Thursday, January 14, 2021

Just Two Sentences

Yesterday, I had a call to discuss and plan for an upcoming project. We had a great chat that left me energized and made me feel excited, like my old self. Then I hopped into my next meeting.

I was truly shocked AND UTTERLY DELIGHTED that he sent me an email message about 10 minutes later that had just two short sentences, thanking me for my time and saying he enjoyed our conversation.
And ... all it took was a 2-sentence email.
It made me think about how I can pour into others with just two sentences. It takes just moments but can make the most difference.

Our schedules are jammed so tight. Like you, I jump from meeting to meeting, back to back to back, until evening. It's not healthy. But that DISRUPTION of receiving an email that contains a heartfelt thanks gives me the pause I need to stop, breathe, and smile.

How can I positively disrupt my teammates' day? How can I ensure that I intentionally *PAUSE* and thank them? I need to be more intentional.

These days, we feel isolated. Pre-Covid, I think many of us were walking around feeling unseen. But now, some of us feel invisible, and that's not okay. It's not.

We need to just stop. Pause. Listen. Breathe. See each other- actually SEE each other. Fill each other up.

And fill ourselves up, too... How can we build ourselves up in just two sentences?

These two sentences also made me think about how those short statements- those very brief moments can also rip us up. How many times do we feel degraded, demoralized, or discouraged with just two sentences: in a text, an email, a comment on social media, etc.

We sure can do a lot with just two sentences.

These two sentences also made me reflect on the reasons WHY I felt so shocked and so delighted. So, so much to unpack there. That's for another time.

But for now, I'm going to save those two sentences as a wonderfully welcome moment- I'm going to take them, fold them up, and tuck them into my pocket and save them for a rainy day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Communicating Boundaries: Available Hours

 Do you set boundaries? How do you communicate those boundaries? 

I'm trying to improve on this more so I'm starting to contemplate ways to hold myself accountable. I want to unplug from work (and work-related passions) after a certain time, but then there's a Twitter Chat, a webinar, or a new professional book that calls to me- and BOOM! I don't unplug all the way. 

I'm guilty of working 7 days a week, and it needs to stop so that I can feel healthier, happier, and less anxious. I want to be my best self to those I serve, so I need to better serve myself. 

I was wondering how many folks added in a statement or two in their email signatures? I'm playing around with the idea myself. It will help me establish and communicate my boundaries, and also help me hold myself accountable for maintaining those boundaries.

 In order to nurture a stronger work-life balance, I only answer e-mails between the hours of X and X. 

In order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, I am unavailable after Xpm. If my hours of X and X do not work for you, please contact me to set up a time for us to connect. Our time together is important to me!

Or, in your work's voicemail- do you share out your available hours? Do you let people know when you're turning your phone off each day? 

How do you communicate your boundaries? 

What works best for you, your family, your schedule, and your work? 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Fighting The "Sunday Scaries"

Don't we all have those days where we feel like we've been put through the wringer? We love what we do- yes, of course. However, this year has been rough. 

I know this is still my heart's work. But I get the "Sunday Scaries." 

I can do a few things that help me feel ready and pumped for the week: 
*Spend time with my planner (decorating with stickers, empowering quotes, and using lots of colorful pens, of course)
*Spend time deepening my faith (Devotions, prayer, worship, reading, etc.) 
*Laying out a favorite outfit, accessory, lip color, etc.
*Waking up ten minutes earlier than normal to do something of my choice
*Drinking a fun, fruit-infused water (I love cucumbers or strawberries & lime)
*Lighting a candle of some sort

Annnnd... here's a collection of a few things that make me feel inspired, empowered, or just... better. Grab a pen & paper, write down YOUR list, and save it for the Sunday Scaries... or whenever you need a boost. Include your favorite videos, books, movies, shows, songs (and continue with your favorite quotes, Bible verses, lyrics, etc.)! Update it monthly!  


Kids Deserve It! by Adam Welcome & Todd Nesloney 
Teach Better by Rae Hughart, Jeff Gargas, Chad Ostrowski, Tiffany Ott
Girl On Fire by Cara Alwill Leyba

Legally Blonde
Speed (yes... seems weird and out of place... I don't get it, either!)

