finding beauty in every day

A Teacher’s Daily Moment of Gratitude

I’m grateful for the way my seventh and eighth grade students smile back at me as I greet them at the door of my classroom. Many of them even ask how my day is going. Surprisingly few give me the stereotypical adolescent scowl that one might imagine on the faces of middle school students.

Lately I’ve being trying to be mindful of the fact that my students will generally reciprocate the same attitude that I project upon them. This is not the case for all of my students, but it honestly is the truth for the vast majority. Sometimes it’s easy for me to fixate on the negative behaviors and attitudes of a mere handful of students, when I should be focused on the overwhelming number of students I have who truly want to give their best effort.

Here’s To Impulsivity!

Even when we have a million drafts already in progress and we know we should focus our energy on completing what we’ve already started, sometimes what we really need is a new beginning. We need different things at different times in our lives, and the same is true for our writing practice. To box ourselves into one mold or form of writing can be constricting and defeat the purpose of writing in the first place.

I often feel the need to spend several days and sometimes a week or more laboring over a piece of writing. I don’t want to present anything that misrepresents me as a writer, as a person, or that makes me come across as careless. Yet, my life is messy at times, and sometimes my head is a mess as a result. My life circumstances shape the need for me to write impulsively. Other times, my life comes together more cohesively, paving way for a more organized thought process. During these times, I have the luxury of slowing down and drawing a piece of writing out over a longer period of time.

Yet, time after time, I try to box myself into an idea that I have of who I want to be as a person and as a writer. The end result: I lose interest in a piece that has magnificent potential. Or, I feel so intimidated by the magnitude of the expectation that I have set for a piece that I can’t progress forward with it. What does all of my fussing and trying to make it all turn out immaculately polished do for me as a writer? Nothing. Often it makes me lose inspiration for writing altogether. This happens because I’m not paying to attention to where I’m at as a human being. Writing needs and human needs go hand in hand.

When it all comes down to it, what are we trying to accomplish with our writing? For me it’s an honest recording of what life is like, with all of its beauty, pitfalls, mishaps, realizations, and mess-ups. Also, it is to connect with others and to garner some comfort in the fact that others are also going through this crazy experience called Life. Sometimes with the process of trying to accomplish this, comes the need to let go and be okay with sounding disorganized and impulsive. This is part of the process of life and of writing. Why would we only want to honor the most polished perfect versions of either? Of course they look pretty, but do they accurately represent how it really is?

P.S. The horse drawing was illustrated by my daughter. It epitomizes the way that I feel when I’m allowing myself to be impulsive. It was also added to this post on an impulsive whim.

Getting Started

I unlock my classroom door, and as always, the papers I didn’t finish grading the day before greet me. And as usual, I jog down the hall to make photo copies and my daily battle with my arch nemesis the copy machine ensues, as it devours and single handedly destroys my main copy, and then screams and beeps at me to fix the damage it has done. I’m annoyed; I’m tired. I get fed up with the never ending pile of papers. I want a copy machine that doesn’t break down every time I look at it, in a copy room where there isn’t a lineup of people waiting to use it. Needles to say, I’m not a morning person.

I have my coffee in hand as I greet my students at the door, and I sigh with annoyance when I hear, “Ms. C., I forgot my homework and my book, and also, can I borrow paper and a pencil?”

But then there is always that student who goes out of her way to ask how my morning is going and that student who has something that he wrote the evening before that he just can’t wait for me to read. Their genuine sincerity begins to rejuvenate my sleep deprived mind.

The majority of my students are eager to please and truly want to do well. They are emotional and passionate, and many of them are just finding their voices. They are kids in big bodies, often misunderstood by people who don’t have the privilege of working with them.

Class begins, and without fail, they have me laughing over some antic they’ve tried to get away with or some silly remark someone has made. There is so much humor to be found in each day when I allow myself to forget about the trivial things, like the pile of paperwork and the evil copy machine, and appreciate what a truly lucky position I’m in to work with middle school students. My students are used to hearing me say, “I could work with adults all day, but this is much better.”

A Little About Me And My Goals As A New Blogger

There is nothing more satisfying than shaping and molding words to create personal meaning. I love the gratification that comes with the ability to take something that started as a mere nagging at the corner of my conscience and shape it into an idea that reflects an important theme in my world. Of course with this comes grappling and wrestling with words and ideas, and this requires perseverance. Blogging helps hold me accountable for sticking with my writing and completing pieces that I begin. I wish I was the type of person who was completely internally motivated, but without the accountability that writing for an audience brings, (even if it is just one or two people) I rarely develop my writing beyond journal entries and quickwrites.

