Wednesday, April 30, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Celebrate

Celebrate is my word for 2014. I picked it thinking just about life in general but also about retirement!  There's so much to celebrate in life and the next two months are going to be full of celebrations both big and small. I'm so pleased to be celebrating my retirement with so may people. I'll have my "official" school party this Saturday. Then a small celebration/recognition at the school board meeting and the "district" cake and punch reception with other retirees on May 22nd!  Finally a private family/friends party on Saturday June 7th!  Who knows there might be some other celebrating in there too!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Doors

Doors. I remember walking through the door of my first class at UMSL. What a strange and scary experience for a country girl in what I considered the BIG city. I remember for years, even after I graduated I had nightmares of trying to find a class and wandering for hours in huge empty buildings with no one to ask for assistance.
There are plenty of doors over 30 years. The door to my first classroom at Bellflower Elementary. The door to my beloved kindergarten classroom where I spent many of hours laughing and playing and enjoying the company of 5 year olds!
But this post is about more than just the physical doors to the classrooms, offices and school buildings. It is about the doors we open in our lives. The experiences that we enter into that often change the course of our lives. Deciding to go into counseling, opened the door to opportunities to work with people at the middle school level. Which broadened my perspective of the world in more ways than I can even begin to explain. We can open doors and we can close them. Each decision brings with it pathways to explore, people to know, personal beliefs to uphold, and a direction to head. Honestly there is nothing wrong with closing a door. It doesn't have any negative meaning in and of itself. It simple means that it is not an area we want to enter into or one that we have finished exploring. I closed the door on kindergarten, I've never regretted it but I can honestly say looking back that those years were some of the best in my teaching career!
Doors come in all shapes and sizes, some are old and worn and speak of wisdom, while others are dressed in a fresh coat of paint. Don't be fooled by the old doors that seem ready to fall apart. Sometimes those doors offer the most defense against an invasion. Because you see doors can be used to keep things out as well. Fatigue, despair, stress and worry can all be sealed behind a sturdy door.  A good door is something to be valued!
So I wouldn't say I am closing the door on education because it no longer leads somewhere. I will simply say I am closing it because it no longer leads where I wish to go. It has taken me to the place I wish to be and for that I am grateful. There are other doors to open in my hallway of life. Behind each I will find something to learn from, explore, treasure, and share with others.
The only question that remains is which one will I open first.

Monday, April 28, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Freedom

I'm at the corner of Freedom Street!

I know, I know, everyone that's retired say they are so busy they don't even know how they did it when they worked. That's OK.....I want to experience it! People have been asking me what I am going to do when I answer is usually...."what ever I want to."  It's hard for me to even imagine the reality of a day where I decide when and what I want to do. Oh, I know it won't be EXACTLY like that...but still......hours of a week stretching ahead where I can focus on things I love, get some projects done, and stay up as late as I want!

What exactly is freedom?  Those fighting for our country are fighting for it. People exalt it. I crave it....but what precisely is it?

Wow this certainly can be true in retirement. In education, not so much. We do have a variety of people working in the education field but overall there are some things that inhibit the expression of self.  We must live by the motto of "whatever is best for the students" and yet no one can truly know what is best. There are a variety of approaches and decisions that might go either way but they are defended to the end as
"what's best for kids."
We must be "team players" even when the team is headed in a direction that we may not personally believe in.... even a direction that... let's face it just dumb!
We must be positive at all times so as not to be labeled as" negative" or "uncooperative."

I want to stand in the field of freedom. To breath in the scent of the flowers growing there. To feel the breeze of freedom caressing my skin. I want to know that the me I am can express herself without frowns or eye rolls (ok with my friends that might not happen). I want to be FREE to be me, to do what I want (most of the time) to have control over the hours of my day and to be able to really relax without some nagging expectation lurking in the shadows of my mind.
Sounds good, right?

