Category Archives: teaching

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

Living Deliberately

Maybe that headline is little too much, but I’m making a point to be a more aware of my time second semester.

It’s super easy to get caught in work and to live in the newsroom. I like it there. It’s fun. I like the kids. We do great work. The students like 80s music and will jump into a dance party on demand. I mean, yeah. It’s AWESOME.

But I need to reclaim my time. And they need to reclaim theirs.

Yes, after school deadlines are part of my world. No, staying after school every day is not healthy, wise or a good lesson for my kids.

So…

I have a signup sheet on the table. If kids need to work after school outside of designated work nights or past the 30 minutes I’m always here, they have to sign up on Monday for the week. They can’t stay after Friday. We’ll see about Saturday mornings. They’re fun but they make the weekend short, and that’s not good for any of us.

This live deliberately goal will require all of us to plan better. It will also encourage us to do more outside the classroom.

I want my room to be vibrant and alive and exciting and fun. But I want us all to be healthy with the time we spend.

We’ll see how it works. 😊👩‍💻👏

An aside: you guys, Quest chips are LCHF heaven.

What I’m Loving: coffee, Diet Dr Pepper, these temperatures, Quest chips, LCHF, our yearbook cover, the scene I just wrote in my WIP, getting all my electrolytes in, the Daily Calm

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’

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

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.

Part the Waters

This time of year is almost always tough in the yearbook advising business. Adding the weight of more school shootings, an awful flu season, the Texas political situation and its impacts educators and their healthcare, and a plethora of life’s emotional dings has made the last six weeks so tough.

Seriously.

This week has pushed and pushed and finally I felt like breaking.

In that moment as I sat in my classroom during my conference looking at what all has to be done and trying to find a plan to make it happen, I looked up and said, Jesus Help.

When I spoke those words I felt so completely broken and yet so completely sure that whatever else happens, God’s got me and I’ve got Him.

Within a couple of hours several little things happened to help relieve some of my worry.

I believe in the miraculous power of God. I believe the biggest miracle of all is God’s unending grace. I believe God had a hand in showing me yet again that if I turn to Him in my always those break down moments don’t have to be so all encompassing.

Yesterday nothing huge changed in the day to day business of a stressful final deadline when deadlines have been a struggle all year. There was no physical “Part the Waters” moment. But that moment of prayer and the peace that came after…the psychological and emotional sense of peace and comfort…it was beautiful.

I’m sitting in my classroom now, and I know it’s going to be okay.

My prayer is this: Lord, help me to remember my why in the classroom instead of letting deadline become my focus. Help me to let go and let You, help me to rest assured in the knowledge that when things are overwhelming, I can turn to You, but I don’t have to wait until that moment. You are always even when I forget.

Opening lyrics to the song that I love so much: When I think I’m going under, part the waters, Lord

When I feel the waves around me, calm the sea

When I cry for help, oh, hear me, Lord

And hold out Your hand

Touch my life Still the raging storm in me

Dear Teacher

Another broken child walked into a school and committed mass murder.

Another broken child lots of teachers had tried to reach.

And tomorrow we will face classrooms full of kids, some of whom are also broken. And we will still try to reach them. We will still pray for the miraculous moment a connection is made and the most awful of the most awful won’t happen, and we won’t ever know how close the most awful was.

We’ll walk into school tomorrow and look around and reevaluate our shelter in place plans and talk to each other about those plans. We’ll probably debate gun control and teaching the vote and what that looks like.

But we’ll also do our jobs and make those connections with kids.

Some of whom are broken.

Prayers for us all and prayers for all our kids.

Our hearts are breaking as we go through this again.

Teach the Vote: Save Our Public Schools

When I first started teaching one of the best teachers I’ve ever known told me something that has proven to be true in ways I never imagined.

When I said I didn’t like to “be political” she said teaching would always be political and that there were forces at work trying to destroy the public school system because they wanted to raid the funding.

I didn’t believe her in 1994, but by ‘99 I saw she was right. Back then it was Pearson and the high cost of testing and curriculum for the tests and retests. I still didn’t understand the full truth of what she saw.

I didn’t understand that banks were starting for-profit charters and moving into states while pulling funding from schools. I didn’t know hedge-fund operators were donating huge amounts to politicians to change the rules. I sure didn’t expect the state to give billions to private investors while cutting funding to our state teacher pension and insurance fund. I didn’t realize then that the push to make public education teaching a drive-through profession was because without a large,vocal group of seasoned public educators, politicians could raid funds all day long and few would know or care.

Flash forward to two decades later.

What that teacher underestimated was how apathy toward voting in the education profession made it easy for politicians to do the billionaires’ bidding, leaving school districts struggling while for-profit charters flourish with no or little oversight.

So here we are. On Feb. 20 early voting starts for the Texas primaries that will be held March 6.

Teachers must stand up and say no more.

We must vote for our students and our schools. We must vote for ourselves and our futures. We must vote for our retirees.

This election is a battle in the war on public education. It’s not about party. It’s bigger than that.

If you want to know how to fight back, a good place to start is the Texans for Public Education site. There’s a list on the site of the public education friendly candidates running for office.

Public education is a bedrock of our democracy. It levels the playing field for all students when it is allowed to.

And when career educators—not just teachers but our staffs, counselors and admin as well— work their full thirty years or more, public schools are stronger.

Both traditions are under attack.

Voting can change that.

The teacher who told me teaching is political was right. We can’t afford to ignore that truth. If we do, our students suffer and our profession will cease to exist.