Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Kicking Off Summer of 2019 with the Revised ELAR TEKS

On my commute home from Decatur today, I reflected on the rich conversations, thoughtful dialogue, and cognitively demanding work demonstrated by a small group of dedicated educators, willingly sacrificing their first day of summer break to deepen their understanding of our recently revised ELAR standards. As the day unfolded, it became more and more evident, how important headspace and time truly are if we want teachers to develop as professionals. Across the course of the day, we encountered words like morphology, recursive, and anecdote, which left us all feeling a bit inadequate and unsure about the future. Yet we persevered, carefully thinking about the best way to weave the strands together and honoring the integrated nature of these revised TEKS. I am in awe of teachers. We expect the sun, the moon, and the stars from them, and they always seem to deliver.

I am reluctant to refer to these extraordinary leaders and teachers as superheroes because as Donalyn Miller reminds us, "Any system depending on heroes to make it work is a bad system. The system needs to change." Instead, I will simply define them as efficient, hardworking professionals who want the very best for their students. Together, we can weather this season of change, scaling academic mountains alongside our kiddos. 



Monday, March 25, 2019

#SOL2019 Day 25: See Something, Say Something (An Internal Dilemma)

After a whirlwind morning of Super-Fun-Cleaning Saturday, I hustled out the door headed to our local library to return a bulky book stack I'd checked out prior to spring break. I whipped into a parking spot and sauntered through the sliding glass doors. The library was all-a-buzz, and I noticed a much larger crowd of people than I usually find on a weekday afternoon visit.

Out of habit, I beelined it straight to the hold shelf, hoping a few of the new titles I'd reserved would be waiting for me. To my surprise, I found A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Ramee and The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman sitting on the ledge—their brand new plastic coated covers gleaming at me. I tucked the book stack under my arms and decided to take a quick stroll through the children's book area.

On my way towards middle-grade novel section, something caught my eye. I walked past a row of folks sitting at computers tucked into individual study carrels. My attention turned towards a middle-aged white man, furiously clicking the keypad as images of guns flashed onto the screen. Although I was raised in a home where my grandfather kept hunting guns locked up in a safe, I have never felt comfortable around weapons of any kind. When I was younger my granddad would take my brothers and me out into the country to shoot bb-guns or 22 shotguns, and no matter how many times I tried, I could never bring myself to pull the trigger. Fear would grip my chest, and I would start to cry, begging to return to the safety of the truck where the noise no longer haunted me.

As the man continued scrolling through multiple pages displaying pistols, semi-automatic weapons, and all sorts of gun paraphernalia, I thought to myself, "Should I tell someone? Is it okay for folks to be shopping for guns on a public library computer?" Just because I have an intense fear of guns doesn't mean he was doing anything illegal. And it's not like the weapons on the screen were going to magically appear in his possession. Still, the whole scene left me unsettled. I had gone to the library to look for children's books, and instead, I encountered what felt like darkness.

In the end, I decided not to tell the library staff. As soon as I got in the car, I called my husband to relay the odd event, and he assured me the library probably keeps records of what patrons look up on their servers. Disturbing small moments like these cause me to pause, and I felt the urge to write. When two things don't go together—books and guns—we should pay attention. I hope the man shopping for weapons on a public library computer isn't planning anything sinister. Perhaps my faith in humanity has been shaken due to all the recent gun violence in our communities, and prayerfully,  if he ordered a weapon online, he's just wanting to do some target practice or something. Either way, this is a trip to the library I won't soon forget.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

#SOL2019 Day 18: Missed a Few . . . Carrying On . . . (Aiming for the Center)

During the last few days, I have fallen off the slicing wagon. I could use the excuse we were on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with limited Internet access, but the truth is I just lost momentum. Prior to setting sail, I vowed to compose something each day. However, my good intentions failed me. 

My word for 2019 is CENTERED. I chose this word because I am often drawn to extremes. The polarities of life pull me from one end of the continuum to the other, luring me to throw in the towel or plow ahead recklessly. The gremlins in my head say, "Just give up, Tenille. You don't have to finish this challenge. Life happens. Let it go." But a quieter, resolved part of me says, "Begin again."

So I am writing this morning—not about my failure—but about seeking the center. I will inch back towards a writing habit I'd hoped to develop. It might not be perfect. It won't always get done on time. But I want to keep trying. To any other fellow slicers out there who have slipped up, I encourage you to reenter the challenge when you feel ready. 

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Friday, March 15, 2019

#SOL19 Day 14: A Complicated Relationship with Cervesa

I have only been a beer drinker for about 10 years. As a matter of fact, I actually didn't drink a sip of alcohol until I was 25 years old. For the last 15 years, I have developed an appreciation for various libations. From a smooth glass of Pinot Noir, to a frutiy cocktail with a colorful umbrella, to a cold brewskey—I enjoy imbibing responsibly. Sometimes I over indulge, but that’s become less and less frequent. On our current cruise, we splurged and got the ultimate beverage package. This means, I’ve drank a bit more than usual. And I’m okay with it. After a long day of cave-tubing and zip-lining, Chris and I will beeline it to the nearest ship pub for a cold cervesa. Because I hail from a long line of alcoholics, I remain conscientious. But for the next four days I will throw caution to the wind and enjoy my vacation. Please don’t judge!

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

#SOL19 Day 12: Cruisin' Together . . .

I love it when we're cruising together
Music is played for love,
Cruising is made for love
I love it when we're cruising together

My husband and I are boat people. Anytime we set sail, our spirits instantly buoy. With our toes in the sand and drink in hand, life becomes sweeter. We play as hard as we work and getting out of town is just what we need during the month of March. Currently, we are sitting on a beach watching a pack of snorkelers and a handful of paddleboarders exploring ocean life in the Gulf of Mexico. As Chris heads to his happy place among colorful fish and vibrant coral, I sit in the shade, soaking in a good book. People watching is a favorite pastime. Reality will return before we know it, so during this blissful week, I plan to count my blessings and absorb the joys of vacation. Cheers to all!

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#SOL19 Day 11: Topic Selection Sucks

I’ve rewritten the title of this blog eight times now. I could write about the obnoxious New Yorker sitting at the bar who talked incessantly. I could also compose an opinion piece on how bodies of all shapes and sizes belong in our world. Another option would be to reflect on the books I read while soaking in a little sunshine. For some reason, not of these topics feel appealing. I guess when you’re trying to form a habit, you push through, forcing ideas you may not really love. So instead, I’ll just point out the topic selection sucks sometimes.

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

#SOL19 Day 10: A Lingering Question Provoked by Chrissy Metz (AKA–Kate, from This is Us)

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Audiobooks read by the author are the very best. When published as an autobiography or memoir, they're even better! On our seven-hour car ride from Fort Worth, TX to Baton Rouge, LA, my husband and I in soaked in this actress's very personal story of growing up in poverty, being abused by her stepfather, and finding her way back to wholeness. The book opens with a humorous rendition of a lunch visit she had with Oprah Winfrey. The magic and meaning of this experience left you feeling hopeful, and Metz encouraged the reader to dream big. Her memories of being a latchkey kid in a trailer park in Gainesville, FL helped you see that where we come from is not near as important as who we are on the inside. 

Chris and I are huge fans of the show, This is Us. Over dinner last night, a thought-provoking question arose and lingered in the air. Do any of us escape our childhoods unharmed? Having read quite a bit about ACE scores (You can take the test HERE) and watched Nadine Burke Harris's famous TED Talk, I am growing more and more convinced EVERYONE has something that happened to them when they were young that left a scar they've carried with them into adulthood. Some of our trauma is more pronounced than others, and like most things in life, our wounds run along a continuum—ranging from apocalyptic damage to BAND-AID® sized owwies. I have an ACE score of 6 which places me a little too close to the catastrophic end. However, like Chrissy Metz, I was lucky enough to encounter multiple families who showed me a different way to live and healed the broken places.

What about you? How did the events in your childhood shape your present? What practices have helped you heal and move forward? This question continues to push my thinking. Recently, I watched the HBO documentary, Leaving Neverland, and I was astounded by the two men who courageously came forward about the sexual abuse they endured at the hands of Michael Jackson. Their lives were forever altered by events that took place when they were 7 and 8 years old. Although these may seem like an extreme case, I think we all drag along burdens from our youth into the next stages of life. Often these manifest as the shame gremlins taunting us with messages like, "You're not enough!" and "No one will ever want you." Overcoming these demons takes persistence, perspective, and perhaps years of therapy.

Thankfully, books like This is Me, help us all find hope. Based on Chrissy's words of wisdom, I spent 10 seconds this morning counting my blessings. I have breath in my lungs. The sheets are soft. The room is airconditioned. I have covers to keep me warm. The man sleeping beside me loves me with abandon. I didn't escape my childhood unharmed—yet today I flourish.