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.

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

12 New Chapters

Twelve new chapters equals 365 new opportunities. Maybe, just maybe we are writing this “book on life” together and Chapter 1 has already started to develop with the New Year. Social Media is the new handshake and it is time we reach out and meet some new friendly faces! Twelve “chapters/months” filled with the most incredible opportunities available to every educator and in turn to every child. Maybe, just maybe we should be challenging our students to the same things that we ourselves are challenged to do. Maybe, this is what growth really looks like… the kind that lights the world on fire and resonates within the soul! What would these “chapters in a book” look like for you and your students? What about your administrators, parents, or own personal child? I would like to find out by having others guest blog each month, so…

Let’s ASK THEM! Help me by sharing this blog across the globe with others to spotlight their voice! I am looking for voices of all ages to share their thoughts over the next 12 months… a moment in time for us to journey together! Let’s start sharing!

Anyone can guest blog… no age limit or title! Pre-Service teacher… YES! Teacher… YES! Admin.. YES! Professor… YES! STUDENT… YES! Parent… YES! Your own personal child… YES! If you are invested one way or another into the betterment of education, I want to share your perspective!

The world is waiting to hear from YOU!

Pick a “Chapter AKA Month” below
Open a Google Doc and start writing!
Then share your Google Doc with me @nankr1120@gmail.com

Chapter 1/Jan.: OWN your #OneWord2019

Chapter 2/Feb.: Kindness Kudos

Chapter 3/March: Lucky Enough to CREATE that Pot of Gold for Others

Chapter 4/April: Purpose

Chapter 5/May: The Championship Game- We Cannot Win It Alone

Chapter 6/June: Personalize Your Joy

Chapter 7/July: In It To Win It

Chapter 8/Aug.: Breaking Traditions- Tossing Out the Old and Creating New

Chapter 9/Sept.: Friday Night Lights

Chapter 10/Oct.: Fall Into the Future

Chapter 11/Nov.: Finding Gratitude in Grace

Chapter 12/Dec.: ________________ (Give this chapter a title)

Natasha Bedingfield… nailed it:

“Let the sun illuminate your words… “

“Feel the rain on your skin, no one else can feel it for you”

“Live your life with arms wide open”

“No one else can speak the words on your lips”

“I’m just beginning… the pen is in my hand”

Pick the pen up! Let’s write this one together!

CLICK HERE to message me with any questions/and or ideas!

#OWNit365edu

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities, Personal Learning

#OneWord2019 “OWN”

This isn’t just about one word, it is about a word that will become

my go to

my action

my reaction

my mantra

my why for 2019

My #OneWord2019 is OWN!

This one word is where my thoughts will go to in most, if not all, situations. That is how I tick. When I give worth to something, I OWN it. I make it mine. I use it for betterment and depend on it to be my mirror for accountability. I value it enough to give it my time and attention. I create opportunities because of it and at times in spite of it. I am committed.

When I listen to others, I will try to OWN my part in their story. Maybe they are feeling let down, left out, frustrated, or deflated. What can I do to help them and others to feel better? To feel important. To feel worthy. I want to OWN my share.

Unlike a New Year’s Resolution, this #oneword is a constant reminder for betterment in my world. It becomes a way that I can mold a moment and put a new spin on what may seem disappointing, upsetting or even disengaging. It is a way for me to OWN my share on this walk in life. I am an optimist by nature, so I don’t always see a situation from the bottom up or from a stance that devalues what I see as an experience. By OWNing it, I will go from

…consumer to contributor.  

I have consumed an abundance of information in the last 2 years. I have read more in this time frame than I have in my entire life, and all by choice. I have opened myself to others’ views, opinions, philosophies, and “whys”. I have attended conferences taking away life changing moments and adding them into my next EDUmission. I have consumed new ideas and methods that have transformed education as I have known it. And now… it is my time to contribute. This is my year to give back to education what has been gifted to me! It is my time to OWN my part in the future of every child, not just the ones within my own classroom.

…isolation to fellowship.

I have isolated myself at times by feeling misunderstood. My excitement for learning has removed me from conversations thinking that maybe I just didn’t belong. I have had to watch my words around others as to not offend by my mere energy for life and learning. I have walked out of conversations that did not better me and turned down open invites into negative closed off situations. I have isolated myself into a crew that supports my beliefs and initiatives in place of throwing up hurdles and roadblocks at every turn. And now… it is my time for fellowship.  The kind that is okay with uncomfortable. The kind that can add a new perspective. The kind that does not personalize, but OWNs an opportunity.

…blame to responsibility.

I have blamed the system one too many times. Truth be told, I have blamed decision making without understanding why the decision was made. I have blamed 24 hours in a day for not being 30. I have blamed circumstances for disappointments. And I have blamed myself when I was not to blame. And now… it is time for responsibility to be taken. If I am going to be responsible, the kind that I want to model for all my children, then I need to OWN my part!  I will hold myself accountable to learn the why before I react. I will OWN my 24 hours and use them to better myself as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and educator. I will take responsibility for my part and use it to lead others.

Day 1 of 365 days to OWN! They are each gifted to me by Him and I plan on making each of them count! Bring it on 2019… This year I am ALL IN and OWNing It! #OneWord2019

Personal Learning

The Forgotten War

It was Christmas Day and I was waiting to talk to my brother. My heart was heavy not having him home for the holidays, yet so grateful because I could at least connect with him…

see his face

hear his voice

all through Face-Time, which was something that I could not do during his previous deployments.

My brother, CW5 William David Kilgore, is on his 5th deployment with the U.S. Army and has spent the last 7 months in Afghanistan with a few more to go. During this time, I have talked with him most every week, been able to send along some pick me up gifts from the “Burgh”, and even had him connected with my classroom so that my students could build a relationship with a true hero. Through all of this, I have been able to have a stronger connection with him during this deployment than ever before, yet on Christmas Day he said something that made my heart just drop and truly gave me pause.

Pittsburgh Natives: Robert Wilhelm on left and, my brother, Billy Kilgore on right.

We were in the middle of chatting when I had asked about his holiday dinner provided by the Army. We talked about his delicious meal and how he had looked forward to serving dessert as a privilege and honor for being an officer. We went on to talk about conversations with family back home and how the other deployed men and women were doing being away for the holiday. He kept his smile and then simply said…

this has been the “forgotten war” for soldiers.

I just stopped.

I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.

I was fighting to be strong.

I didn’t want to break.

I wanted to give him a smile to fill his heart. I knew at this point I just needed to listen. His words were not spoken out of pity for himself or others. It was clear to me that he was sharing something that I never truly acknowledged. My brother has always made it clear to me to not feel sorry or worry about him. He has ingrained in me that his service is his passion and that he chooses to go there so that the enemy cannot come here. All I could think of in that moment was… have we become so “accustomed to war” that we have forgotten that my brother, along with so many men and women, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, not to mention friends, have sacrificed so much for each of us? How did war become our normal? How did having soldiers deployed become a part of our normal every day life for each of us? When did we stop counting down the days for the war to end? Have we forgotten?

As our conversation was coming to an end, my 16 year old son Trent entered the room and asked to talk with his Uncle Billy. This was not uncommon for Trent, and with the holiday it was even less surprising. He began to speak and my heart filled with an amount of love that made my insides feel like they were going to burst. He said something like this…

Uncle Billy, thank you for your service. Thank you for being over there so that we can be safe here. Thank you for giving up your Christmas so that I can be safe and comfortable here in my own home sitting warm by the fire. Thank you for all that you do and to all the men and women serving with you. I love you and Merry Christmas!

Oh my heart. We remember. We are grateful. We pray for you daily and will continue to do so. We are counting down the days until you arrive home safely, along with every single soldier serving.

And Billy, I will own my share for the forgotten. I will reach the masses and remind them how blessed we are to be here while all of you are there. I will recognize my own shortcomings and pave the way for others to hold themselves accountable in honoring the men and women serving. I will use my freedom as a vehicle towards a better tomorrow. I will count my many blessings. And… I will pause and pray for the families of those that have sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice for each of us.

Always remembering. Always grateful. NEVER forgotten.

Congratulations to Chief Warrant Officer 5 William D. Kilgore on his promotion.
My students busting their best dance move! True Joy! #ThatSmile

Personal Learning

Sit On Your Thoughts

The power behind listening strengthens all relationships!  The question is how well do you do it?   When someone else is talking,  what exactly are you doing?  Are you sitting on your thoughts?  With experience and self-discipline at the forefront I have found “sitting on my thoughts” to be the best tool for building relationships.  As I enter this holiday break with both a 12 and 16 year old at home, I feel that I have already learned so much more about them just by being there… oh, the power behind listening!

The phrase “sitting on your thoughts” started when my 16 year old son Trent was about 8 years of age.  He had been diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and was in need of a strong dose of filtration, boundaries, and acceptance for his thoughts (just to name a few areas of need).  One of the biggest roadblocks was his need to say what was on his mind… this was part of his “make-up” yet reminded me of so many people that I had interacted with over time.  The strong urge to be real with others was a must for him.  This could go right and at times very wrong.  I had to teach him to not give himself permission to say whatever he felt compelled to share.  I told him to sit on his thoughts and filter what was relevant and would unleash positive impact.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a time for those real thoughts and tough conversations, but I wanted him to manage his own in order to bring quality perspective to a conversation.  This is how I felt I could raise him to be the man he himself would be proud of one day.  Would his words be valued for kindness?  Would his words help to make others better? Or would his words create a hole in someone’s heart… leaving them feeling less in place of more because he had a need to say it.  The question I remind him to ask himself is… is it really worth saying or should you simply sit on your thoughts? 

While you are “sitting” go one step further… what look are you portraying?

“The look of” hurry up I have something to say?  This is one I have felt from others and I am guessing you have too.  Did they really hear you or did you hear what the person is saying?  Are you racking up a rebuttal, a solution, or a personal experience that connected to the topic?  The one that is on the tip of your tongue ready to share.  Or did you just interject, right there in the middle of their story?  Although my friends tell me that I am an amazing listener and am someone they feel they can always go to, there is no doubt I have fallen into every single one of these “scenarios” at one time or another. 

Are you actually present and listening? 

Or are you waiting to talk? 

Do you feel you are engaged, but your eyes are telling a different story? 

This holiday season while you are gathered with family and friends, just try it… sit on your thoughts.  Listen. Learn. Love.

Personal Learning

The Outlier

Today’s keynote at #SASinstitute2018 was dynamite!  Dr. Tony Wagner, author of “Creating Innovators”,  left me in awe as he connected data to the burning topics of education.  It is powerful to hear others speak of their passions and what resonates with them, but something bigger started to formulate in my mind as I soaked in the experience and research that was connected to his words.  He took us on a journey of curiosity, problem solving, the assembly line approach to teaching, connecting innovation to team sports, referencing the silos that should no longer exist in learning, extrinsic and intrinsic rewards, mindfulness and accountability.  Yet the simplest share out, possibly a side thought or reflective moment, of remembering “the outlier” is what left me nodding my head in full agreement.  He mentioned that if you ask a child who their favorite teacher was… or even their favorite year of school, the answer fell with the outlier… the one flying solo… the “different one”.  Yep, no doubt… every time!

The outlier!  Beyond a statistics class, I am not sure that I really thought about it, but that is exactly where the innovation in education is taking place.  That teacher that students remember…

the one that was different

not status quo

a disruptor

a risk taker

the playful

passionate

student centered

and full of driving purpose.

A teacher of impact!

It leaves me thinking… when did such impact become the outlier in learning?  How did creativity, failing, imagining,  perseverance, empathy, and passion get so far out of reach from the norm that comes with developing as a child?  It truly amazes me the amount of conferences, blogs, books, and professional development on a whole that is needed to create change so that students are not left with a silo experience of one teacher making a difference.  When did the average experience become acceptable for our children?  When did conformity become so comfortable?

When will you… become the outlier?

Thank you Dr. Wagner for never losing sight of our most precious part of the future, our children.  Thank you for continuing your journey with education to allow others the opportunity to question our practices, as I have done today.  May we all come down from our “ivory towers” and allow for experiences that pave the way for our young people that are ready to change the world! 

 

 

 

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

Tis’ the Season to Create Opportunity

Tis’ the season…

for true insanity!  The kind that comes in the form of 

gift brainstorming

decorating

celebrations

shopping til’ I drop

(let me toss in the excitement of presenting at my first conference)

and…. oh, yes…

planning engaging lessons that supersede that of the jolly ol’ man himself!

Now that last one is a dooooozy!  So how on earth can we as educators keep learning at the forefront of the holiday season.  Quite simple… just ask our students!

What would you like to do in math for the next couple of weeks? Their eyes were wide open to match their little voices that were going nonstop as they talked over one another to get their idea out.

We had just finished up celebrating our Chick-fil-A luncheon reward for embracing flexible seating in the classroom.  Our local Chick-fil-A in Robinson Twp. had closed one store to build a new and better establishment across town.  In turn, they offered out their used furniture to anyone interested.   My fellow colleague Olivia, who formally worked at their business, called me up to see if I was interested.

Interested? Ummmm… YES!  I brought home tables, chairs and stools that have added more awesome options to our already flexible classroom.  But the one thing that I felt would take our learning right over the edge was the ENTIRE LIGHT UP MENU BOARD!  You heard me!  Yes, I’m the one that looked over at the heap of metal stacked up, ready for the dumpster and said, “Any chance I could have those too?”  I remember the look on the manager’s face as if that was far from something that she envisioned we would desire.  “SURE!”, she said.  Oh yes, this was the game changer I was looking for… math would never be the same in the most exciting way possible!

Rewind… If I am being totally honest, the menus sat in a stack for almost 3 months.  They were huge and heavy.  The idea had gone from complete excitement to… what was I thinking?  Then the day came.  The reward luncheon was about to unfold and what better “decoration” to have than the menu boards, right?  I brought each one in with the intention of having a simple “REAL-WORLD” math lesson and then off to the stack they would go again.  I mean, come on… where on earth was I really going to put all of them?

But when the hype of Christmas came barreling in, I found myself questioning my plan to move into a new unit so I had to ask the experts… the students themselves!

“Let’s run our own restaurant!”, one said.  WHAT? HOW? WHEN?  We haven’t even learned decimals yet… or money.  Wait, we don’t even know the first thing about running a business.  How will this take shape?  All these questions whirled though MY mind.

HOW WAS I GOING TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM?

Crazy how I thought this was a PROBLEM that had too many hurdles to make happen.  In reality, it was an INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITY with a personal invitation to authentic learning at its finest!  Even crazier to think I felt it was MY problem and not an opportunity to problem solve in the most authentic way possible.  A restaurant… WOW!

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A new space was created for the menu boards

Well my friends, that is exactly what we will do for the next 2 weeks of school.  I smiled and said, “Let’s get this plan in place.  Remember, we have to connect it to our learning goals… whose in?”

“WE ARE!”  And off they went.  The research began instantly.  They began talking about managers, shift managers, cost, employee responsibilities, resumes, interviews, and so much more.  We have reached out for a little more support from Chick-fil-A to donate bags and paper products to give our “business” life!  Students are ready to bring in their kid friendly cash registers, along with additional play-dough and other materials they have listed.  Over the next week, my students will be creating their own math journey.  One that I know will leave a lasting mark.  All of this excitement has unfolded because I simply asked one question.

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Tis’ the Season!

Personal Learning

L.E.G.I.T. Summer- Together

The T in L.E.G.I.T. is what I needed to bring my summer to a close and transition back into what I love professionally and personally.  The T stands for Together.  When it comes down to it, we are all better together.  Time to revisit trust!  To create opportunities.  To feel confident.  To own my summer.  To be the best version of my vision.  To open my eyes, my arms, and my heart… to find that place that I strive to be.  To Be ME!  But this could not be done alone… I needed my people and together we built a better me for a greater tomorrow!   

I find that when I am on a specific journey in life that I have a tendency to walk alone.  Not because others are not there for me.  It is more like me being me… I go back to my childhood instincts.  My survival mode.  My way of fixing things… on my own.  I admit, this is not the best laid plan.  But that is an issue in itself.  When was the last time I created a plan for me?  Not me the teacher.  Not me the wife or the mother.  Not me that others need in their world.  Me.  Simply Me.

It’s not easy to do… to take time for yourself.  We often tell ourselves that there is “No I in TEAM” and when do we really allow ourselves to be anything but a team player?  I am built to take care of myself so that I can serve others.  I just forget along the way that I need others too.  Others help to create a better me.  Others push back on my ideas and help to grow them into something larger than I could have dreamed.  Others add their perspective to remind me that mine is simply that… mine.  My guard goes up… my heart tends to fight the sensible understanding that I can lean on others, but then comes the jolt…

The jolt of reality that I can be me, broken me, put together me, flawed, imperfect, risk-taker, and at times too much me and yet I will always be better when I am TOGETHER with others.

To be a better me definitely means being with others.  Crazy, but true.  Being with others that pour goodness into my life the way I try to do to theirs.  Here are 4 ways that I made sure I was intentional about putting myself out there with others when my instinct said otherwise.  

  1. Put it on the calendar! There is something about putting a date on a calendar that tells the brain don’t you dare break that plan.  I was raised that when you make a commitment you fulfill it.  End of story.  So I did just that.  Bike ride with my son… on calendar.  Lunch with good friends… on calendar.  Read a book that I had been waiting for the release date for over a year… put it on calendar.  Stop into a friend’s office to see what his new job is about…  calendar.  Jump into a teacher Twitter chat that threw unfamiliar questions at me… calendar.  Dinner with hubby… calendar.  This is how I became intentional about being with others that filled my heart, fueled my soul, and rekindled the fire that burns inside me.
  2. Say yes! Often I tell myself to say no in order to not add too much to my world that I continuously strive to balance.  But this summer I wanted to say yes.  Not the easy yes, when my make-up is on and I am feeling fabulous.  I am talking about the times I am being reclusive, not feeling like getting ready, or do not want others to see inside my heart when I am not completely put together.  The times that I may not be able to help them or be my bubbly self.  So I did just that… yes, I will go to the museum even though my heart is beating out of my chest and I feel like I am going to cry.  Yes, I will meet you at the pool even though I don’t know if I am ready to be seen by others who will ask me if I am okay yet with the passing of mom.  Yes, I will leave my house a mess so that I can grab a few hours of catch up with a colleague.  Yes… the kind you say when it is not comfortable.  The kind that puts you together with others and sends you home a better you.
  3.  Sit On Your Thoughts!  I use this with my students and my own children, but somehow it slipped my brain to use myself.  I could be surrounded by 50 people, but when I was too busy chatting up a storm it felt like I was alone.  One isolated point of view… one long winded rambling sentence.   Then I would walk away no better than when I entered the conversation.  Now, I am intentional about sitting on my thoughts so that I can hear those of others.  Together we create a vision of what life really looks like from different perspectives.  When you have a spunky, outgoing spirit it takes some getting used to… not only for yourself, but for others.  We all become accustomed to what we know.  Others were used to me being a chatterbox (and still am, ha!) so at times I would get the question of,  “Are you okay? or is something wrong?”  Nope… I am just realizing I talk too much!  haha!   I look at it like I am passionate and it exudes from my being.  Yes, that is true, but others are passionate too and if I don’t stop and let them in I will be alone…. alone in my own thoughts.  I prefer together.

Here I am ready for the new school year.  I am filled with hope, love, excitement, joy, curiosity, and so much more.  I have a support system of pure goodness around me on every side.  I am loved, supported, pushed, and believed in.  I have my family, my friends, my faith, my colleagues and my #PLN (that is growing by the day) that are in this with me… the kind of support circle that only happens together.  #BetterTogether