I’m back. It’s been a while. I’ve been working hard… getting overwhelmed… feeling lost… and now trying to get my groove back. The vacation days did me well. In the spirit of my top five for Friday lists (which was a great way to keep me blogging and reading) I think I will commit to the following five things.
Blog Once a Week
I hate that it is resolution time as it will seem like this blog is an attempt at one of those. However, in my attempts to “get my groove back” I think that blogging is a part of that task. When I reflect, I can see where I came from and where I want to go. I really want to blog once a week. I’m thinking I can do that on Tuesdays – but hit publish on Fridays if I want to do one of my Five for Fridays.
I also would like to keep a thankful journal. The daily reminder to focus on all that I am grateful for would be a great way to start the day. Focusing on gratitude can only lead to good things.
Two Main Ideas
One of the authors I have listened to recommended writing down two main focuses for the day before checking email. I like this idea. I think I can incorporate it into my thankful journal.
One of the things that came out my initial meeting with a counselor was the need to establish boundaries on my life. Last semester I was showing up to work at earlier and earlier times (sometimes closer to 6am than 7) and staying later than what was really necessary (usually until 5 most days). Although late evenings and early mornings might be an occasional need, they should not be the norm. The work will be there the next day. I will not concern myself with what others think or judge myself harshly for coming and leaving work at appropriate times. This will also allow me time to focus on my family and the needs of my kids.
There is so much clutter in my home and work. Although Marie Kondo said that he clients never return to her, I think that I need to. I am rereading her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
This is really just a return to myself as opposed to new year, new me stuff. Hopefully this will go well.
This week was challenging. I wanted to do more self care and leave early but I only achieved that goal on Monday by leaving at 4:30 instead of 5. I stayed really late on Wednesday to help with Mathletes which I didn’t mind because in that situation I feel “in the zone”. I also helped with the football away game which I also didn’t mind because the game was good to watch and our students were great spectators. Regardless, I need to find a better way of achieving my self care goal or I think I will burn out by Halloween. Here are my takeaways from the week.
Teaching Is Never Predictable
17 years ago I started at Sandburg High School in the midst of their MAJOR renovation which was probably one of the most chaotic starts to a school year. Add to that two days into the school year was September 11, 2001 you can only imagine the uncertainty present every day. Therefore, when presented with the opportunity to assume a class that previously had no certified teacher and only substitutes for three weeks, I felt prepared for the challenge. This class is really challenging though. Not so much that I cannot handle it, but enough of a challenge that I am pretty wiped out after it. The experience has humbled me and made me realize that I have to find ways to support the other teachers who were impacted in similar ways because of this situation. Someone passed on the following quote to me this week, “feed the teachers or they will eat the students”. This resonated with me and I realized that I need to be even more mindful of the ways to recognize those teachers who are doing everything they can to help educate our students.
Mo Toys, Mo Problems
The district gave me a Microsoft Surface Pro to utilize for work. I love having access to a tablet and the laptop-piness is nice as well. I have been running into small things that I have realized that I like on my Mac a little better. The problem I often run into with new tech devices is that I get torn between which is the best to use in any given situation. For instance, I started lesson planning and using SMART Notebook and sometimes felt drawn to using my Mac for pictures because the Mac equivalent to a “snipping tool” is a little cleaner than the one on Windows (three buttons and a drag of the mouse compared to click, drag, click save, pick location). However, the space available on the new computer is amazing and some of the drawing features are super slick on this device. I think I need to go back to my policy of using the correct device for the task at hand.
When I Ever Gonna Learn…
I only managed to come home before 5 on Monday (and it was only at 4:30). Some of this I knew would happen as I had Mathletes on Wednesday and went to the football game on Friday. However, I need to make a much more concerted effort to get out at 4 so that I can spend good time with my kids. Maybe I can entice myself with an incentive this week. Maybe I need to include it on my “task” list as another line item. For my own peace of mind I need to take better care of myself.
