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.

Personal Learning

Countless Words of Impact

“You must keep writing,” she said. “You have to share your heart with the world,” she would impress upon me. “I’ve never known anyone quite like you Kristen,” she would say after I bounced back from another hit, personally or professionally. “You must write a book… you were meant to,” she insisted in her final weeks. And her “go to” phrase… “This too shall pass, you will see.” The countless words of impact. These are just a few of the words I replay in my mind and my heart each day. These are the words my beautiful mother in law, mother, friend, and confidante spoke to me while she was still here on this earth walking by my side. She spoke these words to me… because she could. Today marks one year that I had to let her go. I wasn’t ready, but I’m not sure I ever would have been. To know Sandy Nan was a joy, and to be loved by her was a gift of immense impact.

Her love had no conditions, ever.

Her love never judged me. Her love always understood me. I never had to find the perfect words or restate the ones I said. She never counted up the moments I gave her, that didn’t compare to the ones I received. She never asked me to give her another minute, nor did she expect it, ever. She never questioned my intent, as she knew my heart guided all my actions. She never needed an explanation, nor did she need me to speak one word, as she always knew what I was thinking. She was my biggest fan and my number one supporter. She spoke words of wisdom and listened with an empathetic ear. She never tried to fix me or the situation, but listened and guided. She held my hand both figuratively and literally, as I stumbled through this thing called life. Oh, how I miss her hand in mine.

You can’t go around it, you have to go through it.

I never quite cared for this phrase, as I have chosen plenty of things to bypass in life… the things that were within my control. But grief knows no bounds. It is a one way lane that you cannot pass on. It is blinded and cannot see… not race, color, religion, ethnicity, social status or bloodlines. You simply cannot go around it, you must go through to find a better tomorrow… the one that brings you joy to know she is with Him. In many ways it reminds me a lot of love. For each day that I have had to go through the grief and loss of my beautiful mother in law, is a day to remind me of the love that we shared… a love so very precious to me. Going through grief has looked differently for me than I had imagined. The loss I felt so great was also my dear husband’s mother, my precious children’s nana, my beautiful father in law’s love for over 50 years, along with sister and aunt, cousin and friend. So many hurt hearts that needed attention. Where did my loss fit into this big picture? I never needed to think about this before… I would’ve just talked to mom and we would have seen it through together, all while holding up our beautiful family. How was I going to do this for them and for her? The one person that held my hand was no longer there to go through it with me and for once I had to be the strength for my family that she had always been… a role I wasn’t prepared for, or at least I didn’t think I was. Faith.

Beyond 365 days of firsts…

I cannot say that time has healed anything for me as this was a year of firsts. The first 365 days without her, not to mention the hours and minutes. Some may think of holidays as the “tough firsts”, but those were oddly okay. For me it was Sunday in church, with too much room in the pew and no one to plan and cook Sunday dinner with me. It was a Monday, when I couldn’t call her for advice. A Tuesday, when the phone would ring and she would start every conversation with a little chuckle after she would say, “Kristen”. A Wednesday, when I just needed to hear her voice. A Thursday, when we would talk about weekend plans. A Friday, when we would just take a deep breath and recap the week. Saturdays, when we jetted down to the Strip District in Pittsburgh for just a few hours and wound up strolling in at 7-8:00 at night. When we would go to Marshalls, grab lunch, a massage, or just run errands together then drive home to tackle the mounds of laundry hand in hand. It was every piece of furniture I sat on that she helped me pick out, the drapes she stitched for me, the pictures full of memories that adorned the walls of our home, the bedding we found for a great price so we bought four sets instead of one, cooking meals she loved or ones we created together. It was setting the table for 5 and not for 6 (I remember the first time I set the table without her and I literally had to put her plate on the table and then take it away before anyone saw it… somehow to acknowledge to myself as it was my first of many moments to endure). The pies that were no longer being baked. The laughter and tears that were no longer there. Each time I hugged my precious boys, I would hug them a little longer just for her. It was Trent turning 16 and not having his Nana there to celebrate with him and tell him how proud she is of the man he is becoming. Jack struggling for the first time with anxiety and she wasn’t here to tell him he was going to be okay. Eric having to grasp a life without his beautiful mother. All while witnessing my father in law gracefully lean into his faith, a place I yearned to be.

