A Time for Change: Disrupting Our Narrative

When I was in 4th grade, an older student came up to me on the playground while I played and for no reason, proceeded to push me down, stomp on my body, and call me a n***er. I  went to the hospital, and he faced no consequences. I was questioned on what I did to make him do what he did which was nothing. I didn’t know or had ever interacted with him. I was playing peacefully with my friends. 

I went to school with friends who “weren’t allowed,” to play at my house. I went to school and was told I wasn’t good enough in regular education classes, and there was a place for students like me who couldn’t learn the right way. Luckily, I had my parents who advocated on my behalf, had me tested, and proved otherwise. 

I’ve been followed while shopping and driving. I’ve been told I don’t “sound black.”  I’ve been critiqued/criticized numerous times as an adult; from you need to wear a sign so people actually know who you are, knowledge challenged, the way I speak, and awkwardly put in positions of sabotage. The list goes on. I encountered most of these experiences before my 12th birthday, and some still continue to this day.  However, I move forward, persevere, and unpack in my own way with my tools and support systems.

The recent events that continue to happen in our country have triggered an outpouring of anger, rage, hurt, sadness, and trauma. Initially, when I first heard the news of George Floyd’s murder, I didn’t want to watch the video or see the pictures, due to fear of triggering past traumas.  However, I watched and it sickened me to my core to see another image of unnecessary injustice.  The video sickened me enough to speak out, something I normally wouldn’t do, due to fear of being viewed by colleagues and friends as aggressive, militant, and/ or judgmental.

However, as Martin Luther King Jr states: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”  That betrayal is being able to stay true to myself, who I am as a person, my beliefs, feelings, and all the things that are the makings of me: Roshaunda (Ro) no middle name Henson.  So, here I am in an attempt to speak my truth to hopefully inspire others to work together to change a narrative of inequities and biases that all though we state we might not have them, we do regardless of our heritage or skin colour.  

We can change the narrative as educators by:

  1. Teaching Tolerance:  As educators we are tasked with shaping the intellectual, social-emotional and moral minds of tomorrow.  Let moments like these be teachable moments for our students.  It’s okay to have those uncomfortable conversations.  It doesn’t have to be framed with harsh images and/or words.  Click HERE for a document with resources and a podcast that addresses how to approach this with our students and your own children at home based on their age.
  1. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Sometimes when we think of culture we immediately think of race.  Yes race is part of our culture, however it is deeper than race.  Culturally Responsive Teaching is going deeper into understanding our students’ views, beliefs, and values. It not only strengthens relationships with our students but allows us to activate students’ knowledge based on experiences, make learning contextual, and encourage students to leverage their voice while building and strengthening relationships. The experiences mentioned at the beginning of this post may have triggered some experiences of pain, hurt, or injustices that may have occurred to you as well.  This is a way in which we can all relate, release, and bond together for a greater good. We can take our experiences and turn it into lessons to change the narrative.  At the end of this post is a virtual presentation by myself and a fellow educator friend that goes deeper into Culturally Responsive Teaching.
  1. Showing Care: It’s easy to say well these issues don’t affect me personally.  However, it does regardless of who you are and where you teach. This impacts us all, especially as educators. If we want things to be able change it starts with fixing things in our heart, and addressing the issues we face as a society at home and school.  We have to be able to have honest conversations and take action to create meaningful change. This pandemic has forced us all to self-reflect.  Hopefully, part of that reflection is realizing that we can not go back to business as usual. Now is the time more than ever for us to be able to change the narrative.

Being the change you want to see in the world starts with introspection, courageous voice, and action. We may be worn out, but we must never give up. Let’s put our pride and egos aside to work together to begin to change the narrative. 

PS: This blog was inspired by the recent events and periods of reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic.  It was also inspired by a recent presentation that myself and a fellow educator friend presented. Check it out below along with other resources that may be of help in understanding how we can begin to change the narrative. 

Resources for Children Understanding

Resources for Adult Understanding

Every Child Deserves a Champion: Building Relationships Through Cultural Competence

First Day Jitters

When you think of first day jitters, you think of the children coming into the classroom who may be nervous for a myriad of very valid reasons.

