Survivor Part II – Teacher Edition

While I’ve never watched Survivor, I definitely understand the premise of the show. With limited options, you must show you are able to fend and provide for yourself. In becoming an educator more than twenty years ago, I don’t recall a single class or contract alluding to the idea that I could possibly have to mirror a contestant on Survivor. Yet, for the past year, that’s how I’ve felt. I feel like I’m on a deserted island trying to figure it out, not only for my sake but for the sake of trusting students that depend on me everyday, if for nothing more than consistency.

This week I watched the news and witnessed students being interviewed. I heard the tales of students feeling defeated and experiencing anxiety more than usual. And then one student complained about a teacher taking four days to respond to her email. That morning I watched my balloon spin across the room as all of the air I had blown into it vanished. I was deflated. I noticed every student being interviewed was attending school virtually while few teachers have that option in most states.

I was bothered because in all my years of being an educator, I have noticed people seem to believe teachers are invincible and have some type of super power that keeps us void of experiencing all the tragedies that others experience. I am sick and tired of fighting for us to be acknowledged as human beings first. The high school student was upset the teacher took four days to respond to an email. Let’s go down the list of reasons it might have taken so long.

  1. The teacher was experiencing health issues. Not necessarily Covid, but we are in the middle of cold and flu season. The teacher needed an opportunity to regroup so he/she could better support the students.
  2. It was a high school teacher. He/She is probably teaching an additional 150 students in addition to the 150 students that are assigned to them under normal circumstances. Your email was just one of hundreds that needed a response.
  3. The teacher probably had a faculty meeting because clearly we don’t have enough meetings at this point. We love being online all day.
  4. The teacher had training for state testing. Because while students were at home, we were still being prepped for this seminal moment that dictates the teacher’s future more than the student’s future.
  5. The teacher has a family. After countless days of logging in early and logging out late because the teacher is not sure if students understand the concept, the teacher decided to focus on what is more important. Or if the teacher has a spouse like me, the spouse said, “Enough is enough. Shut it down.”

These are just a few of the reasons the teacher might not have responded but the list could go on until next week. Too many people have become way too comfortable with being inhumane with regards to educators. These very students have parents at home that could offer a little more support. I’m sure they also have siblings that could provide them with assistance. But the idea that you’ve made it to high school and you don’t have the gumption to try and figure something out after four days behooves me.

As educators we are asked to pivot everyday. We have to transition from online to face to face and vice versa with a snap of a finger. We are living by the motto, “Stay ready so you won’t have to get ready.” Last week all of my face to face students were made to quarantine with the exception of one student. I had to come to work everyday to teach one student while everybody else was expected to receive instruction online. I found out after the students should have been in class, they were not coming and I was supposed to rush and send them an invite although their scheduled time had passed. Let’s not mention, I couldn’t put them on the schedule because their face to face class time overlaps with a virtual class (different content I might add) so access to create a new class was denied. Oh, and did I mention some of the students didn’t have technology so I had to create packets and drop them off to students that had been quarantined? My point…we don’t want to hear it. We’re being put on the front lines everyday and for what? To hear criticism, to never feel appreciated, to have more duties assigned to us.

This is our reality, today and everyday. The next time you hear someone complaining about a teacher, on behalf of me and my fellow educators, encourage them to get over themselves. Please and thank you.

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Am I Good Enough?

Recently an acquaintance of mine posed the question, “Who first told you that you weren’t enough?” Very few people responded and I wondered if it was because most women are embarrassed to say they don’t recognize their worth or have allowed someone to devalue them. One bold young lady replied, “Me!” to the question and that one word held so much power. I did engage and my reply was, ” I honestly don’t think anybody told me. I think the way I was treated in some of my relationships caused me to believe I wasn’t enough.” So in essence my reply was the same as the one other brave soul that took the time to respond.