My goal this year is to become even more knowledgeable in Desmos and hopefully get invited to join the Desmos Fellows next summer. Part of the application process requires you to submit an activity that you created. The one that I submitted last year was very rudimentary. I knew that it was a weakness of my application, but am glad that I went through the process last year so that this year my application will be VERY solid. To that end, I thought it would be a GREAT opportunity for me to create my own Polygraph this week. My first attempt was actually pretty good and I was impressed at how easy it was to create the activity (less than 20 minutes). I created the images in SmartNotebook as I am much more familiar with the drawing tools in there than I am with the Geometry tools available in Desmos (another area that I can work on this year). One area that I “improved” for the next iteration this week was made all of my lines MUCH thicker as when the sixteen images appear on a Chromebook they must be very bold to highlight the subtle differences between rays and lines. Overall, I am happy with my progress and look forward to more opportunities to create this year. Want to check out my most current iteration of the activity? Here ya go!
This has been quite the week for me. I have learned so much. Please do not judge the brevity of this post as a lack of either reflection or size of lessons learned.
1.) Stay Positive
There is so much power in positivity and that environment is a much better working environment. Early in my Bible Study days I remember someone talking about “faking it until you make it” when it comes to your faith walk at times. I thought that was hypocritical at the time because how do you “fake” faith? However, I learned later that it wasn’t really “faking it” it was more like putting on a suit jacket to appear professional as you learn the professional way of life. Also like how Dale Carnegie and I believe Lisa Nichols (@2motivate) talk about how you need to “act as if”. If you put these things into the world, it will eventually come into fruition. I have to work on my face. I was NOT in a positive mind set and ALL DAY people were asking me “what’s wrong”. I felt awful but I didn’t want to pass that on to them. I need to do more “acting as if”. I believe that it can only lead to better results for me both physically and mentally.
I came home last night early because my daughter seemed sick. We laid down around 7 and I didn’t get back up. I felt 100% better today than I did yesterday. Although it was not intentional to do that, I think that it was necessary. I need to make it a goal for me to pay attention to my sleep in the weeks to come so that I don’t get to the low spot I was in yesterday. I might need to prioritize this over all else.
3.) Return of the Music
It is amazing the impact that just a little music can have on everything. I had a little interlude with some reggaeton for my workout and Kirk Franklin is carrying me through the afternoon. I feel like I could take on anything right now. I truly thank God for the gift of music in our lives. I’m hoping to get out and enjoy the “music” of nature this weekend as well :).
4.) When You’re Down, Get Thankful
I took the time to write a thank you note to a couple of my colleagues and say a few thank you prayers. The time spent on these activities returned to me almost immediately. God revealed so many of the blessings in my life right after I got thankful. A thankful heart is so much more peaceful than where I was. There really is something to the idea of praising God even in the storm.
5.) Pull Back theCurtain
In the Bible Study Armor of God Priscilla Shirer (@PriscillaShirer) talked about going to the fair and seeing a table with whack a moles on top. Seems like everytime you whack one, another pops up in it’s place. If you pull back the curtain on the table you will see that the problem is not the mole but rather what is under the table that is causing the moles to keep popping up. The secret is to pull back the curtain to determine the real source. The problems of my week were not the problems themselves but rather, I believe, evil preying on my insecurities. Insecurities like:
“I’m not good enough to do this job”
“I should just go back to the classroom”
“My skin isn’t thick enough to handle this kind of pressure”
These are lies. God didn’t bring me all this way to forget me now. I am good enough. I am smart enough. And gosh darn it, people like me 🙂 . But for real, it’s not the moles that I need to battle, it’s evil. I’m done telling the world about my “mountain”. Rather, it is time to start telling the mountain how big my God is!
Sometimes I will be called to make decisions that will not make people happy. That situation unfortunately occurred twice this week for the same employee. I am a people pleaser by nature so these were tough conversations to have. I wanted to fold. I wanted to say, “ok, go ahead this ONE last time and then after this we won’t do that anymore”. However, I realized that making everyone happy is NOT what I am supposed to do with this job. I am supposed to be focused on students and student success and when I run decisions under that filter it makes dealing with the repercussions or consequences of the decision much easier to deal with. I am glad that I have great coaches in my Principal and Associate Principals to help remind me to stay this course. Additionally, I have realized that building trust with staff in between these tough decisions is vitally important so that they realize and expect me to make decisions in this manner as opposed to being influenced by emotions. I am by NO MEANS perfect at this, but I can definitely tell that I am getting better.
