The Best Thing About the Last Day of Summer…

….is that you get to look forward to the first day coming again!  In between now and then, we get to enjoy the blessings of many holidays that bring so much love and joy.  

No matter what your age or what you do for a living, there is nothing like the first day of school. You’ve experienced it, and whether you’ve enjoyed it or not, there is nothing like it.  IT’S THE FIRST DAY! Now you get to watch your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, or family friends experience it.  Personally speaking, I think it’s the best!

The first day of school brings with it such a mix of emotions.  For children and adults alike, it can usher in excitement, apprehension, anxiety, and fear of the unknown.  Some wait all summer for the first day of school, while others hide under their covers begging for the summer to never end.

Either way, the start of the new school year brings a host of heart-warming holidays I look forward to celebrating with family and friends: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year.  Before you know it, the snow has arrived and we’re honoring those we love on Valentine’s Day, coloring our beer green on St. Patrick’s Day, and waiting patiently for the crocuses to peek their heads out of the ground to prove to us spring is on its way.

Before we know it, spring has sprung, and we’re making plans for the Memorial Day weekend.  See how quickly the year goes? It’s like twenty minutes. In all seriousness, we all know how important it is to savor each moment;  to live each day to its fullest and to be as present as we can in each situation.  It’s a practice and shifting your mindset to one that is more lighthearted and fun can really alter your world and change the way you look at things; even the end of summer.

back to school

For those of you that are dreading the start of the school year, think about all the great things that happen in your world as a result of the new flow.  For those of you who are welcoming it, run straight toward it embracing it for all it has to offer.  Either way, it’s temporary. Summer will come around again, we just need to be patient, bless it as it goes, and bless the new school year as it arrives. The things we don’t welcome into our lives happen to teach us how to look at things in a whole new light.

I hope you’re looking at the end of summer with a warm, sparkly glow, and see the new fall season with peace in your heart. Love ❤

A Handful of Quiet

 

I bought this lovely book a few years ago when I began teaching fifth grade.  It was my intention to kick the year off with it, but it never happened.  Being new to the elementary school environment, I was barely able to keep my head above water.  As a matter of fact, my head was never above water.  My lips were really, really close to the top. I could see the light, and was begging for air like a gold fish swimming around in murky water needing the water is his bowl changed.

The water in my bowl needed to be changed big time.  Never have I ever had to work so hard to implement every single bit of energy work I had in my back pocket.  Whew…. I’m glad it’s over! I’m beginning my twentieth year in education (woo-hoo!) and my third year with the fifth graders. I’m still in the water, but now I’m wading through it and enjoying the coolness of the water’s edge.  It’s very refreshing as I twirl my arms and allow my fingertips to skim the ripples that surround me.

The anxiety and stress levels of the kids in my classroom are just some of the ripples that desperately need to be managed all throughout the day. This year, the kids are getting Mindfulness notebooks to decorate and make their own.  I know they’re going to have a good time with the drawing exercises this book offers and they’ll absolutely LOVE going outside to hunt for four pebbles to represent a flower for freshness and beauty, a mountain for feeling solid, water for reflecting and stillness, and space for the feeling of freedom. I can’ wait to get started!

Resources for Family Practice: Related books

Mindfulness Retreat Communities for families: I’ve never visited any of the locations below, but if you’re curious…

Blue Cliff Monastery

Friends have visited Blue Cliff Monastery and very much enjoyed the experience.  I hope to head there this fall.

Deer Park Monastery

Magnolia Grove Monastery

Plum Village

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Self-Talk

Our self-talk is the creator of our universe.  It is the voice of our heart, mind, and soul, and reflects our perceptions of the world, others, and ourselves.  It guides us, criticizes us, supports us, and impacts our decisions. Our “inner voice” often influences our moods and determines if we are happy, sad, relaxed, worried, optimistic, or helpless.  Because self-talk is the “voice” we hear most, it has more influence on us and can impact our future more than anything else.

It’s estimated that 80% of what the average person says to him/herself is harmful, pessimistic, and undermining.

Ask yourself and consider:

  • Are you willing to easily accept less than perfection from yourself?
    • Do you give yourself permission to do less than 100%?
  • What do you say to yourself when you make a mistake? Do you give yourself a hard time?
    • How can you be more compassionate with yourself?
  • Is “should” one of the most prominent words in your vocabulary? Do you hear yourself often saying, “I should be working”, “I should go on a diet”, “I should get that done”, etc.  
    • Stop shoulding on yourself!
  • Do you compliment yourself when you look in the mirror?
    • What are some lovely things you can say to yourself, even on your worst day?
  • Do you give yourself praise for your accomplishments?
    • Don’t wait for someone else to pat you on the back.  Know you are already enough.
  • Are you uncomfortable accepting compliments? Do you brush off the compliment and say something negative about yourself or give the credit to someone else?
    • Just smile and say, ‘Thank you.”
  • Do you ever say things to yourself that you would never say to a friend because it would hurt his/her feelings?
    • Speak to yourself the same way you speak to those who you hold very near and dear to your heart.  You deserve nothing less.
  • Do you ever hear words of a critical parent, family member or boss out of your mouth- directed to yourself?
    • Don’t beat yourself up.  Start again.  Apologize to yourself and take a moment and think of something kind and loving to say.

Self-Talk Strategies

  1. Before reacting to the ONE thing you did not do correctly, remember the times you have been stellar today.
  2. If you “hear” a negative internal message about yourself, stop and provide a positive statement.
  3. Dropped the ball?  Let it go. Remind yourself of your true value and potential and move on.
  4. Every time you give someone a compliment, give yourself one too!
  5. Be patient.  You’re reprogramming your mind.  It takes time, but if you persist, you will be living in a new reality.  True reality is not made for us but by us.

S.H.I.F.T work….

Choose an affirmation or two that works for you and write or type it up on beautiful pieces of paper.  Place the affirmations in areas around your home and/or work to act as constant reminders.  

I type mine up and turn the paper into a tent with a trifold. I place the tent on my bathroom sink and look at it every morning while getting ready.

I’ve even gone so far as to laminate some and hang them in the shower for my kids if I felt they needed a little help. Of course, they thought I was nuts, but it never hurts to teach your kids how to help themselves.

 

Let The Help In

Two years ago I made the switch from being the Library Media Specialist in the middle school to teaching fifth grade in one of the elementary schools in our district. It was hard for many to understand the need for the change.  Many saw a “cushy” job and had difficulty wrapping their heads around why I would want to leave such a position when the classroom had taken such a turn with high stakes and countless demands.Truth is, there is nothing cushy about the role of the Library Media Specialist.

The self-contained classroom was something I had always dreamed of experiencing. After teaching seventeen years I knew I wanted to have that experience before I retired.  The years were flying by and knew I had to make a move.

I listened as colleagues growled about all the changes that were happening in the classroom, and rather than being turned off I wanted to be a part of it all.  I was envious of all they were experiencing. Truth be told, I was totally underutilized in my current position.  The role that once excited me and made me run laps around the school with fresh new ideas and tech tips that would enrich any lesson had suddenly morphed into one that was not allowing me to grow.   

With extensive knowledge and experience to share, I found myself fixing copy machines and printers and scheduling space for classes to be held in computer labs.  I had a solid core group of teachers who sought me out for true collaboration and we rocked their instruction as we designed lessons that were relevant, challenging, and engaging. One of the many roles of the Library Media Specialist is to help teachers implement technology into their lessons and to incorporate the 4C’s of 21st Century learning at their core: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity.

The beauty of the role is to watch how lessons bloom as they are made flexible and provide access for all learners.   All this happens as the reading collection is balanced to the standards and graded levels of study are created while digital citizenship is imparted to the student body.  The role provides the drive that keeps the community buzzing with a consistent vibration for all to feel.

Prior to the Library Media Center, I taught seventh and eighth grade Language Arts for eight years and missed the natural high I would get from implementing best practices with my classes.  I understood high-stakes in the classroom and parental demands, but perhaps some colleagues believed I was out of the classroom too long to offer anything that could enhance their practice. I get that.

At times I took it personally, while other times I realized just how tough the demands were that teachers were feeling in the classroom.  Teachers barely had time to teach the strict standards they were held to and were floundering to add in their own personal flare. For many, they couldn’t even begin to think about chatting with me about new ideas or adding flexible media to their lessons, let alone collaborate with me.  Finding the time to do that was too great a thought.

This mindset was hard to break through and I was going nowhere professionally.  I was no longer feeling challenged in my role and cried inside with every printer cartridge I put an order in for. I ached for growth and more of a challenge to work in the true collaborative sense with my colleagues.  Change was eminent.

With the help of open minded leadership, I interviewed for a fifth grade opening at one of our elementary schools and never looked back. I now live the high stakes and parental demands on a daily basis, and my experiences have taught me to never feel too overwhelmed to stop and let others in who can offer help.  

My role as the Library Media Special is so very close at heart and I love working collaboratively with the incredibly talented specialist in my new school.  She has so much to offer with so many networking tools that only her role and expertise can provide.  

Administrators and teachers need to shift old mindsets to this idea of letting the help in.  The only thing that can result from true collaboration with your Library Media Specialist, as well as other colleagues, is engaging lessons with flexible media to provide further access to the content, and an abundance of resources to enrich the learning experience.  Are you in?

Vulnerable and Rusty

I awoke this Sunday morning to a personal vow of not allowing work to be all-encompassing in the practice to continue to live a more balanced life.  Breakfast is finished and I’m feeling encouraged. I pull out the computer and sit in my favorite spot at the end of the dining room table. The energy is good here and I enjoy the brain breaks the wide window to the neighborhood provides.  As I acknowledge the want to write more and allow my creativity to flow, my fingers go to work on the keyboard as my right arm breaks out into hives.

Convinced the breakout is in direct correlation with the swirling thoughts I’m suppressing about Monday approaching, lessons that need attention, and papers that need grading, I pretend I’m not stressed by the idea of it all.  My body continues to react and denial allows the hives to hop over to my left arm.  My breathing gets shallower.

I remove myself from the table and walk over to the bookshelf to look for my thin, little book of sanity written by Louis Hay, published in 1998, the very year I began teaching.  What irony.  I do a quick flip through the pages of Heal Your Body A – Z  in search of “H” .  I skim passed Hip Problems and Hirsutism, not knowing what that is, and land on Hives (Urticaria) see: Rash.

Hives:

Probable Cause: Small, hidden fears, Mountains out of molehills.

New Thought Pattern: I bring peace to every corner of my life

For lots of reasons, it makes perfect sense to me. I’ve switched roles at work and I’m not being as patient with myself as I need to be.  Now I’m curious about what message  Rash has to offer. I continue to flip through the pages to the beginning of the R’s pass Rabies at the top of the list, and land on Rash.  This is what I find:

Probable Cause: Irritation over delays. Babyish way to get attention

New Thought Pattern: I love and approve of myself. I am at peace with the process of life.

Irritation over delays I get.  My world of work is not where I’d like it to be and I’m working really hard to honor all those things that are not where I’d like them to be like: this week’s lessons, the class blog, filing, the dinners I’m not cooking at night because I’m too tired, and the yoga classes I’m not attending any longer for the same reason.

Babyish way of getting attention, I didn’t get. I sat with this probable cause for a bit. It didn’t take me long to figure out it is meant to tell me to buck up and get over it.  Snap out of it.

I’m learning to give myself permission to feel the feelings that arise and not to judge.  I’ve also learned to offer these moments up and allow my higher power to take over.  This is the best treat of all.  Remembering that I’m not in this alone makes everything so much more delightful.  Time to sit, breathe, and be thankful I have a job to be anxious over 😉

Affirmations

Many people have scripted our self-talk, and the good news is we can re-script it.

By selecting and feeding our minds positive affirmations the programming in our minds will change.  Professional athletes and business people have used the technique of affirmations for years to increase their performance and success. An affirmation is a statement of fact or belief (positive or negative) that will lead toward the end result you expect.   

Here are some examples of affirmations created by Robert Egby.  Have fun creating your own.  These will get you started.  Good luck and remember, think well and be well. Which one will you choose for yourself today?

  • I am positive, confident and radiate good things
  • I have energy, enthusiasm, and vitality
  • I am totally relaxed and confident. When I am relaxed I achieve more.
  • I realize that time is my most valuable resource, so I carefully use it on only what is important to me.
  • I am a professional, respected person, fully capable of earning a professional, respected income.
  • I attract success into my life.  I deserve everything that success brings.
  • I really am very special.  I like who I am and I feel good about myself.
  • I was designed and created, in body and mind, to achieve.
  • I am a person of quality and strength.  I deserve success.
  • I always look for ways I can get something done instead of finding reasons why I cannot.
  • I always listen to those around me and work to understand their needs.
  • I enjoy showing others the best of themselves.  I always accept them at their best.
  • I have strength, absolute determination, and limitless endurance in the pursuit of my goals.
  • Everyday, in every way, I feel better and better.
  • I am calm and confident.  I have the quiet self-assurance of winning in my life.
  • I have inner peace.  I am living my life in a positive and worthwhile way.
  • I have purpose and value in my life. I love who I am and I enjoy being me.
  • I love and accept myself completely as I am.
  • I am intelligent.  My mind is quick and alert and clever and fun.
  • I think good thoughts, and my mind makes things work right for me.
  • I am able to see a precise picture of exactly what my goals are in everything I do and what I must do to achieve each of them.
  • Because winning takes energy, good health, and a strong, positive attitude, I make sure that I keep myself fit-both mentally and physically.
  • I take full responsibility for everything about me, even the thoughts I think.
  • I always visualize myself being at my absolute best in every part o my personal/professional life.
  • I learn from everything I do and everyone I meet.
  • My mind is clear and alert.  It is capable of meeting any challenge I place before it.
  • I have excellent powers of concentration.  I attune all my senses to the subject at hand, and I am able to focus my attention more and more easily each day.
  • I am creative.  I like to find new and interesting ways to do things in my life.
  • Every day, something new and interesting happens in my life.
  • I like myself and I like my goals.  I am moving forward in my life.

