Trying Something New...
The following post is a collaborative writing between my friend Kevin and I. (Check out his blog: theteachingjedi.wordpress.com). We have been working together over the past few months and wanted to share the power of such collaboration.
As you can see, Kevin and I are pretty similar. Our journeys to this point...parallel. Yet, he lives near cows and I am allergic to cows...BUT we are very much the same. Weird how that happens. We both feel that we have changed for the better, from our former selves. We both feel that we have grown, pretty quickly. We have similar ideas on education, leadership, character. Above all, we both feel that through our connection...we are #bettertogether. Is that right, Jedi?
Yes ma’am, 100% accurate! Listen, this is for you out there, our dear readers: We are absolutely, unequivocally, totally #BetterTogether. Cori, me, you, all of us. Teachers have a tendency to live on their own islands, to do their own thing, to be overly protective of their classrooms, etc. While yes, we should cherish and covet our time with our students, we also need to open the doors, drop the barricades, and let others in. Flatten walls and build bridges instead. When we do that, we get to experience something we want our students to do: honest collaboration. How can we preach that to our students and not do that ourselves? Scary, yes. Necessary, yes, absolutely! Our students deserve it, and you deserve it! What we get out of it - the collaboration, the the connections, the relationships and friendships - is worth every ounce of effort. This is so true, you may not even realize it yet, but you need it. Trust us, you really do!
So...how do you find people to connect with? The way we met...a Twitter Chat...a goofy #ohsheet hashtag also helped :) Oh yes, finding someone with a similar sense of humor, definitely helps.
I’m trying to remember, how we even met...I think it was from a Twitter chat? #GAfE4Littles I believe. (Shout out to our girl Christine Pinto!) We bonded over the fact that we are both terrified of sheets! It was the #ohsheet! Hashtag :) That is what did it!!! It’s easy to bond with people when you let your guard down and show your true self...it worked for us! It's nice to know that we are not alone.
First off, for the new-to-Twitter peeps, chats can get confusing...fast. But, since we are all working with a growth mindset here (right?!), creeping on, I mean observing a few, really helps. Eventually though, you have to dive in head first. You can’t dabble in them or be a one-hit-wonder by posting once and leaving. You’ll have to commit at least an hour to most chats, at least to get the full benefit from it. It’s in the chats that you find people of your own, so to speak. Your tribe, your squad! People who share common values, interests, humor, writing style (make no mistake, working 140 characters well is an art form all its own), etc. However, don’t be closed off to those who aren’t in your wheelhouse either. I teach 8th ELA, Cori is an ELA TOSA (K-12, but Elementary is my thang), and Christine Pinto is a 1st year kindergarten teacher (formally TK). Had I closed my mind to them since they weren’t my specific grade level, I would have missed out on all the wonderful learning, encouragement, ideas, and friendships they have gifted me, not to mention the stickers and t-shirts too :) That’s right...the SWAG!
Here is where I find the power...it is what happens AFTER the chats. It is what happens beyond public Twitter feeds. There is only so much you can connect through typing fast and furious in 140 characters. What has happened with Kevin and I and with others; is the “what next”? Through the chats, you get a general understanding of someone. You might start tagging them with some other tweets that might be of interest to them. What happens sometimes, is you start talking outside of the twitter feed through Direct Message (DM), Voxer or other more one on one platforms. This is where the real stuff, the good stuff happens…
Is Twitter the only place this happens?? We sure hope not! Collaboration is key and very needed. Collaboration can and should happen with the teacher down the hall, across the quad, on the other side of town, in the next district...and beyond! You just have to be open and willing, it is worth it. Like we said, you're students deserve it...you deserve it!
To Be Continued...
FEAR: For the purposes of this post, I am speaking of the fear that seems to be self induced. That fear that one feels that limits experiences, relationships and growth. I have experienced and witnessed many types of these paralyzing fears, here are a few:
Fear of failure
Fear of humiliation/judgement/rejection
Fear of the unknown
Fear of losing control
Fear of not being good enough
Any one or a combination can hold you back from a lot of great. You have to make a conscious effort to fight against it, fight through it, to get to that great.
