Living in the Moment: My #nerdlution

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When I first saw the hashtag #nerdlution, I thought it was funny, but also a good idea to start thinking of resolutions as the year winds down.  This has been a big year for me personally going through some challenges and struggles, but I persevered and am stronger than ever.  I have taken time to rediscover my values and what makes me happy; I have rebuilt my self-confidence and make decisions for what I want without feeling pressured by someone else.  For the first time in a very long time, I’m truly smiling and laughing again.

 

My #nerdlution is to continue my progress and live in and enjoy the moment.  Sometimes, there are so many activities going on and deadlines to meet that we’re focused on what’s coming next and rushing to get there.  Rather than enjoying what I’m doing, whether it’s teaching, meeting friends for dinner, or watching a sporting event, my mind is sometimes elsewhere and I miss out.  I know I’ll get where I need to go, finish a task, and be okay if it doesn’t get done at that moment.  I want to enjoy cooking, my favorite tv show, or the book I’m reading.  I want to enjoy the small moments at school: a child’s accomplishments, hearing a story from a student, receiving a friendly wave in the hallway, or running around the classroom because everyone is raising their hand and asking for help.

 

During the month of November, I participated in 30 Days of Gratitude; each day I wrote down one thing I was grateful for in my life such as my family, things I enjoy doing, or nature.  Gratitude goes with Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, but should be practiced all year long.  Take a step back, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the moment.  I’ve tried to stop obsessing over all the little details, have confidence things will work out, and know it’s okay to take some me-time.  I’m a much happier person and enjoy all my activities and people I’m with.  I’m proud in how far I’ve come, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

 

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New Year’s Resolutions

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I’ve always felt lucky being Jewish living in the United States because I have two New Years.  At Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the fall, I make a few resolutions for things I want to personally focus on for the following year.  It is a great time to reflect on what is going well in my life, what things I want to change, and what things are getting better but I still want to work on.  There is a designated period of 10 days between the High Holidays to repent and reflect, so I can think how the past year went and what changes I want to make for the following year.  I use this time to reflect on who I want to be as a person and how I will feel most proud of myself.

A few months later, I have the chance to reevaluate my resolutions on January 1st, my second New Year.  My goals may not drastically change, but it is a great opportunity to reflect how things are going, what progress I’ve made, and revise or update my goals if necessary.  The ultimate goal is to keep pushing forward as the best me, and my second New Year is a chance to celebrate the progress on my journey.

Every year, I set personal goals related to my health, exercise, and staying in contact with friends.  Throughout this past year, I’ve spent a lot of time internally reflecting on and figuring out who I am and how to be happy.  It has been an incredible journey of self discovery and something I want to continue.  Smile more.  Focus on the present and what I’m doing at that particular moment.  Make my own choices and have “Me” time to do things I enjoy.

One resolution I am making for this coming year is to show more gratitude and appreciation for the things I have.  Every morning, I should wake up and think of something I am looking forward to that day.  In the evening, I should think about one positive thing that happened during the day and five things I am grateful for.  I can be grateful for little things, such as having a supportive family or being able to enjoy fresh air and sunshine.  Recognizing everything I have and focusing on the positives will make me happier in the long run.  I know I will smile more and be someone people enjoy being around.

Now is the time to reflect, celebrate successes, and make new resolutions to be the best You you can be.  Wishing everyone a Sweet and Happy New Year!

apples

I Think I can, I Think I can

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blue engine

 

It was a whirlwind first week of school.  I received a job offer, attended the first Institute Day, and had the first day of school all within 7 days!!  I was learning on the job daily routines, curriculum, meeting the students and observing their strengths and weaknesses, and building relationships with both staff and students.  Teaching first graders, everything was new and exciting, and it was impressive how much they remembered from Kindergarten.  Things were crazy at times for everyone, but slowly routines were established.

 

As an introductory activity on the first day of school, students were read aloud The Little Engine That Could.  The part that was emphasized and stuck with the students was that most of the engines wouldn’t stop to help the toys and dolls, but the Blue Engine did.  He wasn’t sure if he could make it up the mountain, but he figured he would try.  He repeated, “I think I can. I think I can” as he chugged up the mountain and finally he succeeded!

 

“I think I can.  I think I can”.  What a great motto for the new school year.  It is okay if something is hard, it is okay if you don’t get it right away, what’s most important is you need to try.  I used this metaphor throughout the first day of school when students were then drawing a picture and writing a sentence about their favorite part of the story.  I was often asked, “How do you spell ________”?  My response was to be like the Blue Engine and sound it out.  Listen to the sounds you hear and write them down.  All we’re asking is for you to try and do your best.

 

The first few weeks of school are filled with many activities-some reviewing and refreshing old concepts and others introducing new skills.  As things become more challenging for some or all students, it is important to remind them to be like the Blue Engine and try.  As long as they think they can, students will continue chugging their way up the mountain and eventually be successful.  I know I will need to continually try to be successful at my job to help all students feel supported and learn.  I may need to come up with many different activities or reminders for students with certain behavioral or academic challenges, but I will not give up and will use all my resources to help me come up with new ideas or possible solutions.  Everyone needs to be determined, passionate, and dedicated so both students and teachers are successful learners.

 

Here’s to a great school year!

Recipe for Success

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During my time off this summer, I’ve tried cooking and baking more often.  I enjoy cooking and don’t necessarily have the energy during the school year to do so, and it also is a great stress relief.  The past 6 months have been a time filled with challenges and personal growth as I’ve rediscovered who I am, started standing up for myself and my beliefs, and realized what makes me happy.  Just like a recipe, I’ve reflected on and put together all the ingredients that make up me and have focused on my newfound strengths: determination, perseverance, resilience, and passion.

During my journey, certain people I came across in my life acted as metaphorical rocks trying to push me down.  I continuously looked for ways to push back, show my strength, and tried to focus on everything that was going right.  I leaned on friends and family for support and relied on their words of encouragement to keep me going.  I looked for things that made me happy and smile everyday, whether it be a funny story from one of my students, exercising, watching tv, or taking a walk in the fresh air outside.  Focusing on the positives and what made me happy helped give me the energy and courage to keep going.  Slowly, I climbed higher up my mountain, got rid of the rocks, and began smiling and enjoying the world around me.

Part of the struggle was looking for a new job where I felt I could share, contribute, and become an active part of the school community.  Every interview, I would get my hopes up and excited about the possibility, only to have my hopes crushed with rejection.  I knew somehow the puzzle pieces would fall into place, but it was frustrating waiting for that to happen.  Reading articles on Twitter and conversing with other educators helped me realize I do have good ideas to share and there are people who have similar beliefs in education as me in terms of teaching philosophies and creating respectful and passionate school communities; this gave me hope that somewhere was a place I felt I belonged.  Over time, it became harder to push myself to keep going.  I talked with others for advice and improved my communication skills, but still didn’t have anything to show for my hard work.  Somehow, the resilience stayed strong and I continued moving forward.  I stayed busy by doing other activities, hanging out with friends, attending a fellowship, and traveling.  I tried my hardest to stay in the moment and enjoy life’s journey.

Through these activities, I continued learning about myself.  The fellowship helped me realize I have a lot to offer to others, and I want to share my passion to educate others to be compassionate and tolerant and tell their own stories.  I joined the Executive Board of Windy City Pi Phi to become a more involved member.  I ran and completed my first 10K.  I renewed and strengthened friendships, both new and old.  Focusing on these aspects helped me realize I have a lot of positives going for me and my self-confidence soared.

Now, I can finally say the pieces have fallen into place.  I officially have a job for this school year and cannot wait to be a classroom assistant for first grade.  I am looking for ward to new challenges, collaborating with new staff, and continuing to grow as a person and educator.

Thank you to everyone-my family, friends, and others I’ve connected with who continually supported and encouraged me, provided feedback and suggestions, and introduced me to other connections.  I am so lucky to have a strong support group who truly cares about me.

As the school year begins and I’ve realized my strengths and the ingredients that make up me, I’m reminded that every student comes to school with his/her own unique story.  I cannot wait to meet and learn about all the new first graders and be able to share in their learning celebrations and growths this year.

happens for reason

Crossing the Finish Line-Accomplishing a Goal

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At the beginning of the summer, I learned about a new race coming to Chicago sponsored by Zooma, an organization promoting and celebrating women running.  I was intrigued because not only would I run along the beautiful lake in Chicago, but there was a weekend of events attached and awesome swag for registering-a racing expo, speakers the night before the race, a Mocktail party, and a post-race celebration with yoga, massages, food, and wine!  I signed up to run my first 10K race and began thinking how I was going to accomplish this goal.  I had never run more than a 5K, but with determination and some training, I knew I would be able to do it.

