Best Self

After a crazy first week back to school in 2022 with ice days and snow days, we finally had a full week of school. A perfect time to refresh students minds of rules and expectations AND show them a new tool they can use. This tool is a Meta-Moment (a part of our RULER curriculum).

So last week I started out having students think about their best self. What would you be feeling if you were your best self? What might you be doing? After thinking of several examples I took it a step further… what might happen to cause you to act in a way that is not your best self? What would that look like? What feelings would you have? What about others?

After a great conversation I shared with this class the poster below of the steps to take when taking a Meta-Moment. We discussed it. We acted out some scenarios. As I looked around the room I thought, “Wow! They’re getting it. At least most of them. James in the back row hasn’t said a word though. I wonder if he’s not paying attention or deep in thought. I made a note to myself to check in with James later.

As we are finishing up our discussion a student runs into the classroom interrupting and shouting, “Nancy!! I have you’re play phone. You left it at my house.”

Without thinking I turn to the door and say sternly, “Patty, go try that again,” pointing to the door. As I turn back to the class to finish our discussion on a Meta-Moment I see James’ hand raised and call on him.

“Ms. W. You forgot to take a Meta-Moment just now. Remember… think about your best self. Breath. How can you talk to Patty differently?”

“You’re absolutely right, James. That’s how easy it is to forget and why we must practice. Thanks for the reminder.”

Guess he was paying attention and soaking it all in! I’ll need to remind myself of this lesson too!

meta moment

Simplify

Several years ago around Thanksgiving my friend Jenna suggested I participate in what’s called the Holiday Council. It’s a three week journey in December of reflecting, thinking and planning about the year that passed and the year ahead. One of the final results of the Holiday Council was choosing a word of the year. A word to live by. Over the years I’ve participated I’ve chosen the words Joy, Embrace, Connect, and most recently, Emerge.

This year though I decided to do the work on my own and not join the group. I spent some time thinking about 2021. How did the word Emerge treat me? Did I achieve the goals I wanted to? How was the year overall? Then it was time to think about the year ahead, 2022.

During a conversation with my sister, she pointed out that I overthink… everything! “I don’t know how you sleep at night with all the thinking you do! You must be exhausted,” Tori proclaimed during a discussion of what I should wear. She’s right. I do. I overthink what to wear, where to go, what to do, if I like someone or not, if I should say yes or no to an invite. The list can go on and on. It takes away from just living in the moment. I’m even overthinking my word for 2022 I’m sure.

After the conversation I thought some more. I asked some friends and family their thoughts. And lo and behold my sister helped me come up with a word for this year. I’ve been living with it now for about a week. So far it’s fitting. I’m making decisions a little bit faster. I’m feeling slightly more sure of myself. I’m focusing on the moment.

So here it goes, no more overthinking my word choice (after all it can always change)…

My word for 2022 is SIMPLIFY!

Movies

When was the last time you had hot buttery popcorn?

When was the last time you had a cold soda?

When was the last time you sat back and enjoyed a movie at the movie theater?

For most it’s been a LONG time. For my friends who moved to California last year from Boston around this time it has been a VERY long time. In fact, so long that when they were packing last year and found they had 2 coupons for a theater that they didn’t believe would be on the west coast they gave them to me.

Now if you know me you know I am really bad at spending gift cards. I probably have 10+ cards in my purse at any given time (most from stores I frequent often but forget to use). But I accepted these coupons for a free movie and added them to my collection.

Surprisingly though last week when my parents and I decided to go to the movie theater I did remember. They dug through my purse and found them tucked between Marshalls and Target gift cards. There was no expiration date or bar code to scan on them but why not give it a try?! And to all our surprise the coupons actually still worked (with a little help from a manger because the high schooler didn’t know how to add a coupon with no bar code).

We were 3 of 9 in the whole, spacious auditorium. So we sat back with our masks and enjoyed! I highly recommend it… not matter what movie you choose.

Puzzled

“You expect me to do a 1,000 piece puzzle ALL BY MYSELF?” I ask Katie in confusion. “1,000 pieces is a heck of a lot of pieces for 1 person to do. And it’s a Christmas puzzle! You’ll be lucky if I finish it by my birthday! But thank you for thinking of me while I’m stuck in my house!”

But the next day, I can’t help it, I pour open the contents of the box and get to work. As the pieces spread out over my kitchen table I notice there are letters on the back of each piece. I’ve never seen a puzzle like this before. Is it cheating to use the letters?

I take a deep breath and dive in. “Alexa, turn on some Christmas music,” I say as I start to get in the groove. I separate the edges from the rest of the group and start to put them together. I puzzle for hours. One by one until the whole perimeter is done…well mostly. I can’t find any more pieces for the outside BUT the top just won’t connect. Oh well! I’m done for today! I’ll figure that out tomorrow!

While the teapot is boiling… I add a few pieces.

While I’m talking to a friend on the phone… I add a few pieces.

I work on the puzzle for several days. First figuring out the “Merry Christmas” section. Then the snowman and Santa. The tree and reindeer are next. By then about one third of the tree is finished… but the top still won’t connect. What the heck?!?! What am I missing. I look at each piece one at a time. Maybe I messed up on something up there. The more I look the more frustrated I become.

The one morning I wake up saying to myself, “I’m just going to check the back. Forget it if that’s cheating. The perimeter needs to finally be put together!” I flip it over section by section and of course quickly find the 2 pieces out of place. Once moved, the perimeter is complete and I can continue puzzling.

While dinner is in the stove… I add a few pieces.

When I’m waiting for a friend to call… I add a few pieces.

Now I’m slightly hooked though on checking out the letters. If I put all the A’s together in a pile, and all the D’s in their own pile, etc it’ll be easier, I think to myself. But is that cheating?! After this eternal debate though I come to the conclusion… If I’m ever going to finish this puzzle (especially for Christmas) I’m going to need those letters.

And sure enough. 9 days later I shoot off a text message (with picture)… “It’s a Christmas Miracle! The puzzle is complete!” What an accomplishment!

If you’ve never done a puzzle this way… I highly recommend it!

Silver Linings

I’ve spent the past week thinking of silver linings…

I am comfortable being home on my couch (which is new for me).

I’m away from the hoopla and stress of the week before school break.

I have the time to Zoom with friends from the west coast for hours!

My team mates are amazing and so helpful!

My family and friends are amazing with texts and phone calls.

My doorbell rings with cookies, books and other fun treats that make me smile.

The self-paced grad class I am taking will actually be finished before the new year.

The books that I kept falling asleep to are actually excellent.

The beach/water is a wonderful place to live by…even in the cold.

I will see my family on Christmas.

It’s the positivity and silver linings that help when things are less than ideal. I’d say I have a lot of that going for me right now and I’m very thankful for that!

Crafts

“The people who run a school are the custodians and secretaries,” Aunt Roo always used to say. “Be nice to them!… Always!”

Hence the tradition of crafting with Donna Dear started when I got my first teaching job. We start at Thanksgiving (if not sooner) scheming. Scouring the internet for ideas. Searching our cabinets for items we could use or reuse. Text messages fly between us to share what we find.

Soap? Hot chocolate bombs? Carmel? Lip balm? Bread? Pinecone trees?

The day finally arrives. We’ll start out with one idea. It’ll turn in to 10 others. There will be some yelling and some mess ups. There will be a call for help to a cousin, sister or mom. Donna will eventually say, “We need to bring it altogether.”

In the end, are the crafts we make amazing? Probably not Etsy worthy but we certainly have fun planning, executing and delivering them.

The joy of the holiday season. What will we think of next?

Stink

I’m getting ready for work and decide to actually wash my breakfast dishes. When I approach the sink I feel something land in my socked toes. That’s strange. Keep washing!

A moment later I push back from the sink, done with my bowl and mug. I look down.

“Ahhhhhhh. Get it. A bug on my foot,” I shout.

My mom, standing next to me looks down. “Gross!” Without blinking and eye though so grabs the cardboard garbage bag box and scoops the stink bug off my socked foot and gets rid of it. “Where did that come from?”

“Yuck! Yuck! Yuck!,” I say. “It must have been perched up there,” I say pointing to the underside of the cabinet. “Good thing I felt it or it would have been stuck in my shoe all day,” I groan with a shiver.

“Good thing!”

Who knew?!

Last week my class was tasked with the job of turning one of their earlier nonfiction pieces into a new one. After being shown several examples of formats they went off to give it a try. Some made their writing into a series of questions and answers. Others wrote as if they were that place or thing. One or two tried their hand at writing a nonfiction poem. But most I’d say tried, what I think is rather tricky, a graphic novel format.

We gathered to share the day before Thanksgiving and I was very surprised. They had taken their basic All About or How To books and completely changed them. Did I teach them how to do that? Or did just reading and referring back to the mentor text help? Had they conferred with a writing partner? Where did they come up with all the information as well?

As we came to the end of our share time I sat next to F and E to listen in and was brought to tears laughing. F had missed the direction to take an old piece of writing and change it. Instead he was writing a graphic novel about me! And let me tell you… a lot of it was news to me.

Who knew?! I guess a reminder about nonfiction is needed… or at the very least the facts about me.

Conferences

It’s nerve wrecking having parent/teacher conferences. But even more so when you really don’t know the parents.

This year I barely had any interaction with the parents until now. We waved or said a very brief hello on Meet the Teacher day. They saw me on a screen for Back to School Night. Maybe we’ve had a quick phone call or PPT. But really we haven’t met.

Last week that streak was broken over 2 desks pushed together. We (parents and I) sat down and talked. We talked about the children and our hopes and dreams for them. We talked about ourselves and our holiday plans. I think most of all though we smiled and let out a “finally” breath.

“I hope to see you in person again real soon,” I said as each parent left… and I meant it.

Impromptu Brunch

“Will you be in town for Thanksgiving to catch up over a walk, coffee, drink whatever?” I texted my longtime childhood (twin) friend Erin.

I waited and waited for a response. Nothing.

Saturday night the response came. “We will be and should definitely do something. But I’m actually in town tonight too. Any chance you want to grab brunch tomorrow before I head back to New Jersey?”

And so we did!

We talked and ate.

We laughed.

We reminisced.

We caught up.

We talked and ate some more.

After 2 and a half hours forced ourselves to leave… with the promise to get together over the holiday.