Identity

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I have been thinking a lot this past week about identity. Who I am and how I portray that to the world.

I wear many hats in my life. I thought this was wrong for the longest time. Wasn’t that being fake?

Lately, I have come to understand that I need many identities to get through the things that scare me and that I am not good at. I have to come back to reference points in my life where I have done something like not given up, or succeeded when something was hard, or making a phone call. You would not believe how hard the last one is for me.

One of my identities is teacher. I act a certain way to get children to buy into what I am teaching. Sometimes I am silly, sometimes serious. I try to be as entertaining as possible. Everything I can wrap up in the gift of reading and writing – I do it.

This is not the same identity as I am at a party with all adults! That person is quiet unless it is an inner circle group I am close with.

Another identity is coach. With this hat I am a leader and an authority. I struggle with this role. I like the power of this part of me but also balance it with learner. Everyone I work with I learn from. That goes for all my students actually. Sometimes I learn more from the 5 year old than anyone else.

Another identity is writer. Today my prompt is featured for Storyaday May. You can find that here: https://storyaday.org/2020-05-26-breitweiser/

I write everyday. I publish, I have writing friends and I love it. Does it make me a better teacher? Yes, no question in my mind. But I pushed the writing to the side and did not take it seriously for years. My life might have turned out differently if I had focused on the writing instead of education.

Many years ago I had to create an identity in order to present. to groups. I am a hard core introvert but if you met me at a conference you would have no idea. At a conference, I introduce myself to people, I ask questions, I invite myself into your group. I take on this part of myself I have created in order to function in this environment and succeed. Even though it is a part of me, it is not natural and takes me days to recover.

When I was a coach, there were weekends that I would sleep almost the entire two days in order to recharge. I would have no energy to do anything trying to recover from all the “peopling” I did throughout the five day work week. On days I would present workshops throughout the day I would be spent. I loved it but it was so draining.

Over the next 8 weeks I will be analyzing my identities and what I use for what. I have no idea how many of them are in there! I plan to find out!

Weekend Coffee Share

A Cup of Coffee and a Conversation

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Welcome back to Sunday — this time on a holiday weekend!

Let’s have some french vanilla on the porch. The view of the hills is lovely and it isn’t too hot yet today.

I have missed you this week friend. There is lots to catch up on.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have been obsessed with Karissa Kouchis this week. She is a national trainer and speaker for Tony Robbins and her energy is contagious. Her words have sprung me to action this week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you this quote showed up in my Readwise app email this morning:

How to Live a Good Life by Jonathan Fields


Step 1 — Create your perfect moment. Take a few moments and ask, “What would I love to do or create or have that I’m not pursuing because it’s not a sure thing?” Write your answer in your journal. Then ask, “What would my life look and feel like, how would it be materially different, if I got what I wanted?” Journal your answer. Now ask, “What am I waiting for?” Write it out.

It seems like a good task to do today.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I learned about the Dickens Pattern. It is where you analyze the price you will pay if you don’t change now. It comes from the idea of Scrooge and The Christmas Carol with the Ghost of Christmas Past. It is not a pretty list of journaling but it is motivating. Telling yourself “It’s not that bad” keeps you stuck.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the last couple of days we have been having fun with the kids with Kahoot games and Jeopardy. I log funny things the kids say and use that list to make questions. We also have strange categories of facts about planets, music, or sports. The wrong answer choices are sometimes the funniest part. There is lots of laughing.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you we have had great food this week! Food is a joy and a reason for gathering in our home. Favorites have been eaten this week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I have had some great writing and life conversations with two friends. One in Montana and the other in Portland. I am lucky to have these two women in my inner circle. They always tell me the truth and the conversations are always enlightening.

Do you need a refill? Or some water?

If we were having coffee, I would tell you there was a tornado warning yesterday. The sky was black and freaked the kids out. We are safe though and I got a scene written from the experience.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am about over e-learning in kindergarten. I am in school til June 10th. That is all about that topic this week.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I swapped stories with a newer writing friend this week and it has been wonderful. She is an amazing person and writer and I am so glad we are critique partners now.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you the running is going well and I know that because I had to order new shoes! Gray Kinvaras are on their way!

I almost forgot! I started a podcast! They are less than 10 minutes about what inspires me and how you can live a more creative life. You can listen here: https://soundcloud.com/tammy-breitweiser-792640834 New episodes drop on Fridays.

What is inspiring you this week? I would love to know!

Relentless

Efficient and Relentless | John Hembree

I have learned to pay attention to words my intuition pings at me. Today it is RELENTLESS. “Steady and relentless determination” is the phrase that stands out on the page that reminds me of when this word was used to describe me.

A coworker I respected used this word to describe my passion and drive for education. I had never seen anyone who had so many devices going at once: computer, iPad, two phones. He crunched numbers like his life depended on it. One of the first weekends I met him, he started to talk about data in connection to test scores and student achievement. I understood everything he said. He seemed surprised when I asked questions about stats he didn’t think I would understand.

I had been told by many in this organization that how I looked and what my resume read didn’t match to them. This was also the weekend where all my tattoos were visible. This aspect of. my appearance threw him off for days. It didn’t match to him.

Data man told me over and over how he appreciated my relentlessness for our organization to be the best. I had a desire and passion for all my students to achieve. I tried to set up a greenhouse effect for them to overcome whatever I could set up for them to pursue. I took it as a compliment at the time. It meant that I was hyper focused on achievement and the business like style of education. At that moment, it was serving me well.

One of the disadvantages of being relentless is that I have often been described as hard. As someone to be afraid of. Adults mostly feel this way, not kids. I have been called difficult, a bitch, hard to work with because I will not compromise my expectations. I like to know things and will relententlessly pursue knowledge. One of the things that people think I am is judgmental. Many feel that if they are not as dedicated to something as I am that I look down on them. Everyone has their own style of how they succeed. It has been one of the aspects I have had to brush aside knowing I cannot control other people and their reactions.

I learned that being relentless still makes you replaceable. If you do not teach reading through a computer like the CEO wants you to you are replaceable. Your days are numbered. Trite but true.

In the end, I am not sure that relentless was the best way to be. I thought if I was hard and driven then I would get more done. I think I scared people. But there was power in that I didn’t hate. People don’t question you if they are afraid. If you have an agenda placed before you in an unrealistic time frame this is a temporary solution.

There was a time that I thought all the time spent at school would help my students achieve more. I am not sure that is the case now. If I have nothing to give my students then I will burn out. 

I still think about school and my students almost all the time.

I am trying to learn to be persistent but a little more flexible.

I have made the decision to do so but will keep you posted.

Anchors

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Today while I was walking I started to think about anchors.

This time of sheltering in place and teaching from afar had me thinking about the things that ground me. I also was thinking about the anchors that I need whether we are in crisis mode or not.

There are anchors of routine. I must have my coffee every morning with my husband. Then I write. Right now I have my daily prompt I write for at least 10 minutes. I write my story for Storyaday May. I write for my Keep Writing prompt.

I listen to podcasts and make notes for essays and conversations for later.

Life giving conversations are my anchors. I intentionally seek out my creative friends to discuss new projects and what I am reading. I have certain people that are anchors. My husband and my children. Creative groups and friends too.

The fact I know who I am is an anchor. I am a writer, reader, teacher, leader, runner, and coach. I must do more than one thing at a time, otherwise I am frustrated.

I am tattooed and a child advocate. I read tarot cards. I am opinionated and tenacious.

I am a woman of action. I am a force of nature.

Do you know what and who your anchors are?

Library

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I miss the library. The holds I can place on whatever strikes my fancy. The book tasting and feasting of current obsessions. The comfort of the paper within this glass and concrete building itself. To walk the writing section and be thrilled to what I see on the shelves. The pined after short story collection that was waiting for me the day I wandered in A gift I still have because the books are sheltering in place and are practicing social distancing too. I miss the weight of the stack in my bag and my hands. The ever-changing stack next to my bed.

I can breathe in the library. It was the first place I came when I drove into this new town. A place to gather and hold.

Ideal in 115 Words

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It has been 100 days since I changed my life. Sold all my things and took off for the coast full of books and seawater. There are hills here for walking and fish for throwing. There is coffee for drinking and more reading than I can achieve. Words will be written out here too in a tiny loft apartment full of brick and warmth. I told the city I would return. I uttered my intention in the stacks of Powell’s among the smell of paper years ago. Now I sneak into tiny alcoves to meet other writers to whisper about the privilege to live in this place of input. This is my kind of success.

Weekend Coffee Share

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We are back to the weekend. I took a break from the coffee share last weekend. I was tired.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my prep course started two Mondays ago for my intensive this fall. I already get the daily prompts, but they are used within the group. We write for the prescribed 10 minutes and then transcribe and share them within the closed group. I wrote about the feelings of anxiety and pressure in my writing process journal. I decided to combat this I would just write and post without too much thought about it. If I would keep thinking about it then I would not post. I am looking forward to reading what other people’s take on the prompts are.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am starting a short podcast. It is called The Accidental Inspirationalist. It is a 10 minute or less podcast to share what I finding inspiring. Maybe you will be inspired too.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I finally wrote an article for Teachers On Fire again. It has been a while.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am still posting my #100randomsentences on Instagram for my 100 day project. This is a fiction project but I have been thinking a lot of personal essays. I took a class last week which was eye-opening and amazing.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you I am writing my story a day for May. We are on day 15 and I am still keeping up. The style is different this year because of the anniversary. The write-in times are not when I can join in either so I am feeling a bit disconnected. If you want to check out the prompts go to storyaday.org.

If we were having coffee, I would tell you my son and I went exploring a bit and found a large park close to the apartment. There is a 5 mile paved running trail and some smaller walking trails so I will have to go back and check it out. The view of the river is amazing from the lookout point.

Thanks for having coffee with me this weekend!

The One Where a 7 Layer Cake Turned into a Trifle #SOL20

When I went back to the classroom at the end of January my plan was to write an education article every week. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be as an end product in these beginning stages. I find with some writing projects they morph into what they truly are as I move along.

Maybe it would be blog posts.

Maybe it would be a series of Medium articles.

Maybe it would be a book.

As a coach, I found it harder and harder to write the type of articles I wanted to put into the world because I teach with a lot of nuance. It was one of the reasons I wanted to go back to the classroom. There are day to day decisions I make with kids especially in the area of writing that I cannot remember later. I have to write it as a journal type piece, at least at first. My coaching position had me split between two buildings and too many classrooms to count. I found it increasingly frustrating to find my way into what I wanted to say.

In January, I changed states and jobs and went back to teaching Kindergarten. It was a rough adjustment and the students had been through several weeks of trauma. We were finding our new rhythms quickly.

Then COVID 19 took hold of the world. I went home on a Friday thinking I was returning to school on Monday. I got the email later that evening that we were not returning. “More info to come,” the email read.

No one was allowed in the building. Our fobs had been shut off. 

Now I’m trying to teach kindergarten through distance learning – with no prior system in my district. These students are also ones I have had for weeks – not months. There were things that they would have know if they had been with me since August, but that wasn’t the situation we were in.

On Zoom, I cannot teach protocols for my students to talk with each other and learn. They learn how to mute and unmute themselves instead.

I don’t have all my students with me on Zoom meetings because this time is hard for a lot of my parents. The kids are being moved around to relatives and friends and my parents are still trying to work.

There are no hugs and no pats of encouragement on Zoom. I cannot walk around and help my students tap out their words. On Zoom I have the added audience of parents. Not bad, just different.

On Zoom there are no centers where all the extra paper goes and all my kids flock to it at all times of the day to make their books. This is something I miss every day.

Right before we left school one of my students latched onto the idea of a carrot – the upside down V to insert something that you have no space for when handwriting. (Somehow I think that can be an essay in itself!) He turned it into an angry carrot illustration. It was a gateway into him co-authoring a book of him and I going to to the park together. He had not said more than a couple of words to me at a time up to that point. It was a moment of entry.

Teaching in the classroom was a beautiful 7 layer cake – bakery quality. It had the perfect ratio of frosting to cake. It was decorated and you looked forward to eating it because you made it from scratch and knew it will be delicious. Every bite delicious!

Distance learning is that same cake, but it is all mashed up and crumbled and layered in a trifle dish . It isn’t quite the elegant dessert of the 7 layer cake. It still tastes good, but it is not refined and is a mess. There are other things added like strawberries and whipped cream and they are spilling out of the sides of the glass dish.

I am looking forward to eating my cake in the fall.

IWSG May

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer – aim for a dozen new people each time – and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

May 6 question –

Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? 

As a writer, I like rhythm and routine. I start the day with my coffee and my writing. It is always the first thing I do in the morning. Some days are better than others, but the writing always gets done. The words have to get on the page.

I most often start with a prompt but free-writing allows whatever is on my mind to get into the notebook. Sometimes it is reflection, but many times it is fiction. Yesterday when I woke I wrote a story based on the dream I had just came from. I often am in the middle of a challenge. This month I am participating in Storyaday where I write a complete story every day. It does not have to be good or long, just finished. There is power in the act of finishing and learning from that process.

During the day I listen to podcasts and read. I have to make sure there is input. I have had to change some of the venues because of the sheltering in place. I have found I miss the overheard conversations from life before COVID. I take advantage of the writing communities I belong to and have conversations with other writers.

If I am having trouble with ideas and flow, I will switch from handwriting to typing or vise versa. If I am thinking out a story then handwriting often works best. It is slower and my thoughts can trickle out with the pen drawing the letters. If the idea is hot then typing is faster and the ideas do not get tripped up before I can get the scene out.

Walking or running is also another solution to being stuck.

Since I have a list of actions that work for me, I choose the one that seems to solve the problem at hand.

What works for you?