Monday, December 31, 2012

I am plenty.

The picture is from Story People
The words are pretty, spot on, AWESOME!!!

     I have written many posts expressing my frustration, anxiety, fear, sadness and... HOWEVER! 2012 has given me nothing more than what it should. I stretched myself more than I ever thought I could. I have grown more professionally the last 6 months then I have in many years. I would not trade one minute of the experiences and events I've been through for something easier or less heart wrenching. 

So to 2012 I say THANK YOU! 
To 2013, I say... bring. it. on!
Because the truth is...

I am plenty.
I have plenty.

I am more than much more

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I matter to this guy

I matter to this guy. Laying on my couch yesterday this creature crawled next to me and fell asleep. It was a moment that made my whole spirit smile. He somehow manages to know exactly what I need at any given moment. Mostly what he helps me remember is All You Need is Love

"Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Time to reinvest in myself

Watching the Mumford & Sons "The Road to Redrocks" on this snowy morning. I loved watching these guys doing what they love, what makes them smile at the core of their beings. They were having an amazing time together on stage and how precious it was to watch this genuineness. The picture above makes me realize huge parts of my life that are missing at the moment. Joy. Laughter just because. Smiling because it's my favorite. I have let the stress of my job take a lot of this away. I have let the stress of my job take over my life. I have not worked out in quite some time. I know that physically fit for me means mentally fit yet when the students leave at 4:00 I am so spent. I have given every ounce of myself during the day I rarely have much left for myself. So the key for me as I return to school Jan. 7th is to recommit to the most important person in my life. ME. I once heard~ "You cannot give away what you do not have. If you don't have a pure and healthy love and regard for yourself, how can you possibly give that to anyone else." I am not one for new year's resolutions but this time of year when I have a few moments to myself to sit and reflect away from the hustle and bustle of school life, I can't help but find things I need to shift gears on. The start is me recognizing how far I've ventured from myself. The next step is reconnecting. That is doable. That is necessary. (funny that one huge reason I'm having an a-ha moment this morning is I actually DID NOT wake up at 4:30... I somehow slept until 6, then successfully managed to fall back asleep until... 7:50)

I feel blessed by the friends who offered to 'adopt' me for the day. I am thankful to have many close friends who know the challenges I face around the holidays and extend their loving arms to let me know I am truly loved in this world. My only hope is that you know each and every day you matter to me! 

Huggin' & Lovin' of thyself P90x style
So now that I have reflected on where I am at this moment, it is time to respond. When ya know better you do better. I am ready to spend the next twelve days shifting gears and getting my smile back in my spirit. 

"Where you invest your love you invest your life."

Awake My Soul

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letting you know you matter to me.

Letting you know you matter to me.
I watched this tedx video this morning and afterwards felt i wanted
 to let a few people know they really matter to me.

you are my oldest and dearest friend. you matter to be because i can always count on you to bring laughter and joy to my life. there is not one conversation that goes by that we don't find humor in something. i can talk to you about anything and everything and know i will never be judged. you have seen me in my darkest moments and have celebrated in my greatest joys. my life would never be the same without you. 

you are an amazing person. i look up and admire you. you matter to be because you bring a gift of love, understanding and empathy to all who cross your path. you are my solid rock when i need to come back down or be picked back up. i have learned some of the greatest lessons about how to connect with not only students but people in the world from you. 

jae & sarah
you both matter to me because your friendships mean the world to me. we are the three single amigos that on a moments notice can be hanging out enjoying a tastey adult beverage or laughing til we cry because we can't get the wii to update. i have had the most wonderful year because of you two birds.

when we hang out and chat you have an amazing way of pushing my thinking. i have walked away from every conversation with you a better person. you matter to me because you help me look at the world in a different light. when i think of you i can't help but smile to know the world is a better place because you're in it.

you matter to me because without your support, guidance and insight i would be a a bit lost. i took a bit leap of faith this year and feel it is because of you that i have survived. you have a wonderful gift of seeing the possibilities in any given situation and helping those around you understand them too.

you matter to me because you look out for me. it is because of you that i took my leap of faith this year. my life has changed significantly in the past 6 months because of your help. you believed in me.

you matter to me because you always have keen insight. i know that whenever i reach out to you, you will have a response that doesn't necessarily solve something for me, but helps me solve it for myself.

my dear jenny, you matter because you are the truest, most genuine person i have ever known. 

**if you aren't listed above, please know you DO matter to me and i will certainly tell you how the next time we see each other or speak.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nothing worth having comes easy...

Start positive. 