What about educators? They are in charge, why would they be nervous?

Don’t think for a minute that educators don’t have anxiety and excitement over the new school year or develop a good case of the first day jitters. We do. We – in fact – get anxious and excited for some reasons that are quite similar to the students we serve. No matter how many years we have been in the game the anxiousness remains the same.

Whether we are just starting out as a teacher, new position, or like myself working with new staff  (or you are new to them), educators can develop serious anxiety and excitement that can make the night before the first day of school quite tense.  I know numerous thoughts and worries rush through my mind. I worry if I am prepared, wondering if students and staff will like me, what happens if things go wrong, but most importantly as I grow older I deeply ponder what type of legacy will I create and build with others?

The excitement of the first day, however, always outweighs the anxiety.  I’m excited to meet and build relationships with a new set of students, staff, and families, and hope they understand I believe they can achieve anything.

I’m ready to begin the process where we try, fail, and try again as we work together to meet academic and social emotional needs.  I am prepared to take ownership when we have missteps along the way that may cause failure. However, through careful reflection, make adjustments and try again a different way until we achieve. 

I look forward to the moments of laughter, growth, hugs, high-fives, fist bumps, and most of all when the light bulb goes off for those aha moments!  I know the school and community which I am blessed to serve has everything in place to educate and inspire our students. Now it is up to me to be the change I want to see in the world. But first, I have to find my keys to drive to work :-).

PS: This blog was inspired by my anxiety and excitement for new beginnings.  Day 1 of 176 begins. Think about what legacy you want to create for your students and/or staff for this year!.In the words of one of my favorite speakers and author Hamish Brewer (@brewerhm), Be Relentless!  Check out his book: Relentless: Changing Lives by Disrupting the Educational Norm.

Broken Crayons Still Color

Many times what we see as our biggest regrets, failures and mistakes become what God uses the most in our lives.

God is able to transform our brokenness into something more beautiful than we can even imagine. He takes our mess and creates a masterpiece.

You see, broken crayons still color.

The other day while shopping, I saw a sign that read, “Even broken crayons still color.”  It made me pause in my tracks for a second…or two…maybe a few minutes for me to ponder the statement. I stood there taking up space and repeated each word out loud.  It was one of those powerful AHA moments. I was having an epiphany and a few other people had stopped as well and stood staring at the same sign. And, even though none of us spoke, we each took with us something from those words. 

How many times haven’t we shattered into millions of pieces? How many times haven’t we believed, in that state of desperation, that we have no shine; that we aren’t worth it; that life is over in that brokenness?  Have you been doing well then all of a sudden hit a snag in the road and it felt like all your hard work flew into pieces? I have. To be transparent that snag came in February of this year with job restructuring which led to me being dismissed to being low woman on the totem pole. In that moment my world shattered into a million pieces.

However, those small fragments in us mend and expand; they break and create new extremities to bridge the old with the new. They make us stronger, wiser, and graceful. They force us to reinvent ourselves, forgive, and learn to play. I, for one, am grateful for those broken pieces…all the tiny ones that can be picked and put together to create a new life. They have allowed my colors to bleed into other brighter ones and combined to make new hues so I can go out into the world and paint for me

If there’s one thing that I know to be true, it’s that God can make even our darkest memories into stories to inspire others.  Nothing we go through can stop us from our destiny. Life is more about reaction than acton. What we do when the chips are down and our back is against the wall says a lot about you.  Hard moments can shape us, but there isn’t any one moment that defines us. We are all a huge compiled list of experiences, emotions, and memories.

You are not unqualified from your purpose because of your past.  

A FEW YEARS FROM NOW

Can you imagine yourself 5 years from now if you don’t give up? Look back 5 years, did you think that you would be where you are now? 5 years ago I was 33 years old, a reading specialist/coach finishing up most recent grad school degree, dreaming of what life would be like with the man I was dating/possibly falling in love with at the time, enjoying working with a great team and school, and enjoying my life thus far.   I never imagined the good and bad days in between. I never imagined the hurt breaks, tear-filled nights, life and career experiences, or even this blog.

But I wouldn’t trade any of those memories because they’ve given me the strength and will to inspire others with my gifts. Each and every life event shaped me into the Roshaunda aka Ro that I am today. The same goes for you. Stop counting out yourself because of your shortcomings and learn to embrace them.

I had no idea what my purpose was, but God knew all along. (Truth be told even though I feel like I know what my purpose is, I trust that God knows and is having me live out my purpose). 

THRIVE: HE KNOWS YOUR PURPOSE

I know all the times that I have felt broken and beaten down God has taken my mess/brokenness and helped me create masterpieces (aka my legacy) to leave behind for others to build and remember. As stated in one of my previous blogs Thrive, we all face challenges in our lives.  These challenges can be overwhelming it can cause us to have self-doubt or pity.  However, we have a choice. We can choose to sit around, wait and hope things happen or we can THRIVE.  I choose to be a BROKEN CRAYON that continues to THRIVE! I am ready to paint the world in a different light no matter how small or large the breaks are in the future. 

He knows your purpose too.  You are a crayon with purpose despite every single way you have fallen short.  Do not allow life to beat you down. Stand up and be bold. Paint your world today with those little pieces you think of discarding!  Color, laugh, cry and rejoice for being the most perfect version of you. You will continue to do amazing things. Choose to be great because despite everything, broken crayons still color. 

PS: This blog was inspired by the lovely sign I saw shopping in addition to a church sermon preached at the church I attended back in March.  To hear the sermon click on the video below. 

What Do Teachers Make?

Teacher appreciation week has gone and come however, it is still important to continue to celebrate teachers, as we in the education world enter the toughest stretch in the school year.

Teachers provide so much to our students—inspiration, motivation and, ultimately, their futures. They change the lives of our children every day, and their work and impact extends far beyond the boundaries of the classroom.

Recently, I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach in the classroom for the past three weeks.  I’ll be honest I was not initially happy about the directive, as a lot was going in my life at the time (future blog post story coming on that later). However I got out of my feelings, put my pride aside, and rose to the occasion to serve.

For those of you not familiar with my journey I started off as a 2nd Grade classroom teacher for 11 years, 4 years a Reading Specialists/Coach and the past two years as and Assistant Principal.  So as you can see I have not been knee deep in the classroom in quite some time with having my own classroom. Oh boy, it has been an adventure! Below are just a few struggles that I went through as growing pains for the first week and a half:

  • I felt like a new teacher all over again…no offense to the new teachers, but OMG you have so many expectations on oh yes this is going to go this way…um yeah that’s a NEGATIVE….would have thought I knew better but um yeah no.
  • I forgot to take PM attendance…well I still do from time, time, to time 🙂
  • It took us 2 hours to get through an arts and craft activity…even after chunking it down :-0
  • I lost my cool but apologized…hey we all have our moments…it’s what we do afterwards and in the in between to build those relationships and to restore.
  • I have a plethora of assignments to grade, but making progress 🙂
  • I honestly was like how in the world am I going to make it!

These are just a few of many, however at time has passed the rust has slowly started to wear off,  the training wheels are coming off, and I’m getting back in the groove. I haven’t given up and I won’t give up because even though the end is near our kids still need us.  I have retrained my brain to slow down and build on the high expectations I set forth, intentionally plan to really chunk down instruction to build off of knowledge, have fun with engaging learning experiences, and I’ve made deeper connections with the students and staff.

Spending time teaching in the classroom has been a truly humbling and much needed experience. It has reconnected me to my WHY more than ever! Administrators and/or anyone in a non-classroom position should actually spend more time in the classrooms beyond assisting (reading a book and/or special projects/programs).

