A Place We Want to Be

Being a teacher right now can be overwhelming. There is a lot going on, a lot to hear, and so much to think about. With that being said, I keep finding myself going back to the classroom, even after days when I say, “That’s it.” 

I have not returned to full time teaching but I have been substitute teaching for almost two years now. I keep committing to a bit longer jobs, a little bit more responsibility. I feel very fortunate that I am able to wade back into the waters at my own pace.

Last year I canceled going on a trip to a tropical resort with my husband to take a long term substitute teaching position. After that position ended I told my husband to remind me of the difficulties and how tired I was if I was considering another position.

This summer I am going to miss our annual vacation with our friends so that I can teach summer school. Oops, I did it again!  

“ Why?” I ask myself this and I get asked this by others.

I think what keeps me coming back is my love for teaching and the opportunity to build a good day with the students and the feeling that comes from that.

What can I bring that will help us do that? 

What are they expecting when I walk in? 

What do I want to feel while I am there?

After a tough day I start asking myself  those questions and all the possibilities are still there. 

I need to bring enthusiasm. I need to want to be there. I need to get them invested! To invest in building a good day. To care about creating the strongest classroom. To understand how we all contribute to that. I must provide the framework, and the direction for that. Figuring out how to create, adjust and build that fires me up!! It drives me to return and keep trying.

Secretly the Cheers theme song runs through my head to remind me of what is needed. All the noise around education slips away and I return to what is important.

“Sometimes you wanna go

Where everybody knows your name

And they’re always glad you came

You wanna be where you can see (ah-ah)

Our troubles are all the same (ah-ah)

You wanna be where everybody knows your name”

I am very excited to do what I love, and what I am good at, this summer and I can’t wait to say hello to each student that joins me,see what we create together and feel the joy of being there.

Creating Strength

I have been thinking a lot about what contributes to a strong classroom and what defines a strong classroom. What builds an environment of growth? How do we nuture that? How do we make it safe and joy filled? What does it feel like and look like to walk into The Strongest Classroom? At this moment I find myself thinking in poetry, specifically haikus, which help me think in few words that can convey strong feeling. I hope one of these poems might connect with you. Maybe you will be inspired to write your own haiku about the environment we need to nurture for children that leads to growth, learning and joy! I would love that!! If you feel comfortable sharing one with me that would be amazing!

The strongest classroom!
Happens anywhere at all,
when we nurture care.
A builder of hope...
the difficulty is seen,
the effort is given.
All in together.
Contributing to our best.
Community here.
Unscalable height...
one attempt has failed,
looks scalable now!
There is the feel of
wonder, possibility!
What could happen next?
Joy is with many.
Encouragement is alive.
Attempt, celebrate!
A safe space for us
where challenges are taken.
Resilience moves.
Ongoing process
with cycling dips and peaks
moving us upward.
I doubt that I can.
I will courageously try.
I am capable!

The Strongest Classroom

Connection, courage and possibility help me to navigate a strongman contest (insert any challenge in the blank).

Noticing the connection of the process that I share with all of the competitors to improve and grow builds a feeling of community for me. We share struggles, worries and adversities. We share gains, wins and celebrations. Noticing the frustrations and the joy, and experiencing this contrast of emotions together builds “a bonfire of belonging”(a beautifully strong phrase I heard from author Brad Montague).

It takes courage for me to get out there, to push to my edges and possibly beyond in a public setting. At the competition when I look around I see courage in action from the other competitors, the coaches, the judges, the spotters, the host who was brave enough to undertake and organize the event. All the different ways of being brave that I see, and the courage that I know I can’t see, motivate and inspire me to keep going.

Being in that atmosphere of connection and courage I can bravely try. I can go for it!!. I can risk being seen trying and failing, because I know, they know, what success is. I may leave bruised up from the all out effort, and with failed attempts, but I gained insight into how to try it again. I leave feeling fired up for the possibility that’s ahead of me, next time!!

Knowing that I am not alone in this difficult endeavor and bravely, repeatedly choosing to keep going, leads to success no matter the outcome.

