Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kindness Eclipses Fear

There have been so many moments lately where I've felt fear. (In looking back through my posts, I wrote about this very topic two years ago.) Lately, my fear is for our country, our world.  Turn on the news, any channel and the drama and extreme points of view create fear in me. The political climate of our country creates fear in me. I almost didn't write this morning, because of fear of what to write.


What's the cure for my fear? Kindness. When I use the word kindness, I'm using Merriam Webster's definition, "the quality or state of being kind". Kindness is listening. Kindness is standing up for my beliefs. My beliefs are simple: everyone has a story that's valuable and deserves respect. 

I don't care what your political affiliation is,
I care that you want the best for every person in the world and you will fight for it, in your way. I'm reminded of these words from Oriah Mountain Dreamer's poem, "The Invitation"...

It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know 
if you will risk 
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream

for the adventure of being alive.

I am afraid.
I see more fear, more anger, more blame.
I worry and wonder what can I do?

Be kind.
Show kindness.
Speak up and share my story.
Listen, really listen, to the story of others.

Could we all promise to do that a little bit more?

Remember that everyone has a story.
Hold onto those we love and open our hearts to those we don't.

Once in college, I was accused of being "Pollyanna-ish". I get that. I hear that...but if that's what I still am, I think, our world may need more Pollyannas. Join me.

I'm here.

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Travel is Good for the Soul

Travel is good for the soul. I enjoy going to new places and exploring. There's something about being in a new environment. The air feels different, the sky looks different. I slow down when I travel and notice things more clearly. I love it. It doesn't matter what the destination is either. I enjoy traveling.

Where is this exotic location I'm visiting? It's none other than Dublin...Ohio. There's a literacy conference in Dublin next month and I'm presenting with the amazing Deb Frazier! Here's the blurb for our presentation...

I can't wait! I get to share some time with an amazing teacher and writer. I get to attend other conference sessions and learn from the best! I get to a long drive to a new place while I listen to my favorite tunes and audiobooks. I get to stay in a hotel. 

This is new for me. Travel used to create a huge amount of stress and anxiety for me. I'd worry all the time about weather and getting lost. I'd worry about problems coming up and things going wrong. I don't worry about those things anymore...I enjoy the small moments of traveling. Getting lost is an adventure. Things going wrong always turn into a good story.

Every trip changes me in small ways. I become a tiny bit braver. I meet new people who make me see the world in a different way. Like I said, travel is good for the soul. 

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Celebrating Writing and Kindness

This started off as a tough week. There wasn't anything big that happened, but I was feeling overwhelmed and lost. Worry seemed to be the boss of my emotions and I couldn't shake it. I did the things I do when I'm feeling out of sorts and none of them were working. Life seemed to continue on a path of uncertainty and I felt like nothing was going to snap me out of it. I felt like I was already failing at my word, RISE. 

This is where writing saves me time and time again. Every day I sit down with my notebook. Some days I ignore these anxious thoughts and wrote about other stuff. My writing on other days takes me head first into the dread. It all helps... every single word, syllable, letter that I write...it all helps me on this journey. I celebrate it all!

It's not magic. It's showing up. It's the work. It's the willingness to sit with the messiness of life. In the end, I did RISE. Things came together. I listened and talked to wise women in my life who reminded me of a very important lesson...be kind to myself.

I celebrate the time spent in my notebook. 

I celebrate the messiness of life. 
I celebrate strong, smart women in my life.
I celebrate kindness and the power it has to change everything.

I found this video and it touched me. Brad Montague starts his video with these words, "I wrote a story for us." His story stuck with me this week. I celebrate his story, my story, your story!  "The world's in need of brave birds who say they'll bravely sing with joy!" Sing your song to the world. We need it! Celebrate it!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space to share our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

How I will RISE into 2017

The beginning of a new year is exciting, filled with potential and possibilities. Things can be different. I use this time to reflect on where I've been and where I'm going. I use a word to help me focus my reflection and my choices. This year my word is RISE. What do I want to accomplish with this word? What do I want RISE to help me do or be?

I want to RISE from the grasp of fear. We are all afraid of things. We all feel fear. There are times when I feel frozen in fear. It stops me. I want to RISE from the fear and simply begin. As soon as I begin, the fear dissipates.

I want to do things and RISE from the negativity. I want to show up. I want to write. I want to be a better teacher. I want to make this world a better place. This means I need to RISE to the occasion and do something.

How will I RISE in 2017? That's the best part... I don't know. I want to focus on the positive. I want to develop rituals and routines in my life that help this goal. Here are a few I have planned, some are simple and some are bigger, but all are designed to guide my year...

1. Start every day with writing in my newly organized writing spot.
2. Document the year with daily pictures and post them on Instagram using the hashtag #haseltinegratitude17
3. Paint my nails.
4. Write for five minutes at the end of each school day to reflect and grow as an educator.
5. Send 3-5 cards each week to those I love.
New lamp with the sun RISING from the clouds.

I'm hoping that RISE will serve me well this year. What will your 2017 look like? Do you have a word or a phrase that will guide you? 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

RISE in 2017

Happy New Year! It's 2017 and here I am again with another word of the year, otherwise known as my OLW. To talk about where I'm going, I want to look back and see where this all started. 

2009: Mettle
2010: Engage
2011: Build
2012: Embrace
2013: Author
2014: Risk
2015: Fly
2016: Selah

Picking a word began in 2009 with the word, METTLE. ENGAGE followed that in 2010. BUILD, EMBRACE, and AUTHOR continued the tradition in 2011, '12, and '13. In 2014, the words seemed to find me...RISK and FLY in 2015. Those are two words that made a great impact on my life. I just said goodbye to SELAH for 2016. This word was out of the ordinary. I loved this word. I used it to name a business that I opened this year. These words become part of my DNA. 

Picking a word became easier for more the more I did it, until this year. It seemed that if I was open and listening, the word would find me. It was a moment. Obvious. That didn't happen this year. I struggled to pick the right one. It wasn't until I let go and allowed it did it find me.

I wanted a synonym for "show up". I think the act of showing up is important to a good life and I wanted a daily reminder for myself, but I didn't want to use a phrase. When I started searching for it, I found ARISE. I like that, but I wasn't sold. I played around with the word AWAKE for awhile, but I kept coming back to RISE.

It occurs to me that one of my favorite songs of 2016 is Katy Perry's "Rise".

It's powerful and strong and I feel inspired every single time I listen to it. It also reminds me of a favorite poem by Maya Angelou...

"Does my sassiness upset you?" 

"You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise."

I am going to memorize that poem this year...maybe more than that. Those words are power. Finally, I love the connection with my favorite music from 2016...Hamilton. Yesterday the soundtrack was on as I was cleaning and I heard it...

I can't wait to see where this word leads me. I'll RISE up to meet it!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for providing this space to share our celebrations. Please join us and share your own!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Notebooks, Music, and Routines

I've been reading "Upstanders: How to Engage Middle School Hearts and Minds with Inquiry" by Sara Ahmed and Harvey "Smokey" Daniels. They discuss how Sara begins her classes calling it a "soft opening". The students come in and know where to place their homework, there's a message on the board, and they find a spot and begin reading. This eliminates teachers nagging and nudging students to get started on a "bell-ringer" or "warm-up".  I couldn't get that picture out of my head since I read about it, but this year I committed to beginning every day with notebook writing, Sacred Writing Time. I wondered if this could work with writing like it did for reading, so I tried it.

Three class days ago, with music playing, and a message for students on the board, me at my desk writing already, our soft opening began. The students came in from lunch. This means they are loud and laughing and silly. It took only a couple of minutes for my sixth graders to figure out what to do. They grabbed their notebooks, sat down and began to write. After our time ended, we discussed the change in how class began and we all agreed that we liked it and it would continue. 

Music was an addition to this time because I felt like it helped set the tone. I played some songs from my iTunes that I felt would be enjoyable but not distracting. We began this process on notebook check day and I'm glad it worked out this way. I had no idea how much impact the music had!

Students always request to listen to music in class and I flip flop between allowing in and denying it. Writing requires concentration, so I rarely listen to music while I write, but I'm not the only writer in the room. I turned the volume low and reminded my writers to find a place away from the music if they found it distracting. I thought that would be the end of it.

During the next couple of days, I read entry after entry about the music. Some students hated it! One of my quietest and most polite students wrote a powerful entry that shocked and delighted me...

She's right. We agreed on silent and I changed it without any discussion. We talked about this and I apologized. I asked her if we could try instrumental music and she took a deep breath of relief and nodded vigorously. The freedom that she felt with expressing these thoughts makes me grateful AGAIN for notebooks and our Sacred Writing Time.

A few other students wrote about moments and memories stirred by the music. Not one student said anything to me about the change in routine with the music, but at least half a dozen wrote about it.

Our class will continue to begin with our "soft opening" inspired by Sara Ahmed. Our notebooks will greet us and start our class. I will continue to read these notebooks and listen to my students.

How do you begin your class? 

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Ice Cream for Homework

This week has been filled with ups and downs, but there is so much to celebrate! Monday would have been my Dad's 70th birthday. He passed away almost ten years ago. This year, I talked to my students about my dad and I told them about his birthday. We talked about remembering those we love and I decided to invite them to do some extra homework. The typical middle school moans and groans could be heard when I announced that, but they were immediately silenced when I told them their assignment...eat ice cream. 

Ice cream was Dad's favorite treat, Dairy Queen, to be exact...so I told them how every year on his birthday and important "Dad Days", I go to DQ and order my favorite blizzard.

The classroom exploded with excitement! Many students grabbed their agendas to record their homework and even more demanded I sign their agendas. "My parents won't believe me!" Here are a couple of agenda entries from my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders...

What happened next warms my heart! They ate ice cream. They talked to their parents. They told them about my dad and how he loved ice cream. Every story I heard ended with the parents saying, "Yes!" to ice cream. I received a couple of photos and one beautiful email from a parent.

I miss my dad every single day and to know that this week he was remembered because of his love of ice cream...he'd love that! I celebrate Dad! I celebrate ice cream! I celebrate carrying those we love with us forever! Oh, and if you're interested, it's never too late...go and get some ice cream or your favorite treat today. Indulge. Laugh...and remember my dad!