Timeless, Classic, Storied A Reflection on Traditions

Traditions have a way of glittering our days in December.  Decorating cookies, holiday craft parties, singing Christmas Carols, Christmas Eve service, sledding, reading the Night Before Christmas, watching holiday movies, pexels-photo-364668putting up the tree, gathering with friends and family, attending the Nutcracker; there is something magical about looking forward to the same things each year.  I feel like the performance of the Nutcracker kids off the Holiday season. One of my first memories with my grandparents was attending the Nutcracker when I was really little. Since then, my Grandmother has taken us a few other times. Over the last 5 years, my daughter and I have started the tradition of going each year.  This past December, my daughter was actually part of the cast. While it is nice to carryout the same traditions year after year, it is always nice to leave space to create new memories. This year, I asked my kids to come up with a new tradition that they are looking forward to trying out. I think it is neat when kids get a chance to be part of making something happen year after year.  Traditions keep you grounded. It is important to have things you can count on. It is important to think about the purpose behind the tradition. It is okay to modify a tradition in order for it to workout the best for your situation. It is important to reflect on the purpose of the tradition and what you are trying to accomplish. 

 

For example, if driving to look at Christmas lights is a tradition, maybe you can find an area close to home for your experience to cut down on the drive time.  Or, if time is a factor and your family loves decorating cookies, maybe it is possible to buy the cookies, and then fulfill the tradition by just adding frosting and sprinkles? baking-biscuit-biscuits-302462

 

As I thought about the word, Tradition I was curious as to how the dictionary would officially define the word.  Tradition is officially defined as, an inherited, established or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or social custom).  

I have always been drawn to the word. Traditional.  I am the oldest of four kids, and feel as though I have looked forward to and relied upon traditions over the years.  I could say that my life has been fairly traditional. Upon graduating from high school, I finished college, was married, got a job, and a few years later started having kids.  While choosing a more traditional lifestyle, I have made sure to leave room for creativity, innovation and spontaneous opportunity.

IMG_2225 Currently I am reading the book, Home Body, A guide to creating spaces you never want to leave by Joanna Gaines.  I love how she explains different styles that people might be drawn to;  traditional being one of them. Traditional as in long-established, historic, timeless, sophisticated, stately, storied, refined, and classic.  While she mentions several other words to serve as descriptions, these adjectives really grabbed hold of me. Joanna also explains that people who might enjoy a traditional style are interested in knowing the stories behind the things they see in a particular home.  This could not be more true, as on top of our fireplace sits a sign that reads, “Our Story”. One of my goals for 2019, is to focus on really noticing things. I am looking to arrange the things in our house to tell our family’s story, as well as to give glimpses of the generations who came before us.  I want to pass down the stories of our family. Thinking about the word traditional in regards to the items in our house, I am inspired to learn about the stories behind the fixtures, choices of wood, tile, windows and so forth.

I find that I can relax when things are classified as traditional.  Everyday life seems to show so many examples traditions, or the description, “traditional”.   As I think about the word a little deeper, I am beginning to realize that there are so many different ways that I can use this style strength to appreciate and get to know people on another level.  I need to find ways to ask people to tell me stories more often, and utilize the elements at home and work that are tried and true and find things that ground me. Since I enjoy the traditional things, I can appreciate that I do not need to get caught up in the latest gimmick or fad. When I hear about something new, I can uncover the story behind it first, to determine the possibility of it being universal or timeless.

While I thrive on traditions and things being traditional, I am always striving to improve appreciating the styles other people love.  A co-worker of mine does this well as she always gets excited about my style and interests, and asks me questions that force me to reflect more on what I like.   While I know that she would not choose the things that I do; she always finds a way to get excited about as well as validate my preferences. She shows me that I matter.  Validating and accepting others is one of the greatest gifts we can give. Appreciating the good in others is traditional, timeless, universal, classic and something that I want to make a regular part of my day.

Lessons learned from a Hip Hop Class

The text came through at about 9:30 pm on a Wednesday night.   A friend of mine was asking if my daughter and I wanted to join her and her daughter at the YMCA’s Hip Hop class on Wednesday nights for the next five weeks. The cost of the class was incredibly reasonable.  And, it worked perfectly timing wise for us to first drop my son off at hockey practice and then make it to the YMCA in time to attend class. Everything sounded pretty much perfect. I knew that my daughter would be over the moon excited about the idea of taking the class.  I was all ready to register when I realized this was a hip hop class that I was signing up for.  Hip Hop. I wasn’t exactly sure I knew what hip hop all included.  I I had taken tap, acrobatics and ballet lessons during my elementary school years, but I was not exactly an expert in the dance world.  I am an athlete, but graceful on the dance floor was something that I was not sure about. However, taking a dance class was something that I put on my bucket list last spring.  This is also my year of trying new things. Since the start of the year, I have tried something new each month. My #oneword for 2018 is innovation. So, after a slight hesitation, 24 hours later, my daughter and I registered for the last two spots in our first dance class together.  

