Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 One Word: Center

Prone to polarities

Pulled towards opposite ends

Extreme thinking

Rigid restrictions

Intense pursuits of change

Short lived successes

Exhausting efforts

Elusive balance

Ebb and flow, back and forth

Move towards the middle

Begin again

Gentle sway

Steady and even

Find my CENTER

Monday, October 1, 2018

Revisiting Reasonableness

When the month of September began, I decided it was time to kickstart healthier habits. Thanks to a little nudging from my big sister, I rejoined Weight Watchers, and along with tracking my food I committed to closing the circle on my Apple Watch every day the entire month. This required that I stand for at least 12 hours, exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, and burn a minimum of 450 calories during my waking hours. In my mind, this seemed like a great way to challenge myself. I vowed to stay the course.

As you can see, from first glance it appears I reached my goal. However, if you zoom in a little closer, you'll notice one ring is not fully closed. Near the end of the month, I crashed early on a Friday night after an exhausting week at work, and with only 13 calories left to burn, I missed my target for the day. When I woke up on Saturday morning and realized I'd fumbled, I felt crushing disappointment. I mean, I was almost to finish line. How could I have been so careless?

The thing about long term goals is they should be reasonable. Had I unintentionally set myself up for failure from the beginning? Did I leave any room for my humanness to breathe? I am a fan of goal setting, but sometimes my all-or-nothing tendencies manifest in self-defeating behaviors. After screwing up on Friday, I considered throwing in the towel and quitting completely. However, this reaction would be as unreasonable as the goal I had originally set. I am a pendulum swinger, and sometimes rigid goals are what help kickstart a journey. However, they also cripple me.

Reasonableness feels elusive to me in so many areas of my life. I am prone to extreme thinking, and if I ever hope to find balance in my world, I must unwind a little. When you look up the word reasonable in a thesaurus, the words moderate and tolerable are the first synonyms you'll find. In October, I will continue on this journey of health, but I will not berate or belittle myself when I am imperfect. Perhaps a more realistic goal would be to close my rings 5 out of 7 days a week. I'm also hoping to blog a little more regularly, but instead of forcing myself to produce a piece of writing every single day, I will aim for three entries a week. Seems more manageable. Progress not perfection will be my mantra in October. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Alacrity: Brisk & Cheerful Readiness

If you are wondering about the title, it's almost as spastic and unrelated as all the thoughts spewing out of my head onto the screen at this moment. This day has been full of fractured, random ideation, and since it's the 1st of August, I've decided to go ahead and start blogging again. I'd like to say I will sustain this important practice, but writing momentum perpetually eludes me. Once upon a time, provocations like The Slice of Life Challenge motivated me to process my life through the written word. However, for the last few months I've felt stuck and uninspired. Maybe if I expel these mangled musings, inspiration to write will magically manifest. (How's that for wishful thinking?)

Here's a sampling of the unpredictable, erratic ruminations coursing through my brain the last 8 hours.
  • How come perusing professional Facebook groups is so much more engaging than online courses? Teachers are my favorite. 
  • Large binders are bulky and obtrusive, yet I'm drawn to them when I seek order in my world. 
  • Books make me so happy. When I get a text from the local library saying my hold titles are ready for pick up I feel downright giddy. 
  • Taco Bell is usually my favorite "go-to" for cheap fast food. Tonight, their food sucked. 
  • Why do teachers accept unacceptable things like working off contract in un-air conditioned bulidings? (I know the answer. It's because they love kids!)
  • Sheet protectors are the coolest invention ever. 
  • After downloading a preview on my Kindle app, I want to read the book Troublemakers really bad. Unfortunately my book stack is out of control right now.
  • I truly miss spending my days with children. Building a vibrant, caring classroom community at the beginning of a school year was my favorite thing about teaching.
  • Twitter makes me a better human. However, it also increases inattention.
  • Polarity thinking is going to be the death of me. 
  • Why is clear, consistent communication so dang hard?

So back to the blog title. This word caught my attention, and when I looked it up, the definition seemed too upbeat. I aspire to bring positive energy into the spaces I inhabit, but alacrity feels a bit peppy. A friend and colleague shared the message below with me early in the day, and when I stumbled across this unfamiliar vocabulary word, my mind raced back to the words she'd sent through Voxer. 

Image result for today wants your energy

Today wanted me to write. Yes, me. Perhaps Elmore Leonard's quote is true. (See blog banner for context.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Slice of Life Day 6: Devastating Defeat At the Polls

On March 6, 1836 the Alamo fell after a 13 day siege. On March 6, 2018 #blockvote faced a similar defeat.

As the results of the Texas primaries rolled in, all hope disappeared. The educators' valiant efforts failed to impact change at the polls.

Maybe we should just follow the lead of West Virginia and Oklahoma. Perhaps a teacher strike is what it's going to take. A revolution is stirring. I feel it. Teachers have had enough. In a bleeding red state, our voices are silenced.

We either mobilize or move. I'm fed up. Apparently so are a lot of fellow educators on Twitter. 

How do we create a critical mass? Who will be our Katniss Everdeen? We need a coalition of the willing. Are you in?

slice of life

This post is part of the 11th Annual Slice of Life Annual Story challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, a month-long challenge to write daily by inviting participants to share a snapshot of life through writing.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Slice of Life Day 5: Conference Jitters

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A few month ago right before Christmas break, Sheel Jagani, a program specialist from the Texas Education Agency, contacted me via email to see if I'd be interested in presenting with a small team of #TXLS facilitators at SXSW EDU. Of course I jumped at the chance, and now that I'm hours away from attending, I'm feeling a bit anxious. Several colleagues from ESC Region 11 mentioned how uniquely different this conference is, and as I thumb through the program guide, I am instantly overwhelmed. So many of the sessions seem geared towards policy wonks and ed-tech folks. I feel like a little fish in a big pond, and insecurity gnaws at the surface. 

The morning keynote is presented by The Moth. When I looked up their organization online, their tagline reads, "True Stories Told Live". I'm hoping this entry experience will alleviate all the anxiety I'm experiencing. FOMO threatens, and I worry I'll attend the wrong sessions. Perhaps my small town upbringing leaves me feeling a bit unsteady as I prepare to participate in this internationally known event. Last year, my favorite thought leader of all time, Dr. BrenĂ© Brown, presented a session titled Daring Classrooms. However, this year when I browse the schedule, I see no names I'm familiar with which makes me feel inadequate and uninformed. I don't like not knowing. 

My word for 2018 is Unwind, and as I type this neurotic blog, I am realizing I need to chill out! This day holds treasures untold, and if I just calm down and embrace a beginner's mindset, I'm sure everything will turn out just fine. When you vomit your scattered, maniacal thoughts on the screen, you quickly gain perspectives. Perhaps this blog is just what I needed to talk myself off the ledge, and settle my fidgety, restless spirit. For anyone still reading, I hope my bleeding apprehension hasn't caused your heart to race. I'm thankful for this safe space to process through my convoluted, human emotions.

slice of life

This post is part of the 11th Annual Slice of Life Annual Story challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, a month-long challenge to write daily by inviting participants to share a snapshot of life through writing.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Slice of Life Day 4: Lovin' Our Life Together

I'm crafting my blog this evening from a hotel in north Austin, not far from where Chris lived when we first met. During the winter and spring of 2007, I would trek from Fort Worth down south, anxiously awaiting the surprises he'd have have planned. One weekend, he sprinkled colorful paper butterflies all over his dinning room table. Another weekend, we headed to the Oasis to watch a gorgeous Texas sunset. Each trip was full of anticipation, connection, and budding love. By May, we'd decided to get married, and since his kiddos were relocating to Grand Prairie, it was a logical move for him to join me in Burleson. He often talked about returning to Austina place that represented new beginnings, acceptance, and inclusivity.

Fast forward eleven years, and we're back where it all began. As a classroom teacher, I'd sporadically get the chance to travel with Chris to conferences he'd attend around the country. Now we both have jobs which require us to make frequent trips to Austin, and although we don't live here, it sometimes feels like our home away from home. Our road trips are always filled with rich conversations about all thing education, and often we either read or listen to audio-books. Today, as we drove from Houston to Austin, Chris read a few chapters from Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain. To make me laugh, he'd periodically throw in his Hank the Cowdog voice, which you can enjoy by clicking on the video below.

Witnessing Chris read aloud to these 4th graders made me fall in love with him all over again. His humorous spirit and advocacy for teachers is unparalleled. He's a quirky, passionate guy, and I'm so incredibly grateful he is mine. Doing life with him is always an adventure, and I'm thankful he can tag along with me this week as I prepare to present about Texas Lesson Study at SXSW Edu. 

This guy makes me giggle, supports my independent streak, and loves me with abandon. I am eternally grateful for his authenticity, his servant's heart, and his brilliant mind. I know this week I'll return to the hotel each evening with my mind on fire from all I've absorbed and learned. He will patiently listen, reflectively question, and thoughtfully respond. I am truly blessed to be taking this journey through life with him by my side. 

slice of life

This post is part of the 11th Annual Slice of Life Annual Story challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, a month-long challenge to write daily by inviting participants to share a snapshot of life through writing.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Slice of Life Day 3: The Gradual Release Model Grows Up

The idea of outgrowing a professional practice makes perfect sense to me. Just like children need training wheels when they first learn to ride a bike, teachers need similar scaffolds. The Gradual Release Model, often referred to as "I do, You do, We do", has been a staple in classrooms across this country for decades. Only recently, have I begun to question how this time-honored practice might benefit from a face-lift.

After reading an article titled, Must All Good Instruction Begin With Teacher Modeling?, I can't seem to get the chart posted below out of my mind.

*Created by Olivia Wahl
If I'm honest, words like re-envision, re-conceptualize, and re-imagine both invigorate and terrify me all at once. I love how the author of the chart linked the old architecture of a mini-lesson to the new one. The immersion phase of learning allows students to construct their own understanding and draw their own conclusions. The teacher is no longer the keeper of knowledge. Instead, children are positioned to dig deep and discover as they delve into mentor text. Learning how to weave immersion throughout a unit will require intentional instructional design, but clearly the benefits are limitless.

As a teacher, we are always on a path towards contiguous improvement. Sometimes it feels like just when we've gotten comfortable with one way of running our workshop, a new and better way appears. This can be challenging for those of us who crave stability. However, putting the needs of our students over our own comfort is the hallmark of a teacher who truly seeks professional growth. Letting go of training wheels can feel scary, and so can adjusting a practice that makes us feel safe.

slice of life

This post is part of the 11th Annual Slice of Life Annual Story challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, a month-long challenge to write daily by inviting participants to share a snapshot of life through writing.