Reflecting on the Past; Focusing on the Future

Photo by Clark Little, 2016
Photo by Clark Little, 2016

2016 came and went and now we are almost through with the second day of 2017.  Hard to believe.  I’m a pretty reflective person by nature, and several years ago decided that I was no longer making resolutions.  They were always the same and always broken within the first week of the new year.  So, I decided that I would set goals for myself instead.  I write them down, because out of sight means out of mind — for me anyway.

Last year, we sat down as a family and set goals for ourselves.  Today, we reflected on those goals; whether we met them or still had work to do.  For the most part, all four of us met some of our goals, but we all individually still have goals we would like to accomplish.

I, for one, would like a focus for myself this year.  And, for the last several years, many of my friends have been sharing their “One Little Word” – the word that will be their focus for the upcoming year.  It has been fun to see the words that people choose.  I decided to try it out this year and have been tossing words around in my head for the last couple of days.  This morning, I finally decided on my OLW.    I am going to focus on intention this year.

See, I have the disease of “busyness.”  I am always busy, always running somewhere, always doing something.  I don’t remember always being this way, but I do know that I have had this disease for most of my adulthood.  I must learn to slow down.  We aren’t promised tomorrow.  My children are growing up before my eyes and will be moving on to college within the next 4-7 years. That is not a lot of time.  I want to enjoy the time I have with them.  I want to live with intention, particularly in two areas.

  1. Family.  I intend to spend purposeful time with my family.  Slow down and just enjoy each other’s company.  Travel together, play games together, watch movies together.  Just be.
  2. Health. I intend to work on my nutrition this year.  I want to be around for a long time.  I want to be a strong and healthy role model for my children.

You see when we start with intention, when we know why we want to do something, we have motivation to reach a goal.  I plan to crush these goals this year.

I know that my plan to live with intention will bleed over into other areas of my life, my work with teachers and students, my writing (I intend to do a lot more this year!), my relationships with my friends and extended family.  But, for now, as long as I am living my day to day with purpose and intention, as long as I know my why,  I know I’m on the right track.

What is your focus for this year?  What goals would you like to accomplish?


Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

September 11 was a week ago yesterday and like most people around the country, I remembered that day, fifteen years ago.  Where I was.  How I felt.  But, see, that day is remembered every day by those first responders, families, and children who were directly affected by it. While I wanted to share this on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, or perhaps even leading up to the anniversary, I did not. Partly, because I didn’t get my act together in time, and partly because I think we should remember every day.   So, I share today.

nine-ten-a-september-11-story-9781442485068_hrOver the summer, I read Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin and I was brought back to that day.  I posted a note to Nora on Facebook and mentioned that the characters in her story were “my kids.”  Between our exchange and her exchange with other teachers around the country, Nora realized that we, teachers in the classroom on September 11th, had an enormous challenge in front of us that day.  In many cases, we had to carry on as “normal,” for our kids.   We had to put aside our personal concerns or contact with family members in order to put on a brave face for the good of our students.  This is what teaching is every day.  We are the caring and kindness that students look for when they walk into the classroom.  We are their safe haven.  We are their security and comfort for 7 hours a day. And so, that is what we do.  We set aside whatever we need to in order to to be that emotional stability for our children.

My own children were not born yet in 2001.  They have no understanding of the events of that day.  They have no idea what a pre-September 11th world was like.  But, it’s books like Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story that can help this generation of children begin to understand.  Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves the stories of four middle school students together with the backdrop of September 11, 2001.  Through this book, children will learn kindness and empathy, while building their background knowledge about the day that our world changed forever.

To help teachers share their stories, and to offer a bit of catharsis, Nora created a blog on her website for teachers to share.  Here is my story:

It began as any other fall day; that gorgeous blue sky and beautiful temperatures. In Montgomery County, MD, just outside the nation’s capital, we were already into our third week of school in my 5th grade class. It was my student Shannon’s birthday, so as students filed in right around 9 am, we wished her a happy birthday and got started on our morning routines. . .  Continue reading

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Every Child Deserves. . .

Every child deserves a champion: an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists they become the best they can possibly be.

   ~Rita F. Pierson

Yesterday, marked the first day back to school for many students and teachers around the country. Here, we have a week under our belt with our students.  And so I reflect.  I reflect on summer memories and new beginnings.  I realized that I have been in education for 36 years now.  First as a student, then as a teacher, and finally, simultaneously, as a student and teacher.  As I reflect on my years in education, I keep coming back to one word – relationships.

When I was in 5th grade, my parents separated.  That year, my life preserver were my two teachers.  We built a relationship that still exists today.  They took me strawberry picking (an experience I probably would not have had in my life at that time), they celebrated my effort in school in spite of my home life, they invited me into their own families and lives.  At ten years old, I did not realize that they were saving me.  It was only as an adult that I recognized the value of my relationship with them. But, they knew.  They knew that it was important to build relationships with students.  They knew that in order for me to learn, I had to be in a place emotionally to be open to learning.  So, while my life may have been chaotic at home, they provided me that safe haven at school every day.

Back in the mid-80’s, teachers had to worry about social-emotional issues such as divorce.  Today, our students come to school so they can be fed, have a warm place to spend the day, and yes, to be cared for by their teachers.  Today, children have so many more obstacles placed before them before they are even ready to learn.  We have students who are immigrants, who walked into the country with the clothes on their back and little else.  We have students who live in homeless shelters or hotels; who don’t have a bed to call their own or have to share a bed with siblings.  We have students who don’t have food at home and come to school hungry.  Every single day.   Our students are not available to learn until some of their basic needs, the needs adults take for granted, are met.

I think back to my 5th grade year and to that pivotal moment when my teachers took an interest in me. Showed that they cared about me.  Made sure that while I was in school, that I was taken care of; that I was available to learn.  I hope that during my years in the classroom, I was that life preserver for my students.

I believe that  every child that walks into our school  and classroom deserves to be cared for, deserves to know that they have an adult in their corner cheering them on, deserves to feel safe and secure and have their needs met every day.   

Making Connections, Building Relationships

image“If you were going to let yourself be connected to people, you had to be willing to take chances.”The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

As I reflect on my reading of The Secret Hum of a Daisy, I can’t help but think about what the book signifies to me.  Relationships.  Sure, it’s about love and loss, but ultimately, I found that at the heart of the book was Grace and her relationships with those in her life.  One friendship was changing as another was blooming.  She had to learn to trust a grandmother she had never met before.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.  We have all of this in our own lives and that is why I could relate to The Secret Hum of a Daisy.  The foundation of human connection – relationships.

I think about how important it is for us to build relationships in schools.  With our students and our colleagues.

Grace had a teacher who believed in her, Mrs. Snickels.  I think back to my teachers.  Two stand out.  Lisa Baar and Terese Rushford, though they were Ms. Bayse and Ms. Dukelow that year.  These two women were my fifth grade teachers and were pivotal in my development, not just academic, but social-emotional as well.  See, my parents separated when I was in fifth grade and these two women took me under their wings.  They believed in me, they took me out to dinner to celebrate my academic achievements, they took me strawberry picking, and most importantly they just listened.  They cared.  Years later, after my parents divorced and I was about to enter high school, my mom decided to move us out of state.  I was not happy about it to say the least, but Lisa was right there offering me a place in her home for the summer to help her with her children, but also as a member of the family. A way for me to transition to the new change in my life.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

When I became a teacher, I worked to build relationships with my students as well.  I worked to get to know my studets as individuals, their likes, their dislikes, their personal achievements.  I made personal connections with several students.  Several years ago, my former student Molly babysat for me. Just as I had for Lisa.  Just this past week, I ran into the grandmother of one of my former students.  Andrew was full of energy and traditional school expectations didn’t seem to work for him, even through high school.  But, in college, he bloomed.  She filled me in on all of his achievements since he was in my fourth grade class – my first year of teaching! He is now a sports journalist and works for Auburn University.  I’m so proud!  Cycles. Trust. Change.  Relationships.

Last year, I took a position as a staff development teacher.  My role is to support the teachers, but I also work closely with the principal, our instructional leader. I worked very hard last year (and continue to) to build relationships with my colleagues.  Not only was I new to the position, but I was new to the school, an established staff of committed teachers.  Our staff is committed to our students and to each other.  Cycles.  Trust.  Change.  Relationships.

As we begin this new calendar year, I strive to continue to build relationships with all in my life.  My colleagues, our students, my family, and my friends.  We all want to feel a connection to someone.

The foundation of human connection – relationships.