Well, my New Year Resolutions did not last HOWEVER, I have made some significant changes in my life that I would like to share :). Additionally, with the start of Lent I am always reminded to simplify and be the person that God intended me to be.
Just Say No toCaffeine…in the afternoon
I gave up caffeine in the afternoon. It started at the beginning of the year when I took a week off of work and realized that I had not had afternoon caffeine all week and just continued that. Previous to that, I had about 40 oz of coffee in the morning and a Red Bull (or the off brand equivalent) in the afternoon. Next will be to cut down the morning dose, but I have a three year old and that challenge will have to wait a little longer.
As a first year administrator, my biggest learning experiences have been related to evaluations. Next year I plan to write the summative evaluation throughout the year to cut down on the stress of second semester. I realized that in my optimism that I needed to be more direct with people as I have learned from Brene Brown in Dare to Lead, “to be clear is to be kind”. I had verychallenging conversations as well as very productive ones. I look forward to improving this experience for my staff next year but am proud of the job I did this year.
Meditation and Creating Margin
I begin each day with ten minutes of meditation. This is huge for me as when I started I was reluctant to the activity (I actually believed that I could not even spare 10 minutes). I’ve seen the benefits of creating margin in my life (I also practice “pausing” for two minutes with a breathing/mindfulness app, 3 long breaths each time I start or stop my car, etc). Mindfulness doesn’t remove anxiety, but it does help me accept it and move forward as opposed to being stopped in my tracks. I could probably write a whole blog post on this topic alone, however, I will keep it moving. Feel free to engage in a conversation with me about presence and what I have learned from Tara Brach.
I would really like to return to blogging more often. I love how I am able to look back and see progress when I blog. Let’s see what I can do in the weeks ahead.
The last couple of months have been the most challenging in my life. I have questioned everything about my existence, felt emotions that are indescribable and have felt the deepest sense of responsibility I have ever felt outside of when I had children. I have been reflecting more than I can ever remember but have not been able to put my words to this place because unfortunately some of the words are just not appropriate for the public forum. I have had people question parts of my being that I thought were unquestionable such as my dedication, my honesty, my integrity. What I have learned is that those things are still unquestionable and it does not matter what others believe because it is only what I believe and know to be true that is true.
I’m getting better.
I do not need the validation of others to know this is true.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I am living in this moment. I believe in the essential goodness of others and am learning to treat myself with loving kindness because I too am essentially good.
I will continue to do the “next right thing”.
I will post on here when I see fit and I won’t feel guilty when the posts cannot come.
I will continue to believe in myself and this place I am in right now.
I look forward to what I will learn and I am surrendering control of every last thing.
I’m getting better.
I’m not feeling better. Rather, I am feeling better.
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.
As I watch one final student in my classes take her final exam, I have a moment to pause, reflect, and blog about this whirlwind of a year. I’ve grown in so many ways and still have areas to work on but I feel great about my accomplishments and look forward to the future. Here is my Top Ten List of reflections on this last year.
1.) Increased Technology Integration
It is NO secret that I love technology. However, I am judicious about what I utilize in my classroom and whether it is using technology to improve on instruction or just as a replacement of something else I already do. Annie Forest had a blog post (that for the life of me and my Googling skills, I cannot locate) regarding her necessary needs for tech and it really makes you think about how, what, when, and where to use tech in your classroom. Some of my favorite tools this year include Google items like Docs and Sheets (even though I do not have a Google classroom), Geogebra, Desmos Activities and the calculator (especially when students thought that they were “cheating” by using the tool because of it’s ease of use), Khan Academy, Bitmojis and my Bitmoji post-its, Ted videos, Schoology, Twitter, the Post-It App to capture my daily “gots” and “needs” and our new gradebook through PowerSchool. I’ve gotten awesome with using SMART Notebook and one of my favorite things about it is drawing geometry pictures with ease, screen shotting, and inserting the diagram into a totally different program. I have involved my students now more than ever into the actual use of tech in my classroom but one aspect that I need to work on even more in the years to come is giving students even more voice and choice when it comes to using tech.
