You Just Never Know

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It’s kind of amazing how making one decision can lead to so many unexpected interactions with people that are otherwise just co-workers that pass by in the hallways. I’ve never really stopped to think about how the people I work with view me because I’ve never been one to ponder over others’ opinion of me. After a lifetime of either being bullied, made fun of, or just always being the “weird one” in a group, it just becomes a necessity of survival (and sanity) to do my own thing and not worry about the rest.

However, there are moments when what someone thinks means everything. Especially, when they take to the time to pull you aside and say something positive … to your face. Back in October 2019, I put in my resignation for the administrative part of my job. I agreed to stay on to the end of the school year to finish out my contract, but for the next school year I will return full-time to the classroom.

For the longest time I felt like an utter and complete failure because no matter how hard I worked I just couldn’t do the job the way I felt it needed to be done. On top of that, it was so distracting, I felt like my teaching suffered as well, which impacted my students (the very thing I care about the most). There wasn’t enough time in the day, not enough coffee in the world to keep me energized, and not enough support from anywhere on campus. I was alone, exhausted, and overwhelmed. The final nail in the coffin came after doing some digging for information for an evaluation process. I found out the job I was doing by myself was done by three separate people five years ago. The positions were reduced to a half-day position due to budget cuts. No wonder I felt totally overwhelmed – I’m doing the job of three people, plus teaching.

The fact that I had resigned wasn’t announced publicly until recently and it turns out it was a pretty well-kept secret as it caught most everyone by surprise. People I’ve worked with for years have pulled me aside and said things to me I never would have imagined was going through their heads. I’m an oddball on campus, always have been (proudly so), so it never occurred to me that they would see me as anything other than that.

They think that I’m an amazing teacher that is incredibly skilled in what I do. That I’m always so energetic, positive and smiling. That I’m refreshing and always make people laugh. That my students talk about me all the time because they love my class and that I’m always “bouncing off the walls.” That I’m smart, organized, strong, determined, honest (okay, blunt), and clever. That I’m one of the best and they don’t like to see me burned out. That they believed in what I was trying to do for the program I ran. That I deserve better.

I had no idea and this is all overwhelming in a completely different way. I needed this. I can’t tell you all how much I needed to hear all of this.

Today, however, someone told me something that I’m still trying to process. The administrative team has approached several people on campus about taking my old position next year. They’ve all said no and gave the reason, “if she can’t do it, then no one can.” It’s the biggest compliment I’ve ever received and it just blows me away. I didn’t know I was surrounded by colleagues who felt this way about my abilities. What can I even say to that, except thank you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for letting me be the oddball and having my back.

There are still three and a half months left in the school year and it will be a struggle to get through them. I am still doing the job of three people, still burned out, and still fighting to make it through each day. But, I feel a little stronger knowing there are people who see how hard I work and took the time to say something nice to me.

 

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c.b.w. 2020

Nuggets of Good News

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It’s been a good month …

Three years ago I started the process for National Board Certification. For teachers this is an advanced credential that goes beyond state licensure, (and is often accepted in place of a Master’s Degree). Less than 5% of all teachers nationwide have National Board Certification. The process is rigorous and I almost quit after a few setbacks.

However, I stuck with it and didn’t give up. I’m proud to say I found out this weekend that all my hard work has paid off – I am a National Board Certified Teacher!

Like a dork, I put those little letters – NBCT – after my name within in a hour of receiving my scores. In my real-life, day job, this is huge and it’s still sinking in.

In my writing life, slow and steady progress continues. I participated in #PitMad on Twitter earlier this month and actually got a hit! An editor liked my pitch and requested a full manuscript. That’s the furthest I’ve ever made it in the query process. It still may end up as a rejection, but I’m still taking it as a victory for the simple fact that I’ve reached that mythical step of a manuscript request.

After a Top Ten Finish in the 2016 November PAD Challenge (via Poetic Asides and Writer’s Digest), I rode the momentum wave and created a chapbook for the 2017 competition. I’m in the final editing stages and will be submitting it within the next week or so.

