Tomorrow

It’s 11:35 p.m. on the night before the first day of a new school year. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be though, from time to time, my mind hovers over the thought that maybe I should have worked in my classroom this weekend.

There must be things I’ve forgotten to do, I tell myself. Labels I should have made. Signs I should have put up somewhere. Copies I should have ready for the first day. Or even the second day.

But when I finally stop obsessing over the mental list of all the things I think I should have done, I stop and remember what’s most important – to focus on the kids. Preparing for the first day all the way to the last day is really about being willing to take time, no matter how much, to build relationships with my students. How? By stopping whatever I’m doing to look them in the eye and to listen to them with an open heart. As long as I’m prepared to do that, everything will be fine. Everything will sort itself out.

I’ll be ready for whatever happens.

Tomorrow.

Crossposted to The Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday

My Home Office

Perfect Home Office - Pexels

Somebody’s perfect home office

For most of my adult life I have been searching for the perfect home office.

I know that sounds crazy, but if you’re a writer or a teacher or a reader, or any combination thereof, you will understand.

Disclaimer: I also love office supplies.

So, the perfect home office.

You know the kind.

Lots of natural sunlight.

Several bookshelves, preferably built-in, for all my books.

A large desk to spread my notes, notebooks, sticky notes and such because I rarely get my work done in one sitting, at home or at school.

A comfortable chair.

Good artificial light for working at night.

Everything within reach.

Our new home office (we just moved at the end of March) has all that and more. Well, not the built-in bookshelves, but I’m OK without them.

My perfect home office. My desk is my little corner where projects are born and grow.

It’s big enough for both my husband and I to have separate work spaces and be close enough to each other so that it never gets lonely.

Although we still have some boxes lying around that are half-opened and I have bags of library books on the floor, it is a pleasant place to be.

I enjoyed spend time here this summer and it was cooler than the rest of the house.

Although it will be colder in the winter, a space heater can take care of that.

I never thought I would love my home office so much. Some of you may still be thinking that I’m crazy. But because we worked hard to make this space functional and comfortable, I have been able to get lots done that I’d been putting off for too long.

I love my home office.

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

First Team Meeting of the Year

It’s funny how the weather changes right before school is scheduled to start.

Or so it seems.

The air is crisper and the temperature drops just enough, but not too much.

Or so it seems.

The sun sinks into the horizon just a little bit earlier. Just enough to tease you, but not enough that you point it out to someone else.

Or so it seems.

August loses its luster. Chugs along like a tired, old man.

Or, so it seems.

I dig into my fall/winter clothing. Even though I don’t want to. And, because I’m in denial, it takes me longer to get dressed.

Or so it seems.

My official first day back is August 29th, but I went to school today to meet with my new grade level partners. We have never worked together before, but if today was any indication of what lies ahead this year, I think it’s going to be OK. I should know. Because I’ve had my share of years that have not been OK.

We talked about a lot of things. And, when we got to the topic of assessment, the conversation didn’t go awry as these conversations often do. Most importantly, we agreed that we have a lot more to talk about. Finally, each of us has a task to do before we meet again in a few days.

It seems that this year is going to be different. Looking forward to a fresh start.

Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Tribe – #CompelledTribe

I am one of those members that has fallen short of my promised participation in #CompelledTribe over the last few months. Yet, I am here because The Compelled Tribe inspires me; it is bigger than me or any one of the individuals that comprise it. And, I want to be a part of something bigger, something with the potential to make an impact, to influence others. Together we can do that as we engage with each other’s content on social media and hopefully curate and create resources that will influence other educators, like the brand new teacher I have committed to mentoring this year.

The #CompelledTribe is made up of people that I admire and look to for inspiration. And, although there are many members that I don’t know at all and may never meet in person, just knowing that they’re there, being catalysts in their individual spheres of influence, keeps me motivated to want to do the same. Wherever we are in the world we are making a difference; that’s the compelled in the tribe. That’s why I stick around. That’s why this year I am recommitting to this PLN. And, even though this particular post is long overdue and my involvement in the Tribe has been scant and therefore my impact small, I am here.

This is a bittersweet time of the year for many teachers – the end of summer and the beginning of a new school year. We have so many conflicting feelings. But I’m ready! Here’s hoping everyone has an amazing, fulfilling and joyful school year.

 

August

The month of August is when teachers, in many places but not all, start the back-to-school countdown. If this is you, by this time of the year, you are probably gearing up to meet your new class of students or are participating in professional learning activities planned by your school or jurisdiction. And some, like me, are beginning to realize that the summer is almost over and that maybe we didn’t complete all those plans and goals we had from opening boxes from a recent move (still working on it, but making progress daily) to an intense month of working on a big project (I accomplished a lot more on the work needed to move ahead in my dissertation than I had anticipated). Whatever you did, it’s time to celebrate it.

