Wednesday, March 25, 2015

But I don't WANNA!

I first need to get this disclaimer out of the way: “The opinions expressed here are solely my opinions and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Girls on the Run International.”

This school year has brought obstacles and struggles that I never would have imagined having to face ten years ago as I was in the midst of my undergraduate degree. My teaching assignment changed drastically in the fall, leading to a busier, more physically tiring schedule and to more time spent planning to teach brand new concepts. As I got busier and busier throughout the past few months, and the stress of the job began to work at me, I did not really notice how negative I had started to become.

Three weeks ago (although it seems like only last week), this year’s Girls on the Run program began. After my experience last year, I knew I wanted to coach again. Although bringing with it its own challenges, the program once again has taught me to reflect upon my choices in life, upon the way that I face the world. The program is meant to help girls transitioning from childhood to tweenhood build their confidence and become stronger, healthier individuals who make a positive impact on the world, but it also is so helpful to the coaches and others involved.

Our first lesson this week spoke of the importance of gratitude. So often in life, we take things for granted. We begin to only see the negative in situations, to complain, and whine, and lament the color of the grass on our side of the fence. I realized after teaching the lesson yesterday that I’d begun to be like that. I think back and realize that such a great percentage of what I say every day is negative. I am no longer finding the joy in small things and being grateful for the things I do have. If I were to actually count the number of times I’ve complained in a day, I would probably be so embarrassed.

Yes, my job this year is not what I’d ever expected or desired. Yes, I’m busy and tired. But yes, I have great things in my life.

I am grateful for...
  1. A job which allows me to interact with so many interesting children and professionals
  2. An assignment which has allowed me to be more physically active, and has thus helped me improve my fitness
  3. Teaching music classes on Mondays and Fridays
  4. The freedom and creativity I can have when planning for my technology classes
  5. Having an after-school elementary choir with a beautiful sound and spirited enthusiasm
  6. Having awesome assistant coaches in Girls on the Run
  7. My loving, supportive husband and wonderful friends and family
  8. Having a GOTR team full of girls with unique personalities, boundless energy, and the ability to surprise me every day
  9. Finding time to relax when I need it most
  10. The idea of change for the better which has begun to grow in my heart and in the heart of our school and district
It’s not too late for me to turn my attitude around. I can become more positive, but I am most certainly going to have to be present and aware at all times of my responses to the situations which present themselves to me. Instead of complaining or bemoaning, I will try to breathe and seek out the positive. I will be a happier person with much less stress weighing down upon me if I simply avoid adding more negativity into the mix.

"One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts--just mere thoughts--are as powerful as electric batteries--as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live...surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place."

"Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow."
-- Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Sunday, October 5, 2014

20 things that make me smile :)

So I have had some obstacles to overcome in the past few weeks, but thanks to many factors, I’ve come to discover that the best way to live life is with a smile. They are hard to come by at times, but yesterday I started thinking about all of the little things that bring a smile to my face and heart whenever I encounter them. What makes YOU smile?

  1. Sunrises
  2. Sunsets
  3. Clouds, especially when they are accented by streaming light
  4. The smell of brewing coffee and the coziness that greet me when I walk into a coffee shop
  5. Bookstores and libraries
  6. Puppies
  7. Kittens
  8. Rainbows
  9. Warm rain
  10. Acoustic guitar music
  11. “Home” by Phillip Phillips
  12. Super-soft blankets
  13. Comfy pajamas
  14. Cinnamon
  15. Messages from my friends
  16. Picturesque landscapes
  17. Waterfalls
  18. “You’re the best teacher ever” and “I love you”s from my kiddos
  19. Craft stores
  20. The color purple - not the book, the actual color :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Potter and ramblings...

I have often found myself so immersed in a book that I am reading that it permeates the rest of my life.  The series that tends to cause this effect most is J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  Despite the fact that I’ve read them and seen the movies multiple times, I am still so engaged in the books that I find it hard to put them down.  And like many other books I’ve read, even when I’m not reading them, I’m thinking about them.  With this series, it’s gone even further, however.  I find myself thinking about real-life circumstances in terms of characters and situations in the Harry Potter books.  I am halfway through my reread of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince now (the sixth of seven books, for those not familiar with the series), but I can’t believe how much some things in Order of the Phoenix (the fifth book) paralleled things in the real world.  Government officials who have no background in teaching taking over education, changes being made which are completely illogical and unfair, and people being bullied by peers and superiors are just a few of the things I noticed that reminded me of the real world today.  J.K. Rowling’s books really are amazingly well-written, especially when one thinks that they were originally targeted towards tweens and teens.  They are so much more thought-out than many young adult series, and the Harry Potter world is incredibly rich with detail and background.

Although I have had a relaxing and fun summer, I can’t help feel regret that I didn’t work on certain things I should have done, like de-hoardering our back room or trying to work through the mounds of laundry forever stacked in our bedroom.  I have no idea how I have so many clothes that I still have things to wear despite this stack...couldn’t have anything to do with buying new clothes instead of washing old ones, could it? ;)  Reading the Harry Potter series, however, has helped me escape into a world with different, bigger problems than the ones I face in the coming months.  I don’t want to think about the fact that I am now preparing myself to begin a year in a job that I never expected nor wished to have.  I knew that I was beyond lucky to be able to get a job teaching the fall after I graduated from college, but now I really realize how lucky I was to have that dream job for few short years.  I was actually teaching the subject I had been trained to teach.  I was able to share my love of music with my students.  I am now, because I decided to “make myself marketable” and become certified in all subject K-5, having to begin teaching subjects for which I have no passion whatsoever.  Some people will say, “Well, at least you have a job.  Many certified teachers can’t find any teaching jobs.”  I understand that, and I am very grateful that I am still employed.  However, my dream in life was not to teach kids how to type or throw a ball (I don’t even know how to properly throw a ball myself, so that should be interesting).  It was to help kids on their journey by adding music to their lives.  For me, earning a broader certification meant that some day instead of teaching music I might have my own classroom where students learned math, social studies, science, and ELA from me, or that I might teach Spanish (which I ended up doing for several years).  Never did it cross my mind that a district would want me to teach a specific subject other than music or Spanish.

I know I must push through this surprise and do the best I can with what I am assigned to teach, and I will.  I am a good teacher, and I will find a way to teach students in these unfamiliar subjects.  However, I can’t help but wondering again whether going into teaching was the right thing to do.  I can’t imagine doing anything else, but when the passion is taken out of the career for which you were passionate, what does one do?  I can blame the entire situation on the “problems with public education today,” but that really won’t help at all.  I guess I just always thought that I had chosen a path which would make me happy and make a difference, and I am starting to see that I may have been wrong.  It’s a sad day when you realize that no matter how hard you hope, things will turn out the way they turn out, and there’s not much you can do about it.

And meanwhile, I escape into a fantasy world.  Ah, Harry...what can be done when the Ministry has all the power to decide our fates?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Changing tides...yet again

So another school year has passed, and my job is changing yet again.  For the past seven years I have taught in my district, but I have never had two years where I’ve actually taught the same grade levels or subjects.  Every year something has changed.  That kept me on my toes and kept things from getting stale, sure, but it has also made it so that I never know what to expect and have never been able to flesh out my program completely.  I’ve dealt with it, but it’s been frustrating.  I’m going to try to remember back all those years, despite having a faltering memory these days, just to lay out the details for myself.  I already feel like I’ve forgotten what I’ve done because of all of the changes.

2007-2008 - DK-4 General Music, 3/4 elective choir, Title One supplement
2008-2009 - Sp. Ed. Preschool-1 General Music, 1st grade Spanish, 5th General music
2009-2010 - Special Ed. Preschool-1 General Music, 1-2 Spanish
2010-2011 - 2-4 General Music, 2-3 Spanish
2011-2012 - 2-4 General Music and Spanish
2012-2013 - 2-5 Spanish, 2-3 General Music
2013-2014 - 5th Spanish, 2-3 (only part of 3) General Music, 4th elective choir

I think I have it down right, although it seems even more overwhelming looking back.  Guess what I’m teaching in the 2014-2015 school year?  As far as my schedule shows right now, I’ll be teaching K-3 “Technology” (by which they pretty much mean keyboarding) and 4th grade music.  If I’m lucky and motivated enough, I’ll also be doing an after-school 4th and 5th grade choir, out of the goodness of my heart and to help improve my sanity, since my choir this year was one of the best parts of my job.

I didn’t want this entry to be a rant-fest, and I realize that that is what it has become.  The one thing that keeps me going, despite the fact that I’m assigned to teach a subject I’ve never had the desire to teach and have never been specifically trained to teach, is that maybe I’ll be able to spend more of my out-of-school time enjoying non-school-related activities.  Since the majority of each week I won’t be teaching a subject about which I’m passionate, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to focus more on enjoying my non-working life.  One thing I do NOT want to do is end up devoting all of my time outside of school to trying to get my mind around teaching kindergarteners to type.  Another thing that keeps me going is that this assignment is hopefully temporary.  There’s a possibility that I’ll enjoy it immensely, but I highly doubt that, and I can always hope that I’ll be back to teaching general music all day in a couple of years.

Meanwhile, I’ve devoted about 0% of the first two weeks of my vacation to thinking about next year, since it’ll probably only get me down.  I can only be thankful that I have not been assigned to an even more unpleasant position and wonder why I decided I needed to be certified in so many varying subjects. :P  End unexpected rant.  On to better things.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No one Youer than You

So when a second-grade girl calls you “bubble butt,” something inside you shifts.  Yes, the culprit is probably eight years old at the most.  She has no sense of tact, just like most of her classmates.  She probably doesn’t even know what “bubble butt” means, although I can’t imagine someone not realizing what that phrase would mean.  It’s pretty obvious...although, now that I think about it, it could mean someone who can blow bubbles out of their butt...but I’m kind of doubting that was her thought.  Despite all these things, I had inside factors working against me.  Since puberty, I’ve been self-conscious about this bubble butt of mine, and my body has obviously filled out even more since then.  Lately, I’ve been particularly aware of my inability to disguise said butt in my work clothing.  Today was the first day I’d worn a certain pair of pants in a really long time because of this, and so this little girl’s comment hit a nerve.  For the next hour after that, I was worried that people were judging whether my pants were too tight, or my butt was too jiggly, yadda yadda.  It was pretty dumb.  As teachers, we definitely have to have thick skins in many cases, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Still, it got me thinking about body image.  Lately I’ve been working hard to help my students feel good about themselves.  It’s difficult to promote self-esteem when since infancy, children are bombarded with images and messages discouraging certain body types and glorifying others.  I loved my Barbies, but it is sad that none of them had a realistic body shape.  Older family members complained about their own weight in front of me since I was young, and as I hit puberty, I had multiple family members and friends comment about my wide hips or protruding buttocks.  Not something a growing girl really needs to hear, but all in good fun, right?  I know that none of the things I heard about my shape were meant to hurt, but they did.  I grew up thinking that I needed to minimize this and maximize that, to the point where the thought of trying on new clothes (pants in particular) just makes me depressed.  I have never been overweight for my height, but I used to think that I could only look good enough if you could see my bones.  Luckily, I never took it out on myself in the form of an eating disorder, but the negative feelings about my own body have festered inside for a long time.

I’ve definitely become more confident with my body as I’ve gotten older and realized that one does not have to resemble a twig in order to be beautiful.  However, I still find myself saying negative things about my appearance daily, unconsciously, as if it is perfectly okay to constantly put myself down.  I pray that I’ll be able to grow confident enough in myself to not criticize my appearance in front of my future children.  My daughter certainly does not need to hear that her mother has a spare tire or a butt that’s too jiggly or hips that are too wide.  I want her to love herself for who she is because everyone is amazing in their own way, and body shape should not get in the way of seeing how truly outstanding she is.  How can she be comfortable in her own skin if her mother is not comfortable in hers?  If she witnesses me criticizing myself, will she not think I may be criticizing her, as well, however discreetly?  The truth is, I’ve always been much more critical with myself than I am with other people, but she won’t know that.

