My New Normal

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I had every intention of writing a #SOL to share on The Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge last week.

It didn’t happen, but I continue to write.

I had every intention of finishing report cards by the first due date last Wednesday.

I didn’t get there, but I continued working on them so I could finish by the final due date: yesterday. I refined comments. Checked and rechecked student work. Visualized that student in my mind’s eye – harder this year because of those black squares adorning my screen. And because this whole process feels like just another box we need to check off twice a year. And, does anyone even read the comments or care? And, mostly because traditional report cards are limiting and diminishing to everyone.

I promised myself that I would engage in some kind of physical activity every day: walking, peloton(ing), yoga. Anything.

It hasn’t happened. Because of the weather. Because of report cards. Because I’m too tired. Because…I’ve run out of excuses. Again. But this time feels different because I’m different. Because my body has the memory of what it felt like when I had been walking steadily. No excuses. It won’t be long.

I miss getting lost in a book. Every day I try to read more than a page or two, but the mindlessness that I crave so I don’t have to think about anything and that Netflix offers beckons and I put the book down. And, instead of getting lost in the pages of a good novel, I get lost in the episodes of mini series and limited series and original series that take me down rabbit holes of nothingness. Meanwhile, the books languish beside me. A reminder of what I still need to do.

I have committed to a daily morning meditation practice.

I am starting slowly because I’ve done this before and then given it up too quickly. I started at 5 minutes. I am now at 7 minutes. Slowly building up to longer sessions of contemplative stillness. It is at these times that I realize how busy my mind is. How hard it is for me to slow down and how much I need to.

I have committed to a daily morning writing habit.

And I do it. I journal. I plan. I reflect. I write stories. I get out of my comfort zone. I write.

So, some successes and some failures.

Pick myself up after a fall.

Since my cancer diagnosis and treatment, my life is different. I am different. I am not perfect and I never will be, but I am making changes and I am more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been.

Acknowledging small successes, small wins.

That is my new normal.

It’s Almost Summer! Time for Reflection

Another school year is coming to an end. My last day of work is June 30th. 22 more sleeps.

I have so much to reflect on as I think about my 35th year in education. I had to learn quickly and create new ways of teaching online. I am proud that I dove in ready to face what, sometimes, felt like insurmountable challenges.

During summer vacations I reflect on the previous school year by journaling, brainstorming ideas for the next year, reading professional books and engaging with other educators through book studies or workshops.

I will do some of that this summer, but I’m going to be very discriminating about the formal and informal professional learning I participate in. Although I’ve put a few events on my calendar, I will be saying no more often than is typical for me.

Whatever your summer learning plans, I hope you make room for rest and relaxation with friends and family to the extent that this pandemic allows.

Next week, I will share some of the ideas that have been percolating in my mind for returning to in person school in the fall.

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

I used to, but now I…

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As part of my cancer recovery, I made a commitment to myself to be more present in my life and to focus on what really matters to me. For years, I have been neglecting my physical and emotional health. I have been prioritizing work over friends and family. I lost years of my life worrying about the next opportunity to get the next job, the next promotion, the next recognition.

I know regrets are hindsight and we shouldn’t engage with those feelings, but it’s hard not to.

If only I knew…If I had to do it all over again…

But, I don’t and so I can only move forward with the life that I create for myself.

And I have to admit: do overs are hard when you’ve been MIA for so long: old habits are hard to break.

It is true, and unfortunate at the same time, that we make major life changes when tragedy strikes. If only (here I go again!) we could do this when we are not in crisis. Yet, I think there’s a reason why the Japanese character for the word crisis is also the same one as for the word opportunity.

My crisis – cancer diagnosis – was my opportunity to remake my life. To make it better in every sense of the word. For the first time, I felt in my bones that there were others out there who were counting on me. They were rooting for me. I felt loved and appreciated in a way I’d never experienced before. It was a strong catalyst for making changes.

So, while there are a lot of things I’ve changed there are still many more that need some tweaking and overhauling, The good news is that I’m well on my way. What follows are some of the things I used to do and how I changed them to have a positive impact on my well-being.

I used to only go on walks with my husband because I felt safer and steadier with him along after my chemo treatment. Now I go on walks by myself. Every day I go a little bit further than the time before.

I used to spend all of my time perseverating on work relationships. Now, I acknowledge any emotions I have and just let them go to the wind.

I used to worry about how I wasn’t measuring up to someone else’s ideal or to what the teacher next door was doing. Now, I do that a lot less; I nod to the feeling and then occupy my mind with more important things – like what’s happening around me in the present moment.

I use to choose work over, well, just about anything else. Now, there are times when work just has to wait and although my quitting times are still somewhat fluid, I have more clearly defined boundaries than previously.

I am happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been.

Life is good.

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

Reading and Writing Slump…Again

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I haven’t written a blog post in two weeks. In fact, I haven’t written much of anything in two weeks. And, I’ve just started to recover from a reading slump.

Although I recently finished Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner, I struggled to get started and to keep reading. And, earlier this week, when I picked up Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin, the pattern repeated itself.

