Change the Channel

Change the channel.

Not the TV channel, silly.

But the channel inside your brain.

Oh, you didn’t know we have different channels in our heads?

Yep! So many channels.

Switch the off button on anxiety and fear

and discover peace and joy instead.

Sounds difficult, almost impossible to do, doesn’t it?

When I first heard about this strategy my first thought was: “Oh, not me. I am the Queen of Gloom and Doom. I don’t know how to be unless I’m practicing worst case scenarios in my head.”

How can I ever switch the channel from sadness to joy?

From fear to calmness and confidence?

But it’s easier to do than I thought.

It’s about acknowledging, and then letting go of, thoughts and feelings that block you from having a joyful life. Know it’s there and then release them.

If you open yourself up to the universe,

to it’s abundance,

to it’s joy,

to it’s perfection,

then you will find a way to switch the channel whenever life throws you a curve ball that you think you can’t handle.

But you can.

Life is full of curve balls and fast balls.

It’s how we choose to respond when they come flying at us that makes all the difference.

So, change the channel my friends.

 

 

This summer…

This summer…

I’m experimenting,

exploring,

and developing new habits.

Letting go of what doesn’t work,

and welcoming what does.

It takes practice,

and consistency.

Courage, even.

I’m experimenting with having a daily writing habit by creating daily results that are specific and measurable. Even though I don’t like the word measurable for many reasons, it really helps to have a concrete goal that you can…well..measure! (A nod to @msrachelhollis for this one.)

I’m experimenting with how to structure my time so that I’m more productive. I created an analog daily schedule that encapsulates what’s important to me and helps me keep track of my day. It’s still a work in progress as you can see below; I refine it based on my needs.

My Daily Schedule

My Daily Schedule – A Work in Progress

I’m exploring using a reading notebook. I ask my students to keep a reading response notebook even though I’ve never really kept one myself. Recently, I decided to do just that. I am keeping a list of the books I’m currently reading and the date that I finish them. I keep another list for books that others recommend and put their name beside the title. It helps provide context to the book when it comes from the library or in the mail and I can’t remember why it’s in my hands. LOL!

I also started writing a few entries in my reading notebook. What I’ve discovered is that I’m not writing in it every day. And, that’s OK. Sometimes I’ve written almost a page and other times less than that. These are things I want to remember as we head back to school in September: what makes sense to keep track of in a reading notebook and what is just busy work?

My Reading Notebook

Sample pages in my reading notebook

I am engaging in a guided journaling adventure. You can read about that here.

I am cleaning house, literally, by donating what we don’t need or use to make room for what we have decided to keep and, figuratively, by dispensing with unproductive and joyless habits and replacing them with self-care routines and mindful practices.

What have you been up to this summer?

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

It Should Come As No Surprise

Note to the reader: Today’s call to slice was preceded by these two questions: What are the moments you are holding onto? and What are you letting go of today? I was upset while I was writing my slice but when I read these two questions I was able to calm down. I realized that I am in control of how I respond to problematic situations, in this case school re-entry in the fall. My blog post starts with anger and disbelief and ends with the only thing that will sustain me moving forward: HOPE


The province of Alberta had previously announced that on August 1st it would make public the school re-entry plan for the fall. Like most school boards and school districts in North America, the province was exploring three different scenarios: “near normal”  in-school return, a hybrid approach, and remote schooling.

Many of us had been waiting with bated breath to hear the final plans for school re-entry.

So, it should come as no surprise that the Ministry opted for scenario #1 given its openly hostile relationship to education.

It should come as no surprise that there are hardly any provisions to ensure that everyone stay as healthy as possible.

It should come as no surprise that the Minister of Education dodged the question about class size limits for the fall.

It should come as no surprise that this announcement comes on the heels of a spike in COVID-19 cases in our province and in other provinces in Canada.

It should come as no surprise that during the press conference teachers and other school staff were hardly mentioned in the re-entry plans.

In fact, it should come as no surprise that the province’s re-entry plan is really NO plan at all. (The lack of detail was a glaring and worrisome piece in the re-entry plan.)

It should come as no surprise that school staff will be responsible for monitoring student and staff symptoms. (No one know which staff this refers to exactly.)

