My Next Thirty Years

As our principal rolled out the 2015-2016 theme for our staff, honestly at first I had no clue what it was!  🙂  It was not until he began explaining why it was chosen did something awesome happen. First, I realized how great and intentional he is at everything he does for the school and staff.  Second, many feelings stirred inside of me.

Our theme is:                           
30 for 30 (like the ESPN series)

30 Years of Working Hard and Changing Lives. 

With of course, our goal to continue on even better for 30 more!

This year is our school’s 30th year anniversary and what an incredible way to celebrate it than with memories of our first thirty years.
If you do not know about the 30 for 30 series, here’s my attempt to explain.  🙂  It is a TV series of films on ESPN that showcase the issues, rivals, events, and such in the sports world that transformed the culture and impacted our world from 1979-2009.   Each one is told from a different filmmaker’s point of view and tells a compelling story that many have forgotten.  

Relating this theme to our school year:

  • What are the implications for O.C. Taylor and telling our stories this year?  
  • What stories do we want retold and not forgotten after these next 30 years?  

How empowering to students and teachers is that?!  It stirred up some really powerful feelings inside me – and this is my first year at this school!!  🙂  I can guarantee every teacher in that building felt a refreshed sense of WHY we are here doing what we are doing.  Mr. Kinney brought it back and made it real for us.

Here are a few things we know.

  1. We will be very intentional in everything we do.
  2. We will be very intentional in how we are putting our stories out there so that they are to be retold and not forgotten.
  3. We want stories to be told from kids and parents about how we are a community.  
  4. We want stories to be told from kids about how much they know they are loved by their teachers because we want to leave a legacy of relationships that will not disappear.
  5. We want stories to be told from kids about how much they love the learning they are doing and how proud they are.  
  6. We want stories to be told from kids about how empowered they feel because of their teachers.
  7. Inspired Minds = Innovative Society …..We need that innovative society for our future, so we need to inspire these minds TODAY!

We need to be the first ones to communicate and tell our stories.  We need to tell about the awesome things going on in our school and be an open window for parents and community members to peek in and see for themselves.

I will never forget when my daughter was in Pre-K at the ECDC with Mrs. Jennifer Pettit.  The amazing Mrs. Jennifer.  The one we loved so dearly because of the relationships she developed with each child and family.

Mrs. Jennifer and my sweet little Pre-K Sofie.

Do you know what she did that was so AMAZING!?  Are you ready, it’s a huge secret?!  She blogged.  She talked about the amazing things they were doing in her class.  She always had pictures of every single child on the blog.  For a mother to this only child, it was the little piece of sunshine in my day of being away from my child that I craved.  I got to see her happy and learning through this blog.  I never doubted anything Mrs. Jennifer did or said for one minute!  This is exactly why I started blogging with my class years ago.  I wanted every one of my parents to see a glimpse of their child’s daily life when they couldn’t be there. It establishes so much trust and understanding between all parties.  It means so much. It actually meant a lot to my daughter, too. Two years later, she still looked at the blog and wanted to remember those days.  Hmmm, this sounds familiar….stories of special memories continuing to be retold years later.  It all starts with communicating from the inside out.

I look forward to embarking on this incredible 30th year celebrating a school that has many sentimental, fun, and special memories to celebrate.

Here’s to Our Next Thirty Years!  🙂

Lessons of Growth and Connecting Resulting from the Sadness of Change

Okay, so I know that lately I have been blogging about many things close to my heart….well, this one will not be any different!  Writing helps sort through my thinking, learning, emotions…and I have had such strong emotions about this lately.  This morning something knocked me over the head and said, “Stop focusing on the sad part…Imagine the great things you can do!”  You know what, that something was right!

A few days ago, I went up to my new classroom for the first time since May.  You know that feeling of….”Oh my, where do I even begin?”  You stand there and stare for a bit.  Then, once you start looking around, “Oh yeah, I forgot I had THIS!”  Then, your friend from across the hall comes over and you start talking and…..2 hours later y’all have nothing done!  Or is that just me? 😉

This year was a bit different for me.  My heart was a little heavy as I walked into my room because I didn’t have my teaching right arm, my other half that has been across the hall from me for years. And my dear friend. After staring at this room for a minute, I sat down and checked Facebook.  🙂  Isn’t that what every teacher who is still on summer break, but decides to go get a glance at what lies ahead then gets overwhelmed does?!


I saw that my sweet friend posted she was in her classroom too, and missing me!  I knew right then, we need to find a way to be strong through this and make an even bigger difference in the lives of children.  After messaging my friend that I missed her too, I began to get to work.

In case you are wondering, I did get some things done!  Does anyone think it might have to do with the fact that my friend wasn’t across the hall?  LOL!  After seeing her at a district meeting yesterday, we both laughed at the fact that we were not sure how we could do it without each other, but noticed we got a lot accomplished on this working day because we didn’t have each other there.  Oh, the irony.

So, this brings me to my big A-HA moment of today. As I sat and thought about this, my friend emailed asking about a digital creation we did with our kids on the first day that we ALL loved and that helped us really get to know our kids. As I emailed her back, my mind quickly slipped into it’s comfort of our “thing”……(insert my smiling heart), which is feeding off each other’s ideas, which in turn sparks new ones, which sparks discussion of changing things, and at the end of our conversation the lesson we had in mind is now better than it ever began because we had each other to talk it through

Instantly I knew, we do not need to be across the hall to talk it through.  We just need to reach out to each other however we can.  Isn’t that what all educators need to do? Reach out and connect. Sometimes as educators we are so married to the idea of our “team”, our “grade level”, and our own campus that we rarely look outside the walls of our own little box to get new, refreshing ideas or hear something that just might challenge our thinking. Is it the fear of change?  The fear of standing out alone?  The fear of the unknown?  For me, it was the fear of feeling emotions of sadness that I didn’t want to feel because my known was changing to unknown.