The student I wrote about previously here got a lovely Christmas gift from my friend John. The student and John took a part an older Dell computer of John's and put it back together. It was really pretty awesome to watch the two work together in my room on a couple Friday afternoons. I dropped the computer off at the student's house yesterday afternoon. He was SO excited. Made me my spirit smile to do this for him. I realized the students excitement even more as I had a conversation with the 7th grade math teacher last night. Apparently the student has been talking a lot about the experience to him. 

Yesterday at school the students were pretty wound up. Some were truly looking forward to some time off from school. Others were certainly anxious and not so much looking forward to the time off. I can relate to both sides of these feelings. Students not looking forward may be worried about what/when they will eat. Our school provides them with breakfast and lunch. They could be anxious about what there days spent at home will look like for a variety of reasons. I will not pretend to know what some experience, but I can be empathetic. I'm not sure I'll ever be 'normal' around the holidays but I do try every year to keep my chin up. I too am not 100% excited about spending time away from school. 

We had our staff holiday party last night at a pretty good winery just up the road from our school. I enjoyed the Syrah for sure! As I sat there amongst people I hardly know, I could feel my impish social skills lurking around. I felt awkward. I felt out of place. I listened as groups talked about their awesome teammates and how well the year is going because they have each other to lean on. I really don't like that I keep coming back to the feelings of loneliness and aloneness I've felt in my position at school but there they were again. I know I have the power to work on this challenge in my life but for right now my spirit is so broken I think the best thing to do would be to spend some time in these next couple weeks mending my spirit with some much needed Giatime. This week has left me... well... I'm not sure of the word for it.

End positive.
Today we have some teachery things to do and won't have students in the building. Since students won't be there  I can wear my Wonder Woman Converse shoes to school. This makes me happy. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm not hungry, or thirsty, or any of that stuff. What I'd REALLY like is a hug.

Yesterday was plain awful. 
You can say that again. 
Yesterday was plain awful. 
But that's not now, that's then.

Sitting here this morning trying to pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again in a new day. I am not ready to put yesterday into words because I am still not sure how. But feel the need to get the events down so I can remember, reflect and do better.

The day started with a crazy snow storm so I left ultra early to miss the nut jobs who live in Colorado but have no clue how to drive on a snowy day. I was excited because I had gifts to give a couple friends and other ones for the school giving tree. I love being able to put a smile on other people's faces. It makes me feel great. The morning moved along to include my AP not being able to make a meeting about SGOs with me. He is an amazing AP and must feel like Stretch Armstrong or Gumby all day. I just wish there were more of him to help support the specials teachers. (that's a whole other conversation... why are specials (art, music, tech, PE etc.) left to feel like they don't matter and are just a babysitting squad?) Move ahead to when my principal popped in for an observation with first grade. That was so NOT awesome.  The first grade group has about 35 students. Yesterday the para professional that usually comes into to help had been pulled to help give some kind of assessment to other students. It is two days before holiday break. Students did not get outside recess due to the snowstorm. Here's how the lesson went. 35 students sitting on the rug to listen. I had students standing up asking to use the bathroom, another who somehow cut her finger and needed assistance, others who were rolling around the floor or crawling. Once we were somewhat settled enough to perhaps here the directions, the site I was planning to have them work on wasn't working correctly. Good thing I'm a master at back up plans and was able to scramble to plan B. Students went to computers and started working. I scrambled around to make sure students were on track with what I'd asked. Half were trying to use the first site I showed that didn't work. Awesome. So I let them try then redirected to the back up plan. I had two students fighting over a chair and neither would budge. So I left them saying one needed to move and I'd be back. Thankfully one did. I tried to get to most all students to see that they were doing what was expected. Most were thank goodness.  The lesson ended with getting them somewhat in two lines ready to leave so the next group already waiting in the hall could come in. I am nervous to debrief with my principal about the lesson. It is difficult to have the only time  she's been in my room be one like this. I had a conversation with a friend about evaluations and he tried to get me to look at them as being good experiences. He said they should help me grow as a teacher. I get that but I am so stinking sensitive and want to feel someone sees me teach a successful lesson. I'm not sure that one was and don't want to look like I don't know what I'm doing. 

Move forward to the end of the day 7th/8th small math intervention group. Getting five students down to my room should be doable. Most days I can get two of them down easily. Yesterday was no different. They were excited for the dance after school. I got that and tried to make the deal that we'd work for a bit and then they could chat. That didn't work as they talked over me, one continued to text right in front of me. But hey... ONE was actually working. So I decided to relent and worked with the one who actually cared and needed the help. The others chatted. For some reason they needed to know my name ... wait.... THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW MY NAME. That felt great considering they've been in my room many time since August. Then they wanted to know if I lived with a boyfriend. I said I live with my dog. They then proceeded to say my dog was ugly and that it was sad that I live alone. That felt so NOT AWESOME! Two things ran through my head. One- I obviously lack in the relationship building department with these kids. (that's a whole other convo as well... I don't feel relationship building is a priority at this school). Two- these middle school kids are tough!