It should come as no surprise that disinfecting surfaces will be done by…who knows?

It should come as no surprise that the press was told they couldn’t do any follow-up questions even though they tried.

It should come as no surprise that when asked what would happen if parents chose not to send their children to school the Premier spoke of “truancy laws” (“we have them”) and “homeschooling” (Alberta has an extensive home schooled population).

It should come as no surprise that many teachers are angry at not being heard or consulted about the school re-entry plan.

It should come as no surprise that I am feeling a little anxious and concerned.

I need to redirect my anger so I can channel it for my well-being, that of my family and for the sake of my students and their families.

I am hopeful – because what else can I be? – that my school board will provide more direction and specific guidelines than what we heard today from the Ministry of Education.

I am hopeful because my school board has a reputation of being upstanding and compassionate with teachers, students, parents and the community.

I am hopeful because, if not, I will fall into despair; I can’t let that happen so close to having come out of a very dark hole of depression.

I am hopeful.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

Permission to Pause – A Journal for Teachers

Recently I purchased a journal for teachers called Permission to Pause by Dorothy VanderJagt. To be honest, I hesitated to buy it at first. After all, can’t I just take a blank notebook and start journaling? Give myself my own permission to pause and reflect about whatever is on my mind? But I was intrigued that it was designed as a journal for teachers and after reviewing a couple of the pages, I was hooked.

A page from Permission to Pause

And, I’m not sorry I bought it though I paid less than what is currently advertised on Amazon. Nevertheless, I will purchase another volume when I fill up the pages of this one. Why? you ask. Because this journal has some thought provoking prompts and probes that really get me thinking. Instead of using my writer’s notebook to write a daily gratitude and random reflections, which could still be valuable, I can dig deeper by thinking about the questions the author poses. And, it’s all in one place. Because each day is different I don’t get bored; this was beginning to happen when I was using my notebook.

I like writing a daily gratitude, even though the author stresses that you can choose to journal every day or just a few times a week. And, she asks us to consider this: if I’m grateful for someone in my life, have I told them? Hmm. Rarely, which makes me realize that I need to do that!

When thinking if I’ve made a difference to others, especially students, I can also reflect on how I can continue to make a difference. By asking this question, the author helps me figure out how I can continue to do that; what is it that will help me influence students in the way they want and need to be influenced?

Teachers can browse and borrow from the Appendix – Take Action Ideas or create their own to become a more mindful educator. My take action idea for the last two days has been to sit outside and soak up some sun! It was wonderful!

So, did I already say I love my new teacher journal? LOL!

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

 

 

Social Media Review

Every so often I make a resolve to say “No” to some things so that I can say  “Yes” to what’s truly important…to me. But despite my best intentions, I tend to get lost in the fray that is social media. Fueled by the energy of other educators, and the “fear of missing out” (FOMO), I end up filling my plate with lots of seemingly great things, but with little to no energy to carry them out. The result is frustration, a sense of failure and a lot of wasted time and money.

So, lately I am back to being more discriminating in the projects I take on, both online and off. Because of the times we live in, it’s become easier to say “No” when money is involved. I tend to pick and choose more carefully when I have to pay for a conference or a workshop even when there’s a sliding scale, which I truly appreciate.

It feels good to say “No” so I can dedicate my time to something else that will fill a need I’m experiencing at the moment or in the long run. That means I need to be clear about what’s important to me and go with those things that amplify what I care about. And, in order to be true to myself and find my focus, I have decided to stay out of what I call Twitter Wars.

Some things people say on Twitter go against my belief system and I want to respond. Sometimes I get into arguments with strangers because rather than learning from each other we are more invested in having the upper hand. It would be better to engage in a debate about an issue that we both care about, but it doesn’t seem that’s what people are after. We want to be right rather than help each other learn. I am embarrassed to admit this, but it’s true. Furthermore, though kindness won’t save the world, it won’t hurt it either. There’s too little kindness on social media right now.

Needless to say, these exchanges are exhausting. So, I am disengaging from threads that are about sowing conflict. Instead I have started looking for people who are sharing what I think are important and relevant information and ideas. They are out there!

