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 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!

My Heart Can Hold Them ALL!

April came and went…no blog.  May is almost over….what have I been doing for the past few months!?  Let me tell you.

It is no secret that the end of the school year is full of responsibilities, meetings, events, awards, planning, and everything else.  So, here I am tonight writing about something heavy on my heart because writing helps me work through things.   I have been struggling through something that I know many teachers who have left the classroom feel constantly.  It is a normal thing when you start having students and parents express their gratitude at the end of the year.  Every year I cry like a baby at the end of the year because I can’t imagine my kids leaving me.  They are MY kids.  Always.  
This past month has been an emotional one, but especially the past few weeks because of the different situations in my life.
The first one: I attended the high school graduation of a student I had in first grade and then looped up to second grade with.  Spending two years with your students makes for a tough release. 🙂  I was thrilled when I was invited to drive to Oklahoma for this graduation and see him graduate Valedictorian and all the honors he received.  We were able to talk about fun times in my class and he told me things he remembered about me and my class.
The second one: I switched schools this year and so all of my babies are not here at this school. However, just the other day the Dove Dynamic Drummers came to my new school to perform.  It was a reunion of kids and families I had!  When I saw my kids and parents with tears in their eyes, I knew it was going to kill me…but I kept it together.  I hugged them so tightly and we caught up on things going on.  I held it together pretty well, until they walked out the door. I walked back to my room and broke down.

The third one: I drove back up to Oklahoma to attend two more graduations of students of honors and Valedictorians from that same 1st/2nd grade loop class. (You know, it would be too easy to have them all graduate from the same HS!)  Not only did I attend the graduations, but I was able to attend their family functions and parties to be able to have face time catching up.  Like the first trip, we all laughed about things and they retold stories about what they remembered about my class and how much I meant to them.  I felt incredibly old sitting there with these little adults now!  These kiddos are my babies (still) and their families are family to me.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All of that makes this an extremely emotional end of year!!  I don’t even want to go into the fact MY own child is completing another school year, making her grow up even faster.  She’s my baby.  The only one.

So with all that being said, I try to think about the blessings through all these tears – tears of happiness, tears of sadness, and tears of pride and joy!  I remind myself that THIS is why my heart and decisions are always centered around relationships.

This is my number one focus.  When all of my students tell me what they remember are things like: how I loved them, how I told them everyday I loved them and we are family, how we hugged every morning when they came in and afternoon before leaving, how we cried when I told them I was not teaching them in 3rd, how they had fun in my class, how it was always fair in my class (funny, given we know life isn’t always fair!), how we danced and sang and it made them feel better…..I know I am focusing on the right things and glad I have made that impact!  I know they learned and it was BECAUSE we had that relationship first.  
I am so proud of all of my babies….past, present, and future!  I hope they know they will always hold a special place in my heart.  There truly is room for them all!! 🙂
Cherish these last days with your babies!

Taking Time To Say YOU MATTER

This past week we had about as much fun as you can have as a family – end of season basketball games & start of season soccer games (on the same day), practices, birthday slumber party at Great Wolf Lodge, falling face first onto metal bars on playground that caused some pretty big injuries and scrapes, getting strep throat, returning to school only to fall under again with pure exhaustion and had to stay home….you get it.  We were running on empty.

I don’t know about you, but when we are running on empty and exhausted, tears flow – making for a very dramatic week to be a child and a hard week to be a parent in our household! Even though Sofie was just starting to recover and still not feeling her best, she was NOT going to miss her soccer game. Her passion kicked in, friends!

Sofie gave all she had to give and scored her VERY FIRST GOAL since she joined this team 2 years ago!  While this was so exciting, and I may have almost thrown my phone off the bleachers while recording, the thing that really sticks with me here is her perseverance and dedication to the team as a whole.  Not only does she have an amazing coach, but she is part of an amazing team of girls and parents.  This team knows they are better because of the whole.

The best part was when Sofie scored, her team all went running to hug her! They all celebrated in her moment because it was their moment.  With intentional coaching about being in position, importance of playing the game for the team and as a team, and knowing when to execute….it shows that these girls play to win as a team. That is so important to remember in any situation where you are part of a team.

