The blank page – #SOL21 – March Challenge Day #6

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The blank page is daunting.

Even when I walk away. Do something else. Live in the moment.

Still, the blank page taunts me.

Plays with my patience.

Laughs in my face.

Calls me back anyway, like I knew it would.

And I oblige.

I come back not just because I’m committed to writing every day.

I come back because I will not give in to the blank page.

Even though I’m struggling.

Even though the clock ticks on.

Even though another blank page is a painful reminder of my struggle.

But this is not the first time and it won’t be the last.

There are too many times when I sit down to write and my mind is blank.

Just like the page.

Too many times when I struggled to come up with one brilliant idea to write about.

Just one.

Is that too much to ask?

One brilliant idea?

Ha! Apparently, on some days it is a big ask.

Like today.

But still I write because the only way out..is through.

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

Controversy – #SOL21 – March Challenge Day #5

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There is a conversation happening among teachers in some places.

The topic is controversial, but only if you think the conversation is intended to censor you. To silence you. To tender you culpable. To question your professional decisions and choices, rather than to elevate and uplift non-white voices.

If you can get beyond your own white fragility or even internalized racism for a moment, then you will see something different. You will realize that like Maya Angelou so wisely said, and I am paraphrasing, ‘When you know better, you do better’.

You do what you can until you get new information that challenges what you previously believed to be true.

Sometimes the dissonance is deafening.

The denial is real.

Some are eager to wave the multicultural banner as long as it’s safe. As long as it doesn’t require too much effort. As long as they don’t have to delve too deeply into their own biases and prejudices. And, we all have them, so there’s no need to pretend.

When some folks are challenged to go deep and examine their own beliefs and practices, they claim censorship and pull out the ‘I’m not a racist’ card”. And that gets old and shallow and keeps the system intact.

Controversy is healthy.

Conversation is important.

But dismantling oppression can’t wait.

Be safe, but be brave.

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

Enjoy Today – #SOL21 – March Challenge Day #3

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Today was a good day.

Today I connected with more kids.

Today I became known in our online class for certain things I say, like “newsflash”, “peeps”, and “Of course, I’m muted!”

Today we laughed.

Today we worked hard.

Yes, we worked hard in our online space.

Today I am tired.

But it’s a good tired.

Today I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

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

Some Days – #SOL21 March Challenge Day #2

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Some days, like today, I feel exhausted.

Some days, like today, I think that I just can’t do this all over again tomorrow.

And the next day.

And the day after that.

Some days, like today, all I want to do is watch Netflix for hours at a time.

Some days, like today, I am grateful because I get another chance to get it right…tomorrow.

Some days, like tomorrow, may just show me that I made the right decision all those years ago.

Some days, like tomorrow, may reaffirm my commitment to teaching.

Some days, like tomorrow, I may just get one more thing right than the day before.

And, because of that one thing that I may get right tomorrow, I’ll keep coming back.

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

A Year in Review – #SOL21 March Challenge Day #1

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Last year I wasn’t able to participate in the Slice of Life March Challenge because I was recovering from cancer treatment. Not only wasn’t I able to sustain something as taxing as writing and sharing every day, but I was barely able to read or write much of anything. And, I wasn’t eating a whole lot at this time last year. Although I was recovering, it was touch and go for a while.

This year, I am more like my old self again or maybe I’m my new self.

I am grateful for everything that happened to me because it made me take stock of my life and my relationships. It allowed me to clarify my goals – postponing some goals for a later time and reaffirming other goals that I had neglected for way too long.

My hair has grown out. It is a mix of black and white and it’s pretty short compared to my old hair style. And, I like it.

My hair’s not curly anymore. And, I like that, too.

Every time I remember how I tried to straighten my hair when I was a teenager, I cringe: I was trying to look like someone other than me and I was not succeeding. Looking back on that time, I’m glad I failed at that experience. Not that having straight hair now, considering the reason why it’s straight, makes me happy, but it has taught me that all of the things we do to be not like ourselves are a waste of time and governed by external criteria of what it means to be beautiful or smart or brave.

Well, a cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery took care of exposing those lies. Those things are not really important.

Full disclosure: I’m still trying to figure out what really matters.

So, this month I am thrilled to be returning to this community to share slices during this seemingly never ending pandemic. Although most of my posts will be about the challenges and joys of online teaching (yes, there are joys), I also hope to find joy in unexpected places and blog about that.

Looking forward to this year’s Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge!

My Mother – #SOL21 March Challenge Day #4

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In April, it will be a year since my mom passed away.

This week my brother and I sold her condo in Miami.

My brother has promised to send me some pictures and other things he found when he cleaned her apartment to get it ready to sell.

I can imagine the pictures that he will be sending me. I can see all of them on the walls of her apartment.

I am writing about this to prepare myself for that package.

My relationship with my mom was always a battlefield. I never knew when something I’d say or do would cause her to attack or belittle me.

And nothing I could write here will do justice to the complexity of our relationship.

The truth is that I loved her, but I also feared her.

She was very controlling and manipulative.

And I am still working through a jumble of unresolved emotions.

But I have to make peace with myself.

I have to make peace with her.

And I have to make peace with our relationship.

I am hoping the “stuff” my brother promised to send will help move me in that direction. I am sure they will stir a lot of buried memories.

Remembering is always a positive step forward.

I am ready to look back and accept the range of feelings I experience when I think of my mom so I can move forward.

Here I go.

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

Being true to myself

I am a people pleaser.

I am also a rule follower.

Explosive combination, wouldn’t you agree?