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As Wednesday evening neared, I started to wonder what the class would be like. I figured that this would be good, and intentional time spent well with my daughter so that minimized any overwhelming thoughts I had.  I would also be able to show my own kids, as well as students that I was trying new things. I also want to model that there are many different ways to work out and be active. Part of me wondered if I would be the worst one, or if anyone would notice when I did not know what I was doing.  I decided that this detail was not really relevant to my overall goals for trying the class. My 8-year-old daughter is incredibly brave, and willing to try new things- I kind of wanted to be just like her this time.

As I walked into the aerobic studio on a chilly November night, the instructor came up to us right away and introduced herself.  She said a few encouraging things, but what I remember most was her energy and positive attitude. She seemed pretty excited about whatever we were going to do.  After welcoming us, she created an experience. She turned down the overhead lights, turned up the colored strobe lights and cranked up the music. And just like that, an exercise room was turned into a Friday night club.  I wondered if she had read Dave Burgess’ Teach Like A Pirate?  She seemed to know just what to do in order to set the scene.  As I started warming up, I paused to think about the types of environments I was using to transport my students into another world.  The environment really did make a difference in my experience in class. It made learning a lot more fun and authentic!

As a teacher, I also thought a lot about the modeling that the instructor did.  I realize that an aerobic or dance class is different from the traditional classroom in a middle school. But, watching this instructor model good teaching really got me to reflect a lot on how I model what I am asking my students to do. I started thinking about a whether or not I  am I modeling enough? Can my students follow my verbal directions? I became aware of the fact that since I did not understand all of the dance terms and commands that were yelled out, I am sure that without her constant demonstration; I would have been seriously lost. It reminded me of how important it is to do examples of my own work and actually take my students through the process that I am asking them to do.  

The way that I received feedback was also something that stood out.  The teacher never gave me a stern look, or told me I wasn’t doing something correctly; and I am confident that I did not do every move with 100 percent accuracy.  What she did do was smile a lot and move in my direction from time to time, continuing to model what she was asking me to do. When the class was over, she asked me how it was, and told me that I should definitely come back next week.  Not once did she focus on what I necessarily needed to improve on. She made me feel as though I did enough to warrant a welcomed invitation back.

I had a great time, and decided I would most certainly be back.  My daughter loved the experience. I realize that trying a number of different things this year made attempting a class like this possible and not intimidating.  The more experiences I have with testing out my bravery truly makes a difference. I also thought about my confidence level. Before we started the class, I told my daughter it was okay if we were the worst people in the class.  If we worked hard, had fun, and improved at all it would be a success. When I think about my middle school students, I realize that some of the best things I can give them are opportunities to build confidence, and try new things in a low risk environment.  

 

116, 92, 68 – I am grateful

116, 92, and 68
Grateful for the in between moments and an awareness of time

This weekend we filled three different marble jars. One jar contained 116, another contained 92, and the last a mere 68 marbles. Each marble would represents the number of months between November 2018, and June of my three kids’ perspective graduating years. The purpose of counting out this particular milestone of marbles is to focus on being intentional during the in between time. While we will continue imparting wisdom on our children when they leave for college and into their adulthood; the time they are present in our home will look different and not be as scheduled. IMG_1603

At the end of each month a marble will be taken out so that the jar becomes a visible reminder of how precious and finate the time we have with our kids is, as well as how necessary it is to be focused and intentional during each month, as the marbles cannot be added back.

When I first proposed the idea of doing this, my husband said, “That is so sad. I don’t know if I want to do a sad activity.” I have to be honest, that was the first emotion I felt when I heard about this idea during a faith legacy event at our church for my 3rd grader. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how important it is to have visual reminders that compel us to want to act boldly and make every moment matter.

As the day progressed, the more optimistic I felt. I was truly grateful for the numbers 116, 92 and 66. I decided to change my perspective and see this is a jar filled with opportunities between the next several months. I realized that there are parents who would give anything for this many opportunities to daily share values. If I could see these jars through the lens of abundance- I would be blessed.