We were able to capture this on video and a few blurry pictures!  Her running to hug her coach, her teammate jumping up and down for her, and those girls running to hug her!  So precious! A true representation of what these girls are like. I heart this team so much and all it is teaching my baby girl that will help her in so many areas of life!

As as incredible as the team love is, here is where I realized my learning moment.  Her coach sends weekly emails to recap things about the game.  I love this because I am not as knowledgeable on soccer (yet!) as other sports, so it helps me understand why things happened. Every single week we read these aloud to Sofie.  She has always loved storytelling, so she loves hearing these emails and reliving the experiences.  This one was extra special. Here is part of Coach Doug’s email.

On a great note…Sofie Visser’s goal today was the crowning achievement of The Rockets.  When she scored, and every girl went up to hug her…well, I was right there with Christiaan and Bridget with tears in my eyes.  Sofie has made almost every practice, come off the bench on most games, and never ever complained about playing time or position.  She has been the perennially team player.  Not only that, but she has played UP for 4 seasons (2 years).  SUPER PROUD OF THIS MOMENT FOR THE ENTIRE TEAM.  To see all of the girls hug her, put into perspective why our girls are so special.  We have a team full of great kids, and GREAT PARENTS.  Let’s all be thankful for the memories they have provided us.  🙂

This meant the world to Sofie. Her little face lit up!  Quite honestly, it melted our hearts too! 🙂  I think about this and how this relates to us each day as we make a difference in the lives of children.  As we know, coaches are some of the best teachers our children have.  Taking the time to notice and write special notes to children sometimes is all that is needed to reach that hard to reach child.  It can push that one child to reach their goals. It can provide a sense of comfort, love, and feeling of YOU MATTER to anyone! Isn’t that what we all want to feel – kids and adults!?

My challenge is that this week we will all take time to write a special note to someone to let them know how much that little thing they do matters! Show them that THEY MATTER and what they are doing is appreciated!  Make their face light up!

Is It Truly About the Learning?

Sometimes I just need to remember that I am the luckiest girl in the world. Why? I have a non-educator husband that will sit and listen so patiently while I go on and on about my passion to make a difference, passion for the whole child, differentiation, advocating for these children, using technology, and the latest…homework and giving grades! I’m really on a roll this week.  All that time at TCEA has my brain super charged. 🙂

What I realized tonight was that I never give him credit for inspiring me to act on some of these passions.  So, here is your credit Christiaan. (Although, he is not on social media and does not even read my blog, so he will not even see this!) He does this in the way that he does everything, very soft spoken, and matter-of-fact. 
As we were finishing dinner our daughter excused herself and I was telling my husband about the recent intense discussion she and I had about homework. Then, I read a timely tweet about grading that got an out loud AMEN!  Here it is. Thank you John Wink for your honest thoughts. 🙂
This resonated with me because of the conversation my daughter and I had earlier, the same conversation that I seem to have every year with other educators, and the same conversation that I hear other parents talking about.
It’s about the LEARNING, not the grade!  
This gets tricky because where we know this is exactly true, teachers are still required to give grades. What they give these grades on is up to their discretion. I struggle with the thought that we can give 5-10 questions and think this truly is the whole picture.  At the same time, we do not need 5 stories and 58 questions to get the picture either.
I think what has me torn as a parent/educator is the learning part.  If we just mark an answer wrong, slap a number grade on it and send it back, does the child really learn anything?   Not usually. What is the big picture?  What is the point of any classwork?  To LEARN and the go use it!  So if it is to learn, does it make a difference if the child asks the teacher, “I know I can do better.  I know this.  Can I study some more and show you again I can master this?”  Absolutely, in my opinion. If they can, LET THEM! We want them to grow up taking risks, speaking up for themselves, failing, and knowing how to get up to change the situation.  We want them to learn.  That’s our responsibility as educators.
I was so proud of my husband because as I went on about this passion he calmly said, “The learning is the important part, not the grade. It’s just like those referees in Sofie’s basketball games. The good ones teach the kids and explain why they blew the whistle and the ball went to the other team. They are not just calling a foul and not explaining why it was a foul to the child staring up at them unsure as to why the game stopped.” I sat there shocked and said, “YES! That’s it.  It’s about teaching and helping them grow.”  He chuckled and said, “There’s your blog.”  So here I am……
I am just wondering – why is it that as teachers we are required to give number grades and give homework (that many times is not even given a second glance) yet we stress that it is the learning that matters?  If that is truly the case, which we all feel it is, let’s place importance on that and let the kids show they know the content as well as give feedback that helps them understand it if they don’t. Our end goal is not to have kids make 100s and get Commended on a STAAR test (although we would celebrate these achievements!).  Our end goal is to raise learners that are inspired to continue learning beyond our classroom! 

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.

What I Learned About Internet Safety

Once again, I find myself torn as an educator parent living in this world of technology.  I want to allow my child freedom to learn about all that interests her using technology and trust her actions, but I do not want to have certain discussions with an 8-year old.

Long story short – after much debating, researching, and long term thinking….we surprised our daughter with her own Chromebook!  It is white, so she calls it Snow White. 🙂 So precious.

Very quickly I realized I needed make sure our knowledge of internet safety was the same!  Here is what is so very hard for me.  As an educator,  I preach (and I really have, to many other parents and teachers) that we cannot shelter our kids from this.  It is not going away.  We must teach them how to search responsibly and how to act, not react, when they do stumble across an ad that isn’t so nice. We need to TEACH them these things from the very beginning.

I feel safe search sites are set up to do their job.  I feel kids who know what to do and how to act responsibly will know how to properly use the internet.  I feel kids deserve our trust in them.  We cannot control their every move in real life when they are not with us.  Right?! I have followed this philosophy with my kids in class and we have never had a problem! Really. So, I will keep on preaching.

Then it happened!

When your child is searching what her name means on a kid safe search engine site, you would not think urban dictionary would pop up as a top site choice, but it did…and she chose it. As we all went about cleaning up the kitchen, unaware of this, she began reading aloud what other names meant.  I then realized, it was time to have a deeper lesson on the topics of internet searching, safety, media literacy, and all of the above.  And quite honestly, it scares me as a MOM, not an educator.  I had to find a way to protect my little girl as much as I can, while educating her on how to search effectively, while also allowing her freedom to search topics of interest without choices that are inappropriate showing up.  Is that too much to ask?  😉 We already have a house rule of using computer/iPad in same room as grown up, but when she is on a kid safe site….you just don’t think twice. Until now.

So, here is what I solidified in this lesson:
1.  You cannot be there all the time to hold their hand and protect them from everything, but you can teach them how to respond in situations. I use regularly for lessons and tips.

2.  You cannot control everything, BUT you can monitor closely!  I stumbled across this great resource.

Call this control or whatever you want,  but I call it smart and the perfect answer for this mom of an 8 year old baby girl who likes to research because she is curious about life! It allows me to monitor her searching, restrict certain sites if needed, while letting her have the freedom of searching and growing as a responsible digital citizen.

I plan to hold tight to my beliefs on the importance of:
1. being present with students as they are learning how to search the worldwide web effectively.
2. teaching students how to act responsibly when things do pop up.
3. educating students how to be media literate and how to evaluate sites and resources.

Youth Basketball, Educators, and Mindset!

I get to do the most amazing thing ever – coach my daughter’s youth basketball team!! I LOVE basketball!  I played basketball, coached grades 5/6 girls, and was a youth referee during my college years for some extra fun money…none of which prepared me for what I experienced this past Saturday.

In a nutshell, we are a new team made up half of girls who have never seen a game and half of girls who have played a few times.  We played a team who has been playing together for quite some time, and even had special jerseys made. Let me just say when we walked in the gym to warm up, they were warming up with fancy plays.  AND they were awesome!

Ummm….we are still learning how to dribble down and pass, which is completely fine, but I was a little nervous on how the girls would be when they saw this team.
Would they be intimidated? 
Would they give up mentally before they even started? 
Would they want to sit out and not play? 

I looked at my daughter, the littlest one out there and one who has never played before. She asked, “Mom, what are they doing?” Yeah…this was going to be a learning experience.
(Backtrack a few days prior.  Let me add, our team was only allowed a 50 minute practice and then we had our first game!)

A learning experience it was. For the girls AND for me!  What’s even better, is I saw many connections between these girls and all the awesome educators out there.

1. These girls gave 110% from the minute they walked out there until the buzzer went off to end the game. (Just like teachers.)

2. They never gave up! Even though they did not score a point the first 58 minutes, they never stopped trying.  (Just like teachers. There’s a lot of not-so-fun things we have to take care of that can prevent us from just doing what we want to do sometimes, IF we let it! Most of us choose not to let it!)

3. They walked away knowing more about the game than when they walked on the court because of the experience of playing and having an experienced team model the way to play.  (Isn’t this just like teachers, too?!)  I will admit, I am glad we played this team first. I am glad these kids had a great team to show them what a game is like. It was great modeling for them. Honestly. Imagine if they had played a team like them, just starting out. It would have been hard to explain how a game flows.  (This could be like teachers, but I think of early readers.  If two readers who struggle only hear each other, it is very hard to make progress as quickly as if they were paired with non-struggling readers sometimes.)

4. They continued to ask questions, even after the game.  They WANTED to learn.  They WANTED to play.  THEY wanted to try different positions when an injury left our point guard out for a bit. (Just like teachers!)

5. They noticed some of the good things the other team was doing to be successful, and tried one of them! (Just like teachers!)

6. They walked away laughing and smiling!  When I asked my daughter and her friend if they liked it, they said, “That was fun! I didn’t want to stop.” and ” I want to practice and get better so I can score next time.” This was after being beat by a lot of points the entire game. Did that matter to them? Not at all.
(Is this just like teachers? I would say mostly yes, but I also know it takes having the mindset. We can’t just give up when nothing is going our way on our court in the classroom.)

What if we thought about our classrooms and our teaching like this quote? We never lose (when a student doesn’t show us what we think they are capable of doing, we have too many meetings to attend and emails to answer, or a student refuses to work for us).  We either win (work extra hard and succeed in finding what empowers our students and provide these resources) or learn (realize what doesn’t work, and work hard to change and find things that do inspire and empower our students).

It’s all connected!  Going back to my earlier concerns as we walked into the gym before the game started: The only person who felt nervous before the game was me.  My personal experiences came back and I wanted to protect my daughter from these defeated feelings, but as it turned out…she has a growth mindset.  🙂 She saw the opportunity to grow and learn in this situation, and I am so proud of her for this!

Every chance I had, I reminded the girls that this was a learning opportunity. I let them know it is okay to ‘mess up’ out there.  Just try doing something different.  It’s okay. We are all learning together.  They made me so proud because they looked at this as a chance to learn, ask questions, and try new things all while not winning the game.

If you know me, you know how competitive I am!  I am even shocked that I was able to completely throw that out the window because THIS is what matters most to me. The girls learning and growing from the first minute they walked out there up until they walked off 60 minutes later.

I guess I learned a little bit about myself Saturday.  This mindset stuff is sinking in deeper and effecting more areas in my life than I thought, and I kinda like what it is doing. 🙂

Why I’m Keeping Track of Life

I LOVE holiday breaks!!  I love getting all that extra cuddling time with my family.  I love getting to lay around in my pajamas by the fire, reading all the books I have been talking about reading all year.  I love organizing closets. (I really do!) I love making long lists of all the things I need to accomplish over the time off.  Then, checking those off my list.  You see, I am one of those people that just cannot sit and “relax” by watching tv or just sitting.

This week, though, while I rushed around checking things off my list this break I felt different. I felt anxious about always having more laundry to finish, more corners to organize, more little school tasks to get checked off my list. I felt like the more I did, the more I added to my list to do! This led me to feeling irritated about not ever having it all done. How is that even possible?! It is. Believe me.  I asked myself, “Surely, I am not the only one that feels like this?” A few nights ago I was talking to one of my best friends, and she said the same thing!  This is why I knew when I saw the Hands Free Life book by Rachel Macy Stafford, I had to get it.  It was speaking to me!  Really, it was screaming my name.  🙂

I haven’t finished the book, but what I can tell you is that it’s speaking to the part of me that needed a wake up call.  It’s saying:

  • Stop hurrying through daily life. 
  • Let go of the need to get through the to-do list.
  • Create intentional actions to overcome distractions that try to pull me away from what matters most.
  • I can’t do it all! (Why would I even want to?!)
What really stuck with me was this simple part at the beginning.  
As I look through posts on Facebook, pins on Pinterest, articles on Twitter, blogs on my Inoreader…it is so easy to feel like I cannot even breathe because of all the ideas I want to take away to use or share with colleagues!  This quote reminds me I can’t do it all and it is OKAY!  
This may seem like an easy thing to do, but for this Type A, constantly going and doing, list-making mama, it is a constant battle. I think as educators, this is something we all battle to some extent.  I want to be able to do this more than anything else, but I know that it will not change overnight.  I know that I will have to be intentional in my actions to step back and not feel guilty.    
I am a passionate educator, a passionate person, always saying yes and wanting to help….but I need to remember to check in with how I am “Keeping Track of Life” – to quote Rachel Macy Stafford. I want to look back to see that I lived life and not just managed it.
I can’t wait to see what else this book reveals to me as I snuggle up by the fire to continue reading. 

Are We Hindering or Developing Resiliency?

Persistence, Resilience, and Grit…Oh My!

These words are talked about in education.  We continue to teach our students the importance of not giving up. Are you hearing these words in your head?

  • Keep going. You got this.  
  • Don’t let one hard thing stop you.  
  • It’s okay to fail, just try something else.
  • When things get hard, you can’t just stop and give up.
Guilty.  I have said these to my daughter in hopes of making her understand persistence and how hard work pays off.  But now that I think more about this, are we actually giving our students the chance to work through difficult problems on their own so that they develop these characteristics?
Providing our students with opportunities to work through difficult problems, struggle, and overcome them sometimes is hard for us as teachers.  I think that we, as teachers, need to model more examples ourselves of struggling through something and our ability to overcome the unexpected.  We need to talk about personal situations where this has happened to us.  Or can we recall these times?  
When I think about this personally, I began playing any sport I could at age four and continued through my freshman year at college.  I thrive on working hard and seeing this pay off at game time.  I have played the violin since I was ten years old. Music is a passion and part of me.   I have always loved being a student, learning, and getting As. (I can feel all the Standards Based Grading people cringing! I understand this now.)  
So, when I honestly ask myself, “Did I ever really put myself in a situation where it was difficult and I had to struggle to succeed?”  I think the answer is clear.  “Did I ever put myself in a position where I had to get back up after failing in front of my peers and try a different route to succeed?”   Not so much.  
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously had this happen at some point in my life or I wouldn’t be the resilient, persistent person I am today. I am just saying, I didn’t put myself in these situations.  We ask this of our students all too often.  We must think it is something they are born knowing how to do, yet if we really think about it….did WE take risks when we were young? If you did, what encouraged you to do so?  I imagine it was someone modeling for you.   We must show them how through examples.  As each year passes, I feel more comfortable doing this with my students because I see that this vulnerability empowers students to do the same.
I had one of those parent moments where your heart feels like it will burst and tears are in your eyes this past weekend when my daughter and I did the Monster Dash 5K together. Right before the race started rain began to come down, and we were in costumes! Not exactly my idea of fun, but you gotta make the most of it, right?!  She was visibly irritated with this and the amount of people crowded in.  It was her first race and she obviously had some expectations that I was unaware of.  I asked her if she wanted to go to the party barn and wait for the others, but no.  We started out, more rain came and it was so bunched up we couldn’t really run at first, so I continued to check in with her and by the third time I asked she looked at me and her answer says it all: 
“Mom, I came here to do this.  I did not get this number to just give up and not do it.” 
I was quite proud at that moment because it was another example of her persistence paying off.  Here I was trying to protect her from a difficult situation, when this is what she needed to develop her persistence, resilience, and grit!  I didn’t even realize I was doing this until reflecting later!!
The highlight of this moment was at the end, of course.  After awhile, an eight-year-old can get tired of running (AKA sprinting!), tired of being wet in the rain, and not want to do it anymore.  Being there beside her, constantly encouraging her one little step at a time, got us to the end and we met OUR GOAL time. It all was worth it seeing the HUGE smile on her face and when she turned to me and said, 
“Mom, I am so proud of myself I could burst!  I have never done anything like this before! I finished the whole thing.  I am so happy.”  

Just another moment to show me that allowing our children the chance to experience challenging situations really does build their confidence to succeed in life.
Here are a few pics I got by lagging behind just a little. 🙂
Capturing the moment.
Crossing the finish line and looking back.

So proud of the medal she received!

Important Lessons From A Coach

Are we raising our kids to win at all costs?  Or are we teaching them to value the importance of teamwork? Do we realize how our words and actions influence our kids way beyond right now?

Photos courtesy of Tony DeBellis.

As I watched my daughter play her first soccer game of the season on Saturday, I was able to see this clearly.  As always, my mind connects it to education. 
To give you a brief background, my daughter decided one day she was going to play soccer.  Please know, I have played every single sport growing up, except soccer!  Not my thing.  She began playing a year ago, and we soon fell in love.  Not so much with the sport, but I realized it was the coach and team.  My not-so-fond-of soccer attitude stemmed from a few things.  For one, I didn’t have a clue about the rules. The bigger issue I had with soccer was that I completely disagreed with the offsides rule! In my opinion, as a basketball player, you need to hustle back to protect your goal. I know, I could be missing the point completely, but my daughter loved this game so I needed to get past that.   
My sweet girl running to me after the game so happy. You see, she LOVES the game!
Her coach, Coach Doug, is one of those incredible people who values teaching kids the important things in life.  The importance of sportsmanship, respect, fun, compassion, confidence in trying things, and how hard work will pay off.  After watching the first practice, I told my husband, “This guy is a great teacher!”  
He is patient.  He pushes them to be their best.  He values their input.  He asks the kids to tell him when they feel like they have a strength in a position and want to give it a try.  He instills his energy and passion into these young girls.  Most importantly, I have seen him intentionally put them in positions to see their hard work pay off.  Even if it meant they ended up losing the game.  Don’t get me wrong, he never intended or wanted to lose.  (No one wants that!)  He made this intentional decision knowing it was important that they saw their hard work from practice pay off!  This is what would drive them forward as a team.  Why?  Trust.  They trusted Coach Doug.  
You can guarantee it paid off.  Maybe not by winning that game, but as they continued on they took those opportunities to have faith in what they knew was right.  I can promise you, THIS is what keeps my daughter coming back each season!  He is a man of admirable character and it is influencing these young girls more than they know!  Someday they will, and they will go back to thank him.  
This is our group of happy girls before the game.  Can you see how much they love each other and playing?
On Saturday, we were amazed at how much the girls had grown since last season. We were amazed at how awesome their new uniform colors looked.  I mean, come on, fashion still matters. 🙂  However, the most amazing thing we saw was something that took looking a little deeper to see.  It was the way these girls performed on the field like a team that knew the importance of teamwork.  No one wanted to be “the star.”  They wanted to pass to their teammates when it made sense.  They celebrated each other’s successes.  They had FUN! They showed compassion for the other team.  They were allowed to try different positions on the field, as Coach doesn’t want to run up the score on any team.  This team wanted to win, but, win together as a TEAM. And they did.
Celebrating each other!
The “teacher” watching the “students” drive their own learning. 🙂
So, as I sat there once again thinking, Wow, what a great coach!  He is such an incredible teacher of many things for these girls – my mind connected this to education.
Isn’t this what we desire in our classrooms?  
  • Kids that collaborate and work together so all kids are successful.  
  • Kids that sacrifice being the star, so that as a group they all contribute to the win.  
  • Kids that encourage and build each other up.  
  • Kids that have input in the learning.  
  • Kids that have a voice and can tell you their strengths and can also identify their weaknesses
  • Kids that understand how to use their weaknesses and are able to work with others to set goals to develop them.  
  • Mindsets from both kids and teachers that allow for success and positivity in the classroom!

You better believe it is! Coach Doug shows this as the Teacher to his soccer students in every way that I strive to show as the Teacher in my classroom with my Students.
My mother repeatedly tells me that teachers and coaches have an incredible impact on the lives of every child they encounter.  She is right.  Children look up to their teachers and coaches.  Every word that is spoken to a child will forever be etched in their hearts.  I feel so blessed that my daughter has Coach Doug as the coach in her life etching positive words into her heart and building up her self-confidence.  
One of my favorite pictures from the day!  Read the caption to see why. 🙂
This mama wearing the “Soccer Mom” hat her daughter picked out for her!
Guess this shows that I am starting to love the game. 🙂