Monday, November 28, 2011

"I'm sensitive and I'd like to stay that way..."

Well, maybe I don't really want to stay that way, but when Jewel sings those words, I think maybe it's OK to be so sensitive. Sometimes it can wear me down, and sometimes I wonder why I can't just brush things off like others do, but sometimes I think that I should be grateful for being wired this way.

I should be grateful because being sensitive allows me to see so much!
I see hidden talents, and sometimes hidden hurts, that others can't see in themselves.
I see potential in progress, and moments of perfection in otherwise imperfect performances.
I see beauty in places that others find mundane.
I see blessings in challenges.
I see happiness in tears.
I see strength in scars.
I see art in all things.

Then why do I sometimes dream of changing?
People with these sensitivities tend to hide their true feelings, and that means we tend to feel alone in our vulnerability. But I know there are others out there, and I hope that maybe one or more of them will read this and be encouraged. Of course, many people with a thicker skin don't understand just how deep these feelings can run, so their sarcastic or one-sided remarks can sting a lot more than they intend. But I keep hoping that one day I'll spread a little compassion by sharing these ideas of mine. As a sarcastic person myself, I'm not objecting to sarcasm in all cases; I just wish that people knew when to respond with wit and when to respond with love.

Overall, I'm learning that I'm most worn down when stuck inside these feelings about myself, but when I consider all that I can see in--or do for--others...Well, I guess that makes me grateful that I'm sensitive, and I'd like to stay that way.

Jewel - "I'm Sensitive"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Where I've been. And where I'm going. Maybe...

When I took on National Board Certification in 2007, I convinced myself that I was DONE with higher education. But true to the surprises of my recent years, I now find myself enrolled in the Masters in Secondary Education program at Whitworth University. And my first assignment: an autobiography.

It seemed simple enough but after 4 hours of trying just one more "new angle," I finally decided that sleep was more important than proving my writing abilities through my own autobiography. Still, I figure that if I was willing to share my bio with people who barely knew me, I should at least be willing to post it on my own blog. So here's what you might (or might not) want to know about me!
“Whatever happened to predictability? The milk man, the paper boy, evening TV?” I loved the opening credits of Full House as a kid, and my family sang along every Friday night. Little did I know how that opening line would foreshadow the unpredictability of my carefully laid life plans! While raising me and my two younger sisters in Moses Lake, my parents invested regularly in the lives of our small community; they volunteered in my elementary school, coached girls’ softball teams and church volleyball teams, and led our church’s children’s musical programs. Naturally, I grew up with a love of school, sports, music, and helping others. I trained and competed in a variety of sports, art forms, and scholarship programs, and I spent as much time as I could volunteering across town, working in the church nursery, and teaching English to English language learners.

It seemed natural that I would attend a college whose motto is “An education of mind and heart” and that I would study music education and English! It seemed natural that I would eventually marry a musician with a similar upbringing. But along the way, these natural assumptions have taken on new meaning to me.

In college, a non-academic experience radically altered my view of self and of performance: Whitworth Jubilation. Until then, dance had been my ultimate team sport! Joining Jubilation challenged me to express my faith as I danced, and expressing my faith has never been easy for me. In my small town and conservative Christian home, I had often found it hard to admit when I struggled with faith or with my spiritual walk, but in Jubilation, the music and the prayer time showed me that struggle is part of the human experience, and it gave me a way to explore my challenges and to celebrate my successes. I also began to teach dance classes and lead the student board. I learned a lot about my leadership style, my physical abilities, and my passion for dance and teaching.

In my junior year, I realized that my confidence was growing more in dance and in English education than it was in music education. The following year I became engaged. To my surprise, marrying a small town rock star keyboard player didn’t mesh well with my classical college training and so music slipped farther down my list of passions. While teaching dance and English, I found it was easier to arrange teaching strategies that reached my students, and easier to know if I’d been effective in my role as an educator. So I should not have been surprised that after I graduated, I was offered an English position at Shadle Park High School. I eagerly accepted the job, grateful to have a teaching position so fresh out of college.

My learning curve was steep, often working in my classroom until 8:00 or 9:00PM to finish grading the homework, designing the right activities, or calling students’ parents with concerns or compliments, and I often finished the odds and ends at home around midnight. Then I dragged myself out of bed at 5:00AM to assist with Shadle’s dance team. I told my friends, family, and husband that my schedule would improve as I became more skilled. Surely teaching wouldn’t always be so demanding!

Soon enough, I found my rewards! In 2005, I was offered the position of Shadle’s dance coach; in 2007, I was offered a class alongside our veteran senior Advanced Placement teacher, and that same school year I completed my National Board Certification. I felt honored that I was trusted to lead our dancers and AP students, and since only 37% of National Boards candidates certify on their first try, I felt as if I had finally earned my place among the more experienced, Masters-certified teachers in my department. I also began mentoring university education students during their student teaching practicum. I saw that by mentoring future teaches, I can have a greater impact on tomorrow's generation: instead of influencing only my students, I can impact the classes of all the teachers I mentor! I loved teaching about teaching! But again, these opportunities led to even more late nights.  
A colleague finally convinced me garner classroom results by “teaching smarter, not harder” and so I now try to maximize my planning and teaching time whenever possible.

However, it seems that our ever-changing student population will take up as much time and compassion as I can give. I’ve realized that part of my calling in life is to love people with grace and patience that many of today’s students don’t otherwise experience, and to do that while “teaching smarter,” I have chosen to work with fewer students. Between 2008 and 2011, I downsized my dance team by 50%; in fall of 2009, I resigned one English class from my contract; in fall of 2010 I released another two classes. The decisions have been difficult, accompanied by mixed responses from my colleagues and a few stress-related health issues, but I am happy to now adjust my career goals to better support my students and my personal life. I believe I am more effective—as a teacher, a family member and a friend—when I have fewer students to care for.

Again, I am grateful that I have begun to reap rewards. Partly as a result of these changes, our dancers set two new school records at State in 2011, including a 5th place ranking in the jazz category. Also in spring of 2011, my AP students scored higher on the AP exam than any of my previous classes, and they ranked above the national average in all seven evaluation categories! I’ve also been blessed with several adjunct classes at Whitworth in subjects that inspire me: Musical Theatre Dance, Jazz Dance, and Theatre Across the Curriculum. These classes have rejuvenated me, providing me with smaller class sizes, less nightly homework to grade, and no parent phone calls to make!

It might seem counterproductive to enroll in a Master’s program when I’m trying to reduce my quantity and enhance my quality of life but I don’t believe this will drain me; it will fill me with inspiration and energy! Perhaps this is the beginning of a new path, or perhaps it’s just a lovely detour that will deepen my passion for teaching me and equip me to teach smarter in the future. I have already seen my passions shift and change several times in the last 10 years and I look forward to seeing how they will grow as a result of this new academic challenge!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

For All the World to See

Ok, maybe that's a hyperbole. Maybe, just maybe, a few people on this planet won't actually see my latest blog entry. But the excitement-- and the vulnerability--is just as real no matter the size of my audience. The fact is that the whole world COULD see and apparently that's enough to dictate my posts!

I was surprised tonight when editing my list of entries...Apparently I have four pieces which I developed and saved but never published. Not to mention all the pieces that I began and deleted because they weren't actually worth working on!

This made me realize: blogging gives the writer such ownership! It's all my choice as to what makes it through to "publication" and this seems a more powerful motivating force than the "due dates" we have to impose on student papers. Obviously, to maintain order and proper sequencing of skills, classrooms need a calendar with formal due dates, but I wish more students could experience the ownership that comes from writing and posting something that they personally deem worthy of publication!

I imagine many students would be surprised at how much more inspired and refined their writing could become if they knew that all the world could see what they were creating! Actually, I imagine my nights of grading their papers would be a little more interesting too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Welcome, friends

Facebook has obviously modified what we consider "friends" in our world today. Maybe it's a good thing--reconnecting friends separated by time and distance, or allowing acquaintances to see beyond the typical passing hello's. Maybe it's a bad thing--causing some to seek out people to call their friends so they can increase their numbers, or possibly lowering the threshold of what's considered appropriate to share outside a circle of close friends. But as the graduating seniors of 2011 are now eligible to become my "friends" on Facebook, I find myself wondering about the increasingly ambiguous nature of friendship in our society.
Before Facebook and before becoming a teacher, these might have been my simple, uncomplicated definitions of a friend. 
  • Friends look out for each other. 
  • Friends laugh together. 
  • Friends cry together, or stay strong when the other cries. 
  • Friends work past the difficult times together, even when they caused the problem. 
  • Friends rejoice when the other one succeeds! 
  • Friends overlook shortcomings and focus on the best in each other. 
  • Friends offer grace when it's needed. 
  • Friends encourage each other when everyone else gives up. 
  • Friends respect each other, even in their differences. 
  • Friends spend time together. 
  • Friends grow to understand each other. 
  • And friends pick up where they left off even after years apart.
And although I have shared those experiences with many of the lovely people on my Facebook friends list, what strikes me now is that I find these definitions fit my students better than most of my Facebook friends. Teaching is a peculiar profession. To give of yourself for the good of others while keeping that professional boundary--It's a draining but rewarding mission. And to be honest, I used to feel nervous and uneasy with the idea of lowering that boundary a little for the graduates who want to become more typical friends, but I'm now glad that Facebook is making that a comfortable option!As much as I adore my 25+ year old colleagues, my job doesn't give me nearly as much time with them as with my students. 
So who do I spend each day laughing with? Sometimes crying with? Looking out for? Cheering for? I spend most of my days trying to encourage a bunch of 18 year olds who aren't technically my friends, but who require a similar level of commitment and care. And though not all of our experiences have been heart-warmingly positive, they have become more like my colleagues than my clients or patients. Their struggles become my struggles and their success becomes my success; if we don't work together, they won't reach their full potential and neither will I. 
Each time summer rolls around, I'm hit with refreshing feelings of freedom and exhilaration mixed with confusing emotions that mirror the loss of a friend or colleague. The truth is I'm happy to see them move on (especially once senioritis hits!) but sad to see them leave. So even though Facebook has blurred the line of friendship in our society, I've decided that I'm glad! Because now I have the opportunity to see these graduates go on to even bigger successes in their lives! And even though I won't be spending every day with them from now on (We can still say "Yay!" to that, right?), I am glad that I can still cheer them on and I can still support them if then need it. And I am happy that I don't have to say a true goodbye to all the wonderful young men and women who have earned my respect and admiration throughout our very unique time together. 
Chances are that most of my grads won't move past the relative distance of being a Facebook friend, but it's encouraging to know that these working relationships have been promoted to some form of friendship, even if only according to Facebook.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Who are you? Yes, YOU! Viewing this page???