Now, the stark reality of what being back at school entails is slowly settling in around me. Nevertheless, I am trying to do what my husband suggested when I lamented the end of summer: don’t stress about what’s coming up. Just enjoy the moment now so that you can be in the moment once you go back to work. I think these are wise words and I intend to follow them.

So, over the next few weeks, as my calendar starts to fill up, I will take each event as it comes. I will revel in the moment and follow through on what are becoming joyful routines for me this summer. I will continue to spend 10 minutes in the morning just writing in a stream of consciousness way before checking social media. So far, so good! I am on day #4 of this new plan and it is really helping to clear my mind and to stay away from social media first thing in the morning. This morning writing is just what I need to work things out in my mind, to set a plan for the day, to name and explore mixed up feelings.

I know the first couple of weeks back to school, at least, will be an adjustment period for everyone as we move from vacation mode into school mode – continuing with new and old routines, recognizing and adapting to lack of flexible time, reestablishing a sensible sleep pattern. Nevertheless, I aim to take it slowly. To do as much as I can. And, especially to combine significant spurts of head work with exercising, watching another episode from a favorite series or simply talking with my husband.

I know that I tend to write similar posts to this one where I examine my habits, promise to do better and end up in the same place or worse than before. But, for some reason, this summer feels significantly different than others. It’s not that I have got it all figured out, but my level of productivity – reading, writing, exercising, eating better – has got me all fired up to continue these habits once school starts. Of course, I know everything will slow down, but I’m discovering that time is truly a relative construct. Ten minutes seems like nothing, but when you put on a timer (this really works!) and sit down to read or write, it amounts to a lot. These small moments have made a huge difference for me.

So, to those of you who are back at school, here’s wishing you the best year, yet.

To those of you that have already started teaching, enjoy your students; they depend on you.

And, to those who are getting ready to go back, I hope you slow down these last few days rather than rushing through them; you don’t want to miss out on important moments along the way.

And, as for me, I am definitely more than just a little bit excited about going back to school. Bring it on!

Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.

 

 

Two Changes for the Fall

At last night’s #TeachWrite monthly chat participants discussed ways to could keep a writing habit going when school starts up again in the fall. I know that for some of you, school has already started, but I’m still in summer mode. A couple of suggestions resonated with me and so I want to discuss them here. By making them public I am hoping that I will be more accountable to myself and my writing.

First, I will write before going to sleep or first thing in the morning. I don’t know about you, but I tend to check social media right before I go to bed and as soon as I wake up.

My phone doubles as an alarm clock.

I have a routine for checking social media. If I don’t have any new notifications on my WhatsApp chats, I immediately open up my personal email. Most days I end up deleting quite a few emails (some subscriptions are difficult to unsubscribe from!), and maybe end up reading just one or two emails, if that many. Typically, the rest of the emails sit in my inbox until I can get to them.

Then, I check FB. I go to my notifications. I read the ones that are immediately interesting and leave the rest for later. I might do a quick scroll to see what shows up on my feed, but not always.

Next, I go to Twitter and I repeat the same routine as with FB.

Finally, I check my university email.

At this point, I am a bit overwhelmed: I’ve filled my head with all the real and fake news that’s on social media and I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet!

So, my new plan is to have a small notebook and a pen on my nightstand. When I wake up in the morning, or right before I go to bed or both, instead of checking social media right away or at all, I will write for at least 10 minutes. Seems simple and clean, but because I’ve tried this before, I know how difficult it is to build a new habit. But I’m willing to give it a try. Starting a new habit may be a challenge, but what’s really difficult is staying with it until it sticks. When you’re in the middle part of developing a habit, it can get boring. The newness has worn off. If I can get past that, then I’ll be OK. I’m counting on my writing buddy and August writing group through #TeachWrite to keep me honest. Hint! Hint!

For as long as I have been doing writing workshop, I have been privy to the power of sharing. Students sharing with each other and the teacher sharing with students. Although I’ve shared my writing with my students on occasion, I have not done it consistently. That is changing this year. I have a student who is asking me to share my writing with him. He is relentless, but in a good way. Yet, I have been putting him off. I know. I know. It goes against everything I believe is important in writing workshop, yet I’m terrified to share my writing. With students and with other adults.

This summer I have committed to share more of my writing with others. To make my writing public. So far, so good. And, I know this step forward will have an as yet unknown but rippling effects on me as a writer.

Bring it on!

Crossposted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday

 

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