Two simple words… “Thank you”

As we gathered around the table on New Year’s Day, we bowed our heads for grace. The table wasn’t full as Jack and pap had been under the weather, so Eric and I sat with Trent ready to bring in the new start that awaited. To hear Trent pray is like witnessing God himself, as he speaks from his heart and always embraces the moment. He went on to say, “Thank you God for this past year.” I could hear the deep breath taken by Eric as I was holding my own in. He continued, “I know it may not seem right to others for me to thank you for the year you took our Nana away, but you also gave us so much. Thank you for being there for us and for helping us through”… and the prayer went on and on. Tears ran down our faces and Trent said, “I am sorry, I don’t want this year to start off sad for us, but I felt that we needed to thank God for all he has done for us.” The countless words of impact. Without hesitation we both thanked him. We both spoke words of humility, love, and grace for this beautiful gift we call our son. This past year has had many firsts. My world revolved around mom in ways that meant I didn’t need anyone else. She filled every role she possibly could and I gratefully embraced every one of them. I suppose in many ways she was a continuous reminder of what joy can bring and that I need to be open to ways I can continue to find it in my life. Time has not healed me, nor did I expect it to. Time has not lessened my pain. What time has given me is opportunity… a chance to refocus, for friendships to blossom, for journeys to begin, to see hands to hold beyond the one that I lost and to thank you for walking by my side through all of it.

Thank you to those who held my heart with the deepest of care.

Thank you to those who had grace on me even when I felt I wasn’t deserving.

Thank you to those that allowed me to feel my own loss.

Thank you to those who placed opportunity in my path and then encouraged me to grab a hold.

Thank you to those who helped to create my new normal.

Thank you to those who didn’t assume or place judgement on me.

Thank you to those who pushed me when I couldn’t push myself.

Thank you God for placing each of these people in my life. Faith

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Personal Learning

Guest Blog: Khloe’s Snow Day

So far, I had a great morning with my mom. We made slime, bath bombs, and had a dance party. Right now I am practicing my roller-blading in the basement. Oh, I can’t forget about Reflex and Lexia. I did that this morning. I can’t wait to see you on Monday. Have a great weekend! Miss You! -Khloe, age 9

Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Getting Close to the “Fire Within”

Did you ever get so close to the “fire” that you had to move back or turn and walk away? There is no doubt it has happened to many within their own personal lives and in education. I can’t help but challenge every educator to move closer to the uncomfortable flame that Mandy Froehlich ignites with her book “The Fire Within”. This very book is a small glimpse into those we are interacting with every single day. A world with people who have a story… one that is part of them, but doesn’t define them. One that every educator needs to know to create a culture of empathy and understanding for those around us in order to spark that passion for learning. How can we possibly teach with and for those that we do not know? Is there an elephant in the room where you are standing? This very book not only affirmed my philosophy of knowing another’s story, but it has opened my eyes to the passion for learning that can be ignited from defeat!

The Girl & Her Little Red Suitcase…

Being a part of Mandy’s story by allowing myself to feel that sense of fear and pain that she as a 5 year old may have felt was ultimately my choice. She wasn’t asking me to feel that pain and it is quite possible that she had a completely different intent, but that is what I felt. A lump was in my throat while reading that she was coming up with the words she knew she needed to bring herself back into a world she was conflicted to live in, the one she knew as her home. I pushed myself to read on. I knew I may have a girl or a boy with a “little red backpack” that would need me to understand. I pushed myself because I knew that I was sitting at lunch every day with colleagues who may be carrying a “little red suitcase” themselves. Whether it was a “suitcase”, anxiety, depression or an unknown… Maybe, just maybe I could find a way to help others by understanding that adversity does not mean destiny and that a story is never completely written without edits… maybe I could help in someway with the next draft of their life. Just by being aware.

Victim to Advocate: Jennifer Johnson’s Story…

I was curious as to how Jennifer’s story resembled Mandy’s or possibly differed altogether. As I read on, I found myself taking a break after I read about her abuse. It was more than I could open my mind to on that particular day. I stopped and prayed for Jennifer… not because she asked me to and not because I thought she needed me to, but to thank her for finding the courage to share. A week went by before I found myself back in Chapter Four exposing myself to an anxiety I didn’t know I had… I was so completely uncomfortable. It was then that I realized I could be working with a “Jennifer” or teaching a “Jennifer” and I owed it to myself to open my eyes, my ears, and my heart to her story. One may think I owed it to Jennifer, and that may very well be, but on that day I knew I was the one in need of the exposure and through Jennifer I leaned in to the uncomfortable feeling I had tried to run from. I am now more aware.

Out of the Darkness…

This may seem so crazy to say, but when I reached Jennifer Casa-Todd‘s story I felt defeat come over me. It was a moment that I didn’t understand at first, but now I do. You see, while building my PLN, I started to follow Jennifer on Twitter and just like with Mandy I had this vision of what they were like and what I oddly enough wanted them to be… I know, crazy of me, right? You see, I thrive on go-getters, high-achievers, goodness and positivity and for some odd reason I had envisioned them as having it all put together with a beautifully wrapped bow on top of complete perfection. Would their story change that? Absolutely NOT! So why did I stop and take that deep breath? The thing is, I don’t know if I was ready for another person in “my world” to not be okay. But I read on… and oh did Jennifer’s story speak to me. I too had a concussion. To really understand the connection to my fear… I remember people in my life not handling my imperfect world of a drug-induced coma, loss of language and overall agitation that I had not displayed before. This made me so uncomfortable, yet reminded me of how I felt so burdened by other’s expectations of me looking like I had it all together. Oh, did that hit home! Listening to Jennifer recall her first attempt at being herself again and eventually an acceptance that she is different now opened me up to an acceptance that I too am different now. Yes, we smile. Yes, we are positive. Yes, we have hurdles. Yes, we are imperfect. Just be aware.

My choice… my takeaway…

Expert vs Experience was one of the most powerful conversations we had during our book study of “The Fire Within”. The experienced are not the expert… it is simply not their hat to wear. However, they can draw you in to understanding and help you build empathy based on feelings and emotions only the experienced can describe from their own personal journey. No one is claiming that by experiencing or listening to the experienced, levels us up as an “expert”, nor would we want to take on the very large responsibility. But we must recognize that we are a human connection to betterment and we must be willing to reach out and extend our hand. We must open doors to those in need and lift them up with support and strength.

Some people walk through life turning the cheek. Some look at life straight on. Some don’t pretend to know it all, but empathize for the person walking along side them. Some listen. Some talk. Some don’t want to be bothered. My take away from this incredibly profound book is…

How can we be a part of the lives of others if we choose to silo the experience? One’s story is their own to tell and through that story we can be aware. We can be aware of …

  1. assumptions we make.
  2. judgement we cast.
  3. the walk we take.
  4. the words we speak.
  5. the example we are.
  6. the strength found in one’s story.
  7. the impact we have.
  8. the inspiration we can give
  9. the support we must give.
  10. and the superpowers we can discover!

Are you able to “read a room” like Mandy so passionately describes her superpower? Open the door and come a little closer to the fire within… you will be surprised at how close you can get to the flame without ever getting burnt!

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 3: Instruction, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

Book Study Game Changer: STOP. RIGHT. NOW.

Did you ever read a book that continuously stops you in your tracks? I have been blessed to read many like this over the last couple of years, and once again I feel that I have hit the mother-load with my newest adventure “STOP. RIGHT. NOW. The 39 STOPS to Making Schools Better” by Jimmy Casas and Jeffrey Zoul. This book has left me in complete AWE, smothered in embarrassment, and standing on a soapbox all within a few short STOPS! Oh yes, I am uncomfortable… and crazy enough I thrive on on that feeling because it equates growth in my world and that of the entire educational community!

Oh to the AWE…

I have never really thought about it as much as I should have, but so often we as educators take the immense amount of pressure placed on us to get our students ready for the next grade and we literally create a culture that is developmentally set up for failure. In place of focusing on the now, we feel we are always needing to prepare them for the next level. In STOP 8 Jeff and Jimmy remind us that in order to find balance for every child socially, emotionally, and behaviorally, we must “focus relentlessly on the moments-and the students-before them today.” They are not saying that we ignore yearly goals or refrain from looking to the future to work back to the point we are at, but “if students learn precisely what they need to at each step of their journey, they will ultimately acquire all of the knowledge and skills teachers expect them to possess upon high school graduation.” I too have heard the words come out of my mouth like… “in the real world you will need to OR come next year you will need” and what I really want to be saying is… today we are focusing on ____________ to build a stronger tomorrow for every child!

Eeeek to the Embarrassment…

STOP 1: Assumptions! BOOM! This is my STOP… the one that I have felt on both sides. The one that embarrassed me most because I have been guilty of judging/assuming and let down by being judged. The vulnerability that Jeff showed in sharing his own “humbling- if not humiliating- moment” definitely encouraged readers like me to take a long look on the inside. I have always taken pride in knowing a child’s story and not assuming anything good, bad or indifferent. I have always felt my bonds were so strong because they did not feel judged and that I was always looking to know more to help them grow and be a part of their world. I have felt that so often others come to me and share heartfelt moments that can be challenging to even get the words out, because they know I will listen and won’t judge or assume. However, the one area that I have assumed more than my share has been with my administration. Often, I have passed judgement on decisions based solely on my perspective and the reactionary thought of “have you forgotten so quickly what it is like to be in the classroom or is this really the best for kids?” I have assumed decisions were based on their needs and not of the staff or children. I have assumed their intentions were skewed from what I deemed “good”. I am not excusing myself in any way for making these assumptions, but it wasn’t until I took a risk and started having tough conversations with administrators that I could see their perspective. I am not just referring to my district, but the network of principals, superintendents, tech integration specialists,curriculum directors, assistants at all levels and more that I have brought into my life through my global PLN (Professional Learning Network). This open conversation that gets rather sticky at times and doesn’t always end with agreement. At times we must agree to disagree to be quite honest. However, it nurtures a culture of trust, respect, understanding, appreciation, and a well-rounded balance for the betterment of our community through relationships that do matter. We can try and convince ourselves that there are sides and levels and that crossing them takes you to a “dark side”, but what I see is light… the kind that shines brightly on relationships being built around conversations that need to happen if we want a culture that thrives and not just exists.

Standing on My Soapbox…

When I am really hooked on a book, my students always know because it will be the same one in hand each time we stamina read. I am always with book in hand when they are, but for the same book to be in and out of the classroom for a stretch of time means one and only one thing… Mrs. Nan is in a book study again and can’t get enough! What I love most is when my students’ curiosity peeks and they just have to find out what it is all about. This time, I didn’t share right away. I told them the full title of the book and spun around the question to ask them what they thought we should STOP in education. You could have heard a pin drop… literally. NO ONE spoke and trust me this is RARE! I was actually sad at first because I pride myself on the relationship I have with them and the vulnerability that they normally embrace. This was different. To them, this was crossing a line… and there is no doubt other educators would feel the same. Not me, I need to know. I must take that risk in order to move forward. I reassured them of my love and that in no way would I be offended by their response. I reminded them that I trust them to share their STOP for the betterment of children and their learning. In turn, their hearts shared countless changes they feel would make a difference for all children. These 2 STOPS hit me hard (the lasting impact that they have had on these children for them to talk about it when it isn’t occurring for them this school year is profound.)

“Kids have so much energy, STOP doing NO RECESS!”

I had to know more so I asked. What do you mean by this? I have never known you to lose your recess. To this she replied, “I don’t lose my recess, but the ones who do distract me in class because they need it to get rid of their energy.” BOOM! OH MY WORD! I took pause and thanked her for sharing. Next up…

“STOP Right Now moving bees, clips and more.”

This one came from a child that had grown so much this year. He was learning to value his own voice, behaviors, reactions, and ability. He himself chose “cooperate” for his #OneWord2019 because it can be hard for him and he has realized that when he does do this he really likes himself and school. Once again I needed to know more… Can you tell me what you mean by this? He went on to say that it was really hard for him to sit still and focus and that this happened to him a lot before 3rd grade. He went on to say that it was hard to make friends because of it and it just built up anger and sadness. Sigh…

After these tough conversations, I felt I owed it to their parents to share this unexpected journey with them. I sent out a message that explained the book and how the children shared their viewpoints. I wanted to make sure that they knew it was discussed with respect and that if the topic came home in their daily “table talk” to embrace it and share with me. Not only did the parents appreciate the opportunity, but several of them asked how to purchase the book. This to me was one of the best unplanned lessons I could have ever experienced. This takes me to STOP 39…

STOP #39: Doing What You’ve Always Done… if I were the teacher that I was when I graduated in the spring of 1995, I would be coming up short at every turn. Computers were just arriving on campus and emails were being passed out to many of us who only owned a typewriter. I would have a classroom built on the Industrial Revolution factory/mill mindset in place of the 21st Century. I am the teacher today that my students need me to be. It can be uncomfortable and at times down right messy, but isn’t that what learning and growing really looks like? I cannot guarantee every parent that what I am trying to do in education is the perfect choice with 100% accuracy, but I couldn’t do that 22 years ago when I was hired either. What I can guarantee them is…

  1. I am not doing what I am doing because it has always been done that way, but instead I am doing what I feel is best for their child.
  2. I am willing to take any risk that will help their child.
  3. I am willing to learn with them and from them and alongside them, as I am not and never will be the expert on every topic or idea.
  4. I will always choose learning that is in their child’s best interest. That will involve state standards, passions, uncomfortable ideas of the unknown, empathy, compassion, respect, confidence, and anything that may bring growth academically, emotionally, behaviorally, and socially.
  5. I will always advocate for their child.
  6. I will give second chances because at the age of 46 I still need them.
  7. I will never take for granted the amount of impact that I have on their child.
  8. I will create boundaries and discipline their child, and they will know it is because I love them.
  9. I will empower every child to create opportunity for themselves.
  10. I will always believe I can be better and in turn they can be too!

We cannot START creating a culture of betterment if we do not STOP doing just because it has always been done. Thank you to Jeff and Jimmy for sparking the conversation that is desperately needed in education today.