Fortunately, both books are so good that I was lured into the stories in spite of myself. Thank you, Jennifer Weiner and Uzma Jalaluddin for getting me back on track.

This has been the story of my reading and writing life this year and I know I’m not alone. If social media is to be trusted, we are all struggling to maintain the same or similar pace as readers and writers during this pandemic as we did pre-COVID .

Add to that the fact that many are mourning the death of a loved one or the end to what we used to know.

We are learning, unlearning and relearning.

We are more exhausted than we’ve ever been before. (I don’t think I was as exhausted during my first year of teaching as I am this school year.)

My emotions ebb and flow, dip and rise. And I can’t seem to stay on a steady course.

But I’m trying. So. Hard.

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

A Teacher’s Life: Take #2

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I have written about this before.

Teaching online: the hard days.

Well, today was a hard day.

I literally sat for 7 hours.

I skipped lunch.

No water.

No bathroom break.

Nothing.

No one to blame, but myself.

Still trying to do everything humanly possible and more to engage my students even as I recognize that I’m working harder than most of them. Even as I try to do everything I can think of to turn over the responsibility of learning and doing to them.

I am running out of energy. I don’t know how I’ve made it this far.

There were so many moments today when I felt like I was talking to myself.

No sounds.

Nothing in the chat.

No hands raised.

No thumbs up in the air.

Nothing.

Zilch.

Zero.

Crickets.

Just me talking away.

Questioning myself.

My teaching.

My assignments.

My instructions.

Questioning everything.

Who was I to think I could handle online teaching?

And, yet, tomorrow I’ll show up again with a smile on my face.

Teacher life, take #2.

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

A Teacher’s Life

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Lately I’ve been reading lots of tweets and posts from teachers about a new kind tired.

That overwhelms.

And, lately, I’ve been feeling it, too.

It seeps through my body at the end of the day even though it wasn’t there minutes before.

It’s the kind of tired that I usually experience at the beginning of the school year. Not at the end.

It’s the kind of tired that takes over my bones not because I’ve had a strenuous workout, but because I’ve used up all of my physical and mental energy.

Until there’s nothing left.

This tired is a new kind of tired at the end of this new kind of year.

This tired surprises me.

It comes over me suddenly.

It is experienced at creeping.

It is quiet, but makes itself felt.

A good night’s rest usually takes care of the tired.

Until the end of the next day when it crawls in next to me…again.

A teacher’s life during multiple pandemics.

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

Bio Poem

I wrote this poem in preparation for Writing Workshop class with my students tomorrow. The template I will offer my students is slightly different from this one (a big thank you to Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski from her poetry Google Slides Deck to build community in the classroom.

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Elisa.

Resourceful, goofy, nerdy.

Partner of Gino; mother of Joaquín, Maya and Noemí; grandmother of Pía and Nina.

Lover of justice, books, my family and rom com movies.

Who wonders if the world will ever be OK.

Who fears putting herself out there.

Who feels happy when she’s relaxing at the beach.

Who would like to live closer to her daughters.

Who has dedicated her life to working with kids.

Who dreams of publishing a book one day.

Waingort.

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

The Week Ahead – Spring Break is Over!

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In one more day another Spring Break will be in the books.

Monday night I will be setting three alarms – yep, three! – so that I can wake up at a reasonable hour.

On Tuesday I will joyfully welcome students back even if I can’t see their faces behind their Google Meet squares.

Even if I can’t hear their voices.

Even if they don’t show up.

We will celebrate all that we have accomplished.

And focus on the last part of this school year.

I will think about the summer and what we’ll be able to do and what we won’t be able to do.

But I’ll try not to dwell on the negative too much.

Gotta finish strong!

With a focus on well-being.

Laughter.

Think about what will find its way into the next school year.

Discard what didn’t work.

Keep what did.

See you next year Spring Break!

I hope the remainder of this school year fills everyone with much hope and joy for the months ahead.

Poetry Fridays – Day #1

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Today, I’m writing a bop. This is a 3-stanza poem. Stanza #1 is six lines long and presents a problem. Stanza #2 is eight lines long and explores or expands on the problem. Stanza #3 is six lines long and presents the solution or shows the failed attempt at a resolution. Each stanza is followed by a refrain. Source: Ethical ELA

I don’t think I can do it.

I try.

I pretend to try.

I tell others I’m trying

until no one believes me, least of all me.

I’m stuck, but I would do anything to get unstuck.

I want to finish my doctorate,

but the story I tell myself

keeps me on repeat and redo and remix

I want to write a book,

but doing the work will reveal who I am, but mostly who I am not.

Can pretending get me there?

Fake it till I make it?

How long till it breaks me?

I’m stuck, but I would do anything to get unstuck.

“The only way out is through,” said someone.

“We’re wired to do hard things.” says everyone.

“Face your fears to overcome them”. I said that.

I know the slogans.

I know the hacks.

And, I know me.

I’m stuck, still, but I would do anything to get unstuck.