I launched my blog Nonlinear Compilations two months ago and have posted ten pieces in that time. Each time I post something that I have stuck with and really worked to shape, I feel a sense of accomplishment that I was unable to achieve through my haphazard journal entries. I need to create to be satisfied in life, and this blog allows me a space to do that.

I’ve grappled with feelings of insecurity and doubt all of my life, and blogging helps challenge me to be vulnerable and to allow my voice to be heard, regardless of my imperfect state.

I’m a parent, partner, teacher, and writer; hence, I write about these topics. The theme of my blog centers on my pursuit to find beauty, and contentment amidst what feels like a chaotic existence of trying to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities. To learn more about me click here. I would love to connect with other bloggers and develop mutual blogger/reader relationships. As much as I love to write, I also love to read about the worlds and perspectives of diverse people.

Blogging 101: zero to hero

Reframing My Perspective On Failure

Is there hope for those of us who have to work against our natural dispositions in order to see the beauty in every day? My natural disposition is to gravitate toward the negative. A naturally negative attitude coupled with an all or nothing personality is a bad combination, and that is exactly what I have. I cringe at the way that sounds, and it’s not easy to admit that’s who I am. The people in my professional life would likely be surprised by my self assessment, and that’s because I put up a pretty good front and shield who I am with a smile and positive words. I internalize the negativity. The people who are closest to me are the ones who bear the brunt of its impact. It’s difficult to admit that what is going wrong in my life weighs more heavily on me than the good and the beautiful that is all around me, but it’s something I have to be honest about in order to take steps toward reframing my thinking.

Most of January and for a large part of February, I was doing a pretty good job focusing my energy on the positive aspects of life. I was trying to live in the present and spend time doing little things with the people I love. My son wanted to go running on the beach, and instead of telling him maybe later, I decided to forget the dirty laundry and the sink full of dishes. It felt incredible to be alive, breathing in the open air, spending time with my kiddo—time which feels like an hourglass of precious minutes sifting by as he gets ready to transition into high school.

My daughter loves chess and she wanted to play night after night, a request which I obliged. She encouraged me with words like, “Mom, you’re actually really good at this!” She and I both know that games of strategy which require thinking several steps ahead are not my strongpoint. But what she was really trying to communicate to me was that she appreciated spending time with me, having my undivided attention, and it didn’t matter that I was no competition for her. She could see my effort. I was spending some of the precious, limited time that we have in this universe doing things that really matter—the only things that will have any significance once my time runs short and I am left to assess whether or not I accomplished what I really wanted to in this life.

After a long, gratifying run of balancing my time well and finding the positive attitude and energy to spend my time on efforts that really matter, I fell into a funk. The messy house demanded too much of my attention. More planning and preparation than I anticipated went into getting ready for upcoming lessons that I had to teach. I spent too much time trying to manage personal writing goals that I had set for myself. I fell into a squabbling disharmony with my husband that left us alienated and distant. Suddenly, I found myself sitting behind an empty computer screen, uninspired and lacking clarity of vision. My daughter wanted me to bake something with her in the kitchen, and my son wanted me to take him to the library. I was too busy, however, staring at my empty computer, alienated from those I love, trapped in my own hazy-headed mind. That’s when I realized that within a handful of days, I had fallen completely off course. My energies and efforts were once again lacking focus and my priorities were skewed. I was ruled by negativity and doubt.

I think one of the hardest things for me is working to get myself out of a funk. It takes so much mental energy in the first place to psyche myself up to start working toward the goals I have set for myself: being happy, nurturing good relationships, balancing my time well, and being mentally and physically healthy. And it’s so easy to fall out of the habits that I have spent so much time working to foster. I can spend weeks and months looking for the beauty and the positive aspects of each day but inevitably I will slip, and there will be times when life feels like a total dumping ground. Each time this happens, I feel a tremendous sense of frustration and failure; it makes me hesitate to jump back into the saddle again because I’m afraid that I will fail like I have so many times before.

This is where I think a reframed perspective on failure for me, and those like me, needs to step in. Instead of spending energy agonizing over times when my priorities get tangled up and I slip into negative thinking or I get lost in my own head and alienate my loved ones, I need to expect that sometimes I will slip. Instead of harshly reprimanding myself and spending an unreasonable amount of time devoted to regret, I need to come up with a plan for what I will do when I fail so that I can jump back into making an effort to see the beauty in each day as immediately as possible.

I am still working on what this plan will consist of. Any suggestions, ideas, and opinions on this topic are greatly welcomed.