How Middle School Cheer Camp Empowered Me

August is always like January for teachers.  It is a fresh start.  I like to set new goals, organize my new planner, and really gear up for the best school year ever!  I am always ready and excited and for a few reasons:

  • This is my calling.
  • I have done it awhile.
  • I know my WHY and see the benefits.
  • I am successful.
  • I enjoy everything about it.

So, this year I did what anyone who has taught 17 years would do, completely change it up!!  I jumped head first into the “secondary world” and I will be teaching 7th-grade PreAP English and coaching 7th-grade cheer!

My first new learning began last week as I spent four days with my cheerleaders at cheer camp.  Not only was this the most AMAZING thing ever because it allowed me to start building great relationships (the most important thing to me), but it helped ME ease into feeling comfortable with this age.  This first-grade teacher was a little nervous, but you know what……it was awesome!  12 & 13-year-olds are really just bigger 6-year-olds!  They all want to be loved and accepted!  It warmed my heart to spend time with these young ladies seeing all the great things that lie ahead for us.  But I have to say, it was the scariest thing I have done in awhile.  Baptism by fire they say, right?  I did not know the lingo, vocab, expectations, routines, and the why behind any of this as I headed out Friday.  By Monday afternoon, with a HUGE thanks to Pav, Chapa and these girls, I felt confident in this new fun and was even sad to say goodbye for a few weeks!  They coached me, were patient with me, guided me, loved on me, and trusted me.  They had patience with me as I was learning and were incredible!!!  THAT is why I did not shut down and developed the confidence in myself, something our kids need to experience. (I will share my motto once again….if you just love them and show you care, anything is possible!)

The precious 7th & 8th CMS Colt Cheerleaders!

The second new learning came at the two-day Springboard training this week.  I have taught reading and ELA for 17 years to grades K-6.  I have a master’s degree as a reading specialist.  I have done this and taught so many children how to grow as a reader, but y’all….teaching PreAP English is NOTHING like this.  I felt like a first-year teacher sitting through this training and learning the art of my content area.  This post isn’t to talk about the new “challenge” and learning that I will be taking on this year. I cannot describe my excitement about this.  I feel like every time I talk to someone about it I am smiling ear to ear.

I want to address the feeling I had the past two weeks while learning new things in a new environment.   I was overwhelmed.  I teared up at times.  I had to walk away because I was afraid I couldn’t hold it together in front of everyone.  I was scared. I was asked a question that I did not know the answer to.  I had to say out loud, “I have no idea.”  While I am someone who asks a million questions and rarely gets embarrassed about this, it still was a little embarrassing. I was shy.  Y’all, this is not me!  (Well, the me in her comfort zone!)

All that ran through my mind was – oh my goodness, these kids!  THIS is what new and scary feels like.  While so extremely exciting on one hand, it is so foreign to someone who has been in her comfort zone and is reaching outside of it.

Don’t we have kids that come to us new to the environment?  New to the state?  Country?  Maybe they have so many things going on in their minds from home that they are unable to focus on the writing lesson we ask of them.  They may not have someone who tells them WHY they are learning things, so they do not connect or see the meaning.  While in the deepest parts of our sweet hearts we think we are conscious of this, we sometimes get caught up in only thinking of what we need to teach these academically in order for them to be successful.  While it is true we do, it is also true that the greatest lessons we can teach them are life lessons. How to be patient.  How to be kind.  How to love one another.  How to trust and be trusted.  How to be responsible. How to be a good person.  They are looking to us to model this for them.  How else will they learn how to help someone who is learning something new or cheer someone on when they are learning something new?

I am grateful I learned these lessons from my parents, my teachers, my coaches, my friends, and that I can continue learning these lessons from my colleagues and students.

As we start this new school year, my new fresh start and focus will be to really observe what cannot be seen.  Having felt this feeling so strongly the past week has given me heightened empathy.  I am so grateful for this chosen new journey and hope my students learn from me how to show empathy and compassion.  The 2017-2018 school year is going to be a GREAT ONE!!

Developing Leaders

As I watched my daughter’s last soccer games, here is what was running through my head:

“It will never be this like this again.  We will never be with such an amazing team like this again.”
You see, this team of girls has been together for years and next season Age Pure goes into place and will split them up.  My daughter is 1-2 years younger than the majority of them, so she knows what this means.  This puts her in an odd position, and given different scenarios she could remain on the team, but at the cost of being the super smallest, youngest, and not much playing time.

The bottom picture shows the love and respect they have as a team. Love this!

After having this realization and pity party because I am heartbroken at the thought of leaving this group of kids and parents who have become like family, my growth minded side steps in and says, “You are right.  It will not be the same with any other team.  It wasn’t meant to be the same as this team. This is an opportunity for her to be the leader and develop others like she has received with this team.”

Now the hard part comes – convincing our nine-year-old that if she takes a risk and stays down when everyone moves up, she can be the leader and lead others.  Believe me, if there is anyone who has “leadership skills” it is this girl!!

It’s scary, though.  It’s scary not being with people who you are comfortable with.  It’s scary not doing the thing you have done and filling the role you have filled, the one you fit so perfectly into.  It’s like having your soothing mechanism taken away.  Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, but if we can see the value in developing others and being willing to be developed, we will all learn and grow so much. Easier said than done, right?

I have written about Coach Doug many times and how much we adore him and all he has done to teach these children life lessons.  He has a gift of coaching and teaching.  He has instilled in these girls the LOVE of the game in a world where competitive at a young age is the way people are pushed.  I have never seen a team play as one, truly and utterly sacrificing goals themselves so that they can see every person on the team make one. That is this team, and you know it is because of how they were taught.  There is a special place for Coach Doug in our hearts forever.

Just like Coach Doug did for his team, we as educators need to do the same for our teams.  We need to seek out those students with leadership skills. Show them how to use these to do amazing things. We need to seek out those teachers with leadership skills and build this capacity in our schools.
I will leave you with this final thought.  What are we waiting for?