2.) Start With Why
I finished this book this week and I cannot recommend it enough. It is part of the impetus behind my first takeaway of the week. When you start with why and are crystal clear and concise with it, trust and innovation can flourish. When your why becomes fuzzy is when problems occur. The book discussed how the part of your brain which knows “your why” is NOT the same part which controls your speech. This is why it is so challenging sometimes to verbalize your why. This totally spoke to me as I cannot totally verbalize my why. When I was asked about my why at the beginning of the year I kept saying “community” but I really didn’t feel like that was REALLY “my why”. It is definitely a huge part of my why. More so than what you SAY your why is, it is how you do what you do and what you do that the world can see what your why is. I would hope that the world would see that a big part of my why is people. I love people. I don’t always agree with what they do but I love how unique each person is yet it is also intriguing how very similar we all are as well. I love this and I love love. My why has a love for people at its core. My words cannot express this. I can only hope that people can begin to see my why through the way and the what of what I do.
3.) We Are All Rich Together
A couple of weeks ago, I had to lean on two of my administrative colleagues pretty heavily. I was doubting everything that I was doing and felt overwhelmed. They helped me out so much. They didn’t do the work for me, they walked along side of me. This meant so much to me as I feared that after people see me in this way they would view me as weak. However, they are kind strong women and their presence empowered me to pick myself up and do great things. I had the opportunity to help others in a similar way this week and we are more powerful together so that when I falter someone can help me out so that one day I can return the favor to someone else. It taught me to remember to walk alongside of others and not do it for them. No one really wants a hand out. They want to be empowered to earn and do things for themselves. Similar to students in class who need to be challenged to learn but need a guide on the side to help along the way, no one really wants you to do it for them. I think I lead best from along side of others. This also reminds me of several years ago when I read a blog post about not carrying a pencil when helping students and not taking the pencil from a student when you are helping them (I used to do this ALL THE TIME). I lead best when I am part of a group co-facilitating and learning along side of people. This is probably why Snowball is such an integral part of my life and probably why I love teaching statistics.
4.) You Can Take The Girl Out of the Stats Class, but the Stats are Part of Her FOREVER
We had the opportunity to consider some data from our school, our district goals, and the SMART protocol as an administrative team. Through a discussion with the team we came to the lightbulb moment that our district goals are growth goals and that we needed a different data source than the one we were considering at that moment. We pulled up a different source and we had the opportunity to see a little bit of why data can be so rich and can tell any story you want. The problem is when people only hear one story and don’t realize the other stories the data is willing to tell you if you listen. We discussed the public perception of the data and how there is a standard that we need to teach to. I am not denying this important goal. However, another story of the data is that while students learn in our building that they are GROWING. Of course we need to address the public goal, but we also need to tell our story about how students are getting skills and getting better because of the education they are receiving. We need to address “the green line” of college and career readiness because that truly is our ultimate goal. However, we need to celebrate the growth that is occurring and address those students who are not growing. I love how our ECRA data can become 3D. Each of the points of their scatterplot is one of our students. It is so interesting to me to click and be surprised at students who are grossly underestimating their ability as well as those who need the additional push. I loved talking and teaching the data while learning what story our data tells and how we can begin to improve our situation. I miss teaching AP Stats ALL THE TIME but this week proved to me that I will always be a stats teacher as everyone needs to recognize their inner mathematician – maybe that is more a part of my why.