The day ended with my volunteering to sell tickets at the 7th/8th grade dance. This was. Thankfully I was only there for an hour and for the most part it was a typical middle school dance. We had the few who were not allowed to come in due to behavior. Had someone smoking pot just outside the entrance doors. Had some upset girls because their friend who was not a student at the school couldn't come in. 

I didn't start positive on this post so I need to end positive. Today is the last day with students before holiday break, Jeeter just made my day by sleeping on my lap while I typed this post, I get to wear jeans to school today, and my lil first grade friend came up to me in the cafeteria yesterday and gave me a hug. Sometimes that's all it takes to make life a little brighter is a hug.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Small Moments are Key

This week has been interesting. Good moments included my lil first grade buddy Tatyana sitting and chatting with me one morning and even asking what I liked to do when I wasn't at school. Pretty cool for a youngster to ask this of an adult. Made me feel like I wasn't just the 'computer teacher' as many students refer to me, but a person as well. The week also felt successful when I was able to get a resistive 8th grade girl into my room at the end of the day for the math intervention time. Not only did I get her in the room (the prior two days she wouldn't come downstairs with the group and was found wandering somewhere in the school) but she worked and asked questions. The same girl when I saw her yesterday morning arriving late, pulled me aside and asked if I'd walk with her to class because she didn't want to walk to the room alone. Small moments are key. I've been working on the setting of a story with 1st/2nd graders. The picture above is one that made me smile. It was a 2nd grade boy who really did a nice job illustrating the setting from the story we heard. Again a fantastic small moment.

The week did not pass without the usual 8th grade drama and challenges. Our fearless AP finally took some time to try to recover from being really ill. Good for him but we all certainly have missed him! The week marked the return of a very 'spirited' 8th grader who spent time at PACE Program. It is amazing how one single student can dramatically change the vibe and environment. Teachers were talking last Friday at the end of the day that the vibe felt pretty good. We felt like we were moving a bit forward and making some progress. Well, that conversation did a complete 180 by Tuesday. This one student had the boys who were starting to be manageable acting up. This one student had the girls falling all over themselves and each other clamoring for his attention. I get a piece of why the girls were acting the way they were- he's the 'bad' boy. This one student... 

On Thursdays, the 7th/8th graders get some extra social time from 3:30-4:00. We haven't had success in trying to provide this to them partially because of their behaviors during this time. Yesterday was... well interesting to say the least. The art teacher and I are the only teachers in the basement and we had the pleasure of hosting the two 8th grade classes for 'fun' time. It started poorly with trying to get them down two flights of stairs. I have to admit most came down just fine. But this one student- was the last one and of course had to be escorted so he'd actually make it into my room. Students were in our rooms for all of 5 minutes before they started to creep into the hallway. So here I was trying to manage students in the room who were not interested in their usual coolmathgames but rather wanted to use the big space in my room to spar, wander around and generally annoy each other. I ended up standing in the door way with this one student and two other boys. I have to say I was sweating and quite nervous. One was being pretty humorous for a short bit trying to pass some really old headphones I have off as being "the new Beats by Drake". He did make me smile but it was short lived as he moved on to sitting at my chair, nosing around on my laptop and even picking up my scarf and putting it on. Again I was nervous and sweating. I could continue the happenings but... you get the idea. I chatted a bit with my AP after school about the event and said I'd like to problem solve. He sure but asked what problem are we trying to solve? Good question! I realized the Thursday fun time is problematic because the adults are trying to say it is the students extra social/reward/fun time but we are dictating it. We were forcing them to go outside for an extra recess for awhile. Then we switched and are now forcing them to move with their homeroom classes to the specials teachers rooms on a rotational schedule. Time to rethink once again. Rethinking is good. Changing things that aren't working is good. Being flexible is good. 

Start positive. End positive.

On a good note, I was able to get several grades doing a word cloud using Tagxedo. I started by showing them MLK's I have a Dream speech in text and then in a word cloud. It felt successful as they created their own word clouds about themselves. Even this one student managed to get a girl nearby to type the words he wanted to use, print it and go pick it up for him. I enjoyed hearing the excitement from one 6th grader that I'd hung his up.  Small moments are key.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Had a Flow Kinda Day

Had an Flow kinda day yesterday with a couple groups. I've talked a lot about 7th/8th but yesterday was not about them (probably because the group of 7th graders only had 15/22 in the room for various reasons). 

