Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Discover, Drive and Living the Dream

In January I chose "discover" as my OLW (One Little Word) for the year and over the last six months I have constantly had the word on my mind.  I anticipated a year filled with physical discoveries -- new places to visit or new activities to engage in -- but the reality has been discovery of a different sort.  I have found myself discovering an emotional strength I didn't know I had.  I have discovered that some of the qualities I thought were my weaknesses are actually the ones that make me most effective, and in turn, the qualities I thought were my best, might actually be the ones that lead me to my struggles. I think the most important discovery I have made is that I am not the only one. ever.  In any way.  No matter what challenges I face, there are others in the world facing the same ones.  And there are others who have survived these challenges and emerged better because of them.  No matter what success I may have, there are others who have had it, too.  So, I'm not so special.  Or at least, no more or less special than anyone else.  That has been a humbling, comforting discovery for me.

As I have sought to understand myself and my place in the world better, I have been doing some reading. One book I am currently about halfway through is Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  I have always claimed that teaching is my calling and I have often wondered why it brings me such a deep sense of satisfaction.  I know part of this comes from the relationships with students and seeing them grow and learn, but now I believe part of the joy I get from teaching comes from the autonomy and opportunity to pursue mastery that teaching affords.  Pink says, "Greatness and nearsightedness are incompatible. Meaningful achievement depends on lifting one's sights and pushing toward the horizon." Teaching gives me the chance every day to do that, to push toward the horizon. 

A number of my former students are making this discovery for themselves and beginning to pursue careers which will allow them the autonomy, mastery and purpose that Pink describes as essential for our motivation. I think what they are doing is so wonderful that I had to share.  I have two young ladies I would like to highlight today.

MoDa Specialty Cakes 

The first is Vickie Ramirez who has co-founded MoDa Specialty Cakes with her mother, Lorna.  Vickie recently graduated with her Masters of Business degree from Azusa Pacific University and she and her mother run the bakery out of their home. This  is a very special family and I know the kind of love these women have in their hearts and you can see it in the work that they do. You can check out the MoDa Specialty Cakes Facebook page to see even more pictures of their delicious work.

Marissa K. Fine Art Photography 


 Another talented young woman I would like to tell you about is Marissa Andronicos who runs her own photography business, Marissa K. Fine Art Photography.  Marissa is a student at Point Loma Nazarene University, but her business has really grown out of a passion only recently discovered.  The work Marissa does is absolutely stunning.  She has experience with weddings, engagement shoots, senior pictures and family portraits.  I love seeing how she experiments with a variety of locations, props, and poses.  No two shoots look the same because Marissa challenges herself to grow as a photographer with each shoot she completes. One of my favorites was her Huck Finn-inspired shoot.  Marissa is a very smart, gifted young lady.  You can check out her portfolio and follow her blog to see more of her fantastic work.

I hope I can feature more of my former students in the future as they begin discovering what drives them and as the dreams they have for themselves are revealed and then realized.  Thanks to Vickie and Marissa for being willing to share their work!

As the year goes on, I cannot imagine that "discover" will not be a part of my experiences.  I am eager to see how that one little word guides me, impacts me and colors my vision of myself, and the life I live in this wonderful world.

Anybody else seeing their OLW make a difference in their lives?

PS: Is that little jellybean in the pics above not the sweetest??  She is such a doll!

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Success

Summer vacation is terrific -- let's start with that.  No alarm clock in the morning, time with my family, sunshine and poolside and spur-of-the-moment picnics all make summer wonderful.  But, it has some pressure associated with it, too.  Everyone wants summer vacation to be all we have hoped for, to meet all the expectations we place on it as we plow through October and March.  Super busy during the school year, I look to summer as a needed escape, but also a time to catch up on everything I have let slide.  So,I struggle with balancing a healthy dose of relaxation with taking advantage of the extra time summer allows me.  I have so many projects, activities, chores I would like to do, but I also know that I need to enjoy a bit of summer's slower pace and simpler fare.  On days when I spend all my time busy and productive, I feel accomplished, but then I fear the first day of school will arrive and I will not have renewed myself in a way that will allow me to begin teaching from my best place.

To help me with this, I thought a list might work wonders (Doesn't a list almost always make things better?).  If I can look at my growing list of summer successes maybe those feelings of slovenly guilt will subside.  Maybe. Plus, just making the list makes me feel a bit less lazy and a bit more accomplished.  I am curious to see what the list will include once August 9th arrives.  Hopefully, it will make me smile.  And then I will know the summer was perfect.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Last Day of School

On my last day of teaching this school year (remarkably it has been almost two weeks since then!) I received a number of kind, sincere letters from my students.  As I read them, I cried.  And then I wrote:

I'm supposed to be grading papers.  I am supposed to be finalizing grades.  I am supposed to be cleaning my classroom and packing things away for the summer.  Instead, I had to sit down and write.  I had to sit down and share with somebody, anybody, everybody, how incredibly powerful the teaching experience is. 

My classroom is quiet, for what feels like the first time this year, and I have been sitting and reading thank you letters from students.  And when the tears started falling, I knew I had to capture this feeling.

The work I do is the good work. It is work that sometimes feels like not working at all because it is so natural.  It is simply one person guiding another person for a short time as they journey through life.  It is beckoning the child over, holding the hand, sharing anecdotes and wisdom and warnings and praise.And then it is listening.  To what they say, to what they don't. To the music they don't always know their words produce.

And other days it is the work of mules and oxen. It is the harvest.  It is pushing from behind, pulling from the front, leading by example and digging in my heels.  I try on those days not to let the strain show.  I try to still hold the hands, listen and encourage.  Not only for them, but for me.

I would be lying if I said I do it all for them.  I want such wonderful lives for them; I want them to be reflective and kind, thoughtful and giving, bright and resourceful.  But, I also do it for me.  I do it because it brings me unspeakable joy.

 So, today, as I read the most poignant words from the special students I have been blessed to call mine, I feel undeserving.  How could they be so sweet and so appreciative and so affected by someone who is just doing what brings her joy?

I will definitely enjoy my summer, a little more sleep and lots more time with my boys and my husband.  But I also love summer because it gives me more time for thinking and reflecting and filling my head and heart back up so I have even more to give when school begins again in August.   Can't wait!