teachingcognitively

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Category: personal

A letter to myself to start the school year…

We all have hopes and dreams for the year.  Instead of writing my goals or thinking about hopes I am more interested in a letter to the my mid-year self reminding me about what I want to accomplish and what I want to remember from this summer.  Summer for a teacher is a time of reflection and learning and this summer was no different.  It was a tough summer.  In the beginning of July I had brain surgery to remove tissue that formed over a shunt that had been put in with no problems 12 years ago. The surgery itself went great and I recovered well but it was a tough way to start the summer. I had just started a yoga teacher training when I had surgery. After being home recovering for a week I returned to the Yoga Teacher Training that I had started before my surgery.  The YTT (Yoga Teacher Training) was a powerful and time consuming part of my summer.  Maybe due to this I am more reflective on what I want to take with me into the year this fall and less likely to jump into doing stuff, layering on worksheets and questionnaires, quicker to get to the meat and the important stuff.  It was in this midst of this reflection that three key ideas began to crystalize for me.

  1. Take care of Self
  2. Open your hands and breathe
  3. Take time on the things you think are important

Obviously taking care of self emerged after my surgery. It just so happens that the time right before the surgery I had overloaded myself. It was the end of the year that is always crazy, I did a half-marathon in Vermont for Memorial Day weekend, I had started a fellowship and was finishing a class.  I was stretched in all directions.  It was not a good month without the surgery and the surgery certainly stopped me in my tracks.  I hope that I do not need these sorts of wake-up calls in the future.  Sadly, the first brain surgery I had to put in my shunt also came when I overbooked myself as I was graduating from college…coincidence?

During the YTT we had to assist yoga classes. The classes were very crowded and it was stressful helping while not being the teacher.  Our teacher constantly emphasized our energy in the room as a tool to assist.  She urged us to walk with our hands open and breathe deep.  When commenting on our assisting after the classes she often referred to our breath and body language.  I hope to remind myself to open my hands and breathe often. If nothing else is working at the very least I can be grounded and open to my students.

In August of this summer I went to a workshop at the Green Engineering Lab at Newton North High School.  This Nationally recognized STEM program was impressive to visit and Steve Chinosi, the founder head of the program, was very generous with his time and ideas.  Of all we learned there, and there was a lot to learn, the most powerful was that Steve did not start his Innovation classes with a lot of guidelines or worksheets. He starts right away with building because he wants to emphasize what is important to him.  The time we put on things and what we chose to do emphasizes our values.  It’s why I am starting my year with hearing about where all my students are at after their summer.  I teach science but more importantly I teacher students and the science means very little if I am not teaching students well.

My students will be writing letters to themselves tomorrow.  I will be reading them this letter to start. Each interim and then each quarter we will go back and read our letters and add, revise or just notice where we are at.  I am excited to see how we all feel about our letters in June.  Here’s to a year of time and care for self, breathing and taking time on the things that are truly important.

 

 

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Challenges change you

At the CrossFit gym the trainers have t-shirt that say “If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.” I like these shirts from a vanity perspective since when a workout is kicking my butt I can imagine the impact it will have on my waist size. I started doing CrossFit this spring. With the encouragement of a colleague I did a Tough Mudder race with the CrossFit team before I really went to the “box” much. Originally I signed up for the race to keep myself motivated to work out and it worked. I worked out regularly (though I still would have liked to do more), stayed in pretty good shape and ran longer than I usually do. Come race week I was petrified. I had not done any sort of competition for at least a few years since I had my son and wasn’t riding horses anymore. There was a pit in my stomach and I realized I was not sure I could do it.

I did it, slowly, very slowly but I did it. At the tunnel with water where you couldn’t see the end I paused and needed a teammate to help me overcome my claustrophobia and crawl through. I finished muddy, with blisters, sore and tired and felt like I could take on the world. I signed up for a half marathon I will be running this fall before the high wore off.

Its funny that I did not make a connection to the Tough Mudder and my new love for CrossFit with my change in jobs until just now. After 6 years in a very lovely job as a 5th and 6th grade math and science teacher at a small, progressive Charter School, I too a new job as an alternative education science teacher at a Regional non-charter public high school. It was scary to leave my comfort zone, my colleagues, my friends, my students and all I had built but I knew it was a valuable move. I was not feeling challenged anymore in my old job and was not continuing to evolve and improve as a teacher. There was too much whining and complaining about things I couldn’t change. I was focused heavily on math and missed my time on science, my original focus in education.

About to return to my 2nd year I could not be happier I made the move. It was very hard and a lot of work to start all over again. Many times I worried I was not smart enough, not clear enough with my students, not organized enough, not good enough; it challenged me and it changed me. My teaching is better, my planning is better, my grading is better, my projects are better and I think my classes will be better this year. It is not a coincidence that this change coincided with my exploration of Twitter as a tool for professional development. I have a professional account now and tons of resources and information from amazing educators and professionals in all areas of education from around the world. That Professional Learning Network (PLN) continues to challenge me and hopefully change me for the better. So I guess it reminds me as I start a new year to keep challenging myself and keep changing. I would hope all educators ask themselves once in awhile, when was the last time I felt challenged? Hopefully it wasn’t too long ago.