Making Connections at the Gym

Yesterday, I unveiled my “one little word” for 2019 – CONNECT.  I want to be more intentional about the connections I already have or plan to create in my life this year.

Some of you know that I began attending a gym about four years ago.  I was looking for something that I would enjoy going to, someplace or someone to hold me accountable.  I was looking for something beyond the “box gyms” and all of their equipment.  I had the same equipment at home and I never used it.  I found a Groupon for Prime Fitness and decided to check it out.  Prime became exactly what I was looking for! With Prime, I found my tribe.

Eric, one of the co-owners, just began a podcast and I’m honored that he asked my friend Greselda and me to be his first guests on The Prime Fitness Project.  Take a listen to hear about my health and fitness journey so far.  My hope is that you will hear my story, and while your story might be different, you might find a connection in some way.

I also read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis over winter break.  What a motivating force to be reckoned with. I appreciate Rachel’s candor with the lies that women tend to tell themselves.  She is relatable and I could connect to many of the lies she told herself.  It’s high time that women lift each other up.  It’s time that we become support systems for our sisters and we stop dragging each other down.  If you are looking for a little pick-me-up to start 2019 off on the right foot, check out Girl, Wash Your Face .

©2019 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.

 

 

One Little Word for 2019

Happy New Year!

I truly can’t believe that it is 2019.  As the saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short” and nothing screams that louder to me than the fact that it is 2019.  It feels like just yesterday that I graduated high school, yet, I attended my 25th reunion in 2018.  It feels like just yesterday that I began teaching, yet I am closing out my 20th year in education in 2019. It feels like just yesterday that we were blessed with our first-born, yet he turns 16 in February and will graduate high school in two short years.  So, yes, the saying is true, “The days are long, but the years are short!”

I reflected on all of this as I began to think about my “one little word” for 2019.  I want to be sure to continue to build long-lasting relationships with people in my life, both personally and professionally.  I want to make time for the things and the people that are important to me.  I want to cherish these long days and short years with my children as much as possible. So for these reasons, the word I chose going in to 2019 is CONNECT.

This year I chose a personal symbol as well.  Chloe gave me a beautiful necklace for Christmas this year of two links hooked together.  She told me it was symbolic of our love for each other, that even when we fight, we will always be connected!  I have taken the two links hooked together as my personal symbol for this year.  I want to make connections in every facet of my life.

Yesterday, I shared my 19 for 2019 visual.  I tried to tie some of my goals for 2019 into my “one little word”.  See, making connections already!

 

Looking Back to Move Forward in the New Year: 19 for 2019

I’m a goal setter and last year, after learning about 18 for 2018, I set 18 goals for 2018.  Now, while I pride myself on setting goals, I’m not the best at reaching all of my goals. . . yet! Today, I reflect on the goals I met, the goals I haven’t met. . .yet, and the goals I’m setting for myself for 2019.

18 for 2018

  • monitor sugar intake – During a challenge at the gym in September, I was able to successfully monitor my sugar intake for about 3 weeks.  Within those 3 weeks, I lost about 8 pounds, but more importantly, I was able to quit soda! I have not had a soda since September 18, 2018! 
  • get back in touch with creative side (craft, paint, re-purpose, etc.) I enjoyed many crafty activities in 2018, including beginning Pinterest Parties in which the participants create a craft based on a theme.    
  • weekend at Hotel Hershey (particularly the spa!) I was not able to schedule this in for 2018, so it’s on my list for 2019. 
  • create accent wall in basement We did create an accent wall out of reclaimed wood in the basement.  
  • say “yes” to my kids more I tried this, but I’m not sure I was incredibly successful! 
  • Family Fun Friday Night once a month This, unfortunately, fizzled out pretty quickly in early 2018. 
  • finish 3 puzzles and frame them Never even took the puzzles out of their boxes. 
  • bi-monthly adult evenings out We were fairly successful at this.  I forgot to keep count, but there were several times that we went out with other couples in 2018
  • plan family weekend trip to Philadelphia I wasn’t able to schedule this for 2018, so it’s on my list for 2019.
  • date night once a month We were able to get several date nights in during 2018, but I don’t think they were monthly.  
  • clean out email in-box (this is a doozy!!) I did not get to this, so it is on my 2019 list. 
  • be in touch with long-time friends I did an OK job with this, but I want to do an even better job in 2019
  • read every day (2017 was not my best reading season) I did not read every day and 2018 wasn’t my best reading season either.  I’ve set a new reading goal for 2019.
  • increase weight when strength training I started increasing the weight, but I stopped weight training regularly.  I hope to get back to it in 2019.
  • watch Big, Little Lies I binge watched the first season and hope to be able to binge watch the 2nd season when it comes out in 2019.
  • write EVERY day I was unsuccessful at this, but hope to find, no make, more time for writing in 2019.
  • create family photo albums I created one family photo album.  ONE!  
  • organize home library I was unsuccessful at this in 2018, so have added it to my 2019 goals.  

