Monday, January 31, 2011

Inspired By My Flaws

So I have all the usual human foibles and desires, and then some. I want to be liked, valued, and respected. I want to have hair that doesn't frizz. I want to feel good about the work I do, both personally--for myself and little family and professionally--for my students, their families, my coworkers, school district, and other teachers. I want to wake up and magically be thinner and prettier. I am broken and human. I have overwhelming weakness and flaws. Part of me thinks this is all very superficial. Actually those are the surface desires. There is more underneath.

But the deepest longing is to just be genuinely satisfied with myself, as I am. Loving that girl. Even with my flaws. Even the flaws. I want to believe that even with my imperfections other people can see the good I do and the good I am. That I am enough. That I am a gift.

It's often easy to see my strengths, but what about my weaknesses? Can they be an asset and not just a liability? For the first time in my life I'm starting to say yes. It has me really off balance. It's also propelling me forward--into unexplored territory. In an unexpected way I am being inspired by weakness.

There are pockets of my life that will never value weakness. How do I survive there? Or do I need to step away? How do I respond to the discomfort?

So today I am celebrating I am a flawed and weak gift. I am inspired by the potential of nurturing and caring for the complete package that is me.

How are you inspired by yourself?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Baby Is Officially a Big Boy

Today is Sam's official 2nd birthday. The big party was yesterday--fuzzy monster theme and all--granparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. But we've been plotting for weeks--how to say "two"--(not one or 'free'!)

Sam was all decked out in Elmo. We made hysterical monster cupcakes and more monster themed food. It was fun and sweet and exhausting. Today we're all in recovery mode, and Sam is enjoying lots of new treasures.

And I keep learning from this little guy--to find joy in life and to let go of the small stuff and not to worry too much about the big stuff. At his party he was overwhelmed and tired, so he went upstairs for a little down time. Sometimes I feel like in the ways of wisdom he really is the big boy, and I'm just the toddler.

What are you learning from kids these days?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Look Idea For Science

So I was amazed by how well this activity worked with 2 different classes of 4th graders this week. We are in the second week of a new science unit--the changing surface of the earth. We are still making connections to knowledge we already have.

I got 15 - 20 books from the library that somehow related to our unit. Students did a book look with a partner. They choose one book, wrote down the title, skimmed the book and pictures for information that answered the question, "How does this relate to the changing surface of the earth?" They then filled their notebook page with words and/or pictures. Most students were so engaged.

What are you doing at your job that's working this week?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Inspired by Sam

This little fellow is going to be 2 years old on Sunday. We are celebrating with fuzzy monsters and family.

I know people ALWAYS say this, but I can't even tell you how different life is from what it used to be. Here are some of the ways I am inspired today by Sam.

  • A profound curiosity about EVERYTHING. (I want to protect that as long as I can and foster it in myself.)
  • Energy and Joy--how can one little boy have so much?
  • Protecting time--because of him I can't give away all my time to others
  • Passage of time--racing forward (Weren't you just born yesterday?) and the profound capacity to stand still in some sacred phenomenon
  • Satisfaction with the simple--Elmo slippers were the best Christmas present!
  • Stealth art ninja moves--These allow Sam to connect any brush with the nearest liquid in a nanosecond. It also makes me smile
  • Don't take yourself too seriously--I think those should have been the first words out of his mouth!
  • Be present--wherever you are, just be all there.

I'm sure there are loads more inspiration points for me, but time is fleeting. I do feel inspired and blessed when I think of the profound impact and different choices I've made in the past couple years.

What's inspiring you today?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?

So I just finished reading the book Brain-Based Teaching in the Digital Age by Marilee Sprenger (download electronically for free here). I participated in a little online group. We posted responses to different sections of the book. At the end we responded to where education is going. From my post below, you can tell I'm not feeling real hopeful.

I have great concerns for the future of education and our society as a whole. One only needs to look at a few news articles about a more technologically advanced nation, such as South Korea, to see some of the pitfalls of technology in society and the consequences of social isolation--such as an epidemic of online addiction and children starving to death while their parents gamed (New York Times article, May 2010). If public education is the foundation of democratic society, then we have a heavy burden and responsibility to recognize and deal with current issues, as well as anticipate future concerns. In the time I have taught I feel like the world of education has taken many steps back in the name of progress. Quite frankly I find it sad and depressing. It doesn't really matter what or how we teach if all the joy is squeezed right out for students and teachers.

I would love the number one priority of education to be fostering a lifelong love of learning. Why isn't it? I would like to see a close second be kindness and cooperation with other human beings. Why isn't it? I feel like these 2 are not valued by schools, parents, or students. I feel far from the mainstream of educators, when I express these personal ideals. Oh, I know we can't measure them on a test or assign them a grade, but so what?

I think if we continue on the course we are on, more learning will be online, and less learning will occur in a setting of human connection. I don't know how long our society will last, but at some point the pendulum will have to swing in order to survive.

I feel like the role of technology is all secondary to this. It's going to be here, but we could determine how much and how fast. I think we as a society should be defining technology, instead of it defining us.

So when all this gets me down I think about one of my education heroes, Deborah Meier. I think of what my heart has learned and my mind believed possible by reading her book The Power of Their Ideas. I think of her unflagging beliefs in the power of democracy in education.

And then when I know my ideals are still good, I turn to another hero, Parker J. Palmer, who allows me to believe that my passion comes from a deep place in my spirit. And I believe I should care for myself and my hope. Even if the tail is doing the wagging, it might not stay that way.

Where do you turn when you are down hearted about your professional passion?

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Great Brave Book

I've been trying to think of some of my favorite "brave" books, and here is one I absolutely adore:

Brave on the Rocks by Sabrina Ward Harrison (take a peak inside here) This is an amazing art journal of her inner landscape along the journey of life. Her books are such unique pieces of art and honest life journey.

Here is the forward to this book by Hillary Swank.

I would also recommend Spilling Open (her first book) and Messy Thrilling Life (which I feel lucky to have an autographed copy)

Do you have any brave books you would recommend?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

In Your Own Words

It's winter in Ohio and indoor recess has turned into an issue--cabin fever, immaturity, and lack of social empathy lead a few to ruin it for everyone. So I thought what if I asked them to write down what they thought indoor recess should be like. Everyone listed 3 things they thought about indoor recess. I condensed these down into a small locker sized bulletin board. I just taped up the papers. I feel a little sly about using their own words--oh, well...

My tip for this week is to trust that most kids have it within them to know what the right thing to do is. The words of our students hold so much more sway over other children than anything I can think of to say or do. So let them speak. And use their words.

I'm hopeful for some turn around on the recess front!

How do you see words holding positive power in your workplace?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Brave and Resolute

I really enjoy playing with words, seeing how they relate and connect. I was looking online at the Merriam Webster Dictionary at synonyms for brave. Two of those words really popped out at me--intrepid and undaunted

Both words have resolute as part of the definition--marked with firm determination. I think I'm feeling quite resolute this week. It's during the challenges that we actually get to prove our bravery. I feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. It's the end of one semester and the beginning of a new semester. The weather is typical January in Ohio. I'm feeling constantly pushed and pulled in many directions, but I am resolute.

I'm trying to find balance, but it seems quite elusive.

Are you feeling brave? resolute?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Inspired. . .By a Dream

…I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream...

~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., August 28, 1963

You can watch the whole speech here. It's difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that when Dr. King spoke those words in front of the Lincoln Memorial he was in his early thirties. He had such vision. And the influence.

I'm thinking of some ways he influenced me:
  • Seeing today as a day to focus on community service
  • Serving in Americorps for 2 years in the middle of a teaching career
  • Marching and carrying a sign that says, "Speak Truth to Power Now," with Dr. King's face on it
  • Struggling with my own racial beliefs and experiences
  • Taking training through The People's Institute
  • Confirms my belief in the power of education to empower people and change society

I wonder what could have been done if he had lived longer. And in many ways I'm inspired to ask how much more could/should I be doing with my life?

How does Dr. King's influence touch your life today?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recommendations Expand and Storytelling

In the new year I've decided to expand my Friday book recommendations into a mutlimedia recommendation day. Part of this is because I'm extra busy with school, with little time for extra reading, but also because I keep finding AMAZING podcasts, blogs, websites, and videos.

So in the past couple of months I've been really impacted by the stories other people have told me. I grew up in the house of an amazing storyteller--I just thought this was a bit of a freakish gift my mom and a few other people had.

I lived for a year in a bush village of Alaska, and for the Yup'ik culture storytelling and doing were the 2 main ways people were taught. (I did not "get this" at all when I lived there.)

There is some crazy (might I say mystical?) way that a story gets inside of us to a really sacred place, and it says, "Listen!" "That's you." and other profound life altering truths.

So today I'm please to recommend The Moth Radio Hour. It's an hour of storytelling that airs weekly on many NPR stations. If you click here, you can listen to archived stories. It's one of the places that I've been learning that other people's stories and my own can be so transformational.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Better With Age

If that little watercolor pencil piece doesn't move you, what will? Super Sam (with his faithful assistant, Daddy) made this birthday card for me. You can't even imagine how proud of it he is--super sweetness!

So today is my birthday. It seems like every year something really stands out to me. For me this year I was so aware of the age fantasy for women that is perpetuated by our culture on birthdays.

Was I 29, again? No, thank you! I'm not at a place in my life where I fantasize about what my life was like when I was 29 or what life would be like if I could return to 29. With great pride and honesty I can say that I would not return to 29, even if I could. And I have done a great deal of work to find myself in a wonderful place of enoughness today. I am enough. I have been given enough. I have done enough. (I don't always believe this, but I do today.) And I think this is about enough for today.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You're Gonna Have A Great Year

It's my birthday tomorrow--so this is technically my Birthday Eve. I always thought 42 sounded old--certainly at 20, but even when I was 40! I had no idea what life would be like but here are some things I know I never expected:
  • Becoming a mom at 40
  • Being the money earner in my family
  • Still be teaching
  • Completed 4 marathons
  • Lived on both coasts, around the Midwest, and Alaska
  • That I could reinvent myself from almost nothing multiple times
  • Loving yoga
  • Surviving deep personal loss--of dreams, plans, loved ones, etc.
  • So many paradoxes--love home and travel, very motivated to be still, and other such dichotomies
  • Using the Internet to connect with whole communities I may never meet
  • Loving making art, cooking, watching movies, reading magazines, and bubble baths (especially with the door closed and no little fists pounding on the door!)
  • Beginning to love myself
  • Really thirsting for more faith

The list could really go on forever. I'm surprised by the course of my life. I honor it! And I know it's going to be a great year--dare I say, the best yet!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Inspired by Action

So my personal view of the world is surprisingly optimistic for the time of year when I usually feel like hibernating. What could be the reason(s)? I am inspired by my own humble action and the results that are beyond what I imagine or hope.

I'm also reminded about how much pretty things inspire me. It doesn't have to be big or expensive or fancy. Little hand written cards. A pretty plastic tablecloth. a ribbon tied around a handle. The flicker of a candle's flame.

This is some of what is inspiring me today. What is inspiring you?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Brave Women's Breakfast

So I've had this idea for almost a year. It was a longing in my heart for tribe, a supportive community of women. I finally got around to inviting people and planning it, and today it happened.

We had breakfast and talked and decorated little treasure boxes. It was a little space where we could be and breath and begin to trust. It was cool to see who could come out on a cold January morning. It was also interesting to see the connections that already existed and they support they could lend.

I feel like there were so many success--I did not make myself crazy about cleaning or cooking. I was present. We already set a date for the next one. I can't wait to see what will happen next!

How do you create tribe? What brave action have you taken recently?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tips and Tricks for Organizing

Today I have 2 very basic tricks for organizing--one helps the students and the other helps the teacher. I've seen lots of similar things, but I thought I would share what is really working for me right now. (The photos are from today in my classroom.)

To help students know exactly what is assigned each day and when it is due I have a cute little lined poster that I laminated. I'm writing the work on with a dry erase marker. I think I will pull out another poster for next week, so that I can go in a two week cycle. It's visually appealing and a good reminder for everyone.

Secondly, I put together different teacher books that I'm using in a related subject in those cheap cardboard magazine bins. This saves me from digging to the bottom of a stack for a book I just had yesterday. Sometimes I add loose papers or manila folders that relate, too.

These are a couple tricks that are working for me today. What tricks and tips are working for you today?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


So I've decided to center Wednesday posts around the theme of brave, my word for the year. So here it goes. . .

“Trust life, and it will teach you, in joy and sorrow, all you need to know.” – James Baldwin

I read this great quote on someone else's blog today. It really struck me about how much I don't trust--I don't expect the joy and I don't trust good will come from sorrow.

I also found this wonderful list about trust from jen lemen. I wonder how life will be different when I can trust that fully.

What are your thoughts on trust?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What's With Truth?

I've been dealing with the truth for the past couple days. It's been painful, maybe even gut-wrenching. The thing that's crazy is that it's truth I've known inside me for a long time. It's been a well kept secret. It's one of those things that I thought not saying out loud would keep it from being true.

But in my pursuit of BRAVE, I've found truth to be popping up everywhere. I'm not talking the sweet sort of truth. I'm talking the ugly truth. It's breaking me open. I thought the truth was supposed to set us free, but there seem to be a lot of long dark detours on the way to free.

And with those raw emotions I went to school today. I wish I could have worn a sign that said, "Please be gentle. I'm fragile." Instead I had several encounters that made me feel way not enough. I felt all day like I sucked at my job, and I wondered why I didn't do more work over Winter Break. (There is something very sinister in that.) I think I was actually a good teacher today in the face of all of this, and I'm trying to believe that truth, too.

Here's my giving update:
#2 Lunch for Tammy

#3 Compliments to Cashier

#4 Math materials for team teacher

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let the Giving Begin

So I've started 2011 with the 29 Day Giving Challenge. I think I want to document it a little bit here, so here is my plan:

At the end of every post I will list the gift number and what was given since I last posted. This will give me a written and visual record of this little experiment. I'm excited about it, and I'm looking forward to what it will do to me.
#1 Hospitality to family and friends for New Year Day

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

I hope you see bright light and shining stars surrounding you in the new year. And I hope you will shine brightly, too! Happy New Year!