The Four Agreements

Don Miguel Ruiz's Four Agreements Applied to Higher Ed. Leadership — Dr.  Audrey Reille

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom was a book I read many years ago. I enjoyed it so much my husband and I used it during one of our Marriage Enrichment courses. I only started reading the book after seeing it as a recommendation on Pinterest but the four agreements have been instrumental in my personal and professional life.

In Ruiz’ book, he states, “children do not know any better than to agree with the adult realities into which they are indoctrinated.” He goes on to say, “Children have no choice but to agree.” “But as we mature, we can become warriors, breaking free from the shackles of agreements with our implanted, false ideas. We can accept healthier agreements.”

As I sit and read blogs, scroll this social media and watch teenagers and young adults in action I am seeing the words of Ruiz’ come to life. This generation is respectfully setting boundaries with the adults in their lives and definitely moving away from ideas that have been ingrained in their minds. They are no longer doing things because “that’s what we’ve always done”. Ruiz has set a standard and teenagers and adults alike are becoming healthier, happier people.

  1. Be Impeccable With Your Word – Speak with integrity. Say what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak out against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love. – This is the part that offends most people. The truth does hurt. Most people see the truth as an act of pain instead of an act of progress. We don’t want to be corrected. We are afraid to correct ourselves because people will know we made a mistake. Stay encouraged, speak life into yourself and learn to speak life into others.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally – Nothing others do is because if you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. – We are quick to tell someone, “Do You” until it doesn’t benefit us or go along with our narrative. We must learn to accept peoples’ realities and respect their views and opinions. What they choose to do has little to do with me. Even when it impacts me, their decisions were for their welfare.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. – Communication is key in any relationship. Often we look for clues and make hints so we can draw our own conclusions. Making assumptions stops progress. When we make assumptions, we misunderstand, we take it personally and then we react, typically negatively. Ask for what you need, even information.
  4. Always Do Your Best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. – This is a learning lesson for many. I have to tell myself daily, “You gave your best.” In working with students, they become easily frustrated when things don’t turn out the way they expect them to turn out. This is especially true of athletes. My question is always, “Did you try your best?” or “Did you give the best you had today?” And I end the conversation.

Do you practice any of these agreements? Are you living life on your own terms? I am learning to free myself of the past and live life on my own terms. I encourage you to find the emotional, mental and physical freedom that allows you to be true to you.

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I Am Amazing!

The last day of school for the 2021-21 school year has arrived and to say I am relieved is an understatement. As I woke up in preparation for the day and arrived tardy to work, I had to keep reminding myself I survived the school year. I pulled through the toughest year in my 25 years of being an educator. In addition to the mental and emotional turmoil, I decided to break the rules and stand on a chair which caused me a little bit of physical pain as well. But in the midst of it all, I gave myself a pep talk, put on my end of year attire and limped into work with a smile on my face. I thought about all the things I endured this year but then decided to shift my focus to all the things I accomplished this year.

We were one of the school districts that tried the hybrid model. I taught online students and face to face students and sometimes their sessions overlapped. I teach students with special needs so think of the disadvantages for all parties that engaged. However, all of my students still had a fulfilling school year, they were able to show progress and their confidence increased.

I was tasked with having two of the most difficult students on campus, one on my caseload, one in my class. Both of these students had been to a minimum of four schools prior to coming to our happy place. Both of them managed to make it through an entire year of academia at one school, for the first time in their lives. We were able to build relationships with the students and develop their social and behavioral skills.

We thought we were losing team members but after a retirement announcement we managed to keep our team together. Many of us had to shift roles, but at least we get to continue growing together as one. Adding two new teachers to the team this year and possibly having to see them leave so soon was a bomber. So, we were elated to keep The Little Rascals together.

My evaluation, as always, exceeded expectations. I am very passionate about what I do so I generally don’t care about evaluations but to have my efforts acknowledged in written form was a highlight for this year. Many leaders do what’s necessary to get the job completed but don’t find time to encourage their teachers. So stating the obvious and having it noted in my file was a remarkable gift.

