This WordPress.com site is an insight into my personal journey on life, family, teaching and learning!

Archive for June, 2014

Why I LOVE Being an Educator…What’s Not To Love?

 

It’s all about making a difference.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the differences we make, but they are there and they are HUGE!  My journey to being an educator was full of twists and turns.  When I was a little girl, I used to play school a lot.  I had little carpet squares as student desks, and my classroom was “equipped” with a chalkboard, markers, crayons, paper and a telephone.  Whatever happened that day in real school, usually found its way into my “classroom” at home.  If we had a good day at real school, my “students” had a good day at home; if it was bad, well…let’s just say it was pretty bad in my pretend world too!  Reflecting back, that was the seed that was planted many years ago.

My first teachers, were of course, my parents.  I can remember my mom reading to me and my dad teaching me how to play music.  I learned how to treat others from watching the way they interacted with people.  My sister, Elaine, was also one of my first teachers.  She taught me religion.  My parents bought her all sorts of books and workbooks on training me in our faith.  I remember her taking me to the office to have our religion lessons.  She created charts of the prayers I needed to learn, and they were full of stars.  Each time I would correctly recite a prayer, I would get to put a little foil star on the chart.  When that prayer had 10 stars, I could FINALLY put up a gold star!!!  I mastered that task!  Now, here’s the kicker….I WENT TO A PAROCHIAL SCHOOL!!!!!  What’s really interesting to note…both Elaine and I are now educators!!!  I think there must have been something written in the “stars”.

Then, there is Miss Shaffer.  I could honestly swear that lady was 100 years old and she was MY fifth grade teacher.  I had heard so many rumors about how mean she was, but they were all false.  What I learned that year was that she was the perfect teacher for me.  That year, my family suffered a huge tragedy.  My older brother committed suicide.  I could go on about the devastation we endured, but most importantly, I had a constant that year.  Miss Shaffer.  I remember beginning to recede into a shell.  I didn’t understand what had happened and was scared that it was going to tear my parents apart.  I sort of gave up on school.  I didn’t care.  I didn’t care if I produced quality work.  I simply didn’t care.  I don’t remember any ONE particular moment, other than she cared.  She cared enough to NOT let me slip.  She was patient, but she did not allow me to wallow in my self-pity.  She made me redo alot of work, until it was up to her standards.  I was frustrated but I did get tired of redoing everything, so I shaped up.  My handwriting improved, my academics improved, and my whole outlook on everything improved.  I knew that even though things would still be rough at times, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t conquer.

So flash forward to high school and college.  I decided on Elementary Education.  I spent two and a half years studying to be a teacher, only to wake up one day and decide that my future was really in fashion merchandising, so I changed.  Shortly after the degree change, I decided to get married and start a family.  5 years later, I had three amazing kids and I realized that I was a born educator.  I utilized everything I initially learned in my teaching courses and applied them to being a parent.  When my baby girl was just 9 months old, I knew it was time to jump back in an finish what I started…learning to be a teacher.  It took many years, but I finally earned my degree in education and jumped in to my vocation feet first!

I’ve been teaching 10 years now, and I can honestly say I have had my share of ups and downs.  Sometimes I want to throw in the towel, but I always come back to doing what I love…making a difference in someone’s life.  What I have learned through this journey is being an educator and being a learner go hand-in-hand.  I am not the authority on everything and so many times I find that I learn from my students.  I remember one time we were focusing on reading fluency.  Why it’s important to make your “reading sound like talking”.  How your pitch changes while you read, you stop and read the punctuation marks, and you bring emotion into your voice.  If you’re angry, your voice sounds angry.  If you’re excited, your voice sounds excited.  One of my sweet girls raised her hand and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “so, you’re telling me that reading a book should sound like music?”  Holy cow!  This is from the mind of a third grader!!!!  What a beautiful analogy that I had NEVER even thought of!  And guess who will be using that as a connection for future students?  You see, that day, she made a difference in my life.

Being an educator is more than standing up in front of a room and barking facts.  It’s a beautiful dance, an interaction, that impacts each other.  When times get tough, and I know they do, please remember that YOU make a difference.  You may not see the difference, or will ever know about it, but you do.  You make a difference in your students and anyone’s life that you come in contact with.  Through all of the stress, tears and frustrations, I know I’m in the right place.

Advertisements

Lesson through irritations and frustrations…

Who doesn’t love Sesame Street??  I grew up on Bert, Ernie, Oscar, and Big Bird!!  This song is something I need to sing every day to help quell my self-doubt and frustrations.  🙂

Well, the good news is I am finished with all of my coursework and will be soon receiving my Master’s Degree in Elementary Administration.  I’ve been working on this endeavor since November of 2012, taking a new class every six weeks and learning a whole new set of skills to lead an elementary public school building.  I have completed all of this while teaching full time and being a mommy full-time.  I’m excited to be closing this chapter on my education, but ready to move on to another challenge.  What is this challenge you ask?  I want to pursue my Doctorate in Educational Leadership and work at the district level providing training and professional development to teachers.

I have settled on a program of study, but the hitch is, I need to take and achieve a certain score on the GRE.  Here’s what I learned very quickly…I absolutely STINK at math, especially anything related to Algebra.  My verbal reasoning and written analysis will carry my score, not quantitative analysis.  I am bound and determined to do well on this exam…to the point that I have enrolled in a free online Algebra course through Allversity I can say that because of this, I can actually successfully complete about 1/4 of the quantitative analysis part of the practice GRE.

I completed a practice GRE and scored 2 points below my benchmark!  2 lousy points!!!!  As I sat at the computer screen, I felt absolutely dejected.  The thoughts of “I CAN’T do this”, “What am I thinking, I’m too old to do this!”, and “Just give up now.”, ravaged my psyche like a virus.  My frustrations only continued to grow because I felt as if I have spent a huge part of last week working toward this goal.  I took a break this weekend to enjoy family time, but got back into the groove today.  Tears welled up and I ALMOST threw in the towel.  Almost.

Then I had this epiphany…How dare I let a test define my intelligence?!?!  I am smart, I am funny, I am charismatic.  So what if math is not my strong point.  I worked my tail-end off last week relearning algebra skills.  I was able to correctly answer 1/4 out of 20 questions!  THAT’S 5 RIGHT ANSWERS!!!!  And what’s even more amazing, I did not have to guess on those.  I knew how to solve them because I took the initiative to relearn skills that have been dormant for over 20 years.  I can do this.  I will succeed!

Then I realized another thought…our education system forces the same feelings on many children and teachers.  Intelligence is equated to a number, or the successful performance on a test.  While I agree tests are one of many useful tools that can indicate a person’s ability, it is not the end-all-beat-all to intelligence.  Our intelligence extends beyond the limits of our abilities, only we allow ourselves to be pushed and to whole-heartedly believe in those capabilities.

I’ve got this!!!

Stories

Stories.

Stories

 

Stories.  Each and every one of us is full of stories.  Stories of what defines us, stories that have shaped us into the person we have grown into, and stories to teach and entertain others.  Stories are such an essential part of human nature.  They bind us together and give us a common ground to share our experiences with.  I have been a classroom teacher for 10 years.  I have taught 2nd grade for seven years, 1st grade for 2 years, and 3rd grade this past year.  I have been a teacher of writing and mentoring my students on how to write their stories.  We have delved into creating memoirs that were meaningful, but there was always something missing.  I modeled what a narrative should look like, but I always kept a lid on getting too personal.  Until this year…I opened up, I showed children that not all stories are happy and it’s ok.  Instead of modeling, I tried to mentor and wear  my heart on my sleeve more.

I would often write stories down in my journal and share them with the kiddos.  I wrote about the day of my father’s funeral and how we crested the hill at the cemetery and were met with a Naval Color Guard.  I told them the story of how I met my sweet kitty boy, Fred.  How I went to the shelter looking for a cat, and I’m pretty sure this one-eyed cutie picked me!!  Because I chose to mentor, rather than model, my kiddos were always asking me if I had “written” today and if I would read it to them.  It was pretty cool, they were wanting to hear MY story, instead of stories written by famous authors.  Why?  It was personal and they knew it came from my heart.

So, with this post today, I want to share a story with you.  It’s a love story.  It’s a story my sisters, brother, kids, nieces, nephews, friends…anyone who had contact with my family…heard.  Over.  And.  Over.  And.  Over.  It’s called……..

photo (3)The Love Story (very original, I know!!!)

