Friday, March 31, 2017

Taking the Leap: A Mindful Journey to A Mindful Chat

As a child, I was always shy, introverted to the extreme. This caused other children to believe as they put it that I was "a weirdo, strange, a freak." They often taunted me, throwing spit balls in my hair, knocking books out of my hand, blocking my path to my locker, snickering and pointing. It is odd to look back on it now. It replays in my head much like a John Hughes movie. A typical 80's teenage angst film about the "underdog" or "odd man out" however mine did not end with a Simple Minds song, mine continued through grade school and at every one of the eight Catholic schools I attended over my elementary school life. I never defended myself, just took it because as the authority figures would say at my school, "toughen up, kids will be kids." They would tell me that their school only had well-behaved, polite, respectful children and that I had to be doing something to cause them to treat me unfairly." Yes, unfairly. Bullying was NOT a word in the educational vernacular in the 1970's. This trauma from my early years definitely has shaped my personality and the way I think about myself. Doubt is usually the underlying emotion deeply buried by over-ambition and taking on more then any normal person can handle. I just have to keep going, trying new things to prove to myself I can do them.

The leap is something I do frequently. I have never been afraid to fail because I have done that enough times in my life. Failure is never the end only the crumbling of an idea that merely needs a shuffling of the pieces so it can be reassembled. Growing up with Dyslexia has taught me one thing, my mind does not work the same way as anybody else's. At first this was horrifying because it meant I saw things differently, to me this meant not understanding concepts the same way so always feeling "out of the loop." I would try to explain how it sounded and what it meant to me, only to be told, I had to think and respond the same way everyone else did. But, thank goodness I was an obstinate child because this lead me to become more of a free-thinker and thus there is not a box that fits around me. I revel now in the thought that I see the world differently because much like a great novel, the world is a story unfolding with all its peculiarities and nuances just for me. As for everyone, the way we think and process information is who we are.

I only came to social media less then a year ago. The virtual world of conversations seemed a bit daunting for my Dyslexic mind. But a friend inspired me to jump on. I must admit it has always been about the educational realm for me. I have a Twitter, Voxer and blog but the focus is on education. The mudslinging and nay saying is not for me. So I have a path- Twitter chats, Voxer chats and writing my blog in order to connect with others about my passion, teaching. I have learned so much, more then I ever did in all of my college degree courses combined. I have found that sharing ideas and collaborating is what teachers do best. Finding like-minded individuals and listening to their amazing stories has inspired me every day to take the leap. To see beyond the classroom walls, to take risks regardless of outcome and see the impact I have on my students. Every smile, greeting, laugh means all the world to my students. We make an impact every day on everyone we come into contact with, I learned this first hand growing up, it is my goal always to make that impact a positive one.

Mindfulness has been in my passion and mindset for awhile. When I lived outside of Atlanta I used to visit a Buddhist Temple with my daughter on Sunday's. Just meditating with the monks and learning yoga and peaceful living changed my life. Meditation is the merely the mindset, breathing the action and positive, reflective thoughts the result. Each morning I begin with intentions. Before I even step out of bed. My intentions for the day are...simple reminders, goals for the day. Always one of my intentions is to see the best in people, be compassionate in everything I do. These are my mantras every day, I repeat them frequently and always remember to do my breathing. Breath is our best friend, it is with us wherever we go. We need to allow it to calm us and focus us. After many years of practice, I often lose my focus and my breathing always re-centers me. It is an amazing gift of calm and reflection. In my classroom, I use these strategies and I was wondering why so many people around me, students and teachers alike, are so stressed and frustrated. Thus #teachmindful was born.

On my 10th birthday my mother forced me to have a birthday party. I knew no me would show up, I was bullied severely. But she made me hand out invitations to every student in my class. She decorated the living room, balloons and all. Not one person from my class came. Two neighborhood children, aged 6 and 8 came at the behest of our mothers. That is all. I was left very much scarred from that event and initiating anything since has been very much an anxiety ridden course of doubt and misgivings. But, I wanted to see if my #teachmindful chat would interest people. I put out feelers with my closest PLN. Heard some great feedback. So off I went. But, I knew I was completely unprepared. So I agreed to moderate a chat with the help of some supportive and insightful educators. #nt2t  Saturday morning, Stephen Hughes and Hannah Turk my mentors. That went great. But, again the following was already there for the chat, all I had to do was write questions and get the chat organized and timed. I had a blast though and learned immeasurable strategies and insight into Twitter chats. Many people were there and I enjoyed learning about how to design the photo-cards, set up a chat using Tweet Deck, and of course responding to and writing the questions for the chat.

The week arrived that my chat was going to launch. Remember I mentioned overambitious. My chat launched only 5 days after I moderated my first chat. So I was nervous and anxious. I probably sent out way too many reminder Tweets. But, the day came. I checked Tweet Deck a million times making sure the Tweets were timed perfectly, the questions were thought provoking. But, still that 10th birthday party memory was flooding in, stirring the calm waters I was trying to maintain. Breathe, breathe, it is 6:58 two minutes. Stay calm people will join in the chat....people will join in the chat. Eyes closed, deep breath...ding my first Tweet is released. One by one there were people introducing themselves, familiar names, new Twitter handles, it was exciting. Then nerves kicked in, I was trying to respond to and greet everyone. But I couldn't. So I greeted my chat with a Hello everyone thank you for coming if I missed anyone, I am sorry. It was awesome. I observed more then I responded, just reading the insight was truly inspiring. Other people think like me and want calm and balance too. My mind eased up a little, I leaned into the experience.

I kept reading Tweets, continued to respond just went with the flow. Thank goodness for Tweet Deck what an amazing invention I thought to myself. It seemed the discussion was going well, lots of conversations and engagement. Thought provoking ideas and stories abound, ping...ping...Tweets poured in. For one hour people joined in a conversation about mindful teaching. They were interested in what I had to say about mindfulness. They understood the importance of collaboration and bringing a stress-free, student centered classroom into being. They believe in bringing awareness and attention into focus and helping students feel relaxed in the classroom. Flexible seating, reflection, calmness, balance. The chat went smoothly and I hoped that I sparked a new chat for other people on Thursday nights. Afterwards I reflected and I knew it was successful but I saw the flaws. I recognized where I needed to improve. This is a good thing. My personality is wrapped around anxiety and doubt but with mindful thinking I have learned to stay positive and always leap because I hope to share my ideas and help others see that we can overcome the hardships we face in our youth and use them to impact the lives of others. Sharing our insight helps others do the same. Be mindful, stay hopeful and focused on your intentions and they will carry you to new horizons.

A Reserved Presence is Often Linked to a Vehement Mind

Not everyone is emboldened to take a stand. Confident enough to speak their mind. Not everyone feels they have the right to. So many of us,...