I’m sitting in the in-betweens. It’s not an easy place for me. I like strategy and goals and things to accomplish. The in-betweens is really hard. It’s an important place to sit and ponder, but by no means is it a comfortable place for me.
What is the in-betweens for me? It’s that messy middle where things seem to plod along like a toddler who doesn’t want to go to bed but isn’t outright defying you. This child makes a 5-minute process take 2 hours and everyone is in misery for it. Well, that’s my mental state right now. Life is the toddler and I’m in misery and just want to go to bed.
I’m writing my dissertation for my Ph.D. Chapters 1-3 are complete and turned in. But I can’t move on to Chapter 4 until I get my data collected. I can’t do anything but wait.
I’m waiting for responses to my survey. If any of the world out there reads this and is a current or former Texas high school UIL One-Act play director, I DESPERATELY need your feedback.
I have always loved wildflowers. I love the scrappy flowers that come up between cracks in the pavement. I love the flowers that bloom despite being forgotten. I love the thorny, prickly, rough around the-edges flowers that live in pastures and on the side of the road.
This is how I see myself. I’ve never been polished, nor do I expect to be so. I’ve always felt a little too this or too that or too something else. I realize that we all feel that way. I’m just willing to say it out loud.
What type of person are you? When change is needed, do you frustrate, participate or initiate?
Today as I was taking care of an issue that needed to be addressed, I had a realization that there are a ton of small things that I take care of daily just because they need to get done. Some things are mundane household things, some items are work-related, and some are quality of life issues.
But it hit me. I don’t think “most” people take the initiative to make changes.
And so I’ve been pondering. Why do I initiate changes when others find their place in participating in transition and others even in frustrating the process of change. I’m not throwing stones at those that hinder the process. I know that I need people to say. WAIT. Have you thought this through? Have you figured out if this will work? Do you know what the cost is?
I have to say that I often give a side-ways glance at the potential pitfalls, but I’m a gung-ho, let’s move ahead kind of person. You know, the kind of person that initiates things. 🙂
I’d be interested in knowing where your sweet spot is and why.
It’s an interesting conundrum.. when life is good, it’s hard to sit down and write/blog about it. But when life is hard, it is soo very easy to let it pour out. Well, 2020 has been a weird year, for all of us, but for me personally it has been a really good year, and that makes it hard to write about as I know so many people are suffering.
But this is my diary to the world and so, let me catch you up on a few of the good things in our life.
Doug’s company, McLemore Financial Group has held its own during this crazy time. Like all families that own businesses, the first few weeks of the pandemic along with the stock market volatility had us ready to panic. But Doug is really good at what he does and all has been well. I’d love to say more, but I haven’t a clue.. he does his thing and I just appreciate it immensely. 🙂
One really cool things that he has done during this time is to transition to working from home a couple of days a week. It’s been good for all of us and he has been able to get out and walk more and find time to relax and write.
2. I heard God.
In January, I heard God. I know it’s weird. But I did, and I have spent the last 10 months relishing the voice of God in my life in a way that was altogether new and different.
I have always believed in God and would say that I have a strong faith. Over the years even when nothing seemed to work out, when life was beyond difficult and miracles were desperately needed yet nothing would happen, I still believed. Through it all, I believed that God was there and would show up.. in His time. Well, in January, God broke through and showed up mightily in our life. The miracles that God brought about were amazing and truly the “only God” kind. Since those early January days, I have walked in anticipation of what God will do each day and have asked God continually to fall fresh on me and to fill me with the His peace. I have had so much fun journaling and sharing personally with others about the presence of God.
3. Kylie and Lexi changed schools and both are THRIVING! Hallelujah. You know, it’s really hard to change things when you are so invested in something. Taking the girls out of the school district that we had been a part of for more than 20 years was difficult. SISD was great for Maddie. She had her group and it was a good fit. But it was never a good fit for Lexi and Kylie was starting to struggle within the system as well. So after years of discussion, in July, we finally decided that with the COVID closures and all of the uncertainty of the fall schedule, that this would be the right time.