Friday, April 25, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Wrinkles

Today's word is wrinkles. Yep it's a strange one but bear with me. Wrinkles are earned. They are part of who we are and they should be treasured rather than feared! They prove to the world that we've been in this for the long haul!
You are only as old as you allow yourself to be. Age is not measured in years (or by wrinkles) but in the vitality of life. Keep living, laughing, dancing and having adventures and you are never truly old!
I like to think of retirement as a time to marinate. Wrinkles and all I'm excited about the opportunities that retirement will afford me. What a wonderful luxury my years in education have given me; retirement at an age when I still have plenty of energy to do the things I love and perhaps a few new things too!
See you soon with another word!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Lessons


All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do
and how to be... I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything. (So borrow and share everything. Budgets often forced us to whether we liked it or not.)
Play fair. (I'm pretty sure there are quite a few people who haven't learned this and it makes me truly sad.)
Don't hit people. ( I've wanted to a few times but resist ,I did!)
Put things back where you found them.  (This is a hard one, with classrooms without storage, with little hands grabbing and with  only a few minutes to spare in the day!)

Clean up your own mess. (Not only did I learn this but often found myself telling my husband the same a very teacher-y voice.)

Don't take things that aren't yours. (True but then teachers are notorious for "borrowing" things found on the copier)
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. (This doesn't happen as often as it should. It's hard with the revolving door of education.)

Wash your hands before you eat. (A MUST during flu season in an elementary or middle school...or just about any school)
Flush. (Oh my YES!)

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. (Yes this is part of the reason I had to join the gym in my old age)
Live a balanced life - learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some. (Amen! This is so true and I will carry this lesson with me into retirement.)
Take a nap every afternoon. (Oh yes....another good one for retirement!)

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together. (True...even in St Louis on an icy street....)

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that. (Amazing...there are so many things in life that we truly do not understand but they are wonderful and amazing none the less!)
Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die.
So do we.  (This is a hard lesson. I've lost a few friends and beloved family through the years and none are ever easy to let go of.)
And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned - the biggest
word of all - LOOK. (Look....yes I will remember this one on the Alaska trip and all my other adventures and even just in daily life LOOK,....and SEE.....and understand the important things in life. )
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about
three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are - when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.  (I will be holding a lot of hands....crossing streets, on ship decks, on flights, on the sidewalks, at the gym ...everywhere.....this world can be a crazy place....Holding hands makes it a little less scary.)

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Joy

Last night I finished some financial planning/decisions I've been working on since February.  It brought me JOY.  Lots of things along this path to retirement have brought me joy but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say there are some mixed feelings long the way too. Although I know 100% in my heart that this is the right decision and the right time to retire, sometimes a bit of confusion and worry slips in; along with a twinge of sadness. When you give up something that has meant the world to you, actually at times consumed your world, it's sure to be a bit on an emotional roller coaster ride. 

Over all this journey to retirement has been one filled with joy. From the crazy days of kindergarten when we spent endless hours designing bulletin boards to the wacky middle school where if you spend to much time there you start to act like a middle schooler.  From my first pay check where I made 600 and something dollars to these months spent planning the financial aspects of retirement. There is joy in the journey!
Life is good, my friends! The next two months I will experience quite a few joyous celebrations of retirement. My official school retirement party. My family retirement party. My retirement trip to Alaska and other simple pleasures!
Till the next word....find joy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Hope

Hope: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Spent a lot of time with hope over the last 30 years. One cannot survive in the school setting without a good dose of it. There's lots of hoping that goes on every day.....

1. Hoping that you get through the day without "losing it"
2. Hoping that when the principal walks in your room the kids are all behaving.
3. Hope that the rainstorm is just a storm and not a tornado when you are responsible for a bunch of little people.
4. Hope that someone will realize that the latest mandate doesn't do justice to what teaching is all about....whether its MAP testing, No Child Left Behind, etc.
5. Hope that Friday will arrive quickly.
6. Hope for a snow day....yes you know we do that...maybe not this last winter but for sure in the past.
7. Hope that you can teach everything necessary before summer break.
8. Hope that whoever moves into the room next to you stays a few years!
9. Hope that no child comes to school hungry but rather ready to learn!
10. Hope that you can make a difference somewhere along the line.

Here's something we might forget sometimes though....we hold people's hope in our hands. That silly little kid with the dirty face and toothless grin is some family's hope for the future. They hope we will love them and accept them with all their tantrums, insecurities, challenges and faults. It's a pretty awesome task when you think about it....holding hope in your hand. I loved doing it, sometimes cried when I felt unable to protect that hope, sometimes smiled with joy at a small success, regardless hope still exists that no matter where I am or what I do that I will always be able to move in a direction that will impact someone's life in a meaningful way; give them hope.
Till's hoping I can keep up my promised 40 days and 40 words posts.... :)


Monday, April 21, 2014

40 Days 40 Words: Abundance

Today's word is abundance.

Definition: "a very large quantity of something"

Doesn't sound like education does it? We seldom talk about abundance as more often we talk about low pay, long hours, huge expectations, high stakes testing and other such things. While in terms of money perhaps I haven't had abundance these last 30 years; in other ways I have been blessed with an abundance of other meaningful things.

First let me address the money issue however. This career has provided for my family. We aren't rich but we made it work. All in all education is a secure employment with at least a possibility of pay increases. Most years of those 30, I at least received an increase, even if slight. Some people work for years with very little increase. I'm thankful that the education field (along with my hard working husband) allowed me to feed, cloth and house my family.

There has been an abundance of other things though. People who love kids, great life long friends, love, support, caring, shoulders to cry on, people to laugh with, meaningful insights, stories galore, and priceless days spent doing something I loved (about 98% of the time, I mean let's be real!)

Abundance isn't about having everything you want. It's about loving what you have so much that you don't miss anything. It's about knowing what really counts in life and surrounding yourself with those things (people really). It's about cherishing every positive aspect while trying to delegate the negative to the basement. You might not get rid of the negative altogether, I mean we are human, but at the very least put it where it belongs, below ground level.

So yes, I feel like I have had an abundant work life. I realize how very lucky that makes me. Today's world is a scary place when it comes to employment. I have been blessed!

Till tomorrow....another day...another word! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

40 Days & 40 Words: Meaning

I always wondered why there always seems to be DRAMA in I know! Education is probably the most creative of all endeavors, for both the educator and the student. We are constantly reinventing ourselves based on some new goal, mandate, or the whims of society at large. Yet the truth is the more we reinvent ourselves, the more we stay the same.

There are new names for old programs, a new way of packaging something, new terms and lots of discussions but in the end if you look beneath the surface much of education is the same. You can call it outcome based education or essential learning objectives, GLEs or Common Core or any other number of names but the bottom line is we are striving to give students the knowledge base they need to be successful citizens. That's not an easy task in today's world with rapidly evolving technology and information that explodes into new dimensions practically every week.

With a wealth of information at our fingertips we still flounder with human interactions. Perhaps even more so than before. Conversations are a thing of the past. In my life I built meaning through conversations. Meaning came about because I thought about something, talked about it, pondered it, perhaps even looked in up in an actual book. Don't get me wrong I love our technology and how it enriches my life but at the same time it also limits my own personal brain growth, problem solving skills and collaboration. It limits our students in the trials and errors of debate, arguing a point, and being able to clearly articulate their thought processes.
Here's another little tidbit I came across and it speaks volumes. How we determine what is significant is all based on how much is truth and how much is not. Remember that earlier post about putting a spin on things? This is another indicator of the dangers of "spinning things."  When it happens over and over again we diminish the significance. If education is all about "selling" something than we diminish the significance of education. I don't care what it is. It can be the latest program, the interview process, the FFA program or the coaching staff. If it's lowers the significance. In fact the more spin we have to put on something....the more we twist the "truth" and give our version of "why" things are going the way they are the more we lower the significance of it and it becomes meaningless. Sometimes in trying to promote a personal agenda we become our own worst enemies. Soon whatever it is we want to accomplish is scoffed by others.
So those are my thoughts for today...back soon with another word!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

40 Days and 40 Words: Spin

Okay go ahead substitute some other word for know you want to and you know one popped into your head as soon as you saw this picture. There's several I might substitute. I'm going out on the edge a bit today. Why not? I'm not all sugar and fluff. I'm not always right but at least I always tell you what I think, honestly and passionately. Some people fault me for that. Oh well.

Today's word is spin. As in "putting a spin on it."  These are the definitions I'm referring to in this post:

  •  to evolve, express, or fabricate by processes of mind or imagination <spin a yarn>
  •  to present (as information) with a particular spin <spin the statistics>
We all do it. You have to, at least to a certain degree, to survive in education and perhaps in life in general. We don't say students are being "lazy" we spin it as lack of motivation. We don't always tell our administrators what we think. Sometimes we keep our mouths shut and other times we try to "spin it" in a softer manner. In some instances a "spin" is really necessary and in other instances I wonder how things might evolve if we could just skip the spin and be honest and straight forward. This aspect of spin is not the total focus of today's post but I wanted people to know that yes, I do understand how a spin can be necessary.

What I really want to think about today is the "spin" that is often put on things that we know are obviously, in reality, quite different than the spin. I've watched it for 30 years. We go through a hiring process when we already know who is getting the job. Sometimes we even tell someone they are getting a job that hasn't even been approved yet. We shade the truth about finances when we want to do one thing or another. There's no money for raises but we add numerous additional positions (which may or may not be needed). Don't take this as a dictate on the present. In reality, I have watched this happen over and over again. I'd much prefer we drop the spin and save a lot of people a lot of time and aggravation.

Some spins might actually be productive, such as using the term lack of motivation which is much softer and easier for a parent to accept than the negative connation of lazy. It's the spins that people expect everyone to "buy" that are probably the most destructive because usually those have some ulterior motive. If you have to spin it, ask yourself what is really behind the story. Perhaps the most insulting is the spinner expects people to be gullible and accept the spin when in reality 98% of the people know the difference.

Those same 98% of the people keep their mouths shut because honestly most spins are hard to prove. They dance in the gray area and without right out calling people liars its hard to fight a spin. In addition, most people don't investigate, ask questions nor confront what they are spun. Most just accept it even knowing it's not really accurate. This is corrosive and over time undermines the educational process. That's why checks and balances are so important. That's why open, honest communication is essential. Don't get caught in the web.

Just remember this age old saying: "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."
I hope I'll see you tomorrow for the next word in the series! Until then BE REAL!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

40 Days & 40 Words: Dance

Dance!  I figure I've danced plenty to my own rhythm and in doing so have made some life long friends and probably ticked off a few people too! Such is life. The truth is the dance goes on. Retirement might alter the beat a little but it won't stop the dance. I'm not going to be sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to ask me to dance
I figure this one fits me even better than the last. I'm sure I've been thought insane a few times. Most people in education have been. Project Construct back in the kindergarten days was one such time. Kids "constructing" their own knowledge. Crazy right?  One of the things I've endeavored to do throughout life is to keep an open mind about new things, to take time to at least dance for a bit to see if this new melody is one worth following. I'll not follow the Piped Piper but I will at least "look" at something regardless of how crazy it sounds.  
To me the idea behind the word that we should allow ourselves a chance to just "be" who we want to be. Unencumbered by what people think or the burdens of this world. Dance.  Teaching kindergarten I came to understand how powerful and life fulfilling this concept is. This unfettered dance of life that kids "get right" most of the time and adults seldom do.
I'm going to try to dance a lot during retirement. To seek out things that bring me joy and hopefully in the process bring joy to others also.
I encourage you to dance with me!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

40 Days: 40 Words: Read

The word for the day is read and I'm going to be reflecting on it in several different ways. First of all read reminds me of all those awesome books I read to my kindergarten students. I think they were even more powerful and meaningful to me than them!  From  Brown Bear, Brown Bear (by the way I have an autographed copy from when I heard Bill Martin, Jr. talk at the Young Years conference one year) to Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle and Jan Brett. There are lots of lessons to be learned from books!

Reading is about more than just learning things though. It's about constantly striving to understand the world in a different way. It's easy to understand the world from our small little niche here on this big planet. It's quite another thing to "see" the world through someone else's eyes. Someone who writes about living in a village in Africa, or being at the heart of a major war, or sailing across an ocean. There are so many experiences that we will never actually live ourselves but that can shape how we view the world, how we understand people, and uncover the heart of who we are. Stories that move us, make us laugh, make us cry, disturb us or challenge our thinking can all serve to help us grow.
There's another kind of "reading" that comes to mind though.
After 30 years in education you learn a lot about reading people and reading between the lines. You can almost sense the unspoken questions, the hidden fears and the frustrations. You sort of "know" what's coming next even before it happens. Been there, done that is not uncommon in education. This sense can be helpful but also can hinder you.  Sometimes your sense of the direction things are headed keeps you from speaking up or makes you second guess yourself. At times it shifts the focus away from a topic that needs to be discussed and decided. We aren't always very good at the deciding part in the education world.  I've learned that sometimes the best thing to do is wait it out, see what happens, and file the information away for future use.
One trend I've noted is it seems to be getting harder and harder to get children to read; both to learn how to read and to love reading.  It disturbs me because to read is to open doors to new people, places, and insights. It helps us to grow in wisdom and acceptance.
Cheers I am glad that you can read this and in doing so I can share my thoughts with you. I will be back tomorrow with another word.

Monday, April 14, 2014

40 Days and 40 Words: Tapestry

Today's word is tapestry. Each of the days of my life is woven into a tapestry with threads of sadness, joy, hope, friendship, adventure, discouragement, triumph, defeat, and all manner of human feelings and conditions.

So many of the threads of my tapestry are related to my work in education. Some of the threads are long and detailed while others are just a few stitches. It's amazing how many people come and go in your life during a 30 year time period. Some are people that have barely touched my life, mere stitches in the tapestry of many. Others have colored my life with threads of rich hues and lengths. Some are even dark threads perhaps of challenging people but ones I have learned something from none the less. We can't pull those from the tapestry or we ruin the overall quality of it but we can overwhelm them with the rich and vibrant ones that shimmer and dance across this tapestry of life!

I love this! It is in accord with my thoughts about the tapestry created during my years in education. It isn't the whole story of my life but it is a big part of it!
Cheers for now. I'll be back soon with the next word in my 40 Days -40 Words series.

Friday, April 11, 2014

40 Days and 40 Words: Beginnings

I was super excited to land my first teaching job at Bellflower Missouri teaching first grade. As luck would have it and as so often happens about two weeks later I received a phone call from Warrenton for a teaching position but as I had already signed my contract with Montgomery County I had to turn them down.

So I started my career in education with NINE first graders in a small school that housed one section each of  K-5th grade. The principal was only there part of the time so we were like an island to ourselves.

There are lots of beginnings in my years in education. The beginning of teaching, the beginning of a new school district (when I accepted a job at the Warren County R-3 district), the beginning of great friendships with Mary Ruth Schomberg and Fran Martin (just to name a couple of my old teaching partners), the beginning of my masters program, the beginning of counseling, the beginning of my years at the middle school, and the beginning of this last year in education.

Beginnings can be exciting and rewarding. They can also be scary and stressful. I remember when our new teachers meetings for Warrenton were held in  the band room of what is now Black Hawk Middle School. My how the district has grown! I also remember great times with great teachers, a special connection and a sense of community. This is one of the things I feel is sadly lacking in our district right now. I'm not saying it is nonexistent but it is not the same sense of school community that we used to have. It is not as strong, supportive and caring.

After retirement I will start another new beginning, one that is both exciting and a little scary. One can not devote 30 years of life to a place, a career, a way of life without feeling just a little shaky at the thought of losing that structure to your days, your weeks, your months and your year. I've decided to think of my "new" beginning like this.....
Beginnings aren't for weak people. They take courage and faith and a lot of thought.
I'll se you tomorrow right here at Ginger's Journey with another word....

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Last Year: 40 Words Friday April 11th I will have 40 days of work left!!  So in celebration of my last forty days  I will be blogging 40 words (one post each work day). You'll have to wait and see the 40 words I've selected and how they weave into my 30 years in education, life lessons, and other aspects of how they fit my life and thoughts about this journey I'm on.

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