I know firsthand that as administrators we have a lot on our plate. However, I challenge us to set time a side to spend a day or two in the shoes of a teacher each month so that one can be more appreciative and understanding of the difference teachers truly make. Especially those of us who haven’t taught in a classroom in a while. It can be so easy to sit back and judge until we actually experience things first hand and stretch ourselves outside of our comfort zone. It helps us as leaders to be humble, lead by example, build and strengthen relationships, reflect, problem solve, and to never forget our roots.

The bottom line and purpose in this blog is to simply say to teachers THANK YOU, I SEE YOU, I APPRECIATE YOU!  

Before I end this blog post, I want share a little story entitled, What Do Teachers Make? I cannot take ownership of writing this story but it is worth a share as a good reminder to all what teachers make.

What Do Teachers Make?

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, “What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?” He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” To stress his point he said to another guest;

“You’re a teacher, Susan. Be honest. What do you make?” Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids set goals and work tirelessly to achieve them.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder. I make them question. I make them criticize. I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math and perfect their final drafts in English. I make them understand that if you use your mind, and follow your heart, you can live your dreams. And, if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you must pay no attention because they just didn’t learn.

Susan paused and then continued. “You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?

Educators make a difference everyday. They work hard to implement best practices, analyze data, seek out innovative strategies, and new technologies, and have a desire to make their classrooms feel like home for your children. So, I extend my gratitude. Thank you for all that you do to improve the lives of our students. #thankateacher #keepplantingthoseseedsofhope

PS: This blog post was inspired by the opportunity to teach in the classroom again and the staff and students at the school in which I serve.  Thank you.

PSS: Check out the video below that highlights a view of the students learning experiences. #funinfourth #thankateacher #humbleexperiences

SMONDAY

Ideally, every Sunday should begin with a chill state of mind.

Because,  Sunday.

One can hang around without a care in the world and while away time doing completely unimportant things.

But a lot of us feel differently.

Because, Monday.

The countdown to intense suffering kick-starts again. Existential crisis creeps in again. Life seems pointless again.

So, the holiday mood pretty much goes down the drain.

The following memes are funny reflections of our innermost fears regarding the horrible transition from Sunday to Monday.  

So true. The one day I actually put on clothes it was so strange. I actually felt like my shoes, were on the wrong foot. #ohvey
Haven’t seen Birdbox, but um yeah this did happen a lot. #iseenothing #dontgointothelight

We drag on till the inevitable moment of doom – midnight or nine/ten for those who go to bed early. Then, we hug our pillows and send a quiet prayer to the heavens before falling asleep, only to welcome a living nightmare the next morning.

Unfortunately, not much can be done about the situation. Unless one decides to give up on worldly pleasures, quit, move away and/or enter early retirement.

This same anxiety that we have is the same exact anxiety that some of our students who enter our schools had before going on winter break.  While we are anxious and full of the SMonday dread, they are anxiously excited to come back to school…the safe place for those students whom home lives produce high anxiety, stress, and in most cases trauma.

While the holiday break was a welcome time for many of us to catch up on sleep, eat, and enjoy family and friends. The same can not be said for many of our students and their families, and even some of our fellow colleagues for that matter.  It may have been a time of anxiety, stress, and or grief/sadness due to memories of loved ones who may have passed away.

Case in point, I ordered food through a delivery service.  I came out to grab my food. I’m surprised to see it’s a student and her mother from school, out making deliveries. The mother stated, her daughter was with her that evening because she couldn’t afford childcare and didn’t have anyone to look after her.  She had gotten approval from the company she works for to have her daughter come to work. The mother took on making deliveries initially as an extra job for the holiday season to purchase gifts. The young lady said she enjoyed helping her mother, because it gave her something to do and she got to go to different places.  She also mentioned how she was excited to be coming back to school on Monday.

In that moment, I realized how truly blessed I am to have had an opportunity to have had a relaxing break with my family and friends. However, at the same time it made me snap out of that SMonday back to school dread.  It brought me back to my true reality, I need to put on my big girl boss panties and get my mind right to get back to school business come Monday. Get back to focusing on my why in making a difference and being that champion for our youth.  The truth is they need to have a warm and inviting experience when they come in on Monday. Am I still going to have anxiety? Of course. However it will be a making a difference type of anxiety, instead my own selfish wants of having to return to work because I’m not ready and want more time off.