My dad had Alzheimer’s.  It silently stole his memories from him.  But the one memory that remained with him almost until the end was The Love Story.  The story of how him and his beloved Mary met.  With the progression of the disease, the time line of the story changed, but the general basis of the circumstances in which they met remained the same.  That story has been silenced for almost 4 years, and I only hear it in my memories.  We used to hear his love story many times a day.  Momma died 3 years before Daddy and he missed her so much.  I’m pretty sure his drive to tell the story over and over was his way of allowing that one memory to never fade.

Daddy was in the Navy during the Korean Conflict.  He enlisted in the Navy right after he graduated high school in 1951.  After basic training, he was stationed in California and was a gunnersmate aboard the USS Hamner.  He was from Texas and my mom was from Kansas City.  In 1952, Momma went to Long Beach, California with a friend to be an attendant in her wedding.  Her friend was marrying a shipmate of my Dad’s.  

Clayton Strong was a shipmate of Daddy’s and was a good buddy.  He attended the wedding my mom was in and was immediately drawn to her.  When he returned to the ship he told Daddy that he met this pretty girl and wondered if he would like to meet her.  My father’s response was, “Hell yeah!  I want to meet a pretty girl, you know, I’m a horny old sailor!”.  If my mom heard him refer to himself as a “horny old sailor”, she would have surely knocked him silly!  

Daddy was smitten with her right away and they quickly got married.  He used to tell us that “I had to get my momma’s permission to marry this pretty girl.  I mean, I was in the war, killing people, and I had to get her permission to get married.  Well, when I told momma that Mary Lou was Catholic, my momma said ‘Are you sure you wanna marry her? She’s Catholic and can’t get divorced?'”  This is where Daddy would pause and giggle then finish by saying, “Momma, I don’t want to divorce her, I want to MARRY her.”  Grandma must have finally consented because, two weeks later, on August 12, 1952, they were at the courthouse in Long Beach, California getting married.  And the rest is history.  56 years, 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.  I would say that’s a great history!!!!

Thanks for listening to my story today.  I have been missing mom and dad so much lately, and I especially miss hearing Daddy’s voice telling “The Story”.  Please keep your stories alive.  There are people who can’t wait to hear your stories.

Much love,

Sharon

Dream Teacher…

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/

You can choose any person from history to teach you any topic you want.  Who’s your teacher and what do they teach you?  This is in response to a daily writing challenge.

There are so many people who come to mind that I would have loved to studied under.  I mean, it would be an awe-inspiring experience to have had Mother Teresa as my teacher, or even studied under Laura Ingalls Wilder.   To have an oppotunity to learn music with the great composers would have continued to fuel my love of music.   There are so  many famous historical figures that would have provided me with a unique perspective on life, that I could continue on with a laundry list of possibilities.  My choice is NOT a famous to the outside world, but important to me and they have continued to impress upon me a lifetime of learning.

 

Who are these individuals??  My sisters…Diane and Elaine.

Diane (left); Elaine (right)

Elaine and I share so much common ground.  We are both teachers and avid lovers of learning.  We can easily spend hours upon hours on the phone collaborating and bouncing ideas off one another about ways to be a better teacher.  She, in my opinion, is an expert at teaching children how to read.  She is full of enthusiasm, and a wealth of knowledge.  I know that her and I could make a good research team.

 

Diane is a beautiful soul, inside and out.  She has a gentle spirit and a calmness that I aspire to be.  Even though our career paths are different, I know there is so much I could learn from her.  She brings about a serenity to the family “trilogy”.  She is the organzier, the one who knows how to evaluate a situation objectively, and still keep the emotions in tact.  From her, I would to learn patience and objectivity.

 

I think everyone has the ability to be great teachers to one another.  I spent many years studying to be a teacher, but what I have learned in the classroom is more than just cramming knowledge down their little heads.  It’s so much more than that.  It’s inspiring them to be independent learners, but also taking inspiration from them and using it to drive my learning.  I think it human nature to derive knowledge from each other and experiences, and use that to inspire personal greatness.

 

Sure, I would love to learn with the masters, but I think my best lessons in life come from those I’m the closest to.

Lessons Learned…Small Miracles in Life

Mom-Circa 1952

dad
My parents took us on an incredible journey through life and death. I learned so much about myself and the importance of having a positive outlook on life. Both of my parents were faced with their own mortality at too young of an age. My siblings and I journeyed with mom through her battle with breast cancer. We were with her when she first started chemo. I’ll never forget the day she called asking if I would come shave her head. Her hair was falling out and it was driving her nuts. Daddy couldn’t do it. It was too much for him to endure. So, I cut her hair. I’ll never forget the sound of the first snip I made and the tears dropping from both of our faces. But she fought and persevered through her entire war. She held on a lot longer than she probably should have, she was a fighter.

Daddy had Alzheimer’s Disease. It slowly and silently robbed him of his entire life’s memories, but it NEVER took his soul! As his disease progressed, my sister, Elaine, kept telling me we were going to write a book together about this journey. We never did, but we constantly share and reminisce of his final days. One such story of his last days with us involves a butterfly. I wrote the story down on paper and have saved it on my computer. Maybe now is a time to share it with the world…

Every Day, Ordinary Miracles…February 2, 2013
What is a miracle? According to Merriam-Webster, a miracle is “an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs”. We look for miracles, we long for miracles, we want to experience the larger-than-life miracles…the changing-water-into-wine miracles. I believe those do exist and I believe people have experienced those. But I also believe miracles happen every day and often go unseen. I think God touches everyone multiple times during a 24-hour span with a miracle, but we are often unaware, or even so closed-minded to even recognize those little whispers. We may chalk them up to coincidences or even fail to completely recognize them altogether.

I have faith that God is with me each and every day. Some days, that faith is hard to come by and I have to dig down deep to find it. There are many days I wake up and don’t even acknowledge the fact that God blessed me with another one on this Earth. I grumble about the weather, the mountain of stuff I have to do, how ungrateful my family is, where am I going to find the money to pay this and that…the laundry list continues. Any of this sound familiar?? I pray for the miracles, the answers, the direction I should take but I don’t always get the answer I want, or I don’t “hear” the miracle. Until one morning I remembered a little God whisper from a few years back. Allow me to indulge awhile and explain the “whisper miracle” my family experienced.

During the summer of 2010, my siblings and I embarked on quite a journey. It was a journey of joy, a journey of remembrance, and a journey of learning how to say goodbye. Our father’s long battle with Alzheimer’s was finally coming to an end. He was dying. It was time to say goodbye again to one of the greatest men who ever lived. You see, we had already said goodbye years ago to the man who raised us; and we learned to love and appreciate the new man who inhabited his body. His mind was slipping daily; he could not dress himself, feed himself or perform the basic daily duties of life. That summer was the culmination of a marriage that spanned 56 years, 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. It was the end of an era.

Our parents had quite the love affair! Was it perfect? No. Did they have struggles in their marriage? Absolutely! They buried a child. They experienced that horrific event that every parent prays will never happen to them. But somehow, through it all, they came out of that dark time together and intact. They loved each other, there was no doubt.

When our mom passed away in 2007, Daddy was devastated. From the moment we laid her to rest, Daddy was ready to join her. He longed for the day when they would be together again. She was his right-hand, his soul-mate, but it was not time for him to leave us yet.

That summer of 2010 was his last and it was during that summer that we experienced that “whisper” from God. It’s a small moment and could have easily been overlooked by us, but thankfully it wasn’t.

The final week of his life, my sisters, my family and myself took vigil at his bedside. Both of my sisters had pretty much moved in with me and we all shared in the joy (and frustruations) of caring for Daddy in his final days. Sometimes it was joyous, but often times it was tedious, frustrating, tiring and heartbreaking. On Wednesday, August 11, 2010, we had taken a break and were sitting outside on the back patio. We were talking, reminiscing and laughing when we noticed a butterfly in the yard. We did not give it a second thought until it fluttered up underneath the patio overhang. The butterfly (a common Monarch butterfly, nothing fancy) danced and flitted, and then it briefly flew over each of our heads. We sat there mesmerized and joking and waving “hi” to the butterfly, like 3 little giddy schoolgirls. This only lasted for a few moments, then the butterfly flew away. We looked at each other and immediately ran inside the house…we thought maybe Daddy had passed and the butterfly was his way of saying goodbye. We realized Daddy was still alive and just chalked up the incident as something funny…we were so very, very wrong!

Over the course of the next few days, each one of us was visited frequently by a butterfly. Once, during one of its visits to me, the butterfly even buzzed over my parent’s dog, almost as if saying “hi”.  Another time a butterfly visited me on the back porch and flew over to the back door and hovered for a while. It almost seemed that the butterfly wanted in the house. These visits began to bring us a sense of peace. We began to talk about these visits and started to wonder if God was trying to say something to us.

On August 15th, Daddy’s final day with us, one of my sisters was sitting at his bedside. She looked out of his window and there was a butterfly resting on the bush that sat underneath. It was as if it was beckoning Daddy to join it. My sister left his bedside and within a half-hour, he took his final breath. We were filled with a mixture of emotions…relief, joy and sadness. Our parents were gone and we were now the older (and wiser) generation. What an overwhelming thought!

As I went outside to take in the events, I looked across the street. I saw the most amazing sight…TWO butterflies were flying away together. They were circling each other in a dance of joy, as if they were long lost friends. I stood there transfixed for what seemed like hours, but I’m sure it was only a few moments.

Those butterflies and those visits meant something, but what? Was it mom visiting us? Were the two butterflies dancing away together Momma and Daddy being reunited? I doubt it. Over the years, I have thought back to those precious moments and asked those same questions.

On my drive in to work recently, I had an epiphany. We experienced a miracle! Not an in-your-face miracle but rather one that gently whispered in our ears “I am with you, you are not alone.” I believe that God used those butterflies to show us that there is life after death AND there is hope, even in the bleakest of times. What better creature to use than the butterfly?? I know that God used those butterflies to bring us comfort, but also to assure us that He has welcomed Momma and Daddy into his Kingdom for eternity. I am so grateful we had an open-mind and were able to see and experience the miracle. How many other miracles have I overlooked? I can assure you, many. But I plan to keep my mind, heart and soul open to those regular, everyday occurrences and listen for those God Whispers!

Welcoming myself to the world of blogging!

I would like to start off by welcoming myself to the world of blogging! This is a new adventure for me, and definitely in the category of new learning. I am beginning this journey of self-reflection and sharing thanks to the inspiration from #moedchat-a Twitter educators chat.

What defines me? I wear many hats in this life. I am a mother, lover, daughter, sister, friend and teacher. My drive, energy and determination come from those who I love and admire the most.

I am the mother to three amazing kiddos! They are my heart and soul, but yet they are incredibly independent and self-driven. I am so proud of them and I cannot wait to see what life has in store for them.

Brian is my love. We both are celebrating our second chance at happiness. He loves me for who I am and he accepts all of my faults and shortcomings (which honestly aren’t very many!).

I am someone’s daughter. I was blessed with having two incredible parents. They taught me acceptance of others, faith in the human race, faith in myself, and how to love unconditionally. I miss them with every cell in my body. Mom was my best friend. She knew my soul. Daddy was the humorist and storyteller in the family. He taught me how to weave a story and taught me how to be patient when caring for others. Both of my parents succumbed to their illnesses and I will share their stories later.

I am also a little sister. Ok, I am the BABY sister. I have two sisters and two brothers who I look up to. Because I am the youngest, I have learned so much from them. I have learned perseverance, acceptance, patience, love, understanding, and laughter. Laughter is key in my family. We have sailed through tough times because of laughter. In fact, we have often stated that the laughter is what has kept us from crying!

I also relish in the company of my friends. My friends bring to me a great deal of laughter and support. They are there when I need them, listen to my diatribes, and also provide me with moments of gut-busting laughter!!!

Finally, I am a teacher and learner! I have taught elementary aged students for 10 years. Sometimes I think I have learned more from them that what they have learned from me. I love inspiring students, and everyone I meet, to find the best in themselves and others.

My goal for this blog is to celebrate my journey through life. My ups and downs, my celebration and failures. Life is an amazing journey and it’s time I told my story!

Thanks for reading.

Sharon 🙂