Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Look Back and Forward

This year has been full of firsts for me. It has been pretty amazing. Over my lifetime I've done a ton of stuff: traveled and lived in many places, but this year has been like no other. I didn't go any exciting places geographically, but the shifts in my own perspective were global. And I am celebrating big time. At the end of 2013, I want to merge into 2014 on a note that helps me to remember some of the best of the year.
  • Reading for enjoyment is becoming more of a norm. Since I have finally given myself permission to put aside "productivity" and just read, I have read more books than EVER in my life. Fiction, picture books, graphic novels, informational, fantasy, historical fiction, you name it. Most of the titles were written for middle grades. Many were brand new, hot off the shelf, or even pre-published. I went to places that came from the wild imagination of some amazing writers and introduced me to a huge variety of interesting characters. I laughed, cried, and wondered. I stayed up way too late to read. That's a good thing.
  • My students have a teacher who is thinking outside the box. I dared new approaches, which may or may not have included technology. I'm taking advice from some really smart people who, age-wise, could be my kids. For the first time, there is no "teacher desk" in our classroom and it is WONDERFUL. Kids gather in various places around our room and are focused on learning targets more than completing assignments (although they ARE required to that, too!) They are becoming more responsible for their own learning, so they are asking more questions. (Disclaimer: I still have a long way to go in this area, but we've made huge strides!)
  • PLN (personal learning network) growth has been key. "Meeting" educators from everywhere has been positive in so many ways. I imagine most everyone reading this can relate. I'm not an extreme blogger, tweeter, or Pinterest aficionado, but each of those platforms (and more) have provided more professional development and ideas for me than many seminars, college classes, or conferences I've attended. My commitment is to avoid (at all costs) comparing my number of "followers" with anyone else. If my motivation is for growth for me and my students, then it really doesn't make one lick of difference how many followers I have. What makes a difference is that what I do online makes a difference for my kids. That's it. 
  • Although I don't consider myself to be an expert on a lot, I am committed to my own growth, development, and learning. This year afforded me the opportunity to share some of that learning in professional development settings. Much to my amazement and delight, those sessions were well-received, fostered relationships with some pretty amazing people, and stretched me as an educator and as a person. I'm looking forward to more of that in 2014.
  • Common Core is no longer a looming monster. Chalk this up to a mindset shift. In our district there's been some chaos in the implementation of CCSS. If you're in an elementary setting, you know the feeling of having to shift not just one subject, but everything. For a while it felt as though I was in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night in nothing but an empty and leaking dinghy. Now I know that although I still may not have answers or as many materials and strategies as I'd like, we will make it. My kids will be stronger thinkers, and better at asking questions and problem-solving. Perspective is what I gained.
  • I am not done. There is so much more to be part of; there are so many things to do, goals to set and reach. I love this inspiring talk from Diana Nyad, who shares her "impossible" goal. I can so relate to her spirit.
As this year comes to a close and a new one unfolds, be brave, move forward, fulfill your dreams. There are always going to be obstacles and nay-sayers, but each of us has the ability for greatness.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Living Up To Expectations

We all have tapes playing in our heads. Some good; some not so good. And some are downright negative. I think I'm pretty normal in that. 

Sometimes those tapes result in making decisions that are not necessarily the best ones. Not that they're bad; just not the best. It's so easy to jump on a bandwagon to gain approval from someone we respect or admire and before you know it we're over-committed. That, then, almost always leads to feelings of failure - or at least not being good enough. We compare ourselves to others who seem to have it more together, who are farther along the path, or a plethora of ideals or qualities we deem inadequate in ourselves.

Today I'm sitting in my windowed great room watching the snow swirl outside. It has taken over the landscape. It's impossible to ignore or escape. Where just last week there was green grass, now it is white - all white. It makes me think about the "stuff" in life that wants to take over and cover up what really drives me, much as the snow is doing to the once green and thriving grass. The temptation of doing in order to keep up with or impress others covers up and makes dormant the life we are meant to lead. In an attempt to be clever, likable, or even popular we allow ourselves to be "covered" with whatever it is that grabs our attention and might move us up the ladder of, well, you fill in the blank.

Josh Stumpenhorst shared a poignant story from his own classroom on his blog, Stump the Teacher. A student in his class just wants to be noticed. She wants others to know her name. Not famous, not a star, not a Steve Jobs or Meryl Streep. Just noticed. Immediately I thought of students in my classroom who may share those feelings. I've been asking myself if I'm doing all I can to be sure each one feels known. Mostly, I think they do, and I work hard on making sure each one knows his or her importance to me.

Then it hit me that quite possibly I'm the one who is feeling unnoticed. There's really no logical reason for that. But it's those bad tapes. AS the snow is coming down outside, covering the flowers I never cut down, I realize that I have fallen into the trap of doing some things out of compulsion. Compulsion to succeed, to be part of the pack, to be seen as more worthy. And it's backfired. Not terribly or irreparably, but my own sense of self is getting a little lost. Instead of moving forward, I'm a little stuck. Almost feeling trapped. I'm not allowing my own creativity and knowledge of my kids and my abilities to drive me. That's not good for me or for my students.

So I have made a decision. Although the snow will inevitably keep all things covered at its will, I will get out from under my blanket. I will be more than satisfied with my own skill set, my own abilities and creativity, and my own perspective. I will get back to the business of doing what I know is "me" in every area of my life. Even in writing this post.

Are you allowing yourself to be covered up? Stop it. Be you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Wow! It is SO fun to have friends come up with new words that have meaning and make me goals! "Nerdlution" is one of those words. Currently (as I'm typing) it's underlined in red, indicating that it isn't really a word. I'm convinced, though, that soon the underlining will disappear as is has with so many other great words ("iPad" and "blog" come instantly to mind).

This year I've wanted to be a better model for my kids in writing. I've vaguely done that. Haphazardly. I'm uncomfortable with that response. Nerdlution, however, is giving me that kick in the rear I need to get me back on track. Click here for Colby's post about it!

The super cool thing is that it's something I've been working through in my head for the past several weeks. And now, some of my Twitter (another word that doesn't show up in red underlining anymore!) friends have come up with an ingenious way to keep the writing going! Yay for them, good for me, and GREAT for my kids!

So this is my writing for today. And (by the way) I've been ADHD through the whole thing; read at least four other blogs and tweeted some, too. Now, to get those dang papers checked before I go to bed. Oh, and read some more...