As we get closer to Monday and the SMonday dread starts to kick in try to remember….

Remember in the famous words of the late Rita Pierson: “Every child deserves a champion.” Be that champion for our students as they return to our schools, not just on this Monday after break, but each day.  Have a great first week back and go get em! #bethatchampion

PS: This blog post was inspired by the numerous funny teacher memes posted on various social media accounts.  Thank you for allowing me to utilize your memes to create this post. In addition this post was inspired by the mom and her daughter, who gave me a reality check to inspire me to gradually start to come out of the SMonday dread. Thank you! 🙂

PSS: Need more inspiration? Check out Rita Pierson’s Ted Talk Video on Every Kid Needs a Champion below! Enjoy! 🙂

New Year’s Resolution: One Word

The beginning of a new calendar year is always a great time to start fresh. As a result, many of us will find ourselves making New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us promise to lose weight. Others may pledge to stop procrastinating and tackle that long put-off house project. Educators often use the New Year to resolve to do better by themselves, family, students, and profession.

Perhaps you have resolved to make some adjustments to your classroom instruction come the return of school in January. Maybe you have a desire to implement more engagement strategies or ways to continue to build your classroom community.  It is possible that you are just seeking more opportunities to build lasting relationships with your kids— the kinds of bonds that will have them remembering your class as the best time they ever had in school.

In the end we create endless goals, resolutions, wish lists, and vision boards (not to say I still won’t create one), to become our best and live a life of impact.  Instead of creating lists this year, let’s think about making our lists more intentionally centered around one word. Just think one word. One word that can help us be intentional in all or certain aspects of our lives for the next 365 days of the year.

Over the past two years I have gotten bitten by the #oneword movement bug. I have always had good intentions-the “I wills, and the “I won’ts-faded so quickly, and I always misplaced my list of resolutions before January was over.  Instead I choose One Word to focus on for the next 365 days.  Doing so has changed my perspective, my heart, and my actions. The purpose of choosing one word is to choose one word that will inspire you to make things in your life and work simple by focusing on one word for the year.  It sums up who we are becoming and/or how we want to live our lives. Having one word makes us become intentional in our actions and impacts all areas of our lives (the mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and financial).

Below are my one words from the past two years.

2017: Believe- The previous year, I was in period in my life were I was doubting my abilities as an educator and just things all around in life in general.  I choose to believe to be able to trust the process and believe in my abilities. Even though it was set with the intention for career, it turned up in all aspects of my life.  I slow jogged/walked and completed seven 5k races. Those who know me, know I hate distance running, but I believed and mentally completed the races. It also became the year where I started dabbling in presenting at educational conferences.

2018: FaithThis was a year of change for me in my job and other areas of my life. Initially it was more work related however setting this word intentionally drew me back to the spiritual side of my life.  I began reading more about the word and reconnecting with God. Still a work in progress but my faith is becoming stronger than ever. In addition, that faith continued with me continuing to build upon presenting at conferences and taken a leap to start a blog…eek!

As the entrance of 2019 is bearing down upon us I will admit that I’m still pondering my one word. It can be easy, but sometimes it is not as easy as you think, because you want that one word to keep you focused, be transformational, and act as guide throughout 2019. It can be be overwhelming with a variety of thoughts going through your mind. Below are some possible tips when considering your one word.

  1. Unplug/Brainstorm: Find a space to unplug. No TV, kids, phone,  social media…just you. Wherever you decide to go make sure you will not be interrupted. Unplugging helps you hear your own thoughts clearly.  Have a pen and paper ready to start brainstorming your thoughts/words.
  2. Ask yourself questions: Asking yourself questions will help you get to what is essential to what you need versus what you want.
    • Should I focus on my work or home life? What do I need (not want, but need.)
    • Do I want my word to to just focus on one aspect of me or encompass all (spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual, and/or financial).
    • How will this word sum up my 2019?
    • What’s in my way?
    • What has to go?
  3. Make a List of Words: Write down words or phrases that come to your mind as you open your heart to reflect upon the questions you are asking yourself.
  4. Define Your Top 3 Words: From your list go through the questions again and narrow down your choice to three.  Unplug again for another day or two if needed to narrow down to one. In my case, I continually pray and reflect until I am brought to it.
  5. Select Your Word: Once you have gone through the above process and have selected your word keep it someplace where you can see it everyday.  For example, each year I make it as part of my facebook cover, my computer and phone screensaver. This year I might consider making a bracelet.