From this environment of bravery to try and a community connected by growth, there seems to be a high level of encouragement and care. Care for myself, care for performing to my best and  care for others. That is an AMAZING byproduct of being in a strongman contest (insert your challenge in the blank). 

That is exactly what I want to foster as the teacher  in a classroom (challenge), a caring and encouraging community. Students need time to build a “strongman community” in their classroom before they can take risks to make learning gains. If we don’t allow for that time to build that strong community, and nurture a safe space to grow, which leads to caring, we are limiting great potential and children’s joy of dreaming big and going for it!!

Remembering to Notice Again

I want to see and hear about more positive things happening. I want to hear stories of progress, adaptation, cooperation, and kindness. When I watch the news it seems to be filled with bad things that are happening and I start to feel helpless, and depleted. My answer to combat this feeling is to turn it off, not read it and not discuss it. I believe being aware of how much news I am consuming, and how I am feeling as a result of that is beneficial for me, but completely unplugging doesn’t sit right with me. Turning it off stops the influx of bad news, but it also hides the good news from me. It’s putting up a barrier and I feel separate from so much. There is a loss of connection, which I am sure lends itself to the feeling of powerlessness.

My friend, and mentor, Carl Paoli said that if I want to hear and see more positive news than I need to look for it, share it and be deliberate about it. To become the source of what I want to see more of.  When I thought about that it seemed simple, powerful and fully in my control. I can become the source as the root is to a plant. I can be the start of what I want to see more of, of what I think we need to see more of.  From that start there is possibiity for growth. Carl has reminded me of the difference a single act, a single person can make. 

The problems, and the sadness that I see in the news can settle a cloud over the good things that are happening around me. A simple way I can return to noticing joy, and goodness is to purposely  look for it and become that which I want to see. This requires my awareness and the responsibility is on me to do so. I have to put it into practice continuously.

Almost one year ago (Sept. 2020)  I started the Noticing Joy Together tree in my neighborhood, which lasted until the winter weather arrived. We looked for things that brought us joy  and shared it with each other by posting it on a  tree. The purpose of the tree was  to help ourselves practice noticing the good things (no matter how small) that were bringing us joy, and to share them with others to add light to their day as well.  This was during quarantine when the news was scary to watch, but that act of noticing joy together brought about connection and community.  I have forgotten how this activity helped me through that difficult time. I have gotten out of practice.

It has taken a reminder, and it will take deliberate practice but this way of being (becoming the source of what I want to see more of)  feels fuller, and with direction.  I appreciate the chance to begin again. 

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

A Dozen Illuminating Books

Twelve children’s books that help us see our connection to nature, help show us the process of learning and growing, and shine a light on our connection as a world community…

…and for me a poem was inspired and created from all twelve titles. Enjoy 🙂

  • find a complete list of books at the end of this post

Life can be cared for, and grow into more than we know.

Just like the plants in My Garden and the trees that we climb.

The Tree That Time Built and now towers up above us in it’s beauty knows growth. 

The time to become grand like the trees can seem Forever or A Day.

I worry If I Never Forever Endeavor time may pass me by and

The Book of Mistakes will say the right time never arrived as I waited.

This Place I Know can be scary, but I am not alone. I find comfort in belonging and the courage to move on.

The Most Magnificent Thing is knowing I Am Human, and so are you.

I Thank You, World for the life all around me, and the rising and setting sun continuing on at each turn I take, and question I ask.

I will do my best to Pass It On so all of us will know we are here together and  believe the message that says, “You’re Here For a Reason”.

By Kay Lybeck
  • Life By Cynthia Rylant
  • My Garden by Kevin Henkes
  • The Tree That Time Built by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston
  • Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby
  • If I Never Forever Endeavor by Holly Meade
  • The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
  • This Place I Know Poems of Comfort by Georgia Heard
  • The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
  • I Am Human by Susan Verde
  • Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty
  • Pass It On by Sophy Henn
  • You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman