Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I Like to Say Yes

I like to say yes.

The first reason I like to say yes is because I love learning new things. I think continuing to learn is one of those innate reasons that led me to become a teacher. My friends call me the Google Queen because if I ask a question and nobody knows the answer, I want to find out what it is.

The second reason I like to say yes is because I want my voice heard. If changes are coming down the pike, I want my voice to be part of the implementation. I want to be able to say what I think is good for the kids and what is not so good. Sometimes this gets me in a little bit of hot water, but at least my voice gets heard.

A third reason I like to say yes is because of the kids. Sometimes I can really see why we are doing something and how it will benefit the kids, so I jump right in to see what will happen if I give it a go. Other times it's because I disagree with the benefits for the kids. I feel like somebody has to speak up for them if a new initiative is going to make them more of a number than a little person. (See above in regards to getting in hot water!)

I've also come to realize that I said yes to escape. When things were not so great at home I said yes because yes kept me busy. Yes kept me at school in meetings or working on tasks. Yes kept my head and my hands busy even when I was at home. Yes was a great way to throw myself into something useful and beneficial while avoiding everything that was going wrong.

My answer was also yes because a lot of times many other people's answers were no. So many times I said, "I'll help if you need me to, but if somebody else wants to do it, please pick them." And there were just no other thems to pick.

There have also been many times where the yes wasn't my yes; we affectionately call it being "volun-told" to participate. The latest happened this past school year when I finally said no to something and received an email that started, "You administrator believes that you would be a valuable contributor to our conversation. We will be meeting..........." It's flattering that my voice is valued, but even when I say no I still somehow end up saying yes.

Now that my life is a little bit different, I've been working really hard to balance my passion for learning, my love of being involved, and the feeling that I don't want to / can't do everything. In our latest summer assignment from Unshakeable by Angela Watson, I read about establishing healthy habits and determining what matters most to me. She recommended asking these questions before deciding to take on a task:

  • What would happen if I didn't do this?
  • What will happen if I do it later?
  • How long will it really take me to handle this?
Now, these questions were specifically meant to help teachers prioritize the work they need to finish for their classrooms while handling all of those unexpected things that pop up during the day. But the first question really struck a cord with me.

What will happen if I don't do this?

It's a really interesting question to ask yourself about a lot of those things that we seem to make into "must dos" in this day and age. There are so many things that it will apply to, and I really want to make it into my question. It's not that I don't want to keep saying yes, I just want to say yes to those things that REALLY matter to me. I guess that'll be my next step: deciding what really matters.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

One Lucky Girl


And this.

The eagles' nest is at the very top of the center tree.

And this.

Canadian geese - momma, poppa, and babies floating by

And this.

What is all of this? It's my front yard. Okay, well, technically I have to walk all of 2 minutes if I want to get there the illegal way (down over the railroad tracks) or 4 minutes if I want to do it legally to get there, but it really is right in my front yard.

It's my happy place.
It's the Susquehanna River.

People knock the river all of the time. With Three Mile Island just a couple of miles upstream, another power plant at one end of town, and the county incinerator at the other, people tend to think it's pretty dirty and disgusting down here. But that's not the case at all. I'm certain there is more we could do, but right now the river is thriving pretty well.

This morning I rode my bike for maybe 15 minutes, and at the end of those 15 minutes I got to see two fledgling bald eagles messing around by their nest. I also got to see Mom or Dad come in and drop off their brunch. As I was watching the eaglets, a family of Canadian geese floated down the river, and a great blue heron flew by. I also got to see a small raccoon, and that did concern me a little bit. Little bugger didn't look sick, but he definitely shouldn't have been out at 11:15 am. 

Then I peddled back and stopped to enjoy the views from the White Cliffs of Conoy and a small little fishing spot where the Conoy Creek flows into the Susquehanna. It was a beautiful morning, and it made me realize how lucky and happy I am to be where I'm at.

Today's good news was tempered with some bad, though. My parents had to put their sweet kitty Jane to sleep. I swear Jane was a dog in a cat's body; she loved to be the center of attention, loved to be brushed, loved to be held, and loved loved loved nothing more than to sit on my parents' deck and watch life go by. It definitely will not be the same at their apartment now that Janie got her wings, but my bike trip this morning reminds me that there is always a circle of life. As tough as it is, leaving is as much a part of life as arriving and living, and we have to take her spunk with us as we keep going.

So I'm lucky -- I get to live in this beautiful place, feel all of these emotions, and keep on keeping on. What makes you a lucky person today?

Monday, June 20, 2016

What I Believe

This weekend was a great celebration - my friend's birthday, Father's Day, my "little" brother turned 40! There were lots of opportunities to spend happy times with people and reflect upon how far I've come personally. I'm so looking forward to continuing to grow this summer, both personally and professionally.

One of the things I read in my assignment from Unbreakable was the idea of having a mantra; something that acknowledges the challenges that you face but also reminds you of all of the positive things that you've got going on.

Even thought it wasn't remotely part of the assignment, I decided to go ahead and write my own mantra. While Watson included one in her book that was very good and definitely applied, I just felt it was important to put my own spin on it. She recommends reading it every day, and I'm thinking about hanging it on the wall next to my desk after I finish all the final touches. But for right now, here's the first draft of my mantra. What will yours say?

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was 7 years old. I always pictured myself growing up, getting married, teaching kids, and having kids of my own. While my picture looks very different than I expected, one thing is true. I have worked extremely hard for all that I accomplished, and I'm proud of myself for who I am today. 

Sometimes it seems like there are so many things out of my control, and a lot of them are. But I control how I decide to react to all of those things. Professionally I must always put my kids first and be present for them. For some, I am the most positive influence they have in their life, and they depend upon me to be in the moment with them. I will continue to do the best I can (which may not be perfect, but it's still pretty darn good) for each of them. I will try my best to communicate with their parents to show them how much their children accomplish and how much potential they have.

I'll never get away from giving tests or covering some of this ridiculous curriculum, but I do have the power to help my kids have all of the tools they need to feel like they can do their best. I'll make sure my kids know exactly how much I care about them as people, not as test scores.

And finally, but most importantly, I respect and care for myself. I am strong. I finished the Gretna Gritty! It's okay to be afraid, but I can't let fear keep me from trying new things that have always had the excuse, "That looks like fun, but...." I will be happy. I will be healthy. I have the power to do all of these things.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


So it's only been 5 days since my summer vacation, and I've already learned quite a few new things.

  1. Sticking tile to a backsplash really isn't that hard. Bending to stick the tile on the backsplash yes, actually sticking it on, no.
  2. Sticking tile to a backsplash is a lot easier when you have a friend who is willing to do all the tricky cuts for you!
  3. You can rent a tile cutter for $10.
  4. Using a tile cutter in your newly sealed driveway ruins the pretty color.
  5. Scrubbing said driveway helps a little, but not as much as you would think.
  6. Going to the zoo with your mom and dad is fun, even if you're almost 42.
  7. It's WAY harder to clean the grout off the tile than they make it look.
  8. Sometimes you just have to depend upon yourself.
  9. It's always my choice.
You probably noticed a little theme through my little list of learnings, and as you probably guessed I did a little tiling for the first time. I'll be quite honest - it looks pretty sweet. It's definitely not perfect, but I did it with the help of my friends, and I'm pretty proud. While I have always been confident in my school life, I am not always so confident in my home life. There were several times while I was working that I thought, "I can't do this!" or, "This is never going to work!" or, "Oh crap - I have totally messed this up." This negative self talk has kept me from doing a lot of different things in my life because of a fear of failure. It's something that I've been working on a lot with my counselor, and tiling the backsplash was one of the goals I had set for myself. In addition to all of the little tidbits I already listed, doing the backsplash helped me with two other things:
  • It's okay to ask for and lean on somebody for help.
  • Things don't have to be perfect to look nice. 
So while I still have to finish sealing the grout and putting the covers back on, here is some of the work on the tile!

Numbers 8 and 9 probably don't make much sense in the grand list of new learnings from tiling, especially since I already said it's okay to lean on somebody for help. But last year I depended upon a friend to help me get to the gym everybody. As sometimes happens in life things change, and while I'm sad about it, our daily gym trips just aren't going to happen this summer. So hence my learning for #8. I have to do it myself.

That kinda ties in nicely to #9. It has to be my choice to be healthy, and I can't depend upon anybody else. As part of my summer learnings, we are reading the book Unshakeable by Angela Watson. While I haven't gotten very far into it (and I'll honestly say, I don't think the first assignment really goes with what I read), I can say that it has been phenomenal in reminding me that everything is my choice, particularly how I look at and deal with situations. While my required postings are very specific, I'm hoping that I can use this forum to talk about what I've learned and how I can use it in my classroom. 

So three weekdays in, and I've already learned a lot. Hopefully I will continue to make the choices that help me learn and grow all summer long.