A Writer’s Notebook

Be You. Take a Chance.

Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.

— Jack Canfield.

I woke up today and decided to write a blog. I grabbed a cup of coffee and I jumped two feet into the world of blogging. What joy there is to be able to write my personal thoughts and feelings for others to read and have. Stop. Just writing that sentence puts a pit of fear in my stomach that wraps around me like a vice. It grabs hold of me, squeezes, and makes me dizzy. For me there is a real deep fear for doing something so vulnerable. Truth be told, I’ve been thinking of starting a blog for years. I’ve written many blogs. And they are all saved on my computer for my eyes only. One of my earliest entries is from 2012. What’s stopping me from pushing the publish button? Fear. Fear of being vulnerable. Fear of failure. Fear of what happens next. I don’t even know what “next” means, but I am afraid of it. It’s debilitating. It’s debilitating in the sense that it holds me back from being complete. From doing things I want to do. From things that could lead to great happiness. From things that I was meant to do. Blogging is just one example of the many things I have said no to and should have said yes to.

If you knew me or spent any time with me, you would probably say none of this is true. You would see someone that is all hands-on deck in every aspect of teaching. My head spins thinking of all the incredible tentacles of teaching that I am involved, and I love every second of it. In other words, this fear I live with doesn’t ruin my life. It isn’t a fear that keeps me from being an outgoing, talk to or help anyone, presenter of professional development kind of person. It lives in a small corner of my mind and it holds me back from being complete. It’s a nagging voice that says, “I’m not good enough,” or “Really? Are you sure you’re capable of that?” Those words stop me from being vulnerable, trying things outside my comfort zone, and from leading a more purpose driven life. This fear is annoying and very real for me. My body goes into panic mode. The only way to shut it down, is to shut it down. To say no.

Writing a blog there is immense vulnerability for me. Sharing my personal experiences and speaking from my heart is fragile. Writing opens a part of me that I have hidden very well my entire life. It gives others a look into my life, my thoughts, and my feelings. You may be asking why then? If I feel all these things, then why write a blog? Great questions! I wish I knew, but I’m being tugged to do so. It keeps coming back again and again. This little voice that says write a blog is at war with the voice that says absolutely not. Welcome to my mind.:) So today, with the help of some really amazing friends, I tell the voice in my head, I am enough, and I capable of doing this. I am louder than this voice that screams, “Don’t do it!”

About the Writer’s Notebook Blog

I want this blog to serve two purposes. One for myself and the second for readers. For me, it’s my writer’s notebook, a place to capture all the swirling ideas and thoughts in my mind, organize them, and give them meaning. For others, I hope it encourages you to begin to write too, and hopefully some of my posts will resonant with you and help you along the way.

So, here goes nothing. Here’s to not missing my chance to live the life I was intended to. Here’s to being louder and stronger than fear.

One Little Word for the Year Tells a Story

It seems to be customary to start the new year out by choosing one word to focus on for the upcoming year. A word that will help keep you grounded in self-improvement. A word that will be your focus for 365 days. A word that will help you fill an area of need, whether that be a self goal or hope for the world. There are thousands of words to choose from so, narrowing it down to one takes time and reflection. Looking backwards and forward, to know where you are and where you want to be.

This one word tells your story. 

For some, 2021 will be a time to reflect and heal from the heartache of 2020. For others, it will be a year to break free from fear and begin taking more risks. No matter our story, the one word we choose ultimately shines light on where we are in our personal journey of growth and our hope for the future. It’s the stepping stone of the path we want to continue on.

Beyond reflecting on your life to choose the “perfect” word, there is yet another customary event and it’s sharing your #OneWord2021 on social media for all to see. To do this takes bravery and vulnerability. You open yourself up for others to see your story, your goals, your hopes. It’s also a moment to let everything go and walk proudly into the new year holding your word, your story, and know you are the creator and writer of your life. 

I walk proudly into 2021 holding two words. I forgot to mention that there are no real rules for this and one word just didn’t seem to be enough for me this year. I proudly cradle in my hands the words Dance and Declare.  

I will dance this year! I will step out on the dance floor of life and dance. Even when I am faced with self-doubt and uncomfortableness tries to wrap itself around me, I will dance and not worry about what others may think or say. It is in this freedom that I will be able to declare my thoughts, ideas, and creation of content to hopefully help others. 

Happy New Year and Happy #OneWord2021!

A Teaching Lesson From Professor

This is Professor. He is our family’s beloved black lab that seems to always know exactly what each family member needs. I have learned about unconditional love, instant forgiveness, and many other life lessons from Professor. Here’s what I learned about leading my students from this beautiful dog. 

Professor is a terrible walker. Flat out the worst walker, but he absolutely loves walks. I am usually met at the door by him with his leash in his mouth. I must admit as cute as this is, I have to talk myself into this grueling task each night. We start each walk the same: leash being attached, Professor giddy and jumping, then off the porch we fly! We start out the first few yards in full sprint and it all goes downhill from there. He stops every few seconds to sniff something. He is 100 lbs, so when he stops, I stop. Any attempt on pulling him is futile and I become frustrated as he dictates my walking agenda. I want to lead him with purpose….We are on a walk, so let’s walk! He usually responds in a few ways to my leading (pulling) him: 1. He will refuse and sit there. 2. He will tug back on the leash and continue his own agenda while ignoring mine. And 3. The worst, he will take off running with me scrambling behind him. “Why did I even come on this walk?” would run through my head each night until I started listening to his needs and gave up my reign of control. 

