Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why Teach?

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If you live in Ohio or numerous other states you can relate to the current crazy making that is the extreme politics at the intersection of state government and public education. It feels to me as if the governor of my state and several others are saying to me personally that the work I do has no value to them. It's not the people who don't do their job who will be impacted. It is I, a very hard working teacher, and my husband and son.

As the financial provider for my family, there is a certain and real level of fear in my heart about how much we will lose. We live a simple life that is fully committed to and revolves around teaching. My commitment is strong. My job is difficult. I wonder how many Ohio classrooms are going to be stripped of brave teachers as the result of short sighted politics? I wonder if anyone will even notice? I wonder if my worst fears are true--that the work we brave teachers do is of no value to politicians in power?

Please forward this to anyone who can benefit from the message.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Have Faith

So I've just had some of those little jarring life experiences, and life keeps handing me more of those little challenges that weigh down the spirit. More snow. A sick little boy. Miscommunications. Sleep deprivation. And so on.

It's easy to have one's faith rattled in these situations. To lose sight of bravery
One of the interesting paradoxes about faith is when the living is easy I don't seem to need faith. And when I need it, it illusively slips through my fingers.

Why do I doubt myself first when faced with these challenges? There will always be critics--I don't need to be my own! A friend reminded me of a little passage in the Bible that says, "Do not throw away your confidence, it will be rewarded." To some extent I think that is about the little challenges that can derail us from the big goals. It would be easy to loose the path and wander in circles or even the complete wrong direction

I have every reason to believe that the big goals are so worth it. I do have that faith. And I'm sure with a little more sleep it might even feel like I have faith in myself.

What keeps your faith in your goals and dreams alive?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Inspired By Thoughts of Spring

So it's hard to believe that about an hour after I took this photo there was a fresh new inch of snow on the ground. (I'm just grateful that the snow and ice did melt.) So I was out in our little yard looking for signs of spring, and this is what I found at the top of my young lilac bush! It does give me hope and inspires me.

I'm also inspired about some great future planning and dreaming that I've done this weekend toward supporting other teachers. More will be revealed in due time. I love it when a plan starts to take some sort of concrete shape--even if it's just in a spiral notebook.

I'm a procrastinator and a perfectionist, so those first steps are usually the hardest. I also want it all in place, now. Part of my inspirational mantra is "forward momentum." It doesn't have to be huge or monumental, but it does need to be forward.

Just like the lilac buds, my spiral notebook of working plans inspires me with hope.

What is your inspiration and hope today?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lessons I'm (Re)learning

I'm coming out of one of those weeks where I ask myself what is the lesson for me in this? These are the tough kind of weeks when a person like me feels a little rattled to my core. My bravery has been tested, and the results are not yet in. When I told my brother that I thought it was odd that I lost my voice for about half a day, he responded with, "Stress can do that you know."

So here is the BIG lesson: I DO NOT HAVE A MAGIC WAND!

I sure wish I did, but I don't--not at work, or at home, or about my body, or my friends, or money, or my future.

In fact I'm so limited on the amount of control and influence I have, that I'm embarrassed to admit how many places and ways I try to wave the magic wand I don't have.

For example, my job is to teach. I do not get to magically make children happy or organized or respectful or honest or kind. My job is to teach--beyond that I'm powerless.

This does not make me hopeless, but it does give me focus--an amazing amount of clarity.

I'm not sure when I lost that focus, but it did happen. I suspect it is tied up in desperately wanting the best possible future for my students that they can imagine--it's out of my control. My job is very specific in a very finite window of their young lives. I have no capacity to change their pasts. The limited impact I have in the present I hope will in some way carry over into the future. I get myself into trouble when I let my heart expect something else.

I often have described myself like a banquet chef. I know what kind of food kids at this age need to grow up healthy and live long prosperous lives. So I cook that food, and I make it look as delicious as I can with the limited resources I have. And then I set it out. They ultimately decide what and when to eat.

Don't you sometimes wish you had a magic wand?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Find Hope at Brave Girls Club

Today's recommendation is all about finding hope, and it's just for the girlies. Have I mentioned this site before? Brave Girls Club. I LOOOOOVE it! On the surface it looks like a girl power site. Underneath it's about authenticity and support and healing and wholeness. A beautifully woven web community of women, which sprang from heartache and loss and life altering situations.

I was originally drawn in when thinking about a word for the new year--mine is brave!

I'm so inspired and empowered by the wonderful daily truth emails--a little birdie told me. I feel like I'm receiving a love letter every time I read one!

I stayed because of the class, Soul Restoration--which is SOOOO worth it! I'm just finishing the official part of the class, but I will be doing the work I started here for the rest of my life.

What website really speaks to your spirit and gives you hope?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Life Uncommon

I heard this song today for the first time in a few years. A few lines really popped out at me and struck a chord in me. . . "No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from"--WOW! The enacting of that line could/would revolutionize my life--how I treat myself, how I treat other people, how I do my job, how I spend money. The list could just go on and on. And then I'm thinking of the small shifts in where I place my energy--less professional time on standardized tests and more personal time on creating.

"set down your chains, until only faith remains." I'm just struck today by how fear and perfectionism and the critical voices of others and the lack of encouragement are all chains that are holding me back from faith on multiple levels.

I am brave, and I want a life uncommon!

"Life Uncommon"
by Jewel

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend you strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon
I've heard you anguish
I've heard you hearts cry out
We are tired, we are weary, but we aren't worn out
set down you chains, until only faith remains
Set down you chains
And lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lent your strength to that
which you wish to be free from
Fill you lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon
There are plenty of people who pray for peace
But if praying were enough it would have come to be
Let your words enslave no one and the heavens will hush themselves
To hear out voices ring out clear
with sounds of freedom
sounds of freedom
Come on you unbelievers, move out of the way
there is a new army coming and we are armed with faith
To live, we must give
To live
And lend out voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend out strength to that which we with to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead...
Lend out voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lent out strength to that which we with to be free from
Fill you lives with love and bravery
And we shall lead a life uncommon

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Is. . .

My view of love is frequently changing. I used to have great romantic ideals and fantasies. I've been quite cynical. I've moved to a hopefully simpler more accepting view of love in my life and the world.

Love is. . .

sunshine on my face
a good hug
one bite of GREAT chocolate
a new idea
green leaves rising from the snow
smile to or from a stranger
a walk in the woods
meeting resistance
offering inspiration
seeing the first light
feeling the pain and going on
smiling in the mirror
a handwritten note
surprise visits
knowing when to keep going, and
knowing when to walk away

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Valentine Chopstick Relay

If you're planning a little Valentine Party with your children or classroom, this is a fun and VERY easy game to organize for groups of 2 people on up. It's the Valentine Chopstick Race (The name is original with me, the game is not!)

Materials: Chopsticks (at least 2 pair), conversation hearts (1 bag or more), cups or bowels (at least 4)

For 2 Teams (I'd have more teams, if there are more than 25 people)
Prep: Divide the conversation hearts between 2 cups. Place a pair of chopsticks by each. Place the 2 empty cups at least 6 feet away

1. Divide into 2 teams
2. Each team member takes a turn with the pair of chopsticks, trying to move the a conversation heart to the empty container.
3. The goal is to be the first team with an empty cup OR the team with the most hearts in the second cup in _____ minutes.

I think it might even be more fun to watch adults do this at an office or family party! I got some great pictures of kids doing this yesterday!

What fun, quick, and easy ideas do you have for parties?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Fun Glacier Demo

So when I found out that part of the current science unit included glaciers, I was enthused! I've actually been to Portage Glacier, and hiked on Byron Glacier and discovered ice worms. (Who would have thought ice worms? Now I tell children that ice worms are my favorite animals!)

So I looked for different demonstrations, and finally came to my own.

1. In a plastic take out container I froze water, soil, and birdseed. (I couldn't get to any frozen rocks and dirt in my backyard, and the various size seeds worked well.)

2. Remove the frozen "glacier" from the container. Place it on a table covered with paper. Important: Lift one side of the table to get run-off. (We just put a classroom dictionary under each leg on one side of the table.)

3. Observe! It's best if you have all school day to keep checking back. Student were so excited to record their hypothesis and observations in their science notebooks. We ended up with a lake over the edge of the table. (This was especially cool since we are close to the Great Lakes that were formed by glacier, and still hold evidence of their past.)

