Blogs

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Personal Learning

The Writing ISN’T on the Wall

The writing isn’t on the wall from the day that you were born. Your life, circumstances, privileges, hurdles, triumphant and tribulations are factors, but not the product. In my eyes, we are all born into a “role”, but the person you become is truly up to you! That role may be influenced by our family and it is likely impacted by the experiences surrounding it, but that does not become our defining role in life and we must be fully aware of that in order to take our best step forward at being ourselves. I not only believe this and live by it in my adult life, but I instill it in my students to teach them that life can be what you make of it… you must take your part and own it. T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is what I taught myself at young age, and continue to empower my family, friends, students, and PLN with it so that they can write their own story in life because it isn’t written on the wall.

My Person

Have you ever heard someone call you their person? Or maybe you have said it yourself. It’s that person that just gets you. Maybe they are a great listener or maybe they share a life experience that makes you feel just a bit less isolated. No matter what the situation may be, “my person” doesn’t just get thrown around with ease. As my phone rang, I listened in. A dear friend was talking about their day and how they felt they simply could not shake off a time period in their life that seemed to “reoccur as often as it wanted to”, making the situation out of their control completely. I listened. My person. They continued to feel as if their past was defining them and that it was inevitable that they would have to be attached to this situation the rest of their life. I listened. My person. Empathy, Understanding, Empowerment , ran through my mind.

Shape NOT Definition

There was a time in my life when I would look back and wanted to place blame, erase experiences, cut ties, or even run at sprint speed. Why? Because I truly felt those poor experiences defined me… what a helpless, restricted, almost imprisoned way of thinking that I had created for myself. I didn’t even realize that I walked around feeling so vulnerable… as if it was written all over me, defining me, my actions, my future.

Then there was a point where others did not see what I saw. They saw my smile, not my pain. They saw my strong will, not my defeating moments. They saw my grit, not my adversities. They saw me. Yes, that was it… my experiences had shaped me and I needed to embrace and own the person I was choosing to be because of and in-spite of my journey in life.

Only YOU Can Be YOU

I suppose in many ways we compare ourselves out of simple human nature. At times that may be in our role as a parent, child, friend, sibling, or professional. Comparison can bring awareness. It can light a fire under us. It can open a door to something that we had not considered. It can also be damaging. It can hold us back from our own purpose. It can weigh on us like judgement. It can defeat us if we allow it. In the end, only you can be you! You choose. Just remember, experiences will shape you, but never define you. Grab a marker and go write on your wall!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Personal Learning

Creating Impact: Take A Walk in My Shoes

When it comes to understanding others and developing true relationships, there is never a time table that is fit for all. While some open up quickly, others need extra nurturing that builds trust and strengthens a bond over time. The relationships I build with my students are no different. The one thing that is for certain is that the bonds are not limited to 186 school days and continuously create impact for years to come. While many schools are looking to close out their year, my class is opening up to new conversations, as well as reflections of our journey together. As empathy and understanding are such a large part of our T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. experience, there is always a special vulnerability that is tied into my lesson called “Take A Walk In My Shoes.”

Days before I plan on embracing this heartfelt lesson, I ask the students if they could please bring in an extra pair of shoes to school that they can leave for a week or two. A pair that they have possibly grown out of, maybe a pair from a different season that is no longer needed, or even from an off-season sport. I remind them that if they are unable to bring a pair in, that I will have extra pairs in the classroom for them to borrow.

When the day comes, I start by reading a special book written by Dr. Seuss called “My Many Colored Days.” This book is so simple in so many ways, yet the impact it creates by gifting an opportunity to relate and generate their own version, gives way to a complexity that allows you to see inside their little souls.

With each page, I pause. Maybe it is the color yellow that allows some to feel free to imagine the unimaginable. For others it is the color blue that speaks to them and gives way to sadness. Whatever the color means to them, they simply take in the moment while I read.

Next, I hand out an index card. Just one… one that they use to design their own “colored days”. At this point, I reread the book to them and they embrace the time to add their artistic touch to their card. Once their card is complete, I pass out another.

The first 3 cards are specific colors. I always want to know what their day looks like when it is yellow, black and a rainbow of mixed up colors. I put on music and give them unlimited time to just draw. When they are finished, they then flip the card over and tell me two things:

  1. What this color day is like for them or a story of a specific day that they want to share.
  2. What they need from others on a day like this in their little world.

