Here is my list:
1) My family: I am thankful that my family supported me going back and getting my teaching credential. I had to rely on others, as I went back to school 3 weeks after my son, Trevor, was born. We had a family tragedy a few weeks later, and family rallied around to make sure that he and I were taken care of. They were also there to support me as I decided to go back to grad school. This took me away from my family for a bit and I appreciate that my kids understood and supported me.
2) My colleagues: I spent most of my teaching career, listening and observing others. As I have written before, I was very quiet most of my teaching years. I learned tremendous amounts from those that I work with. From watching them interact with their students, I shaped my relationships with kids. I decided what to do and what not to do. Through conversations about education and daily instructional practice, I formed my own ideas and beliefs. I was lucky enough to have an amazing teacher come into my room and work with my students, many years ago. Watching how she questioned and led my students through inquiry, completely transformed me as a teacher! I think of her everyday, as I try to now support teachers in that same role.
3) My "bosses": I think I am unique in that I only worked for two principals in the span of a 14 year teaching career. I'm not going to say that those 14 years were all a bed of roses, in fact, as I have written before, the first 12 were rough. But now, as I talk to others and present on best instructional practices and education...I realized that I learned all I know, in those first 12 years! Here is what I learned...
Meet people where they are.
Every student, every time.
Good teaching is good teaching- it transcends all else.
Find a way to make it happen, if you believe it is what's best for kids.
In my current position, I have tried to be a sponge and soak up every experience as a learning one. Here is what I have learned in my current position:
Trust, communication and relationships are the foundation.
Be you, be authentic.
Always do what's best for students.
Tune out the chatter.
Follow your instincts.
Go slow, to move fast.
Stay the course.
Walk the talk.
Roll up your sleeves and do the work, whatever is needed.
Stay true to your word, follow through on what you promise.
4) My experiences: We are all shaped by our experiences, it is what we choose to do with those experiences that make the difference. We can choose to either repeat or change those stories for others. I choose to help create a new narrative. Through my experiences, I have learned how much people need to feel valued and appreciated. We are all doing the best we can, at the time, with what we have...and often times, we feel it isn't enough. So I have made a conscious effort to always...always let people know that they are important and valued. I try my best to show appreciation and let them know about all the good that they are doing. This is completely authentic and sincere, and I hope that is how it comes across. I have also learned how important it is to support and help others grow. I try to find that "thing" in everyone and foster and grow that.
5) My "people": I have found myself saying "my people" a lot lately and I hope no one takes it as an insult. In saying this, I just mean that these are the people that I feel are my "tribe". The people that I work with, I interact with, I collaborate with and I grow with. It is so important to have others in your corner and I hope that I am able to be that for "my people" as they have been for me. We encourage each other, are sounding boards for each other, we lift each other up and we grow together. We need others to help propel us forward, I believe we are all better together!
It is hard in the hustle and bustle and "drama" of life, to always see those bright spots. I know I struggle with it, that is why I talk about it so much. I try to convince myself. But I think it is important to do it. Please try your best to not let negativity or glitches or bumps, detour you from your good. From your path. From your purpose. Try to find the learning in every experience, those experiences are there as your teacher. Take time to reflect on those bright spots...they are always there. We need them.
So, for the purpose of this post, I am replacing the word "pain" in Glennon's quote with the word "struggle". I know that struggle is a traveling professor. I know that through struggle there is learning. I just didn't know that others would share that. I am so glad that they did. This should be what we talk about. This is life, this is happening and this should be celebrated. We all have stories to tell, important stories. Let's share the wisdom we have gained, let's share our stories, they have power!
Looking back, my life has been pretty great. I have not had to deal with many devastating struggles, but I have struggled. And as you know, when you are in the midst of the storm, it is hard to look for that rainbow. So no matter the magnitude of the struggle, for each person, that struggle is real, and that struggle is big and the struggle is necessary.
What I observed from the chat responses was that people shared the learning from their struggles. How they used what they went through to grow, improve and help others. That is the magic! People have had to suffer undue stress, pain, struggle, but what many have realized is that they do eventually come out the other end and often times they come out with learning.
I heard stories of near death experiences, loss of jobs, dealing with tough behaviors, awful school experiences. But what I also witnessed was how people used these to change their stories and others.
I do not need to share my personal struggles here, this is not the point of this post. But I will share the learning I gained along the way:
1) Lead with empathy- See and understand things through other people's eyes.
2) Look for the bright spots- We have to, they are there...we just need to make the effort to find them.
3) Lift up others- When we lift up others, we also lift up ourselves.
4)Find the learning- There is a reason for the struggle, search for it.
5)We can do hard things- Muster up that resilience and strength because struggle is necessary, there is a reason.
6) Grow others- Help others to learn from your struggles, propel them forward.
7) Fail Forward- Failure will happen, take the learning, move on and grow.
8) Just keep swimming- Don't get stuck in the rabbit hole, you just have to keep going.
I wish I could go back and share these things with my former self, as I was in the midst of struggle, but I can't. All I can do is try to instill these things in my own children and those I come in contact with.
I am very proud of the #SVTChat crew and the deep reflection that they share with each other. I am lucky and thankful to be part of such a team.
About a month ago, I received a text at work from my 12 year old daughter. She was at school and told me about an awful tragedy she heard about at school. Something happened in our town the night before and she wanted me to find out information. She explained that this affected the life of a boy in her grade. She continued to send me texts throughout the day, trying to make sense of what had happened. I gathered the facts of this awful event and tried to make sense of it myself. I didn't see her until after 9 that night because of her crazy dance schedule. She walked into my room, crawled in my lap, shaking. Literally shaken to her core. Then she started crying "Why, mommy? Why? What about Sean (name changed for ambiguity)? What is going to happen to him? I feel so bad. Why did this happen?". I unfortunately didn't have those answers.
What I didn't know, was that this boy Sean, was a good friend of hers (although I know her reaction would have been the same if he had been a stranger). Her heart was literally broken for this boy. This is her first heart break of many to come. Here is what amazed me. My daughter, had called this boy, from school upon hearing the news. She did not hesitate to show up for her friend. She did not think twice about reaching out to make sure he was ok and see what she could do to help. I don't know if I could have done the same. Sometimes when struck with a tragedy, something that doesn't make sense, we retreat. We worry about doing the right thing, she did not...she just worried about him. She did what I don't think I would be brave enough to do. She taught me something in that moment. She taught me that you just do. You don't think, you follow your heart because your heart knows what's right. My daughter is pure empathy. I know this about her, and I love this about her. I also worry for her, because I know when your heart is that open, it is wide open for hurt.
I have been called a "Pollyanna" most of my life. And when I have been called this, I don't think it was meant to be a good thing. But, to me, it is. I would rather be a "Pollyanna" than a "Grinch". In the instances when I have been called this, it was because I have tried to look at a different side of things. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of others and see things through their eyes. I don't think this is a negative trait. This is what I call: empathy. I don't pretend that life is full of unicorns and rainbows, I'm not naive, but what I do is I tend to give the benefit of the doubt. I try to make sense of things, understand where people are coming from.
I think this is very important when in any leadership role. And like I've said before, we are ALL leaders. A leader is not defined by a title, but our actions. And since we are ALL leaders, someone is always watching and learning from us. What do we want them to see? What do we want them to learn? For me, I want others to learn to be empathetic. I want others to not judge and to see things through other people's lenses before taking action (if action is needed). I think that this trait can only help one as a leader. This is when emotional quotient (EQ) comes into play. I think it would be very difficult to be an effective leader without a high EQ. You need to be able to appeal and understand others, in order to lead and effect change. Leadership is not a party of one, but a party of many. Most likely, this party will be filled with many different personalities, ideas and views. Embrace that.
This quote is one that I keep foremost in my mind whenever I am talking to someone and I can read between the lines: "Everyone is fighting a battle that we don't know about.". What usually happens, at least to me, someone will share their opinion, idea, emotion with me and then they share the REAL stuff. I can tell they are at the tipping point and it usually comes out. It is hardly ever about the "stuff", but what's behind the stuff. At this point, I feel my role is to be that ear, that shoulder, that empathetic heart. That is where that connection is built and that understanding occurs. If this makes me Pollyanna, so be it.
