On Feeling Restlessness

As a more relaxed Type A personality, I enjoy having a plan.  I thrive in my plans.  Each year I draft a detailed Classroom Management Plan outlining exactly how I want my classroom to run, the rules, the rewards, etc.  Sometimes I follow the plan.  Other times I do not.  That plan always exists in some varying degree (even if it is a tweaked version of one from a previous year).

Right now I am on summer vacation for two straight months. After spending almost a week at the beach, I am now in retiree country (a.k.a. Central Florida) and I’m feeling restless.

Why?

This summer I have been trying something new.  While I usually immerse myself in Professional Development offerings (as an attendee or facilitator), this year I have opted to travel.  This has been a long time coming and certainly well-deserved.  The time I am spending in Florida is only the first leg of essentially a three-leg U.S. tour.  Of course, I planned a lot of it…and then I didn’t.

Long before my trip I had been working on infusing more mindfulness within my life.  As an educator, I am naturally quite reflective, but I wanted to take the time to reflect and sit still within my thoughts about my being me.  The whole me.  The me beyond the classroom.

My first public school
Caribbean Elementary School: Miami, FL

Great things, opportunities, and stories have arisen from me letting go of the specific details of this trip.  I was able to stay a couple more days in Miami, visit my childhood home, my elementary school, have lunch with my favorite elementary school teacher, have dinner with my surrogate mom and dad (plus sister and nephew who promptly told me that he loved me), and meet up with a wonderful college pal that I hadn’t seen in almost a decade.  It was absolutely fantastic.

Mrs. J. and Me
My first/third grade teacher and me

Right now I am sitting on a couch in my grandparents’ living room, watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals and am coming off the peak of a feeling of restlessness.  In thinking about it, I suppose it stems from a sense of excitement, uncertainty, and wanting to predict/plan the future.  I am really excited about some amazing things happening in my professional life, other wonderful opportunities are making their way to me as well, and I’m traveling to places I have never been (or haven’t seen in years) this summer.  With all of these things, I am having to remind myself that yes, they are all moving in a great direction and that I just need to trust the process of it all.

I remember the first time I constructed a lesson where the students were in control. We were doing a jigsaw of notes, nothing huge, and the students took turns presenting their findings.  It was challenging to let them run the show, but doing so yielded the best results.  The students said thereafter that it was their favorite lesson.  If I hadn’t done that almost seven years ago, I know I would not have had the courage to do Genius Hour not once, but twice this past year.  My students were the designers and facilitators of their own learning for weeks on end and the results (well, a good 90% of them) were superb.  All I had to do was let go of the reins and watch the magic unfold.

So here I am in my grandparents’ living room watching Game 1 of the NBA Finals feeling less restless.  I guess I have to remember that there is much more to be gained from letting go of the reins of life in times like these than to try to plan every moment in an attempt to predict the future.

Trust the Process and Quit Feeling Restless
My personal mantra for years, which has been popping up a lot lately.

Education was my Destiny

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I never intended to become an educator.  In fact, the last thing I thought I would want to become once I became an adult was a teacher.  It wasn’t that I did not value the position as I had amazing teachers throughout my life.  In fact, my high school speech teacher was the first one who in class made me stop to think that perhaps teaching might be fun.  As I entered college, all hints of that idea became deeply buried in my mind like a pair of ankle socks in an over-stuffed laundry basket of ideas for my future.  Even so, becoming part of the education industry was my destiny.

My parents came to the United States as immigrants.  They left comfortable lives at times of political and economical unrest that threatened their lives and parents’ livelihoods.  In doing so, my entrepreneur grandfather, who owned grocery stores in his native Jamaica, reinvented himself as a security guard-turned-grocery store worker and perennial investor in his life here in a country he thought he would never visit.  My grandmother went from life as a stay-at-home mom to that of a hospice worker…and that’s just my dad’s side of the family.  On my mother’s side, my grandmother turned her experience on either side of the Haitian and Dominican borders into a long career as an interpreter.  After all, being on the island of Hispañola, she spoke French and Haitian Creole from life in Haiti and many dialects of Spanish from living in the Dominican Republic.  Upon coming to the United States, she then had to learn English.

My grandparents never stopped learning.  In fact they had to do so in order to survive and provide for their children.  To this day, all three of them continue to add to their skills even though they are well into retirement.

As I write this, I am in Miami, Florida to celebrate the high school graduation of my young cousin Destiny.

This beautiful young lady is such an inspiration to me and is a symbol of my family…both sides of it.  In the face of numerous adversities, she, like those before her (and before me), has accomplished so much in her young life…and this is only the beginning.  I remember one story where she really wanted to try out for cheerleading, but knew her parents couldn’t afford it.  She did all that was necessary to make the squad and worked to fundraise to pay her dues.  Though I am nearly thirteen years her senior, and also a go-getter, her tenacity inspired and motivated me.  It reminded me that obstacles are just a perception shift away from becoming an opportunity.

Life has an amazing way of presenting us with opportunities even when they are under the guise of obstacles.  Through a continual commitment to self-improvement and lifelong learning, no obstacle can ever remain as such.  In this vein, members of my family have become entrepreneurs, earned advanced degrees (my cousin, who is a nurse, has challenged me to see which of us can finish our doctorates first), served our country in the armed forces, escaped domestic violence, and have all continued to learn, grow, adapt, and overcome.

I was destined to become an educator, even when I thought I would become a lawyer, CEO of a multinational corporation, or the next Oprah.  This profession is one where people who have overcome much should walk into classrooms daily to teach and mentor children to see that your education does not end when you cross that stage (at any level) to receive your diploma. One’s true education is ongoing. So, as I make mental plans for next year’s classes, I recognize that my goal, nay job, is really to serve as an example and reminder of a commitment to lifelong learning.  I know not where my career shall take me but I do know this:  I have learned a lot.  I have learned so much that is preparing me for my upcoming phases in life.  I have learned that through continuing to learn, improve, and adapt, I shall be the fullest example of happily living my life.  After all, isn’t that the goal of it all?