their brains, a student said, “Mrs. Woodall, I feel like I’m in church.”  

Another said, “Preach it!”

Woodall’s Church of Leaning? Okay…

A few questions my students asked today:

Q: Is this for a grade?

A: This is for learning–that’s what matters.

Q: Are we going to be asked about this stuff  on the CRCT?

A: No, but grit and growth mindset will help you on the CRCT, in all subjects.  Note: The CRCT is our state test.

I suppose I was preaching. Woodall’s Church of Learning. Yep.