My Why

“Are you working?”, my husband or kids will ask. Whether I’m on vacation or it’s a weeknight, I can often be found listening to a webinar or podcast, working on some PD or conference material, reading a blog post, participating in a Twitter chat, or any number of activities I wouldn’t classify as ‘work’. Their question is very much appreciated since I’ve always been conscious of balancing the many roles in my life: Wife, Mother, Teacher, and what this post is about, Learner. I am careful to be present throughout my sons’ many sporting activities and the family activities that fill our weekends and nights. I put my phone away, get outside with my boys, look at people when they’re talking to me…all that. But when I can, I’m Learning.

I’m reading Tracey Zager’s book, Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had, (which I highly recommend!) for a Book Study I’m co-leading in my district right now. In the Acknowledgments she states,

“Kids, I hope, with time, you’ll more fully understand why I was so busy during the writing of this book and be proud of me. In many ways, I wrote it for you and your teachers.”

When I first read that I paused and considered why it resonated with me. Throughout my 20 years of teaching my husband would ask why ‘work’ was still taking some of my time. “Doesn’t it get easier each year?”, he would ask. That question doesn’t bother me like it used to early in my career because my answer is, “Well, no because I am a Learner and I’m always seeking to find new and better ways of doing things.”. Have some things about teaching become easier over the years? I hope…my content knowledge, my organizational strategies, my lesson planning…sure. But I still come home with the unsolved problems my brain continues to seek answers for…this is my WHY.

If I could drill down to the top 3 things that are my WHY, the problems I am looking to resolve, they are:

  • How to help teacher build relationships with students and manage a classroom so that learning can happen all while making it a positive, happy place to be for teachers and students.
  • How to help teachers teach elementary math so students enjoy math and don’t struggle in the older grades.
  • How to help teachers integrate technology as meaningfully as possible by grounding it with good pedagogy, rather than thinking of it as just as another new thing that will be the silver bullet and everything else that is good goes out the window.

So, I don’t think of this as ‘work’ because it’s part of the fabric of who I am…a constant Learner. And I do this Learning for my kids and their teachers. It’s my WHY.


The Power of 3 Little Words

Be an encourager. The world has enough critics already.

What’s the saying “you won’t find me running unless something’s chasing me”? Well, one day I was taking the path of one of my longer walks. It’s really quite enjoyable- it has ups and downs, a small neighborhood and a busy road, trees offering shade and scorching sunshine. On this day I found myself thinking, “I wonder what it might be like to run a little?”. No commitment- isn’t running just like…faster walking? I don’t think you need anything fancy- I had my sneakers and music- which to me is all you need to run.

Now I’m not ready to call myself ‘a runner’, I’m not into labels, but that day when I was running I guess I was a runner. Since that day I have run/walked this 3 mile journey with great eagerness and each time with more running than walking.

On the 4th or 5th time I was taking this journey, I was shuffling back (can you picture it?)  and saw this pleasant looking woman, probably 20 years my senior, doing her walk across the street from me. Conscious about my beet red face, dripping sweat, and shuffling I glanced nicely at her and heard her yell, “Good for you!” displaying two thumbs up to me. As I yelled back, “Thanks! You too!” I was filled with a newfound motivation to keep going. I picked up my posture, lengthened my stride, and even smiled a little after she passed. I’ve been thinking about this experience, both personally and professionally…

What motivates you to try something new and challenging?

What or who is there to keep you going…giving you your second wind?

For me it was this nice, older woman. A stranger. Maybe she saw some of her younger self in me? Maybe I reminded her of her daughter? Or maybe she just felt sorry for my sweaty, shuffling self and knew this thing called ‘running’ was a challenge for me? No matter why, this small gesture of encouragement was enough to pick me up and keep me going for the last mile. I had needed a cheerleader and she came along at just the right moment- at the precise time that I was thinking, “What am I doing? I’m not a runner! This is torture!”.

During another running journey I was surprised to see a tiny, furry caterpillar working it’s way across the busy road. I was compelled to stop and be that cheerleader for this little creature. Remarkably, it made it across safely, somehow knowing to travel across the road rather than along the road where it would have surely been squashed by the oncoming truck. I wondered what was so compelling on the other side that it felt the need to cross the road? Maybe because I was there, cheering it on, saying…

“Good for you!”

Five Weeks With a Reverse Bucket List

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There are five weeks of summer vacation left. When I’m in the thick of the school year, especially during the brutal Western NY winter, five weeks of summer vacation sounds immensely long and glorious, let alone the 10 weeks in all. And it is. I’m not going to lie-one of the best things about being a teacher and a mom with school-aged children is that we have lots of quality family time in the summers.

But like I said, five weeks of summer vacation does sound deliciously long and yet each day that goes by I have this internal struggle:

I should be productive. I should be relaxing.

I should frolic and play with my boys. I should enjoy the quiet ‘me’ time while they’re busy catching frogs.

I should paint and clean and put on a new addition to our house. I should sit on my big comfy couch and enjoy a cup of coffee and work through my large reading pile.

You get the idea. It really isn’t a ‘problem’ since it’s one of those good problems to have but, no doubt, it’s a real feeling that I try to manage every day. Check out this great post by @tishrich about this idea. Glad I’m not alone.

And now there’s five weeks left.

Almost every summer I’ve made a list…a ‘Bucket List’ of some sorts. Things my boys and I wanted to experience before the summer ends and, of course, the things I need To Do so that I feel that my time had been productive and that I’d accomplished something by the end of the summer.

Well, this summer we’ve been operating without a Bucket List. And it’s freeing! I think I’d still have the internal struggle of ‘do vs don’t’ but I don’t have The List to taunt me. I am enjoying a less scheduled and more relaxed atmosphere at home and I think my boys are too. Today was a beautiful, sunny day and I woke thinking we’d run off to the zoo or a park or even one of those adventure ropes courses in the woods but really we all just wanted to be home. The boys enjoyed catching frogs that hopped crazily away from their clutches and then planned and negotiated as they created a makeshift terrarium for the 11 little hoppers.

I’m sure if my list told them to do some science by catching frogs and then make a terrarium they’d ask a million questions, groan, and want my step by step along the way. Without The List they are left to whatever their mood calls for them to do- it also helps that the neighborhood kids are really good at catching frogs.

There’s many complaints about children and adults being ‘over-scheduled’ without a chance to learn to be ‘bored’ or figure out what to do in the downtime. I’m experiencing the ‘under-scheduled’ life where it seems doors are opening with so much opportunity to enjoy life and it’s all because we are operating without The List.

I’ll call it a Reverse Bucket List.

What if you ignored the calling of making a list the next time you have a large chunk of downtime and let your mood help you enjoy life more? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

I’m here!


I’ve made it!

I’m here!

I’m nervous and excited like when you are running late through the airport and just make it to your seat at the moment they close the gate and you’re thinking how lucky you are to have made it on time to your flight but remembering that now it means you are off to a new, unknown place that is both exciting and scary.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

You see, I’m not really a ‘writer’. As an educator I know I shouldn’t say that. I always cringe when someone tells me they’re not really a ‘math person’ (no such thing-more on that later) or when I was a 3rd grade teacher and the mother of a new student introduced her son to me as ‘not really a reader’. I guess I mean to say I don’t have much of an inclination towards writing, letting alone publishing my writing to the blog-o-sphere. But I don’t really think of blogging as writing as much as it is sharing your thoughts with the world. (Now that I’ve written that, I’ve made myself more nervous!)

But I’m here. I have thoughts upon thoughts in my head and I’m ready to set them free. I won’t have the best sentence structure- I mean I’ve already broken many writing laws I’m sure- but full disclosure I don’t really care about writing rules.

I care that what I’ve said will resonate with someone as many of the blogs I read every day resonate with me.

What I’ve learned about social media over the years is that it isn’t the ‘evil’ that some people think it may be. Sure, many horrible things happen now because people are more able to share horrible things instantly but sharing wonderful things can happen that way too!

So, what are the wonderful things I have to share? Well, this is where the adventure lies…I’m not precisely sure!

Life being complicated means I am many things (in no order of importance!): an educator- an instructional coach at the moment, an educational technology enthusiast, a math interventionist, a mom of 2 boys- one preteen!, a wife of 15 years, and so many more. I’ve never really fit into a neat category…I’m just me. Which means I will let this blog take me where I want to go, with no neat category.

It will be about teaching, learning, parenting, living…100 percent.

And so...the adventure begins