5.) Community Connections
Our new robotics and video editing teacher invited two community members in to speak to his classes this week. It was fantastic getting to dip in and learn about potential partnerships with these individuals. One of the speakers works for a college that teaches students about video editing. She showed clips of pre and post production work as well as work related to animation. It was awesome to see the attention to detail and the importance of precision in the work (one of my favorite CCSS Math Practice Standards). Additionally, his second speaker runs a local small business center. As a business owner, I totally understand the cost of overhead that people forget about when they consider opening a business. The business center reduces that cost so that business owners can focus on their business as opposed to overhead like toilet paper, office equipment, etc. I loved the opportunity to see passion for their work and the desire to invite our students to take a small part in it. Building relationships is crucial to success and innovation.
I’ve made it TWO MONTHS?!@# And they are still letting me in the door to do more so I must be doing something right. Now, I am also making plenty of mistakes but I am trying harder than ever before in my life not to repeat them.
1.) Spend Time with Teachers and Students
I feel like I’ve accomplished more on days that I have spent time working with students and teachers. Hours that I spend working behind the keyboard have often left me feeling like I have not done much. Luckily this week I had the opportunity to get into plenty of classrooms and work with a variety of students. I loved my experiences in the chemistry classes I attended. A teacher who I was not planning to see this week invited me in so I made sure that I came by to see some awesome demos. It was fantastic getting to see some of my former students interacting in this environment. It makes me wonder about the future when I won’t have direct contact with 100 students daily in class if I will still be able to forge good relationships like the one I have with Jamarion. He is such a great student. He is curious, sensitive, passionate, and caring. He went to Snowball on my suggestion and we had an interaction there that impressed me with his strength. Since then, he has always been a smiling face that I look forward to. I hope that I can still stay involved as I love the relationships I have with youth that are on the verge of the rest of their lives. I felt accomplished at the end of my days this week and I hope that I can continue with that.
2.) Spend Time with the Administrative Team
Since my first year at Rich East I have always been the one to invite others out for dinner before Open House and/or afterwards. Let me just give a shout out to Bixby’s which used to be our go-to place…so sad that yet another Park Forest establishment is no longer in existence. Anyway, given the new role I figured it would be good to go out with the administrative staff. We might have been few but we were mighty. I don’t know if enough can be said for having social interactions with others on staff. I got to know them a little better. We all have so many gifts to offer this world and it is truly a blessing from God when you get to discover those.
3.) Start With Why
This book is amazing. Our superintendent mentioned it on the opening day and I have been reading it off and on ever since. It’s amazing as you listen to advertisements and promotions that don’t start with why as opposed to those that start with what how much more powerful the former are. I think that I have to do more of this in my own life. I’ve gotten away from starting my days with God and I think that has caused some of the imbalance I am feeling in my life. If I really do believe that God is my why, then it makes sense to start my day that way. A quote from the book is “People don’t buy WHAT you do. People buy WHY you do it!” and this truly speaks to me. I believe that faith is not just something that is stuck in your head. It is what you do based on what you believe. It is the what that comes out of your why. I highly recommend the book.
4.) Mix Family and Work
I attended the home opening football game with my kids (no Eric, he had to work). I loved seeing other people’s reactions to my kids. They may drive me a little nuts but in all reality they are pretty good. They had a great time in the bouncy house and Alyce was into the football game (totally unexpected). I tend to keep the various arenas of my life separate but today made me question that practice. I loved seeing my former students interact with my kids and for people to see me as the real person I am.
5.) Don’t Take It Personal
Dang it Jackie, this was a takeaway from a couple of weeks ago. I should do some penance and write it over and over again. I totally took this one situation wayyyyyy too personally and in the end of the day I learned from the experience and the mistake that was committed ACTUALLY turned out to be a HUGE financial savings for a student in the long run which totally brings me back to realizing that ALL THINGS COME TOGETHER FOR MY GOOD! Anyway, I still need to 1.) take even more time to become intimately familiar with ANYTHING that could potentially fall under my domain and 2.) give myself the grace to NOT TAKE EVERYTHING SO PERSONAL! I will not take things personally. I will not take things personally. I will not take things personally. I will not take things personally. I will not take things personally. I will not take things personally. I will not take things personally. How many of these will it take for me to not take things personally 🙂
This week I finally felt like I knew what I was doing. Maybe it is because the first week of school is over. Whatever the case may be, I am just excited to finally feel like I am living into this new role and liking it. I knew I really liked this role when it was the first Snowball Tuesday and I only missed the being with the students part of Snowball. I thought it was going to be harder than this to walk away from being a director as I aspired to role for so long. However, the role taught me so much before I stepped into this role, I really felt like it prepared me for what would lie ahead. Without further ado, here are my top takeaways this week.