I love a lesson or demonstration in which I don't spend much time or money, but the learning is big and fun! Kids really enjoyed this. We had 2 different glaciers on different days for 2 classes. Each was very different! The one pictured was in my neighbors classroom.

What has gotten you excited about work this week?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Brave Enough To Just Go

In the spirit of bravery and enoughness, I had a funny thing happen today. Since the holidays my yoga class has been on hiatus. Today was my chance to go--except I forgot money and my yoga mat.

I quickly thought I could just take a blanket from my classroom and just go. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to talk myself out of it. I would look foolish. It wasn't meant to be. I could just get work done in my classroom, and so on.

In the end I was brave enough to just go. To just show up. To just be honest. To just relax. To just breath.

Where are you brave enough to just go today?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Asking For Help

When I was a young woman I thought that being a grown up meant I would never need to ask anyone for help. So I muddled through many ups and downs, struggling alone. This became my habit, my MO.

This eventually developed into an almost paralyzing fear of being found out to be a fraud. Maybe I wasn't as together as other people. Maybe I wasn't as confident as I projected. Maybe I will disappoint you. Maybe I am human.

Today I look back and smile knowingly at that young woman. But even with that knowledge it's really hard to ask for help. I will most often wait till I'm at the end of my rope, holding on by my fingernails, and then I'll whisper a little, "Help!"

I'm pleased to say I am actively taking steps to seek out help. I'm also realizing and opening to the idea that it often is not coming from where I might expect. I'm also opening to the thought that help might not come when or where I expect it.

Here are some places I'm finding help these days:

  • Brave Girls Club

  • Brave Women's Breakfast

  • Local Library

  • Cyperspace--other blogs, especially

  • The innocent laughter of children

  • Smiles from strangers

  • Affirmation cards

Where are you asking for and finding help?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Inspired By Affirmations

If you're feeling down (I have been) writing out affirmations to read is a GREAT pick me up. I started this at Brave Women's Breakfast. My focus is on affirmations that will encourage and empower me as a teacher and in my classroom.

It's super simple. . .
  • I took some different shaped chipboard cards--some I painted and some I left plain.
  • I collected some affirmations and wrote them on the cards
  • I connected the card with a ring and added a little ribbon

Now I can add more or move them around!

Here are a few of my faves:

  • I feel the joy of teaching today!
  • I am enough. I do enough.
  • I am a confident, encouraging, and motivating teacher.
  • I motivate and encourage my students in every possible way!

What are the things you say to yourself when you're not feeling inspired?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Brave Women Meet Again

This weekend was the second meeting of Brave Women's Breakfast. It was such a good pick me up. We ate and talked about relationships between mothers and daughters. We then started some affirmation cards for ourselves.

It was so different from the first meeting, but I felt like it was so good. When I put some of my dream out there, they quickly suggest locations and willingness to help. We are already beginning to make some future plans.

It helps me to see the miracles of the ordinary and anticipate future miracles. That's pretty powerful stuff.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Favorite New Book

So this book is the current new favorite (at least for today) of the two year old who lives in our house. It was a birthday present from Uncle Jon. It seems way too long for even a book loving toddler to sit to hear, but he's listened to it at least once a day since he got it.

The book is Neckless, The Audrey Amaka Story written and illustrated by Brent Vernon.

The author is a super creative friend of Uncle Jon. He is also a ventriloquist, singer, songwriter--all around creative guy.

It's a story about the intrinsic value and wonderful gifts each of us brings to the world. No one can hear too much of that! Maybe we should all be reading books like this at least once a day.
What are you reading these days?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Brave Words for Teachers

I h ad 2 snow days this week, and in addition to catching up on grading papers (yippee!) I became a little obsessed with collecting and writing affirmations for teachers.

I firmly believe that teachers get way more negative than positive talk. In fact if teachers gave as much negative talk as they receive, we would be unemployed. So how do we combat this negativity that feels like it is so often actively and passively directed toward us? (Sometimes--often, it's even within us.)

I know that affirmations have worked for me in transformational ways in the past. I've experienced the internal shift from believing a lie, then receiving the truth, and finally embracing the truth all the way into the deep and hidden parts of my heart. So now I'm experimenting with using them in my professional life.

Today's affirmation says to me that I am always learning and that I've already experienced success in order to be able to teach. What does it say to you?

How have affirmations worked for you?