Dear Fellow Educator #100dayproject

Dear Fellow Educator,

Today is the last day of winter break. I know I will walk into my classroom tomorrow and it will feel like I never left – that there was never a break. It happens every time. It is a bittersweet moment.

I saw an article this week about the DOOR concept as far as it relates to teaching. There is a mass exit from the profession during these pandemic times and it is not because of the children. It is all the other stuff on the outside of the classroom door: the things we cannot control, the rules that we must follow that do not make sense, the endless meetings, the paperwork, etc. There are always pros and cons to every job whether it is in education or not. I am looking forward to seeing my little kindergarten faces tomorrow but I am not looking forward to setting an alarm or being on someone else’s schedule. There are many things that bring me comfort and blogging and connection is on that list.

I first started blogging with the intention to connect with others who were doing the same job as I was. At the time I was a TAP Master Teacher. There weren’t many people that had that same job that I knew at the time. I was desperate for connection. The end result of the blog turned into something so much more. I found my teacher tribes early in Two Writing Teachers and TeachWrite which I am thankful for.

Yesterday I was reintroduced to how great it feels to be connected to other people professionally. I was part of the Teacher on Fire roundtable yesterday and we discussed our #onewordfor2021. It was a lively discussion of sharing stories and dedication. It was also an introduction for me to some dynamic people. I was introduced to Fresh Air at 5, a fellow educator’s TEDTALK, and Teachbetter. It was quite an impressive lineup of people.

I couldn’t help but think that it was a closing of a ring. I was introduced to the one word concept many years ago. I was part of the Indiana Reading Association and eventually became an executive board member. I remember sitting in a conference room at one of the hotels downtown Indianapolis listening to a presentation about it. Then we watched Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle talk. I do not remember what that first word was I chose but have been choosing them ever since.

I love this process so much that in my Patreon the December workshop was about sharing my process for choosing my one word. I love the anchor of one word to guide decisions and keep me aligned with my vision for the year.

Passion, Be, More, Create, Write – they have all been words I have lived for a year at a time. This year is PUSH. I am pushing myself out of my comfort zone and to take massive action. I have big plans for 2021 and I am setting the fear aside.

One of the teachers yesterday said that not only do we have the word for the year but then they compound as we live on. They are always with us. It felt so true in my body when she said it.

The experiences I have as an educator in the classroom and with interesting people also are always with me. What sticks with you?

Happy Sunday. Enjoy the last hours…

Love,

Tammy

End of Year Thoughts #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

I have chosen to focus on the blessings of 2020 rather than the alternative.

Reframing is a skill I learned more about from Teach Like a Champion in education that I have applied in all areas of my life. During 2020 I trained with Tony Robbins and Karissa Kouchis and came back to the idea that my life happens for me and not to me. I have had this attitude most of my life but 2015-2019 were some rough years for me when I forgot.

Yes, there has been challenges and death in my life. I have learned to pivot even faster than I had in the past.

We are down to 3 days left in 2020. I have 3 more writing prompts to publish til the end of my #100writingpromptsproject. I have been joyously planning my next projects all this week on my walks.

2020 was the year of the pivot. I had to learn more about virtual teaching but had confidence going in. Most of my best friendships are with people I have never spent time with in real life. I know that strong relationships and learning can happen on Zoom because it was already part of my life. I also have participated in so many free or low cost writing classes over 2020 because of the generosity of teachers all over the world. Taking what I learn from these experiences and applied to my every day teaching makes me happier.

I learned from people around me. I went to Unleash the Power Within from Tony Robbins in July which was online for the first time. Tony Robbins at first didn’t think it was possible to do his events on Zoom but guess what? He figured it out. (He also built an incredible stage to run it from but that is another story.)

It is a whole different kind of exhaustion to be in front of a computer all day while teaching and attending meetings – this is a fact. It is also a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves. There are advantages to teaching online – my kids know their sight words better than any other year. They are more focused during lessons because they are watching me on the screen and they feel like I am talking right to them.

My word of the year came to me and I tried to ignore it for awhile but it persisted and won. My word for 2021 is PUSH. I have lots of plans (and secret plots) brewing already for the new year. There is a certain ceremony for the changing of the month and the year – especially in kindergarten! It is a fresh start and exciting.

There are a lot of things I am going to let go of this year. I have been hanging onto to them for so long and it is time.

I am also going to be open and allow things to come into my life. I have goals and intentions of course but sometimes things come into our life in a much different way than expected – and sometimes that is even better.

Building my own circle of people I associate consistently with is a focus of mine this year. I am always learning from life giving conversation and have to create these experiences in a different way now! I am beginning my PUSH groups on January 4th (which are FREE!). The first one is on journaling and if you would like to join in the fun and learn 3 ways I journal to better writing then please click here.

