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Moving On

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I’ve been hearing lots of chatter lately about people wondering whether they are where they should be. In relationships, an activity, a possible addiction, with kids (mine’s 15…oy vey), at our school or post, in our industry.

‘I’m done. I’m over it. I can’t do this anymore. Why am I here?’

It doesn’t mater what profession you are in, there are always signs of weary souls wandering around.  But in the education profession, we walk a particular line with questions of moving on. We joke at work that it’s like an abusive relationship.  We start the year fresh, excited, we get worn down, we are asked of more that we can give, we go unseen, we say we’re done.  Then, right before we turn in our papers- TA DA! -we get a break (Spring, Summer, Winter? No difference at all).  And in that sweet, sweet freedom, we say…’it’s not so bad.’ Ha! And the cycle continues year after year until we turn around and can’t believe we are getting another five-year paper weight.

It’s like when you go to Target and fill your basket impulsively with a million ridiculous kitchen gadgets, DVDs you’ll never watch, 70 ridiculous lay tiny towels, and adorable stationary sets.  You feel so good…until you get to the line and realize you work for the public school system and can’t afford any of that Target magicalness and empty it all but the peanut butter and Cheerios.  But the feeling of pretending for a little bit is enough to hold you over.  For 2 hours (albeit wasted), you were all 5 (I think) of the Kardashian sisters.

So I started thinking about what factors could be considered when trying to decide if it’s time to move on.  I found three, mainly based on my BFF and main man, Viktor Frankl and his Existentialism. If you haven’t read Man’s Search for Meaning, throw your worthless electronic down and run -don’t walk- to a book store near you and get it.  Well, unless you are into digital reading, then don’t throw your electronic down, dummy. I’m sorry, that was mean.

Anywho, I think these three things are the most important to consider when trying to decide if it’s time to move on. OK, here goes:

1. Letting go of the past- Have you tried, to the best of your ability, to let go of the past?  This includes letting go of things you wish were true (even the age-old).  Hanging on to what should or could be only gets us stuck, and keeps us from being able to view our prospects with clarity.  You’ve got to let go of this and catalogue what is so that you know what the reality of the situation is.

2. Honest perspective- Have you really truly taken in other perspectives? Like, reeeallllllyyyyy tried.  This means understanding the bigger picture, our role in the larger system, and getting clarity on your situation in context of what other people are going through. I know, I know, this seems in contradiction to the first consideration, but I don’t mean stopping on what could be, but understanding our situation in a larger manner to ensure we have not simply lost focus of a world in which we are the center staple.

3. Effort toward contentment- Have you truly tried to find meaning in your situation? This one is a big nod to my Vik (we’re cool like that). A la #2, Frankl points out that Holocaust survivors, POWs, terminally ill, etc. report being able to find meaning in the moment.  They can still appreciate something, and feel a meaningful existence by something.  This is not to shame goal-seeky people though guys. I mean, a little fire goes a long way… and under the tush pushes us to do some amazing stuff.  But this is more like a gut check. Have you truly put effort into finding contentment and holding tight to it? The trick is that you should feel contentment and meaning that is not based on how you feel, but rather your contentment in being a bystander to great things and other people as well.

So here’s the deal.  I feel like these are really important to try, BUT they are not the end of the road.  Sometimes we do everything we can (these three things included) and still cannot find happiness.  It’s not that we’re not trying hard enough, maybe it’s that whatever situation you’re in has run its course. And it’s time to move on.  Like, these make up the timeless 90’s movie’s holy grail. If they don’t work, maybe you’ve really exhausted your time and effort, and/or you are STUCK (and probably bitter) and you’ll get your full mojo back after moving on. Of course, if someone keeps moving around and still feels pooty, there might be some other things to contend with- patterns are super revealing.

 

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Late Post on Leadership

I have been meaning to post about my November lesson on leadership- it was fun and I really had some good kid participation.  Having never been a classroom teacher, I am certainly a work in progress on creating lessons.  I can make things graphic enough to draw kids in, and my babies and I have good rapport to banter and keep the convo engaging, but the actual *teaching* part is definitely something I struggle with.  First, I have attention issues, so I am easily distracted (pair that with less-than-stellar classroom management and basically the kids rule the roost), and second, there is a reason I’m not a teacher.  I am so in awe by these dang teachers and their endless energy and self-control…for me, my family knows the frazzled look in my eye on those loooooonnnng classroom lesson days, and I have to decompress after being in the classroom all day.

So, it was a light-bulb moment when last year my principal (a previous outstanding teacher) told me he thought I was working too hard- bogarting all of the talking, and not having more participation. He suggested I play with incorporating asking questions instead of telling, having students work in groups, and checking in with “shoulder partner” moments.  WHAT a difference that made this time around!

Being that this was a November lesson, and we were knee-deep in the crazy election process of 2016, I knew I wanted to cover leadership.  These kids were witnessing some stuff, hearing a lot, and, I can only assume, feeling more disconnected from democracy in the midst of one of the loudest and in-your-face elections we’d ever seen.  I wanted to draw them in; my goal was to introduce them to leadership on their terms and invite them to reconstruct the concept to their own definition.

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We started by warming up with Free Spirit Publishing’s Everyday Leadership Cards .  I love these because they are really engaging for multiple age groups.  They are perfect for whole classroom discussions and activities, individual and small groups, and apply to multiple different topics (I can think of ways to use them in all counseling domains!). For this lesson, they were in small groups, and then when we came together as a class, a couple groups shared their Q&A.

Then we touched on the current events in politics.  Now, I didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole and hear about different views and whatnot, so my questions came with a disclaimer about not revealing which candidate they (or their parents) were rooting for.  I told them my core question was, “what makes a leader?” They talked with their shoulder partner and also came together as a class.

The next and best part: movie time!  I played three movie clips, and after each clip I asked them what examples and types of leadership they saw.  The three clips were:

  1. Cinderella (my favorite, the dress-making scene)
  2. Remember the Titans (various clips since the entire movie is every counselor’s dream-boat)
  3. Lion King (Scar’s song where he takes over the kingdom) ***WARNING: the clip that auto-starts after this scene is Hakuna Matata so you MUST quickly drop the browser, as students are nearly violent if you take away Timon and Pumbaa.  I learned this the hard way.***

I won’t go into my main points for each one, because they’re pretty obvious.  After movie-time, we then started talking about the broader concept of leadership again.  I had them use their devices (if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, right?), and discuss two main questions in pairs, then enter their answers using the Poll Everywhere app.  This thing is awesome and super easy to use by the way (or BTW if you prefer).  They were asked to use one word that was described a leader, or was the main quality a leader needed, and also what their platform would be if they were president (I only had to toss about five of the roughly 250 responses, which I think is pretty good!). I love some student voice, and so I printed their responses and stuck them on our hallway board.

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Hope your lessons have gone well, and your break is lovely and relaxing! Cheers!

 

Bringing Some Inspiration

Our division director recently recommended the outstanding book, The Other Wes Moore.  I am so glad he did! It has really been the inspiration I needed to hit this year head-on.  This story of Wes Moore is one of resiliency, love (self and family), hard work, barriers, control, and grasping opportunities large and small.  I don’t think I’ve felt this moved by a book since my all-time fav Man’s Search for Meaning (seriously, V. Frankl is my boyfriend and BFF4L).  I want everyone to read it!  I feel compelled to talk about it and share this really incredible story.  People like this are so profound and thoughtful that it feels like they are talking to you, and it accompanies you at work, in ethical dilemmas, and in small choices throughout the day.  Insight of our new educational catch-phrase, it’s the ultimate example of “growth mindset”. (You too, huh? I think we might all be getting the same professional development this year!)

When I found out about the accompanying student version of his book, I was really excited (PS- I am really annoyed with the unlinked ‘k’ but I’ve already spent a ridiculous amount of time on my formatting OCD. Carry on.).  After reading it, I don’t think I could pass it through in Middle School.  Though I believe whole-heartedly in sharing the truth of living and life with students at the middle grades in order to help them make decisions before they are confronted with them, I can also understand the position of our school systems in ensuring we respect the wishes and shelters of their parents.  Sometime it can be hard to do this; to know what could benefit a student, but to have to dial back and be conscious of our roles in their lives as secondary to the people who are responsible for raising these children throughout their life-span.  Man do we get attached, don’t we?

Even so, I have been toying with ways that I can get this book and story into the hearts and minds of the educators and students in my school family.  I’m thinking maybe a Donor’s Choose to purchase a copy for each staff member?  A little gift to remind them how influential we really can be in the lives of our students.  Sometimes the only voice that believes in them.  Sometimes the only portion of their day in which there is peace and stability.  I’m also thinking about applying for a grant to have Wes Moore himself come visit the students.  I just need to share-I’m obsessed!  My poor principal.

It also got me thinking about the characters that are accessible to our students.  Wes Moore’s story will resonate with all students, but it is also inclusive of minority populations that are not typically represented in this exceptional light of success. Not because they are not out there, but because those are most often not the characters that are given recognition and reinforcement.  I’m finding (through reflecting on my own education and the really superb training I get in my division) the need to make these stories available to our students. Young successful black men, strong-willed women, uniformed mentors of all colors- if society will not give our children their exposure, we have to, in education, make it our mission. 

Man, I am really in my feels tonight.  This can only mean I’ve been reconnected with my kiddies and am feeling my profession.  So good, for real.  Read it!

The Moment

Quick share today just for the sake of inspiration.  I was participating in a Twitter chat (I know how that sounds, and I’m OK with it), and the final question was “Q5: How can teachers encourage students to become active creators of their own learning?” BAM. Great question. So many answers, so few characters.  My answer was “A5 Make a personal connection, build confidence, allow them to stumble and then help them rebuild.” but the only way to really sum it up is with this:

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Isn’t this the best feeling ever?! The whole reason I am in education is to be able to say this to students.  Empowering them and then seeing them succeed is one thing, but to get to say, “SEE??! YOU did this!  YOU made this happen!” is flipping amazing.