Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My #OneLittleWord for 2015 - WONDERSTRUCK

I spent some time this holiday break looking at how far we’ve already come and it hit me, like lighting, that this is where my focus for 2015 should be.

The first time I heard of the idea to choose one word to define your year, in place of (or in summary of) a list of resolutions, was from my friend Maria who has been doing this for years. I loved it immediately (and not just because it came from my inspiring friend although that certainly didn’t hurt) and adopted the practice myself. I have had a defining word for a few years now. My words have ranged from “Boundaries” to “Intentionality” and many lovely, inspiring, motivating words in between.

This year, was a year of great change for me, and also a year of awakenings. I have learned a lot about myself personally and professionally over the past few years, and in 2014, so much of what I’ve learned about myself has been tested and me! There is a deep contentment that comes from walking through fires and finding yourself as sure as ever on the other side of the flames.

Personally and Professionally: I know who I am. I know who I’m not, and I know who I’m striving to be.

Although I am a wonderer by nature, a questioner, an examiner, an imaginer and reflector, I have come to learn that some things CAN be figured out to a point of contentment. Once this occurs, you can start searching for answers to other questions of life instead. I’ve also learned that life is very cyclical at the core-- Lessons you’ve learned once can be forgotten or neglected and will assuredly come back around to be learned again, or at least, in my experience this is how it goes with the REALLY important life lessons. Such is the dichotomy of the flux of this life against the deep-down constancy of us. Reflection of this nature is how I eventually came to my word for this year: Wonderstruck!

I’ll confess, the runner up was “balance” which might make my friends and family giggle because living a “balanced” life has been my mantra since my early twenties. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, because anyone with strong ties to family, friends, and community, multiple passions and pursuits, high expectations of themselves and endless interests increasing with just about every interaction (with people or the world), is apt to struggle with striking the perfect balance and not getting too engrossed in any one aspect at cost of neglecting the others. Nevertheless, as I rolled it around in my mouth, BALANCE didn’t seem like my #onelittleword . I haven’t lost my sense of balance. I know that with a little intentionality I’m able to restore balance to my universe pretty quickly when things get off kilter. I kept digging deeper and that’s when it hit me - like lighting! What I was missing in the last year, what I need to be intentional about in this new year, is something I thought was ingrained enough into the fiber of who I am to never be lost. It’s something I’ve become known for and proud of but distracted from along the way- living Wonderstruck!

What does it mean to live Wonderstruck?

When I’m living Wonderstruck, I’m taking in the world around me with my eyes wide open. I’m slowing down enough to really SEE and appreciate the moments taking place. I’m letting myself get swept away in all that is precious and unique and inspiring and sacred about my world. When I’m living Wonderstruck, the snowfall looks like glitter and the metaphors dance across my brain as I take in the sight. Soon I’m wondering more about snow, and snowflakes, and precipitation in general and thinking of quotes I’ve heard or read about these things. Driving in my car through the glittery white squall, I’m pretending that my car is the starship enterprise and shouting “Take us to warp, Mr. Sulu!” (yes out loud, and even if my kiddos aren’t in the back seat to play along!) I’m falling down the rabbit hole and allowing it to happen with a smile.
When I’m living Wonderstruck I stop at least ten times a day to exclaim (out loud or just in my head) This is awesome! I’m so happy to be right here, right now! How did I ever grow to be so lucky, so blessed? When I’m living Wonderstruck, I’m endlessly fascinated by people who are different from me, I marvel at the differences, I contemplate them, and then they lead me to connective fibers that make us the same, and tumble me into empathy and understanding, and growth and inspiration. When I’m living wonderstruck, the world is my classroom and each person, each experience is my teacher. It overwhelms me and fills me with gratitude, and my heart is content.

What does Wonderstruck look like in my classroom?

In getting back to and freeing myself up again to be Wonderstruck-Me 2015, I hope to encourage and model a sense of wonder and gratitude and a love of learning for learning’s sake for the students I am so fortunate to serve. When I’m letting Wonderstruck-Me loose in my classroom, I am acutely attentive to the details of my students as individuals. They fascinate me, puzzle me, and enchant me. I am overwhelmed by the realization of the idiosynchrosis that set each of my individual students apart. I am so in tune to these idiosynchrosis that differentiating becomes second nature to me, not just differentiating for their academic ability levels but also for their specific interests, learning styles, behaviors, personalities and the needs of the whole-child.
Wonderstruck me is not afraid of student-directed classroom time. She empowers her students with choice and ownership in various aspects of their learning. She is content-guided and standards-driven but comfortable following student inquiry towards new and exciting learning that wasn’t necessarily in the textbook that day. Wonderstruck me is patient, with my students, but also with myself. I reflect more honestly on what went well and where there is room for improvement or refinement, and I’m not threatened by criticism but motivated and encouraged by the potential for professional growth. Wonderstruck-Me feels that she is always exactly where she’s supposed to be and feels compelled to make the most, get the most, and appreciate the MOST of every situation.

So I hope, that people who are reading this that know me, are thinking…”Christine, What are you talking about? This is totally YOU! Shouldn’t you choose “Frugality or “Simplify” as your mantra word for 2015 instead of something you’ve already got a grip on?” (wink wink, hint hint) In fact, when I hashed this out for a few of my closest, that was indeed the reaction! Others might be thinking “What you’ve just described is not sustainable, its fine in small doses but nobody can operate like that ALL the time.” Both of these reactions are correct. I hope that most people in my life haven’t noticed my deviation from Wonderstruck-Me, I hardly noticed it myself, but I can honestly say that I haven’t been as much that version of myself as I’d like to be. With a very difficult classroom community last year and a move from an intermediate grade to a primary grade this year, I put “WONDERSTRUCK” on hold for “Determined” and “Improve” and “Adjust” and “Keep Up”. I let Wonderstruck-Me slip away while trying so hard to be good at this job, to know my new material as well as I knew the old, to measure up against my own standards and the world-class teachers who’ve inspired me and work beside me along the way. All of these, are also noble teacher-pursuits, but in directing my attention to them so intensely, I lost a bit of the BALANCE, stopped taking as much time for being WONDERSTRUCK, focussed so hard on being GOOD enough that I neglected the thing that has the most potential to make me GREAT.
Perhaps, in the season of extreme change, the shift I described was a necessary adjustment, but now that I’m settled in and all read-up, I’m ready to start FEELING my way through the world again. I’m ready to trust my instincts a little more, to trust my students a little more, to intentionally slow down and take in the possibilty and magic of my corner of the world. I want to stop trying so hard to make magic happen and instead take the time to notice that it’s already happening, with or without my consent, ready or not! There's beauty in that, there's freedom in that, there's success in that, there's learning in that, for all of us!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My New Year's Toast For YOU!

May every beautiful moment last longer than the rest and etch itself to your memory.

May you learn something new at every turn.

May every hard lesson to be learned, be cushioned by a soft place to fall.

May each encounter leave you more whole and more grateful.

May every struggle tumble you head first into the strength to overcome it.

May you embrace those who need to be encircled and know how to let go of those who aren’t meant for you to hold.

May you be loved beyond your comprehension, may you have the courage to feel and accept it, and to love in return.

May your quietest prayers be answered in the loudest ways.

May you see God in every good and perfect thing.

May you find the will to say all the words that need to take life outside of your mouth. May you find the wisdom to bite your tongue and swallow back the words that taste bitter.

May you be surrounded by people who are worthy of your trust and admiration. May you be a person to be trusted and admired.

May you dream big things YET be content in the small things.

May you see opportunities to be kind, and take them to the next level.

May you be told often and emphatically that you matter…and may you believe it all the way.

May you compare yourself and your life only against your own hopes, ideals, and reality and no one else’s.

May you accept yourself as you are but not be complacent about becoming your best version.

May you revel in moments of solitude but never find yourself lonely.

May you laugh and dance and sing with reckless abandon whenever you find cause. May you find cause frequently.

May you feel, see, smell, taste, hear and really KNOW happiness in all of its simple and complicated forms.

May you delight in your own weirdness, and be unapologetic in your uncommonality.

May you feel simultaneously big and small when you stand at the ocean’s shore, or under a star-filled sky, or walking down a tree-lined street, or watching your children sleep, or sitting on the floor of your closet surrounded by shoes and memories…May you be okay with the significance and insignificance of you.