Sunday, November 8, 2015

Peanuts and Friends: My BFTP!

As a huge Peanuts Fan, I greatly anticipated the release of the new "Peanuts" movie. In fact I was so excited, I had myself "Peanut-ized" as seen above. One more item off the Bucket List! My post this week is what Doug Johnson refers to as a BFTP: Blast From The Past". I think I posted it over 5 years ago when I wrote semi-weekly messages on the Elementary Media Conference. But it is as timely today as it was then. So enjoy!

The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip. This isn't a test. No data will be collected. But read it through and savor this food for thought.

1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. 
4. Name the last five winners of the Miss America Pageant.
5. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
6. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

How did you do? The point is, few of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards Tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List five teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Name five people you enjoy spending time with.
6. Think of one person who listened to you today.

Easier? The lesson of course is that the people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They don't have the most Twitter followers, magazine covers, or tags on Facebook. They are the ones that care.The ones who keep you grounded and the ones who you do the same for. 

Have a great week and Stay Grounded, Friends!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Does Your Support Group Support You?

October is one of my favorite months. Maybe it's my very favorite. The first half of my life was spent in the Midwest, so the Fall colors, activities and aromas permeated my memories of the month. I love pumpkins.I love orange. My birthday's in October. I could go on and on. To quote Anne Shirley from "Anne of Green Gables", "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers". On the other hand, October is the month I was diagnosed with breast cancer 10 years ago. So the inundation of pink during the month is bit of a painful reminder of that awful time. I'm not sure how NFL players wearing pink shoes helps the cause (yes, I'm sure it brings in bucks on Ebay), but I'd rather see them give the money directly to a struggling family going through the rigors that the disease demands.

But when I think back to the initial days of diagnosis, surgery, months of chemo and radiation, I'm reminded of efforts to be involved in a support group. It was recommended by so many people, so I started to look into it. My husband asked if he wasn't enough support for me, and I replied that I'd still like to find one. So after attending a few meetings in different locations, I concluded that yes, my husband was my best support group! Him and a few friends I'd see from time to time over the many months. Plus co-workers and well-meaning students who wanted to see my bald hear under the numerous wigs I enjoyed wearing. But an official "Breast Cancer Support Group"? Not so much. (Now, what I'm about to describe may not apply to you or your loved ones, but please bear with me. I'm making a point!) Most of the time it was people grovelling in the illness.They couldn't be encouraged no matter what was offered. I left feeling worse than when I came. So, unless they were giving away something free (you learn there's lots of freebies out there!), I stuck with my own home-grown varieties of support. (Please don't e-mail me about the value of venting, etc. My illness was enough to bear, not the vents of someone else).

So how is it with "support groups" you may be involved with? I'm thinking personally and professionally now. As I learned from my experience with the cancer variety, I can put up with trying to help only so much until I have to do what the Disciples were instructed: Shake the dust off your feet and move on. And it might not even be a professional or work group. Do you have friends who do the same thing? Is every conversation about them? Are you constantly trying to build them up and find there's no growth? Or that they probably don't want to be encouraged? They enjoy grovelling in their negative illness and it's affecting you. I recently had to "break up" with some friends because I'd come home in such a bad mood after socializing with them! I thought I could be Little Miss Sunshine and divert the conversation or encourage growth in something else, but after a few years,(yes, I did give it time!) I realized it wasn't working. So I sadly moved on from them.

Why are we reluctant to move on from such negative, draining relationships? I won't go through the many possible reasons, because I'm already past my 3 paragraph rule for this post! But for me, I think it was thinking, so will I have friends to replace them? Or will their be a big "Girlfriend Hole" that they filled that is now empty? Is something better than nothing? Kind of like weeding least there's something on the shelf, even though it's past it's prime. But no, I had to make the hard choice and can honestly tell you that it hasn't left a hole at all. In fact, it's opened my eyes to new relationships that maybe I hadn't pursued before because I thought my friend-bucket was full. I'm putting myself in positions where I can fulfill some of my dreams and what I feel are callings in my life. I'm excited about the possibilities that being with positive people produces.

So I realize I really put myself out there on this one. But age does that to you! It's why I write. To hopefully offer something of a challenge or encouragement, and not worry about the consequences or apologies! I hope that something I've written helps someone in some way. To even report that my cancer diagnosis was 10 years ago and I'm enjoying great health is a celebration. If you or someone you know ever goes through that, let me know! I'll have a support group for them!
But no matter what, stay grounded, Friends!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Make Someone's Day or How Dress Shopping Inspired This Leadership Message

Recently I had to go dress shopping for a family wedding and was not quite in desperation mode, but had the pressure to appear as the "cool Auntie from Florida", not one of the "'Golden Girls". Not being at my preferred weight and size added to the dread of the whole experience. Of course my husband was forbidden to go with me. So armed with a huge dose of self esteem conversation, I went to the Mall on Saturday. I went to the big department store where in the past (aka 2 sizes ago) I had great success and much to choose from. Immediately I knew I needed help...where were the dresses for me? You know, conservative, sleeves, flattering and not costing an arm and a leg. And then Rebecca came along.

To make a long story short, and after camping out in the dressing room for longer than I ever have, I came out with a beautiful dress, $43 (down from $118), and confidence was restored. No Blanche or Rose here! But it was the salesgirl, Rebecca, who helped me, reassured me, found more "little black shrugs to cover my hefty arms, but really, ma'am, you don't need them" than I knew existed, convinced me that no, I didn't need to go to a higher size, that dress looks great, and then smiled that "That's the one" when I came out in dress #53, which had been my favorite all along...I just appreciated her sweet affirmation of my choice. ""You're much too hard on yourself" she would say. "Just go and have fun", and all the other choice salesgirl-speak phrases that she may have used to everyone else in there, but I felt were just for me. She was genuine and made me feel she would have brought every dress on the floor so I could find the right one!

So do you have a "Rebecca" in your professional life? Someone who encourages, reassures, helps you find just the right resource, lets you know that everything is going to turn out great and that you'll just have to relax and have fun? Someone who's patient with your occasional self-deprecating comments, yet doesn't let you stay there? I hope you do! I hope someone is there to help you be your best each and every day. We have that in our Media Specialist PLC's and other configurations/PLN's/Mentor-Newbie pairings/etc. that our District Media Supervisors have set up and encouraged. And how about the flipside? Are you a "Rebecca" to someone else? Don't just let your bucket be filled to overflowing without letting it spill out to benefit someone else. Someone else, not just another Media Specialist, perhaps a teacher at your school, needs to be encouraged, guided, praised, lifted up. They need to find just the right resource to help them shine. They need to know someone's on their side and available. It might just be a Snickers bar in their mailbox to say you're thinking of them...but it will make their day.

The wedding hasn't taken place yet, I'll let you know how it turned out. But I know for sure that I'll be rocking that dress thanks to the help of that salesgirl who did a little more than just her job. She went beyond Salesgirl 101 and made the day of this not-there-yet Golden Girl who is still a very cool Auntie from Florida. Go be a blessing to someone today and Stay Grounded!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I'm Retiring.....Someday

Not sure  what planet I was on lately, but I was completely caught by surprise when I realized I could retire anytime or sign up for the state's deferred retirement program (DROP) now! It's not that  I haven't been counting my years carefully enough, but I've just been having such a good time doing what I'm doing, so I just would answer "someday" when asked when I was planning to retire. Actually, I wanted to answer "so I look that old?", but I took the high road. Even though I complete the "Information Sheet" each new school year of how many years I taught, have been in Media, was at my current school, etc., it didn't hit me that I just completed 30 years until I sat down with a financial consultant to review some accounts we had.

So what a range of emotions I experienced at the thought of retiring! Euphoria was first, excitement, anticipation....then sadness, anxiety, regret at so little time left. Actually, those last 3 didn't last long, to be honest! I started thinking of the great things that go with retirement: more time with the grandkids, helping my husband with some new life challenges, daily workouts for an awesomely fit 60+ body, more time in my flower beds, etc. Then  some of the more work-related things came to mind: not worrying about the annual equipment inventory, not having to deal with school board shenanigans, not trying to preserve my personal days for when I really need them, not stressing over observations, not venting about the way reading is taught, not bemoaning a ridiculous system that penalizes me for the school I've chosen to teach at, etc.

Then I had a major revelation: I can experience both the work and non-work related things now! I can have the same peace and joy and contentment today, rather than wait for retirement. With better management of work activities, I can devote time to my family and self and hobbies now and experience those blessings while I can, well , still really enjoy them! And the work stuff? It's all in my attitude. Not that I want a care-less attitude, but maybe a care-free one would be more appropriate. You know the familiar Reinhold Niebuhr prayer: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". If I'm valuing each day as if it were my last at work, I could focus on the people and relationships that are the most important and enduring, not the petty differences and squabbles that want to rob my serenity.

Something that contributed to my times of reflection was the untimely death of a former principal. I worked for her for over 10 years, shared a birthday (10 years apart), enjoyed strong support of the media program, and generally had a great relationship with her. I emceed her retirement party (I could always make her laugh) and tried to stay in touch. Unfortunately, cancer didn't respect her retirement plans and within 3 short years she passed away. We were all quite stunned and deeply saddened.

So I'm not putting anything off until retirement. My retirement "attitude" starts today.  I'm loving what I do everyday, whether it's family, workouts, or checking off equipment. And if you ask me when I'm retiring, I'll have to say "Someday!" Stay grounded, friends!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

How's Your Alignment?

A recent trip to the chiropractor helped relieve an ongoing pain in my neck (no hidden meaning was purely physical!) and provided some food for thought. It seems as if that is a regular occurrence for me: seeing a lesson in the most unusual circumstances that can be blog material. Now having the discipline to write it down is my ongoing challenge, but I press on.

I thought, how many of us received an "adjustment" in our pre-planning preparations? I knew if I didn't visit the chiropractor before starting school, I wouldn't take the time once I got really busy with the new year's activities. And I'd go on in pain, uncomfortable, self-medicating, and maybe even voice a complaint to whoever is within earshot. In other words, not my usual  fun self  to be around. But having taken care of the problem, gotten my neck (and of course they find many other T-something or others needing to be aligned) snap, crackle and popped back into place, I could face the year relatively comfortable and raring to go.

So did you get some things put back into place upon greeting your media centers/classrooms/new staff/old staff? Reminders of your goals and mission and vision? Or did you start in alignment and had things throw you out of whack: what? I have lunch duty? I'm teaching what? There's no room in the schedule or calendar for my favorite little whatever? Passwords for my 200 Kindergarten students?

There's nothing like starting a new school year for getting our priorities back in alignment. We've had a few weeks (AKA Summer Vacation) to consider changes we want to make, reading blogs, gleaning ideas from Pinterest, etc. and can start fresh and of my favorite things about being a teacher. Putting our behind in our past, or our past in our behind (thanks Pumbaa and Timon), we can take on a new set of students and other customers in our nice clean classrooms/ media centers/learning commons/spaces, etc. And remaining flexible to whatever else might come our way can keep us from getting "out of joint." Remember why you're there. It's not about you. We're preparing our students for life, not killing time until retirement. These aren't just bumper sticker phrases. We have to embrace it and do it.

I hope your year gets started on the right foot, or left foot if that's what the chiropractor prescribed! Just remember to take care of yourself to stay in alignment and stay grounded, Friends!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Why are you where you are?