Last but not least, people, the kind words and acknowledgements I received for doing double duties and being names Teacher of the Year were heartfelt. Every day someone came by to extend a considerate gesture from a word of confirmation to small snacks to Happy Hour invites. This year really helped the bond in our school community.

As I prepare to walk out the door for a much needed break, I wanted to focus on the good times. I wanted to remember all the things that went well. I needed to release everything that drained me. As a leave I am reminded I am good enough, smart enough and strong enough. I am amazing!

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Do You

“Do what is best for your family, not what others will approve of.”

One of the most challenging tasks as a wife and a mother has been to do what is best for my family, not what I was conditioned to do growing up. Many of the women in my family frown when they realize I don’t iron my husband’s clothes or fix his plate or even better, I don’t hide the bags from my shopping sprees. They look at me with a side eye when they recognize I don’t know all of my son’s friends but I still allow him to visit and hang out. Heaven forbid the idea of sharing my thoughts and ideas with my therapist because what happens in your house should stay in your house.

Very early in my marriage my husband mistakenly thought I would do the things he saw my mother and his grandmother doing such as fixing their husbands’ plates or ironing their clothes for work. For years I refused with no explanation. Then one day I shared with him why I was opposed to these things. His grandmother did not work and when she did, she worked minimal hours. Therefore, she was not coming home exhausted everyday. His grandparents also had defined roles, His grandfather was the sole provider for the family and his grandmother was the caregiver and responsible for maintaining the household. We were not in that space so that didn’t work for us. In my household, my mother would fix my father’s plate unless she was mad at him, and on those days we, the kids, were made to fix it. I didn’t sign up for that task and would begrudgingly do it. Therefore, I grew up with a negative connotation of fixing plates. Because the concept never had a positive association, it was a “no” for me.

When I became a wife and I wanted to shop, I absolutely refused to hide the bags. I felt like I had gone to work and was worthy of rewarding myself. How dare I hide the shopping bags and suggest I didn’t find myself worthy enough of treating myself? I’m at a point now where I encourage women to show their husbands their shopping habits, as long as their spending is within their means. Show him how to treat you and honor you so when he wants to surprise you with a nice gift, he’ll know exactly what you like.

As kids, how many of us lied and said we were spending time with one friend when actually we were somewhere with a friend our parents didn’t know existed? Because of my own past, I don’t find it necessary to know everything about my son’s friends. However, he feels safe enough to tell me exactly where he’s going. Based on some of the things I did in the past, I could have come of missing because I lied about going with one friend that my parents knew and adored when actuality I was with a group of rugrats.

What are some things you saw growing up that you didn’t agree with so you had to adapt? Why do people still think certain things are customary and must be done in families? Do you always make your kids go to family functions with you? Does every member of the family have to eat dinner at the same time? Are their gender defined roles in your home? Share your thoughts below.

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Be All That You Can Be

“Be the mom you needed when you were growing up.”

As a child, I don’t believe we are fully aware of what we need from our mothers. We find comfort in having a place to stay, food to eat, clothes to wear and a selection of things we enjoy such as books and toys. As long as we’re functional, many of us fail to identify the things that are atypical because our lives look better than others. As a result, we grow up in complete dysfunction without realizing it.

Discipline was big in our household and it came in the form of a licking. Everything we did wrong was corrected with a belt and it took me years to understand this was not correction, this was abuse. Because I thought I turned out to be a decent human being, I believed this type of discipline was necessary. It showed “you were running the show” and you demanded respect. Luckily I learned early you can help your child make adjustments with a conversation or other forms of teaching. As a mother, I never spanked my child for a first time offense. I figured the problem could be rectified by talking about it. And by middle school, I figured loss of privileges was sufficient enough punishment. As a result, my son became comfortable with acknowledging many of his mistakes because he knew he wouldn’t be tormented for living and learning.

Say encouraging words. As mentioned in a previous post, my mom showed up for every event but never said an encouraging word. She never said anything motivational or gave me a pat on the back to suggest a job well done. But remember, I was punished for everything I did wrong. So, I went through life striving for perfection when the only thing in my reach was excellence. Nothing I did was ever good enough because my mom didn’t tell me it was good enough. With everything my child does, no matter how poorly he might perform, I find something to highlight. As a college student-athlete, he still seeks me in hope of being uplifted when he’s not at his best. He understands there are good days and bad days but every day he rises he has another chance to get to get it right.

