Category Archives: teacher

Meditation Trial and Error: Tales From the Classroom

When I reach the end of my Calm session and the coach says “okay, now if you’re ready, open your eyes…” I’m never ready.

I have a giant class this semester smack dab in the middle of the day. The class that follows is not big, but they are loud and excited about life all the time.

I asked if they wanted to try breathing with the Calm app and they were all in.

So we sat in a circle and closed our eyes and focused on breathing.

About half the class broke after a minute. They couldn’t stop the laughter.

It does feel awkward to sit silently breathing the first few times you meditate. It’s just weird when we’re so used to constant bombardment from a million different directions. So I get it.

A few of us kept breathing, but the kids who laughed got busy working.

We’ve tried a few more times with the same level of success.

Then yesterday hit and the kids sat in a circle breathing, no laughter, no anything other than breath and peace. When I stopped they said “Nooooooo! That was like a minute.”

Nope. 2 minutes 48 seconds.

We made it to 4 minutes and started work.

Y’all, those four minutes were everything.

The stress of the day was gone for me AND for the class. They were so much more focused in their work. And they could not believe how much time had passed.

We don’t meditate every day, and it’s completely optional. The kids said they wished we would make it an everyday exercise.

Maybe we will.

I just really like this new leggings print.

Zoom!

Last night we got home from the show so fast.

I couldn’t believe we made it out of the parking garage and to the apartment in less than 20 minutes. That’s crazy good time. We’ve been stuck in that garage forever after a Bass Hall show.

DH aka super driver.

Anyway we got home and I grabbed a cup of coffee to warm up. An entire cup. No thought.

At 9 p.m.

Once upon a time that was no big deal. These days? Oh man.

No sleep. Which would be okay except we’re at school until 8 tonight.

😴😴😴

The words aren’t working today. That’s for sure!

Not the coffee I drank. This is the newsroom coffee.

What I’m Loving: this year’s yearbook, my new socks, chicken

What I’m Writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

Doubt Demons

I passed out doubt demons in class today. I started class showing off mine. His name is Freddy.

I told the kids I write novels and love words and help edit others’ work, and still there are times I sit at the computer and hate everything about everything. I hate the way the words look, they way they feel when I say them, the scene they’re part of. I hate the commas and periods and pronouns. I hate it all. And if I let it, that feeling will consume me and the work and it’s so bad I just want to trash it all and start something shiny and new and fun. Something I can LOVE. But with my doubt demon around, I can pick him up, put him on my finger and say, “Not today, Freddy. Not today.”

After I told my story, I broke out the demons and invited the kids to choose their own. No one had to, but if they wanted one, they could take one, name it and have it out at their workstations while they work the rest of the year.

I thought I’d been pretty open about my writing, but as I told my story today my kids sat there listening and nodding their heads and even saying “Yes!” at times. They’re halfway through the year and they’ve faced all the doubt struggles that come with interviewing and writing and designing and photo stories. They know their work is going to be published and it lasts forever and the pressure is real. Some of them write creatively outside our class. They understand doubt. But until today I don’t think it ever really connected that I know doubt too.

I hope the doubt demons help us all banish the negativity and embrace the reality that the doubt is just part of the process.

*I ordered my doubt demons at Archie McPhee.

I’m thankful to Angelique L’Amour who introduced me to Doubt Demons at last year’s DFW Writers Conference. If you get a chance, definitely take her classes!

What I’m Loving: Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead, LCHF, Finals!, Saginaw Night Writers, Quest nacho cheese flavored chips

What I’m Writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

Books I’ve Loved This Year: Atomic Habits, Dumplin’

Teenagers, Teenagers

Spent today with teenagers who chose to give up their Saturday to compete in UIL Academics.

People trash talk teenagers all the time. But you know what? Young people make me happy.

They believe absolutely that they can do almost anything unless that belief has been sucked out of them. They will defend their beliefs with research and a well thought out argument. They are kind and caring and considerate, and they often reach out when they see someone hurting or alone. Even if they don’t know that someone.