However, my training was quickly slowed as I injured my knee.  I would be in severe pain after running only a couple miles, then walking and stairs were painful for the next couple days.  This left me running about once a week and then taking a break from exercising for a couple days after that.  I consulted trainers and therapists for stretching my IT band (which was causing the knee pain), ran with bands around my knee to try to prevent pain, and continued an overall strengthening plan of weights, yoga, and Pilates.  After running a 5K race mid-July, I took a two week break from running.  Icing and Aleve became daily friends.  I continued taking long walks, including around the San Diego Zoo on vacation, but was not able to train; this was 2-3 weeks before my race!

As the race week approached, I was torn what to do-I still wanted to run but knew I was not prepared to run 6.2 miles and was worried about further injuring my knee.  However, I had set the goal to run and was still intrigued by the celebration weekend.  I decided I was going to run; I would do a combination of running and walking, but I would cross the finish line.

Friday night, I headed into the city to begin getting into race-mode.  I picked up my race number, walked around the expo, heard some speakers, met a friend for dinner, and went to Mocktails before spending the night in a luxurious room.  Saturday morning I woke up to get ready and headed to the start of the race.  It was nice being around other women runners and feeling the positive energy and excitement.  However, I was anxious as the start time approached; I had never run 6 miles and was nervous about my knee hurting.  I knew I could run at least half the race (3 miles) and hoped adrenaline would get me through the rest; I knew once I stopped to walk, it would be much harder to get back into running.

Finally the race began.  I started my music playlist, filled with songs to keep my energy up.  I waved to my family there to support me.  Throughout the race, I repeated in my head, “Slow and steady”.  You can do this.  Keep going”.  While my knee hurt, I kept running.  Seeing my family at the halfway point gave me a burst of energy.  I ran 4 miles, 2/3 of the race, before stopping to give my knee a break.  I walked a bit, ran another mile, then walked again because I wanted to run across the finish line.  Half a mile from the end, I began running and pushed through knowing the finish line was close.  Finally, I could see it.  I kept running and finally crossed the finish line.  I did it.  I ran and finished a 10K and accomplished my goal.

The past year has been filled with personal challenges for me.  Setting and achieving my goal of running a 10K was something I did for me as I’ve worked hard to rediscover my self-confidence and what makes me happy. As the school year is about to begin, I want to carry the “I can do this” mantra into the classroom.  I want to continue having high expectations for my students and helping them set and achieve their own goals.  I want to support them along their learning journeys, let them know it’s okay to make mistakes and have setbacks, but to push through to find success.  I want to see them successfully cross the finish line of success and say “I did it”.

The school year brings new challenges and potential setbacks, but with hard work, we can all accomplish our goals.  What goal will you set for this year?

10k finish

Just Do It

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These three words have been my motto throughout my life.  While I may have borrowed the Nike slogan, these three words accurately summarize that we need to stop just talking about ideas and get out there and make them happen.

I’ve thought about starting a blog a few times after reading thoughts, ideas, and examples from other educators.  I’m a reflective person, and I often put my thoughts into writing to process them.  But I worried-do I have good ideas to share and will others read and respond.  After seeing other educators on Twitter begin blogging this summer, understanding the importance of sharing ideas, and realizing that my thoughts and experiences help paint a picture of who I am, I’ve decided it’s my turn.  I am creative, willing to share, and will continue to learn from others.  Enough talk about starting some day, I’m going to start now!

When I was younger, I used to figure skate.  As I became more advanced, I learned how to perform double jumps (jumping and rotating twice before landing).  Jumping was scary-I could fall, possibly hard, for a number of reasons.  Some days on the ice, I would skate in circles around the rink.  I would practice various jumps, and right when it was time to take off, I got nervous and circled again around the rink.  It was possible I would fall, but it was also possible I would have a strong landing or a wobbly one but fight to stay on my feet.  I wouldn’t know what would happen if I didn’t try.  I just had to do it.  If I fell, I would stand up, brush off the ice, and try again.  If I landed on my feet, I would have a big grin and a feeling of accomplishment because I did it.

These lessons can be applied in the classroom as well.  We, as educators, want our students to try new things.  Everything will not be easy or immediately understood; students may struggle, feel confused, or need assistance or extra practice, but we don’t want them to give up.  “Just give it another try” we smile at them with encouragement.  Eventually, they get it.  Their confidence increases and their faces beam with pride and accomplishment as they burst out, “I did it!!”  Teaching adversity and perseverance are just as important as reading and math skills.

I have a lot of ideas on my to-do lists of things I need to get done or want to try.  I need to stop adding to the list and just start doing them.  It doesn’t mean everything will work out or be easy, but I need to try, make adjustments, and learn from the experiences.  I’ve already crossed of one item on my list-starting a blog.

What are you going to do?

just do it