Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Makes YOU Fabulous?

For the last few years (minus those periods of time when I dropped out of the blogosphere to, you know, have babies and all), I have not been shy about naming what makes a teacher fabulous.  Okay, if I'm really honest with you and myself, I have not exactly been shy about naming what makes myself fabulous in the classroom. 

We all have days where we feel like fabulous teachers.  We walk into our organized classrooms, greet our students with a smile and then proceed to teach several hours of kick a$$ lessons in which all students are engaged and make progress as learners.  There are no major behavioral issues.  There are no complaints about not having a pencil.  There are no interruptions over the intercom.  The photocopier stands free, without a line, and works flawlessly.  Not a paper jam for miles.  It is a good day.  You return to your classroom at the end of the day, smiling to yourself and wishing you had your own theme music because the day was Just. That. Good.

If you enjoy nerding out as much as I do, there are wonderful research based best practices out there for us to hang our hat on and I believe that teachers can, should and do keep up with those.   It is critical that we share our fabulous.  However, there are also all sorts of studies and papers and articles pontificating about what it means to be a good teacher, who is effective, who is not effective and why the so-called demise of the public education system is all our fault.  It is a lot of fire and brimstone and most of it is largely not helpful. 

Listen, we know how to be fabulous.  We need to harness our fabulous for those days that don't go as planned, are filled with interruptions or leave you wondering how you are going to reach several struggling friends.  Those days exist too.  And while I try my hardest to turn those days into funny stories, they often bring me down and make my fabulous feel further away like it's locked up in a box in a room full of mandates, meeting agendas and old piles of data. 

I think it's time we define what makes us fabulous for ourselves. My lovely friends over at the International Reading Association agree with me and want to help me share our collective fabulousness.  Clearly, there are many rockstar teachers out there; you can nominate a fabulous Super Colleague and help share his or her fabulous.  Leave a comment on the IRA's Facebook page or email them at social@reading.org with the subject line, "I know a fabulous teacher!"  Do it.  Think about how fabulous you can make another teacher feel and the importance of contributing to the conversation about what makes teachers...there isn't another word for it...fabulous!

Oh...and PS, check out MY NEW BOOK!   It is part hilarious, part research-based, and all practical.  (I promise to stop being such a Me Monster but it keeps staring at me from the corner of my desk and shouting, "What about me?!") 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Changing the Conversation

A phone call I had with a friend after finishing the school year last summer:

Her: You know, you sound better.  Happier.  You just sound happier now that the year is over.
Me:  That sucks.  I sound miserable for most of the year and then there are a few weeks where I actually sound happy?
Her: Uh, kind of. 
Me: But I love my job.  Most of the time it makes me feel happy.
Her: Well you certainly don't sound that way...

And you know what?  She's right.  I don't sound that way most of the time.  Most of the time I'm complaining about a new mandate, or my schedule, or not having enough time or the ten million other little things that actually are annoying but really?  Are they worth sounding perpetually unhappy?  Don't get me wrong, I love to drag out the old soapbox and a cocktail and get-my-complain-on with the best of them (Hi, have you met my blog?), but perhpas my complaining and negativity had taken over a bit too much.  Yes, there is a lot to be unhappy about in education at times, but if someone asked me if I would like to have any other career, the answer would be "no."  (Okay, maybe it would be a resounding "YES!" if someone called and asked me to name nail polish colors because for some reason I think that job sounds amaaaaazing, but the lovely people at Essie have yet to offer me anything.)  

During my deeply nerdy days as a doctoral student, I interviewed teachers about their lives as educators.  While my dissertation did not focus on the issue of teacher happiness exactly, I did discover that many teachers, great teachers, were hugely unhappy with a number of aspects of our career.  Relationships with colleagues, relationships with administrators, relationships with data, the clock and curriculum all ranked as high on the These Things Have The Potential to Suck scale.  

The thing is, none of these aspects of teaching are going to go away.  Some of them may continue to get worse.  Others may improve.  But none of them are going to disappear off the plate of the teacher.  (Things rarely do....)  So what do we do?  Do we continue to complain and sound perpetually unhappy (or even worse feel perpetually unhappy)?  