A program with which I am currently involved teaches about having a positive outlook on life and a healthy self-image, and I am hoping that this will help improve my thoughts about myself.  I decided this year to also focus my elementary choir’s spring concert on having the courage to follow your dreams, believing in yourself, and not letting negative people get you down.  If I start bombarding my girls with positive messages as opposed to the negative ones so prevalent in the world today, I’m hoping I might be able to have an impact on them and on myself.  Live true, all.  As a friend said recently on another friend’s blog, “you be you.”  And in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, Today you are You; that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”  Truthfully, you are amazing.  No one can take your “you-ness” away from you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Six things I really thought I (and the world in general) wouldn’t have to Deal With after I turned 30

So at one point, thirty seemed to be a ridiculously old, mature age.  The twenties were for cool, young people.  Everyone who was an “adult” was “at least thirty.”  Thirty-year-olds were parents.  Thirty seemed a LONG way off for me.  There were some things I just took for granted as not having to deal with once I turned into a “grownup.”

  1. Acne.  Seriously?  I heard all of these awesome, exciting things about how acne was just a teenage thing.  I looked forward to the day when I wouldn’t have to worry about new, ugly zits cropping up on my chin and other annoying areas.  I dreamed of the perfect skin I would have in my twenties.  Well, world, at least for me, acne did not end once I stepped into my twenties.  In fact, it didn’t stop once I reached thirty, either.  I guess I can always hang in there for forty being the magic age, but I’m almost positive I’m going to be eighty years old, full of wrinkles and age spots, and STILL get pimples.  Le sigh.
  2. Middle school-style drama.  Yes, puberty was a tortuous time for me, like it is for so many others.  Not only are you having to deal with all of these awkward body changes, but people start to get really catty, and rude, and gossipy.  That ends after high school, right?  College?  Once you get into the workforce?  Once you turn thirty, and your peers are wise and mature enough to realize that bullying people, making snide remarks, stabbing backs, gossiping, scapegoating, forming cliques, etc., etc. won’t get you anywhere?  No.  It never ends.  The only time we were free of this drama was prior to puberty.  Unfortunately, kids are getting into this earlier and earlier in life...Turn back, kids!  Slippery slope!
  3. Not being able to control my emotions.  Okay, don’t get me wrong.  I wasn’t naive enough to think that I wouldn’t have those certain moments in which emotions would take over.  However, I really thought that once I was “really an adult,” I’d be able to get frustrated, angry, embarrassed, or extremely stressed without the incident resulting in tears.  I’ve certainly failed at that aspiration.  It would certainly be lovely if I could learn to control my emotions better, but I really don’t see much changing at this point, since all that’s changed since childhood is that I don’t sound like a siren wailing anymore.  (Well, except in VERY special cases, and no one but my husband gets to witness those episodes... ;) )
  4. Anxiety when meeting new people.  I thought that “adults” had some acquired ability allowing them to socialize with new people as easily as they could with acquaintances.  For some reason, I figured that one day, I would have absolutely no problem walking into a room of strangers.  That tight feeling in my chest before stepping into a completely new experience?  That wouldn’t happen in adulthood!  I beg to differ.  If anything, the anxiety has increased.  When we allow ourselves to be afraid of things, those fears just escalate over time.
  5. People who start smoking.  This is obviously a society-wide issue, not a personal issue, other than the fact that I can’t breathe when people are smoking anywhere near me.  I never in a million years dreamed that restaurants and bars would be smoke-free, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised with that development.  However, I cannot believe, with all of the things we know about the dangers of cigarette smoking, with the high prices of such a highly-addictive drug, that people would still start smoking.  I see teenagers and people in their twenties with cigarettes, and I just can’t wrap my mind around it.  I understand why people keep smoking -- it’s addictive, obviously.  However, to begin just makes absolutely no sense to me.  Hopefully one day, the number of new smokers will begin to dwindle, and young people will eventually avoid cigarettes altogether, but I unfortunately have much less hope for that now.
  6. Feeling like I’m not an adult.  Is there a time when people really start feeling like they are grownups?  Instead of making me feel like an adult, turning thirty made me realize how young thirty really always has been.  Like I said, I really did think that once you were in your thirties you were completely grown up (AKA, old).  The characters in Friends were grownups, right?  And they were supposed to be in their upper twenties!  Will I ever feel like I’m really an adult?  When I have kids, will I then feel like an adult?  Will I still feel younger than I am when I turn forty?  Fifty?  Seventy?  I can only imagine now that people in their eighties may still feel (not physically, obviously, but mentally) like they’re still in their thirties or forties.  Readers, do you feel younger than your biological age?  Does Betty White still feel like she’s thirty?  I have a feeling she does.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Confessions of a Crazy Music Teacher

Oh, the conference.  The time where I may be able to gain some invaluable tools and ideas for my classroom.  I may also be faced with realizing I’m in a completely inapplicable session and have to debate whether to face the embarrassment of walking out halfway through, amid the stares of the other attendees, presenter, and presider.  But most likely, I will be faced with the negative side of being an ambivert.  From what I’ve read (mostly in title of articles, I’m not gonna lie), ambiverts are supposed to get the best characteristics of both introverts and extroverts, but I’m pretty sure I got the worst.  Walking into the registration area, I was suddenly back in time, walking in on the first day of school in a new class, where everyone else seems to know one another, and I’m the outsider.

It’s dumb, and I know it’s probably just because of the way I’m awkward with people, but I’ve just always seemed so alone in the music education world.  I think it all started with my not-so-welcoming experience in undergrad music.  So many music educators I know are still friends with others from their undergrad program.  The conference is an opportunity for them to get together and catch up.  Hardly any of my friends in college were music people.  Dalton just felt uncomfortable to me during those years -- fifth grade all over again.  All the girls had already been in a choir together their freshman year, so they had bonded, keeping me out of the loop once I was in ensembles and classes with them.  Everyone seemed to know more than me about almost every facet of music, and there was SO much competition, which is not my thing when it comes to music.

Luckily, my masters program in music education made me appreciate Dalton SO much more, and I was able to meet many more people with whom I could better connect.  Still, it takes me YEARS hanging out with people before I really become comfortable with them.  This is where the worst sides of my ambivert(?) personality come in.  Like extroverts (I’m guessing...I’m really not an expert at all), I enjoy being in social situations.  Or, at least, I enjoy feeling comfortable in social situations.  I like hanging out  with people.  Sometimes when I’m by myself, I search out people with whom I can spend time because otherwise I feel lonely.  However, like introverts (still, guessing), I feel anxiety in social situations in which I am not extremely familiar with the other people.  As you can imagine, this makes things difficult for me.  I love having friends and having things to do outside of my home, but I also have no idea how to meet new people or, heaven forbid, actually become friends with them.  I really have no idea how I already have friends.  It’s a bit of a mystery to me.

This inconvenient dichotomy of my personality makes things like large-scale conferences in which hundreds (thousands?) of people in varying aspects of music education are milling about, socializing, learning things from one another, extremely uncomfortable for me.  I find myself trying to stay with people with whom I am somewhat familiar but not at all comfortable, but that just leads to wasted time and more feelings of inadequacy (can anyone say “middle school”?)  The second day of the conference this year, I decided to do what I should have done in the first place.  I chose the sessions I wanted to attend, avoided trying to plan out my schedule to have lunch with others, resigned myself to being happy eating alone, and, miraculously, had a wonderful time.  Without the pressure of trying to fit in, I was able to be more authentic, more like the real me.  As we all know, but we don’t always act upon, being ourselves is really the best thing we can do.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t still have very awkward moments in which I tried to greet people I knew, only to say something ridiculous or trail off into awkward silence.  (By the way, if you were with me at the conference and are reading this, and I happened to say something really awkward, it’s not you.  It’s me. :) )  And that doesn’t mean I actually made any new connections (because I found myself just not talking to people unless they made contact with me first).  However, I was able to learn things to bring back to the classroom with me, and I was able to feel more confident in my abilities and actually enjoy the experience.

I know there should be a take-away from this.  I should learn to just be myself, not worry about how to interact with others, and simply live.  I’ve been trying to tell myself these things for years.  I hope that I’ll finally be able to live up to these ideas.  It would make life SO much less uncomfortable.

Please share any awkward situations you’ve had.  Reading about the shared awkward will make us all feel a little better. :)

This awesome article slightly sums up some of my issues: