2013: Resolve to be Successful

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Thank you, Danielle, for the lovely introduction to our “Resolve to be Successful” project. Your generosity in letting me adapt your words to fit my blog made my day. Any mistakes you find are mine. =)

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2012 was a rough year – a bitter presidential election that divided the nation; financial calamities as the housing and job markets continued their rollercoaster rides; continued war and unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Africa and China; senseless losses of beautiful lives to the twin tragedies of gun violence and mental illness; an angry and petulant Mother Nature, unleashing Hurricane Sandy and Typhoon Bopha; the Costa Concordia accident. There was so much negativity. We hope to leave negativity behind as we look to 2013 for a fresh start.

Much like Danielle (ProfMomEsq), I don’t do New Year resolutions. I already put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. Making resolutions that I won’t follow through on usually triggers a grand old downward spiral. Since I try my darndest to avoid those, I resolved a long time ago to make no more resolutions.

This year is different. Danielle ran across an idea on Facebook that was just too good. She shared it  and I decided that I’d do it too.  Then we thought, what if everybody joined us? The thought was so tickling that it brought us to the idea to not only do the project, but to blog the results. There is something about being held “accountable” (for lack of a better word) to someone else. Knowing that someone else is expecting me to find the positive will make it much easier.

The concept is simple. Keep a jar some place handy. When a good thing happens in your life, write it down on a strip of paper, and put the paper in the jar. At the end of the year, take out all the papers and read them to remind yourself of the wonderful year you had.

Danielle and I have our jars ready. Here’s her jar:

ProfMomEsq's Jar of Success

Here is mine:

Elizabeth's Awesome Jar of Success

By year’s end, our jars will be filled with scraps of paper describing moments from 2013 truly worth remembering. On December 31, 2013, we will open our jars, read the scraps of paper and post the contents on our respective blogs. Then, we’ll get to spend the rest of our day reading through all the blogs of those who join us.

Yes, that’s right! We want you to post, too! Resolve To Be Successful by clicking the button below. Follow the directions to join the blog hop, then get yourself a “Jar of Success.” Any old jar will do; you can decorate it or not, make it big or keep it small, fill it yourself or have family and friends join you; you can even go high-tech and keep your “jar” in your iThingy. Just make sure your “jar” is always handy so you don’t forget any of your moments of joy, love, happiness and – above all – success.

Feel free to snag either of the badges to post on your blog to show the blogosphere that you are joining us. Please write a post about what you are doing and try to get as many people involved in the project. The more people we have participating, the more positivity  we will be spreading across the world. Maybe if we all focus on the good things, 2013 will be one of the best years ever.

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If you link up with us, post your jar’s contents before midnight on December 31, 2013 and spend a blissful day celebrating all the wonderful milestones that paved our way to 2014. And – HEY! – if you link up, you already have something to put in your jar: you wrote your last blog post for 2013 way ahead of schedule.

We look forward to seeing you and sharing in your success! Happy New Year!

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Reason 23 Why I Love Teaching

I have a student who carries a towel every day and whose favorite answer is 42. Enough said…


words to live by

“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels. A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

Sorry I’ve been gone but my days are just too long

Dearest blog readers,

I know I’ve not been posting lately, but I have a really good reason this time. School has started. Usually August is a time when I am completely engrossed in getting my classroom ready, lesson planning, and jumping through all of the other hoops that teachers need to do at the beginning of the school year.

I am tired.

I miss writing on my blog, but most of my creative energy is being consumed by the need to get the school year going. Hopefully I’ll get it under control soon.

Anyhoo… Please don’t forget about me while I get everything situated. I’ll be back as soon as I can with entertaining posts about life and running a classroom full of ninth graders!

Oh, I’ll leave you with some words to ponder:

Wise words from Ser George Carlin

It all Started at 2:30 in the Morning

This will probably be a brief post (yeah, right). I woke up this morning at 2:30. 2:30! This is the second night in a row that I’ve done this. I wake up, thoughts racing, planning my day, figuring out what I need to do in order to get ready for the next school year. It is typical and happens every year around this time. I don’t know why my brain does this. Perhaps it feels the need to torture me more than usual. 2:30 is too early.

In the past, I’ve used this time to replay events of the day before, hyper-analyzing them for things I did “wrong.” Believe me, I perceived so much wrong. Once I’d determined where I had erred as a human being, I experienced those moments of imperfection over and over again in my mind. I couldn’t stop. Every thought fed into my feelings of self-loathing. I would start the next day overwhelmed, defeated, and exhausted. This year is turning out to be different. It is weird. Instead of focusing on the bad, my brain is focusing on the good.

A little bit of back story is necessary. I have a new principal. Change is scary, as you well know. I wrote a post about it a while back. While this principal had a reputation for being fair, I wasn’t sure if I believed it. It has been so long since I had a principal who wasn’t … how do I put it delicately… a jerk-face completely centered on his or her own agenda, forsaking all thoughts about treating teachers like people, individuals who give up so much of their OWN time for the kids. Too harsh? It always felt to me that only certain people would get “props” for what they did. Usually these people did the least amount of work but were really, really loud about the few things they did do. I’m sure it is the same in every business.

This principal doesn’t seem to be like that. For example, I did some training today with my colleagues. My friend, S., and I worked really hard on a plan to not waste any of the faculty’s time and to meet everyone at their individual level of expertise. Our principal saw our plans and approved them. Then we met with the three other members of our “team.” We were outvoted and the training didn’t go the way we had planned it. Enough said about that; I don’t want to disparage anyone. It happens. Here is where it gets interesting. Our principal sent S. and I an email thanking us for our hard work. Thanking us! This is the third time in two weeks that I’ve gotten recognition for the work that I do. It wasn’t a grandiose statement in front of my colleagues (thank goodness). I don’t think that I’ve ever gotten more than one thank you in a whole year!

Back story done, moving on. So, this morning (at 2:30!!) I woke up feeling proud. Proud. Not down on myself. Not frustrated or scared about what the day would bring. I don’t remember feeling that way, so I thought I would list the things that I felt good about. Here goes:

  1. I was able to help many people feel successful with the technology that was the focus of the training. Yes, I had to stay after the training and help them individually, but it was worth it.
  2. I reconnected with people that I hadn’t spoken with all summer.
  3. I was told that I was missed at the differentiation conference this summer. I dropped out of Collaboration Coaching because of many reasons, personal and professional. I figured that nobody would care. I was wrong. A person who I completely respect because she is an amazing teacher (and person) told me that it wasn’t the same without me. The insight that I bring is special. Wow, right? Here I thought I would just fade into oblivion, but I was missed! (I wrote about my feelings of not being missed in this post, if you are interested. Geez, I sure am referring to previous posts a lot! You’d think this was my blog or something.)
  4. I avoided the people who bring me down. You know, the people who complain all of the time and act like they hate their jobs. Quit, then.
  5. One of the teachers I mentored put down that my new teacher mentoring was one of the best things about last year.
  6. One of my colleagues actually requested that her child be placed in my classroom because she felt I would be a good fit. Inorite? Go me!
  7. I stood up in front of ~100 people, said “Excuse me” once and waited. They all stopped talking. For those of you who are not in education, teachers don’t usually do this. Many of them are the worst students.
  8. After they went quiet, I was able to actually talk mostly coherently in front of them. I didn’t get the typical upset tummy or shakes. I didn’t love it, but it didn’t make me want to vomit.
  9. I am respected. People look to me for guidance.
  10. One of our PE teachers actually came in after the training for tutoring (?). He wanted help organizing his website and learn more about his computer. On his own. Because he wanted to. And he asked me. Not anyone else. I impacted him enough that he trusted me to help him with something he was uncomfortable with.
  11. I was told repeatedly that people enjoy when I do training because I make it easier to learn. I “do” things and not just stand up in front of everyone and talk.
  12. I left at 2. This was a proud moment for me because I actually left work. This time of year I usually work so much, never taking time to relax. I relaxed!
  13. My principal noticed and THANKED me for what I do.
  14. I finally finished decorating my house in Whiterun. I wish making money was as easy as it is in Skyrim!