Everything I have learned has brought me to right here. It is a good place to be!

Tuesday Walking Thoughts #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

We are down to 9 days left in 2020. I have 9 more writing prompts to publish til the end of my #100writingpromptsproject. I can hardly believe it or how fun it has been!

One of the delights of winter break is that I can take my walks in the morning, which means sunshine. My body prefers to walk in the morning rather than after school. Today I walked 13 miles and was positively giddy about it.

I listened to the MFA Podcast which I love about writing (A new episode came out today.) I did a Tara Brach meditation. I made notes about writing.

But I also thought about my grandmother and some complicated feelings around her and current circumstances. Grief and lost things were on my mind too. It is always surprising to me when there is a domino effect of memory. One leads to the next like a “if you read this you’ll like this” list. Or a recommended list from the memory before. This ripple can send me into a spiral of not pleasant memories fast. A thought of a loss falls into another one and into another.

In addition to this memory parade, I have been dealing with other pain. Physical pain is not something I typically have to deal with even when I was a long distance runner. Lately, I start my walks with my muscles all balled up and it can take two miles before I feel my body relax.

On a different note, on my mind today was also a writing prompt that stuck with me about a desk and an egg metaphor. I reflected on the year and how I can use what I know to help others or save them time.

I learned about Chalene Johnson’s tradition of 10 envelopes. Her family writes letters and includes a monetary gift in an envelope and then hands them to strangers on an outing for the purpose of distribution. They hand the envelopes to people with the phrase: Here is a gift for you, Merry Christmas. In November in years past I have had students write anonymous letters to adults in the school thanking them for something specific. I have been the anonymous gift fairy. This 10 envelope idea intrigues me and I plan to make it my own.

I am thankful for the time and less obligations this week. I will continue to carve out time to read and write and simply rest.

Also, my flash story was published in Gone Lawn yesterday. Click here to read it. One of the most influential teachers was my orchestra director who taught me from 6th grade to 12th. This (mostly) true story was inspired by him and my love of music.

What are you thinking today?

Wrap Up #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 16 days left in 2020 which means I have 16 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 16 days?

Today’s Prompt

This month I hosted a Bradbury Trio Challenge. For people who signed up, I sent 5 days of emails that curated a list of a short story, a poem, and an essay. Ray Bradbury talked about reading as a way to fuel your writing. In order to write better you needed to read every night for 1,000 nights.

It was a popular challenge and it was fun for me to pull together. I was able to share some of my favorite pieces with others. Searching for the things to read can be more time consuming than the reading time some days!

As a wrap up for the challenge I had a Zoom meeting to discuss the challenge. This call was life giving conversation and I am so glad I hosted it! There was a variety of responses to the challenge. Some people read more than others , which was to be expected with the time of year and state of the world. Everyone noticed different things.

One writer used a line from a poem to writer her own story.

One writer found a collection of short stories she would have not read before.

One writer analyzed what she liked to read and how that showed up in her writing.

One writer admitted that if I had not hand selected one of the stories she would have never read it all the way through. She did and ended up loving the story!

They all gave me great suggestions on how to move forward with the next version of the trio I create.

This call was just what I needed yesterday. A conversation connecting reading and writing and how I could help was what I needed on a Monday evening.

I also had books delivered yesterday which was an added bonus!

Currently, I am reading The All Night Sun by Diane Zinna

The All-Night Sun: A Novel by [Diane Zinna]

I also have Wild Milk by Sabrine Orah Mark

Wild Milk by [Sabrina Mark]

The 2021 Best American Short Stories and my Book of the Month December selection

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

I am set for reading for at least a week! HA! Good thing holiday break is coming up.

What are you reading?

How Are You Feeling? #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 23 days left in 2020 which means I have 23 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 23 days?

How are you feeling? is a question I don’t like very much. Honestly, I am not sure I am always sure how to answer. I have learned to suppress and ignore my feelings all my life. My brain works at a high rate of speed and often I have many emotions at once and sometimes they conflict. That fact also makes it hard to answer what seems like a simple inquiry that we SHOULD know the answer to.

As I was walking this week I revisited the podcast Just the Right Book. I had to stop listening to reading podcasts because my TBR got so out of control it was overwhelming. I came upon an episode about the book Permission to Feel by a Yale professor.

Many people I have been learning from over the last year about emotions say, “Honor your feelings” “Feel them.” “All emotions are ok.”

Yes, in theory.

But tell someone you are close to you are sad and they will tell you that you shouldnt be.