They are smart! When I was in school we had to take math. Not Algebra. Math. And science? Physical Science and Biology. Social studies and English weren’t even required four years. Sure, some kids did more. But you didn’t have to to graduate. These kids take tons of tough classes and still work and juggle busy electives AND give up their weekends for UIL.

People talk about teen attitudes, and yeah, they can roll their eyes so far into the backs of their heads I wonder about their health. But you know what? Go hang out on twitter for more than five minutes. You’ll see they’re just in training.

Teenagers are great. Glad I got to spend my Saturday with a few.

Tales From the Classroom

She didn’t have her photos.

Easy photos.

20 photos that tell the story of our classroom.

But nope. No photos.

Why?

Her phone had no storage.

No problem. I gave her a little point and shoot to take her photos.

Excited, she took the camera, started walking around pressing the display screen in frustration.

Wait. What?

“Miss, how does this work? How do I get pictures?”

That’s when I realized I’d made a world of assumptions. When I handed her that camera, I assumed she would know how to use it because it was a simple point and shoot.

But that simple camera was completely foreign to her. She’s 14. She’s grown up pushing a button on a screen to take photos.

Fortunately, she wasn’t afraid to speak up when doing that didn’t work.

I showed her how to snap the pictures and she quickly took care of the assignment.

She learned how to use a point and shoot. I learned a whole lot more.

So often I think I’m assigning something super easy, but it’s only easy if the students have had specific life experiences.

I’ve got a lot more to learn.

On to the next assignment.

What I’m loving: The Young and the Restless, the train running from Fort Worth to the airport, DoTERRA On Guard, Quest snickerdoodles, Spark People, teaching

What I’m writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

Great Week

I loved this week so much. A big part of that was two Dallas Stars games, but it was more than that.

The Calm app is so helpful. I can’t wait to see the positive influence on my attitude during a work week.

Moving more, breathing deeper, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of DH splitting time between here and Wichita Falls. All of that added up to making a good week.

I’ve lost 11 pounds since Thanksgiving. LCHF works when you love it instead of playing at it. That also made a good week.

We took the train to the second Stars game this week, and I LOVE the train. That made for a good week.

I wrote more and read more and played more. It was the perfect way to spend the second week of winter break.

Looking forward to Monday!

What I’m Loving: The TRE from Fort Worth to AAC, Sundance Square, the Dallas Stars, Sweatin’ to the Oldies, LCHF

What I’m writing: So Much For Happily Ever After

School, School, The Golden Rule

I loved school from the start even though it didn’t always love me.

In Bald Knob at 5, I think, I got in trouble for singing off key on purpose. It’s the only thing I remember about being in school there except the time I accidentally stayed on the bus and was scared I’d never get home.

In first grade in Minnesota I couldn’t read even though everyone else in my class could. But I didn’t feel like a failure. I felt special because I got to sit at a little cubicle desk and use a film strip about dinosaurs to help me learn phonics. I never doubted I’d get to the circles, and I was determined to get to blue.

When we moved to Texas I liked learning, and I even got over the time my teacher screeched and threw my paper in the trash because I’d written “in the margin.” She didn’t define margin. I thought she meant the side with the holes. It seemed silly to me to lose all that great space on the side without holes.

The worst I felt was because my handwriting never quite measured up to that of the girls who stood at the board and showed off their penmanship with pretty curlicues and hearts to dot the perfect i. But I loved school.

I loved school until junior high when a math teacher crushed my world every single day by telling me it was dumb that I couldn’t do simple algebra.

But in high school a new math teacher helped me see the teacher was the one with the problem not me.

Monday I go back to school for the second semester of my 25th year teaching. During meditation today my brain kept drifting to everything that needs to be done and things I want to address and how excited I am to see the kids but how sad I’ll be to lose this time. That’s what this break has given me more than anything. Time to breathe, to play, to reflect, to just be.

I’ll miss this break. But I still love school.

What I’m loving right now: The Daily Calm meditation, The Young and the Restless, my down comforter, the Dallas Stars, Tyler Seguin’s answers on the Tyler Seguin show on the Ticket.

What I’m writing: So Much For Happily Ever After. (Hit 48k last night at group!)

Lessons

Be kind.

Help others.

Event + Response = Outcome

Everyone is just as busy as you are. We all have the same 24 hours.

When you’re feeling down, do for others. It will make you feel better.

When making a parent phone call, put yourself in that parent’s position and ask yourself what you would want to hear.

You can’t take words back.

Don’t speak in anger.

The universe listens and responds.

The Serenity Prayer is real.

The Golden Rule is real.

Say yes more.

Learn to say no.

You do you.

Written goals are better.

Dream big.

Make your own fun.

Perfection is impossible.

Deadlines are deadlines.

A clean desk is possible.

A messy desk isn’t a moral failure.

Ask.

Listen.

Love.

Save the Public School: VOTE

There is a villain in the Oklahoma teacher walk out, and his name is Harold Hamm. Honestly. Mary Fallin is his partner in villainy.

For the last two decades the American public has watched while states led by radical conservatives cut taxes on corporations and destroyed public services while doing so. The experiment has led to massive cuts to education, healthcare, mental health facilities, special needs services and more while the income gap has gutted much of the middle class.

I knew this, and still I was shocked to read that Hamm, the 28th richest man in the US and one of the world’s top 100 richest men lobbied the OK lege against a tax hike.

Giant corporate tax cuts supposedly work like this: giant rich companies led by billionaires pay low, low taxes or no taxes, hire tons of people and pour money into local public services.

But it hasn’t worked like that. Instead companies like Hamm’s have grown bigger and richer while those giant corporate tax cuts have led to crisis after crisis. And current far right Republican leaders continue to cut and cut and cut.

It hasn’t always been this way, I don’t think. But it’s where we are now, and it’s our fault. We keep allowing culture wars to control our votes and we keep these people who are decimating our public schools in office.

People, there is only one way to fix this problem. Vote the current leadership out. Show up at the polls in November and tell the Harold Hamm’s and Mary Fallin’s we are done with their nonsense.

Texas: this is OK focused, but listen up. We are headed in the same direction courtesy of Abbott and awful DP. Our power rests in our vote. Don’t let this continue. Vote them out of office.

The World is Changing

When I was in college, I had to take speech to graduate. I HATED talking in front of people, but as my professor told me, if I wanted a degree, I had to do it.

I survived.

Today I’m a workshop speaker, I’ve spoken at school board meetings, I’ve given speeches at rallies, I’ve presided over meetings. All of that still makes me nervous. I’m not sure any of those public speaking moments would have ever happened if Dr. Dencil Taylor hadn’t told me I had no choice but to speak in front of my class. EVEN though I told him I’d get sick. He was heartless.

Actually what he was was a master educator who believed more in me than I believed in myself.

Today speech class is no longer part of the required curriculum in Texas colleges. The lege decided it wasn’t necessary. EVEN though public speaking ability is one of the skills business leaders say is absolutely essential to success.

Recently I read about a university that is cutting liberal arts majors. On further investigation I found this is a common theme in higher education. The reason given over and over again: it’s tough to get a job with a liberal arts degree.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if a degree that encourages you to think and read and write can’t translate to a job.

The world is changing, and not for the better, if we only look at education in terms of vocation.

I was alarmed when students said they didn’t want to take high school journalism because they didn’t want to be journalists. I mean, let’s be real, high school IS NOT ONLY about what you’re going to do later in life. And it shouldn’t be. Shoot in all likelihood students will change their major more than once in college if they go to college. They’ll definitely go down different career paths regardless of whether or not they get a degree.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with vocational education, but for us to make all educational decisions through that limited lens is a huge mistake.

And that mistake is the same mistake universities that choose to discontinue liberal arts degrees are making.

The world is changing. Training for a vocation is not enough. Students need to be able to think critically and problem solve and write and analyze data and think some more and work in collaborative groups and think some more. They need to learn how to be flexible and understand the difference between fact and opinion, and they need to understand the power of propaganda. And they definitely need to know the past because it serves as a lesson, a warning, a road map to our future.

Yes, we need vocational education. But vocational education is not all we need.

Liberal arts subjects help us navigate that changing world. Removing them from the curriculum is the wrong answer to a real issue.

The world is changing. Absolutely.