Take care of you. This might sound selfish but we’ve heard the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” My mom did so much with us, she never learned how to live a life of her own. Now that we’re adults, she still tries to control aspects of our lives. She still tries to take care of us although she struggles to manage her own affairs. As much as I want to do every little thing for my son, I have to pause and do things that are necessary for my sanity. This helps me give my son the best that I have.

Be a family. Other than a few outdoor activities together, which was usually someone’s sporting event, we were six different people living under one roof. Children had no say in any household decisions. We didn’t pay bills so we didn’t have opinions that needed to be shared. Family decisions were made by two people. Children were to be seen and not heard. We, my husband and I, encourage our son to have input on many things in our household. As he has gotten older, this has helped him with his decision making process as a young adult.

These are just a few things that have helped in my development as a mother and in my son’s growth. I’m glad I realized as much as I appreciated my mom, I didn’t agree with much of her parenting. The changes have been beneficial to every member in my household. And while, I’m not perfect, I know I’m striving to do right by the gift I’ve been blessed with. What are some privileges you’ve given your child that you didn’t have? What did you find to be the benefit? Or, did you raise your child the exact same way you were raised?

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Trust and Believe

“I hope you believe in yourself as much as they believe in you, I hope you trust yourself as much as they trust you, and I hope you love yourself, as much as they love you.”

Being a parent has been one of the most rewarding feats in my life. I recall being an expectant parent, thinking at the age of 27 I was too young to have a child and then feeling very afraid that I would fail at parenting and nurturing a child. I thought I needed more babysitting experience or more time working with my “school children” to gain more capabilities to become a fit mother. While carrying my child, I searched for parenting manuals and books to help me understand what I needed to do to “get it right”. And then I realized most parents are just winging it.

One of the first things I learned is that no matter how many mistakes I made as a parent, I had to pick up the pieces and try again. There was a little one looking to me for guidance and protection. More importantly, there was a little one needing me to love with everything in me. I had to grasp the idea that children truly watch their parents and emulate their behaviors. This forced me to appear strong on days when I was weary. Pretending became the norm for me. From pretending I had the concept of breast feeding to pretending I understood everything there was to know about schooling and the curriculum that went along with it. And in the midst of this, I recognized my child was hanging on to every word, as if what I said was golden.

Because my child believed in me, I had to learn to believe in myself. I had to learn to trust who I was, Whose I was and remember all that I was capable of doing. I loved myself even on those days I didn’t think I was worthy of love because I knew it was the only way to love my son unconditionally. I couldn’t put out something that wasn’t in me.

As my child has grown into a young adult, I can definitely say I am proud of the young man I have sent out into the world. I’ve learned to apologize, own up to my faults (most of them) and more importantly, ask for forgiveness while forgiving myself. If anyone thinks this parenting job is easy and only for 18 years, they don’t have a clue. It will forever be a process for me because I won’t stop until I become the mom I needed and/or wanted when I was younger.

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Is Kindness Overrated?

Kindness – the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate

Growing up I was taught to be kind to others. We were told to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We learned to turn the other cheek. We were groomed to not give in to people’s antics and give them the power to shift who we were and who we were striving to be. “Don’t give them the power to anger you.”, they said. “Kill them with kindness.” But, is kindness really the answer to everything?

When thinking of kindness and the acts associated with being kind, the one thing that is left out is that kindness requires you to do favors and be one of selflessness. Constantly being kind is draining and it can turn you into a “yes ma’am/sir” type of person when you would really want to be a, “HELL NO!” type of gal.

There is power in kindness. Being kind has the ability to inspire others. Kindness has been shown to increase self-esteem, empathy and compassion. But kindness can be seen as a sign of weakness. It’s a gift that is often exploited. Takers will take as long as givers give. And in the end, one’s kindness is easily taken for granted.

People that are kind rarely ask for help because they’re always helping others. Being kind often takes away your time and resources, and you can’t properly take care of yourself mentally or physically. More often than not, you end up burnt out.