Why was I on a mission to have him walk so quickly and orderly around the neighborhood? It wasn’t because I needed more steps. I had already walked my 10,000 steps and 5 flights each day teaching. It was because I believed “good dog walkers” walked their dog with orderly purpose. If I wasn’t waking him like everyone else, then I was a bad dog walker, right? Both Professor and I were miserable. Yes, he was excited each night to go, but by the end of our walks, we both were spent and needed time away from each other. 

I began to listen to my sweet dog and decided to give him the lead. I would be there to guide him away from the trash cans at the end of driveways, look both ways for him at the corners, and keep him from chasing every squirrel up the tree. Most importantly though, I would let him take me places he felt important. He now sniffs his way around the neighborhood, with me in tow. It may not look like the other dog walkers, but Professor and I both are now enjoying his adventures.

In listening to Professor and coming to terms with what he needed from me, I have been able to restructure my teaching style. I began to wonder, “Are my students on my agenda or am I listening to their needs as learners?” Was I giving them their opportunity to “sniff” out the world so learning becomes an adventure? Or am I tugging and pulling them to learn “the way others feel it should be done?” Here’s the thing, just like me meeting my steps for the day and not needing more, I have also learned it’s my students turn to learn, not mine. Giving up control doesn’t mean you lose control. It means that you are there to proactively guide each student on their education journeys. 

Lessons from a sweet pup! 

I must go… Professor is holding his leash for his adventure walk.

No Room for Competition

I vividly remember sitting down with my husband a few years ago with tears running down my face telling him I could no longer be a teacher. I had hit a brick wall and I was miserable. I wanted out. Just thinking back to this time brings tears to my eyes because it was such a real moment for me. We sat together and looked at every possible way to make it work, but our family’s health benefits were impossible to get around. There was no other choice but to go back to teaching in the fall. After crying over my fate (it felt like one), I did what my dad has always taught me to do in times of struggles…I pulled up my bootstraps and faced my problem head on. I stopped crying and began reflecting on why I was so miserable. Here is what I learned and what turned my teaching career from a prison sentence to the greatest job I could ever hope for. 

I started by locating the beginning of my misery and it was apparent it began when high stake evaluations started. Teachers were told that seniority no longer existed in job placements each year, and that we would be ranked on an evaluation system that could only be mastered if you were a robot. Our entire climate changed in one meeting. I felt my colleague’s doors close, and competition start. Out shining each other became the norm, as it was our only hope to securing our jobs. Without consciously doing so I began as well hoarding my ideas and wanting to look better than my dear friends, all in the name of keeping my job. Blowing out each other’s candles became our climate. Jealousy ran deep. We all wanted the spotlight. And when someone else had it, others would cut their hard work down and alienate them. I sadly was there too. This is very hard to admit to all of you. This is not a time in my life that I am proud of.  In reflecting nothing was more apparent to me than knowing my misery was not external, but internal. It was not the evaluation system. It was me. It was my attitude and actions that robbed me of joy and what teaching had once been for me. So began my journey to find myself again. I knew I was in there somewhere and I was determined to find the real me again.

I began by asking myself questions. Why did I choose this profession in the first place?  What were my beliefs about this profession? How could I get back to enjoying it? Every answer went back to one; students and their learning. I began to see my truth and my why. I wasn’t teaching every day for myself; I was there for my students. I was there to create an environment that children felt loved, accepted, to help them grow academically and emotionally to their fullest potential, help them explore their passions and fall in love with learning. I knew for this to happen, students had to not only feel this in my classroom but throughout the school. Thus, came the realization that my attitude and actions were not only robbing me of my happiness, it was robbing my students of what they deserved every day.  A place that felt like home. A place in which all teachers care for all students, not just the kids in their classrooms. A place that they were greeted by name by the entire staff. Sadly, this was not happening, and we all felt it. I couldn’t change anyone else, but knew I had to change immediately. 

My attitude changed from being focused on myself to those that mattered the most. The students we serve. I began my journey of looking at other teachers and opportunities to celebrate them. If they were reaching their students in a way to elevate their learning, then the students and their learning deserved to be celebrated. If students are winning, then we all are winning became my new motto.  I began asking questions, sharing lesson ideas, and looking for others who wanted to collaborate. The transformation from misery to joy began to happen. I felt connected. I felt proud of the work we were doing for all students. I became energized. I began to fall in love with teaching again.

I truly believe that once schools begin to see themselves as a team for ALL students, and All students become the utmost focus, there will be an unstoppable climate where great emotional support and learning happens for all students. Focusing on all students removes the element of competition, because we are all working towards the same purpose. With that said, we need to honor one another as unique individuals. We are all at different stages in our lives and teaching careers. When our focus is on all students, love and supporting our colleagues becomes a natural effect, because when students are winning, we all are winning.   

Looking back at my cry session with my husband, I am grateful that our health insurance was a blockage to me resigning. Through honest reflection and calling myself out when I needed to, allowed me to know without any reservations teaching is my calling. Having all students feel loved, seen as individuals, supported, and encouraged to explore their passions and fall in love with learning is my why. Lighting other’s candles and collaborating for the better of all children is my pathway.

Blowing out someone else’s candle does make your candle shine brighter. We shine brighter when we lift and support one another.