Listening Well To Youth Is A Mindset

I read this quote on the Learning Forward website awhile back and it continues to stick in my mind.

Student Voice is something more and more people are talking about now.

What does it look like?

Do you really just let the students decide?

What if they say something that is not nice?

Just like many teachers, I know that I began doing this years ago, we just never gave it a title.  We thought it was just great teaching because you wanted to do whatever you could to engage your students and let them know you care about them.  I guess this is why the quote sticks with me. Asking my students how I can make a lesson better or seeking input for my own growth has always just been my mindset.  The only difference is it increases and stretches with each year that passes.

This past week after a long, exhausting day full of nonstop activities on my feet, I sat down and thought to myself, “I am so completely exhausted! I just want to cry, lay in bed and sleep until the weekend. I just don’t know how I can finish this work I have and get up early.” (It was one of those hard days where you are too tired to even eat dinner!)  Then it hit me.  These kids are in my same boat, except they have so many new things being fired at them academically, new rules, new social circles, and lots of extra-curricular activities.  I want to know how many of them get up before 6:00am for athletics practice.  I want to know if they eat breakfast.  This will give me a glimpse as to why certain behaviors (positive and negative) are showing up.

I battled with how to ask them because I know that a Google survey is what they see most often and I am trying so hard not to use it, but in this instance, with 150 students and info that I wanted to look at by class, it was the most efficient.

Let me tell y’all, what I got back was more than I could have ever imagined and I was blown away at their honesty and feedback to help me guide instruction and management.  It was interesting how completely different each class period was! I could not make this stuff up, friends.

Not only did I ask when they got home from activities at night, when they normally went to sleep, and things like that which effect their academic learning.  I asked them to tell me how they would like to be rewarded, how they want to move forward with this next unit, and where they want to sit so they can learn best. I wanted them to know I understand sometimes we like to work alone. Sometimes we like groups and sometimes we like partners.  I was going to let them do it whatever way they chose because what is important is the learning, not forcing people to work together. It definitely made a bunch of shy, type A students smile! 🙂

Below is a visual of a few things asked.  Without even knowing I gained insight into their Love Language (if you are familiar with that) by the responses I got! Bonus!

What I love from this is that the next day I showed them the visuals and talked through what the class chose.  I said, “The people have spoken.”  I did not show any info that was sensitive so they will continue to trust me when I ask.  They were in awe of the pie charts and data.  We all loved it! (I might be a little nerdy over data!)

As I read through their responses as to how they know I care, they revealed clearly what is important: “You ask us and listen, like this survey. You want to make us own our learning.  You care and want to give us the best so we can learn by asking us to tell you. You ask us how we are doing, and about our day. You check on us to see if we need help. You smile at us. You let us choose our seats and have a snack.”

So yes, there was great data revealed around their learning needs from this survey that was extremely helpful.  However, the sparkling, bright light shined completely on RELATIONSHIPS!!  ASKING them and DOING it!

That is key when you think about Student Voice.  There is not a certain way it must be done because each class needs different options, but there is one rule.  If you ASK them and they take the time to respond, you MUST act on it, one way or another.  Even if that means saying, “You know, I heard your idea, but here is why we cannot do this. Is there another way?”

When we stop to listen to our students, their words speak so loudly and give us such a deeper look into their little lives and what they crave. It almost always gives me a new perspective about my students.  I seek to understand first before I even try to be understood.  For the teens I teach, I could not spend enough time asking their input because it is soo important to them to feel like they matter!  So this survey provided me with so many incredible things to take and put into action for each class period.  It makes my heart overflow when I see them smile because I honor their individuality or hear them say, “She said she would do it and she did.” You cannot pay enough money to hear that being said, because that means you have their trust.  When trust is there, you can move mountains!

I continue to try to push myself to ask for my students’ input, even if what I am asking may have an answer I do not want to hear or it is out of my comfort zone.  I know this is the time when we will all grow the most!

