Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Slice of Life Challenge
Please join the challenge over at Two Writing Teachers!

Why do I focus on what's lacking instead of what's there? Does everyone do that? I want to change that. I've been stressing about the summer ending because I didn't get all of my goals accomplished. Sigh! I keep thinking about what I didn't do...what didn't get done and I feel ashamed of myself. My internal dialogue is not pretty right now and I know that I need to change it, but it continues...
"Why did you waste all of that time?" 
"You always do this...plan big and don't get anything done!" 
"Everyone else got so much reading and writing done and you did nothing." 

Today I decided to make a list. Two lists.

The first list is titled "Goals Not Met this Summer"...

The second list is "What I Did this Summer"...

I also started & ran a summer reading program for my middle school. 

What's funny is the second list is full of meaningful experiences and the first is a collection of the same things that I always want to more, write more, exercise more. I walked a bit. I read ten books. I wrote 40 blog posts and journaled a lot...but it's not enough for me to be happy. 

I'm trying to remember this experience for school this year. Students write goals and work towards achieving them. I'm sure some of them feel like this when they fall short. I feel inadequate and small. In the logical part of my brain I know that I'm a good person who did accomplish so much this summer and even if I didn't, I needed time to just BE...but in the emotional side, I'm disappointed. 

How do I deal with a student who feels like this? If I were to talk to me like I was a student I'd say this: 

I know you are disappointed, but look at what you got done! There's so much on this list and you should be proud of yourself. Instead of beating yourself up, make a new list and start again. When we check in with the progress we've made on our goals, we can adjust and start again. Take this opportunity to start again and let yourself off the hook! It's ok. You grew and changed...but in a different way than you expected...the important thing is you grew and you continue to grow! 

Change your focus...words to remember!


  1. Wow! You did (and enJOYed) so much this summer! What a fabulous list! You went beyond your goals!

    I love the way you thought of your students and how you can help them through feelings of disappointment!

  2. I love your lists and your reflection on them. I feel the same way about my over-planned goals that did not get met. However, you are right in that those are my goals every year (actually, all the time) -- read more, move more, learn more, blah, blah, blah. It's what gets put in the "done" column that are the actual moments of life that we should remember. In my classroom, I like to use learning journals to help my students celebrate their every day accomplishments. It's such fun to go back in June and look at them to see how much we've done and learned. Have a great day!

    Sweet Writing Life
    Mrs. Laffin's Laughings

  3. Michelle, here is another delightful, reflective post from you. I changed my endless to do list to "list of possibilities" to allow me to breathe and feel options to living.

  4. Oh I do that to myself. The glass is half empty thing. I think we are so much kinder to others that we are to ourselves in these moments. I love how you turned it around for yourself, by looking at all the richness of the things you did do and considered how all the things on your undone list are things that are always presents. Teacher heal thyself! We have to be gentle with ourselves. I like Carol's words of "list of possibilities."

  5. I think many of us want to "do more, be more" & summer brings that time that seems to yawn before us, ready for our "doing". What a positive thing to create the two lists-& I love the observation that your "didn't do" list is just what is always on it. You can keep plugging away at that anytime! And I love that you were thoughtful enough to apply it to your students-so, so right. I imagine using your idea will help students all this year, Michelle.

  6. It is so true, it's what we focus on... and we all know we are harder on ourselves than anyone else could be. That was so smart to write the 2 lists. But tear out the left side. Concentrate on the positives! And Straight No Chaser??? So fun!!!! They were in Chicago last winter but ticket prices were astronomical! Keep breathing these last few days!

  7. What a wonderful reflection. I often find the open-ended nature of summers makes it harder for me to accomplish big things, and like you, look back and lament what I didn't accomplish. But your list comparison and reflection is so powerful. Sometimes I think, just like when we are writing, it is in the quieter spaces, when it may not look like work is happening, that our best ideas come together. Life, especially a teaching life demands so much. Perhaps as you suggest, we need to look at our summers with softer, quieter eyes.

  8. When I saw your lists, I teared up. What a great visual for life in general.

  9. Lists are wonderful. They show us what we want to do as well as what we accomplished. Looking at your list, you did quite a bit. You had a read map, and you took some exciting and rewarding detours. Congratulations on all that you did accomplish.

  10. I like how you turned your disappointment around and even looked forward to how to use your experience to help your students. Your second list is a lovely gratitude list. You can also use it as ideas for writing.

  11. I"m so like you. I am in the moment and worried that I won't get to other things on my list. Today, this afternoon, I am just reading Slices without guilt that I should be doing anything else. Good luck and keep that long list with you as a reminder.

  12. Your list is amazing and is not worthy of beating yourself up! You had an amazing summer and this should carry into your new school year. There have been many times I have said "Now that is a story" when something happens. You have a looooong list of story ideas just waiting to be written.


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