We will come across people that have different views, ideas, agendas other than our own. Do we just shut them down and dismiss them? I think not. I think it is important to listen and honor where other people are coming from. In doing this, we build trust and respect for each other. This is important to instill in our own children as well as our students. We need to teach them to think beyond themselves. We need to teach them how to disagree, but be kind. We need to model how to understand but not judge others.
Empathy doesn't mean that you are blind to the negative, it means you take the time to understand. For me, this is time well spent. Show kindness and empathy to someone today, we all need it.
I have been struggling to write lately, and it hurts. I know I have the need to write, I have the desire to write and I have the ability to write...but something has been holding me back. Something has been clogging my brain, I realized what it is...it's the chatter.
I was inspired to write this post by a Twitter chat last night. We have so many amazing people, doing amazing things...but there is still this hesitation...this weariness. They know the need, they have the desire and the ability...but something is holding them back.
I have found myself repeating the same phrase, lately...as I often do. But it wasn't until now, that it clicked for me. Something that I have been struggling with, is apparently very common. I have found myself advising others, with what others have been advising me. Tune out the chatter!
For me, there are three kinds of chatter:
1) Inner Chatter: This is that little voice that is within you. This voice can be used for good or evil. It depends on what it is saying and what you choose to do with it. More often than not, I have found that people tend to tune into that negative voice. The one that stems from fear. I have written about fear in previous posts, so I will not go into detail here. But this is the one that holds us back from taking risks, from putting ourselves out there, from doing the right thing. Imagine all the great that could be accomplished if we just tuned out that inner chatter. What if we shut it out and just did?
2) Outer Chatter: This is that chatter that you hear from others. Again, it can be used for good or evil. It depends on what is said and what you choose to do with it. More often than not, I have found that people mostly tune into that negative outer chatter. I have written about Newton's third law, before...but I think it is important to remember. For every action, there is an equal and OPPOSITE reaction. Are we going to let those opposing voices dictate our journey? Are we going to let the naysayers hold us back from doing what we feel is right? I know how hard it is...believe me. I have this struggle, constantly. It takes courage. It takes courage to go against what others are saying and keep plugging on.
3) Hybrid Chatter: This is where the two converge. I feel that this is the most threatening of the three. This is where we let that outer chatter influence that inner chatter. WE internalize what is being said on the outside and start to believe it. It takes great strength to prohibit this from happening.
So...what is the antidote? I wish I knew, because it sure would make life much easier. I will share with you what I think can help:
-Believe in YOUR purpose: If you have confidence in your role, your reason...stay on that path. DO NOT let that chatter detour you. Keep moving forward, despite. Keep that purpose foremost in your mind and just keep your eye on it. Believe in yourself that you are doing good. Unfortunately, there will be that chatter. What keeps me going is the constant reminder that my sole purpose is: Do Good. If that is my sincere reason for my actions and decisions, I owe it to myself and others to keep going.
-Reflect: Where is this chatter coming from? Who is this chatter coming from? Why is there chatter? When we can sit back and reflect on these things, we will gain more clarity. Sometimes, we can not line up the dots, we may not understand, it may not make sense...but we have to be ok with that. But at least start asking those questions...it may help. We can only control that Inner Chatter. Try to tune out any negative and focus on the good. On your good work, your good ideas, your good influence.
-Flip that switch: Change the chatter. Focus on the positive, within yourself, within others. If it is that outside chatter and you know that you can not change it, don't. Don't even try. Control what you can control. Line yourself up with people that will lift you up, support you and help you to grow and move forward. Also, find those bright spots...they are EVERYWHERE, you just need to look through that lens.
-Just do! If you believe in what you are doing. Just do it, and do it well. Do it with confidence. Will it always turn out right? No, but that is ok. Learn from it and keep going. It takes courage to do hard things...but it is important to do those hard things; if it is for the benefit of yourself or others.
My best advice (and I need to take my own)- Stay true to you in knowing your purpose. Stay on that path, if it is something that you believe in. DO NOT let that chatter take you down the wrong road.
Mother, Teacher, Administrator, Presenter, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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