Learning To Honor the Space Between

What a thought!  This spoke so loudly to me this week.  Going back into the classroom to teach 7th-grade Pre-AP English, Language Acquisition, and Literacy Achievement might be the hardest thing I have done in awhile! Behind every reason that I asked for and wanted this challenge, is every fear and emotion that do not always feel so good.

You see, I am a Learner.  My top strength on the strengths finder assessment was Learner.  It is in my nature to soak everything up and try anything new.  I love finding different ways to meet the needs of my students and I am always looking for new things to learn.  This is why when my heart felt led to middle school I said to myself, let’s do this!

One thing I was not expecting was how much the move from elementary to middle school would change my comfort level I had based on experience and knowledge. So, I will honor the space between no longer having the luxury of feeling ahead of the game and at ease with where I am headed because I have done it before.  NOT YET!  It is taking me time and extra effort to learn the content, learn how I want to share it and make it my own, and to large groups of 12 and 13-year olds who will receive it with excitement. 🙂

So, like the quote above states, “Between No Longer and Not Yet” because soon it will come. Soon I will feel that comfort, but the growth I sought from this change is my WHY!

I wanted to grow.  I am growing like I never imagined.  Each day I learn so many new things about how middle school systems function, all about the social and emotional needs of teenagers, and why I have absolutely fallen in love with this position!  It is uncomfortable not understanding everything easily and knowing right off the bat.  It is sometimes awkward trying to find my place of comfort in each day and squeeze in those important moments to build relationships with the 150 teens that whirl in and out of my classroom. But, I could not be happier doing this and alongside the most supportive administration and staff around!

My words to anyone who is thinking of completely changing up what they are doing but they are scared…..take the leap!  Make the jump!  I have never grown more than I have in just the last month. And I LOVE IT!

Forward Is Forward

This past year my grandmother, who is about to turn 90 years old, was moved to Florida to be closer to my parents. She truly is in great shape healthwise and doing very well, even after surgery to her brain! She recovered even better than expected, but cries each day that she is never going to be back to how she was before. I keep telling her that she will with time, and that each day she gets better. It just takes awhile.

She chose the amazing living center she gets to live in that offers a variety of fun activities (Wii bowling, dances, bingo, a workout area, church services, dinners, shopping, etc.) and right on the beach. This past month all my family flew there to spend time with her and each other for the first time in a long, long time. My daughter first got to visit with her when she was in kindergarten when my grandpa passed away. It definitely was not the best situation, but it was something special watching my own child and my grandmother interact.


This time was different in many ways, but just as special. I recently read an article on Facebook that has been going around about a note left from an elderly woman when she passed away that said, See Me. This really hit me hard because as I sat with my grandmother this week, I did see her. I saw the grandmother I always have known – strong as ever physically and mentally, but I noticed that emotionally she was shutting down.
Sure, she told me the same stories and worries over and over within a few minutes, but that’s expected as we age. I sat and listened each day over and over when she told me she is ready to go because she is only existing and not truly living. After a few days of hearing this when she said to me in tears, “Bridget, I know you don’t want to hear this but why doesn’t the good Lord just take me? I’m not living.” I felt compelled to say something.
I said, “But you could be, grandma. You are healthy. You have many people here who care about you and check on you. You have friends and family. You just have to do it. Yes, it’s change and it is very hard for you to accept this life change, but you can do it.” She shook her head and agreed with me. But in all honesty, I really don’t blame her. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it is for such an active woman to move across the country from the home she was born in 90 years ago to a place that is not “home” and now has restrictions medically.
This situation accompanied with my daughter asking me why grandma is just sitting there when we arrive and not watching tv or anything (which totally baffles this constantly moving active child!) had me think about change in general.
First of all, I had to explain to my daughter that “back in the day” people did not have things constantly at their fingertips. They could just sit there and relax in the stillness. We also sat by an elderly gentleman on the flight out there who just sat there. GASP! She was so concerned about him as to why he didn’t read anything or watch a movie or listen to something. Oh sweet child…. I was not preaching because I am not one that can do this. Yet!
I am one of the few weird ones that likes change. When it is big change, it might make my stomach have butterflies for a little bit but then I press on. I appreciate flexibility and thrive in changing situations, just about as much as I thrive on a schedule! It’s strange. But I know not everyone likes change. I realized that after many years of being independent and being able to do many things, this shift in having to rely on someone else is not going to be something my grandma ever adjusts to. And that is okay. I have heard it said that as long as we are moving forward, we are growing. Like the picture above says, it doesn’t matter how fast we go or how far we go…..as long as we just go. This is what I keep telling her every time we talk. “I understand it’s hard. You are doing so well with this change. Go to dinner with your friend. Try Wii bowling on Tuesdays.” (Let me tell you how fun it was explaining what Wii was AND how to say it!!)
Change is hard. As easy as it is for some to adjust to, it is not easy for most. As long as we are moving forward, we are growing. In life as we age. In life as we live each day parenting, teaching, coaching. All that really matters is that we are taking baby steps forward because if we refuse to do that then this is when our growth stops.
I truly believe this! I treasured my time with my grandmother talking, just being there to listen to her stories or be a shoulder to cry on. I attended a church service with her and all the other elderly in her living center while I was there. I see how much just moving forward and doing something affects your brain and positive outlook. This applies to all human beings of all ages.