Sometimes, pleasing someone and following the rules is not a problem.

At other times, in order to please someone, I must break the rules.

And still at other times, in order to follow the rules, I will likely disappoint someone in my life.

Either way, where do I fit into this scenario?

And, that’s where I need to enter the conversation by reminding myself of the principles that give direction and meaning to my life.

Being a rule follower is one of them, though I can break the rules when they are unfair or unjust. But striving to be honest is at the top of my list.

And that is probably one of the reasons why I haven’t been successful at getting access to certain positions, jobs or promotions that I was hoping for.

I have also moved around a bit during the course of my career, so establishing relationships and finding mentors has been a challenge.

And, of course, there’s that bloody awful imposter syndrome that rears its head often enough. I have probably transmitted a vibe that says: ‘I have nothing to say because other people have already said it and in a way that is probably more appealing and more interesting than anything I could cobble together, but I’ll give it a try anyway even if I fail because then I could at least say I tried.’

Ugh!

So much negativity in that last paragraph, wouldn’t you agree?

I am truly my own worst enemy.

But I am trying to evolve, and shift and create to influence and be true to myself.

In the process, I am learning to be my own best friend by focusing on the positives and reminding myself that I one of the reasons I became an educator was to be of service to my students and their families. To practice an education for liberation.

None of this is glamorous. None of it will generate a larger salary or bonus pay. None of it will add to what I want my legacy to be at the end of the day, which is to empower young people to continue to learn, question, stand up for others, and become better humans than those of previous generations.

A little vague? Perhaps. But I see so much brilliance in today’s youth that I have faith they will figure it out. That, after I have done my part, whatever else happens is the way it’s supposed to be.

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

Writing Without A Plan

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Staring at a blank page (or screen) can be brutal.

I know this to be true in my head.

But I recently experienced this in my body

for the first time in a long time.

I was unproductive and unmoored.

I was restless and distracted.

I didn’t have a plan (read: a list of writing projects) for moving forward.

I was surrounded by a cluttered desk

and a cluttered mind

that refused to settle on one idea long enough to start writing.

So, instead I rustled papers

I opened and closed tabs

I checked email (I did respond to a few!)

I tried (unsuccessfully I might add) to figure out how to transfer a note from my Notes app into a Google Doc folder

and, then, the writing time was up.

So, let me unpack this.

I always start a writing session with a list of writing projects that I want to focus on.

Next, I choose what I’m going to start with first.

Then, if I have more time, I move on to something else.

This time, I had no plan.

I thought I could just open up a blank page in my Google Drive and go from there.

After all, I’ve been writing every day.

I should have a bank of ideas from which to choose.

I am Super Teacher Writer!

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Ugh!

And, ouch!

What I’m describing sounds like a simple fix, I know.

But simple fixes aren’t always easy to see in the moment.

But they are learning opportunities.

My students will benefit from the fact that I am a teacher-writer

because I will continue to share my struggles with writing

and the strategies I have identified

as powerful ways to keep me writing

every

single

day.

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

A New Practice: My Daily (or Weekly) Wins

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I recently started a new practice.

I first heard about it on the Teach Write site.

I won’t lie: I took off with it like a dog with a bone.

This is a very simple, but powerful practice.

List all of the “wins”, or accomplishments, for the day or week.

Sometimes I set a timer. Other times I just write until I feel I’m done.

That’s.

It.

When I first start writing my list, I feel like I’m running on empty.

I grasp for anything that sounds like a “win”.

Then, after three to five entries, something unexpected happens.

Every item I write leads to another win.

Another celebration.

Sometimes the wins are small.

Like: I finally threw out my son’s Vans that our dog chewed up 4 months ago.

Sometimes they’re significant.

Like when I listed all of the things I created in a week for myself, my students and my family.

Sometimes they’re meaningful.

Like: I received three very positive and complimentary messages from parents.

The benefits of this practice are valuable.

I’ve discovered that listing my wins helps me review my day or week.

That’s something I haven’t done often enough.

Until now.

Then, I discover all of the things I accomplished during the day with my students, for myself and my family.

Before I know it, I can’t stop adding to my list!

Each item makes me smile.

Each new memory fills me with gratitude.

And hope.

Especially on those days when (it seemed that) nothing went well, I read over my list.

And, I muster the strength I need to give it another go.

And, that’s a win.

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

The Perfect Day

You know that excitement you get when things are just flowing?

Everything seems to be working just the way you envisioned it.

You remembered to do everything you were supposed to do.

You shifted smoothly from task to task.

You toggled seamlessly from Google Meet to Microsoft Teams meetings and back again.

Your to-do list for the day is done and you crossed all the t’s and dotted every i.

Pixels Image

Your desk is a mess ‘cause you’ve been working so hard.

You’re about to call it quits for the night and then you decide to open up your email account from students. One. Last. Time.

And, then you see it.

The student you were supposed to meet with, the one you’ve been after for so long and who seems to be avoiding you, emails to tell you she was there, but you weren’t.

And you realize that being in the “flow” is not the same as being finished.

And that nothing is perfect.

And your work is truly never done.

And, had you known that critical tidbit of information before going into teaching, would you still have done it anyway?

And, of course, you know the answer to that question.

Because being a teacher is your life’s calling.

And, so you pick up the pieces that fell through the cracks and start all over again the next day.

You can’t remember everything ‘cause there are so many things to remember and so many things to do. So many.

So, you apologize.

You reschedule.

You forgive yourself.

Tomorrow is another day.

It’s time to put this one to bed.

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