I have to admit that I have gone through this process and it can be overwhelming as I am the type to get in my head and put pressure upon myself. For example, as previously stated, the selection of my 2019 one word is still up for grabs.  I have narrowed it down to three. I am in the process of reevaluating my top three with asking myself some of questions mentioned above. Heck I have even phoned a friend and googled to see if there was a word that can encompass all three.  However in the end, I know that it all boils down to: What do I need?  What will guide me?  How will it be transformational for my life?

If you are considering having one word to live by in 2019 be kind to yourself if you can’t make a decision by January 1.  It’s A-okay. You don’t want to force yourself into choosing a word that does not fit your needs. Give yourself time and reflection.  It will come to you at the right time.

The bottom line is not to forget that you want the word you select to be transformational and guide you as you continue to move forward with this crazy thing we call life.  It’s all about building and enhancing on the person who you are becoming. If you care to share leave a comment with your one word for 2019 and your experience. Cheers to a new year! #oneword365

PS: This post was inspired by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page’s book One Word That Will Change Your Life. In addition, thank you to my family, friends, and co-workers who have helped me live out my #oneword365 over the past two years. If your interested in learning more about the one word movement check out the following site: One Word 365

The Gift of Teaching

Teaching is a Work of Heart. That’s one of those cliché’s, isn’t it? It’s been said a thousand times about our profession. It’s printed on t-shirts and plaques and bumper stickers and posters. You can find it on calendars and pencils and phone cases and even on billboards. The words make for great PR when someone wants to butter us up and get our votes, or when they want to placate us in times of confrontation. Here’s the truth though: Teaching IS a work of heart. It’s a gift. We’ve been offered the most amazing blessing…the honor of touching the precious lives of thousands of boys and girls, and young men and women.

It is often said that a teacher is a like a candle who consumes themself to light the way for others. They are a person who trains us, educates us about the customs of a civic society, and helps us to grow into responsible and honorable citizens. In addition to the standardized curriculum, a good teacher also tries to boost their student’s thinking skills and knowledge. They try to stimulate their learning capacities and interests with the aim of making a winner out of each one of them. Such is the importance and significance of a teacher in the life of every human being.

Personally I have had an opportunity to witness how “teaching is a work of heart,” by being raised in a household with two full time teachers (my parents).  I had the opportunity to witness the countless hours my parents put in outside of school hours to reach and touch the lives of their students.  I witnessed my mother build community and relationships in her first grade classroom each year by cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts for her students and their families.  I witnessed my father spend hours after work mentoring the young men at his high school on how to invest and save their money to prepare for their future. To this day when I come home to visit and I’m out with them shopping they have former students who come up to them thanking them for all that did to help mold and shape them into the adults they have become.

Our influence as teachers is eternal. Thank you all for sharing your many talents and gifts with our children! Focus on how important you are this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

PS: This post is inspired by many of the wonderful teachers that I have encountered throughout my childhood years and as an adult.  One of my greatest influences being my parents. Thank you for being great role models and teachers not only to myself and my brother, but to those children (now adults) who were fortunate to grace your classroom seats. Thank you for sharing your gift.  #iambecomingwhoiambecauseofyou

My parents, John and Lydia Henson.  Thank you for sharing and bestowing your gifts unto myself and others.

You Can’t Pour From an Empty Cup

Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.

-Eleanor Brown

It is widely quoted and accepted that you can’t pour from an empty cup. But how many of us actively practice replenishing ourselves?