With Winter Break approaching, I’ll be making the most of all this momentum. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2017

Plugging Along

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Summer’s reprieve from the day job leaves me with a lot of time to relax (which I desperately need no matter how much I try to deny it) and dig into the To Do List I created instead of New Year’s Resolutions. As with all lists, some items are easier than others!

Item #1 Declutter

It’s a work in progress, but I have made some headway. Two out of three closets at home are cleared and so is most of the junk I was hoarding in my classroom. I’m pretty sure my colleagues thought I was losing my mind – I tossed out an entire three-drawer file cabinet of handouts and folders, (all for classes I no longer teach). Then, I got rid of a ton of stuff from my supply cabinets, bookshelves, and office storage area.

However, what I’m most proud of is thinning out my Barbie collection. I’ve been collecting for most of my life, which lead to amassing more than 120 dolls and accessories. To say I’m attached to them is an understatement. Yet, I realized that my preferences as a collector have changed, so I sold or gave away 24 dolls and there are more I’m looking to clear out. It was surprisingly easy to do once I made the choice to let them go.

I still haven’t touched the DVD or CD shelf. Yikes – they are pretty daunting.

My writing area is better, but not organized. Everything is in a box until I decide what to do with all the shelving units in the guest room.

Item #2: Publish Something

I’ve made some good headway on this front, too. The summer actually started with a piece of fan mail from an avid reader of my poetry blog, Haiku Tree. She wanted to know if I had any books out and that gave me quite the boost to work on my chapbook! So far, I have 75 haikus selected from my journals. The goal is to get to 100, so I’m getting close. I’m writing all new pieces for the last 25.

Last month, I attended a query package workshop at Phoenix Comicon. It ended up being the kick in the pants I needed. I rewrote my query letter, cranked out a synopsis, and compiled a new list of agents. This week, I started putting together query packages with all my new materials for each agent on my list. While the sting of rejection is imminent, I’m jumping in head first. Let’s do this!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

I’m right on track according to Goodreads! At the moment, I am reading Book #17.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

Done. I’m still alive. I finished the final component last month, but I won’t know until November or December if I scored high enough to be certified. Fingers crossed!

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

Working on it. Being away from the day job is helping, but finding my mojo after such a stressful year has been challenging. I’m using some of my summer time to rediscover all the things I gave up during the school year.

One thing is certain, when the school year starts up again, I am determined to protect myself and my time.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

This is delayed. The furbaby needs a lot of special care. If that means staying home, then I’m staying home for the time being. Meanwhile, I will be planning a future adventure! I finally sent my application to renew my passport.

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How are your goals To Do List items going?

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c.b.w. 2017

To Do List: 2017

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I hesitate to make so-called resolutions, but I do love a good to-do list. Instead of making the oh so predictable list of goals for the year, I’m going to dig through the list of things in my head I keep meaning to do. These are things that keep piling up thanks to life getting in the way or they are simply forgotten in the cluttered mess that is my head.

Item #1: Declutter

Give the state of my head, this one makes sense! However, the clutter in my head is only part of the problem. The house is cluttered, My classroom is cluttered. The past is cluttered.

The last one is probably why everything else in my life is full of just too much. After four years of many personal losses, it’s been hard to let things go. The fact that I have awareness and understanding of this fact is why I’m now able to move forward. I no longer need to hold onto so many things to feel anchored. I can let go.

The following areas are where I’m focusing my energy:

Shelves

  • Bookshelves throughout the house. This is actually where I started. On January 1, I cleared out close to 150 books.
  • DVD shelf – we have almost 1,000 DVDs. There’s no way we need that many. Clearly, we love TV and Movies, but I know there are quite a few duds on the shelf!
  • CD Shelf – Same deal as the DVD shelf. There is some weird stuff on this shelf and it’s time to sift out the duds.

Closets: There’s too much of just about everything: blankets, sheets, clothes, shoes, etc.

  • master closet
  • linen closet
  • hobby closet

Hobby/Guest Room

  • Multiple shelves jammed with stuff (not even sure what)
  • Barbie Collection – I have close to a hundred dolls, but I want the collection to be more streamlined to reflect my love of vintage and vintage-look dolls. So far, I’ve pulled 21 dolls to give away or sell. 

Writing Area

  • One of the biggest culprits of clutter are old journals, multiple novel drafts, and writing reference books. A lot of this comes from figuring out who I am as a writer. I’ve figured it out and now it’s time to sort through the paper trail and discard what no longer matters, (i.e. rough drafts, journals full of scribbles).

Classroom

  • Supply closet – OMG. So much stuff has landed here over 17 years.
  • Storage area in department office – started this last year, but more work needs to be done

Item #2: Publish Something

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written over a thousand haiku. I think it’s about time to put together a chapbook or two! I’m probably going to self-publish using a digital platform. There are so many options out there, many of which are free, so I don’t have much of an excuse not to do this!

The same goes for my novel. I’m going to get back into the game of sending out query packages, but I’m also going to dig deeper into research regarding self-publishing outlets. It’s time to get this done!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

As I have for the last five years, I’ve once again joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

The road to National Board Certification has been brutal. It is not fun navigating a newly rolled out process because there are so many unknowns. Previously certified teachers can’t really help, nor can the coaches. I have one more component to finish and hopefully it will be enough to not only survive, but achieve National Board Certification.

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

I need to eat better, sleep better, and leave more stress at the door. I let the day job invade much too large of a space in my life and it’s time to push it back to where it belongs: at work.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

I miss traveling. It’s time for another adventure. 🙂

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What’s on your To Do List for 2017?

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c.b.w. 2017

The Great Crochet Adventure

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The last time I tried to crochet, it did not go well. My mother tried to teach me how to make a granny square, but we quickly realized a right hander teaching a left hander is beyond tricky. On top of that, I had no real basis of understanding how crochet works, so a granny square was probably way beyond my skill level.

I was going to let crochet go until I decided to launch a major project at work. In response to students wanting to learn how to knit (several come to see me for help) and craft in general, I am organizing an after school program that teaches students crafting skills. In addition, our little collective is going to have a community service component. Some of what we make will go to charitable organizations. We’re going to make and donate everything from chemo caps to kennel blankets!

In the midst of organizing everything, I found out a lot of kids want to learn how to crochet. Yikes! It’s kind of hard to teach them how to crochet when I don’t have a clue. So, last week I set upon teaching myself some basic skills – things like how to hold the hook, the yarn, and some basic stitches.

Due to a weekend of no internet, I ended up teaching myself using an ancient Reader’s Digest book, The Complete Guide to Needlework. The pictures weren’t the best, but it was enough to get me started. Seeing as the last time my left-handedness was a major obstacle, I decided to try learning right-handed. After several hours of epic failure – my right hand was fighting me the whole way – I finally managed to make a little 4×4″ swatch using a single crochet stitch.

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Hooray!! The little victories are the best, aren’t they?

Emboldened by my tiny success, I decided to make a set of coasters as a means to practice the single crochet stitch and to find my groove in holding the hook and the work yarn. Like knitting, there is a method and rhythm to manipulating both the hook and yarn.

Just like the first go around, there was plenty of failure, (and hand cramping – my right hand does not like all this work!), but the repetitive nature of the project paid off. I ended up with a cute set of coasters and the “groove” is falling into place. My fingers are naturally finding their grip on the hook and I’m finally able to regulate tension on the yarn without overthinking it.

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Not bad for a few hours of self-instruction. Sometimes you just have to jump in and do it! Even if failure is a given. I’m not a genius at crochet, but I’ve at least got enough to be able to teach students the basics. As I learn, so will they. If anything we can laugh at our mistakes and cheer our victories together.

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c.b.w. 2016