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.

And so Another Year Ends…

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Originally published on the blog at http://MsWillipedia.com.

As the buses rolled out of the parking lot for the last time this school year, I was so excited to see my school babies go and grow.  Those eighth graders, who entered my classroom a mere nine months ago, who had made me laugh, shake my head in disbelief, and sigh repeatedly, were going on toward their next chapter in life.  I smiled widely.  I felt proud.

I genuinely feel pride toward all students who have moved through my classroom, but having previously worked in a school with a highly-transient population, it felt more challenging to cultivate a true family feeling in each of my classes.  This has been my goal for years, and this year, at my current school, it felt possible.

It seems so cliche’ to say that I am proud of my students, but this group was an extremely unique one.  In all of my years of teaching (admittedly much shorter than those of others at seven years) I had never taught a group of students that were all so mature, driven, hilarious, and felt like my own children on many occasions.  Thanks to our numerous classroom discussions and explorations of written media, my students tried their hands at poetry, article writing, filmmaking, art, and more all with the central focus on English Language Arts.  Thanks to our Genius Hour projects, my students delved headlong into their own interests and shared them with their classmates.  It was such a beautiful experience, and we did Genius Hour twice.

Next year I know will be even better because this group of students, like the ones I have taught before them, have made me a better educator.  Not only were my students open to approaching class differently and trying new lessons, but the relationships I established with each class and with each student have left me with more wisdom, compassion, and awareness than before.  For that I am eternally grateful.

And so another year ends…

Next year, as this year’s eighth graders navigate the halls of their chosen high schools and embark upon their ascent into adulthood, I hope that the lessons they encountered have made them better students.  More importantly, I hope that the experiences they encountered within the walls of ECMS have helped them become better versions of themselves.  In the end, I know that I have become a better version of myself from having met, worked with, and taught all of my students throughout the years and especially this year’s group.