Do you ever find yourself griping about the little things? Yes, that person who is driving way too slow in the fast lane is exactly the kind of "little thing" I am talking about. Or maybe the fact that your nail polish is starting to chip off after you just got your manicure two days ago? Anybody's anxiety flaring up, yet?
What about not getting that promotion you thought you would get and even deserved more than the guy who got it? Or, maybe the relationship you thought was going so well turned a bit south? Now, am I striking a nerve?
Well, I'm happy to say I never worry about any of these things. Okay, I lied. I worry about the "little things" all the time. I start every single day on my knees, praying for God to direct me in the manner in which He sees fit and I end that prayer time with the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
But then, I stand up and find something to worry about.
Seriously, over the last 20 years, I have gotten pretty good with the first two parts of the above prayer, but that last little piece eludes me. I don't think I am daft (despite evidence to the contrary, sometimes), but I simply don't always know what is a thing worth getting worked up over and what isn't.
And that, folks, is why I have to keep working at prayer and trusting God to direct me in all things. Left to my own devices, I can make a mountain out of a molehill and think something defines me when, in reality, it has nothing to do with me at all. And that, by the way, goes for not-so-great things or really great things that happen in my life. I seem to resemble that Billy Joel song "I Don't Know Why I Go To Extremes" that continues with the line "..too high or too low, there ain't no in-betweens" (now, I'm going to fret about the "ain't" in my blog). But the truth is: none of the things that I typically get worked up over end up impacting my life for a very long time.
You see, the little things that bug me today are typically forgotten within a week or maybe a month (if it was a really big chip in my nail polish). :) I need to pray for God to continue to reveal to me that the bigger picture is so much greater than a work situation, missed opportunity, frustration with politics, or disagreement with a spouse (not that Dave and I ever disagree, mind you). :) The bigger picture is from 30,000 feet, where I can look down and see that, over the span of a number of years, my life has been pretty amazing.
Nichole Nordeman happens to be one of my favorite singers of all time. Her song SUNRISE (click the song title to see and hear this amazing song) has always been one of the most inspiring songs. When I was recovering from breast cancer, this song was on my playlist to listen to when I ran, when I was driving, or when I just needed a lift. The words that really get me are "How would I know the morning if I knew not midnight?" I am not certain what that means for you in your own journey, but to me, it means I have had to go through a few tough times to appreciate the beauty of the desert. I have had to experience a few scary moments to appreciate the comfort of a loving and lasting relationship with Dave. We've gone through the loss of a few beautiful Labrador Retrievers to appreciate the ones we have now (and the ones we continue to foster and adopt out to loving owners). In other words, if given the chance to do things over or to have less "bad things" happen to me in my life, I would not take it. I totally believe I am who I am because of every single chipped nail I have gone through (and actually come out better for it on the other side).
Breast cancer, really? Yes! I made one of the dearest friends in my entire life because of breast cancer (yes, Rita, I am talking about you).
Not getting that job I thought I wanted? Yes! If I had been hired as a principal in Tucson in 2009, I wouldn't have gone on to get my doctorate in education that has opened up so many more opportunities in my life that I never dreamed possible!
That broken relationship? ABSOLUTELY! Nothing can compare to the life I have with Dave, complete with tears, laughter (lots of that!), and loads of love.
Missed opportunities? I prefer to call them blessings in disguise.
In the words of Garth Brooks "I could have missed the pain, but I'd have had to miss the dance."
I'll take the midnight to appreciate the sunrise, any day. I pray you will, too, right after you go get that chipped nail repaired.
my heart is hurting. Why? I joked a couple of weeks ago about being called names. The post was pretty tame, maybe even a bit mundane. Because what happened this week was NOT tame, nor was it mundane. One of our higher-up politicians, at a rally in El Paso, made an enormous faux pas (and that's putting it lightly) in using the term "loser teachers" and frustrating millions of people around the globe. I'm sure there is some major back-pedaling going on (I'm trying to steer clear of the politics and simply focus on the name-calling) or maybe not, but if ANYone (a parent in my school when I was principal, someone in the community I overheard, or anyone for that matter) used the term "loser teachers", I am liable to bow up like a Mama Bear protecting her cubs.
Let's be honest. Not one teacher you know could have possibly gone into the teaching profession for the money. When I wasn't making even half of what Dave was making as an engineer, even after I got my master's degree, I would remind him, "You knew the financial situation you were marrying into, right?" He knew. He knew I spent nights making materials that might engage my otherwise difficult-to-engage students. He knew that, on weekends, I would beg him to come with me to take one of my students out for lunch and maybe to the bookstore to get a new book. He knew that, while people flippantly say, "But teachers have the summers off", I would be up at school, getting my room prepared for the next year and would likely be meeting with colleagues and new parents in an effort to begin building relationships. He knew...he knew...he knew... I could go on and on. He knows now that, when I get a contract to work with a school or district or university, I am going to spend countless hours preparing for the work I will be doing. Why? Because educators deserve the best professional learning opportunities they can possibly get.
And don't get me started on how many teachers spend hard earned money on the kids in their class; how many times teachers serve in roles like: nurse, social worker, counselor, banker, accountant, and so many more. And most teachers do this all without complaining.
I am not naive. Are some teachers less equipped than others to do a 150% job every day? Of course. I talk a lot about "will" versus "skill". As a school leader, I worked with new teachers or even seasoned teachers who lacked "skill" in some areas. They could be coached through these issues with training, modeling and help from outside sources. The ones who lacked the "will" didn't last very long, once they knew there was accountability involved. They either bucked up and found the will, albeit begrudgingly, or another phenomenon occurred. As a principal in North Carolina told me a couple of years ago, "I'm going to help this teacher out, or I am going to help this teacher.....OUT!" Yes, some folks in every profession need to be counseled out of their current position.
But to call ANYone a "loser teacher" is not just mean, it is hurtful to the profession and simply not character-filled. Calling names never solved a problem. Helping people in need of support helps solve problems.
Now, go ahead. Give it your best shot. Tell me how you feel. I stand for educators all over the world in saying, "Stop calling names!!"
Being called names is not a new thing for me. When I was in elementary school, I was called "Shelly Belly with a bowl full of jelly" and "Shelly Legweak" (my maiden name is Armstrong). I never remember being too upset by those, as I never felt any of those names were meant to be ugly. I suppose I was either naive or I simply felt fairly comfortable in my own legweak skin. :)
In more recent years, I have been called "your mother" by my dear husband, Dave, many, many times. Most of those times have been when I have resembled her in some personality traits that we used to make fun of. When Mother set her mind to something, she wouldn't waiver from it, despite logical evidence that would suggest the contrary. For instance, Mother weighed in at 100 pounds at her heaviest weight ever. After she had her voice box removed due to cancer of the larynx, she weighed in around 90 - 95 pounds. Despite her tiny frame, she would often ask for Diet Dr. Pepper and Light Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream. It simply didn't make any sense to us, but she wouldn't change her mind. In an effort to save money on electricity, she would also keep her air conditioning off, even in Florida's hot and humid summers (sometimes upwards of 95 degrees outside and inside the house). So, when I have moments in which I say to Dave, "I can't just run three miles; it has to be four" or "I want a Diet Coke but it needs to be a fountain soda with crushed ice", it is truly no surprise when he says, "Okay Helen" or "your mother". But, once again, I am really okay with that, especially since I believe it is a daughter's destiny to become her mother, despite any attempts to fend off the title.
Recently, however, new names have emerged in the work I am so blessed to do, helping teachers, administrators, schools, and districts in their quest to become more adept at aiding teacher growth. A couple of weeks ago, I was working with administrators on how to have conversations with their teachers after watching the teachers' classroom practice. I was modeling conversations with teachers, and I was so excited to see teachers show the ability to notice their own strengths and growth areas when simply presented with the data we had captured coupled with questions that encouraged them to think quite deeply about their own teaching. After one such reflection conference, one of the administrators said, "I just wrote down: Shelly is Queen of the Seque". She and others said they felt that, when a teacher might begin to stray from keeping the main thing the main thing, I was able to get them back on target with a simple yet complex question such as, "Speaking of grouping of students, in what ways do you group your students for maximum engagement?" I have simply been amazed at the way teachers talk about their practice when asked to do so.
Another administrator later that week called me "Finesse Master", even though I am afraid Dave would sometimes call that finessing that I do in conversations either "nosy" or "manipulative" (name-calling is not always nice, is it?). This administrator was saying, "I feel like I am trying to ask the teacher the same type of questions, but you finesse the conversation to get them to see the patterns you are noticing as well". I truly believe I still have a lot to learn, but I do know that I am passionate about wanting teachers to have more voice than we, as administrators, do in reflection conversations. After all, the ones who do the most thinking and talking are quite likely to do the most learning, right?
So, for today, I am fine with being called names, as long as those names reflect who I actually am and what I do. What names are you called, and what are your feelings about them?