Or tell someone you are upset and someone will defend the others actions to try to talk you out of it.

No wonder we don’t know how we feel.

When I was upset as a child, I was often offered ice cream. Someone’s situation was always worse so I got the feeling I didn’t have the right to feel that way. It wasn’t all the time but the stories started forming early about how to deal with emotions or rather NOT deal with them.

So as a teacher, I have to be careful to honor the feelings of my little people. They don’t have to be happy all the time – nor is that realistic. Sometimes they are angry. But I have to give space for them to be able to talk to them about it. I do breathing and sharing at the start of every class and yesterday I added the question, How are you feeling?

I am looking forward to reading more about this research and being able to react to the answers to this question in a smarter way but honoring they have feelings and giving them space to express them is a good start.

I feel like this book came to me at just the right time on my journey and I am thankful. Maybe I will learn not to detest this question after all!

How do you feel about this question? And is your usual answer, “Fine”?

Avoidance of I #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 31 days left in 2020 which means I have 31 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 31 days?

I sit in my living room getting prepared to go to the building to work by the light of the Christmas tree.

Yesterday I had a writing conversation with a friend and we were talking about craft. I read a piece yesterday that started too many sentences that began with “I”. It was distracting and took me out of the piece.

All the years I have taught, I have loved to teach writing. I am sure it had something to do with the fact that deep down I want to be a full time writer but that was not an acceptable career choice in my family. I figured that teaching writing was the next best thing.

Teaching kindergarteners to write is a amazing because they have little prior experience.

One of the things I do is avoid having my K student write sentences that begin with “I”. What ends up happening is that later when they are writing more you get pages of “I” statements.

I like dogs.

I like to swim.

I love my mom.

It sounds all the same.

Sentence fluency is something I start with so that is the skill that becomes the habit and not the list of I statements that I would have to try to break later. As often as we can, our shared writing sentences begin with any other word.

Yesterday we learned the sight word GO so the sentences we wrote were:

We go camping. and

We go outside.

Details now are in the illustrations where lots of academic feedback is given. I have also taught them how to give feedback to each other. They discuss what they are writing outloud and then cues are picked up by other students.

In my live class you will often hear: “W. said he is adding a sun. I think that is a good idea and am adding one too.”

or

“I like the way A. added details to his butterfly. I am adding some to mine. He reminded me.”

Of course, one of my favorite questions is: Is it time for writing YET?

What have you noticed about teaching writing this year? I would love to hear in the comments.

High/Low/Learn #SOL20

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Every week on Llama Tuesday I write a blog post and share it on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Then I comment on at least 3 other posts.

Here are the rules:

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.

There are 38 days left in 2020 which means I have 38 more writing prompts to publish. Do you have plans for the last 38 days?

One of my obsessions lately has been journaling prompts. I even found a couple of podcasts dedicated to journaling. On an episode of Writing Your Best Self I heard a writer talk about logging the high of the day, the low and what you have learned.

I follow this method similarly with my energy challenge that comes from the author of The Third Door. I log what fueled my energy, what drained it and what I learned from those observations.

I was reminded of a protocol I learned at the EL Education conference last year in October called HIGH/LOW/BUFFALO. In this version, you share a high and a low and something completely out of left field! Some people need some prodding in order to be silly sometimes. It helps to get to know people in a hurry.

My day of working from home has just started but here is mine so far (Subject to change by the evening)

High: Wellness of my family and it snowed!

Low: I was woken up early by loud vehicles driving by

Buffalo: I learned today that pickled carrots are a thing and I am writing about them!

What are yours?

I would love to hear in the comments!

Anchors #SOL

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Over the weekend I took a writing class. The pandemic has yielded many classes and programs since so many were isolated. Some people went through bread baking phases, but many of my friends collected all the classes.

The class was a two part guided writing exercise to create more knowledge around a world a writer creates. One of the points Nina made was to have a list of 5 anchors to keep the heart of your story in the forefront of your mind. A list to keep you centered. A list to bring you back to the story you want to tell.

When I was writing in my notebook about the experience I thought about life anchors.

What are the 5 things that anchor you to the heart of your life?

What are the 5 things that anchor you to your teaching life?

Are they the same?

This is what I am thinking and writing about today.

Writing Prompt and an Announcement

Starting on September 23rd if you join my Patreon community you will receive a daily prompt for 100 days like the one above. We have a Slack community as well so you can join other writers.

September 23rd starts a special time period – the last 100 days of 2020! Can you believe it???

The last 100 days is the perfect time to give yourself a challenge. You can join mine or create your own. I would love to hear what you plan to do.