I Chose B…Dig Deep!

As I begin this post, I am hesitant how to approach it.  I am transparent and authentic.  I am honest.  I am real.  My life is pretty much an open book, but writing about this really shows my vulnerability; however, I know other people are going through this or will be and I want to share in hopes of comforting someone else who might need it.

I treasure learning new things.  I crave reflection time and value the growth process.  I love feedback to facilitate my growth.  Then…it actually happened.  (I know what you are thinking…everyone loves change until it means they have to change.  This is not that at all.) Time has passed and I can now write about this without crying. 😉

To sum it up, I wanted something and I didn’t get it.  As a reflective learner and one who loves to grow, I asked for feedback.  I asked a person I have the highest respect for as a person and educator.  This person asked me, “I know you asked for feedback because you are a reflective person and want to grow, but do you really want the feedback?  I was surprised for a minute because I had never been asked this question before, but after reading Thank You for the Feedback I see the value in this.

Of course, I wanted the feedback! I expected it to be something I already pinpointed about myself, but it was not.  To be honest with you, today I cannot even recall much of the conversation because all I heard was the one sentence that I took straight to the heart and personally.  As a matter of fact, I probably blocked all the positive from that conversation and replayed the one sentence in my mind.

My reason: it was feedback over something I viewed as something I had NO control over.  It was just me. There was nothing I could do about it.  Or so I thought.

I cannot tell you the amount of tears I shed over this.  At the time, I can remember saying to my friend many times, “I am not sure why I am so upset over this!” – while I sobbed to her over the phone and in person.  A very wise, professional colleague, and one that I look to for advice often asked about this and I told him I did not get it.  He asked why I was upset and I told him I don’t really know. Then he hit me with the bomb, “You just aren’t used to being told no.”  WHAT?!  I may have gasped out loud right there, given him the stink eye, but then said, “You know what, you are right!”  That was just one reason.

Once I had time to go through some of the grieving stages, I revisited the feedback that I felt was personal and I had no control over. Here is where it got real, friends.  I had two choices:

A.) Have a pity party and disregard the feedback from the person.

or

B.) Dig deep.  Look inside and figure out how to accept, learn from this, and come out stronger.

I chose B….and it was the BEST (and hardest) personal and professional growth that I have ever gone through.

The events that unfolded after this revealed God’s bigger plan for me.  We always say that things work out like they are supposed to. I know to trust God’s plan, but it is sure way harder to actually do!  Here is what would have never happened had I gotten what I thought was best for me at that moment.

  • I would have never gone for my administration certification. 
  • I would have never met my principal mentor, who turned out to be a precious friend that came at just the right moment in my life. 
  • I would have never realized that teaching middle school is where I need and want to be right now.   
  • I would have never gotten the middle school ELA teaching position at the exact middle school I wanted to be in.
  • I would have never learned what the saying, “Be patient and trust God’s timing.” really feels like. 
  • I would have never realized how amazing it feels to choose to work through a very tough time (that other people do not even realize you are going through) and come out wiser, stronger, and happier.  

I sit here writing this now (a year later) and can say with a huge smile that it was a hard thing to go through, but WOW….I am exactly where I want and need to be. I know this and it just feels right.  🙂

Life is more than good, friends!  It is AMAZING! Trust the timing.

Balance – I Failed

This is my first post in months.  I find it kind of ironic that my One Word was Enough, but going deeper it was Balance. This year was about Balance.  It was plastered everywhere I looked so that I would remember, and it was the one thing I did not do.   If I dare say it…I failed. (gasp!)

I feel like I should defend myself by explaining every reason why, and I will, but I am sharing this to share the learning in my failure.  It was through these failures that some of the greatest lessons and moments happened.

In October I began coursework for my Administration Certification and in November they finally narrowed down all the symptoms and fatigue I was feeling to extreme Adrenal Fatigue. Having the personality I have I knew that even though I tried (for a whole month) to slow down and be okay with resting, I could not. I failed. It was almost more stressful for my body to try to rest at this point.  I was going to push myself and maximize this learning opportunity. Ten years ago when I completed my master’s degree I said the same thing, “I’m just going to take a few classes and see how it goes.”  A year later I was graduating with a 4.0 and stomach ulcers.  I just couldn’t help it.

In January, I was full blown in the program with coursework assignments, 300+ practicum hours required and assignments, working, and attempting to be the best wife and mommy I could be.  Then, we decided to put our house on the market and move to live in the community in which I work and my daughter attends school.  We had been contemplating this for awhile and it just made sense now that things seemed to feel right.  We knew instantly when we made the move over to O.C. Taylor two years ago that we were in the place we were meant to be.  Families overwhelmingly welcomed us with kindness and we instantly formed great friendships with these wonderful families.

And so in February it began….selling our house, insisting I make a 4.0 in my classes, completing practicum hours, keeping up my exercise routine, being a wife, a mommy, working, moving most of our things into a storage unit, moving out of our house and living out of a suitcase with our friend for two months with a child and a dog who ended up with an episode of colitis because SHE was stressed (BREATHE!), house hunting in this fiercely competitive market with very specific parameters, finding the perfect home for us, moving stuff out of storage and into our new house!

As if that wasn’t enough, the last two years I have been led to wanting to teach middle school!  This is something I have never done and I am sure you know the elementary and secondary worlds are two completely different beasts!  My husband does not always understand my craziness, most people don’t, but he always supports it!  So in May I began packing and in June I was moving out of my current school and into a new school, moving school stuff from storage to my new school, and switching jobs completely from being an elementary literacy specialist to stepping back into the classroom as a 7th grade ELA teacher and becoming a cheer coach!  (BREATHE!)

All of this was going on WHILE I was completing my Administration Certification courses, which brings us to today.   June….having done it all AND PASSED that 5-hour online TExES 068 Principal Certification test…and you know what y’all?  I survived.  Somehow I did.  I survived, and so did my family.

So, I am sure you are wondering…..how did I fail at my One Word: Balance?

  • I failed at being a friend that sends birthday cards.  
  • I failed at being in shape and taking care of my body, for me personally.  
  • I failed at getting cute teacher gifts and all those on-top-of-it things.  
  • I failed at family dinners having to miss some because of web conferences, meetings, and homework.  
  • I failed at balancing all of the things I wanted to do and all of the places I wanted to be at one time.

But here is what I learned through this failure learning experience.

  1. I am a deeply committed person.  When I commit to something, it is at full speed, not halfway.
  2. I love learning. I mean, REALLY love the process of learning new things. After all, it is my Top Strengths Theme!  It truly is the process and not the outcome that excites me.
  3. Children really are resilient.  They will be okay if we are not catering to them and they have to make their own fun for a period of time. 
  4. Hard work pays off.  I already believe this, but I was able to model this for my child.
  5. After reading about my other Top Strengths Theme, Achiever,  I was able to understand that internal fire burning inside me that pushes me to always do more.  I will have to develop the ability to be okay with the whisper of discontent and that craving of new learning.  This is okay. This is who I am.
  6. I strengthened some friendships and developed some new ones that have become my very dearest friends through this process. 
  7. Unfortunately, it also revealed friendships where I was giving more and when I became busy and stopped being the lead giver, they weakened. 
  8. God really does only give you what you can handle.  
  9. I can’t do it all.  I want to with all my heart, but I can’t. I started saying no.
Finally……
   10.  I am going to rest awhile before starting my doctorate!!  😉

Part I: Looking at the Whole Child reflections

I expected to gain new insight on Literacy and Dyslexia.  I expected to tie this all to what I am most passionate about – The Whole Child!  I expected to learn new things, but I did not expect the information to be so closely tied to the other topics I am so passionate about: the brain, positive mindsets, ADHD, and Executive Functioning! Boy, was I in for a treat!
I know that when we learn things we need to “unpack them” and put them in their spots to be able to mentally hold on to the information. So, this post is just Part I of my reflecting about the Whole Child part.  Part II about specific reading skills is coming!! I am going to use the idea that was recently shared on Twitter by Jon Gordon.
L – What LEFT an impression on you?
E – What ENERGIZED you?
A – What do you want to ASK more about?
D – What will you do DIFFERENTLY as a result of what you heard?
L – I was surprised at how the keynote speakers shared how important having a positive, growth mindset is not only for the reluctant readers, but for the teachers who teach these readers.  Personally, I have been preaching this for years and understand the benefit, but I haven’t heard it much in the world of literacy and dyslexia instruction, so it was incredibly refreshing and exciting to know that we are all getting there. 
E – Anytime you go to a learning conference or event in the summer where it is the choice of the educator to be there, you will find educators who are passionate about what they do.  Passionate People – that is what energizes me!  
Learning about how ADHD and Executive Function Deficits link with Dyslexia is incredibly insightful!  I could sit for two days and listen to people speak about these topics and the Whole Child and be completely inspired!  Oh wait…that is what I did!  🙂 
It ENERGIZED me to learn new insight about how these connect and what we can do as educators to help our students.  ALL STUDENTS…whether they are students with dyslexia, reluctant readers, strong readers, or students with active bodies and minds that need a little more guidance. 
A – You know, I am always asking questions.  About everything.  Let me share a quick story of Serendipity from yesterday.  I like to hand write my notes on paper because I believe in the connection between memory and writing by hand.   As I write notes, I star questions I have to come back to later or ask. Then, I go back and reread my notes between sessions to make connections and reflect.  
As I reflecting during a break I saw a question I wrote during the ADHD and Executive Function Deficit session: “HOW? Where do we find ideas of how to directly teach these things?”  This had been sitting on my mind for awhile at that point. 

Humor me for a minute, I promise you will learn something: Here is an example of a minute in my ADHD brain. I decided to google some info on this, but as I went to open a tab to search I clicked on the Tweetdeck that I had open from the day and started reading my feed.  I saw a post from someone I follow responding to someone else. 
Her response made me curious (about what, I don’t know!) and I clicked to see what she was responding to (because that was so on task), which led me to a tweet of a lady talking about a blog. Maybe it was the phrase she tweeted that drew me in? Do you see why I end up learning about the most amazing things, yet I cannot explain how I got there?!  
I ended up clicking on the blog by @StuartShanker and reading this incredible post! Here is the crazy thing…..WAIT FOR IT.…… It was about Self -Regulation!  He gave a few resources to read, which sent me to Amazon, which offered other books that are helpful! The crazy thing is that I already owned 3 of these at home!  
I would just like to document that for once, my internet searching/ open tab ADHD came in quite handy!  The exact question I was searching for fell into my lap because I was led astray!  LOL!
This was MY QUESTION! Where to get info on HOW to directly teach these executive functioning skills that our children need in order to get to the point of Self-Regulation and do this themselves. 
The BEST resource on this is this book!  I LOVE it and refer back to it often!
Here are a few more I have that they suggested that are great reads as well!
                  
