Saturday, November 18, 2017

Live in the Moment

     Don't wish your days away. A wise friend of mine told me that once and it has stuck with me ever since. I used to do this--wish it was Christmas break, spring break, summer break, any kind of break. But after my friend told me that, I reconsidered my wish list. Why was I wishing all this time to pass? If I disliked my job enough to anticipate every break...well, maybe I should look for a different profession. But I liked my job. What I didn't like was the count down mentality I acquired.
     I know I've written about ending count down talk in the past, but as we near the holiday season, I have to remind myself to live in the moment. Every minute I spend in the classroom, for me, is a blessing. I may, in time, be forced from the place I love. I think about it often as kids file into the classroom, share corny jokes with me, wonder about my comments on a paper, or shoot the breeze with my students. I want to live in the moment and give every particle of myself to my students. I want to enjoy their humor, be a part of their lives, and encourage them in their learning. I want to be a positive voice in their lives.
     This time of year it's easy to get caught up in the wave of looking forward. But I like the view from where I'm sitting--in the present, living in the moment.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Complaint-Free Zone

     This has been a great school year. One of my best in years. Did I change jobs? No, I still teach at-risk students. Is my class size smaller? No, I'm running at capacity. So what made the change? A little purple band a friend of mine gave me that read "Complaint-Free World." He said every time I caught myself complaining I had to switch the band to the other wrist. This made me more aware of my words and my attitude, which impact my outlook which influences how I treat students. Ergo, by cleaning up my act, I set the stage for a more positive vibe in my classroom.
     Complaining is almost a way of life with some people. Nothing's ever good enough, they don't make enough, their students are problematic, they aren't happy with their lives--the complaints go on and on. If I had a negative Nellie like that for a teacher, why would I want to be in her class? We're surrounded with negativity in the world. The last thing we need is more of it in our own classrooms.
     So the little purple band reminded me of my words and their power, but it also shook me out of my comfort zone. Every year I'd get a flyer about having a Poet in the Classroom and every year I'd circular file it. Instantly. Negative thoughts spewing into my mind. "What a dumb program," I'd think. Who has time for this on top of everything else I have to do," I'd wonder. Negativity swirled in my thoughts. Except this year. I looked at the program, read through the pamphlet, and talked to the other English teacher. Did we want to take on the Poetry Out Loud project and write a grant to bring a poet into the classroom? We did. For me, I needed to challenge myself to explore a program I had only dismissed in the past. Well, we got the grant and the poet has been here. It was probably one of the best moves I've made in a long while. The poet was a HUGE hit. Had I been in my normal attitude zone, I would have circular filed it again.
     I'm having a good year because I have a good attitude. I LIKE my students. I LIKE my job. I LIKE my coworkers. The problem during turbulent school years may have been as simple as needing to adjust my attitude.  When kids know you like them and enjoy being around them, they respond positively.
      No one likes to hang out with grumpy stumps. For me the little purple band will continue to remind me how important attitude is. It impacts not just me but everyone around me. I don't want to be another negative force in the lives of my students. Get yourself a purple band (acomplaintfreeworld.org) and make some adjustments of your own. It could make all the difference.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Readying for WAR

     WAR is coming and I'm getting ready for it. Not the nuclear bomb-dropping kind of war but the WAR for Literacy conference on March 24, 2018. The planning team just held its first meeting and it got me jazzed for this event.
     One person I'm especially excited to see present is Joe Davis, a poet whom we were able to bring to my school this year to work with our students. Joe was terrific. He engaged the kids, got them thinking, writing, and sharing (no easy feat) and performed his own poetry for them. Joe stamped "Cool" over the word poetry and allowed my students to see that poetry is for everyone. After watching him in action and seeing how the students responded to him, it was a no-brainer that I needed to invite him to present at WAR. If you go to WAR for no other reason, Joe Davis is worth attending the conference to see his presentation.
     Another new presenteer this year at WAR will be Patrick Henry a professor at UND. With a masters in fiction, Patrick teaches creative writing at the university. He'll be teaching a session at the WAR conference on characters and character development. What's amazing about this addition is he reached out to us, asking if he could get involved some way in the conference. Yes, please.
     We have others who will be facilitating sessions and leading discussions. I can't wait. WAR is coming to Grand Forks. I'll be ready for it--will you? It could make all the difference.