So is it worth putting your own health in jeopardy in an effort to care for others. Is your self-worth attached to your willingness to be caring and considerate? Is it a necessity to feel needed? Why is being kind so important? If I take care of me and I’m not being ill-mannered towards you, is that not enough? Let’s start by being kind to ourselves so we can honestly and sincerely become more loving and affectionate towards others. Let’s learn to respond to others out of love instead of obligation.

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Straight to the Point

She believed she could so she did. And, she has no intentions of stopping.

Just a friendly reminder today, if you want it, it’s yours to have.

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Home Sweet Home

April has arrived and we have many reasons to celebrate. The winter chill is fading and the days are getting longer. April appeared and with it came April Fool’s Day, Easter and Autism Awareness Month. For me, as a parent, April brought the beginning of the end of my son’s first year of college. As the weeks start to wind down, the reality of him coming home for approximately four months is starting to set in. Because he chose a college more than a few miles away, he has not been able to travel home as frequently as I would have liked. However, he was home for the Thanksgiving/Christmas Break and during that four week period, every member of our household realized how much had changed in a short period of time. As parents, we want out children to stay kids. While they stay our children for eternity, they can’t remain kids forever.

One of the first things we noticed during the Winter Break is that our son had outgrown us and our antics. He didn’t want to play games/cards with us, he didn’t want to go to the Sno Cone Hut and he was not trying to watch TV as a family. It didn’t take long for us to realize he had become accustomed to his independence and was ready to head back down the road.

As we prepare for an even longer stay, there are things I’ve had to learn as a parent and things he will have to adjust to as a young adult. For starters, if he’s not home, we don’t ask his whereabouts, we just ask if he’s okay. More than likely he will tell us where he is or where he’s going, but he has that option. Because he’s outgrown most of his high school friends, his trips include the drive thru for food and the grocery store. Regardless, our only question is, “Are you okay?” We have to trust that he’s going to make responsible decisions.

The second thing I’ve learned or had to reprogram myself to do is close the door. Every person in the household needs some level of privacy. Everybody has been in their own space ad we all had to adjust to respecting the personal space of each other. Immediately after my son packed his last bag in the trunk, we stopped closing doors. Imagine walking in and seeing your mom bare. In his mind, the door should have been closed unless I was clothed. And, I concur.

Accountability and responsibility is a must. I’ve always shared with my son he could not sit around the house all summer and do nothing. For years our summers were consumed with basketball and track. This summer he has to get a job. I don’t think it’s acceptable to have a young man sitting around the house all day without responsibilities. I have sheltered him from the storm in the past but it’s time for him to go out and earn his own coins so he can better learn to appreciate ours. Not that he takes things for granted, but you spend your own money differently.

Without putting too much pressure on him, he’s going to once again be tasked with household chores. He did NOTHING during the Winter Break and I found myself constantly fussing about the dishes in the sink overnight (that were placed there after the kitchen was cleaned) or the excessive pile of laundry. We gave him a break but you must maintain your space and be mindful of the fact that we like a clean house. If he were in his own space, he would clean his house. So, since this is his temporary living arrangement, he has to help with the maintenance.

For those momma’s that have watched their babies leave and then return home, what were some of the adjustments you had to make? How did you cope?

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The Problem in Education – Why People Leave?

Top 6 career options for teachers who are tired of the classroom

This has been a very unique school year for educators and students across the nation. Since March 2020, we have tried virtual teaching, face to face learning and hybrid models and none have been effective. More students are failing and the lack of parental support has become more pronounced. At the conclusion of this school year. many educators will walk away from this profession. Some will say it was because of the difficulty and demands of dealing with Covid. Some will say it’s because parents have failed in their roles and teachers don’t want to take on the task of dealing with students that have been at home for an extended period of time. The reality of it is teachers are going to walk away due to the stress that comes along with teaching. Teachers are stressed for a variety of reasons and many of those reasons will cause us to continue to have a shortage of teachers.

