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!!  😉

The Lesson Anchor Charts Taught Me

Today I realized I need to share something that I see happening over and over in my classroom.
                 Very simple.
                          Very important.

      Kids really do ANCHOR back to Anchor Charts!

Weeks ago I was teaching a dyslexia intervention lesson and asked the students what approach stroke we would use for this new letter we were learning how to write in cursive.  They all (including myself) looked over to the spot in the top, left corner of my whiteboard where I had the approach strokes sketched out. Nothing fancy, but we knew they were there.  Except-they weren’t. They were cleaned over the weekend!

What got us laughing was the fact that we ALL looked there and then at each other in surprise. Doesn’t take very much to crack us up!  All fun aside, this meant something.  As a classroom teacher, my colleagues and I would always whine about how after we moved on from the concept on the Anchor Chart that the students created we didn’t have space to leave the charts up.  Okay, okay… if I am really honest, I do NOT do clutter.

(Side note: There are so many ways now to store them: Google Slides, Google Drive, Live Binders, etc. One way I chose that worked best for my classroom of students was the Magnetic Curtain Rod. This saved space and still allowed the students to anchor to a place they knew, and quickly.  Click here.)

Here are a few examples of how I used the magnetic curtain rod to hang anchor charts when we had limited space.

So this is why I must write this blog.  This morning while teaching another dyslexia lesson, when it came time to write our words I noticed the students anchoring back to the place where my writing letters used to hang.  At that moment it hit me.  I need to move them back to the original location.

Even though they have been in the new spot the entire year so far.
Even though I thought they fit better on the other side of the room.
Even though I was sure they could see them better on the other side of the room.

The truth is, once they had their anchor in a certain spot, this is where their eyes went back to every single time.  There is something to be said about the visible learning, visible thinking, visual aspect in remembering things.  Think about it, how many times have you covered things up and witnessed students looking up at that spot? How many times have you done the same thing when trying to recall information?!  I could go on forever about the research, but I just wanted to share a quick A-HA moment!

After moving them back to their original location during my lunch break my afternoon kids did smile a pretty big smile when they saw them. I noticed (even if they won’t admit it) that they looked right at them while writing!

This is not rocket science, friends.  I knew this, but I guess I never truly knew HOW important these Anchor Charts were until I found myself anchoring as well while teaching! I won’t even stop with Anchor Charts, ALL Thinking should be VISIBLE!

I will leave you with this advice: Don’t ditch the charts. 🙂  They may not be beautiful or clean looking (does this really matter?), but they really do make a difference in recall and securing the learning!

Just sharing my A-HA moment from my literacy room on this fabulous Tuesday!

Enough!

It seems we do not find our One Word, but really it finds us. Such is how it happened with me this year.

I have always been a person who deeply values authenticity and transparency in people.  What you see is what you get with me.  I do not have ulterior motives and my naive side truly wants to believe no one else does either.

I am transparent.  I am authentic.  I am real….to a fault.  I couldn’t even try being anything else…my facial expressions would totally give me away! While even though I have accepted this and own that this is just me, I still sometimes fall victim to feeling not enough.
Not enough of me to do it all.  
Not enough of a daughter.  
Not enough of a wife.  
Not enough of a parent. 
Not enough of a teacher.  
Just not enough…and so I keep going, going, doing and doing.

Over Thanksgiving break I received some lab results that answered questions I have been seeking for a few years now: severe adrenal fatigue. The short version: the only way to fix this was to get real sleep.  This is actually comical if you know how much I love to sleep, but really struggle to shut off my brain to stay asleep all night.  I had to make major changes to my lifestyle and gain nutrients/minerals that I am deficient in because of being depleted by adrenals working overtime.  Sounds crazy, but it is quite interesting to learn how they all work together.

Fast forward 4 disciplined weeks and a doctor/nutritionist checkup. While all the changes I am making are great, until I sleep more none of this will dramatically increase.  Well…that’s just great!  Onward to my next goal: Sleep.

The reason I shared that story is because all of this happened in the midst of soul searching for my 2017 One Word. I went through them all: Surrender, Embrace, Release, Disciplined, Rest, Joy, Fun, but something always brought me back to this:

  

I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown the other night in one sitting, it was THAT good!  It is about letting go of who you think you are supposed to be and embracing who you are.  I never have thought of myself as someone who has to be perfect or that there is a way I am supposed to be.  However, I didn’t even realize until I felt tears coming down my face that to some degree I do this in a different way.  I don’t compare myself to others, but I do a pretty incredible job comparing myself to myself a year ago.  I am truly my own worst critic.  Aren’t we all?

So while I considered the word Surrender (to being me) and Embrace (who I am is enough) I came out with ENOUGH!

Accept:
I am Enough.
I have Enough.
If I give my best, I have done Enough.

Make sure:
I have Enough fun.
I give more than Enough love.
I get Enough REST…..because this is where my journey begins.

I love this quote. I mean, imagine….Unbecoming everything that isn’t you to reveal who you were meant to be!  Sometimes just to cope and get through the day, or because in certain situations it is expected of us, we push back the real us.  Sometimes we may not even know we are doing it. This only holds back who we are meant to be in this life.  And that, my friends, is ENOUGH!

I Froze and It’s Okay!

The following thoughts are the start of a blog I began in September! That should show just how disconnected from the world of blogging I have been. 

Week 3 #IMMOOC thoughts….

Listening to the passion from Kaleb R. was awesome! Something he said really stuck with me.  When asked his advice on how to take all this passion and energy a leader brings to a place and have it continue after the leader leaves his response was around the book Multipliers.

Look inward towards your passion, and find the ability to tell a story around it.

It should tell:

WHO you are.
WHY you are in your space.
WHY you do what you do.
WHY you LOVE it!

This is powerful!! Imagine if we all were to ask ourselves these questions.  Would we be able to answer them?  It made me think that I want my child to be in a classroom where the teacher knows who they are, why they are in that space and why they love doing what they do.

You know what? I have thought about this blog every. single. day.  For the first time in a long time, I hstruggled to write down what was on my mind.  

By the time I sat down to do it I was so exhausted.  I couldn’t gather the energy or even remember what I was reflecting about.  IF I had energy and remembered, it was one of those things where I felt so behind was there even a point to try to catch up.  Nope.  

I truly just froze and couldn’t muster up the energy to begin again after feeling so far behind.  I admit it was not the best approach, but being honest with myself about not being able to do it all helped overcome this.

Well…those days are past.  I must remind myself that no matter how short the entry, blogging is for me and my processing.  It is my story after all. 🙂

The thoughts of this blog have not changed one bit since beginning it months ago.  Participating in The Innovator’s Mindset MOOC was such a great experience.  I needed to share these thoughts, even if they are incomplete and just something to think about. I need to write. What better way to start again than writing about being fearlessly authentic!

Excuse Me, Life…Can I Have Time To Process?

Sofie taking in the gorgeous city of Chicago one morning. #reflecting

I procrastinate on things I have zero interest in doing until the very last second and I HAVE to do them.  Then, I go into panic mode to complete them.  It’s true.  I will admit it.

I am also a compulsive tab-hopper.  Although I may not know the correct term for this, I do know that this article tells us why we do it. In short, the article says, your brain is releasing dopamine receptors that are giving you the illusion that you are being more productive. Your brain, however, is not actually processing all of these stimuli.” 
(I may or may not have tab-hopped and ran across that while taking a break from writing a paper and wanted to read about something else I heard about earlier that day, which led to this article that I ended up reading.)

All of the above mentioned to say, I have not blogged in a month.  This weighs on my mind every single day. It’s not because I lack the learning to reflect on because that simply is not the case.  At all.  I am on learning overload, but would not change it for the world because I am a Learner. I thrive in an environment where I can learn something new, question things, and feel the excitement of learning.

To take this a step further, it excites me more when I can share this new learning with others in hopes of it sparking a better idea that they share, and so on.

I had two big realizations after reading that article:

1.   Is this how our students feel?
          – information overload
          – no time to reflect or process in the shuffle
          – panicked over procrastinating because they are asked to do things
            of zero interest to them
          – tab hopping because it this is when they can learn about things
             that they choose

2.   Only I can change my situation in this matter.

As I was talking with a friend last night while watching my daughter at tumbling, these words came out of my mouth:

“….I know. I know. I really am incredibly lucky to be able to have the opportunity to learn from so many amazing leaders throughout this internship and my classes, but I HAVE NOT HAD MUCH TIME TO PROCESS and REFLECT on these things.”  

Right after I said it I stopped and thought quietly, “You have time for what you make time for.”  There are things I can stop in order to carve time for this because without reflection time where I can mentally put my new learning into a file and organize how and when I will use this, what’s the point?

So this blog is nothing of amazing, deep thought.  It is simply me acknowledging today, this 20th day of October 2016, that I must intentionally set an alarm or write the date in my calendar to reflect on my learning.  I must do this to secure it in my brain before it all flies by and I have not grown from this experience because I never made time to stop and really reflect.

The Power of Commenting

I am writing tonight as a result of my learning from my own blog post yesterday.  (Yes, you read that right.) Here is what happened.

I was reflecting on the thought discussed in the #IMMOOC about our moral imperative to share our story.  Like I always tell people, I write for my own learning.  I write to secure ideas and thoughts in my brain. If someone sees my writing and it helps them, even better. What I was not expecting were comments on my blog post.   So I am writing tonight to share two things: 
1. How commenting on other people’s blogs can inspire others.
 
2. My new learning came through realizing how “Sharing Our Story” can mean many things to many people.  Through these comments, it reminded me that not only do we share to grow as teachers and help each other, but we also need to shout the positive loudly. People will talk. Let’s help them talk about the AMAZING things we are doing in education!! Let’s share the awesome things we are doing with our community and other communities.  Positivity spreads. 
The final thing I want to share came from one sweet woman’s comment on her connection with my reflection and this quote.  
                        
Reading her comment inspired me to go find this quote and something about it weighed heavy on my heart.  Then it hit me…..We cannot allow our deepest fear to be the fear of being too much for someone!  Or entertain the idea of feeling different because we share our passions, our dreams, our stories.  This is not okay.  
We have to let our light SHINE and never, ever water down who we are because of this fear!  So many incredible things come from knowing what we share comes from a place of love to make this world an even better place.
Thank YOU “sweet lady blog commenter” for inspiring new learning in me and empowering me to share even more. 🙂  
Share on, friends! 

The Moral Imperative to Share Your Story!

Last night I listened in on the #IMMOOC Live YouTube event and walked away questioning and pushing myself even more.  I will admit, each time I participate in a book study or book talk with a group on this book I reread it.  So, this makes the 3rd time!  It’s true, friends. The coolest thing is that every single time I have read it I walk away with something new.

The Innovator’s Mindset is one of those rare books that you take away from it what you need at that time in your life.

So many things resonated with me in so many ways and I want to write about them all, but I will narrow it to one.  This idea came from what Dave Burgess said about Sharing Your Story.

He mentioned that so many people feel uncomfortable sharing their story of why they are so passionate, or the special things that help them have success.  People feel they are bragging or egotistical in doing this, but his point was about sharing our story and empowering others to do the same. I have a quote pinned in my Inspire Pinterest board that reminds me of this thinking.

If we have used this CHANGE as an opportunity to do something amazing and it was so incredible, how can we not share it with others?!  Sharing our stories is how we all grow.  Sharing doesn’t mean we think we are better.  It doesn’t mean we think this is the only right way to do something.

Sharing our stories says, “Hey, we are all in this together. We are all here to learn, grow, and to find what is amazing to bring out the best for kids. ”  It is a process and takes time.  More often than not, those who are sharing have been through the same situation and struggled through it and want to offer guidance so we do not have to go through it.

Sharing our stories also says, “Hey, here is what I am passionate about and why.”  in hopes of inspiring and empowering others to share their passions, dreams, and goals.  It is through sharing these similar passions, dreams, and goals that we find other people to connect with and share, learn, and grow.  For me, that was Twitter! When we find other people who feel this way, we feel validated.  We do not feel like we are on an island in our thinking. We feel like part of something bigger, and when we feel part of something bigger we feel inspired to try new things and share.
Sharing our stories is what creates the energy that spreads to others to inspire us to move forward.  I loved what Dave Burgess said about this:

I need to remember this myself the next time I hesitate to share my story. I can think, “Sure, some people will roll their eyes and judge and not want to hear it…but, most people won’t and I have a moral imperative to share it.  I am passionate about it and this is why!”

LOVED the first week of the #IMMOOC and looking forward to pushing my thinking even more!

 

Classroom App Toolbox – One More Way To Connect Classrooms

I used Amy’s template to create My Classroom App Toolbox a few years ago at the end of the school year with my second graders.  When I first created it, I made it blank.   I said to them, “Let’s clear out our iPads and only keep what we think are the best apps the next class will want to use.”  So it began……

The list was created by students for students!  I moved to teach first grade the next year, obviously learned many more app choices, and did the same thing at the end of that year.  This time I shared it with my friends.  Some of them talked to their class and added some apps.  Power of global connecting, right?!

The most powerful thing about this was not only connecting with other classrooms for ideas, but allowing the kids to make the choices.  I also sent this toolbox home with the kids for the parents.  This allowed them to see what was being used in class and in what ways.  Also, it gave them something to use over the summer for learning.

It is a FABULOUS tool to have for many reasons, especially if you are like me and like organized compartments for your learning. 🙂

Here is my toolbox, view only, so you can get an idea of what we did.

My Classroom App Toolbox

Screencastify – Students Can Be the Experts & Teach

I woke up this morning and it hit me that I go back to work in 5 days! As I opened up my beautiful spiral full of things I wanted to accomplish this summer, I also realized I did way more relaxing and things for ME than I planned….and that is quite alright!!

So this morning I want to hit a few Virtual Voyage posts that I intended on sharing. The first one is about Screencastify.  I learned about this fabulous tool back in February when I went to Austin for the TCEA Conference.  I played around with it earlier in the year and shared a few with my campus.

Screencastify is a Chrome extension that allows you to record yourself walking someone through something while recording your screen the entire time.  I can see many ways students could use this to teach other students – to be the experts in an area and show others.  Isn’t that the purest form of securing our learning?  Here is my example of how to add the Distraction Free extension for YouTube.

It really is that simple!  I would imagine that the students getting the Chromebooks this year would be able to do a lot of amazing things to show their learning!  I might have to try it out on a few students. 🙂

Literacy Feedback – ALL Learners Means ALL Learners

So often as teachers when we learn new information, create something, or have knowledge about a specific content area we think that everyone already knows this and we keep it to ourselves.  I mean, why would we share something everyone already knows? That would seem silly. Do you ever feel like that?  🙂  Well, DON’T!!  

Share those “Obvious To You” ideas!!  You never know when someone you think knows, actually doesn’t.  Or when something you say may resonate with someone in a different way because they were ready to hear it.  That being said, I am going to share (at random) a few really important thoughts from the recent literacy conference I attended.

Literacy teachers spend so much time getting students to read.  Pushing students to read faster and faster to meet that Holy Grail number of words per minute so they can report they are “On Level” that year.  Am I right?  This must stop.  We must turn our attention and efforts to what really matters in literacy instruction.  Building a love of reading, for one.  Second on the list, Comprehension!  Do you not agree that we read things to learn something and understand?  I understand that reading rate does have an effect on comprehension, but how many times do you see a kid that can read pretty fast and not understand a thing they just read? When I was listening to Dr. Jan Hasbrouck preach about this, I wanted to shout, “Amen!” I have asked over and over, “Does it really matter?  As long as they can comprehend what they are reading, does it really matter if they are 10 words short of meeting that little designated number?”  At this particular session she shared something that stuck out to me:
“When using the Oral Reading Fluency norms, there is little evidence that reading faster is better for a reader’s comprehension.  In fact, there is significant evidence that we need to help readers read fluently AT or NEAR the 50th percentile to support comprehension and motivation.”

WOW! So, Average is the Sweet Spot! You can search “Reading Fast or Reading Well Jan Hasbrouck” and read more about this idea.


We all know in order to understand what we are reading we must actually read the words correctly! Did you know what we are looking for in Reasonably Accurate reading accuracy is based on a study that shows comprehension WILL be impaired if reader does not read at this specific accuracy?

The average reader should not read below 95% accuracy independently on unpracticed text.

Emergent readers must not read below 97-98% accuracy!!  Do you know why? Readers who are learning to read should never become frustrated or walk away feeling defeated in anything they are reading.  They need to have a positive mindset about reading for one, but don’t we also want them to practice reading those words correctly!? Here is my biggest takeaway from her session.

Do you find it ironic that I listed Accuracy as second on my list, when it comes First?! Like I mentioned earlier, these are not in order of importance but in order of how my mind is flowing. 

So you might have gathered that Fluent Reading DOES NOT mean faster. Something to remember about fluency is that it really should sound like talking. It should sound like speech – our everyday conversational talking.  There are many other important components to being a fluent reader, but the biggest one I find a need for in many of my students is PROSODY!  

Prosody is the intonation, the expression used, phrasing, and pitch that mirrors spoken language and conveys meaning.   So, wait a minute….you mean, it is not okay for the reader to sound like a “robot” when reading?  😉 Not so much, and let me share a big   A-HA that supports this statement.  It does effect comprehension, and isn’t that what the whole point of reading is?!

This last idea might be my biggest takeaway and is also my biggest soap box and so I am not sure why I saved it for last, but I want to say this and say it LOUDLY!!!

Feedback on a child’s reading is important for ALL READERS!  If we are going to meet the needs of every learner/reader, then we must listen to every reader read.  More importantly, we must give them feedback on their reading. What does this mean exactly?  How do we accomplish this? I know what you are thinking…We have deadlines & expectations to meet with limited time and an overwhelming number of students in classroom.  Not to mention all of the other important needs crying out to be met. Listening to every child read daily/weekly is “ideal” and really is our best intention, but is quickly pushed aside when we run out of time after working with three groups of struggling readers.  If we are able to listen to every single child read every single week, how many times are we giving authentic feedback?  Let me share what I heard restated by Dr. Jan Hasbrouck this week. This is why we must listen to ALL readers read aloud AND give Feedback.  

It improves Fluency, which is critical for Comprehension. 

Sure, we get the 1st bullet. No problem.  That makes sense. The 2nd bullet hits a little harder. – Silent Reading NOT sufficient.  (Let me add the word ENOUGH.) It does not mean stop having children read silently.  It means that we must not only have our average and above average readers read alone or with peer groups without any feedback. Humor me, and let me say this again a little louder.

Why? Because ALL LEARNERS means ALL LEARNERS.  Everyone deserves an opportunity to be heard.  How else will your average and above average readers acquire new vocabulary and skills? What fluent role model are they hearing read to help them learn expression, phrasing, and such?  ALL READERS need to hear fluent reading, new vocabulary words, and practice oral reading.  Maybe my next post should be on how to manage this in the classroom, what it looks like, and how easy it really is to achieve?! 🙂 One last reminder – Literacy is not just reading, but writing as well.  I LOVED that Dr. Hasbrouck said this and shared this amazing quote that I will end with.  Let’s not forget all of the important research on the role our brain plays in learning!