Thursday, July 30, 2009

#4: Determine What Matters Most To YOU

Still exploring the UNCLUTTERER's list (see previous posts) for creating that remarkable life we all want...

When 7 of our staff members took time out of their busy summer to meet for over 2 hours to hash out ideas for new procedures and routines: .....

When we 7 committed to focused communication, transparency, and COMING TO SCHOOL EARLY ALMOST EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK to facilitate this communication......
When we applauded our colleagues' new COOL IDEA, and gratefully decided to employ it throughout our special ed program, even though it means spreading ourselves a little more thin in some ways.....

Then it's clear we 7 have determined what matters most to us: our students.... and by that I mean not just the students in our own classes, but all the students in our special program.

It's going to be a good year!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Being selective in a cluttered world....

Rule #8 : Remove everything that is toxic in your life, because that which is toxic is clutter.....

The remarkable list in the post below has given me some guidance as I move through these last weeks of summer... and boy, did it come in handy this week when I was reminded again of the power of all things TOXIC.

Toxic people break your heart and your spirit.
Toxic food zaps your energy, starves your body of what it really needs, and ultimately makes you bitchy.
Toxic thinking is limiting and unproductive and risks all that you love in your life.

For years I've counseled my interns to be selective about how they use their "free time". During their first year of teaching I want to empower them to choose who and what they think is important. "Be extra kind to yourself" I remind them again and again. The stress of that first year can be crippling.... yes, toxic. Instead of freaking out, "sleep, take quiet time for yourself, eat healthy, and celebrate your little successes."

Good advice for an uncluttered life...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Planning for a Remarkable Life

As I continue to seek balance between (crazily) focusing on "getting a head start on school stuff" (see previous posts) vs. getting calm and centered and rejuevenated before school begins, I believe I may have found a path....

This amazing blog just might salve to kook in me that wants to do school stuff everyday AND the part of me that knows I absolutely must take a breath and pull away from school so I will be ready for school.

Here's the bloggers plan for a "remarkable life":

1.Purge, downsize, and minimize

2.Organize what you CHOOSE to own and use (emphasis mine)

3.Commit to and maintain a streamlined routine for the mundane tasks of your life

4.Determine what matters most to you

5.Remind yourself that even if you live to be 100, life is short

6.Say no to what doesn't matter

7.Enjoy being industrious (again my emphasis)

8.Get rid of everything toxic in your life, because toxic is clutter

9.Live within your means (and I might add, try to get pleasure from it)

10.Take risks and be brazen

11. Get enough sleep (Hey, I'm 51, overweight, and perimenopausal.... sleep is the bomb.)

So over the next few weeks, I will explore the power and the pleasure of becoming Uncluttered. Will this be the preparation I need for a productive, uncluttered new year? We will see....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

poems, sweet dreams, and thinking of school...

VaTech's own Nickki Giovanni's new book of love poems, Bicycles, has given me something calming and enjoyable to do as I MAKE myself settle in for the last few weeks of summer. I giggled when I read her ode to beer: I wish I liked beer. I see the ads with the happy people golden drops swimming dwn to quench that thirst....

And then I read this recommendation for sleeping away the last weeks of break. It may have been written with a lover in mind, but to me it speaks of my love for teaching and for my students:

My Sleep
by Nikki Giovanni

I appreciate my sleep
In sleep my conversation
is witty
My home is dusted
My office work
is up to date
the dog
is even
well behaved
And food is on the table
on time
But then
when I'm asleep
I don't have you
to clutter and confuse
My hungry heart

Saturday, July 25, 2009

"I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. A day when one has not pushed oneself to the limit seems a damaged damaging day, a sinful day. Not so! The most valuable thing one can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room."

- May Sarton
Journal of a Solitude

I have to keep this in mind as I lose precious moments of my summer break planning and preparing for fall. I move between honoring my time off from school, and taking each day to get ahead of the game...I just can't decide....

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blogging from PBS Training

Giving attention today and tomorrow to our efforts to create and tweak the Postive Behavior Support program at our school. While the self-contained ED classrooms have had great behavior programs for years now, our gen ed classes continue to face what teachers face in classrooms across the country: distractions caused by disruptive behavior impede academic success, office referrals skyrocket, and behaviors don't seem to improve. To interrupt this spiral, PBS seeks to reorient the learning environment from reactive punishment toward preventative programs that teach,reteach and reinforce appropriate behavior.

We need teachers to refocus their efforts on doing that which increases the probability that positive behaviors will be repeated.

Sounds logical; still, because poor behavior continues to dog our educational system, a whole cottage industry has developed to support school's reorientation toward this point.

My date with a representative from that group continues through tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Corridors of Shame"

“… There is no stronger weapon against inequality and no better path to opportunity than an education that can unlock a child’s God-given potential….Yet…there are overcrowded classrooms, crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children-black, bown, and white alike.”

So President Obama reminded us in his speech to the NAACP last week. He knows that the obstacles that poor and minority students face in their own schools are an embarrassment for every American. He highlighted important reforms, including improved early learning programs, and focused teacher programs that promote excellence and send bad teachers packing. I applauded when I heard him describe these new law and policy changes; I smiled when he called for higher expectations for every child. “We need a new mindset, a new set of attitudes” to fight an “ internalized…sense of limitation.”

But I really joined the Amen chorus when he seemed to channel his inner tough talking Bill Cosby: We parents “must accept our own responsibilities. That means putting away the Xbox and putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. It means attending those parent-teacher conferences, reading to our kids, and helping them with their homework….Yes, government must be a force for equality. But ultimately, if we are to be true to our past, then we also have to seize our destiny, each and every day.”

Of course I see parents of all colors and creeds who, despite good intentions, fail to help their children “seize the day”. It’s easy to accept excuses for this neglect, but the president reminded us that if “John Lewis could brave Billy clubs to cross a bridge”, or if brave civil rights workers faced down death for what is right, then surely we can reform education. Surely we can muster family and community support for behaviors that lead to academic success.

The question then becomes: How will I motivate my students and their parents to adopt and embrace pro-school, pro-academic thinking? If only Obama’s words were enough.

More on this as the start of school gets closer…..

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Summertime.. and the living is easy...

The power of summer break on this teacher’s soul cannot be overstated….

There is something magical about awakening naturally in the late morning hours (sans alarm clock), and lolling around in bed with my sweet dog Caye. I hold dear summer’s unhurried, blissful morning routine that does NOT include a frenzied trek across town in pre-dawn darkness; instead, I happily consider which mall to shop, which recipe to cook up, and which book to read. These weeks fill me up in a way that teaching and all its joys cannot. It’s a good thing too, or I might never make it back to the classroom each August.

What teacher does not yearn for summer’s respite when the testing gods bear down in late spring? When two or three of my most difficult kids are in tag-team crisis mode, I call on my memories of sun, sand, and a tropical cocktail to get me through. Reminders of an evening stroll along the boardwalk or down the garden path can soothe the mark left on my calf by an angry six year old.

But then, summer finally comes, and I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT SCHOOL!
I can’t stop dreaming about their sweet smiles. I mentally plan new “getting to know you” activities. I seek out new professional books and internet resources. I worry about what the kids are up to in these unstructured weeks. I check my school email once a day for no good reason.

I actually look forward to August.

For now, though, I’ll sip my mojito and reapply the sunscreen. Only 6 more weeks til school starts again.