One of the top reasons teachers leave the profession is because the work and pay don’t equate. Teachers are required to plan, complete morning duty, afternoon duty, lunch duty and recess duty. They have to grade papers, write lesson plans, clean the classroom, make copies and then handle discipline. Very seldom do teachers have a full lunch and I can almost assure you few leave work at the designated time. Teachers have staff development, trainings, team meetings and are typically not compensated for anything extra. Most of it falls under “other duties as assigned”.

With all that teachers are responsible for doing and the amount of accountability that comes with the job, the level of respect is debilitated. Teachers take the blame for everything. The kids are not doing well in school; it’s the teacher’s fault. The lack of respect is shown every time teachers are denied adequate funds for supplies and preparation to teach the students.

Standardized testing is also tiring. Attending college for four years and never having an opportunity to engage your students and help them discover what is unique and interesting to them is a downer. Standardized testing has taken away so many learning experiences.

More importantly, the emotional toll of being in education is exhausting. Surveys show educators report their mental warfare is not good. When teachers physically leave for the day, they are still mentally and emotionally attached to their students and the demands of the day and the nest day. Many educators feel they never have time off.

After 25 years of teaching, I would have thought I would understand this profession as well as I understand who I am as a person. 25 years later, I’m starting to question this career. Five years ago, I would always say, “I’m good with it because I’m on the down side of this.” Five years later, I’m not good with it and the downside of it has me spiraling downhill. This year has caused me to question if I’ve wasted my time and efforts in this profession. I realize that in order to create and keep academic success, we have to build retention in our teachers. In order for that to happen, the intentions of our partners must change.

Have you done anything today to make an educator smile? Try it because they definitely need it.

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Stay Healthy, Stay Happy

A few months ago, I blogged about my health and some things I wanted to do to improve my fitness as well as my well-being. The doctor recommended I lose five pounds and I ended up gaining 11 so that was a downer for me. While I was disappointed, I wasn’t surprised because I stress eat during the spring semester. Spring is a very busy season that consists of lots of track practices, track meets, year end activities at school and STAAR, STAAR and STAAR. It is during this time I am inconsistent with working out and with me still being uncomfortable with going to the gym, my activities are limited on longer work days and/or practice days. The good thing is I found some resourceful ways to help me create healthier habits.

One of my biggest motivations was joining a group for the month of April that I have to be accountable to. Our campus is participating in a Million Mile Month Challenge and as a team we have to try to walk/run one million miles during the month of April. You are required to set a goal and it tracks your progress daily. Not wanting to disappoint the team has me moving a lot more these days. Between walking during my conference period and after work, I am logging 4-6 miles daily.

In addition to the Million Mile Month Challenge, I am back on track doing challenges through the RunKeeper app. I completed challenges throughout the spring and summer of 2020 and I would push myself to meet the goal every month. I recall having one mile to run to successfully complete a 30 mile challenge and while I didn’t want to do it, I felt I had come too far to quit. RunKeeper sets the challenges and I can accept them if I feel up for the task. This definitely kept me on course with staying active daily. I’m hoping for a repeat in 2021.

One of my biggest fears has been the idea of not being able to get my blood pressure under control. I count calories everyday but it seemed it wasn’t working. I finally started using the Samsung Health app to track more than my daily steps. I’ve started logging my food at the beginning of the day. Because I prep my breakfast and lunch plus my morning and afternoon snack, I can log those food items in the morning. This gives me an idea of how many calories I can acquire and still not exceed the recommended intake by the day’s end. The greatest feature of doing this is the app also highlights my intake of nutrients including protein, fiber, calcium, iron, saturated fat and sodium. This has helped a great deal in understanding why my blood pressure is high and what foods I need to remove from my diet to get back on track. I would have never thought a prepackaged salad bowl had that many grams of sodium in it. And no, I don’t read the packages before buying. Having that resource has opened my eyes.

Needless to say, using the Samsung Health app has me feeling thrilled about the progress I can make in the next 30 days. While the goal is to lose weight and get my blood pressure under control, I realize a lifestyle change is also necessary beyond the 30 days. This process is the beginning and I hope my desires of being healthy and happy continue to grow.

What are some of your fitness ideas and what do you guys do to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

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