Because every so often I review my social media involvement I know this may not stick forever, but I’m going to try to make it work as best as I can. Instead of reverting back to old habits (like getting back into Twitter Wars), I will make tweaks and adjustments to what I’ve committed to here. That means I will prioritize a few blogs, podcasts, Instagram accounts, tweeters, and FB pages (that’s already a lot!) to follow and engage with in order to address my professional learning needs.

I’m sure I’ll be writing about this again and not just on my blog. Maybe you want to join me.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Tuesday SOL Challenge.

It’s a Perfectly Beautiful Morning

It’s a perfectly beautiful morning.

Yesterday’s rain is a distant memory.

It’s quiet, sunny.

A day full of possibilities.

I sit at my dining room table writing.

And think back to the last six weeks.

I had given up hope and my feelings were all tangled up in knots.

  • My mother’s death.
  • My slower than expected recovery (by me) from cancer.
  • My resolve to prioritize what’s important and finding it hard to do so.
  • My failure to show progress on my thesis and my decision to put it away for now.
  • I wasn’t eating.
  • I was barely moving. In fact, staying in bed was all I wanted to do.

Now, I sit at my dining room table. I feel myself returning to life. Or maybe life is returning to me.

At my lowest point, and out of desperation, my daughter said: get better for us because it’s clear you don’t want to get better for you.

That hit me like a dagger to my heart.

Maybe it was the reality check I needed. I don’t know.

What I do know is that my appetite is back, my energy is improving every day, and I feel closer to my self even as my self evolves into something new and better.

So, on this perfectly beautiful morning…

  • I welcome back hope.
  • I celebrate life.
  • I affirm the desire to live again.

It’s a perfectly beautiful morning.

Imposter Syndrome

2323d-11454297503_e27946e4ff_hHave you ever experienced a situation where you procrastinated, but for a good reason? I know. I know. We rarely, if ever, procrastinate for a good reason. But I promise I had a good reason. My good reason was that I had misplaced a digital document that would make revising efficient: the feedback on the print copy was not easy to read. The words were either cut off in the printing or I had no idea what part of what I wrote the feedback was addressing. That was a good reason, right? But what happens when you finally find the digital document (in the last place you thought to look, of course) and now you have no excuses to procrastinate?

Now what?

Now, you have to stop procrastinating and get to work.

This is my current dilemma. This is when the fear sets in and the imposter syndrome rears its ugly head. Because it is a “thing” that has a head and it’s ugly. So, I will try to acknowledge the imposter monster and let it go. Put him, yes it’s a him, in my mind’s balloon and let it go so that I can focus on making progress. Getting things done.

Yet, the worry that I am an imposter and that pretty soon everyone will discover the truth persists. And, when they do, they will know that I know nothing about teaching and learning, reading and writing. Everyone will point at me behind my back and whisper as I walk by: “She is an imposter”. Once that happens, I will have nowhere to hide. Right now, I can hide behind my inaction, more commonly known as procrastinating. As long as I do nothing, no one will know what I know: I’m an imposter.

But here’s the thing…if I keep repeating that mantra, it will become my reality. In fact, it already has. That’s why affirmations are so important. They are like aspirations. The places I want to go and that I have yet to get to. Repeating affirmations will shift my mindset and set me on a path of healing.

I write down three affirmations every day, but that’s not enough. The trick is to keep repeating them to yourself several times a day.

I usually write my own affirmations based on what’s currently happening in my life. At other times, I borrow them from other places. Here are the three that I wrote down for today:

  • I forgive myself for not being perfect because I know that I’m human.
  • I accept what I cannot change.
  • I make the best of every situation.

Do you practice affirmations? If you do, and you’re so inclined, I hope you will share one in the comments section.

Crossposted to The Two Teachers of Writing Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

It’s the weather or is it?

The weather here has taken a turn.

It was getting warmer and sunnier and perfect for being outside.

Then, all of a sudden, a couple of days ago, the weather turned. (It feels like it turned on me! Like it targeted me for  a string of low-energy-negative-attitude days.)

It’s cold.

It’s raining.

It even snowed yesterday, but since it can snow at any moment in Calgary that’s not so out of place.