With the welcoming break of Thanksgiving vacation for educators it should bring about the reset button to relax, enjoy time with our friends and families, catch up on TV shows/movies, and start holiday shopping. However, sometimes this is not necessarily the truth. True we may spend a few days relaxing but then our brains go back to thinking about work and then we start working on our next great adventure for our classroom/school, grading papers, writing evaluations..etc. We begin to repeat the vicious cycle of not truly taking time for ourselves.

Last month myself and a fellow educator friend facilitated a professional development session for instructional coaches on incorporating self-care into the coaching role. In speaking to the coaches, what we discovered was that the biggest factor that they had to overcome in their roles was guilt! Guilt for taking the time for themselves and guilt for saying no.  

I can think back to many times where I began to feel incredibly unwell, but continued to push myself out of guilt and the fear of saying no.  Until one day two years ago, I had an epiphany (a coming to Jesus moment), that although I was pouring into to others, I wasn’t pouring into taking care of myself.  In the process I was losing site of my why; my core values and beliefs. When I finally decided to take time out for myself, it felt like I had woken up after being asleep for a long time.  Was it easy? No. I still a work in progress. However, once I started to take the steps for self-care, it awakened and renewed my spirit to be able serve others in a healthier mindset vs. an unhealthy mindset.

When we are stressed out, self-care is often the first thing we let go in addition to losing site of our why (our core values and beliefs).  We begin to take on other’s core values and belief systems rather than living by our own. Why is it we let go of self-care when we are stressed?  Barbara Markway, Phd explains in Psychology Today a few reasons that that is the case.

  1. Our brains go into fight-or-flight mode and our perspective narrows.
  2. We’re so busy trying to solve problems that we’re stuck in “doing mode
  3. We may not have a “go to” list of self-care activities.

So once we wake up, so to speak, how do we practice self-care, what can we put on our list of self-care activities. For those of us that can, a retreat is a lovely way to have time and space for self. But if that is not an option at the moment, here are a few simple suggestions:

Hydrate

Are your drinking enough water? It sounds simple, but being hydrated is important for health and feeling good. Dehydration can lead to headaches and feeling tired among other things. So self care tip #1 is getting the recommended 8 glasses of water a day.

Eat Well

Start your day fueled up. You’ll have more energy and be in a better frame of mind to deal with whatever comes your way in the classroom/at work.

Get Moving

Exercise is important to health and it can boost moods, but has time? Try one of these:

  • Start a walking club before, during lunch, or after school with other teachers.
  • Have a surprise dance party with your students to burn off some energy.

Relax

We all know teaching is a stressful job and it’s critical to find ways to release stress and relax. One thing you can use anywhere and in just a few minutes is deep breathing.

Network

Join a group of like minded individuals who can understand what you are going through.  It can be either for professional, personal, and/or spiritual self-care. As Helen Keller states-“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”  Find your PLN and/or personal tribe to collaborate, reflect, and learn and grow from one another.

Have some fun!

Get out of your classroom, office, or off your couch at home from working, take a day off from prepping anything, and do something you love. Taking the time for things we are passionate about (besides teaching) helps refill us so we have more to give and avoid burnout. So hangout and laugh with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Read a book for pleasure. Make a list of 5 things you love to do that energize you. Pick one-do it today.

As we begin to wind down the last quarter of 2018, think:  How do you define taking care of yourself? Think about that and then, create a new self-care practice, starting today!

In the words of writer Audre Lorde— self-care is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation. Take care of yourself, start today, you are worth it!

PS: This blog post was inspired by the presentation my fellow friend and I put together for the Illinois Council of Instructional Coaching.  Thank you to my professional development presenter partner in crime Meagan Dillon for working to put together our presentation You Can’t Pour From and Empty Cup: Incorporating Self-Care into the Coaching Role.  The presentation is below for your viewing pleasure! Enjoy! 🙂

THRIVE

Screen Shot 2018-10-04 at 5.48.14 PMIt’s been a minute since I’ve blogged.  I have gotten caught up with the start of the school year fun with students and staff. In addition to all my personal life fun (attending weddings, exploring new places, hanging out with friends and family, preparing for upcoming PD presentations, and church). At first thought, I began to panic thinking I’ve been failing because I haven’t been sticking to blogging each day or every other week. However, as I stopped, paused, breathed, and reflected, I realized I am capturing, creating, and living in the moments…I am THRIVING.