Once they are done, I put a stack of cards out and allow them unlimited access to add any color days they wish. Most often they take 3-4 more cards, but there is always a handful of students that take ten or more. After completing them, I ask them to bring their cards and their shoes to meet me for a little time together.

During this time, they pick out a special color pipe-cleaner to attach their cards to their shoes and then they are encouraged to pick just one they would like to share with me. After they share with me, I allow the to share with others if they would like. We then gather around and talk about our walk in life… our journey. I prompt them with questions and we take time to listen to how others feel. After many prompts, such as “Do you think others understand what you need on your black day?” or “How can you make someone else feel if you share your yellow day with them?”, I take suggestions on how we can lead others in empathy. There is always a student that suggests placing our shoes in the hallway and that is a moment for me. A moment of trust, love, and leadership. I make sure that they have the option of leaving theirs in the room, but one by one they always take their shoes to the hallway. Such vulnerability, strength, and courage found right there that moment. Come along, take a walk in our shoes.

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Personal Learning

The Writing ISN’T on the Wall

The writing isn’t on the wall from the day that you were born. Your life, circumstances, privileges, hurdles, triumphant and tribulations are factors, but not the product. In my eyes, we are all born into a “role”, but the person you become is truly up to you! That role may be influenced by our family and it is likely impacted by the experiences surrounding it, but that does not become our defining role in life and we must be fully aware of that in order to take our best step forward at being ourselves. I not only believe this and live by it in my adult life, but I instill it in my students to teach them that life can be what you make of it… you must take your part and own it. T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. is what I taught myself at young age, and continue to empower my family, friends, students, and PLN with it so that they can write their own story in life because it isn’t written on the wall.

My Person

Have you ever heard someone call you their person? Or maybe you have said it yourself. It’s that person that just gets you. Maybe they are a great listener or maybe they share a life experience that makes you feel just a bit less isolated. No matter what the situation may be, “my person” doesn’t just get thrown around with ease. As my phone rang, I listened in. A dear friend was talking about their day and how they felt they simply could not shake off a time period in their life that seemed to “reoccur as often as it wanted to”, making the situation out of their control completely. I listened. My person. They continued to feel as if their past was defining them and that it was inevitable that they would have to be attached to this situation the rest of their life. I listened. My person. Empathy, Understanding, Empowerment , ran through my mind.

Shape NOT Definition

There was a time in my life when I would look back and wanted to place blame, erase experiences, cut ties, or even run at sprint speed. Why? Because I truly felt those poor experiences defined me… what a helpless, restricted, almost imprisoned way of thinking that I had created for myself. I didn’t even realize that I walked around feeling so vulnerable… as if it was written all over me, defining me, my actions, my future.

Then there was a point where others did not see what I saw. They saw my smile, not my pain. They saw my strong will, not my defeating moments. They saw my grit, not my adversities. They saw me. Yes, that was it… my experiences had shaped me and I needed to embrace and own the person I was choosing to be because of and in-spite of my journey in life.

Only YOU Can Be YOU

I suppose in many ways we compare ourselves out of simple human nature. At times that may be in our role as a parent, child, friend, sibling, or professional. Comparison can bring awareness. It can light a fire under us. It can open a door to something that we had not considered. It can also be damaging. It can hold us back from our own purpose. It can weigh on us like judgement. It can defeat us if we allow it. In the end, only you can be you! You choose. Just remember, experiences will shape you, but never define you. Grab a marker and go write on your wall!

Personal Learning

Who or What Are You Following?

Conversations buzz around who to follow on Social Media. For educators, that can mean one thing and for other professions, it means another. For those simply socializing, an entirely different perspective is taken. For teenagers, yet another. But the more I think about it, if there is anything in life worth following, it is happiness.

Happiness

Happiness is “the state of being happy.” To be content, pleased, and satisfied. So how is it that so many of us struggle at times to find it? Are we searching for what others have by comparison? Are we searching for an unknown? Have we forgotten what makes us tick? Did we lose ourselves among our responsibilities and obligations? Did we forget what simple joys look and feel like? To know, and appreciate this state of mind, I myself lean into 4 Rs… I must Reflect, Reset, Restore, and Recreate.

Reflect

Reflection is the key foundation to my success in happiness. It is the time that I take to look at where I have been, where I have “traveled” so to speak, what worked, what didn’t, where I went wrong, and hopefully what I got right. It helps me to stop and create meaning around my choices. Let’s face it, they were my choices for the most part. Whether it was an idea, initiative, or my reaction to someone else’s, it was my choice. Note: for some reflecting may not happen until the very end. Some may need to plan backwards to finally reflect for meaning.

Reset

We may think that the logical meaning to reset is to “set again”, but the gift of resetting is that we can do it differently the next time around, which ultimately can lead us to happiness. If that reset button means that I can say no with confidence and without a follow up reason/excuse than I get to make that choice and change. If by hitting that reset button I remind myself that my growth is dependent on the value of how I am saying yes, than that too becomes a major factor in the difference I am looking at for my next chance and opportunity. I am in control of my happiness and resetting my mindset by following up with different choices becomes clearer.

Restore

Restoration is key to the longevity of one’s self. We are not made to take on the world without time to restore our physical and mental well-being. Might I add, this should be done without apology. If we think otherwise, we are failing ourselves and the lives we impact. To restore, we must each find what works for us. Some may simply need a little escape from the pressures that come with life. Others may need to rethink their outside commitments and even pull back on some to restore their commitment to themselves. The important thing to remember is that if we want to accelerate, to truly push ourselves forward into betterment, restoration must exist. The question is, how might that happen for you?

Five Steps to Restoration

  1. Try being alone. For some, that is difficult and for others it is die-hard me time. Alone time is your time. Your choice. Your voice. Make time for you!
  2. Open your eyes to what is around you. Find the good. Something that speaks to you. Find that sense of joy right there in the midst of your chaos. It is there… look!
  3. Not to overdue the obvious, but exercise. I can’t jog anymore due to surgery years ago on my leg, but I can take a bike ride, a power walk, even a little skip counting with a jump rope. Figure out what you can do and match that up with what you love to do and the power of restoration is moving ahead. Note: I love to dance and last weekend when I was at a wedding, it reminded me of just how much. The joy, the freedom and the smile that engulfed my face reminded everyone around me of how happiness was right there within my reach.
  4. Never underestimate the power of therapy. We were not made imperfect by mistake or accident. Think about that for a minute. In addition, we each made a choice to venture into our own expertise. So why not embrace the expert? The one that has devoted time and attention to their field. Friends are fabulous soundboards and closely coveted experts on our own lives, but therapist are unique to their profession of human understanding. Did you know they are required by law to have their own therapist due to the impact of their profession? So why is it we as educators, spouses, friends, parents, think that we have to navigate life all on our own? My betterment is dependent on knowing when I am maxed out. Part of restoring that balance in myself is by seeing a therapist that in turn helps me to reset what doesn’t always happen through an isolated perspective of my own.
  5. Grace is a gift and one that we must have on others and ourselves. Do not take it lightly, but hold on to it and feel the immense impact of it. Then, when you see that others are in need, give it away. Have grace.

Recreate

Time to set a goal! Now, write it down… in PEN or even permanent marker! Commit yourself to YOU! In order to achieve this goal you will need a plan. Part of that plan will be to practice, just like anything else we do to be better… we must form better habits. “Readjust.” “Swing the bat differently.” YOU ARE WORTH IT! Now, find your people or person. The one that will rally around you and remind you that you actually should come first in order to be your best for others. Reality check… do you really think that you are your best for others when you are spent to the core? Come on, now! Let’s get real! It’s the whole oxygen ask moment… put yours on first in order to help others! Last, print out a 2 week calendar or put a remind in your phone, but you need to check in and cross off when you have accomplished a step in your recreation.

You Got This! I Believe In You! I am Your Fan In the Stand! Follow YOUR Happiness!

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Maya Angelou

Personal Learning

Gumdrops and Lollipops

I can’t help but giggle a bit every time that I hear gumdrops and lollipops. Each time they cross my mind, I think of years ago when I was riding in the car with my family and something cynical came on the radio station. I immediately turned it off. My boys were younger and I just didn’t want them to be any more jaded by the world than they already were, especially by things that were out of our control. As soon as I turned it off, my son Trent reacted with “Come on, MOM!” I was sitting in a moment of silence when he followed up with, “You know mom, life isn’t all gumdrops and lollipops like you think.” Wow, was he right and that in itself hit me in the heart!

Here I was just trying to raise my boys in a positive light, when the world was a bit dark at times. My motive wasn’t to wear rose colored glasses and pretend the “bad” didn’t happen, but more-so to see what good could come of most situations. Pushing through some painful experiences in my life, I have grown to be the faithful… the optimist… and a nightmare to the devil’s advocate. Although some may think I was born to be positive, I want to make something very clear… maybe I was gifted a positive personality, but when life becomes a struggle and feels heavier than I can handle, it comes down to choice for me and a support system that is unbreakable. I must push through those moments that at times turn into days and even weeks. Yes, that has happened to me, times when gumdrops and lollipops were so out of reach.

Years ago I had a therapist tell me that when we hold on to hurt and pain that it is like making a little dark mark on our hearts. When we let it go, we wash it off and let our heart do the job that it was meant to, which is to beat strongly and hold love. With each dark mark I would wash it off with a lollipop thought, allowing the love to come in and go out with each word and choice. This is all I wanted for my children. I wanted them to see the lighter side. I wanted them to find a way to roll with the punches and not let others weigh them down. One would think that by being so positive that my children would likely follow suit. However, life gives way to pain and with pain we all find a way to navigate on our own journey, some with gumdrops and others not so much.

Which way do you navigate through life when dark is looming? When it feels like the cynical are making their way in to your head space? How do you react in the toughest of times? Do you allow others to weigh in on your heart so that a dark mark turns into two, then three, then what?

Gumdrop Reminder

It takes courage to…

be YOU

advocate for others

fulfill your purpose

be optimistic

see the good in the bad

forgive so that you can live

Let Me Hand You a Lollipop

Let me hand you a lollipop, the kind that takes 200 licks to get to the center. The next time that someone reminds you of anything less than the joy you want to feel and give, think of the moments that fill your heart. The moments that are full of gumdrops and lollipops… oh, so good!

Share the Goodness

Smile

Ask others how they are

Don’t dwell on the negative

Find the good

Step aside and let others shine

Find your purpose and create opportunity for yourself

Speak up for others who are still trying to find their voice

Find the sweet spot, even among the sour!

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Personal Learning

Creating Impact: Take A Walk in My Shoes

When it comes to understanding others and developing true relationships, there is never a time table that is fit for all. While some open up quickly, others need extra nurturing that builds trust and strengthens a bond over time. The relationships I build with my students are no different. The one thing that is for certain is that the bonds are not limited to 186 school days and continuously create impact for years to come. While many schools are looking to close out their year, my class is opening up to new conversations, as well as reflections of our journey together. As empathy and understanding are such a large part of our T.R.U.E. G.R.I.T. experience, there is always a special vulnerability that is tied into my lesson called “Take A Walk In My Shoes.”

Days before I plan on embracing this heartfelt lesson, I ask the students if they could please bring in an extra pair of shoes to school that they can leave for a week or two. A pair that they have possibly grown out of, maybe a pair from a different season that is no longer needed, or even from an off-season sport. I remind them that if they are unable to bring a pair in, that I will have extra pairs in the classroom for them to borrow.

When the day comes, I start by reading a special book written by Dr. Seuss called “My Many Colored Days.” This book is so simple in so many ways, yet the impact it creates by gifting an opportunity to relate and generate their own version, gives way to a complexity that allows you to see inside their little souls.

With each page, I pause. Maybe it is the color yellow that allows some to feel free to imagine the unimaginable. For others it is the color blue that speaks to them and gives way to sadness. Whatever the color means to them, they simply take in the moment while I read.

Next, I hand out an index card. Just one… one that they use to design their own “colored days”. At this point, I reread the book to them and they embrace the time to add their artistic touch to their card. Once their card is complete, I pass out another.

The first 3 cards are specific colors. I always want to know what their day looks like when it is yellow, black and a rainbow of mixed up colors. I put on music and give them unlimited time to just draw. When they are finished, they then flip the card over and tell me two things:

  1. What this color day is like for them or a story of a specific day that they want to share.
  2. What they need from others on a day like this in their little world.

Once they are done, I put a stack of cards out and allow them unlimited access to add any color days they wish. Most often they take 3-4 more cards, but there is always a handful of students that take ten or more. After completing them, I ask them to bring their cards and their shoes to meet me for a little time together.

During this time, they pick out a special color pipe-cleaner to attach their cards to their shoes and then they are encouraged to pick just one they would like to share with me. After they share with me, I allow the to share with others if they would like. We then gather around and talk about our walk in life… our journey. I prompt them with questions and we take time to listen to how others feel. After many prompts, such as “Do you think others understand what you need on your black day?” or “How can you make someone else feel if you share your yellow day with them?”, I take suggestions on how we can lead others in empathy. There is always a student that suggests placing our shoes in the hallway and that is a moment for me. A moment of trust, love, and leadership. I make sure that they have the option of leaving theirs in the room, but one by one they always take their shoes to the hallway. Such vulnerability, strength, and courage found right there that moment. Come along, take a walk in our shoes.

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction

Kindness Kudos

February brings such joy to little ones and big ones alike. This year my dear friend Tamara Letter brought more joy into my world as she published her first book on the most incredible topic ever… KINDNESS! Tamara, author of “A Passion for Kindness“, has been sharing her heart with others for years, and now we have the opportunity to embrace a piece of it through her eyes… a world that makes each day brighter with a simple act of kindness. Kudos to Tamara for reminding each of us it is truly the simple things that create incredible impact! #PassionForKindness


Empathy, compassion, and connection can be found in everyone if we simply listen to the quiet whisper of our hearts

Tamara Letter, author of A Passion for Kindness

As I anxiously await my copy of the book, I continue to embrace each and every moment that I can create a connection to and between others. It started with a quick stop to my go to spot… Amazon Prime!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is kind_jpg_large.jpg

It was there that I found a simple, yet brilliant t-shirt that had “BE KIND” written across the front. It immediately reminded me of Tamara. I tossed one into the cart and then went back and added more… my crew needed them too!

Next up… a walk down memory lane with friendship pins! Oh yes, in the 80s my friends and I would create these very inexpensive, tiny tokens of kindness for one another. We would add them to our backpacks, our clothes, and the favorite go to spot… our shoes! Each one was made with love and care, while embracing the uniqueness of each bead and friend that we had in mind. As pins were created, they were passed on with a smile and a little extra hug along the way. This was exactly what my little makers needed in class this month. All it was going to take was a quick trip to the craft store and the imagination of a 3rd grader… I had this one in the bag!

Friendship Pins for the WIN!

My students know how much I love them. They also know how much they are loved at home. Yet, in many ways they keep that love separate… like it has its own identity or entity that is isolated to the environment that they are interacting in… hmmmmm! Then it hit me… an idea that I had to put into action ASAP! I messaged the parents immediately: ” The month of February celebrates KINDNESS! I would love for every parent to create a poster celebrating their child. One that shines the spotlight on their kindness and special ways that fill you with joy! Your VOICE Your CHOICE… YOUR CREATION!” This idea did not come without reservation or concern. What if… they didn’t want to participate? What if… they didn’t have the time or resources? What if… they didn’t see the connection to the curriculum and therefore shut this idea down? But the biggest “what if” I could think of was…. WHAT IF I DIDN’T TRY this and never knew the impact it could have?

The response was overwhelming! As the drop off date came closer (last night), I could feel the excitement build up inside me. What were the posters going to be like? What were the parents going to tell me about this experience? I sat in the lobby of the school waiting with anticipation. The joy of watching each car pull up was priceless!

Well, they are almost all accounted for… all 24 posters. A snow day today has pushed back our special moment, but let me leave you with a heart filled with joy as I share the comments that a few parents made as they dropped off their Kindness Posters for their child:

Thank you for reminding me of the joy he brings to our world.

This project was the biggest gift to our family.

We all need these simple reminders, thank you.

And as one grandmother shared with me as she dropped off her granddaughter’s poster…

Thank you for reminding my daughter of all the things I see in my granddaughter. We need more moments like this one.

As this secret is kept under wraps for the children, I smile knowing that kindness is coming their way. Kudos to my parents for embracing the day. Kudos to each family for creating impact. Kudos for Kindness… and to my dear friend Tamara as she sows the seeds of kindness throughout the world! #PassionForKindness

SNEAK PEAK of Kindness Posters… Shhhhhhh still a secret! ha!

To be continued…