I’ve been in a funk since Friday (the day the weather turned).

I’m feeling a bit listless.

Zoomed out.

Cold to my core.

I am reading and writing but, for a big chunk of the day, I just sit around.

I think it could be the darn weather that’s getting me down.

Or it could be that this quarantine is dragging me down.

Or it could be that things feel uncertain and I don’t do uncertain.

Whatever it is, I am ready for it to be over!

Crossposted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.

 

Lessons Learned

When classes were cancelled, I didn’t pay too much attention to the ever increasing posts on social media or the webinars popping up everywhere about remote learning and teaching; I’m on medical leave and don’t have a class of students at the moment. Yet, as this pandemic has continued its course and everything has become uncertain, I realized that something like what we’re experiencing now may happen at some point in September or later in the fall.

So I started paying attention.

I started listening to teachers talk about how difficult this is. I started reading articles and blog posts that attempted to help teachers make sense of the new digital reality we are living in, and I continued to read about equity and what that means during COVID-19. I began to participate in webinars, joined sessions on FaceBook live and inserted myself into the conversation.

I have been learning from other educators about the importance of focusing on social-emotional learning and trauma informed teaching; how to make effective teaching videos; and how to keep things simple and not expect a business-as-usual focus at home. I started keeping a legal pad of notes, that is quickly filling up, and that reflects what I want to keep in mind as I think about the fall, whether or not we are in remote learning mode or back at the school house door.

Yet, my most significant noticing during these last few weeks has been the heightened awareness by educators of the importance of connecting and building relationships with students AND their families. I want to emphasize the fact that we should have been connecting and building relationships with students and families when we were safely ensconced in our classrooms. If you are now realizing this, during a pandemic, I wonder what was happening in the classroom before this health crisis. And I say this, with a lot of love and grace, because if it’s challenging to develop connections with students and their families when we’re in a face-to-face environment, think how much harder it is to begin to do this NOW when we’re in crisis mode. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try, but it is my hope that this experience serve as a reminder to all of us that relationships do matter. Authentic connections do matter.

At the same time, and from my limited perspective, building and cultivating relationships can still happen online because we don’t have another choice. But they require a lot of work on the part of the teacher. Let’s not forget this when we return to school in the fall because even if teachers forge relationships with students and families, there may be one or more students for whom that doesn’t happen. And I repeat, trying to do that now is very hard. Again, this should serve as a lesson to make sure we intentionally connect with all students and especially with the ones that we have a hard time connecting with.

So many factors to consider. Let’s remember to show grace to ourselves, our colleagues, our students and their families.

This ain’t over yet.

95496-11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday SOL Challenge.

So. Many. Plans.

No matter how carefully we craft our plans, they sometimes go awry. Or there might be things beyond our control that just don’t cooperate with what we have in mind. Sometimes our carefully crafted plans have to be put on hold. Sometimes they need to be reworked or simply cancelled. Sometimes, we have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again.

That’s OK because the truth is: life happens.

Case in point: After my cancer treatment was finished at the end of 2019, I had so many plans for the new year.

  • Plans to travel.
  • Plans to finish my dissertation by the end of this calendar year.
  • Plans to submit a book proposal, get it accepted, and start writing the book.
  • Plans to start an educational business that would eventually allow me to quit my job and dedicate myself to educational consulting full time.
  • Plans to spend more time with my husband and son before he heads off to university in three years.

So many plans.

And, yet, I don’t feel sorry for myself. Maybe just a little disappointed. The truth is that I am beyond grateful for what I have as I look forward to following through on some of those plans, but at a later date than I had originally anticipated. And, that’s OK. After all, plans are made to be changed, adjusted, rescheduled, and brought to fruition…or not. I just need to let go of the idea that if things don’t happen as planned on the date I had on my calendar, then somehow I’ve failed.

It’s time to move on from the mental frame of “failure = bad because it can be paralyzing.

Yet, how many times have I said this and how many times have I let it immobilize me?

Too many to count.

Yet, that’s what this is about, isn’t it? Falling down and getting back up again. Starting over. Picking up the pieces. Not giving up. Taking baby steps, if necessary. Each success moves us forward.

Cross-posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge.