I’m still wrapping my head around this accomplishment.
Most people only know and see the confident me. This is the curated me.
The reality is that confidence is hard-won and a learned behavior. Deep down, I’m still the insecure kid who struggled to read, made a C in art in 2nd grade, spent time in tutorials and “special” classes in 3rd-5th grade, and was basically told I was pretty, but dumb in 9th grade Algebra.
And today, I’m Dr. McLemore with a 4.0 in graduate school.
My dissertation examines the leadership style of Texas high school theatre directors and the impact their leadership style has on production success. It’s the first study of its kind.
The study proved what I already knew from lived experience… the leadership style of directors impacts productions. I have been privileged to work with some amazing directors over the years. Some of the directors were autocratic leaders, some were laissez-faire, and some were love first, and lead second. But my experience in theatre has shaped me.
In the next chapter of my life, I want to help directors understand how their leadership style impacts their productions. I’m still mulling over how this will translate into a job. The reality may be that it is just a side passion. But now that I know, how can I ignore it?
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.
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.
Over the last two days I’ve had the opportunity to attend an incredible teacher training called iChampion Summit at Tarleton State University. The school district that I work for is a partner in presenting this conference and it truly is a worthwhile event! Heck if you attend, you could even see me present a workshop or two. 🙂
The keynote speakers challenge and engage.
But this post isn’t about the incredible things that these speakers are asking us to do.
Instead, I am just going to be real for a minute and while some might label me an “awfulizer,” I’d tell Jimmy Casas (the really good keynote who had awfulizer as a slide..) that until we can talk about Education’s Greatest Thief, then we can’t really move forward.
And what is Education’s Greatest Thief?
Think about it.
We all have stories of bitter teachers. In all likelihood we have all commented on that bitter teacher and how he/she needed to retire ten years ago.
But have you ever stopped to wonder about the generations of bitter students, much less the teachers!!
And why do we have so many bitter people in and around education?
And in education we don’t talk about unfulfilled expectations nor do we acknowledge justified disappointments. We are just supposed to pretend that everything is fine and that leads to bitterness.
No! I’m not saying everyone is bitter.. but I am saying that until we are ready to have a conversation about the reality of education and the challenges that students and teachers face in the classroom on a daily basis, we will always have unfulfilled expectations and justified disappointment.
I feel so passionately about this, I’ve made a little video. If you feel so inclined, I ask you to watch my video and join the discussion.
And yes, I completely messed up the title of my new favorite book.. It’s called The Gifts of Imperfection.
For the last few years I’ve been working hard on my professional goals and trying to advance my career in public education. I’ve done everything “by the book.” I’ve done the course work. I’ve passed the tests. I’ve done absolutely everything that I can do, even so far as having my research published in an educational administrative journal. And I’ve hit the wall over and over again.
Each time I’ve hit the wall, I’ve reevaluated. I’ve asked myself hard questions and I’ve learned important lessons.
But this weekend, after soul-searching after yet another difficult wall, I realized that I’m going after my goals in a traditional approach.. the accepted approach… the textbook approach.
And you know what?
The textbook approach has NEVER worked for me.
My dad has often laughingly said that I created my own degree plans in college and created my own jobs. And you know what? I have. Why? Because I had to in order to survive.
But during the last few years, with a good job and some, what I thought were attainable goals, I forgot that I don’t fit the box that others want. I gave absolutely everything I had to doing what was expected, traditional and allowed.
And I found that not only does that not work for me, I didn’t get the promotions that I worked so hard for. And I really want to give up.
But I’m not.
I didn’t learn to finally read fluently in fourth grade for nothing!
Traditional approaches to education didn’t work for me as a child. My path to reading and basic math was HARD and I have the elementary report cards to prove it. The four C’s I got in second grade on the second marking period were disappointing. Staying in at recess in third grade so that I could figure out math problems wasn’t fun. Having to read into a tape recorder at night and play it back and listen to myself read the words wasn’t easy. But I did it. And I learned to read and I passed my math classes.
Everyday I could have given up. But I didn’t. My brand of gifted (remembering pretty much every room I’ve ever been in, including the orientation of the bed compared the window for every room I’ve slept in for the last 40 years..) doesn’t make the standard list of gifted and talent attributes.
What I learned is that I have to fight for myself and be willing to take the path full of rocks. The path full of rocks is often lonely, its tough and you are destined to get scrapped up along the way. But it is worth it, because the view from the peak is incredible.
So that’s what I am going to do.
I’m setting out on my own path. It’s not a path of manicured grass with a pretty pond. It’s a path of rocks and I’m going to conquer it.
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.
Have you ever tried standing still in the middle of a river while the water runs by? Or what about just standing still on the shore of a lake/ocean? It isn’t necessarily easy. Sometimes the riverbed is slick. Sometimes the shore line is rocky and rough. Sometimes its squishy and hard to keep your balance. It takes work to stand still in an unknown environment. It takes focus and is a whole body effort.
Lately life has felt a lot like I’m standing at the edge of a riverbed and trying to keep my balance. I am reminded by a trip we took last fall over to a local state park. I remember so clearly the difficulty Kylie and Lexi had just standing on the rocks while a couple of inches of water flowed over their feet and past them while they tried to navigate the slick rock.
The picture is sweet, but what it doesn’t capture is the slip and fall into just enough water and sludge to get yucky that immediately followed! I was glad that I had kept my shoes on and stayed on dry ground.
So why am I pondering and painting about standing on the edge of the river bank and waiting for the water to recede? Because that is the promise I am taking and firmly planting myself on in order to figure out how to “do” life right now. You see, years ago I had the privilege of hearing my husband Doug preach over Joshua 3 which is about the crossing of the Jordan river with the Ark of the Covenant, and his thoughts and my processing over the last few years give me hope and peace in the midst of chaos.
Read Joshua 3:14-17
So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3: 14-17 NASB
I know. Its wordy and full of commas, but it speaks to me.
Can’t you see it? Can’t you feel it?
I’m such a visual person that I can’t help but recreate the scene in my head. The Jordan river is at flood stage. The waters are rushing and the people know that they have to cross the river. Man, my pulse starts picking up just thinking about it. I picture myself as one of the priests, holding one of the poles to the ark on my shoulder. It works well.. responsibility, peer pressure, expectations..
(I found the painting below labeled for reuse.. feel free to picture yourself as one of the other 3!)
So, anyway. We arrive at the edge of the Jordan. We know that God has foretold that once we step into the water, the river will recede with the water dividing and piling up above us and below us, on the sea side being cut off and not able to flow back in. But we have to take that step. Can’t you imagine it? The river is at flood stage! The water is flowing and not only do you have to take a step into the river, but you are carrying a large and heavy burden.
But isn’t that what life is like?
While I don’t really remember the particulars from Doug’s sermon years ago, and I’ll admit that my takeaway from it might be incredibly flawed. The one thing that really stood out to me that I have pondered and considered is the idea of stepping into the water and standing still while the water recedes. I have thought about it over and over. Maybe my interpretation is wrong, but I needed the image of having to step in and hold my ground while the chaos of the running water around me receded.
Life isn’t easy and anyone that says it is, is lying and somedays I need to be reminded that while I don’t have to trudge THROUGH the water, I do have to take that first step INTO the water.
Cause really, in my mind, I see the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant just a step into the water holding firm and steady while the water rushes between their legs and runs towards the Dead Sea. Can’t you just imagine the panic that was rising in those priests before the water started visibly receding. But they stood there and the water receded and Joshua 3:17 says that all of Israel crossed on dry land.
And so for me, as I stand in the water.. maybe just an inch deep, or maybe it is up to my ankles.. or even my knees.. I am reminded to stand and let the chaos around me recede instead of trying to push through and make a path. That isn’t my natural inclination. I’m all about taking up my machete and forging my own path.
But I don’t have to.
Sometimes being a leader is forging the path and sometimes being a leader is taking the first step and then holding still so that others can cross on dry ground.
And that is what my watercolor painting is of at the top of this post. I’ve learned how to make a path. Now I’m learning to stand and wait.
About five years ago if you asked me what colorguard was I would have asked if you meant the “flag girls” on the football field at half time with the marching band. I would have meant no disrespect, but I didn’t have a real frame of reference for colorguard beyond that they were the pretty part of the half time band performance.
Today however, if you ask me about Colorguard, I can talk about it for a looong time! Cause you see, I am a veteran “Guard Mom” whose daughter was Captain this year, is graduating from high school next month and last week performed her in final Winterguard competition. Oh.. you don’t know what Winterguard is? Well, Winterguard season is December through April and the guards perform a show entirely different from the fall and perform it inside a gym. It is quite a competition!
So here are some of the things I learned over the last four years..
Colorguard is a SPORT.
Guard rehearsals are like practices for sports. Full sweat, smelly feet, sore muscles and long hours.
(Color/Winter) Guard is a synonym for FAMILY.
Over the last four years we have come to know the guard director, staff and students very well. These teenagers and their families have become our family. The director has been a mentor and another mom for Maddie. Being part of the guard family is an honor.
Guard teaches the importance of the
individual WITHIN the team.
One of the coolest parts of the color/winter guard team is that each individual and their work is incredibly important to the combined efforts of the team. Hand positions, foot work, throwing (and catching) hard tosses, and the ability to keep up and on the beat are deal breakers for the overall look and ranking of the guard. Because of this, the team learns how to work together and use the unique skills and abilities of each member while working to get better and stronger each week.
Guard teaches young women that beauty and strength are two parts of the same whole!
One of the greatest gifts that guard gives to teenage girls is the understanding that beauty and strength are two parts of the same whole. Being a member of the guard means that you have grace and dignity as well as strength and fire. These lessons learned during teen years are life changing and help girls mature and become strong and beautiful women.
I am so thankful that Maddie was a “guardie” and that I had the privilege of being a “Guard Mom!”
(Thanks to Amanda Akins and Derek Dodson for the incredible pictures!)
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!