Tag Archives: Courage

Why do we blog?

A blog friend recently retired… Or, more likely, decided to step away from blogging for awhile. I both admire and understand his decision. Blogging can become a drain on time. The dopamine released when others comment, like, validate our thoughts has been proven to create online addiction. The instant validation temporarily beats the years we wrestle with other creative projects. And, sometimes, blogging can feel selfish, vain…

Still, I find reasons to stay. Blogging is an instant creative release, the kind of regular writing that makes you into a better writer. It provides a way to practice the craft in short bursts, to get the fingers moving, the mind thinking. It is a window into the real lives of other people I would never meet in my regular world. It is a source of friendship, camaraderie, inspiration. For me, blogging provides a way to be brave, to put myself out there, to stop caring so much what other people think. It is powerful medicine.

Even so, I sometimes feel tempted to do the same thing as my friend, to hit delete or disappear. Sometimes it feels like too much of me out in the world or like a waste of time when I could be doing something more productive. Then I think of blogging as my hobby. I enjoy it. Words help me process the world, connect, live. In that context, it is a much better hobby than many of the alternatives, at least for me. After all, the whole point of having hobbies is to take a break from always having to be productive, right?

What is blogging to you?

Much like riding shotgun while my husband races, blogging was one of those instances in life where I had to push myself to be brave.

I recently pushed myself to ride shotgun with my husband while he raced (his hobby of choice). Blogging is kind of the same thing. Sometimes it feels scary to put myself out there, but I still hold on tight and hit publish, and it gets less scary the more times around the track.

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Things That Grow

A beautiful post from a teacher brave enough to share her students’ stories. Someday I hope to have the courage to follow in her footsteps.

New to the Orleans

A kid had a wadded up piece of newsprint in his pocket today that he was showing other students. It was a photo of his brother that was printed in the Times Picayune with “Second Degree Murder” under it. Brother is being tried for murder. The kid who was showing the photo has been in jail recently for 5 months. Two days before he got out, brother was arrested. And yes, it’s constantly on his mind.

A girl told me today her family lived in 6 places after Katrina before coming back to New Orleans. When they lived in Texas, her little brother burned down an apartment complex they lived in. He was flicking a lighter under the bed and poof, the mattress caught fire. Her mom grabbed the baby “by the Pamper” off the burning bed and they fled.

Another kid shared the line, “Money is a pacifier,” from…

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Week 30: Mrs. M, do you think love sucks?

He used to hide under his desk when I would call on him, afraid to feel the eyes of his neighbors. It would take a few minutes to get a response. He would crawl out, head down, first whisper, mumble, then pause, then try again and again, protesting all the way. Finally, he would accept I was not giving up. We would wait for him. We were a classroom family, a safe place to speak. No opt out.

Now he raises his hand, speaks clearly, participates. Still, I remember those first weeks, months, maybe even that first entire year, so when I see his hand, I almost always stop and let him speak. This week we dissected pop songs to make generalizations about life and determine themes. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” had them singing in unison as they took notes on their whiteboards, ready to defend their generalizations about life from the song.

A debate broke out, was she generalizing that love was bad? We decided songs fell into two camps, either love was grand or it sucked. I used that dreadful suck word for effect. Generally it is not allowed in our classroom, but artistic expression prevailed and it was the word that fit best. One quiet hand in the back row emerged, the boy who finally had a voice.

I nodded, he began timidly. “Mrs. M, do you think love sucks?”

A shy smile spread across his face. He earnestly wanted to know what I thought.

I paused, not sure what to tell him.

“No, I’m married, I think love is great, but I’m sure if I were ever divorced, I may think differently for awhile. I think it just depends on your life experiences.”

He looked a little relieved. I wanted to know what he thought, so I asked.

“I think love sucks.”

My heart twisted a bit, uncertain what experiences brought him to that opinion, the innocence of fifth grade love or something much, much deeper. Still I could not help but feel pride in his voice, his comfort of expression in front of us. It has been a long journey for him, for us, since that first day of fourth grade.

Week 30 is fifth grade 3/4 done. Three weeks until star testing. Two days of Doug Lemov training in Oakland, my heart remembering another life in the bay with Gregory Alan Isakov’s “San Francisco” playing from my car stereo. Inspiration from a room full of 200 educators all dead-set on closing the achievement gap for low-income kids. Role-playing and practice, practice, practice of the smallest teaching techniques, as I fought my own desire to crawl under the table and hide. The deep need to get back to my students, to perfect my practice, to help all students find their voice.

Last night as I drove past my old work on my way to meet a friend, I thought about how much my life has changed in the nearly three years since I quit. A friend from that job resigned yesterday, her excited email pushed my thoughts even further into that past life. It’s almost like a ghost of me still sits up in that shiny building, making a bit more money, but chained to a desk. I could see myself on the crosswalk headed home to our tiny Berkeley apartment. A piece of me is still there. I smiled though, as I drove by– excited by my two days of training, the person I have become since then, stronger and with a much louder voice.

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Monday Words of Wisdom: Be Brave.

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. – Cheryl Strayed, Wild

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If You Need A Reminder

If you need a reminder of how precious life is today, click on these photographs. Not only do they tell the tragic story of a young woman’s fight against breast cancer, but they also show the love and compassion her husband felt for her. These are among the most touching photographs I have ever seen in my life. They capture the smallest details of pain, love, and courage. Each one tells a story.

I feel lucky to be alive, healthy, and ready to spend the day with family. I hope you do, too.

Life

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Vulnerability & the Courage to be Imperfect

Last night I deleted a post because it felt too vulnerable. An hour later, a friend sent me an email with this Ted Talk. Perfect timing, and a great listen.

“{T}he people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging. That’s it. They believe they’re worthy… What they had in common was a sense of courage. And I want to separate courage and bravery for you for a minute. Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others, because, as it turns out, we can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly… The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.” – Brené Brown

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The Girl With the Purple Guitar

Today I have to share one of my favorite moments of my teaching career so far. As a creative alternative to our book report over break, one student asked if she could learn a song from Hunger Games to play for the class. I agreed and she did a beautiful job connecting the lyrics of the song to her reading.

This morning her mom showed up with her guitar in a big box. We weren’t going to present today, but since her guitar was already in class, I let her go as the first and only student for the day. Late in the afternoon, when students are usually too wiggly to sit still, we gathered on the carpet and she pulled out her pretty little purple guitar.

A bundle of nerves, she asked if we could close our eyes. With the sweetest ten-year old voice, she sang Taylor Swift’s “Eyes Open” as she strummed along. The whole class covered their eyes and swayed back and forth, mesmerized. In the middle, she messed up and asked to start over. This time she told everyone they could uncover their eyes. She played the song again, beautifully, with 30 pairs of eyes on her. When she finished, the room erupted in cheers.

It was one of those moments I wish I had on film. So sweet and filled with emotion. I wanted to cry as I watched her. She was so nervous, but she forced herself to be brave and do it anyway. It took at least five years for me to let Alex hear me sing. She sang to a room of ten and eleven year-olds with a presence, grace, and soul uncommon in most adult performers.

I guess you can say I’m glad to be back to work with my students. It always takes a couple days, but I get there.

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Vulnerability & Fitting In

In the same vein as my last post, I’d like to share a link a friend emailed me a few weeks back.  It shares four life lessons that I found to be incredibly well-timed reminders in my own life.  I’ll let the author explain these ideas for herself, but I’m trying to get creative in how to share these ideas with my students and also help myself remember them too.

Here’s to seeking out places to belong instead of trying to fit in with everyone else, remembering to find the important lessons in our inevitable imperfections, and embracing vulnerability as an opportunity for courage!

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Are you afraid to put yourself out there?

This morning I woke up feeling vulnerable.

Putting myself out there on my blog sometimes makes me feel like I’m overexposed.  I told you, I’m an introvert at heart.

Does anyone else ever feel this way?

I started blogging because I wanted space to write and hold myself accountable for writing, but it has grown into much more.  It is now a space that I think through my life, my writing, my challenges as a teacher.  It is a place where I make new connections with like-minded people and strengthen old connections with those I wish I saw more.  It is a way to put myself out there and build a platform in anticipation of publishing my work.

In other words, blogging is increasingly significant to my life.  But, as a result, I also feel increasingly self-aware.  When I share my posts on Facebook, I question myself, wondering whether I’m driving people in my life crazy– “We get it, you have a blog!” I imagine people thinking.  Yet most of my clicks come from sharing my posts on my other social platforms.  Likewise, I’ve been convinced that creating a following is necessary to success as an author.

I know that there will always be voices of self-doubt.  In general, I try not to listen.  I just also wonder if other people feel the same way.  Do you ever feel silly about blogging?  Self-absorbed?  Self-important?  I’m not saying that blogging is any of these things, it just feels this way for me sometimes, maybe because I have a slightly obsessive personality.

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us… It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Even if I full-heartedly agree, it is a hard lesson.  It’s hard to put ourselves out there and not be afraid of our own greatness.  I hate to admit that sometimes I don’t feel that brave.  I really liked this commencement speech that I watched last night.  It reminded me that when all else fails, pretend to know what you’re doing…

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