This conversation, my nerdy research and my work with teachers inspired me to write Be Fabulous.  And while I think we need to continue to raise hell about the education issues we feel passionate about, we also need to be able to smile as we face our classrooms and ourselves.  (Am I getting too self-helpy?  Just let me know...for reals.  A little smack or something.)  I hope that it helps you refocus your energy and take back some of the control of not only your classroom, but your teaching career.  At the very least, I hope it's an entertaining read that leaves you with a few ideas and a lot of laughs.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My Book Drops Today!

Hey y'all!  Short little post today- don't want to jump in the deep end too soon and throw my back out or something!

Not to be all Me Monster but MY BOOK DROPS TODAY!!!!  What?!  I said, "MY BOOK DROPS TODAY!"  Join me as I pour a little out for you, my homies, who are working it on the front lines.  Soon, my friends, I'll stop talking about me and MY BOOK and get back to keeping it real.  But for now?  There is much jumping up and down, squealing and crying at my house- and that's just the Minis!  

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to hold the newest addition to my published family in my hands.  If you want to order one or just know more about Be Fabulous, click here.  For now?  I think the best celebration is a good night's sleep!  


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm Baaaaack....Again...This Time With A Book!

Hiiiiiiiiii......

It's been awhile, no?  I've missed you guys.  I know many of you are rolling your eyes and thinking, "Uh, then why didn't you post, you delinquent blogger?"  Well, there's a lot to that answer, so here is my best effort at explaining myself and my wee absence.  (I say anything under a year can be termed "wee.")

First of all, I've been doing my best to crush it in the classroom.  And, as you know, crushing it in the classroom means setting aside most thing that aren't termed "basic needs."  (Hello, intimidating pile of laundry that remains undone, I'm looking at you and thinking...maybe I can just wash the underwear???  Basic.  Needs.)

Plus, while I didn't make a super big deal about it over here on the blog, I did add another tiny human to the Mimi clan.  Our newest Mini is the sweetest boy in the history of boydom but for the love of all things holy this boy never sleeps!  I mean,  not that I've been counting, but I went 361 days without sleeping through the night.  For reals.  But now he is one and continues to be twinkly and amazing in addition to sleeping better so...hallelujah.

Annnnndddddd, because I felt like I needed a little something on the side...you know, because the hours of 2 through 5 a.m. were not occupied...I've been working on a book.  Yes, I wrote another book.  It's called Be Fabulous and I like to think that it is.  The book officially drops tomorrow and after I poor a little out for my Super Colleague homies in celebration, I promise to post again with more deets.  In the meantime, here's the linky loo.

I am so happy to be back...I just need to dust off my wind machine and then it's on!!!





Monday, October 7, 2013

Murphy's Law of Classroom Juju

(And for the record, I think Murphy is a douchebag.)  (Also, I hope you didn't fall out of your chair/burn yourself with coffee/shit yourself when you saw that I had a new post.  It's been awhile.)  (Did I mention that I had another mini???  Wondering how long that excuse is valid.)

Here is Murphy's Law of Classroom Juju.  Hold up, do I need to define Classroom Juju for you?  When I say "Classroom Juju," I am referring to that feeling in your classroom as well as that feeling you get about yourself as a teacher.  It's your vibe, how you're rolling, you know...how you doin'? 

Okay.  Back to Murphy's Law of Classroom Juju.  According to Murphy's Law, a fabulous day in the classroom will be followed immediately by a day that makes you want to light your own hair on fire.  And not in the Rafe Esquith way, in the holy-hell-are-you-kidding-me way.  (Please notice that this law can also be reversed...unbelievably difficult days can be followed by fantastic days.  But because I am a bit of a cynic, I see it the other way.)

Picture it:  A crisp fall day.  Your morning meeting? Slammin'.  Your reading and writing instruction?  Epic.  Your students independence and stamina?  Unparalleled.  Your math lesson?  Unreal.  Student level of enthusiasm?  Stoked.  Your content area instruction?  Hot.  Read aloud?  Bananas good.  Classroom management?  The stuff of genius.  All in all, you are on your way back to your classroom after dismissal feeling as if you have this week in the bag.  You can practically hear your own theme music following you up the stairs.  Your after school routine (You DO have an after school routine, don't you?)  (You need the routine.)  is easy, breezy, beautiful.  You chat with a few colleagues, there are no pop up meetings or assessments.  You pack your bag that does NOT have a cockroach in it and head home.  You may even have time to hit the gym.  Say whaaaaa????