While playing around in the settings for this account I stumbled upon a page that shows me who has been viewing my page!

Now I realize that some of you professional bloggers might not be impressed by these stats but I sure am! I sort of thought my blog was just a way for me to keep up with friends and share my thoughts with them. But this says it's been viewed by lots of people! By people from Brazil, Russia, and the Netherlands!?! Just to note a few.

And now I'm curious to know who these people are--if they ever view my page again. So please leave a message after the beep...Well, you know what I mean! Please, leave a message. You have me intrigued!

Easter brings change...But change can bring good.

"The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn:
Love so amazing, Love so amazing!"
~Jesus Messiah by Chris Tomlin

These lyrics would not leave my mind today. As long as they were sticking around, I thought perhaps I should try to understand them a bit better!

My analysis:
1) While the earth was trembling the people nearby were surely unaware of the resurrection causing it, and they were probably afraid. After several recent geological events ranging from earth-shattering to simple rumblings, I have seen that fear is the first response no matter how big or small the tremors. And I imagine that people did not respond to the Easter trembling by curiously proclaiming, "This is a fun feeling! Something happy must be happening here!"
2)When the veil was torn, again I imagine that the people were afraid, and although it symbolically represented a new covenant or relationship, it literally destroyed a religious veil that was previously valuable both monetarily and culturally.
3) The love that drove Jesus to the grave (for us) is the same Love that gave Him power to defeat death and rise again (for us). So full of grace. So incomprehensible.

My synthesis:
As our world is trembling and being torn apart, we should remember that His love is still here although presently unseen. And with His Love, He wants to revive us.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

But...How do you REALLY know?

I'm guessing (and hoping) that it's normal for people to fluctuate in their career confidence. But when all the fluctuating evens out, I'm still wondering...How do you really know if you took the right steps today, if you improved over your yesterday-self, or if you're even in the right career? Does any career give you objective enough feedback to know for sure?

After 8 years of constantly striving for self-improvement as a teacher I've come to the conclusions that I will always need to be better still, and that there might never be anyone who can actually help me feel accomplished. Administrators don't really "supervise" modern classrooms so they don't know if I'm succeeding or just skating by on any given day, and students don't know what they don't yet know so they're not always able to identify what's missing or unnecessary in a classroom. Then again, as each year progresses, my students' skills improve and they gradually become aware of their own strengths and weaknesses. I also really try to listen to their needs and I hope this will improve their learning as well as my teaching. On the other hand, I can't rely solely on their evaluations of my teaching: they could be tainted by personality differences, by bias toward or against my subject area, or even by their emotional ups and downs that day. For this reason, I don't change my opinion of my colleagues when a student complains about them.

On yet another hand, I have to wonder...How is it that despite all that, I still believe students when they refer to other teachers as "awesome," "helpful," or their "favorite"? I've recently noticed that these awesome, helpful teachers extend a variety of teacher stereotypes--the quirky nerd, the compassionate counselor, the bulldog of a coach, the obstinate retiree. I've heard wonderful things about them all! It makes me proud to know I work with such amazing colleagues. But even though the logical side of my brain knows that's not the objective feedback I need, it's tough to be patient and confident while wondering if I ever have that same positive impact on my students.

And although I've run out of metaphorical hands, I still find myself asking how am I supposed to know the truth when my most consistent feedback is potentially subjective, biased, student opinion? Ha! I've just discovered the irony here. What I really want is a report card, an objective way to verify my successes and my shortcomings. I want to know when I'm passing and when I'm acing my job. I want facts, statistics, a supervisor or co-workers who will confirm my effectiveness, give me suggestions if needed, and keep my confidence from fluctuating!

But for now, it's 10:45PM and I still have papers to grade before I can fall asleep. At least my students will receive their feedback soon. The irony continues.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Not a Creature was Blogging...

I've laughed to myself a few times recently about how all the blogs I follow have taken a simultaneous hiatus...Apparently myself included. And I just thought I would break the silence and say "Happy New Year" and "Happy Blogging" to anyone who is considering rejoining the world of cyber scripting. I thoroughly enjoy hearing what you all have to say and I hope to hear more from you in the near future!