The more I thought about how grateful I was to have been given a gift through marbles, I realized I could do the same thing in my classroom. I decided to do a weekly marble jar that would sit on my desk. The jar contains 28 marbles. This number has been adjusted to reflect the weeks we are out of school. I look forward to it reminding me to be grateful for the opportunity to be intentional during the in between moments. And, most importantly realize that every moment, and every week really does matter. My students are only in class with me for a short time.  Minutes, days, and weeks cannot be wasted.  This Thanksgiving one of the things I am most grateful for is an awareness of time and the in between moments that make up that time.

How One Book Changed My Life

My journey as a reader.

I was filled with embarrassment.  As my eyes scanned from right to left,  I realized that I had not read any of the titles in front of me.  I was on a second date with my now husband, Nate, and I had some extra time between dinner and our movie.  He was an avid reader, and seemed to have consumed the entire fiction section in Barnes and Noble. Wanting to appear smarter than I was, I tried not not show an emotion as I decided something had to change about my reading life.  Yes, I was trying to impress a guy; but it was bigger than that. I realized I was missing out on something.

In school, I had diligently done all of the assigned reading.  While I did not particularly enjoy every paperback assigned, I knew it was necessary to have the background in order to pass the tests and  complete the assignments. My parents were educators, and they genuinely wanted me to read. Growing up they would require I spent 15 minutes at a time in my bedroom reading something.  The problem was that I could never really find the right books to read. And, to add to the misery, I was a slower reader and frankly not that good at comprehending a story. In school, we all read the same novel at the same time, and often I had to go home and re read the assigned reading that I tried to accomplish in class.  As I was involved in sports and activities after school, I did not want to waste my time finding something in the library that I would most likely not get through before it had to be returned. I never really experienced the joy of being, “Lost in a book”. Growing up, I had friends that would read for hours, and I was always jealous that I did not enjoy the hobby.  

As we continued to date throughout the fall, I found a way to start reading more.  I was busy with college classes, so an unassigned book felt overwhelming. The magic happened the following summer.  It was the day before I was to leave for a study abroad experience in Mexico. Nate had brought over a gift bag of goodies for me to enjoy on my trip.  In the bag was an incredibly large novel. I thumbed through the pages of The Firm, by John Grisham, and did not know what to think.  To say I was intimidated by the small print and thickness of the spine was an understatement. He said that I would have time to read in the airport or on the plane, and since it was one of his favorites, he thought I would enjoy it.  Little did I know that this would be the book would change my life.   215px-Firm_ver2

I decided to give the book a try.  I knew I would have a lot of time over the next month.  There was something about the way John Grisham wrote that hooked me right away.  I carried The Firm with me everywhere I went.  By the time I landed in Detroit 30 days later, I had finished 343 pages and could not wait to check out one his next books as soon as I was home.  Since that summer, I have become an avid reader. Currently I read over a hundred books a year include a variety of fiction and non fiction authors. Because I read a lot, my life feels more complete and rich.  I am incredibly passionate about finding young readers books that they will get lost in. Both of my boys have enjoyed John Grisham’s younger reader series, Kid Lawyer – Theodore Boone.

In addition to recommending books for kids, some of the professional recommendations I have as a teacher are Strong by Kara Goucher, The Four O’Clock  Faculty: A Rogue Guide to Revolutionizing Professional Development by Rich Czyz, and numerous other books that are from the Dave Burgess Consulting publishing group.  51iV0SclytL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Reading these books has opened up a floodgate of amazing ideas that I am able to use immediately.  51BkQPIE6WL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Today it is not uncommon for me to be reading three or four books at a time.  I am so excited to see new books released and cannot stop consuming content. Reading whether it professional, informative or an amazing thriller by a favorite author, am finally lost in my books.  Not having a book to read for either myself, a family member or a student is treated like an emergency. Reading has become a way of life. No matter how busy you are, there is always a way to sneak in a few hours of reading.  I get excited for the opportunity to read a few extra pages throughout the day. And, I absolutely love the excitement of getting up early to finish a book. Increasing the number of books I have read has made me a better teacher, parent, and overall person.  Today, I am the reader that I was jealous of on my second date in Barnes and Noble.

 

A Simple Goal for Day 1

A Simple Goal for Day 1- Smile More

And just like that Summer 2018 becomes a memory.  

While I am sad to see a season end, and will really miss time at home with my family; there is just something about a fresh start, and the opportunity to begin something that is exciting.  I can’t wait to watch my kids enjoy their classes, sports, make new friends, be brave and experience a love for learning new things. I love the opportunity to experience elementary school and middle school all over again through their eyes!  

While I have spent time reading, gathering educational resources and organized my courses and learned a new software;  I realize that I want to be intentional about setting a goal for the first day. Yes, I can’t wait to get to know my students, facilitate an incredible amount of learning, and really get settled in order to be organized and proactive this year.  As I start to think about doing all of these things I get overwhelmed. I have so much to accomplish and 55 minutes with only each class.

In order to make a goal manageable for the first day; I have decided that focusing on one thing might be best for me.  Tomorrow, I want to have fun and enjoy my students. I want to smile more. I know it seems like such a simple goal. However, there are a lot of times that I don’t make the extra effort to smile.  Earlier this year I had a fellow baseball team parent tell me that when he sees me running I look like it really hurts and is awful. He commented that running looks like it must be the worst thing. Even Though I know he was somewhat joking, his observation has stuck with me.  The comment really took me by surprise since running is something that brings me so much joy. Two weeks ago I listened to a running podcast where Deena Kastor talked about how smiling when you run is important. She said it helps to release less stress hormone. I decided to experiment with the idea of smiling during my run.  Sure enough, Kastor was right. The run was more enjoyable and actually easier when I smiled. What if I applied this same technique during the teaching day? What if I looked as positive as I felt?Mr._Smiley_Face.svg

I can still remember teachers who laughed and smiled.  I want to provide an environment where students can be happy, like school (and my content area), as well as feel inspired.  As a parent, I know I want my own kids to enjoy school. When a teacher seems to be having fun, it makes a big difference. I certainly don’t want my students to think that learning is miserable just because I have not made the effort to smile.  Here’s to a fun first day filled with many smiles.

Why I Tribe

CaptureI belong. I am so excited to write my first post as a member of the Compelled Educators Tribe! Honestly, it feels like a dream come true to be able to write, connect, collaborate and be inspired by a truly outstanding group of educators. I am in shock that I get to be part of something this incredible!

During the first week of August, the Compelled Tribe is reflecting on WHY we choose to be intentional about blogging and lifting each other up with our resources, stories, and ideas.

I remember when I couldn’t find the magic in education. It was about eight or nine years ago. I had been teaching for several years, and had settled into the routine of my curriculum. Teaching was going okay; but something was missing. I felt alone as I moved from school to school, or subject area to subject area to keep a job. I did not feel connected. I did not really have a tribe. I needed people to turn to when my creativity was running low. I needed people who would lift me up when I had a rough day in the classroom, or struggled to find a way to get through to a student. I needed people who just got me. I needed a tribe.

That year I joined Twitter, I listened to a podcast called “EDUallstars”, Captureand started reading Erin Klein’s blog. As I listened to educators share their stories, and talk about the craft of teaching; I was hooked. Once again, I could see that magic, and feel the emotions that first allowed me to fall in love with the profession. I was back! While I had a very large tribe; I had a tribe. I remember when I started to recognize names of famous educators, and literally was starstruck when I met Erin Klein at a conference. Longtime friend and colleague, Rachelle Wynkoop, showed me the ropes of how to participate in a Twitter chat. The #miched chat gave me more people. I remember nervously sitting in the coffee house at my first “Tweetup”. Not long after, I started reading the Corwin Connected Educator Series (I think I devoured every book!) I remember going to an edcamp and talking to a handful of local educators. Soon I was making plans both online and in person. I regularly tagged people on Twitter. Thank you for alway positively reacting to my tweets Rachel Card! When I learned about what a PLN entailed, I realized that I really did have people. I still get so excited when I see a pretty famous educator take the time to answer my questions and offer resources. I feel connected.

As I am part of so many groups within the world of education and even outside of the profession; I realize I have a number of people who support me. On the darkest days, this means the world. J.K. Rowling says it best, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” The Tribe represents the light.

This summer I am realizing how important my tribe is. I have people who will stand by me. As I enter into a new chapter of being able to connect to amazing educators within the #Compelled Educators Tribe; I realize that I am being gifted and empowered with a great opportunity to serve others. I have a tribe. I am ready, powerful and I belong.

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The Compelled Educator

untitled I can’t believe I have been accepted into such an amazing group of people!  I have been reading the blog posts from so many of these inspiring educators for quite some time.  I have been looking for a way to increase my discipline when it comes to blogging.  I am a writer!  I have been since as far back as I could remember, and am so excited to be part of a tribe of writers who are so passionate about sharing their story!