When I reflect on that list of fears, they all seem to have an underlying theme. Worth and value. If we do not feel that we are worthy, that we are valued...these fears set in. Or is it we feel unworthy and undervalued because of these fears? Which comes first? Does it matter? I think it is a continuous cycle that will feeds itself until something breaks it. A breakthrough.
THE BREAK THROUGH:
I think the first part of a break through is acknowledgment. What has it's grip on you? Once you have that figured out, it is time to break that grip.
How do you break through the fear? The only way I have learned to do this, is to quiet the noise and just jump. Just go for it and understand that you will be alright! I have learned that it is better to go ahead and try something without a net, then to stand on the edge, frozen. There could be so many missed experiences, so many lost opportunities for growth. Everyone has their "thing(s)" that are holding them back. The hope is that one can breakthrough whatever it is, to reap the rewards on the other side.
Here is what it looks like for me:
-I have learned to not worry about failure, because it is going to happen, whether I want it to or not, so why let it limit me? Lean into that discomfort, roll with the punches and keep moving forward. Take learning from it and move on. Fail forward!
-As far as humiliation, judgement or rejection...luckily, I have moved to a place where those things aren't even on my radar anymore. I used to live in that space. I was always worried about what others thought, how I came across. I'm a recovering "people pleaser". I have learned through life; that I can only control myself. I can not control how others act or feel. So, as long as I stay true to me; I'm good. If you know your purpose and that is what drives you, don't worry about other's reaction. I heard this on the radio, the other day: "For every good intention, there will be equal opposition." It's Newton's Law. What we have to do is know our intention, believe in ourselves, be authentic and just move forward. And the biggest piece of advice: Don't take yourself too seriously. Make sure you can find humor in yourself or your situations...you just have to!
-I have never really had a fear of the unknown nor losing control. I welcome the chaos, I live in the chaos. A "controlled chaos" at times. I do know many people for whom this is their kryptonite. My only suggestion is just dip your toe in the water. Try one tiny thing out of your comfort zone. See what happens. If you need a life vest, enlist a support person. Someone you can count on, someone you trust that can encourage you and lift you up. After your dip, you can choose to either recoil or spring forward. The hope is that it is the latter.
-The one that I get hung up on is the last one: Not being good enough. This is MY kryptonite. My antidote to this is, is to flip the switch and make sure others are aware of THEIR worth and THEIR value. I think it is unfair for someone to go through the day without knowing how much they are needed, wanted, appreciated. People are so busy, leading complicated lives, that this often gets lost in the shuffle. Since this is where I get stuck, this is where I focus a lot of my energy with others.
Value- That last one leads right into value or the feeling of not being valued. I have learned that when one does not feel valued, they cease to try, to grow, to move. Often times, people are not shown or told that they are appreciated, valued, worthy. So, we have to believe this in ourselves. Dig deep and find it...it's a game changer.
The opposite is true when one does feel that they are worthy. When someone knows that what they say or do matters, they will continue to contribute, to move forward.
WE are ALL worthy and WE ALL have value. It is important to remember that, even if it is not told or shown to us. WE all have something to contribute and we all have areas in which to shine. The important thing is to just keep going, break through, because there is worth and value in all that you do.
What is holding you back? Is it time for your breakthrough? You owe it to yourself and those around you, to be the best version of yourself.
"This truth telling can unlock people"- Glennon Doyle Melton This is why I write.
In my last post, I referenced my recent "double #failforward". I want to share this, not only for myself, but in hopes that someone else can connect.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to present a small section of a professional development in our district. I of course said "yes", because that is one of my passions. One of the difficult things in our office is that we are all running in different directions, all the time. It is really hard to all sit down and plan through a full day training. So, we touch base when we can. Exchange emails and share resources and pieces of presentations. We are lucky in that we have these capabilities through technology. It definitely helps with time and efficiency, but I am always worried about what gets missed when not face to face.