As the pastor of the church I attend put it so eloquently in a sermon, “Thriving doesn’t choose us; we choose it.”  We all face challenges in our lives, rather it be professional or personal.  These challenges can be rather overwhelming and in the process it can cause us to have self-doubt or pity.  However, we have a choice. We can choose to just sit around, wait and hope things happen or we can THRIVE.

So, what does this have to do with education? I’ll try to stop rambling and get to the point.  In the world of education there are always: 

  • Different initiatives being thrown at all stakeholders
  • Times when you want to move forward but feel as if you are getting held back
  • Times where you feel like your giving your all but feel inadequate

I’ll be transparent here.  I’ve experienced all three and then some.  I have been in that position were I feel like I’m drowning and can’t keep up (well it really hasn’t changed :-), I’ve been turned down for opportunities, and I have felt like I’m not good enough.  However, instead of sitting, waiting, and hoping that the solution(s) magically jumped in my lap, I chose to THRIVE. Did I go through my moments of self-pity and have the woe is me moments? Yep! You betcha!  However, as I reflect, every time I made it a point to continue to move forward and THRIVE. I also put my faith and worries into the hands of the greater power that I believe in to help me THRIVE. I didn’t wait for it to choose me, I chose it!  Is it easy, to THRIVE? No! However, in the end it is worth it if you choose to put in the work to choose to THRIVE. 

As we continue to dive deeper into the school year and fourth quarter of 2018, we will continue to face ups and downs.  However, our choices determine our pathway and how we move forward. Are you going to just sit and wait for a new year, new quarter, or will you choose to THRIVE?

PS: This blog post was inspired by Pastor Josh Petersen of Immanuel Church in Gurnee.  Click on this link to watch his full sermon on Thrive: Life Beyond Just Getting By.  Thank you Pastor Josh for your wonderful inspirational words and sermons.  Also, a special thank you to one of my friends Rian Boyce Bogdala for bringing my #oneword2018 of #faith come alive.  Thank you for inviting me to your church home to restore my #faith! 

 

 

 

 

Creating and Sustaining Moments

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 6.57.05 PM.pngWith the start of any year, school districts, admin, and teacher teams want to set the right tone with staff  and students to ensure they feel welcomed, motivated, engaged, and enthusiastic about the start of the year. This past week saw the return of teachers and all staff in the school district in which I work, as well as many of my other educator friends.  Many of my friends, work colleagues, and educational gurus I follow took to social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to post about the moments that were being created to put a smile on their faces. It was enjoyable to watch how the moments created brought joy to all and created a lasting impression they wouldn’t forget to keep them coming back for more.

However, the true question is will just these few opening day moments keep staff and students coming back each day?  Do more moments have to be created to sustain the powerful moment created within those first few days? Well, if you said yes, you are more than likely correct, more moments have to be created.  Does each moment have to be as big as the opening day kick-off activities? No, the truth of the matter is that creating those first few moments helps set the tone with building the culture, climate, and team of a district, school, and classroom.  What happens over the next 170+ days of the school year is what matters. Sustaining and building from the kick-off moments by creating more.

So, the question then becomes, “How do we create more?”  Keep it simple by building and cultivating meaningful relationships, reflecting upon our work, and collaborating to empower each other.  Is this something, new? Of course not, however it can be easy to forget that keeping things simple with consistency can go a long way.  How will you sustain the moments that you create?

PS: This post was inspired by collaborating with my admin team to create opening day moments to play like pirates.  In addition, thank you to my colleagues, friends, and educational masterminds I follow on twitter for sharing the moments created in your districts, schools, and classrooms. Thank you for inspiring this post as well.  Below is a video of the pirate moments our staff participated in and created for themselves. Stay tuned for how these moments will be sustained.