I’ve recently started to question events and try my best to recall at what point in life did I lose the confidence I had as a budding teenager. The first thing that comes to mind is what I allowed in my first significant relationship. I was a little too forgiving and too understanding. I would allow myself to be mistreated, get fed up and leave the relationship. Because I was the one that walked away, I was also the one that had to humble myself and return. It took months for me to realize I was never walking away, I was being pushed away. However, when I was pushed away for the last time, I think I let some of my pride and dignity get caught on the wrong side of the door.

Another thing that bothers me now is realizing that while my mom was very supportive in attending my events, she never extended encouraging words to me. My mother was at EVERY SINGLE EVENT but I can’t remember a time hearing her say, “Job well done!” or “You are smart.” Through countless honor roll ceremonies, first place standings at track meets, perfect scores on standardized testing and the list goes on, I never heard a positive phrase uttered. My value was, however, attached to my presentation. She would comment on my appearance and make sure I was always neat. Now I understand why I focused so much on the image that was presented to others. For years I would look good on the outside but feel like crap on the inside. I would find myself never satisfied and would buy more clothes, more jewelry, more shoes, just more stuff in general because I was attached to a façade, an illusion.

Probably the most relevant incident I witnessed that has continued to hinder me is how my mom allowed herself to be abused. My mother was abused verbally, mentally and physically, and she stayed. Day after day, week after week, year after year, I found myself drained watching her tattered soul being ripped apart even more. I didn’t understand the “for better or for worse and until death do us part”. If what I saw her encounter is what those vows consisted of, I wanted no parts of it. As a result of the abuse she suffered, her children became her scapegoat. She got revenge by causing more damage to herself and thinking she was hurting her husband. Then she used us by making us keep her secrets because she knew we would never reveal the skeletons in the closet for fear of her being abused again. This behavior taught me to never let my guards down, do unto others before they do it to you, and it also taught me to settle. To keep from dealing with the sizeable offenses, I settled for allowing people to slide with the minor things. No one was using me as a punching bag, I wasn’t getting cussed out so it was all good.

It took me many years to recognize I needed to heal. I am slowly growing more comfortable with who I am again. I am learning to celebrate me with all my flaws. And I’m starting to acknowledge that even if I’m not enough for anybody else, I am more than enough for myself. I don’t have to mistreat people just to make sure they don’t mistreat me. Sad to say, I’m just realizing I don’t even have to interact with people that mistreat me. I have that option. As I move into the next phase of life, I pray God continues to grant me the opportunities to grow into the blossoming flower he designed. Because even in this moment, I am more than enough.

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“Born Under a Bad Sign”

I was born under the zodiac sign Leo which is a fixed sign. Leos are known for stabilization, determination, depth and persistence. While definitely known to get things done, Leos also have some substandard qualities that are quite infuriating to others. Leos are also know to be very rigid, stubborn, opinionated and single-minded. Others might consider us exasperating, I call it balance.

I find it quite funny to hear people say, “Oh, you’re a Leo? Makes sense now.” I’m entertained because I have no clue what that means. What makes sense? The narrative of the Leo you’ve created in your head? Your bad experience during your one encounter with a Leo. I am always amused when I hear what people think of Leos and the crazy myths that are attached to the zodiac sign.

  1. Leos are selfish – Wrong! While Leos like being the center of attention, they will do for others even when they sometimes can’t do for themselves. These are the moments you will never see us seeking the spotlight. We are very reserved when we are helping others in a time of crisis.
  2. Leos aren’t problem-solvers – Wrong again! In an effort to prove we don’t need anyone, Leos will figure things out. Most people might not be in agreement with the way we do things but you better believe, it will get done.
  3. Leos are lazy – Leos like to rest. There’s a difference. We definitely want balance. We are not going to overwork ourselves because society says we have to be the boss. We believe in working hard, playing hard and then sitting down.
  4. Leos are dominating – GUILTY! We like to be in control or have enough influence over people to get things done they way we want it done. We take charge of situations and usually dominate most of our relationships. Leos are natural leaders.
  5. Leos are arrogant – Some call it arrogance, I call it confidence. We definitely value and love ourselves. However, I feel life humbles even the best of us. Therefore, we have a hefty portion of confidence mixed with a healthy dose of humility.

The reality of it is Leos like to bask in the spotlight and celebrate themselves. I agree with most of what is said about Leos and I definitely fit the profile of your typical Leo. What does your zodiac sign say about you? What are some of the myths you hear about people born under your zodiac sign? And do you agree?

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Fragrance Faves

“Scent is the strongest tie to memory.” – Maggie Stiefvater

Am I the only person that attaches scents to moments and people? The first perfume I bought as a college student was Sunflowers by Elizabeth Arden. It was during this time I met my future husband and he absolutely loved the scent. Because Sunflowers is the first remembrance he has of me that is associated with the sense of smell, I keep a bottle of Sunflowers to wear occasionally. No matter how many different fragrances I use, Sunflowers is the one he easily identifies with a quick whiff.

While I keep Sunflowers as a reminder of the beginning stages of my relationship with my husband, I definitely like to update my fragrances. I try to find something new and refreshing every year. I am learning that I truly enjoy fruity aromas. However, in the colder months I try to find a heavier scent. Last year I experimented with a lot of perfumes and at this moment, these are my top five.

  1. Bond No. 1 Central Park West – I’ve tried several Bond No.9 scents and this by far is my favorite. It is very aromatic and long lasting. While Bond. 9 is a pricey fragrance, I find it to be worth the coins spent. It is the ONLY fragrance I’ve used that lasts all day long and this is a scent I enjoy wearing year round.
  2. Tocca Florence – Tocca was something new I tried last year. I purchased a sample set and fell in love with Florence. It is described as a gardenia dominated perfume. I also enjoy it because it has a subtle hint of the odor I associate with Bond No. 9 Central Park West. It’s very light and smells beautiful and is perfect for the spring.
  3. Kilian Princess – This is also a new scent for me. While this scent doesn’t last as long as I would like, the aroma is very sensual to me. In addition to the aroma, the packaging screams enchanting.
  4. Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue – This is my second attempt at this particular fragrance. The first time I tried it, people kept telling me I smelled like a lemon. While it is a fruity-floral scent, the lemon is not what I was going for. I received a few samples and tried it again and started to think I had been duped when making my first purchase of this perfume. It is magically delicious and long lasting.
  5. Anais Anais – I think this will forever be one of my favorites. I recall coming across the name of this particular perfume in a book and it was associated with a woman being sensual and erotic and I needed it. While I love this scent, erotic is not what comes to mind. This scent reminds me of grandma’s house. Yet, I thoroughly enjoy it.

Do you wear the same scents year round or do you have specific scents for different seasons? Do you try new fragrances frequently or go with one you know. Drop a few suggestions below of some of your faves.

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Accountability Partner or Nah?

Be your accountability partner by Heathermelton

Many Americans begin the year with a list of goals and beautiful vision boards. Surveys show approximately 73% of Americans set fitness goals yearly and I would safely say 50% of those people give up on their goals within three months. I often wondered how this could happen and then I decided to reevaluate my own lifestyle because I fall into that 50%. While I workout throughout the year, there is no consistency in my workout regimen. I can go for months working out daily and then I fall into a slump. Now, I’m at an age where maintaining my weight and eating a more balanced diet is vital. I need to become intentional with staying active and monitoring my caloric intake.

A couple of years ago I gained a great deal of weight in a very short period of time. I struggled with carrying the weight and as soon as June rolled around and school ended, I got to work. I was able to shed almost all of the extra poundage in a two month time span. It was easy maintaining once school started but there is a season called winter that rolls around yearly. Winter is the time of year I find myself backtracking. Cold weather is a burden for me so I don’t exercise often, if at all.

I’ve done the trainer before and I thoroughly enjoyed having someone to push me and hold me accountable. But when my trainer moved, I realized just how much I lacked self-discipline when it came to working out. As a result, I decided I wanted to take control of my own health and fitness and become intrinsically motivated to regulate my eating habits and challenge myself to exercise regularly. Whelp, it’s not working. Last week, I only met my target steps one day. Why? Because it was cold and my working out didn’t impact anyone or influence someone else to be as trifling as I was in that moment.

So now the questions? Should I seek an accountability partner and/or trainer? Should I continue working on becoming more disciplined in my own standards and practices based on my personal goals? What are the benefits of a trainer? Do you work out alone or with a partner? What are the pros and cons? And how do you stay motivated to workout regularly?

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“Time for Change”

I heard some kids telling me
How they’ve lost all faith, in the world.
They’ve been talking world peace now
And the wars in the streets. (Rucker, 2014, stanza 1)

The lines on their faces so deep.
A revolution, or reach out and touch the day
We’re overdue, it’s time. (Rucker, 2014, stanza 2)

Now it’s time for change
Nothing stays the same (Rucker, 2014, Refrain)

As an educator, these lyrics have come to light and many of us are at a loss for words. Kids are watching the news and repeatedly hearing about the dysfunction and disruption at the U.S. Capital last week. They are also listening to the adults in their lives and are looking to us for answers. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers and in an effort to keep myself from possible conflict with parents, even if I did, I would choose to stay silent. I was taught to never discuss politics, religion or money and I have avoided each of them like a plague when outside of my home.

So, what do we do? The little ones are seeking answers and we need solutions. How do we address changes that are truly needed? Countless people want to point fingers at one party or the other and the biggest problem is the divide. I’ve read article after article about propositions and have yet to find any that are instrumental or would be effectual in getting needed results for this day and time.

So, what do we do? In education, all moments are teachable moments, or so we’re told. I would beg to differ. At this point, I’m not sure what should be addressed. Educators are struggling to identify what’s true and what is not. Do we talk about respect, violence, appropriate ways to express one’s feelings, or maybe the process or adequate ways to pursue change? I am an instructor of a very diverse population. Each of my students are walking in daily and each of them have different perspectives. As a result, some are coming to school in fear. Several are anxious and a few are defensive. And I just want each of them to continue to feel welcomed in my classroom as well as send them back to their parents the way their parents sent them to me, safe. So, what do we do? What do we do? I don’t have a clue but I know it’s time for a change.

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My 2021 IEP (Individualized Education Plan)

The year of 2020 came in and took us by storm. Many Americans spent most of the year wearing masks, binge watching shows, eating more than we should have and spending numerous months seeking disinfecting wipes and toilet tissue. I’m sure many of us can remember the chicken sandwich idiocy and the debacle that was the presidential debate. If you’re a sports fan, you were constantly reminded of the death of Kobe. With COVID 19 came several words that I don’t care to ever hear again. Such words as pivot, social distancing, and the new norm should be eradicated in the future. WHO wants this to become the “new norm”?

For me, 2020 was a year to focus. It gave me purpose as I gained opportunities to fulfill many of my goals. However, I am more than elated to move into a new year and I am looking forward to more positive things while continuing to wear the dreaded mask. As a teacher of students with special needs, I am responsible for creating IEP goals annually and assessing them every nine weeks to determine if the students are making sufficient progress to signify growth. This year, I have put myself on an IEP and will assess myself monthly to gauge my own progression.

Last year I spent quite a bit of time healing and understanding my own feelings. This year I want to garner a true spirit of forgiveness. For me I have always just moved on and found it profitable to avoid people that wrong me. However, when I cross paths with those very people, I can sense a spirit of resentment within me. We don’t have to talk but the sight of the person annoys me. In this season, I want to learn how to disconnect from people in a more positive manner. I want to genuinely forgive someone and move on with a purpose. I want to get to the point of being able to sincerely extend a greeting and keep it pushing.

The next thing I want to do is get a handle on my finances. Mid-year, I finally snagged a copy of Dave Ramsey’s “The Financial Peace Planner”. After working through the planner I realized I wasn’t preparing and adequately tracking my spending which resulted in me not meeting my savings goals. However, it did help me realize how important it is to look at miscellaneous spending because those expenses are the ones that impact my savings the most. In 2021, I plan to be more intentional with my spending and really try to get away from frivolous spending or “feel good” spending.

One of the most important things I plan to do is focus more on self-care. In the past, self-care has been bubble baths, pedicures, traveling and shopping. This year, I’m going to put on my oxygen mask before trying to help others. As an educator, I spend so much time focused on everyone else that I exhaust myself and stay in a constant state of burnout. I’m currently unplugged from Facebook and on a strike against soda. I’m going to spend more time in prayer, become more consistent in getting outside for fresh air and exercise, read more to gain experiences that don’t require me to spend money and journal thoughts, ideas and accomplishments.

My word for 2021 is “intentional”. I want to make sure almost everything I do has a purpose for my passion. What are your plans and goals for 2021? Cheers to a New Year!

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The End of the Road

This Cheers to the New Year SVG is a festive addition to your New Year's  Eve projects made with … | New years eve quotes, Quotes about new year, New  years eve shirt

2020 has definitely been one for the books. People have been anticipating the closing of the year and the beginning of the end of a very difficult journey. I sat with my family to have a conversation surrounding 2020 and while we wanted to suggest it wasn’t the best year, it was still a year full of productivity.

At the beginning of lockdown, I think many of us were feeling gloomy and doubtful about what was to come. My son’s senior year and track season came to an abrupt end while we were on Spring Break. A couple of the young ladies I trained were on the road to state and had to settle for what could have been. I was challenged to teach online while attending graduate school online. Scholarship opportunities became limited because NCAA afforded athletes another year of eligibility. Exercise facilities were shut down during a time we all needed to exercise physically and mentally. And the list goes on.

At the beginning of our initial two week quarantine, I was spinning in circles. I cooked and cleaned and cooked and cleaned. As time went on, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to focus on goals I had been wanting to knock out or trying new things in my stagnant and predictable life. No matter how I spin the coin, at the end of the day, my good days far outweighed my bad days and I made a decision that simply existing wasn’t enough. Talking to my family I had to really put things into perspective to help them fully understand my attitude of gratitude.

  1. As a woman I healed. I continued going to therapy and was afforded ample time to figure out more of who I am and what I am capable of doing. I wanted an understanding of why I lacked the self confidence I had as a ten year old and a 20 year old. I was able to face my truths and forgive myself so I could grow into the person I am destined to become.
  2. As a student, I completed my graduate program which I thought would have been done approximately 20 years ago. This milestone taught me it’s never too late to do the things that are a part of my destiny.
  3. As a mother, I let go and let God. I raised my son and made many sacrifices for 18 years. God reassured me I had done a god job and it was time for me to take my hands off of His child. My son was able to go to a school of his choosing on a scholarship that covered most of the cost of his tuition. He made the Dean’s List his first semester while taking classes in his major.
  4. As a coach, I helped all of the girls I train run their personal best during their shortest season ever. Having only run half of a season, they were all able to drop three to four seconds off of their times and were in the top rankings in the state in their respective events.
  5. As an educator, I became Teacher of the Year. Enough said! I was deserving of it and I’m proud of myself for giving it my all three years in a row.
  6. As a wife, daughter, and sibling, I was able to give the best version of myself to each of my family members. Because of my personal growth, I gave them the gift of me versus who I thought I needed to be.

As we move into a new year, I am hopeful as well as encouraged. I used 2020 to set a stronger foundation for my future. My goals are written and while I know God has the final say so, He has given me a platform to use my gifts. So tonight, I’ll break out the sparkling grape juice and toast to what’s behind me and what lies ahead. Cheers to a New Year!

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Twas the Night Before Christmas

“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

As we prepare to celebrate another holiday, I’m sure this is the tale of so many homes this season. Many are afraid to put themselves at risk by visiting others and some are more concerned with putting others at risk. As an educator, it has been necessary to limit my contact for the sake of my family and also for the sake of the students that come to school daily and expect me to keep them safe.

In continuing to press forward in the midst of a pandemic, my family opted to cancel all large gatherings and many of us are celebrating with our immediate families only, if at all. Christmas Eve was always a time of fellowship for my immediate family before we joined our extended family on Christmas. However, for the remainder of the year, we will continue to gather with only close family as we have been doing since August. We have created our small bubble in a effort to stay out of harm’s way so there will be no extended family for the remainder of 2020.

This is definitely a transformation for my tribe. According to my husband, my clan has family reunions every month. We are accustomed to gathering and enjoying the company of each other to a great extent. So one can imagine how much we’ve had to pivot for safety reasons. As we prepare for Christmas and the New Year, our homes are going to be silenced by the scare of Covid. We’ll send tons of greetings but no hugs and kisses will be shared. Many rooms will stay empty and unoccupied of the laughter and booming voices that define us. We, like many others, will sit with only memories of past holidays that were filled with an unspeakable joy.

While we are missing family, my small unit will make the most of the upcoming holidays with each other. We’ll pray, laugh, eat, play games, watch movies and most importantly, laugh some more. We will make this year one to remember as we’ve done so many times before. This season will serve as reminder of the real reason for the season and to never take anything for granted again. How are you celebrating this season? Are you taking advantage of the opportunities to travel? Are you spending time with extended family? Or are you trying to figure out what do the lonely do at Christmas?

Trying to figure out how this “new normal’ works.
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Sit Down, Be Humble

Winning Quotes - BrainyQuote

A few weeks ago, I shared a blog post titled Pet Peeves. In that particular post, I discussed how annoyed I become when I see people that are unwilling to celebrate others during their moments of success. Shortly after publishing that blog post, I unfortunately had to experience the madness.

For the third time in three years, I was a finalist for Teacher of the Year. While this is a popularity contest in many districts; it’s a very tiring and emotionally draining process in our district. Part of this process requires us to complete a timed writing and go through an interview process where we are drilled about our attributes that contribute to being a “good” teacher. Now imagine going through these proceedings three years in a row and having to suck up your pride, hold your head up and extend congratulatory remarks to the person that beat you, to the winner.

After having that very experience two years in a row, when my name was called again, I vowed I would be ready. I spent part of my Thanksgiving Break making notes and preparing as best I could. On the day of the timed writing, I read my paper at least 40 times after it had been submitted just to give myself a sense of satisfaction in what I was able to produce in 30 minutes. On the day of the interview, I went back to the basics. After every question, I paused and processed before proceeding with any response. I walked out of my interview, phoned my husband and as soon as he picked up the phone I stated, “I killed it!” I was very confident in how well I had responded and also satisfied in the fact I had not allowed my last two losses/lessons interfere with what I desired. Beyond the writing, the voting process and the interview, I work extremely hard everyday and after 25 years as an educator I was ready to be recognized.

The day of the announcement was great! My emotions were erratic as I laughed, cried, shouted, stood in disbelief and hugged everybody in site (totally forgot about social distancing in that moment). I wore my crown and sash that day because I was proud of me! I was gratified, not just because I was a winner, but because I didn’t quit. Nobody ever asked me how I felt having to celebrate the teacher to the right and the next year having to celebrate the teacher to the left. Nobody ever asked me why I was skeptical each year about having to repeat the process all over again. Nobody asked me how it felt to live up to the phrase, “You’re never a loser until you stop trying.” This experience was indeed an humbling experience. I was grateful to have an opportunity to fully embrace my success because deep inside I had been made to suffer.

Well, less than 24 hours later someone tried to ruin my magical moment. While this wasn’t the first time I felt this vibe from this particular person, this nasty was different. For someone to openly state they knew I would win before the announcement to saying to my face in a shady manner they were insulted by the idea of me being selected over them was a bit much.

I started to address the manner but after much consideration and prayer, I decided not to say anything. You know why? Because I won. I had done everything I should have done to be the person being acknowledged in that moment. I had to remind myself we usually don’t get the things we can’t stand to see others have, including this accolade. I just hope for the day people realize there’s enough room for all of us to have a seat. In the meantime, I’m going to continue to let my light shine.

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