Netflix Shows that Cheer Me Up: 
Young & Hungry
Baby Daddy 
Schitt's Creek

Level Up by Ciara
Who Run the World (Girls) by Beyonce
Sparrows by Jason Grey 
Confidence by Sanctus Real
Selfish by Britney Spears
Your Girlfriend Does by Walker Hayes
Party Man by Prince
The Way You Make Me Feel by Michael Jackson

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Why I Intentionally Use this Picture at Conferences

A few years ago, I started to put myself out there more- writing, blogging, and speaking at conferences. I thought I had to dress and speak a certain way. But I wasn't being myself and I felt fake. 

Folks will sometimes ask for a headshot, so I will send them a cheesy photo from my sister's backyard that I took in a panic after needing it for a friend's book. On that day, I didn't have a "nice" camera or a "nice" setting on my Android device, and I knew she had one of the fancy cameras that would have the right resolution. Prior to that, I used a photo of me standing (in my pajamas with a blazer over my top) in front of my house. But again, those weren't capturing who I am. 

I still use the pictures when I need to, but if it were up to me, I would not. When I present, I wear pink or another fun color that makes me feel like myself. I wear sparkly gold boots. I tell stories that taught me a lot or that made me laugh. I giggle and I might even snort. Yep. And, I show this picture when I introduce myself instead of my headshot: 


This is me (center) with my two best friends, my sisters Ashley (left) and Danielle (on the right). I show this picture because it captures who I am. In this photo, we're at a wedding. We're dressed to the nines. We huddled close as we always do to take a "nice photo" ... and then we do this. These are the photos that show I am. 

Someone once asked if I should be sharing something so unprofessional at a professional conference. It was a great question. But I want to personally dismantle this idea that being professional means only wearing certain colors, posing a certain way, or speaking in a certain way. I think being professional means I can embrace who I am, do my best to serve, and try to contribute positively to my field. 

These days, our work lives and our home lives are so blurred. Home-life and work-life constantly "bump into" each other. Burnout exists right alongside of Compassion Fatigue, this idea of COVID-19 Fatigue, and just pure exhaustion. I don't want to act one way at work and a different way at home. I just want to be me wherever I am.

I am both an Educator and Human Being. 

I'm a passionate speaker, but I'm also a silly sister. 

I'm an advocate for those I serve, but I'm also a big fan of Elle Woods.

I'm a writer, but I'm also a goofball. 

I'm a blogger, but I'm a Mama. 

I'm a teacher, but I love(d) going out and dancing with my girlfriends.

I'm a teammate, but I also foster puppies. 

I can be all of these things. I can embrace all the parts of my identity and I can share my silly side and still be "professional." 

I don't want anyone to limit my daughter or dim her sparkle (nor do I want that for my son, but women sadly tend to have a lot more critics- just look at how Dr. Jill Biden is being treated!). I don't want anyone to silence the students I serve and convince them that they have to conform to fit someone's ideas of what it means to "be professional." 

Finally, my career is FUN. I work with children! My work is exciting, colorful, loud, and messy. I want my fun to spill over into professional learning. I hate boring PD. 

So, here I am, world. This is me. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Smoke Detector Chirps & Zooms: An Opportunity

I have watched several well-known educators use their social media platforms to complain or commiserate about the chirping smoke detectors in their students' homes. Each post receives tons of engagement- lots of likes and comments about how "someone finally said it!" 

This post isn't to teacher-shame. That doesn't feel good and it doesn't offer solutions. This post is to offer an opportunity to reframe our thinking, and instead help us find an opportunity to serve.

COVID-19 has changed our lives since March 2020. Most of the activities we have come to know and love in our communities have been canceled or changed to follow health and safety guidelines. Friends, this includes the annual events at many of the firehouses across the country. 

Many of us had fire safety visits from "firefighter friendly" during the month of October.  They'd talk to students about ways to stay safe, how to make emergency plans, and more. October is generally the month where fire departments open their doors and host community events. Those were the times where many towns would distribute free batteries and/or free smoke detectors in an effort to keep everyone safe.

But... those events didn't happen this year. And now here we are, in December 2020, with lots of chirping detectors. 

Yes, I get it- I have a dog and I foster puppies for a local rescue organization. Yes, the chirping bothers the dogs. When one dog barks, they all bark, and yes- chaos ensues. Yes, I have gotten headaches. But--- and this is a BIG but- I really don't need to be centering myself in this situation

I'm not judging the family. That doesn't serve anyone. 

Here are some alternatives to consider: 

1. Send batteries to the family through Amazon or USPS. This is an especially simple solution for folks who are critiquing the family's situation and saying that "batteries aren't even that expensive." Making comments about what's expensive or too expensive or not expensive is highly rooted in your own socioeconomic status, and we must remember that everyone's situation is different. I am an educator and I must check and re-check my different privileges so that I can better serve.

2. Send a kind note to the family with a link to a YouTube video with directions on how to change the detector. Lots of great videos are out there- many in different languages. Ask if they need or want help.

3. Talk to your local fire department or your village hall. Ask if they can help. Coordinate a time with the family and ask if they're open to a 2-minute non-invasive visit. Our fire departments are anxious to continue their prevention efforts, and having firefighters pop into homes for just a moment to swap out batteries or check on detectors is a great way to build community, and keep families safe. **Please remember that not all families trust people in uniform, and not everyone feels comfortable with other people in their homes- especially now. Let's be respectful and responsive, but we can offer this as an option to families.** 

4. Reach out to your community. I have learned over the years that folks want to help. There are always good people waiting in the wings who want to serve others and give back, but they don't know the best channels or avenues. If you are active on social media, engage your network, and ask for help. 

5. Partner with your community agencies to see if you can arrange a prevention event in your community's neighborhoods. Promote the event with multilingual flyers. Provide free batteries, free smoke detectors, and free demonstrations of how to change the batteries. 

My friend (and my personal hero) Jill Brickman is the Director of the Northfield Township Food Pantry. While she and I were talking about this and started brainstorming ways we can help, she shared how it is especially worrisome during the winter months to not have working smoke detectors. Many families utilize space heaters to keep their homes warmer, and we want to ensure that the families we serve are safe. We are currently working on plans to partner with The Rotary Club and other service organizations to replace batteries in neighborhoods!

As Adam Welcome always says, "Complaining is not a strategy." 

Take action. Take heart. Connect. Serve. 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Shutting Down Soon? Print These Now for your Newcomers!

Is your school district shutting down soon? Need materials to print for your newcomers? Here is a short listing of some great items! 

 Nebraska packets by grade level and proficiency level: Linked here. Please note that Nebraska is not a WIDA state, but you can find great materials at different levels of proficiency as well as different grade level clusters! 

This multilingual collab done by EL teachers across the US. Done by grade level- weekly calendars for up to 12 weeks of low-tech/no-tech instruction. Links are on the right side by language and by week. This is targeted for beginning levels of English proficiency.

For these, they are printable sheets with QR codes done by Pamela Broussard (she's amazing- be sure to follow her on Twitter @LeadingELLs and consider joining her Facebook group, Leading ELLs- it's a great space to collaborate with other colleagues in our field!). These do require kids to know how to use QR codes, so that is a good thing to practice before going remote. Targeted towards newcomers. **Please remember that this is the intellectual property of Pamela Broussard- so please keep her name on these documents! Thanks so much!**
What other things might you consider? 
*books, books, books!
*Notebooks, reams of paper, loose leaf paper
*Printable coloring pages
*Stacks of pencils, pens, writing utensils
*Devices, cords, chargers, headphones, etc. 
*Food distribution calendar and phone numbers
*Phone numbers to community agencies for support 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

I'm Just Going to Say It: This Sucks.

 I didn't want to write this because I didn't want to sound like such a downer. I also didn't want to come off as disrespectful of any of my colleagues who are doing this work (and doing it quite well, I should add). But I had to get this off my chest.

I don't want another webinar (yes, this from the girl who presents at lots of webinars and also loves to consume and share webinars).

I don't want more tips (yes, this from the girl who shares tips and tricks and reshares posts of other folks doing the same). 

I don't want another list of ways that I should be beefing up my self-care. I have adjusted my vitamins, practice daily gratitude, take brain breaks and movement breaks, take time for myself, etc. Yes, this from the girl who constantly tells colleagues and teammates to invest in themselves.

I don't want (yet another) person to tell me to just remember my Why.  Yes, this from the girl who always wants to remember what she's fighting for.

I don't feel productive. I don't feel like I'm making a difference. I'm not feeling motivated to write or create content or share. This is still a pandemic. I'm still doggy-paddling. I'm still trying every single day- but this is still hard. 

On some days, I just want to sit back and say "This sucks." I know complaining is not a strategy, but I need a safe space where I can let it out with a friend, a colleague, a teammate. This sucks. This is hard. 

So if this finds you on a day where you just need to hear it, say it, share it: 

This sucks. 

That's all. I'm with you. I see you.