D – What will I do Differently? As a Literacy Specialist who serves children with Dyslexia and children who require a little more direct instruction in reading skills, I do not have as much freedom in my time spent with students to focus as much as I would like on teaching these skills.  I will do what I do best, and share all of the information I learn with my friends and do what I can.  Little by little.
However, as I reflect I also know that I will be even more mindful of my actions on how I respond when a child comes to me already shut down or with a negative mindset.   Learning how this originates, why it happens, where in the brain it starts, and how even when we think the child “knows” and “should be able to control this”….there is so much research that shows they truly don’t.   EVERY little interaction we have with a child can be the ONE thing that outlines their path of success.  
If you have never considered the role Executive Function Deficits plays in a child’s learning, I strongly urge –  no, I BEG you to research this a little more! 🙂


 

Give Yourself Grace and the “Okay” To Play

Fighting for Grace – As a Child of God, As a Daughter, As a Wife, As a Parent, As an Educator….you name it.

I seriously have fears that my daughter is growing up missing out on something (not really sure what, but something) because I am an educator/parent-AKA “teacher mom” and she a “teacher’s kid.”

I felt so relieved when I read this great article,  7 Ways to Survive the Teacher Mom Guilt because it hit me that there are others that feel this way too! I am not alone. Recently I started reading For the Love by Jen Hatmaker.  She uses humor and just plain realness to urge us to give ourselves grace in this unattainable Pinterest life world of impossible standards. It’s like she is encouraging us Teacher Moms to UNITE and stop this ridiculous guilt we place on ourselves. 🙂

It’s not only just the Teacher Mom Guilt.  There is the dreaded technology time battle.  I’m just going to be real y’all. Sometimes she wants to do something on it and I instantly answer, “You need to do something else.”  It doesn’t matter if she hasn’t even been on it that day!  #truth  I have no reason other than my fictitious belief that a “good mom” is supposed to tell her child not to get on her device and do something outside.  Right?  Isn’t that how we grew up?  😉 You hear that voice in your head too.

  • It takes away family time.  
  • We played games outside growing up.
  • Too much screen time these days.
  • It isolates them. 
  • They aren’t using their brain.  

Then the other day something happened.  I decided to say  you know what, I can fluff the laundry one more time and just “play” with her what she was playing on her device.

Two things happened:

1.) What I judged as a mindless activity, was actually igniting her creativity.  She was using her creativity in ways I am not sure I could have done, and quite honestly barely understood!   This also led to me see a passion she had for something I didn’t know about. 🙂

2.) I got to see this when I stopped and gave myself grace to just “play” with her, like Jen talks about in her book.

Which leads me to the biggest realization that day, and that is that I realized our children are living in a different time.  A different world.  That is just the truth.  Accept it or not, but it is not necessarily always a bad, evil thing.

Before you mumble under your breath, this lady is crazy suggesting technology time whenever…..please know that I am not advocating for kids to be on their devices all the time.

I am a big believer of everything in moderation, but this was the “quality time” that my child was wanting from me.  That was it.  Times have changed where quality time CAN happen using devices, and it does way more often than we imagine if we open our minds to it.  Think of all the amazing things that come from YouTube creations, and lately the musical.ly videos that all kids are completely loving!

Here is the beauty of the lesson I learned.  We were doing something she loved and saw as quality time instead of spending quality time only doing things that I felt met the “criteria.” What criteria, you ask?  Oh, just the expectations I felt I had to meet that were not mine! Thanks Jen for giving me that okay to give myself grace to do it our way without feeling like a bad mom!

We had more fun in those moments together than any of the ones I had created this summer on our list!  She made the comment about how much she has wanted me to play that with her.   That hit me pretty hard.  I “play” things with her, but I never realized how many of them are things I encourage because of my own agenda. (Have to multi-task while I play, want her to learn things and create, use critical thinking, practice her talents, want her to read or write, math, etc….teacher mom problems). There go those impossible standards again.

Quality time is not seen as quality time to our children if they do not connect with it, and if they do not view this time together as happy and fun does it really become a precious memory? Maybe.  Maybe not.

Times have changed. What some children enjoy and can do for hours is like nothing we could have possibly imagined.  Yet, if we open our minds to stop and “play” we might discover just how passionate and creative they are being.

All they want is TIME doing the things THEY love WITH us.  Making moments.  The moments that will carry us on and become precious memories. These moments might look different than we know from our childhood, but different is good. I know my goal is to embrace it and give myself grace!

Things That Are Worth It Are Not Always Easy

Spring Break – a time to relax on the beach, clean out closets, and do nothing school related, right?  Most people would say absolutely, YES!

This year I decided to visit the freezing, nonstop snowing state of Utah and learn something new!  I love to ski and have for years.  Each and every year I say, I really want to try to snowboard.  However, every year passes and I resort back to what is comfortable and easy for me.  Is it because I don’t want to “waste” the little time I have on learning something new and fearing the unknown results?  Quite possibly.

So this year when my husband said he was going to board, I said, “Wait a second, I have always wanted to do that.  I am too!”  This was our daughter’s first time to ski and I wasn’t quite sure how we would all be beginners at the same time, but it worked!

I’m not sure if you can see the gigantic smile on my daughter’s face, but she LOVED flying past us!

The pictures reveal smiles and successes.  What you do not see here are the moments of frustration.  I am embarrassed to admit that I was not the most positive learner in these moments. Hey, first step is admitting it right?!

  • My daughter only became upset when her hands were frozen because her gloves did not seem to be working well, so we bought new ones and she was set! 
  • My husband only slightly showed his frustration with learning something new, or so he says. I didn’t even see him frustrated.  🙂
  • I became frustrated at the most unthinkable part of snowboarding, getting myself up to get started!   I picked up the form, the turns, the importance of balance and positioning toes, feet, and everything quite easily.  (I think being a yoga person really helped make this easy for me.)
Snowboarding really is an all around different mindset than skiing. With skiing you can cruise off the lift and take off.  When snowboarding, you ride the lift with one foot strapped in and one out. So when you get up to the top, you have to sit and strap the other foot in before you go.  THIS was the part that got me. Every time.  
My frustration grew every time I went to pull myself up and I would get so close and fall right back on my bottom. Hard. ***Cue the embarrassing moment music……
I actually sat in the middle of the slope (where everyone on the lift and skiing could see me very clearly) and dropped my head between my knees and began to cry in frustration.  It was pitiful.  I didn’t think I would ever get up.  BUT, it didn’t last long because I caught myself in this thinking and had a little conversation with myself, “What are you doing?  Stop crying. This is ridiculous! This isn’t going to change anything. I can do this. Breathe. I just have to keep at it.”   I am sure I looked like a fool as I talked to myself as I got up and kept going.  I was going to do this.  I was going to succeed.  I would push on until I did because that is what I do.  I kept thinking…

Why share that embarrassing moment?  The reason: It really taught me a lesson in positive thinking.
So often, as teachers, we want to try something new, but we never do.  We always go back to what is comfortable and easy, either because we know it 100% works or in fear of the unknown.  When we finally do try something new, we sometimes realize it might not be as “easy” as we thought and become frustrated.  Our old thinking and old mindsets quickly become what we turn to and how we react. However, my experience shows that even if our old mindset and way of reacting kicks in, we CAN change it.  We can use positive talk and talk ourselves out of this.  We can talk ourselves into remembering we can do whatever we put our minds to. 
Maybe you are already a positive self-talker in many situations.  Maybe you need to surround yourself with other people who are great at talking you through something difficult. Either way, I just want to express the importance of having positive thinking to help you work through difficult times in the classroom.  Think: Will it be easy?  Nope.  Worth it?  Absolutely!
There is no better time than now to have your cheerleaders around ready to nudge you as you make a difference in the lives of our children! Just think of JT when you wonder what you are meant to do. 🙂
Take the Challenge! It is worth it every time. I am so glad I did.  