1.) Single Moms/Dads Are Amazing…and Deserve GRACE
I have said this line 100s of times since my son was born. Anytime mommin’ gets tough, I get thankful for my husband’s role in my life and can’t imagine the struggle of the single parent who has to go it alone. The last three weeks have really tested the generosity of my mother, mother-in-law and even good friend as my son’s camp ended in July but school did not start for another three weeks. So each week on Monday through Thursday I had to arrange care for him while Eric worked. This would involve either the additional pickup at my parents’ home, my in law’s home in Aurora, or out in Lockport at Shannon’s place. It made me have to leave work much earlier which usually was not a problem, however, this week already involved a late night. The agenda for a meeting I was requested to attend said the meeting would end at 5 which would be perfect for getting out to pick up my kids by the 6pm cut off (did I mention the fine is pretty hefty for picking up my daughter late from daycare?). Anyway, the meeting was still going at 5:15 when I had to leave or I’d be late to the pickup. I hated leaving. I don’t like being judged but on the other hand I truly had no choice in the matter. As I was beating myself up on the way home for leaving when I did, I realized it was a moment to be thankful for the situation I am in to I 1.) have kids 2.) have a husband who loves me 3.) a great daycare to go to 4.) a job. I am trying to give myself some grace but it is hard. I just hope to channel the feelings of guilt and badness into giving a single parent grace when they need it.
2.) Stay In Your Lane
I love to problem solve. Makes sense since I became a math teacher. When I see problems, I naturally tend to want to help out. I have discovered the longer I stay in this position sometimes it is best to just stay in your lane. When I dabble outside of it either I get swatted down for not staying in my lane or the problem I would have attempted to solve comes to a resolution anyway. This does not mean I should give up helping others. However, seeking first to understand a problem and whether my services are necessary is a good step to prevent the smack down to my lane or unnecessary worry on my part for a problem that will come to resolution anyway.
3.) Seek First to Understand
This week we had a problem in a classroom with a substitute. I was made aware of the problem and talked to the substitute to get a better picture of what exactly happened. Additionally, I spoke with the teacher upon her return to widen my knowledge of the situation. Had I acted before talking to either of these individuals, I would have totally made some mis-steps. However, after the situation came totally into focus by taking into account all of the sides of the story I realized no action was really necessary on my part. Seeking first to understand and then to be understood is applicable in sooooo many situations.
4.) Seek the Good
I was talking with someone who was pretty pessimistic this week. Despite the HUGE walls they put up in our conversation, I was absolutely RELENTLESS with my pursuit of seeking the good in any situation and IT WORKED. Honestly, I was astounded by the result. As I was chatting with the individual, I had doubts that my positivity would bust through the seemingly brick walls that were created in the conversation. However, focusing on the good and seeking it out in this person paid off. I will think back to this situation in the future when I doubt my positivity and will fondly remember how this person TOTALLY changed their tune. Even in the face of a super challenging conversation, there is good there.
5.) Feeling the Flow
Friday this week was amazing for me. I had many great conversations with staff members about improving practices at Rich East, a fantastic lesson with my Geometry class where students almost literally felt the headache for which math was the aspirin (separate blog post coming), and I left work a whole hour earlier than normal and didn’t feel guilty at all because the major stuff was basically taken care of. I finally felt in the groove with this whole administrator job. I believe this can be accredited to working with teachers. Since this was the job I was hired to do and it was the majority of the day I honestly feel like this is the reason why I felt in the flow on this day. I’m hoping for more flow days in the future but will appreciate this one until those ones appear.