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

Boundaries & Buffers

Take yourself back to the moment you felt that rawness and vulnerability that chose you in place of you choosing it. The moment that got away from you and left you wondering how you got there. When your perception of the moment was a bit skewed and possibly left you feeling unrelatable to others, your emotions started to waver, and you wondered, how did I get here? 

It is the moment you realize you have left yourself open in a way that takes its toll. You know that feeling when your neck grows tense, and you feel your arms stiffen. You can feel the strain straight through your body. You take a deep breath. But when you exhale, in place of relief, you feel the weight stacking up even higher, the kind of weight that has no measure. You think that you are holding it together, but the reality is that you are shoving your feelings down, way down. Then the day comes, and the most insignificant thing breaks you. You feel like you were set up for failure because you had been keeping it together for so long. Why now? Why the break? But maybe the bigger question is, what led you to this point? 

Recently, I was engaged in a conversation with colleagues across the country, and we were discussing various needs within education. We even took the risk in talking about practices we need to question or possibly leave behind. When thinking about what we need most, and that of our children, students, and community alike, I referenced boundaries and buffers, something that I learned from an incredible person and resource in my life, Rogna Jurecko.

I refer to Rogna as my life coach, not because I fear calling her my therapist, but because she has coached me through life. 

Rogna and I share a passion for the Highmark Caring Place, a place for grieving children and their families. It wasn’t until the incredible loss of my beautiful mother-in-law that I found myself reaching out looking for support for my family and me in the same space I had given comfort to students and their families for decades. Grief was breaking me. Her impact was endless. But if I am truthful with myself, I don’t know that I created a strong enough foundation to see me through such devastation. Rogna recognized my needs, she saw me, and she knew I needed boundaries and buffers.

What do they look like?  

How do we create them?  

Why are they necessary? 

Boundaries and buffers weren’t a suggestion. It was an area that I lacked and needed to gain control of in my life. They were within my reach, but I had to recognize them for myself. At one point, Rogna started the conversation. She told me I needed boundaries and buffers. With a brief explanation and a focus on the problematic areas, I found myself in a moment of realness. 

What had I done? 

How did I get there? 

What was I going to do to move forward? 

Creating boundaries and buffers opened up doors, helped me to see possibility, and restored my hope, and yes, faith, which led to an incredible amount of learning. Here are my takeaways:

My interpretation of boundaries: Giving yourself a space that has rules and limits that you can thrive within. Being able to say no, without apology, yet being open to yes, when the moment is right for you.

Three reasons why we need boundaries:

  1. They keep us safe: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 
  2. They keep us focused on what is important to us. We must remember that there are only 24 hours in a day. Yes, we do need to sleep!
  3. They are critical to our needs.

To me, buffers are what keep me healthy in all spaces. They help me to reduce my chance of hurt and pain. Here are my personal top 5

  1. The right to my time
  2. The ability to leave negative energy
  3. The ability to know where my limits exist
  4. Say no
  5. Releasing myself from judgment

What boundaries do you need to thrive? Make a list of the problem areas in your own life. What can you do to keep yourself safe in all capacities and all spaces? What buffers can you create to give yourself permission to maintain your boundaries?  Self-awareness is vital. I challenge you to make a list of areas problematic for you. Clarity brings comfort. Hold yourself accountable… you matter!

Remember, if you need a lifeline, there are experts that are waiting in the wings to help.  Reach out. I did. 

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

Just Like That: Innovation Became Our Stabilizer

I was in another conversation yesterday about what school will look like for our children this fall.  That conversation wove its way in and around many topics before it led to the always-asked question, “ So, what grade do you teach?”  My answer gave way to pause and laughter as I answered it incorrectly! Ha!  You heard me… I answered that very question the same way I have answered it for over 20 years with, “3rd-grade!” And just like that, I took pause and said, “Well, I have been in that grade for a very long time, but not right now actually!”  Yep, just like that, I went on to explain that my career path had changed to being a cyber teacher for the upcoming school year. The beautiful part was being able to share the WHY behind it… because that is what our children need right now.  

Simply Stated

It really is that simple. This is what our children need right now. Our children need an opportunity to choose where and how they will learn this fall and my district chose to create a program that would meet those needs. That is called change, not the “new normal,” but quite simply… change!  In my humble opinion, this is the kind of change a community should rally behind! 

My family lives in this very community. 

I work in this community.

I believe in this community!

I want my sons to be grateful for the options they have been afforded and enter their senior and freshman year with an ambitious attitude, along with the mindset that their year will be a success for each of them.  Our own children will be embracing another option that our district is providing, which is the hybrid program, where they will actually go to brick-and-mortar on scheduled days with the offset being remote learning.  Why?  Because it is what meets their needs at this time, just as the cyber program will meet the needs of many other students.  

Goal-Setting Jackpot

What I know now, but didn’t at the time was that my internal goal-setting ways helped me to hit the jackpot and obtain what I needed to be able to embrace the new journey ahead of me.  It wasn’t quick and overnight-like, but with hard work, an open mindset, and determination, I was able to prepare for what is needed for our children today.  I earned my Apple certification last year, my Google certification this summer, in addition to the Special Education certification that I worked on 25+years ago, along with many other countless professional development milestones!  What I didn’t know then, that is staring me in the face now, is that it was a ripple effect of growth for myself and those around me!  Knowing that I am capable of embracing this change definitely has an impact on my own confidence and drive to step forward.  It wasn’t just about knowing that our children need this program, but it was about knowing that I am equipped to step forward and make an impact where it is needed. A need for disruption! New opportunity!

I think exnovation is very relevant and necessary when creative destruction or the need to disrupt is required – seriously challenging the existing practices to spot new opportunities.

Chuck Frey

Just Like That

Something that leaves me in awe is how I have thrived in an innovative space, what I would consider as an “exnovation” or a “best-standardized practice of learning” for our children. I have embraced technology, personalized learning, along with a mindset that sees many more approaches such as Community-Based Learning (CBL) and Project-Based Learning (PBL).  As much as I would create the opportunity for each colleague, student, and parent to see value in these practices and embrace these innovative ways of learning, it wasn’t until the Covid19 Pandemic when it became an actual “need”, a true must-have for learning, that this mindset was embraced.  Just like that, the pursuit of innovation became our stabilizer!

Wow, I restate that last sentence over and over again in my head as I type. Just like that, the pursuit of innovation became our stabilizer! This leaves me with one thought… the kind that I ask myself and now I ask you: What can you do today to prepare for the change that tomorrow will bring? Just like that, it will be here! 

Personal Learning

Living My Best Life

Living my best life has not always been at the forefront of my choices.  Not that I wasn’t happy or trying my best, but there have been phases of my life where survival was more how I would describe it.  Through the ups and downs of life, one can feel overwhelmed and find themselves trying to get through, and at times even going around.  I was more so “doing life,” kind of like kids “doing school.” Maybe it was because I didn’t feel the impact of each given day in a way that I have felt over the last few years or maybe with time comes wisdom just as my grandmother would often say.  The one thing that I do know is that living my best life starts with me and I can only hope that through my best version I can help others. 

My meeting had started bright and early.  As I entered the room, one of my colleagues noticed my outfit and made a comment to the fact that she loved it, but was possibly surprised that I would wear it to school.  Not in a bad way, but a WOW way… the kind that was surprised I was embracing my workday with much grander! She made me giggle and my reaction came effortlessly as I said, “If I am gone tomorrow, you know I owned today!” 

Rewind: I started this blog over 2 weeks ago and then life “interfered.”

Life handed me the loss of a loved one at the young age of 22. Someone I admired and genuinely shared my heart with as we journeyed this life together over the years.

Life handed me a diagnosis that I had to face head-on, not go around or deny in any way.  “Stage 1 Melanoma,” he said, as he told me the “good news” to what could have been so incredibly worse. “It is manageable and curable… 99%”  All I wanted to do was go home and crawl on Eric’s lap to find comfort, but I couldn’t… he had just left for 4 days and this was not a conversation that would happen any sooner.  This was the first time I would have to face something so scary without having him to tell me it would be okay. At least, for 4 days. 

And then,

Life handed me an opportunity to sit still, so I did.  I absorbed this moment and then made a call. As friends and loved ones waited in the wings to hold me up, I called upon my pastor and he answered.  After an incredible conversation and much-needed prayer, I walked away with one thing resonating inside my soul. He said, “What is mentionable is manageable.” This gave me strength and somehow gave me back the power that I felt had left my entire being just hours before.  I am going to be okay… yes, this is what I kept telling myself! I’m living my best life.

Fast Forward: Today, I …

jumped into my book study to catch up, woke up my children, gathered all the things needed for a day of work, sent my family on their way, missed a meeting I should have been at, and somehow found myself standing at the doorway of my classroom… on time. They came in droves, down the hall… full of love, hugs, and stories.

was on the receiving end of goodness.

had the opportunity to teach the most amazing children.

had the privilege of learning from my students who confidently brought me into their world.

laughed at my students who had the most incredible battle of the bands that I have ever witnessed.

had a hug… make that several!

laughed with my friends over true silliness.

came home to my teenage boys and their teenage ways.

had more hugs.

jumped into my book study again and was fired up to hear some of the most poignant thoughts shared by educators across the globe.

reached out to a couple of friends to remind them to sit still. Lean in. Do for themselves. and have grace when needed.

sat still with my husband,embracing time.

broke down more walls and allowed for vulnerability.

pushed aside fear and allowed my faith to steer me.

Today, I am…

living my best life! Making it all count. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I’m owning today!