 

And here are my 19 for 2019

I hope that you are able to take some time to reflect on your 2018 and project what you would like to see in 2019.  As the ball drops tonight on another year lived, I am hopeful that you find exactly what you are looking for in the new year!

I Did Something Scary a Few Weeks Ago

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 9.31.01 AMA few weeks ago, I did something scary.  I made myself vulnerable to our staff in a meeting.  I opened up about my adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

In the late 1990’s, a doctor from the CDC and a doctor from Kaiser Permanente set out to find connections between childhood experiences and lifelong health.  They created a questionnaire and sent it to over 17,000 people in the Kaiser network.  The results were astounding.  The more adverse childhood experiences a person had, the more likely they were to have health issues.  Someone with an ACE score of 4 had twice the risk of heart disease and cancer.  Those with an ACE score of 6 or more, on average had 20 years lower life expectancy.

Of course, ACE scores don’t tally the positive experiences in early life that can help build resilience and protect a child from the effects of trauma.  Having a grandparent who loves the child or a teacher who understands and believes in the child may help mitigate the long-term effects of early trauma.

So why did I share this information with our staff?  Because many of our students are living with adverse childhood experiences right now.  How can the adults in the building help?  First, we need to be aware of the types of trauma that our students may be living with.  Then, we need to arm ourselves with strategies to help our students build resilience and coping skills.  If each staff member is “the one” for at least one student enduring trauma in the building, think about the impact we can make!

My ACE score is 4.  Thankfully, I had two teachers who took me under their wing and helped to mitigate the long-term effects of my early trauma.  I’m fully aware that my life could have gone in a different direction.  I’m also acutely sensitive to the trauma that our students endure, as a result of my own trauma.

Last week, I finally had a chance to sit down and read Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  This is a timely and profoundly important memoir, that unfortunately too many of our students will see themselves in.  But, that is exactly why it is a necessary book for our middle school and high school students.

Students who are living in a similar situation will see themselves in this graphic novel and will see how Jarrett was able to overcome his childhood trauma.  Other students will read Hey Kiddo! and will become aware of situations that some of their friends may be going through, perhaps building some empathy for their classmates.

Think about the students in your classroom or building.  Do you know them?  I mean really know them?  Do you know the trauma that some of them may endure in their homes?  As we close out 2018 and begin to edge into 2019, I will think about how I can “be the one” for the students in my building. I hope you will do the same.

©2018 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.

Beliefs Drive Instruction

While in Austin last weekend at ILA, I attended “Planning a Year Around Workshop Teaching,” a session presented by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle.  I have had the opportunity to attend individual sessions by each at conferences in the past and I always walk away with new insights into literacy instruction.

They began by stating that “beliefs drive instruction.”  This theory comes directly from Peter Johnston’s Choice WordsBeliefs is something that I have really studied and thought more about this past school year, so right away that spoke to me. Kelly and Penny “believe that teachers must be agents of change.” The motto for ILA this year was “Changemakers.”  It is our time.  It is our turn.  We must be agents of change for our students.  Too many students are falling through the cracks or failing because we fail to see our responsibility as an agent of change.  We must change the trajectory for these students.

Pedro Noguera, a professor at UCLA, says that we continually ask the wrong question: “What can we do to raise student achievement?”  Instead, we should ask, “What can we do to challenge, stimulate, and engage our students?”  When we re-frame our thinking around student achievement, when we realize that change begins with us, when we change the narrative and give our students voice and remind them that they matter, then we will begin to see results.  Because, when we believe in our students, when we believe they can achieve at high levels, when we believe they have a purpose and a voice to share, they will rise up!

With these beliefs in mind and heeding the call of “agent of change”, I have spent the better part of today rethinking the reading block for the new school year.  With Kelly and Penny’s guidance through their book,  180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents I have begun to develop a way for elementary teachers to plan units of study around topics that matter to students.

I hope to stay on top of this thinking this year and share my learning here.

©2018 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.

Change Begins with Us! My Reflections on ILA 18

I just spent time in Austin at the International Literacy Association’s Annual Conference.  I return refreshed, rejuvenated, motivated, and ready to get back to work.  I’m not going to lie.  Our work in education is hard.  But it’s necessary.  Now more than ever.

The Opening Session speakers were powerful and just what I needed to motivate me to keep going.  I am saddened by the state of education today.  I love my job and know that I am where I’m supposed to be, but every day gets harder and harder. And I’m not in the classroom.  I’m on the periphery trying to support our teachers who are on the front lines.

Adan Gonzalez began with a story about his name. I am paraphrasing, but he said, “Mi nombre is more than letters and vowels put together. Mi nombre is the blood, sweat, and tears of my parents. My parents are not drug dealers, gang leaders, or rapists. They are Mexican immigrants.”  He continued to tell us about a child who became a criminal at 8.  The child was playing in the community park and was asked to leave by police officers because he did not have a permit.  The more years that passed, the more experiences that child had that shaped his life of criminality.  The life of criminality that was created because the child did not look like the white police officers.  The life of criminality that was created because the child spoke Spanish.  Adan was the 8 year old child.

“I am a criminal because I highjacked the pursuit of happiness. The system did not want me to be successful.”                                                                                                                                        ~Adan Gonzalez

I just love Cornelius Minor.  I have followed him on Twitter for the last year or so and admire his passion for equity, specifically his call to action to break down the oppressive barriers that hold education hostage for students of color, language learners, and/ or based on a student’s socio-economic status.  I hold Cornelius up with Glenn Singleton and Zaretta Hammond as my mentors for equitable education.  Cornelius spoke to using literacy as an equity tool.  We need to hold ourselves accountable to the belief that all children have the right to be taught to read and write, because teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling.  As such, we need to remain vigilant in ensuring that all of our students receive the education they have the right to in spite of, or perhaps because of, the disparities that exist in our education system today.

“To know that these conditions have nothing to do with children and everything to do with a public that has simply gotten used to certain kids getting less, is to know irrepressible rage.  I will never be used to this.  We can never be used to this.”                                                                                                   ~Cornelius Minor

Dr. Nadia Lopez “opened a school to close a prison” and she is unapologetic in saying that.  She saw a need and she acted, opening a charter school in one of the poorest zip codes in the United States, Brownsville, Brooklyn.  The average income is $11,000 and the cost of living in NY is $45,000.  Just look at the disparity!  But, through her school, she is working to change the trajectory of her student scholars.  She reminds them that their “zip code doesn’t have to determine [their] destiny.” She takes them on field trips to Harvard and other Ivy League schools and shows them that one day they too, can be a student in these colleges.

“Changing the narrative gives our children voice and reminds them that they are visible.”                                                                                                                                                                                ~Dr. Nadia Lopez

Change truly begins with us. We must confront our implicit biases, reflect on our inherent beliefs, and create a vision for the change we want to see.  We can’t wait any longer. The time is now.  Our students are counting on us.

The Storyteller’s Project/Proyecto del Cuentista Lesson #4

I realize it has been awhile since I have written a post, let alone shared another lesson in The Storyteller’s Project.  Rest assured that we have been working on this project throughout the year and I had the opportunity to share with educators from around the state of Maryland at SoMIRAC two weeks ago.

In the fourth lesson, we explored our given names and what they meant to each individual.  As always, we reviewed the mentor texts (The Matchbox Diary, My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River, and Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America) we had previously used and the theme of collections first.  We also reviewed the meaning of “memoir.”

Then, I read aloud the vignette, “Name” from The House on Mango Street.  After a brief reflection on how the narrator felt about her name, students wrote their own reflections on what their names meant to them.  I then gave every 5th grader their own copy of The House on Mango Street. This was one of three books that I was able to purchase for our students through the grant I received.  I used the grant money to purchase books through First Book.  I’m thankful that through the SoMIRAC grant and First Book, I have been able to give our students three books of their own!

Student reflection on her name
Students show off their new book, The House on Mango Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2018 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.