Yesterday was about this:

  • The ginormous 1st grade group that when I walk them in expands to be a very long snack of spinning, jumping and twirling kids.
    • For some reason when we finally got into the building and stopped in the hallway to regroup... They were magically, somehow, in a relatively quiet and straight two lines.  This made me smile.  I didn't really do anything different but WOW! was I impressed.  I quickly let them know. As we walked the short walk to my classroom, they continued the behavior.  WOW! again. As we settled in the room they listened, then got to work on the task. WOW! times three now. They worked on keyboarding and most seemed to be doing well. When I stopped them to get their attention so we could switch tasks, I had 100% of them turn from their computer screens and look at me. I am wowed with this group because of the previous fourteen or so times I've had them, it has been nothing like this.  I'm hoping what happened is going to continue. I'm hoping we are moving away from so many Ebb days and more into Flow days.
  • The sixth grade group that came into my room.
    • I had a student who seemed to be stepping up as a leader in the group. When they were lining up outside my door, he was helping get them quiet and settled. I saw that he appreciated the leadership role and it seemed to help calm the group more quickly. When we moved into the room and began to work, I had some choosing to improve their WPM score from last week as we spent a bit of time on keyboarding practice.  They CHOSE this, I have options of what they could do. I have not seen the students show a desire to work yet. I very much enjoyed it! Again, I hope to see more Flowing days here.
  • I rearranged my teaching set up- projector, 'desk' etc.
    •  I have had most classes 13 or so times but they way I had it set up before, I looked at the back of student's heads for the most part while I taught. Then when they went to the computer to work, guess what I saw more of... yep, the back of their heads. So, Monday I changed it up. I admitted to the groups why I did it. I admitted that I felt awful that I was still asking their names when I did some quick notes about their progress during class. I made the promise to work on learning their names.
      • So- I tried working more on the names during the kindergarten class. I asked for their names while they worked and then used their name when I spoke to them. I'm hoping that when I see them in a week, I will be able to retain a few more of the names. It's important to me that they are not just a student walking into my room for 45 minutes each week. I learned the value of relationship many years ago from my dear friend Melissa. She is a wonder at this skill that so often is the most difficult to perform. 
On a side note, it is funny that a day like this happened when I was running on just a few hours of sleep. Funny how life in the teaching world works!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Starfish and Dash

My close friends know this time of year always sends me off kilter. This year is no different. I attended my aunt's funeral yesterday. I had not seen her in many years nor had my mom. Not really sure why, other than my family is my family (which is a long and sorted story). The pastor gave a lovely service where he called upon the group to say a word that described my aunt, or share a story about her. I thought it was a great way to make the funeral what it should be, a celebration and remembrance of someone. He read two stories that I've heard before but they were much needed right about now.
The first:

How Do You Live Your Dash?
~Linda Ellis~ 
I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning….. to the end
He noted he first came to her date of birth
And spoke the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
That she spent alive on this earth…
And now only those who loved her
Know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own:
The cars…the house…the cash,
What matters is how we live and love
And how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard….
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
That can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
To consider whats true and real,
And always try to understand
The way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
And show appreciation more
And love the people in our lives
Like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect,
And more often wear a smile….
Remembering that this special dash
Might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy’s being read
With your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say
About how you spent your dash?
And the second:
 Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"
I can't help but be reminded that my life is always as it should be. I have struggled this school year with so many things but these two stories are swimming in my head right now and helping me understand a bit.

I have to know that I cannot make a difference in all my student's lives but if I just make a difference in one or a few it DOES mean something. I can't be upset that those darned 8th graders make me frustrated, shed tears or want to melt down. I need to look at the one(s) I am reaching. I need to feel good about the ones who know my name and say it (instead of the generic Miss). My frustration to me is a good thing because it reminds me I care and want to do the best I can. If I'm doing something that isn't working, I want to fix it. If I can do something I'm doing a little better I will. I care. I like this about myself. I think the thing that is the toughest right now is the feeling of being alone. I work in the basement at school with just one other teacher. She is great but we rarely have time to chat or connect. The teachers bring their students to my room, and drop them off or pick them up without much of a hello or friendly smile. So I am certainly missing the feeling of being connected with the adults in my school. I'm told being a specials teacher is usually like this. I don't like that! My aloneness continues as I come home to be alone some more. I want to find a way to make this better for myself in both aspects of my life. Again- I care and I always am wanting to do better for myself and others. Perhaps I need to just let go of the handle of control and let the wind carry me. To not be afraid to walk alone or to like it, embrace it and accept it.

The other story about the dash is timely as well. It makes me think about how I am spending this dash of mine. Makes me think at my eulogy how will my dash be talked about? 

My life is as it should be. 

(This post is more of me needing to reflect and reset a bit with my whole attitude. Have felt quite negative lately and that is not a place I enjoy being.)