I am on in the second half of the day and I think I understand what my part is, and plan accordingly. I always like to do the activity portion of PD, and that is what I was going to do. The day was wrapped around understanding a specific test and the data. My section was the "now what?" piece. You have all of this information, now what do you do with kids?
I created a slide deck for participants to work on (a variation of Jon Corippo's Iron Chef Slides). Each partner group was to look at the test prompt that I gave them and on the slide, create examples of quick activities to work on the target skill. I explained the task, showed an example and passed out the prompts. I was met with "What? I don't understand what we are doing?" "What are you talking about?" "What are these papers?". It wasn't just one person...it was the majority. Oh my goodness, I MESSED UP! Failure alert!!! Ok, let's bring the group together, let me explain it in a different way...this was met with more puzzled looks and frustration. I would love to say that I handled this with grace and made it a great #failforward moment. Maybe on the outside...but on the inside, I was beating myself up. What did I do wrong? Did I not explain thoroughly? This activity must suck...I didn't set it up right...I must suck.
I did talk to the group about #failforward (which many had never heard before) but I couldn't, in that moment, think of the learning...I could only start heading down that rabbit hole. Thankfully, the group was a fantastic room of educators whom I know and love and they rolled with it. They helped each other and muddled through. Phew...my part is over...on to the next activity, with someone else.
I did eventually figure out what went wrong. I was not able to attend the first half of the training, so I did not know fully, what was covered. Many had never given the test nor seen the prompts. I handed them something they had never seen before. I should have not assumed, but inquired. My fault. But that is not the purpose of this post.
Here is what I wanted to share. I COULD NOT let it go. I did what I always say NOT to do. I beat myself up! I racked my brain, trying to connect the dots. What happened? Why did I fail? I started questioning my ability as a presenter. Then questioning myself on my understanding of the content. Then went so far as to question "Who do I think I am? Who am I to stand in front of people?" It was BAD. To make matters worse, I KNEW better. I wasn't taking my own advice. I wasn't "walking the talk". This was my second "fail". This led to..."how can I ask people to do one thing and here I am doing the other?". Rabbit hole #2! Luckily, a friend saw a bewildered look on my face later and questioned me. Her advice: "Let it go". And that is all I needed, to snap myself out of it. In the game of life, this was NOT a big deal!
So I began to go through the #failforward process:
1) Recognition: I am not taking my own advice. This part got to me. I felt like a fraud.
2) Move forward: This is when I needed to remind myself that everyone makes mistakes. WE are all human and we fall. There is no use getting stuck in the "beat up" cycle. Time to stop thinking about myself and focus on others. I am not the center of the universe, what can I do with this to help others?
3) Reflect: This one is usually the hardest. But basically, I reflected on the idea that I need to really practice what I preach, but realize that no one is perfect. For me to practice it, I must be in it. And I WAS in it. I knew I had to go through this process, that I wrote about, to come out the other side...and be ok.
4) Learning: I don't know if there was any new learning, as I fail forward all the time. I think it was more of the reflection that sometimes we get stuck, but the important part is to make sure that we get unstuck. For ourselves and others.
5) Grow: I need to not be so hard on myself. I make it a point to never judge others, yet I am constantly judging myself. If I were a participant sitting in the room, I would be empathetic to the situation and not think twice about it. I need to close up those rabbit holes.
6) Go: After I went through this process, I knew I needed to share it because I can't be the only one that does this. And although I am always saying: "Failforward", I know it is not always as easy as it sounds.
I know I am being totally vulnerable with this one, but I think it is important. Like I have said before, if this helps just one person with a "Me too!", my purpose in writing this, is complete.
Here is a positive...through this process, I have now added a second half to the phrase...#failforwad #reflectback
Mother, Teacher, Administrator, Presenter, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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