Tuesday Slicing #1/many more – A New Start

I am a perfectionist and a rule follower. I need to know what is expected of me so that I can work within those parameters. Although I may deviate from some expectations or rules, I agonize over my decisions to do so.

You’re probably thinking: OMG! What a combination! Yes, it’s a lethal combination and causes a lot of anxiety when I let both of these sides of me run amok. Let me tell you, this is not a stress-free way to live!

I aim to do better.

This summer I planned to participate in Teachers Write, 100 words a day of summer writing, #cyberPD and so much more. I signed up for online workshops and book studies. I had it all figured out. I would have so much time at my disposal because it was summer. Oh, and I would also keep working on my theses. I think I forgot that part of the reason teachers have summers off is mostly to relax and, yes, to recharge and learn, but in ways that won’t tire us out even before the first day of school comes around.

Taking time off from anything related to school is a valuable pursuit during the summer.

And, you are probably also thinking: she’s crazy! Yep! And, I wouldn’t disagree. As is to be expected, I didn’t complete any of these projects and despite my usual modus operandi (feeling unaccomplished), I’ve decided to let them all go. I’m not going to retell the same old story of failure I continually tell myself when I miss beloved Twitter chats or I don’t participate in every online conversation, even though I’ve read the book, the article, seen the video, etc. Which brings me to an important awareness: it’s not about all the bells and whistles, sometimes even hoops, that are often part and parcel of online teacher professional learning opportunities that are important, although those infinitely enrich me as a teacher…when I am able to do them. What’s important are the take-aways afforded by these varied experiences and, more importantly I think, it’s about what I create as a result because I’ve noticed that I am doing a lot more consuming than producing and that just doesn’t feel right.

Balance – that’s what I crave. And consistency. And, the pleasurable feelings that come from completion and learning.

It is better to commit to a few online activities. To choose wisely. To stick to those commitments over time than it is to try to do it all at once.

So, my project for the month of August is to figure out which of these virtual events I want to continue to pursue and which I am just going to say no to so that I can produce more writing. Create more ideas. And feel successful and accomplished all at once.

That’s why I’m back to Tuesday slicing.

Let the fun begin.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesdays

Grade 5 Moving On Ceremony – June 2017

I wrote the following letter to my students at the grade 5 Moving On Ceremony this year.

Dear Fabulous Fifth Graders,

You know who you are!
We have had an amazing year. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve always taken care of each other. Reluctantly, we’ve said our goodbyes to Layla, Cata, and Santi. We’ve read some amazing books as a class, and each one of you read many more on your own. Some of you, you know who you are, read books that then made the rounds in our class.
Some of you, you know who you are, came into 5th grade not liking to read or write, and some of you were afraid to make mistakes in math. Throughout our year together, sometimes without you realizing it, you became readers, writers and mathematicians, not because your reading, writing or your math work was perfect and you learned everything there was to learn in a year of school, but because all of you developed an appreciation for reading, writing, math and deep thinking. In fact, you found joy in books and stories. Sometimes, you shed a tear or two.
Some of you, you know who you are, came in with a very beginning level of English and now you are able to defend your ideas and opinions with confidence, orally and in writing.
Some of you, and you know who you are, made me laugh every day at least once, and usually more than that.
But all of you taught me more than I probably taught you. Sometimes I failed miserably, but because teaching is really about learning, I had to learn. So, I dusted myself off and moved on. The learning curve for me was steep sometimes. But, in spite of my shortcomings, you taught me to be patient; to laugh; to be prepared for all kinds of questions; to apologize when it was necessary; to realize when I was wrong and fix it; to make changes in my lessons so that you would hopefully learn better and more. After all, how many times did I ask you to be patient as I tried, for the umpteenth time, to make our math stations work for all of us?
You matured, solved problems and came up with some amazing actions in your PYP Exhibition of Learning groups. I hope you’re proud of yourselves for that and for so much more.
So, here is some final advice as you move on to 6th grade:
Never give up when things get a little bit challenging. Remember: if your brain doesn’t hurt, you’re not learning.
Always tell the truth. You’ll feel better about yourself and you will be respected for being honest no matter how difficult the situation.
Read, write, and be curious about the world. Take on the difficult problems in your community with confidence and passion. You are our hope for the future.
And, last, but not least, laugh and be silly. I will always say yes to that.
I love you. Congratulations!

Time

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of time.

How fast it goes.
How there’s never enough of it.
How little reverence we have for time.
How we take time for granted.

And, I’ve been thinking about this because my oldest daughter just got married this summer. It seems like just yesterday when she was still a little girl, then an adolescent and, before too long, a freshman in college. So, every day now, I ask myself: where did the time go? Did I take advantage of time when my three children were little? Did I pay attention to what was important? Do I pay attention now?

It’s time to make a change. It’s never too late, right? We’re never too old to take the reins of time (life) in our own hands and steer our own course.

That’s what I’m doing when I search for other outlets to grow as an educator and a professional.

That’s what I’m doing when I push away my fears and commit myself to writing every day and to making it public.

That’s what I’m doing when I sit down with my children – online or in person – to truly listen to them without the myriad distractions that vie for my attention every day.

That’s what I’m doing when I turn towards my partner to talk about anything, rather than away from him to finish the week’s lesson plans, which are never finished anyway; they are always co-constructed in the classroom with my students. 

That’s what I’m doing when I admit to myself that time is an illusion we create to avoid facing ourselves.

That’s what I’m doing when I remember, again and for the last time, that what’s important are my students and not the next lesson in the writing unit. No one knows my students like I do. No one. 

That’s what I’m doing when I practice responsive teaching, rather than using metrics to determine next steps in my classroom.

That’s what I’m doing by writing this post, making it public, holding myself accountable to my own goals.

As for me, I celebrate change – a small movement forward – on a weekend morning.

Thanks Ruth Ayres for providing a space to make celebration a part of our weekly routines.