Aimless

It’s been one of those aimless Saturdays:sol

Lazy awakening
Homegrown breakfast
School board phone call
Writing Project correspondence
Taxes
Fafsa
Goat hoof trimming
Clean kitchen
Wine with lunch while still in pajamas
Chatting with Chloe
Yoga with dogs
Bath with Moroccan salts
Book- delicious and witchy
Noodles with husband, youngest and pal
Wolverine- too violent for me
Martini and John Denver documentary- much more my style
More dog playtime
The promise of returning soon to the same comfy bed

Sometimes I find these kinds of days unfulfilling and frustrating. But today I feel accomplished. I nurtured my inner self, my relationships, took steps toward completing unhappy tasks, stood my ground, shared tender moments with my pets and found entertainment in books, big screen and spirits.

Life is delicious.

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Aimless

Eyes Opened

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hToday I observed a 7th grade class participating in a Socratic Discussion on the themes in their books centered on the Civil Rights Movement. They’re just learning the format, and more importantly, they are just dipping their toes into a piece of American history that they’ve been protected from thus far.

Their questions were so innocent.

Why did people treat black people this way?
Where did this start?
What were they afraid of?
Why are people so slow to change?
Why weren’t laws upheld?

Their ideas were so insightful and timely.

Education provided advantages.
People are afraid of what they don’t know… of those who are different.
Whites found ways to hold power over minorities.
Nobody wants to change.
Change can only happen when the dominant culture joins in with the disadvantaged.

At the end of the discussion, one student started an avalanche of questions about how their eyes were just opened.

Why haven’t we ever learned this before?
Why have we heard of only Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr, but not Claudette Colvin or Emmit Till?
Why didn’t Dr. King ever see his Dream come true?

Sigh. I don’t need to tell you what I’m thinking about these kids’ wonderings. I don’t even think they’re all that remarkable. I believe these wonderings should live in all Americans’ hearts and minds.

But they don’t. What I’m wondering is how even though these students’ eyes have been opened and maybe their hearts have been changed, many will close their eyes- sooner than later. A run in with a high school student sporting a racist t-shirt this week proved me correct.

My choice is to persist: We take a stand. We march onward. Together.

 

Eyes Opened

In like a lion…

solYesterday, I awoke to grey skies and cold rain. I spent two hours at one school and left to a sea of white. A beautiful sea of white.

The snow was unexpected- by me. It was double what was expected for those who tolerated the news the night before. As usual, I heard plenty of complaining.

I’m on my 4th winter of promising to myself not to complain about Wisconsin winters. Compared to giving up sugar, committing to exercise, and not opening wine mid-week, giving up complaining is easy as pie. Sigh.

So when the snow finally tapered off, my husband, 17 year-old and I ventured out to clean up the driveway. The snow was heavy, the snow blower wasn’t working properly, but under all those stars in the black sky, the world was beautiful.

We seized the moment. Our dogs frolicked, I celebrated the bonus workout, and our son began digging and building. I can’t explain the joy I felt at watching our youngest son- the last kid left at home- as he played in the snow.

For our Luke, it’s the most stressful week ever. The practice ACT, the ACT, the Work Keys (ACT), and today- FINALS! Thank goodness for that snow… for fresh air… for pets… for play.

There’s so much to be grateful for. When it comes to nature, I’ll never complain!

In like a lion…

Celebrating Books & Readers

solHow do your schools celebrate Read Across America week? I’ve worked in a few schools, and more often than not, the week is celebrated in ways that don’t focus on reading. Weird, right? It’s true, though. We make reading-related crafts, host dress-up days, eat green eggs and ham and have Dr. Seuss birthday cake.

Today, we did have a super reader dress-up day, but more importantly, we hosted our first ever school-wide book swap. Kudos to our reading committee to being open to trying something new, and even more gratitude to our reading specialists for organizing this event.

Starting a few weeks ago, students were invited to donate a book or two. The books were sorted, a schedule was created, and today we held the big event. Teachers brought their classes to our large group instruction area, where books were spread out across tables, inviting a new pair of hands and eyes.

Every child left with a new to you book.

I loved this day for plenty of reasons:

  1. JOY- kids were downright excited about shopping for and reading a new book!
  2. COMMUNITY- I heard kids saying, This is a great book for Alexa!  They helped one another choose books and after they’d chosen they clumped together, reading their books to one another with no direction to do so.
  3. SHARING- Books are meant to be shared. When students couldn’t decide, or wished they’d gotten a book that a friend chose, we simply encouraged them to read the book they had and then to swap with their friends when they were ready to do so.
  4.  GIVING- We celebrated the fact that so many had given a book for this event. I know we’ll have even more success next year. We have enough books left over that we’ll be able to get books into kids’ hands this summer.
  5. READING- Dressing up, making book marks and eating cake are all fun. But so is reading. We were all reminded about finding magic in a book today.
Celebrating Books & Readers

Breathe

I’ve been practicing breathing with my daily yoga practice. “Listen to the sound of your breath,” Adriene says. It sounds a little goofy, and if you’re doing the lion’s breath, it also looks goofy. But, the remarkable thing is that by focusing on breathing, you are able to clear your head, focus on what matters, and see things [your day, your life, your difficult pose] in a new way.

Betsy DeVos was just confirmed as our country’s Secretary of Education. By now we all know who she is, what she stands for, and how she “earned” the position. I’m pissed. I grieve. I want to give up- despite all the opposition, she was confirmed. How will we ever block any other nominee?

A dear friend reminded me, though, that revolution doesn’t happen in a day. The rights that we hold as Americans took years, decades, protests, fights, wars. Now is not a time for dwelling in feelings of defeat.

Back to the lion’s breath. According to yogapedia.com:

Lion’s breath is the breathing technique, or pranayama, which goes with simhasana, or lion pose. It is a powerful breathing method that includes a forceful exhalation. The name refers to the fierce lion-like expression of the yogi’s face and the roaring sound of the breath made when performing this pranayama. This breathing technique and the associated pose are well-known for their ability to reduce stress and anger through the active release of tension with the exhale…

Lion’s breath stimulates the manipura chakra, and may also improve self-esteem and feelings of empowerment.

Instead, I will take a deep breath, remember who I fight for, focus on actions I can take and with my exhale, I resolve to resist with all my energy.

Breathe

I’ve got you

I just wrapped up a semester long coaching cycle with a new teacher. It’s her second year teaching, but her first in 5th grade after transitioning from 4K! What’s more, the move happened less than two weeks before school began. Talk about nerve-wracking. Today we reflected on student growth, which was seriously rewarding. As I walked away, however, my heart and mind were on how we as teachers grew throughout this coaching experience.

This year, my curriculum director and I decided that with all the new or transitioning teachers in our district, my priority needed to be to support and grow them. In my opening email to find coaching clients, I made this loud and clear. And even though it’s not the coaching model I’m accustomed to, new teachers were more or less told that they would be working with me. This caused a bit of anxiety at first, but once we got to work, I know they were grateful to have a partner. I’m grateful, too, that we still have teachers drawn to the profession, despite a seeming lack of respect and esteem for educators. I want to make sure that we hang on to this new generation of teachers- we need them!

So as we wrapped up today, I can say assuredly that this teacher has grown enormously in her confidence to teach and reach students of this age, in her confidence to make the decision to move forward or to slow down, and in her knowing when to ask for help. This is big. Today, she knows her writing rubric well, she can carefully observe student growth in their writing and in their process, and she celebrates (we both celebrate) student success and the “stickiness” of her teaching.

As for me, I made some mistakes along the way. The biggest: in my desire for her to meet the expectations of outside literacy consultants, I pushed too hard, too early. Not only did I lose sight of our goal, I was not thinking about what this teacher was ready for. This caused anxiety and perhaps even some mistrust~ my intentions were for her to have a positive observation, but in the end, I made her doubt herself. We took a step backward and this was all on me. I reflected, embraced this failure, apologized and re-centered our work around our students and our goal. I failed forward. Failed by example.

When I think about my role with coaching clients and about teachers’ relationships with their students, failing by example can be a powerful thing. I don’t always make the best decisions in the moment, and neither do teachers. I don’t know everything or the “right” way to do it all. But I do know how to reflect. I know to think carefully about the person or people in front of me and the possible perceptions I might portray with what I say and what I do. After all, we are in this together. Our growth as professional and as humans depends on shared experiences, relationships, and belief in one another.

As I move on to new coaching relationships, I will forever carry this one with me. I believe my greatest responsibility is to help lift teachers up… and to recognize when I’m falling short. I want every teacher to truly believe it when I say, “I’ve got you!”

 

I’ve got you

Revolution of Self

I recently had a birthday, and I have to say that for a couple of years, I’ve felt in the midst of a [midlife crisis] for lack of a better term. I’ve let important pieces of my identity fall off. Over the course of the past 2 years I became a writer who stopped writing, a music-lover who stopped listening to music, a health-minded self that neglected her body, an activist who sat this last election out.

It is time for a revolution.

Like all revolutions, this one is starting small (within myself), but it can’t be done alone. Thank goodness for a strong core of family and friends AND for an extended community of like-minded writers, music-lovers, fitness friends and activists to help me take the first steps.

My son Noel is home from college and has reawakened the music lover in me. I am lucky to have raised kids who not only enjoy my music but who also keep me current with their music. We’ve been listening and dancing to Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino to name a few. Life is so much better with music.

My daughter, who is also home for winter break, has been helping me to center my mind and body along with Adriene and people all over the globe with the Yoga Revolution. We’ve  been starting our day at 5:30am11410443-0-yoga-revolution-soci to participate. Not only am I starting my day with one of my favorite people on the planet, I’m feeling stronger physically and emotionally. Namaste.

As for my activist self. I’m back, but I’ll save that for another post. Let’s just say that millions of women are with me!

The revolution is on. My revolution is on.

 

 

Revolution of Self