And oh, how right we were. Kylie is going to a small private school in town (White Horse Christian Academy) and Lexi is attending an online high school (James Madison High School).The environments are polar opposites from each other, but exactly the right fit for each child. We knew the girls weren’t doing well the last couple of years in the previous school system, but watching Lexi come back to life is heartbreaking, and thrilling, at the same time. Both are being challenged academically, yet have more free time than before. Kylie’s comment was pretty blunt. She asked, after the first week at her new school, while having a late Friday morning breakfast since her school doesn’t have class on Fridays… “why is it that good schools have shorter days and more time off, and bad schools have longer days and have to go more days?” I didn’t have a child-friendly answer
4. I changed jobs!
After years of hurt, disappointment and dead-ends, I came to terms with the fact that promotions and career opportunities outside of the art classroom were not going to be tied to the school district that I had served for so long. I prayed continuously about my desire to lead and organize. I asked God to remove my passion for planning and improvement beyond the classroom setting, if I wasn’t going to be given an opportunity to use my gifts.
It was a hurt that was bone deep.
Then, as July was coming to a close and the anxiety of being thrust into a face to face teaching scenario in the midst of the pandemic had our family scrambling and looking at family medical leave paperwork, God opened the most unexpected door.
Out of the blue, Tarleton State University was looking to hire Instructional Designers. It was a shock. The university had just faced a reorganization and had been forced to layoff employees due to COVID. Things were in a state of change, and yet, Instructional Designers were needed. I applied and was interviewed almost immediately. I was hired and was able to walk away from teaching high school the day before I was to return to the campus full-time. This was a miracle. And everyday I am grateful and thankful. The very gifts that made me “too much” in my old environment are now being used on a daily basis. Four years ago I prayed that God would change me. He didn’t. You see, I was told by the top administrator that in order to be a leader in the district, I had to be.. and I quote “more doe-eyed and to stop having good ideas.” But God made me with a personality that asks questions and a thirst for brainstorming and coming up with creative solutions. So while the path has been arduous to get here, I am so incredibly thankful. Every single day, over the last almost two months now, I have been challenged to ask the questions, to brainstorm for ways to do things and given the autonomy to fix the issues that I find. No longer am I made to feel like I am “too much.” After more than twenty years in education, I have finally found home.
And that’s the recap for the big stuff.
But what about Maddie? Maddie is doing great! She is thriving in college and learning to navigate the world of complicated medical issues and adulthood. Her resiliency is amazing and her strength inspiring.
But in case you think it’s all been easy…
In March, Kylie broke both arms in a tumble from trying to carry her bike down some concrete stairs… and Lexi spent January-March having kidney stones, surgery and stents and then shingles!
Thankfully, those days are behind us.
In the days ahead, I am hoping to blog again. Transitions are always hard, even great ones.
My goal for the next couple of months for myself is to start painting again. And this time, with no expectation, and a less critical eye.
This post is going to seem odd or a little “out there” if you haven’t read Untamed by Glennon Doyle or Fierce, Free and Full of Fire by Jen Hatmaker.. but that’s okay. Maybe my real and raw manifesto might encourage you to go read these books!
First, let me say that these are my words inspired by these books, but I would have never put my thoughts in such a real and hardcore philosophy without each of these authors first showing the way. I journal and over the years in blog posts, I have spoken these truths in fits and spurts, but I’ve never felt challenged to uncage my thoughts, emotions and dreams in one complete essay.
So while I don’t imagine that Glennon nor Jen will ever see this post (a girl can dream.. and if I’m throwing out dreams, can I add Rachel Hollis to this too….) I want to say how much their work inspires me. And not just the books that prompted this manifesto, but each of their bodies of work. And really, so many other women writers. Brene’ Brown, Lysa TerKeurst, Rachel Held Evans, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Jamie Wright, Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith, Shauna Niequist and others. These ten women authors have helped me to find my voice in a world that seems to reward women for keeping quiet.
And yes, I know that some of you immediately laughed at the idea of me keeping quiet. I’m not loud, but I’ve always spoken up about injustice or have a compelling truth that needs to be said. It makes people uncomfortable, so I have learned to soften the words with smiles and deferential actions. To lessen who I am so that others aren’t offended or feel offensive.
But no more. I have decided that I am worthy of acceptance and love. I have been created for a purpose and I believe after much soul searching that my role is that of a truth-teller. I am still learning how to speak truths in a more loving way, but I refuse to keep my personality and gifts caged because it makes others uncomfortable.
Okay, I’ve gone off on a tangent…. back to my manifesto…
But first… here are more pictures from my “modeling shoot” with my girls. Lexi and Kylie did their best to get me in decent poses… I’m a pretty pathetic model. But we laughed a lot. My skirt and shoes are animal print… because I am a CHEETAH and I refuse to be tamed. (Go read Glennon’s book…)
And finally… the manifesto.
I am like the wind. There are seasons where I am a gentle breeze, going along with life and just waiting for my chance to do my work. At other times, I am a gale force wind, blowing hard, juggling dozens of deadlines and furiously pushing others to do their part. I am wired this way. It may seem like I am all or nothing, but really it’s my core value of refusing to be stagnant and wanting to learn something new everyday that keeps me changing my speed and direction. With age, I am learning to find the balance in a gentle breeze and a turbulent wind. I am exactly enough the way God made me. The world needs my gentleness and my strength, my new ideas and my take charge attitude.
I am strong in my bodyand my fierce determination has given me the ability to run marathons, compete in triathlons and birth children. I have not been kind to my body. I have starved it. I’ve punished it with exercise. I have hated it. I have loathed the sight of my thighs since 6th grade. But I’m learning. My body is strong enough to blaze new trails, to climb mountains, to fight off failure, despair, and even worse, complacency. I’m learning to love her. Slowly. I still don’t like a lot of her qualities, but I’m learning that she is kind and faithful and worthy. Just as she is.
What I need are opportunities to use my strengths, my collaborative gifts and my voice of truth. I deserve goodness and to be treated fairly and without dismissiveness. I need the chance to see my dreams validated and my attention to detail honored. I need help learning how to advocate for myself in a way that doesn’t dismiss the ability of others. I need more connection with parents of children the same age of youngest daughter as she need friends and I need community.
What I want is to be needed and acknowledged. I dream of using my gift of organizing people and things on a larger scale than simply my home and classroom! I want to chose my yes and not feel stuck, stagnant, or forgotten. I want my voice of truth to be not just allowed, but a desired commodity.
I believe is that God is listening and I hope with all that is within me He has a purpose for the gifts that He has given me; and that this purpose has a path towards my dreams. I believe in spiritual curiosity and want to learn more about predestination and freewill. I believe in equality, that all lives matter. But that the only way all lives matter, is if the freedom of those oppressed and targeted is fought for by those who take those freedoms for granted. I believe in creating safe spaces for teenagers to question everything about themselves, their identity, and their orientation.
I connect with others through service. I enjoy getting to know others while we serve side by side and hand in hand. I want to connect with honesty. I want to ask difficult questions and learn from others authentic answers. I want to be offered that same space. I want to connect without drama, pretense, or expectations. I want to value my connection to others and know that others value me.
At the end of my life, I want to be able to point to countless moments of connection, service and creative thought. I want to finish my days knowing that I spent it all, and all that is left is a light breeze of remembrance.
It’s been a couple of months since I blogged. Lots of happenings, too much to catch you up on for the most part, but I do have a really awesome update to my classroom.
First, I can say that shaking hands with students is a winner. It has been an amazingly easy transition.. except that it took about 2 months to feel normal to me. 🙂 Students responded immediately and now just expect that I will shake their hands everyday. So with this element in place, I felt comfortable adding a new piece of the “Capturing Kid’s Hearts” mindset, but I tweaked it to work in a fine arts environment!
This is the ambassador piece.. but I called it my Art Ambassador program.
After I welcomed all students into class today, I explained that I needed help with a few things in and around our room. I told the classes that I felt that it was wrong that the students in a class didn’t know each other’s names and that it’s hard to feel like your are on a team when you don’t know who is on that team!
So to that end, I wanted to invite students to take leadership roles in the classroom and that each week we would welcome a new ambassador who would shake everyone’s hands and say their names. I explained that shaking hands should be a natural and comfortable thing to do not just with a teacher or adult but with their peers.
The Art Ambassador will also be in charge of leading “Good Things” three times a week to start our class day. Why? Because as much as I want to lead “Good Things” and as much as I believe in the process, life and teaching get in the way of good intentions if there is no one keeping me accountable! So with students helping to keep us going and moving, I know that we can do it!
And finally, the Art Ambassador is responsible for welcoming guests in the classroom, for explaining to new people about our classroom and offering the new person an opportunity to sign our social contract.
And here is what I learned today. Quiet students who don’t necessarily get called on, were remembered. Students that have stories to tell, but are afraid to voice them did so. Students that had moved in late, had schedules changed or were otherwise “new” were given an opportunity to get acclimated and learn names.. and they smiled.
Bottom line. Asking for Art Ambassadors allowed me to ask for help from the students. I asked for leaders. I asked for accountability. I asked for teamwork.
And I got it.
I’m not a new teacher. I know that there will be bumps in the road. Heck, it wasn’t perfect by any means today. In one class, after three students gave very superficial “good things” I said that I realized that this class doesn’t trust each other with their hearts and that we have to work on being trustworthy friends and uphold our social contract better.
But my takeaway.. a quiet foster home student’s “good thing” that she barely whispered to the class.. that she is being adopted. Yeah. Gut check. We cheered for her.
My prayer is that I remember these moments of transparency and love and team and that I hold myself accountable and ask for my Art Ambassadors to lead the way.
I’ve never been comfortable with shaking hands. I guess it’s because girls aren’t taught to shake hands. I’ve always felt awkward and except for when meeting someone new in a business setting, I just haven’t ever been one to shake hands.
The school district I work in has implemented “Capturing Kids’ Hearts” and since going to training I’m a believer in what they are doing as they attempt to transform schools into positive environments.
As part of “CKH,” I was a happy to add social contracts and give more responsibility to the class managing their own behavior. I already did lots of stuff like that, so it was in my comfort zone. But shaking hands? Not so much. I was incredibly leery and cynical at first when it came to the need to shake student’s hands every day. I had fantastic reasons for why I couldn’t do it.
But, I’m an all in or all out kind of person, so I decided to just give it a try. If I didn’t see it as a good use of my time or students started acting up in the classroom while I was standing in the hallway, I could always go back to my old ways.
So for two weeks now I have been shaking hands with students as they enter my classroom.
And here is what I have learned.
It makes a difference.
I don’t know how. I don’t know why, but it makes a difference. I’ve been a teacher for 20 years and I have great classroom management and engagement, but there is a different vibe in my room after greeting students at the door and shaking their hands.
I’ve always greeted students by name when they entered my room, but I’ve always also been doing the twenty different things that need to be done before a new group comes in, so it’s been a distracted greeting at best.
Now, for those couple of seconds, as I clasp the student’s hand and say the student’s name, I give that student my undivided attention. I look at the student’s face. I look in their eyes if they are willing to look back at me, and I smile.
Maybe because I have to smile at almost 150 students a day in a personal greeting, but I have found myself smiling and laughing more. I still get incredibly frustrated at times, but more often than not, I’m able to find the humor in the craziness of high school students.
My student’s are happier.
Last year, my middle school age daughter said that her goal for school was the same as Mia Thermopolis’ “My expectation in life is to be invisible and I’m good at it.” I wonder how many students decide the same thing, not because they truly want to be invisible, but since they already feel that way, they decide that they might as well make that their expectation.
Well, when you stop and look in a student’s eyes, smile and call the student by name.. there is no hiding.
And what I am learning is that when student’s don’t feel forgotten or hidden, they are happier and they smile more as well!
Not having those 5 minutes to go to the restroom, return the phone call or prep for class makes things more challenging, but it is worth it. I’m committed to shaking hands with students.
And who knows, one of the best benefits may not be the connection I feel with the students, it may be that my students learn that shaking hands is a normal part of social interaction, no matter the gender!
The last few months have been a season of self-growth and self-reflection. I have found it to be an interesting and rewarding time. Not necessarily easy, but an incredibly worthwhile effort. After years and years of taking classes, earning degrees and becoming the best teacher that I can be, I decided that it was time just to focus on being the best ME that I could be. For an achiever and goal-oriented person, this was difficult as there is no measure of ME and for/against ME that I can use.
Along the way I read about the Enneagram Type Indicator. This test is a personality test, but it’s more than that. I really enjoyed taking the process. I took the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator online at the Enneagram Institute. I chose the long test as would by my norm. If you are going to do something, go all in!
My results overview were that I scored highest on The Challenger, then second was The Achiever, and third was The Enthusiast. No shock!
But what I really enjoyed reading was the report that came with the test. The report gave insight to my strengths and described me when I am at my best. It also talks about how I view and handle relationships, who I am most compatible with based on enneagram type and how I can work on all relationships from this framework.
One of the take-aways for me after reading the report is that I felt acknowledged. Yes, I know it’s a weird word to use for a generic report from an institute that has never met me, but yes, acknowledged! My frustrations with my job and career path isn’t a bad thing, nor does it mean that I’m not doing my job to my best of ability. What is means is that YES, I was created for more and I will feel frustrated and stifled as long as I am not being given opportunities for growth and leadership.
Oh how I wish organizations would use personality inventories like this to help make decisions about employees career opportunities and growth potential. After twenty years in public education, I can say without a doubt, if a type description like the Enneagram was used appropriately for job placement, everyone would benefit. Teachers like myself with challenger and achiever personalities would be given leadership roles and administrators with personalities that don’t lend themselves to leadership would be able to look at themselves and be able to overcome their weaknesses by creating the right team.
At the end of the day, I’ve been both in the right place and worked for people in the right place and have been in the wrong place and worked for people in the wrong place. What inspires me is about Enneagram is that I can look at myself and others in the wrong place and find ways to thrive despite the circumstance. I know that after reading the nine types, I am looking at others and myself from a place of understanding and not from frustration. And that is worth gold.
As an educator, it is important to remind myself that learning new things and mastering new skills isn’t always easy. I think educators and those in the business of education often found learning to be easy.. and so we forget that for some, learning is HARD.
So for the third time, I’ve selected the month of May to be my month of hard things… in the form of my Handstand Challenge.
Why? Because handstands are HARD. Because handstands force you out of your comfort zone and require not only that you trust your hands and shoulders to hold you up, but require you to balance and hold your core tight at the same time. In essence, handstands require physical effort and mental strength.
I also really enjoy watching my progress over the month. It fits my grit mindset of 20 times to learn it, 200 to master it. So over the course of a month, I’ve captured my learning process over 20 times (31 to be exact) and I’ve done more than 200 handstands because with every up there are 5 to 10 failures. By the end of the month, I haven’t mastered handstands, but I’ve made a lot of progress!
And interestingly, each year I start from a stronger place. Just like the educational foundation that we hope students have as they are given new content; my handstands are significantly better than last years handstands when you look at the data (date and photo). Even better, when you go back three years, the progress is quite impressive. In 2015, my day 1 handstand was up against the wall outside of my house. I remember clearly being scared that I would fall, that I would slip, that I would break something!
But even braced against the wall, I was so proud of the fact that I DID IT!
Moving to 2018, my day 1 handstand this year was in the middle of my living room with no wall to brace me, no helper to stabilize me and no pillow to catch me should I fall. The difference this time was that while I knew the handstand would be ugly, I knew I could do it. In fact, my Day 1-8 handstands are all pretty awesome in my opinion.. even though they only last a second or two!
Isn’t that what we want for our students? Yes, some learning and some processes are ugly, but students NEED to know that they can do hard things! Progress needs to be celebrated and efforts acknowledged.
When was the last time a student was asked to CHOOSE something outside of their comfort zone that would be hard and then given the tools to accomplish it? And I’m not talking about passing the STAAR (state mandated test) test.. but a student-driven academic goal.
So as I look out at my classroom and watch 150 students pass through my door each day, I tell them about my handstand challenge. I invite them to follow my progress on instagram.. not so that they can make fun of me.. some will no matter what… but so that they can see adults in their lives doing hard things.. things that aren’t in their comfort zone.. things that don’t come easy. Because maybe, just maybe, some of these students will remember my sad attempts at handstands when they are in the midst of their own handstand struggles in life and keep going.
Months ago one of my colleagues, Beth, the Culinary Arts teacher came and asked me if I would be interested in having my students work with her students on a community service project. Beth told me about the concept of Empty Bowls and how if my students would make the bowls, her students would make the meal and we could donate the proceeds to a worthwhile organization. Sounded great!
So my students got to work. And work they did!! Oh my. They made hundreds of bowls. Some really great ones.. some not so hot. But everyone of my 150 students made a couple of bowls!
Once the bowls dried, the kiln was either running or cooling constantly for more than a month! So many bowls to fire to bisque and then to glaze and fire and then, we had issues with the glaze and many had to be fired again!
It was a tedious process, but the students learned so much and had so much ownership in this project. Students truly cared about their bowls.. significantly more than they would have if it had just been a clay project where they made a bowl.
These bowls had meaning!
We were also incredibly fortunate along the way to have a number of bisque ware pieces donated to my students, so we had some really great serving pieces and mugs that were already fired and just had to be glazed. This gave us a jump start for sure!
So finally it was time for our Empty Bowl Project. We decided to donate to Backpack Buddies of Erath County as this organization makes sure that students that would otherwise go hungry over the weekend and during school holidays have food. Given that a number of my students are recipients of this program, it was nice that they were able to give back without anyone realizing it!
The night of the event it was cold and rainy. The soup was PERFECT! The culinary arts students made a perfect meal and some of the board members of Backpack Buddies were able to come and help sell tickets and pottery.
By the end of the evening, we had sold lots of soup and 2/3rds of the pottery was gone. Whew. One of the really cool things from the event was being able to see the pride the students had in their work and their ability to give back to the community.
It was a great event and SHS Culinary and Visual Art students
were able to donate $744 to Backpack Buddies!
Waiting is hard. We all know that. It’s especially difficult when the waiting is personal. It seems like I’ve been waiting for a chance to be an educational leader for twenty years. The reality is that I haven’t been waiting “that” long, it’s just hard when I know that I have so much to offer and my skills aren’t being utilized equal to my potential.
Nevertheless, I’ve been adding to my education and my resume. I may not be an administrator yet, but I’ve completed my Superintendency certificate.
I’ve also written another play and have a research article accepted for publication.
One of my friends recently posted a question on her social media feed that I have been pondering.. “How long do you knock on a door before you accept that it is closed?”
I have to say, I can’t help but wonder if the same applies to me. By no means am I going to give up my dream to be a leader. I don’t have to… I AM A LEADER. But the reality might be that being an educational leader might have me leading and serving in an area that I didn’t plan or expect.
And isn’t that the sum of life. So much of our life happens in the waiting. I can chose to be bitter about the fact that the “fast-track” to administration has never included me. Instead, I’m choosing to learn more, reinvent myself and ultimately, I will be a stronger leader.