TIPS:

  • You may want to get yourself a copy of Louise Hay’s book, Heal Your Body A-Z.  In addition to having beautiful artwork, each page is structured with three columns:
    • Ailments which are listed from A-Z
    • An explanation of what’s happening in your world as a result of your ailment
    • An Affirmation that aids in creating a SHIFT in mindset set, which will aid to rid you of your ailment.

Heal

It’s Not As Easy As It Sounds

The pangs of waking up to bright lights creeping underneath the crack of my door as they light the way to the bathroom for me churn deep in my gut. This morning I will not breathe the stale hotel room air and bend to pick up the newspaper that’s been slipped through the crack of the door at an ungodly hour by a no doubt too tired hotel worker. It all makes me wish I was not home. This morning, there is no newspaper. This morning, I woke in the comforts of my own bed; in the darkness of day light savings time in Northern New Jersey.

Most New Jersey public schools close the second Thursday and Friday of November each school year, while tens of thousands of garden state educators descend on the popular boardwalk of Atlantic City for four days of professional development and a pedagogical high.  The professional tradition has long been a part of who I am as an educator and during my eighteen years of teaching, I can name four times when I did not attend.

The role of board member for the NJMSA (New Jersey Middle School Association) kept me away guilt free as we represented our organization at the National Middle School convention in Philly the same weekend.  September 11th, 2001 was the second time.  The idea of being engulfed in large crowds was understandably too nerve-wracking and kept me home.  A medical leave of absence as I battled cancer in 2007 stalled me for the third time. Finally, a new position of a semi-self-contained classroom in 5th grade paralyzed me, leaving me home in 2015 to balance my world, center my mind and prevent me from leaving the profession altogether. Until now, middle school teaching had been my entire career. Elementary school teachers are superheroes.

I have always believed strongly in the obligation to attend the convention each year, especially since schools were closed in its honor.  This year marks my second year as a  5th grade classroom teacher. I MADE IT THROUGH YEAR ONE…and it wasn’t easy. With a calm cool breath, grounded in confidence, I gratefully sit here typing guilt free in my home on this morning when all the fun is beginning in AC. I type not without regret, knowing hordes of my colleagues are preparing to wake to newspapers under their doors, breathe that lovely stale hotel air, and begin their exploration of knowledge.

This year I will once again miss the cool salty air stinging my lungs and the crisp November wind tearing my eyes as I stroll down the boardwalk with my backpack slung over my shoulder to catch the shuttle to my first workshop. No rushing for me.  I had navigating the convention figured out long ago.  My schedule set with all workshop times and back up courses dog-eared and mapped out in the event of overcrowding.  My sacred time is not to be wasted.

To write about the exhibit floor is too painful:  Author’s Alley, Main Street NJEA, Digital Boulevard.  Ugh, this is really painful.  I am compelled to hop in the car and take the three-hour drive just be to immersed in the splendor of it all.

What keeps me home writing about my regretting this momentous gathering is the recognition of my need to be still.  If you’re a teacher, you need no further explanation.  If you’re not a teacher, please keep an open mind.  There is no thing that can explain the first two months of the school year.  I say this with love in my heart, compassion in my veins and patience seeping from my pores. Being a second year 5th grade teacher has been the single most rewarding position I have held in the history of my teaching career.  I am over the moon with where my path has taken me and often wonder how many others are fortunate enough to stand in the same space and absolutely, unwittingly be in love with what they do each day as they contribute to society.

Five o’clock last night, I pulled away from my classroom door with my SUV packed to the roof with boxes of papers in need of filing.  Looking like a kid on his way to college for the first time, I navigated my way home with enough visibility to get me home safely.  Last night’s rain has left my car still crammed. The contents of that car, in addition to the new iDoceo classroom management application, the online Mindful Schools course I’m enrolled in, and a new ELA curriculum unit is my convention this year.

I love that I have arrived to a place that is guilt free.  I realize while being at the convention is where my heart lies, staying home to complete what is already in process is my acknowledgement of self-care and dedication to health and wellness.  I will return to the convention one day, and hopefully it will be next year.  No matter how many years you have been teaching, no matter how many different hats you wear as an educator, there is always something to learn. There is always something new and improved or old and steadfast you forgot about in your bag of tricks.

I wish for all my colleagues who are home, in Atlantic City or elsewhere learning how to be the best they can be whatever that may look like, a wonderfully long weekend of learning and innovation and most importantly, some rest and relaxation to rejuvenate your spirit.