My Front Yard

I need to come clean about my front yard. You would not want to be its neighbor. There are huge patches of bare mud. Mud even covers sections of the sidewalk.The lawn that is left needs to be mowed, and it’s really not grass more like a collection of weeds. I’ve got an excuse.   I only look at briefly when I get the mail. I haven’t invested in the yard because I have plans for how I want it to look.  Now, these plans are few years in the future. There are retaining walls to be built and beds to be made. Why should I throw down seed when I am just going to have to tear it up when I put in the retaining wall? Why should I keep up with it?

My yard is an analogy to many of the lessons we tend to dismiss. We don’t take action on the lawn because it is just going to change anyway.  How often do we reject a small tweak in our lesson because next year I redoing this whole unit anyway? Sometimes (often in my life) perfection gets in the way of improvement. Why try to get better because it won’t be as good what I plan to do later?

I challenge you to go ahead and get out your lawn mower and clean up that lesson or project. Get out the seed and create some growth in the yard you have.

In real life, I did get out and mowed the lawn and removed mud from the sidewalk. Now it looks passable, and I haven’t heard my neighbors complain. In work life, I am not going to let the grandiose ideas of improvement stop me from small effective change.

I am not going to let the grandiose ideas of improvement stop me from small effective change. (1)

 

The Real Power

On this Mother’s Day, I could have written a post about a fantastic post about my own mother is or another topic. Instead, I remember a day a few weeks ago and the real power of motherhood.

The night before as I was driving to pick up my daughter, I heard an interview with Sheryl Sandberg about just showing up and her new book Option B. The next day, I reached out to my friend who had recently lost her dad, and we grabbed lunch together. The conversation was great and lively. It was what I needed.

As we were finishing our cookies, I noticed this mom and her two small kids. She was visibly upset and both her children had no shoes or coats (It was a cold spring day). The older boy was crying. I said to my friend, let’s buy the kids some cookies. My wise friend said we need to do more and talk to her. We went out and gave her the cookies and asked what she needed. She stated that she had to get out of where she was living; her dad was on the phone and heading to get her. My friend offered her children blankets to keep warm.

When we walked back in, the owner of the restaurant came out and invited the family in and sent a waitress over to take their order. Another customer came over and gave her some money and her card to help her figure things out. This crying woman felt so safe that she hung up the phone with her dad and began to relax and interact with her children.

I share this story with you dear reader to remind you:

  • Motherhood is hard when you have a loving, caring partner. This mom represents many mothers in the US. We need to show up support single mothers. I could not get all that I do with my husband in the picture. Sheryl Sandberg wrote it about last Mother’s Day.
  • Be the first person to reach out. Others are watching and looking for others to make the first move. It is time for a mob of kindness.
  • The world can be scary, but it is really filled with kind, wonderful people. 
  • Just show up.

Pick one of my messages above or feel free to share below what you think I am reminding you about with this story.

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Gender Roles

A couple of moments came up last week that reminded me that as a mom and a teacher I need to do better.

  • The housecleaner left a note that she thought the belt broke on the vacuum cleaner and that she hoped my husband could fix it. My husband made a comment over dinner that was sexist, and mom could fix it too. My son and daughter disagreed with him and said only Daddy fixes things.
  • At soccer practice, my son at the ball stolen from him and the girl said, “Ha! Ha! you got beat by a girl.” My son was not even bothered by the comment. Knowing him, he was so intently focused on the skills that he didn’t hear her.

The first one did not phase me as much as the second one. I could claim that I am guilty of letting Mike fix things. To solve this one, it was easy. I will share the fixing load with my husband. The vacuum cleaner’s belt was replaced by me with my kids watching.

The second one is a little harder. Do I begin with the bragging or the comment about being a girl? I am starting to reflect on these questions:

  • Does my language suggest that certain skills, traits or dispositions belong to one gender over the other?
  • Do I reinforce gender roles that my children or students believe or do I challenge their thinking?

What I do know for sure is I want my children and students to be proud of their accomplishments without a gender qualifier.

 

 

 

Dear New Teacher

This is my response to the final DCSD Blogs challenge: Advice for new teachers.  A huge shout out to Liz Mastalio for organizing this challenge.  

Dear New Teacher,

You have entered a noble career, and I am glad you joined us.  We have been waiting for you. No one will teach just like you. You will reach a student that none of us could. You will come up with your original ideas.

I encourage you to find a tribe of diverse teachers that inspire and push you to grow. Twitter is a great starting point to help you find that tribe. Create systems that help you learn because it is our job to be the lead learner in your classroom.

People will tilt the head and tell you how noble of you to be a teacher. They will also say how nice it must be to have summers off. At dinner parties, you will have to describe how not all schools are broken. It will be worth it when you see your students succeed.

Please realize that parents are sending their hopes and dreams. Treat each student as if they are your own child.

I won’t lie all days will not be sunshine and roses. To support you on the hard days, create a habit gratitude. When we become thankful, we find that rain brings rainbows. Spend time lifting up others because it will lift you up as well.

Again, I am so glad you decided to teach.  We need you.

Sincerely,

A Veteran Teacher

 

All Mistakes are not Equal

This week’s DCSD Blogs prompt was to talk about a mistake I made this week.  I have been chewing on it all week.  I automatically thought that my post would be similar to this one I wrote a few years ago; instead, the world turned my head differently.

I poked my head to into #BMoreedchat on Wednesday and followed a conversation about mistakes and the types of mistakes. (Thanks for the invite Jon Harper.)  This article clearly explains the four types including stretch and sloppy mistakes. The first thing I realized that I treat every mistake as a high-stakes mistake when in reality my mistakes fall all over the board.  When I treat every mistake the same, I don’t give myself the opportunity to learn from all mistakes. If you have been a faithful reader of mine, you probably can imagine my response if every mistake is high-stakes.

During the next few weeks, I am going to try this response to my mistakes. First, take a deep breath and then categorize the mistake.  If I make a stretch mistake or Aha-moment mistake, I will work on celebrating and learning from them.  If not, I will not panic, and I will work more on being intentional. I will be realistic about how many mistakes are really high-stakes. I cannot be the risk taker I want to be if I cannot correctly categorize my missteps. Also, do I want others to treat all of their mistakes the same? I need to help model these skills for others including my own children.

Seasons (#DCSDBlogs Prompt 2)

 

This is my response to the #DCSDBlogs week two prompt: Teachers Learning from Teachers.

When I heard this prompt, I started to think about all the useful advice I had been given throughout my teaching career such as read your contract and have detailed procedures for turning in work. I could categorize most of the advice as technical, helping me do the act of teaching better. I have one piece of advice that transformed my career and my life.

This piece of advice was given to me about eight years ago. I was pregnant with my first child and very anxious about how I could keep up my workload and be the mom I wanted to be. I was in my tenth year of teaching and I would be the first one to admit I did not understand work-life balance. Carol calmly told me that careers have seasons and it can look different as your life changes. As I ended that school year, I stepped down as the sponsor of Science Olympiad and began to simplify my life to prepare for my little man.

Over the following couple of years at my school, I learned what it meant to be on a team. When my son was sick and I had been up all night, my colleagues helped me with sub plans. When we scheduled meetings during the day, we kept in mind my other obligations. Just because I was the last person to arrive because of day care arrangements did not mean that I was not prepared or giving it my all. I began to really understand the difference between must-dos and nice to dos. I took care of the must-dos first and then began the nice to dos.

Of course, the seasons change as I stepped into more leadership roles. For example, when I became a Master Teacher in my district, I found in the beginning that lack of balance came racing back. I stayed calm because I knew that this was a season of learning and a new season would come soon enough.

As time continued, I shared this wise advice as people struggled with the work-life balance. Thank you, Carol, for that sage advice.

What it Takes to Change

This is in response to the prompt: Write a post about how you used your time during spring break to become a better educator.

During spring break, I came to my own realization about change. The experiences really crystalized what is required for change.

I spent a large part of my spring break at my parent’s house. I stopped at a sausage store that I remembered more as a candy store as a kid. I can remember running to Stoysich and quickly buying candy before the bus left. When I walked in, I noticed that the meat counter had stayed the same, but the huge collection of candy had disappeared. I was a little upset. How dare they change?  So, what if it is over 20 years ago. The logical side of me knew it does not make sense to have a huge candy aisle when the nearby school had closed awhile ago. I quickly accepted it and moved on.

My second experience with change began a few years ago. My husband was reviewing something I wrote and said, “Oh, you are putting two spaces after a period?” I being the wise one said, “Of course, that ‘s the rule.”  My sweet husband tried to explain to me that the rule has changed.” During the following years, I proudly continued to add the second space believing that I was fighting the fight against the downfall of society. Fast forward to the Friday before Spring Break, I mention this to one of my colleagues and we were in agreement about the double space. Then this article about the double space appeared in my Facebook feed. I shared it and mentioned that this was something I was thinking about. One of my friends shared Jennifer Gonzalez’s post about the two space thing. After chewing it over, I decided it was time to change my habit and do it correctly.

Why two different responses to a change in the world?  I’ve come to realize the following things:

  • It’s easy to accept change when you doesn’t impact you. The change in the sausage store was sad, but it does not impact me day to day like the spacing does. Breaking this habit is taking time and a commitment from me.
  • The mind has to be willing to accept the facts. My husband and I have had these discussions about my double spacing for years. He explained the exact same thing these articles said. I wasn’t ready to adopt this change. This doesn’t mean that my husband wasted his breath for the last few years on this topic. It laid the groundwork for the change.
  • Be prepared that rational logical people fight change. I am not proud that it took this long to make a change. I know am more aware of my own blind spots because of this experience.

NOTE: I am work in progress, so I am still finding and replacing my double spaces. Excitingly, the number continues to decrease.