Cut to the next day.  OH THE NEXT DAY.  From the moment you pick your friends up from where ever you pick them up from, they act like it is the first day of school and they have no idea what your routine or rules might be.  You're all, "Guys, it's totally like the 40th day of school."  And they're all, "What's your name again?"  as they throw their homework folders just anywhere (The bin is labeled, people!), shout out that they left their books at home and then proceed to chit chat as opposed to getting down to the business of their morning work.  One student has a meltdown during reading, the gym teacher tells you "your class acted out of control" like there was something you could do through telekinesis while you weren't in the actual gym at the time of said loss of control, and your lunch sucked.  On the way back to your classroom after finally FINALLY dismissing your class, you get stopped in the hall by an administrator who wants to know when you're going to turn in the data, the data, must have the data! 

I'm telling you, to be a teacher you have either got to be the most Zen, balanced chick on the planet OR enjoy riding the emotional ebbs and flows.  What does it say about our confidence that even I (who is in possession of a fairly strong sense of self and capacity if I do say so myself) feel crushed and worthless at the end of a day like this?

Monday, December 31, 2012

Buh-Bye 2012!

So I'm just about T-minus seven hours away from the official start of 2013 and I feel compelled to write some sort of reflective genius about the year.  Hopefully you are reading this post with a drink in hand.  I definitely sound much more brilliant if you've been drinking.  True story.

You guys, 2012 was rough.  ROUGH!  While you know I have a flair for the drama, the highs and lows of 2012 put my natural tendencies to seek out drama to shame.  I didn't have to seek it out, it found me, slapped me in the face and then laughed about it while calling me fat.  For real.  Both professionally and personally, I am keeping my fingers crossed for a much more even keeled 2013.

If you've been reading for awhile, you know that I have basically been involved in a five year quest for professional Zen.  Much of my struggle to find said Zen stems from the daily ridiculousness that goes down each and every day in our public schools as well as my public-school-teacher-ingrained- manner of being perpetually unable to strike anything related to a personal/professional balance.  (Did you guys know that you are actually supposed to go to the gym?  Evidently it's not enough to carry that little thingy around on your key chain.  Who knew?) 

Some personal struggles this year forced me to have a new perspective on my life as a slave to education.  Without actually saying "Don't sweat the small stuff" (because that sort of phrase makes me want to pour salt on an open paper cut), I learned to stay cognizant of what really matters.  My family, my own philosophy of what it means to be a good teacher, and those projects that truly make me happy. Yes, I still engage in hours of paperwork and other miscellaneous bullshit that is a complete waste of my time, but I try not to focus on it as much.  Very Jedi mind trick, very Zen. 

With this attitude in hand, I gratefully will say goodbye to 2012 and hello to 2013.  May 2013 bring joy and professional happiness to us all.  (Spoiler alert: Mrs. Mimi is going to be getting her Happiness Project on and I hope you all will join me!)  For me, that definitely means more time over here on the blog.  This will only be my 20th post this year and although much of this year was too dark for me to even contemplate looking at a keyboard, I have missed you.

Without further ado, here are the top five viewed and commented on posts of the year.  In other words, the posts that totally kicked ass/struck a chord with all you lovelies out there.

Number 5: Heroes

Number 4: Just Another Manic Wednesday

Number 3:   Where Do I Begin?

Number 2: I Went Running.  What Did I See?

Number 1:  You Put Your Whole Self In, You Put Your Whole Self Out...

Happy New Year!  I raise a glass to each and every one of you. 

xo,
Mrs. Mimi



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Heroes

I am sitting here in front of a blank computer screen attempting to write curriculum, to focus on the Common Core, to be mindful of my looooooming deadlines.  But then...

My mind drifts back to the recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.  As a mommy, a teacher and a CT-girl, I just cannot wrap my head around what took place on Friday.  And yet, I can't think about anything else. 

Although I am horrified and write this with tears streaming down my face, I have never been more convinced than I am right now that teachers are heroes.  We are heroes.  Those men and women working at Sandy Hook Elementary were and are heroes.  I joke about Super Colleagues zipping through the hallways with capes on their backs as they go about changing the lives of the children they touch each and every day, but these people, Vicky Soto, they are truly heroes.  With or without the cape.

If I struggle to process what has happened, I am not sure how those most closely involved can even begin.  I have read that when Fred Rogers was a boy and would see scary things on the news, his mother would say to him, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." 

So for today, I am going to focus on the helpers and the heroes. 

Who's Peeking?