I want to share this picture I posted on Twitter.  This is my sweet friend, Laura Follett.  I can surprisingly say that where we are great together, it will be this moment where we will be even better because of many things.  For one, we are both in new positions with new people and without each other.  We can learn so many things and SHARE what we learn from seeing a different perspective.  Another reason is that we are growing educators!  We reach out, connect, and want to learn as much as we can from the smartest people out there so that we can SHARE with everyone we know! But that doesn’t mean I won’t miss her to pieces.  🙂  Who will give me MY hug when I get emotional about a child and cry?  Who will remind me to slow down because they are the chillest person I know and I am all over the place?! Maybe those things won’t happen on a daily basis with her, but I DO KNOW we are only a phone call, text, or email away from supporting, challenging, pushing, motivating, and being there for each other!  That’s what matters most.  Connecting whatever way we can.

My HOPE is that every educator has that person to reach out to and talk it through.  Two minds are always better than one!  Hey, go for three or four minds and imagine the possibilities!!  

Collaborating within the school is very important, but so is collaborating across the district, and even more so with the world!  We teach our kids to blog and connect globally to learn from each other.  We want them to experience the ideas of others and be well rounded.  We teach them the importance of making new connections and building relationships in order to be awesome in this world today. Are WE doing this?  I’d like to think that as a whole, yes we are…thanks to Twitter!  (If you haven’t made friends with Twitter as an educational tool, you are completely missing out on the BEST PROFESSIONAL development and relationship builder out there!!)  

We are all in this together for the reason of changing the lives of children!  It’s all about the children.  Always. No great teacher ever changed lives by saying, “I would like to stay in my room by myself and just do the boring lessons I have always done and leave after the bell.”

Reach out to those teachers on your team, across the hall, on your campus, on another campus, on another campus in another grade (getting crazy now, huh?!), on Twitter at another school in your state, or even another country!!  There are amazing people out there and there is no better time than NOW to connect to make a difference! I’m so excited for my year at my new school with all the great people there!!!  I hope your year is full of happiness and excitement in the lives of your students and YOU!

Straight From the Heart of My Sweet Student – Building Relationships Matter

As “the big day” gets closer, I begin thinking about what this school year will bring for me. Normally, I have a vision what my classroom will look like, which kiddos are coming up, what my curriculum looks like, all those things that make us feel somewhat comfortable.  Not this year.  

This past week I have started thinking about what my year will look like and I don’t have a clue! If you know how Type A I am, this will come as a bit of a surprise to you that I am at peace with this – really!!  

What I do know is that I am leaving a school that I have spent the past 7 years teaching Reading Recovery, 1st graders, and 2nd graders.  I have had classroom after classroom of amazing kids, incredible families, and a fabulous support system!  No lie.  I have developed some of the best friendships from these families. Truth be told, I love my fellow teachers there dearly, but it was the thought of leaving those families that tore me apart when I finally made the decision to step out of the comfort zone. I couldn’t imagine not seeing them each day.  I have learned so many lessons about myself from these children.   I was quickly reminded about how growth happens when we take risks. When we step out of our known to the unknown.  It might scare me a little, but I try and think of the difference I will make in my new school! 

Just this past week I received the best gift in the form of a small email!   I received an email from a prior student who is going into 4th grade now.  I know, some people do not agree with letting students email, but it is important to me that all my babies past, present, and future know that I am there for them and believe in them.  ALWAYS.  

To sum up the email:

 This sweet girl expressed how sad she is that I will not be at my old school.  She then told me just how important it was that I was there every morning to give her a hug when she came to see me.  (Let me tell you, she came every. single. morning.  And I loved it!) She told me how I was her security and her rock for the past few years and that starting her day by giving me a hug meant everything to her. She told me it means the most to her that I really believe in her and encourage her to follow her dreams.  Then, she ended with who will she hug every morning?  🙁  Now, that killed me.  But don’t worry….I emailed her and told her to go to my 2 BFFs there, hug them, and take a selfie and they can send it to me!  Or even a video! Who knew?  Technology could keep us connected?!  😉

I still read the email and tear up.  You never know how much one simple act means to someone.  I loved every second of seeing this precious girl every morning and keeping in contact with her, but I never knew how much my words of believing and encouraging her meant to her.  At times, seeing her smile and her hug each morning reminded me of why I do what I do, especially when I felt like crying!  It is these small moments that build relationships with our children.  These words that we are not even aware are making a difference.  This is why I will always defend letting my students email me.  I will always get to know their families personally and let them get to know me.  I am human, too.  I will always be accessible to these families because IT MATTERS!!

You may have seen many tweets recently from many great people about how important building relationships are that first week.  There are so many great reminders out there of what is important (our kids) and what really matters (building relationships) not just the first month at school, but EVERY SINGLE DAY!

So here is what I think of today as I think about how my year is going to look.  

  • How am I going to build these same relationships with the families at my new school?
  • How am I going to get to know these kids I am with the first few days so that they trust me and know I believe in them?
  • How will I develop all of these in a new role besides classroom teacher?
I can tell you that I will focus on getting to know each child.  Just listening to them and letting them know you are there and support them means the world to them.  Plus, it sure means the world to this teacher to know that her students still think of this small gesture years later.  

 I’ve always said at the beginning of the year when things aren’t ready quite like I want them, “Well, I am not sure how ___ will go, but I know it will work out just fine because I will just love on these kids.”  Just LOVE on them!   Imagine the things that could happen in your classroom when they know you love and believe in them!