2.) One Expectation
Spurred on by reading Sara Vanderwerf’s blog, I took on the new mindset in class of one, HIGH expectation “50 minutes of math”. I plan to kick off my class in this manner next year as well. I used to have five expectations, per my discipline plan from college, but loved streamlining it down to just the ONE. Students this year would often quote that expectation not only back to me but to each other if other students got off task. I was amazed at how well it worked.
3.) Getting to Know My Students Better
One of my main goals this year was to get to know my students better. Inspired by another Sara Vanderwerf blog, I successfully did a MUCH better job of this through my own table tent activity (you should do this!), really making a concerted effort to ALWAYS stand at my door (to which if I was NOT standing there I often would find a student in my place acting “like me” by saying things like “hey, girl, hey” and how are you doing), and through activities like the 5x2x10 (5 students, 2 minutes per day, 10 days of me checking in and having a one-on-one conversation). I know that I can only improve on these activities but I really felt like I improved greatly over past years when it comes to this area of my teaching practice.
4.) No (Obligatory) Homework
I fully embraced this idea second semester. I was not happy with what I was getting from students in terms of the homework that I was assigning. Many of the assignments were copied or students would actually do the whole assignment but would sometimes practice skills 10 times INCORRECTLY. I realized that my aims for homework were not being met. Specifically, I wanted students to practice the skills from class on their own. The students who were typically doing the assignments did not really need the practice and the students who were not doing the assignments were not getting the practice they needed. I made all of my homework assignments optional. To address the need to have students practice skills correctly, I used Khan Academy so that students would get feedback immediately. Students who did not respond well to Khan Academy could “opt out” of the assignment without detriment to their grade. Although this system was FAR from perfect, the understanding/scores/grades in my classes was at least comparable if not better when compared to other classes in my school and my personal experience and grades from previous years. The system needs tweaking for sure but I loved some of the outcomes in class when I could point back to the idea of 50 minutes of math. Not having obligatory homework meant more time in class to do activities like the one pictured below since we didn’t have to go through the answers. In the future, I want to incorporate “Math at Home” activities for students to do with their parent/guardian related to the math that is present at home (money required for purchasing groceries and the tax involved, looking at yearly income tax documents, the math in measuring for making dinner or the math in sports etc)
5.) New Job
Next fall, I step into a new position as the Division Leader for STEM which includes Math, Science and CTE departments. I am excited for the new opportunity to have a different impact with students. At the same time, I didn’t realize how much of a voice I had while I was a teacher and how my voice can potentially be different in this new position. I have found myself really considering what I say, when I say it and how I say it so much more than I did before. This isn’t a bad thing but I wish I would’ve learned that lesson before now. Treasure your teacher voice, it is much more powerful than you probably believe. I want to scream from the rooftops that “I am the same ol’ G” but I know, in reality, that I will change. My hope is to stay true to me and to always keep students at the forefront of my decisions and actions.
6.) Phone Usage In Class
Given my open integration of tech in class, students have more access to potentially distracting applications in tech. I believe that school is a great place to learn about the appropriate use of technology. If students don’t learn in school, where do we expect them to learn these lessons in an authentic atmosphere. We have to approach students as the tech integrating learners they are though. We cannot expect that they will be perfect all of the time, students never have been. Even “back in the day” we passed notes, whispered conversations, and played games unrelated to the school tasks at hand. Today, adults have addictions to apps and games (think Candy Crush, or checking the likes on your status, etc). We have to use the time with our students to help them figure out how distracting their devices can be, how to focus appropriately in class, and how to manage our classroom goals while using technology. I am happy with the work that I did in this area but I am looking to improve upon it in the year to come.
7.) Grace and Presence
I’ve afforded myself more grace this year. By giving myself more grace, I found it easier to also empathize and extend more grace to my students as well. To paraphrase Angela Watson, ease your high expectations of yourself so that the only person that notices is you but so that you allow yourself the margin necessary to decrease some of the stress. I feel much more balanced. Almost everyday this semester has included a daily practice of meditation upon arrival at work. That practice has helped to focus my actions especially in the critical beginning of each school day. I also noticed that on days where I skipped the practice, I didn’t feel as in touch with the moment. Being present with my students from moment to moment and day to day has really helped me be a better instructor and work on my students needs. This work will always be something of a work in progress, however, I am enjoying this journey and look forward to what can be produced in the days to come.
8.) Math Play Table
I hope to have a play table even in my office next year. It draws students and adults alike into the room and engages them in math without them even knowing. It is really one of my favorite additions this school year.
9.) New Visioning and ToDo Lists
This semester I worked through Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. The club has been beneficial to my practice. The audio recordings were well matched with the times of the schoolyear presented and I love the way that she presents how to schedule your home and workweek. I will fully disclose that if you sign up for her club this month and mention me, she is offering a great deal to current members, HOWEVER, I would fully recommend this club even without the great deal. It has helped with many of the positive attributes noted above.
10.) Still Growing
I love that I can look back at this year and see that I am still growing as an educator. I am excited for the year ahead. I know I am not perfect and never will be however, I am proud of the work I’ve done this year and I can’t wait to take on the challenge of next year.
This year has been a good one for me as far as improving my practice and reflection but I realized that I was looking for something different, something more. For the past two semesters I have thought about doing Angela Watson’s 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club but was scared because of the commitment (both financial and time). As with most purchases, I applied my rule of if I see something once I won’t buy it on a whim but if I still want the item after that point then maybe I should buy it. Additionally, a blogger that I truly respect, Sarah Carter, wrote a post about the club and that was the tipping point.
Top Five Takeaways Thus Far
When I signed up for the club, I put a calendar reminder to myself to make a “keep it” decision about three weeks in as Ms. Watson offers a money back guarantee. At that point though, I decided this program was a keeper. Here are the top five reasons why I decided to continue my membership:
The List Making System As a list making person by nature I was surprised that I liked Ms. Watson’s way better than anything I had done previously. I mean, I plan all my dinners in a Google calendar, have a grocery app on my phone that I love, and I used a post-it system at school that gave my post-it addiction purpose :). However, this system was awesome and I loved that it was editable and in multiple formats. As others have said, this system alone was worth the club investment. I’ve made priorities, felt less stressed, and made more time for my family. I’ve been impressed that I have started training at 4am again and it hasn’t been detrimental to my energy level later in the day (which has not been the case in the past). I have realized that these priorities have also allowed me more time to devote to landing a new job (I have landed TWO interviews this year….wish me luck on those positions :).
The Weekly Podcast I am a big books on tape person for my commutes (I have a 45 minute commute to work each day) and having this 20 minute downloadable has been great. I love that it previews the pdf materials available and provides great insights as well. I have gotten some great ideas from the podcasts that I have implemented into my practice immediately. Also, I love the encouragement to just try ONE thing that week. The program has so much to offer that it can become overwhelming, BUT with the encouragement to do just ONE thing I can definitely make that doable.
The Online Community I like that the Facebook community is available. I understand why it needs to be a Facebook community as opposed to a Twitter one (however, Twitter is still my preferred social media for teacher stuff). My posts have been approved quickly and I like going through this experience with other teachers.
The Organization of the Club Ms. Watson organizes the materials into monthly topics. Much of what she offers you could probably get from a variety of online resources for free. Part of what you pay for is the organization of everything. It helps give me focus and it feels like I have a coach.
It’s Been Good I have had great results each time I have tried the ONE thing I decided each week. I look forward to what the club has to offer in the remainder of this year especially over the summer as I prepare for next school year.
I highly recommend this program and have not been compensated for this review in any way.
Ever since we started back to school I have been listening to books on tape. Honestly, if I would’ve known how well I respond to this media I would’ve used books on tape in high school and college. However, Hoopla really makes everything easy and economical. Typically books on tape start at $20 each and through Hoopla (thank you Indian Prairie Public Library) I can borrow 7 titles a month. I’ve also started an Audible subscription which for $15 per month you can purchase one title at a much reduced rate. Here are the books that I have “read” lately:
The Case for Christ by: Lee Strobel
This book intrigued me from beginning to end. From all of the courtroom stories and metaphors to the real objective look at the history behind the Christ story, I was hooked. This book strengthened my faith in Christ and I will wholeheartedly recommend it to Christians and Atheists alike since it really reads more like a secular book. I have recommended it to almost everyone that I have talked with lately about the general topic of books.
Mind Hacking by: Sir John Hargrave
This book had me laughing out loud and really thinking about my thinking. It was a relatively short read if you do not include the 21 day challenge. I have used coachme.com to help me track the 21 day challenge (I am on day 16 at this point). I have found it difficult (read: impossible) to do the meditation during the weekend. It is my current challenge to myself to actually carve out the time and do meditation at home. However, the meditation and challenges have really helped center me at work and people have already made comment about how much happier I seem. It is nice to hear that, but it is even nicer feeling that.
Present Over Perfect by: Shauna Niequist
This book was just ok. At first, it really seemed like the author was INSIDE my head. It was really crazy how it seemed as though she was reading my mind. Unfortunately, toward the end of the book, I got tired of what seemed like an endless stream of her consciousness. My biggest takeaways from this book included the use of pajamas to really get my body and mind ready for bed, finding the strength to say no to make room for better yeses, and the reminder to myself that I don’t want my eulogy at my funeral to be “she was really efficient”. I liked this book, but could see how to some it might not be their cup of tea.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by: Mark Manson
This book dropped the F-bomb like 100 times in the first 5 minutes. The author laid off the word as the book went on and went to a much more standard vernacular by the end. I like how he pointed out counter-intuitive ideas about what we choose to care about versus what we choose not to care about. This book really reminded me of when I was taking a course called History and Thought in high school and how my teacher would go on and on about “free will”. At the time, I thought it was just a buzz word for him. Now I realize that really free will is all we have and the concept of free will is a big one. I love how the book talked about how you always get to choose what you take as your responsibilities (though you don’t always get to choose the circumstances that led to those responsibilities). This book was pretty far from most of the positive thinking self help books I’ve been reading but the more realist change of pace was good for me and my psyche.
How are symbols created and when are they no longer used?
In my job as a mathematician and teacher I am surrounded by symbols. We use symbols to make things more efficient, bring attention to items for future reference, to abbreviate ideas, and to represent other things. Google defines a symbol:
I am struck by the reference to musical notation as the notes on a page represent a tone and length of that tone but is it really MUSIC? No, the power to music comes from listening to it. Are musical symbols necessary? In some cases, yes. I think it is amazing that Pachelbel’s intentions for the sound of his piece is probably the same now at the 100 weddings this weekend as he originally intended it to sound in the 1700s. Without these symbols, that tradition might have been lost.
I think it is amazing in mathematics that by noting this:
that the observer will know that I intend for lines l and m to never meet, EVER. After establishing that, we have a whole slew of other ideas to show and prove. Simple lines on a page take the place of words and meaning, as long as you understand what my symbols intend. Symbols take on meaning only when the inscriber and the observer “know what you mean”. Unfortunately, to the casual observer, some of this meaning is lost if you don’t know what I mean. Thus rendering the symbol useless.
We place so much emphasis on symbols such as our flag, a cross, a star, a rainbow triangle, a plus sign, and the list continues. We assume that other parties “know what you mean” by displaying these symbols. But do they? To show our dislike for an idea, we may dishonor, erase, or disrupt the symbols associated with these symbols. When symbols we hold with high regard are treated in this way, we react with knee jerk reactions. Why? These symbols are just that – symbols. Symbols may represent these real feelings and ideas, but the symbols themselves ARE NOT WHAT THEY REPRESENT. Before we get up in arms about how a symbol is treated, we need to reconsider those feelings and realize that just because the symbol was treated in such a way, it does not take away from the essence and being of the thing the symbol is intended to represent.