Last year I vowed to do one yoga pose a day for the remaining 100 days of 2019. A friend wrote 100 word essays. The possibilities are endless. You could answer the same morning and evening questions. I follow Karissa Kouchis who is a national trainer for Tony Robbins. She has challenged herself to answer the same morning and evening questions for the next 30+ days for a training. I have been answering them in my journal as well.

What questions would propel you into a new reality if you committed to them for 100 days? One of the exercises in Tony Robbins Personal Power class is to construct questions you ask yourself every day. I have a list in my Google Keep Notes.

Here are the questions I am using right now from KK:

Morning:

  1. What are you most happy about in your life right now? How does that make you feel?
  2. What am I most proud of right now? How does that make me feel?
  3. What am I most committed to right now? How does that make me feel?

Do you see a pattern here?

Evening:

  1. What have I been given today?
  2. What have I given to others?
  3. What have I learned today?
  4. How has today added to the quality of the overall investment in my life?

Happy writing! Happy reflecting!

I would love to hear your ideas for the last 100 days. It is a perfect time for a self imposed challenge!

Choices – Path to the Future or the Past?

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

This school year feels like it is everyone’s first year teaching no matter what year you are on.

A friend recommended a book by Debbie Ford called The Right Questions. There is power to questions. The first one in the book is: Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?

As I was making notes on these first two weeks of the new school year this question was floating around in my head.

After 7 years as a coach, I went back to the classroom. As I have written before, there is a list of reasons for this movement. It is a step of learning and experience. I believe it is an important step for me necessary for an inspired future and what I want to do next.

How does this change serve me? One of the ways is to experience teaching again in a day to day way. Kindergarten is the year where the I am required to think about the simplest explanations for the most complex ideas. In kindergarten there is potential for stories in everything. Five year olds make connections and say things that are unusual and is one of my favorite parts of the job.

When I teach, I make micro-movements in instruction based on the students actions. I am taking this year to analyze how I do this in real time. This year I have the advantage of recording my meetings with students so I can go back again if there are important breakthroughs that happen in class.

There has been two weeks of this school year so far and all prep. Breaking down what I have done with my time is important for my own learning.

-There has been lots of professional development and meetings (all virtual). Some meetings have been done well, and others not so much. I am always analyzing how people conduct their trainings so I can learn what to do and what not to do in my own.

-Everything is new for everyone. The overwhelm hit us all at different times. There were moments that people felt like there were too many changes. This happened for first year teachers and the 30 year veterans. We all feel like we learn and then stumble around in the dark and find our way again. My team is wonderful and we help each other. The strengths we have become everyone’s because of the sharing. We teach each other. I have not had a true team in a long time.

-Contact with parents is always a tricky area for me but a requirement. We are must use Class DOJO and SEESAW here at the beginning. Parents are familiar with DOJO we were told. I have issue with starting with too many things and then changing.

In the Spring, I had success with text messages for contact with parents so I did the same this fall.

I sent this message to my parents this week:

Hello! This is Mrs. Breitweiser (child)’s Kindergarten teacher. I just wanted to reach out and say hello.

Material pick up starts tomorrow.

We will have a combination of live and recorded teaching in 2 sessions. 8-11 and 12-3. Please let me know which (child) prefers.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Follow up texts required answered questions. I also sent this message:

What is something you would like me to know about (child)? Something that is her/his favorite? Or a special story?

I use the child’s name as much as possible. I send audio messages talking to the student and short video messages as well.

-Virtual open house was successful. We had two 30 minute Zoom meetings and I had over half my students show up. There were smiling faces and cats on the screen. The virtual tour of the classroom and my live explanation of the learning kits were a hit. I introduced myself with a list of favorites that I told the students they would answer starting next week. I showed pictures of my family. Whatever we show our students is what they think we value so those first impressions are important.

It was important to me to tell the parents my past teaching experience. I want to assure them I am qualified to teach their child so they feel as secure as possible.

In the virtual tour I showed all the places where I have the student’s names. I want them to know that it is their classroom even when we are far away.

-Having to be in the building has helped with focus for the start of school. I had some frustration with this requirement especially on the days I spent most of the time in a chair in a meeting in front of my computer. Another focus that is a positive is that it is easier to fast while at school. There is no food there and it requires effort to get in the car and leave if I am stressed.

Do I feel prepped enough? I think so. If something goes wrong then I will pivot and we will use it as a learning experience.

I will make a list of things to remember before Tuesday at 8am.

There is a list of things I want to make sure to remember. If I don’t? I will write it down for the next meeting. This is the same practice whether I am in real life teaching or virtual.

We will see how it goes! I know for certain my choice propels me to the future I create.