What’s Love Got To Do With It?

I was going to quote a nugget…but there’s just too many. So. Good.

Pursuit of a Joyful Life

What’s love got to do with it, anyway? Got to do with education? Got to do with teaching?
What’s love got to do with it?

Everything. It’s got everything to do with it.

I am delivering a dynamic lesson on adding detail to writing. It has spanned two days of teaching, and I have covered the gamut. I have used mentored text. I have used my own illustrations. I have allowed more than enough time for the students to think through, talk through and share ideas. I have all the bells and whistles- anchor charts; word walls; alphabet and number charts; soft music. Nice sharp pencils, which I just barely finished sharpening this morning. In spite of the rush. The classroom has even been designed so as to be conducive to writing. We have a writing centre and various writing stations, but there are of course other spots in the…

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with Grief. through Grief.

36f1d41de839960b91e32314c4b2be08When my Dad died, the grief was a wind. After an excruciating long Alzheimer’s-harrowed process of watching him die before he died, his final physical death was a gentle release of all the collective breaths those who loved him had been holding for so long. I mourned, but it was in the arms of the graceful and gentle wind, rocking the boughs of my weeping-willow-tree-heart.

When my Mom died, the grief was a hurricane. The power went out, the roof blew off, the branches broke through the windows of my battered and ill-prepared heart. And so I did what anyone would if they could–I moved to a land-locked, safe location away from the devastation. The storm raged on, but at a great distance from me.

But now, in the invisible and subtle God-kissed process of healing, the external breezes and gusts of winds have become my own internal breaths, the rhythmic inhale and exhale of present losses and lost presence. My parents died, but yet now, they live in me. All the ways I imitated from them continue, their mannerisms and their sayings, their views on life, the places they took me and the spaces they gave me–this is, now, me. I cannot converse with them, but I feel them tangibly. I will never again go to their home to stay, but at night they are forms and shapes in my dreams. There will be no new narratives with them, though they are ever marking the edges of my current stories.

…but nothing was lost; all was retained between the sky and the earth, and within himself. He had lost nothing… They were close; they had always been close. And he loved them then as he had always loved them, the feeling pulsing over him as strong as it had ever been. They loved him that way; he could still feel the love they had for him. (Ceremony)

Grief has now become my corporal companion, ever present, and for that I am grateful. As we breath in affinity, infinitely, I feel my Mom. I feel my Dad.

I am them.

 

Why we should not ignore teachers’ ever-increasing workloads

Why we should not ignore teachers’ ever-increasing workloads.

energy transference

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Lately, I have been ruminating frequently on the gift of a teacher’s energy. From my experience and as communicated by Ginott, the energy of a teacher dictates the energy of most aspects in a classroom community: academic learning, social-emotional environment, engagement, collaboration, rigor, etc.

This gift has felt more like a burden lately. I normally bring a considerable amount of energy to the classroom. Many students might say they’re annoyed by my kinetic presence–but few would say they’re bored. From the moment we meet at the door to the end, I’m “on.” But in the wake of parent teacher conferences, TCAP, a half-marathon, the time change, sleep-disruption, and a sinus infection, I have been dragging the last few class days.

“Miss, are you ok?”

“Miss, you mad?”

“Miss, what’s wrong?”

These have been the kind and concerned greetings from students who are much more familiar with… well, more.

In times like this, I realize what I’ve done well: bringing a high level of dynamic energy to our classroom community.

In times like this, I realize what I’ve done poorly: teaching, transferring, and expecting a high level of dynamic energy from others in our classroom community.

In my tiny little head, I would imagine this is the key delineation between a teacher who will burn out and a teacher who will go the distance. If for the rest of my career, I rely on the level of energy in my room based on what I alone create, I am going to be tired. There needs to be a shift, to steal a physics term, an energy transference. Instead of measuring the success of my energy based on what I generate, I need to measure the success based on how I transfer that energy to other stakeholders–my students. After all, this is truly what calls me to teach–to empower my students, to put (em) power into.

Recently after a visit to my classroom, my boss gave me a great suggestion which connected so aptly to this. I pride myself on the kind of discussions I lead in my classroom: high-level, academic vocabulary flying left and right, student involvement, yada yada. But what we discussed was that in this, I am still the center–I am still the energy. The question after that feedback conversation was how can I transfer discussion leadership to my students?

In other words, how can I transfer energy to them? How could I?

securedownloadAfter some reflection and problem-solving, I first decided to poll the class to see who would want to be a discussion leader. Then, while other students were becoming experts in small groups on some poetry analysis questions, I met with those students. Together we worked through what it meant to be an effective/ineffective discussion facilitator. (In those few moments with those students, I realized the value of this exercise went far beyond energy transference in my classroom; this was a life-skill these students could apply in so many other contexts.) After that conversation, one student stepped up to lead the class in discussion, and I, gasp, sat on the couch and participated like any other student. It was a joy, and a relief for my tired and diminished teacher-self, to just sit and breath and watch one of my kiddos rise up and lead. He asked probing and insightful questions. The class gave him feedback, which he took. He kept the conversation moving among a variety of students. It was… beautiful energy. And the best part–it didn’t come from me.

There’s so much more to say about this activity’s impact: how those students who were to be leaders lit up, even one who has been disengaged lately; how the students’ presence in the discussion was lively knowing their peer was leading it; how they supported and challenged one another… but that’s for another post.

When I have some more energy.

13.1 miles of mantras, mysteries, muffs and other musings

Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow. (Thoreau)

For runners of long distances, the battle is far more mental than physical. This very challenge breathed down my neck as I was stuck in a very scary place for nearly 3 hours this past weekend during Moab’s Canyonland Half–and that scary place was my head. What I realized in that place is that once the start gun cracks against the morning sky, the mind runs, charging ahead like a schizophrenic Tasmanian devil.

Here is a look into the course my mental devil ran.

Pre-gunish: What a glorious day! I’m so grateful to run my 2nd half-marathon here in this stunning russet-ribboned canyon. Just treat it like that Mary…a beautiful run: no more, no less. Being here makes me miss Mom and Dad; they brought me here for the first time. I can’t look at these rocks without seeing them.

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Miles 1-2ish: This is so beautiful, it’s nothing short of worship. I feel good; wow, what a surprise! I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m not gonna lie, I’m sure grateful to be on steroids right now. Speaking of which, I hope my sinus infection goes away. How come I’m not draining more? I’m feeling so good, I wonder if I should take less walk breaks. No, Mary, you know better…conserve!

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Mile 3ish: 5k, I got this. I pray Dave has a good race. I’m so glad Julie recommended this run. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m glad my niece and sister texted me about those things…I totally get it!

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Mile 4ish: Oh no, an ambulance. Get out of his way people! Man, I hope that’s not Dave in there. I should blog about how a race turns a mind schizophrenic.

march 2014 046 march 2014 047 march 2014 050march 2014 051Mile 5ish: Geez, that Cliff sign is going to blow over! It’s really starting to get windy. How come the one day in the forecast for windy weather in Moab is today?! Who can eat those Goo things anyways? It’s so much like… eww.

Mile 6ish: So much for a light downhill canyon run. This. hill. <puff puff> is. brutal. <puff puff> Oh come on. And the. <puff puff> wind. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. She’s bigger than me, how come she’s passing me?

Mile 7ish: Selfie!

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Mile 7ish: Is it pretentious to wear my shirt and medal on Monday? I want to inspire my kiddos to make healthy choices without being a show-off. Hmmm…Of course they had to make fun of  me for falling on my last run, stinkers. <giggle giggle> Man, I love my students. Thank you God for my job.

Mile 7ish: I hope my fuel doesn’t explode in my sports bra. That’s what she said. <snort> I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m bigger than her, how come I’m passing her?

Mile 8ish: Look up. Notice. Enjoy. Savor. That reminds me of China.

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Mile 8ish: <flatulence> Woops, good thing the wind in the canyon is louder than the wind from my rear canyon. <snort> Ha!

Mile 9ish: I can’t believe I’m feeling this good. Something must not be right. It must be the steroids. Dave’s right…I’m just like my Mom; why can’t I just accept good things? I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

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Mile 10ish: Do you hear that? Is that drummers? Or is that my rubbing, pounding thighs? Hey, Mary, your thighs have gotten you far. And look, there are drummers. Wow, how ancient, how resonant, how cool! Oh my gosh, this is the farthest I’ve run since my first half-marathon. That disaster. And I feel so good. Thank you God. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I’m going to be all emotional like Laina. Man, I love her. I’m so grateful to have such good people in my life. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

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Mile 11ish: Wow, we’re already turning into town. Oooo, this is my jam. 1, 2, 3, 4. Uno. Dos. Tres. Quatro. I know you want me. You know I want you. I know you want me… I am singing so loudly. And yes, thank you, I am waving my hands and signaling numbers. Why do I love naughty songs so much? And I’m passing so many people; man, I’m glad I conserved! I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

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Mile 12ish: Ok, running along this road is brutal. And the wind–oh, hey, watch out for that TUMBLEWEED!!! Why is my Runkeeper not prompting me? Oh, please, tell me, you’re still with me Runkeeper!

Mile 13ish: There Dave is, waiting for me, applauding recklessly and cheering me on to the finish, after he’s finished his own tired race. That’s a metaphor. I am one lucky girl; I’m so glad we have this together. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

Finish lineish: Go. Push. I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy. I feel so good. This is amazing. Crap, now I’m hooked. Take that San Diego!

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I am blessed. I am strong. I am healthy.

tonight’s “just get out the door” rewards

It has been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. Parent teacher conferences, TCAP state testing, time change, interview committee for new hires, sinus infection with a major dose of drugs…and oh yeah, we run our 1/2 marathon this weekend in Moab.

Deep. Breath. As one of my colleagues so brilliantly said, I’ve already ran the marathon.

So as I was driving home today, my motivation to get that one last light run in, waxing and waning as the sun dipped behind the horizon, I thought this:

Just get out the door.

I didn’t need a grand run. A fast run. A long run. An only run. Even if I just got out for a walk, it would be something to put my mind and my legs in a better state.

Just get out the door.

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And I did. And I was rewarded.

Two cuddling deer.

A herd of elk.

A warm cup of soup from the local soup shop for dinner.

And this gorgeous neighborhood scenery, which still catches in my breath; how blessed I am to be living my dream.

look down to look up

One of the most memorable moments in my yoga practice for me, to date, is the time I rolled over from Savasana into cradled side position–which is the way I always sleep. The instructor gently but confidently brought to our attention that in this moment, we are reminded that the Earth is always there, beneath us, supporting us, lifting us, sustaining us.

Always. there. How beautiful.

So today, as I set this intention:

notice your feet on the ground all day

I frequently was drawn to that image: innocence resting on the ground, supported and sustained.

I realized as I was driving, that even while I was in transit, the Earth is rooted beneath me–steady.

I looked out the window at the grey clouds blowing in the next March snowstorm and was reminded that even though the weather is fleeting and frivolous in nature, the ground beneath me always remains–constant.

As I freaked out about my drive home, I recognized despite being disguised by treacherous, icy masks of snow, the ground still lingers beneath, supporting me–enduring.

All things change, move, shift, shape–but there the Earth is, below that movement, forming a steadfast bedrock for all rebirth and transformation.

I am grounded. We are gloriously grounded.

And as a daughter of God, I recognize that I am grounded in Glory. It is the most sublime analogy of eternity.

If the ground supports me…

and if God is the Creator of that ground…

then God is always supporting me.

In the even while’sSteady.

In the even though’sConstant.

In the despite’sEnduring.

 Always. there. How beautiful.

The root that needs no ground is He, and from that root all has come (St. Thomas Aquinas from “The Divine Intimacy”).

Day 226 – The Bridge

I want to be a bridge-kind of teacher.

One Thousand Days of Yoga

“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully encourage them to create bridges of their own.”
– Nikos Kazantzakis
day 226

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building a place we all want to be

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true in the classroom, especially

I insist upon creating a close community in my classroom. When students come through the door, they cannot feel inhibited or unsafe; if they do, they won’t learn, grow, or worst yet–they won’t laugh and love and enjoy being in C212. Besides, I myself don’t want to be in a place where the majority of people don’t want to be there.

To this end, this month I’ve done two community builders that have fostered “the love” in my room.

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We hold the keys that unlock the door to a bright and glorious future.

The first has been to create a door to the future. This was inspired by a student who created a door as a prop for a rendition of “The Haunted Palace” by Poe. I couldn’t let such a beautiful door go to waste, and so it became a place for students to place “the keys” to their futures. On these keys are their names, the college and career plans, and their dreams.

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love, in the light

The second has been an activity I picked up in my camp counselor years called the “Secret Pocket Partner” game. Students randomly drew a name of a colleague that they then had to “stalk” for a week. Well, we all got a kick out of saying stalking, but it’s much more positive observation. Each student had to notice all the good things his/her secret pocket partner did throughout the assigned time. At the end, students wrote a letter or card or note to that person, celebrating their strengths and good moments of the week. The students took to this idea, dispelling my fear that it would be cheesy. Daily they’d ask about when it’s due, can they have materials to write their notes, who was my partner (I never caved and told them), etc. And the most beautiful moment was when they all came in to find their “love note” at their desks. They settled into that authentic and wondrous moment in a classroom known as “we are all so engaged in this moment we’re quiet–naturally.” The glory of this activity is that they didn’t all get to watch their friends; in fact, some of them picked the “other,” not quite enemies, but definitely not of their group. And this forced them to see the good on the “other” side.

And of course, I participated. I “stalked” students. And they “stalked” me. And boy, was my own heart lifted.

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I end with this. I do want my students to learn and grow academically, so very much. But most of all, I want them to feel loved. It is the quintessential need of the human soul.

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For another great idea to build community, check out my friend Libbi’s post.

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weighty matters

Some time ago, while snuggled with my husband on the couch, no doubt with some snacks on our lap (you’re welcome, Irony), we finally got around to watching the concluding episode of Biggest Loser, one of the few shows we make sure to catch regularly. Every so often we’d lean over to each other and chit chat, with our mouths full (again, cheers Irony), about how good someone looks, or how much I like that dress, or the loose skin that needs to be cut off, etc.

For the past several years, we have fallen into the habit of watching the show because we like the show. It motivates us; it inspires us. We especially like the prior season when they worked with the kiddos to combat youth obesity, a problem in our country that bothers us both.

Which is why, when we saw this, we were so shocked. When the ghastly remnant of Rachel walked onto the stage, a mere fragment of her once muscular and sturdy frame, we both gasped. As did Bob and Jillian.

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There has been much talk since then (here or here), to which I am going to contribute my two cents in this post. I have not been able to get this disappointing conclusion out of my head. For Rachel the skeleton, who said she works out 3-4 times a day, it is a celebration. But for me, it is one more indictment of the message our society sends answering this question: how do we define success in weighty matters?

Clearly, The Biggest Loser’s endowment of the award to the sickly skinny Rachel indicates it is not about health, but about frailty. And all I keep coming back to are Bingo, Sunny and Lindsay–especially the female youth ambassadors. I hope, as they watched that waif walk across the stage, they didn’t immediately go to a place of: “wow, so that’s what I gotta do?” And if one of them did, shame on you Rachel, shame on you Biggest Loser.

Our society is in desperate need of a redefinition of beauty and health and success in weighty matters.

And as a member of that society, I also need to transform that definition in my own life. I wish I could say all my issues with weight are external, a mere result of society, but I fight my own personal battles as well.

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a very fit teenager

In high school, I was athletic, but never skinny. My Mom always excused it by saying I was “big-boned.” When I went to college, I didn’t realize I was gaining a bit of weight. That is, until a very special person in my life, from a very skinny and beautiful family (who probably should not have been the one to broach this topic with me), said I was getting chubby. I was devastated. It changed who I was and how I viewed myself. No longer was I the compass of health; now, an external model, an unreachable model, dictated my self-esteem.

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me at my heaviest

Fast forward a few years, when I married my best friend. The years went by, and the pounds came on. When people asked me how long I’d been married, I used to joke and reply: “5 years and 50 pounds.” But sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Our lifestyle of eating and becoming coach potatoes as a way of spending time with each other  showed in our stomachs. Before I knew it, my rolls competed with my chins for some sort of prize, all of which I had to lean around to even see the scale looking back at me in fear with this number: 235.

But something clicked. I realized I didn’t want to be that much of Mary. It wasn’t healthy, and I sure wasn’t proud. This epiphany coordinately nicely with our move to Colorado–a state where people bike, run, hike, play outdoors and eat organic granola regularly (JK).

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1/2 marathoners!

Slowly, I shed some pounds. Then I was inspired to sign up for a a 5k, then a 10k, then (gasp!) a half-marathon, and I shed more pounds. I got a dog and walked him. I started a regular practice of yoga. And before I knew it, the first tenet which defines success in weighty matters gradually formed in my life:

Active living

This tenet has led to the second definition of success:

Mindful eating

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I’ve found myself now thinking of food as fuel. I intentionally eat a smoothie full of veggies and fruits and goodies in the morning, knowing it will start my day right. I eat lunch considering if it will give me the energy I need to get through afternoon yoga. I eat on the weekends thinking about what will fuel my run.

Now, before we get all congratulatory, I am in no way thereI still suffer from an addiction to sweets, and I enjoy eating too much to become an ascetic. My day starts very healthy, but typically discipline and mindfulness wane as the day progresses.

But what I do celebrate and take pride in is that I have redefined what there is in my life. It is not to look like Rachel. It is not to please the ghost of my past. It really is not even to lose weight…though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that. 

Success in the weighty matters, arriving there for me, means embracing an active lifestyle while eating mindfully. And I’m pretty sure even Bob and Jillian would agree with me there.

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