Choosing Vulnerability Over Isolation…It’s Worth It

Lately I have been tweeting about how the best thing for personal and student growth, improvement, data collecting, etc. is peer observations.  This is something that I stand behind so strongly because of personal experience.  Now don’t get me wrong, the right attitudes need to be in place for this to be successful.  

1. You must WANT to do this and see the purpose.  
2. You must know it is not one more thing you have to do, but something you GET to do.
3. You must be able to LISTEN with an open mind.
4. You must TAKE ACTION in some way based on this feedback.   
I have written before about how lucky I am to GET to do these observations with my GCISD VALOR group.  Let me tell you, there is not one observation we walk away from not learning something to take away and use!  
This past month our Literacy Specialist Leader, Amy Montemayor, set this same situation up for all of us.  When she told us about it I was so excited!  For some reason, many people hear the word specialist in a title and automatically think we have all the answers.  We don’t! We are learning and growing just like everyone else and we need to have those opportunities to do so. Something I often hear from other Literacy Specialists and others who may not understand our role is that we are on an island.  I always have to stop right there and refer back to a George Couros quote:
We are not alone on an island, unless we choose to be. 
I was thrilled we were given the time to observe other Literacy Specialists using the same Dyslexia intervention we are, as well as other ones because it allowed us to see how we can change simple things to make our instruction better.  It allowed us to see small things we can change that we never would have thought of without an extra set of eyes!
For me, it was having extra sets of eyes on a group I work with that has me on my toes daily! I was dying for feedback on anything else I could do to make this current situation work better for us?!  Even though we have talked about it in meetings, it wasn’t until I had people come observe that they were able to see and offer suggestions.  I had an open mind listening to their feedback. I wasn’t defensive about what I was doing, I was vulnerable and wanting advice.  I tried a few of their ideas the next day, and you know what….it helped!!  
We can choose to be on an island and continue to hope things will change for us.(But really, we all know that doing the same thing over and over gets the same results!) Or we can choose to ask our team to come watch us and offer suggestions.  That team can be anyone…principals, teachers from other schools, instructional coaches, liaisons, specialists, teammates..you name it.  We are better together. Everyone wants to support others and help, we just have to ask!
I want to thank our leader, Amy, for creating the opportunities for these observations in a role that has never done this.  A role that not many people look at and think we need to do this. Your innovative thinking forced us to be vulnerable.  It forced us to make that scary jump.  It has inspired many in our group and allowed us to see the importance of growing by learning from others. It is so refreshing!

Just Go For It

As I sit back and really think about taking risks, I continually wonder if we are doing this as adults? Are we modeling what we ask of our kids? To do so it takes an incredible amount of vulnerability as teachers.

I think of the many things we could be taking risks on in our profession:
  • new lessons
  • a new grade level
  • trying other new things
  • speaking up and having our voice heard at a meeting
  • leading other teachers and sharing our knowledge
  • having someone watch us teach & give feedback on a lesson we know we are not strong at teaching and we fail in front of people
I watched a TedTalk recently where two well known photographers were curious about the difference in photographic love and real love. After a little study and research, they both agreed the best thing about photographing people was the vulnerability. It was real. They went on to say they loved their research project about how people met and fell in love, but when they were finished it really came down to how did these people stay in love that was so fascinating. Something one of the elderly people said stuck with me: “When you get that feeling you just go with it!” 
Wow! Talk about taking a risk! Talk about just going for it! Many of the couples interviewed just had that vulnerability that made them attractive. It made you want to hear their story on how they were so successful and happy in love for so many years.

Connecting it to my profession:
 *I want to be a teacher that is known for being vulnerable and taking risks.
 *I want to be a teacher that is known for just going for it.
 *I want to be a teacher that is known for giving my all.

What have I got to lose? Taking risks can be scary, but I just have to take that first step and go for it! I love this image so much. Yes, it is spoken in the context of marriage, but doesn’t it also apply to teaching? It’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. Just go for it – one step at a time.