A recent conversation with some students gave me pause for reflection that I wanted to share. Here's what happened:

An annual event in our district is a Battle of the Books for fourth grade. I accompanied our team of 4 girls to the downtown Convention Center for the district finals. It is quite an exciting experience for our students, who rarely get out of their neighborhoods. So I try to make it as fun and prolonged as possible. On our way back to school, we stopped at a local ice cream stand, which is practically a historic landmark for our area. A treat for all! A dipped ice cream cone at 10:30 in the morning! After returning to school, I was talking to some other 4th grade girls about how our school's team did in the Battle. However, they were even more interested in the fact that we stopped at Bo's for ice cream on our way back to school. I remarked that I'd never been there and loved it. "We love that place!" "We go there all the time!" "I love everything they have!" "But why haven't you ever been there, Mrs. Penvose?"
I said I'd never been because there are places closer to my house where I go for ice cream, etc. "Don't you live around here?" "Well, I'm not far, but I live in _______________ , which is only 20 minutes away." They seemed shocked.
"And you teach here?" "Yes"
"Why do you come clear over here?" "It's really not that far...and besides, you girls are here!"
"Why don't you teach at ________________ or a better school?" (ouch!)"Yes, Mrs. P, it's too rough here!"  "But I don't want to teach at ________________...I love it here!"

They didn't quite know how to respond to that, but I was left with such sadness. They had such a low opinion of our school and probably felt the teachers were of the same opinion. In the past we have had a high turnover, and I realized the students might take it personally. There was no continuity, no sense of knowing all of their teachers, or having that bond in knowing they could go visit a previous teacher to make that school connection.  These girls just didn't know that some of us teachers, for the most part, choose where we teach and that some of us really DO want to be here!

What message are you giving your students? That you're at your school because you like them, or because you don't have a choice? Because it's convenient? Are you putting your time in until a "better" school opens up? Or that your current school IS the place where you WANT to be...or more importantly, that your kids are the ones you WANT to teach and are the ones you CARE about? In a time when things are more fragmented and uncertain, we need to let the students know that they're loved and accepted, no matter what the school situation or climate....and we must communicate that in every way and speak proudly of our school, not disparagingly. To use an expression we've heard a few times at my school this year, "Students don't care what you know until they know that you care".

Our school is a home for many of my students. Within the school, the place that gives students a warm feeling is our media center. It is unique to the rest of the building and easily draws students into it to see the many gifts it has to offer. Let's warmly welcome them and assure them that we have a gift we freely want to offer each and every one of them. It'll  help keep us grounded!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Indispensable to Who? (or is it Whom?)

My older brother posted a posthumous Happy Birthday to my younger brother John, who passed away last year. He would have been 55 today. Wait, I thought, 55? No way, because I'm 5 years older than him. So that would make me.... never mind! Once in a while we get a wake up call like that. Reality. What are we doing with our life?  Are we still making a difference? Who are we influencing and in what way? Do we matter or are we replaceable?

Our Media Specialists have been studying Doug Johnson's book "The Indispensable Librarian" this year and it has given us plenty of food for thought and fodder for discussion. We like to think that we are irreplaceable in our jobs, but life is fragile and we are learning that the lives we touch are more important than some of the stuff that we pursue. I'd rather hope that I'm the Indispensable Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Friend, etc. The people I reach in my job are more important than some of the stuff I tend to focus and spend my time on. Not to diminish the value of what I do daily, with lessons, projects, pursuing grants and other materials to improve the experiences of our students and craft of the teachers, but in the end, I want to have made a difference in their lives with the human factor.

While I can agonize over the rigor of my library lessons, my heart is lifted as I stand on dismissal duty at the intersection I call "The Perfect Storm": K, 1, and 2 meeting 3, 4, and 5. The Kindergarten students, following months of library lessons still make a rolling motion with their arms and say "round and round across the ground, making a thumping, bumping sound" from our October lesson on "The Runaway Pumpkin"...and I love it! So if that's all they remember, ok with me... they remember something fun from the library!

We're in unique positions as Media Specialists or Librarians. We affect all of the students of our schools, not just 18 or 24 or whatever the class size du jour is. And we influence all of the teachers, some parents, district officials and more. What's your message? How about letting them know that they are important, listened to, cared for, respected and supported. You know, the stuff you appreciate from the higher ups!

Let them know that THEY are indipensable to YOU!