Those are the things that were going through my head this morning. I still hate the waking up at 2:30 part, but I am excited that I was able to look at the good instead of the bad. Even though I am exhausted, I’m excited to see what happens today. It is a nice feeling.

I know that posts are more aesthetically pleasing with pictures included but I’ve not got the energy to find some. I’ve already been up for 2.5 hours, people! Use your imaginations and choose the pictures that you want to put in. =)

Thoughts about Reaching my XXth Birthday

Today is my 39th birthday. I know. Women aren’t supposed to tell anyone their age. I don’t really subscribe to that thought. I have worked hard to make it through my 39 years and I am proud of that. Plus, I’ve been saying I was 39 all year and thought I was going to be 40 today until I did the math.

I’ve heard the memory goes as you age, but I didn’t think it would go this quickly!

I now have a second year of being 39! Inorite? I get one more year before the dreaded 40, an age where I’ve heard that everything starts falling off (but not the things that you want to fall off– like the middle-age spread). I might have a 3rd year of 39 just to be safe.

Not enough candles, but you get the idea!

In the past week leading up to this glorious day, I’ve done some thinking. I don’t know about you guys, but this is the time when I look back at my year and see how I’ve done. Forget New Year’s Day– that is for everyone else. I’ve got to be different! Oh, side note: July 2nd is halfway through the year. I didn’t know that. My friend told me. I didn’t research it so if I’m wrong, let me know. I’ll probably forget though. Because I forgot I was 38, remember?

This year’s taking stock of my life has been very different from all of the others. Usually I get very depressed and think of all of the things that have gone wrong. I focused on how worthless and imperfect I was. Death loomed ever closer in my mind and I would never be able to make something of myself. I usually spent a whole week alternately crying and getting angry. I hated my birthday and never wanted to celebrate it. Well, this year I did none of that. Okay, that wasn’t completely true. I did cry a little last night, but I think it was more because I was worn out and it was late and I forgot to eat dinner. Probably. Still, it was only about ten minutes long, if that, and I fell asleep right after.

Instead of looking at my life negatively, I’ve chosen to look at it differently. Even thought there were difficult times, I made it through them. Sometimes I learned something about myself. Sometimes I was just happy to get out of it with only a few scratches on my psyche. Amazingly, the scratches were few. I’ve become a much stronger woman because of it. The difference is that I’ve actually been in a state of mind where I could actually see the strength. Part of it I attribute to finally finding the correct melange of medicine. The majority of it, though, is all me. Yes, my meds have balanced my brain chemistry, but I have chosen to do the work to make myself stronger.

Happy birthday to me.

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All photos that are not mine are under a CC license. For more information about this wonderful resource, go to www.creativecommons.org

Cake Photo: Neil T via flickr

A Soft Goodbye

This week has been a very hard week for my family. My father-in-law lost his battle with cancer and was laid to rest.

I realized today that, since he was diagnosed in August, we’ve been living our lives in a daze, knowing that the end was coming soon. We spent as much time as we could with him. Up to the end, he still kept his sense of humor and his mind sharp.

Bill was a man who lived with a purpose. He was shy and took a while to open up to me. When he finally did, though, I was blown away. He had a wicked sense of humor–  he made me blush on many an occasion. I can see where my husband learned humor and I am thankful for it.

Bill was an unapologetic conservative, but it suited him. I remember the chuckle that I got when I looked at some of the books he would read. I remember one being about how to talk to liberals (if you are forced to) or something like that. Needless to say, we didn’t talk politics that much.

There wasn’t a time when I visited that we didn’t watch sports. He watched everything from college sports to professional sports. It was fun to watch him give up the television so his grandchildren could watch their shows. He acted as if he was doing it begrudgingly, but you could see his joy in watching them.

My daughter loves him so much. She is taking this like a five-year old would, but I can definitely tell that the loss is hard for her. It hurts my heart, but I knwo that she will be fine.

One of the things that really struck me was the way he made sure that my mother-in-law was taken care of. He always took such good care of Peggy. This didn’t end with his passing. Because he knew that his time here was almost up, he arranged so many things to help her. Instead of succumbing to despair because of his illness, he faced it head on and with dignity. I hope I can be that strong.

Bill truly loved my mother-in-law. It was apparent in the way that he looked at her and spoke to her. Thirty-seven years didn’t diminish their relationship. I know it wasn’t all sunny, but they took the adversity and made it into a stronger relationship.

Jason learned how to be a husband by watching his father. He takes such good care of me, always making sure that I have everything I need. He supports me in everything. I know that Jason learned this from watching his father interact with his mother. I am so thankful to Bill for being a good model for my husband.

I know that this post is a bit rambling, but I really needed to say these things.

Burdens and Blessings

Today I realized yet again how important my job as a teacher is. Three students showed their trust in me by sharing their precious secrets, fears, and interests. Each of these children came to me and shared in their own special ways that I treasure.

The First Student
One of my students opened up to me about a traumatic experience that she had. She and her mother were driving when a person on a small moped lost control of it and swerved in front of their car. She watched this person hit the windshield right in front of her and roll off the front of the car. Unfortunately, her mother was not able to stop in time. The person died.

This little girl was non-functioning. She was walking around, completely numb. When I asked her if she was okay, she burst into tears. She told me that she couldn’t stop thinking about it, that it kept replaying over and over in her head. Through her sobs, she kept on saying, “But Miss, he was wearing a helmet; he was wearing a helmet.” My heart is breaking for her right now. I can’t even imagine what she is going through. This is a child that I am sending my heart out to. I feel powerless, but I did every thing I knew to do in order to help her.

The Second Student
My second student is a stoic sophomore who has seen it all and is tougher than everything, just ask him. He is struggling in my class, as well as his others. It is not because he isn’t capable of doing the work– something he readily admits; he just doesn’t care (his words, not mine). He says to me that he heard that junior year is the hardest year of high school. As we talked about his future he revealed that he used to be on the honor roll, a straight A student.

I asked him if he knew why he changed. He said he knew exactly what the problem was. He got mixed with the wrong crowd and started doing things he should not do. Now he is stuck in the culture and is trying to get out of it. His parents know of this and are doing everything that they can to help him. His eyes welled with tears as he talked to me about how he knows he needs to get out of it and that it is so hard, but he is trying. He opened up to me about this, allowing his vulnerability to show. I know that it was so hard for him to share this with me. I was honored to know that he felt safe and secure enough to seek my encouragement/advice about it. I told him so.

The Third Student
This story is completely different from my other ones. I have a student who is on the spectrum and struggles sometimes in class. He is brilliant but socially awkward. Well, when I think of it, what freshman isn’t a little socially awkward? This young man has two things that he fixates on: reading (it soothes him when he needs it) and movies. You tie those two things together and he is in heaven.

Through the year, we have been working very hard to build a relationship. Today, I realize that we made it. He came up to me, out of breath, asking me if I’ve ever read The Great Gatsby. When I answered in the affirmative, he started gushing about the fact that they are making a movie of it, directed by Baz Luhrman (the same one who did Romeo and Juliet with Leo DiCaprio and Claire Danes). This was IMPORTANT to him. He shared it with me throughout the hour (even when he was supposed to be working on his assignments). I just let him, happy in the fact that he was sharing something with me that he valued. Plus, I can’t wait to see the movie. His enthusiasm has got me interested.

The Gift of a Teacher
The gift of touching so many young lives can be overwhelming. Knowing that I was a safe place for these young adults to come and share really means something to me. It also has left me emotionally drained and torn up inside. My heart aches for the first two. Actually, aches is not even a strong enough word. I am heartsick. When I think of the trauma and struggles that they have gone through already at such a young age… I don’t even have words. However, I know that this will help them to become even stronger adults. Knowing that I had a part in comforting them makes me feel like I am answering a higher calling, that my purpose in life is beyond my comprehension. It is both a burden and a blessing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.