Better Than a Day at the Spa

notre dameThirteen years ago, my five year old submitted an essay convincing his readers that his mother deserved a day at the spa.  Using his invented spelling, Zachary explained that I worked from sunrise to sunset, caring for three kids, cleaning the house, preparing healthy meals, making sure the children had fresh air and exercise, and ensured that all members of the family enjoyed daily quiet time and reading.  At the time, I had no idea that Zachary’s submission was the beginning of so many amazing accolades.

Those who are close to Zach know that he has achieved many accomplishments during his high school career.  Academically he finished top in his class, was elected class president all four years, has been named scholar athlete each year, serves as a member of the regional board of education, created a fantasy sports club at his school, founded a webbed based platform, “Students Helping Students” (an academic support group), lectors at church, participates in Unified Sports, works as a bank teller and mathematics tutor; all while maintaining academic excellence.

What people don’t know about Zachary is his selfless concern for the well-being of others. Most recently, Zachary experienced a ‘fortunate’ struggle when deciding which college to attend next fall.  While being offered generous scholarships to many prestigious universities, Zachary grappled with his decision to attend Notre Dame. As his mom, I knew the minute we stepped foot on Notre Dame’s campus that the school’s blend of academics, social life, and spirituality provided the perfect fit for Zach.  After a heartfelt conversation with Zachary, I learned what was standing in his way from committing to Notre Dame; his concern for his younger siblings’ future opportunities.  Zachary disclosed that he would be successful at any higher institution. Although Notre Dame was his first choice, he could not make the commitment without knowing that his siblings would be afforded the same opportunity.

Thirteen years ago, when Zachary presented me with a full day at the spa, I was sure I had received the greatest award.  I was wrong those years ago. Zachary has just given me the latest greatest award.


Teacher Evaluation

2As I was about to enter a coaching classroom, I was greeted by a very enthusiastic ‘former’ student.  This student shared with me that as ‘acting principal for the day’ (she won this title at the school auction), she would be evaluating my work.  A little surprised, I wondered if this energetic eight year old even understood the job of an instructional math coach.  

I took a deep breath and followed the ‘acting principal’ into the kindergarten classroom.  Out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t help but notice Ms. S. typing feverishly on her Chromebook all while checking her watch and keeping an ear out for a call on her walkie talkie.  What could she possibly be typing . . .  ? 

Formal Observation of Mrs. Austin                 

What I see Mrs. Austin do . . .

  • makes sure the kids are paying attention
  • helps the kids if their having a hard time
  • gives the kids encouragement/ for example pulling the kids away to play a game 

What I hear Mrs. Austin say . . .

  • saying positive things
  • gives the teacher tips 

What I see the kindergartners doing . . .

  • facing the wrong way
  • when they get it they use a strategy
  • sometimes gets the right answers
  • dilly dallying around
  • passes out you matter cards to people that deserve them during the activity at their seats

What I hear the kindergartners saying . . .

  • mumbles what they say
  • yelling out a lot of yelling out
  • the whole class has a great vocabulary
  • get’s words right
  • talking to much when not supposed to 

Overall, this student gave me a final score of 10 out of a possible 10.  Her final comment stated,

“To get a better score you need to mabey interact more with the children. You could give the teacher some more tips. Over all you did a great job doing your job.” 

As I reflect about my role as an instructional math coach and the evaluation I received from an eight year old today, there is something to be learned from her feedback.

  • Kindergarten students SHOULD talk a lot!
  • Kindergartners SHOULD use great math vocabulary. 
  • Coaches SHOULD interact with the children and give the teacher more tips!  

Not a bad evaluation from a third grader.


The Student that Makes a Difference

You often hear about teachers making a difference.  I am proud to share a video of a student that has made a difference in my life.  

Rewind to seven years ago to find a very reserved, shy eight year old.  As this young boy’s third grade teacher, it wasn’t what he was doing in the classroom that mattered most . . . it was his interest in YouTube, Pokemon, and technology that was important.  

As teachers, it’s so important for us to understand that there is much more to students than what they do in the classroom.  It is critical to show interest in a student outside of the day’s schoolwork.  

This young boy taught me that relationships and connections matter!  I honestly don’t think I have ever been prouder of a former student.  

I have chills, tears, and smiles all at the same time.

I Accepted and Conquered the Challenge

I did it!  

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I completed the Slice of Life Challenge.

From My First Slice to I Accepted and Conquered the Challenge, I have grown as a wife, mother, teacher, sister, daughter, Christian, friend, and reflector.

As an Instructional Math Coach, I can’t help but bring a little math into this last slice. Just my slicing for the month of March brought me:

  • 484 ‘total views’ averaging 19.4
  • 97 ‘total comments’ averaging 3.9

Not bad for a first time slicer, who figured out early in the month that posting late at night typically received fewer views.  I guess that brought about a sense of security for a novice writer with VERY little confidence.

Reflection of my Slices

Still Scared ~ 40 Years Later was by far the most challenging for me to put into words.  I remember feeling like I had been run over by a train after writing it.

Thankful to be “Number 17” earned the most views and comments.  I am thrilled that so many people read this slice.  Hopefully the slice will inspire others to spread simple acts of kindness.

The slice that earned the fewest views Sunday Redo?.  I actually liked this slice and I was a little disappointed that so few people ‘viewed’ it.

No one added a comment on The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over the Lazy Dog which I consider one of my more humorous slices.  I can certainly understand why the few 5 viewers decided to skip commenting; there really wasn’t much to say.  Although I would be interested to see the score card of a fellow slicer!

I find myself re-reading Simply Just Resting My Eyes because it’s a feel good slice for me.

Blessed is the post that I hope resonates with my own children.  I think I’ll put a copy of the slice in their Easter baskets.

Writing What a Wonderful World is what I believe made the Slice of Life Challenge.    

Thank you to the writing community at Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful experience.  Accepting this writing challenge has helped me move forward in ways that I could never have imagined!

I’ll see you all next March!


Much More than 15 Minutes

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I accepted the Slice of Life Challenge thinking that I owed myself 15 minutes every day to reflect and do something ‘just for me.’  As I’m writing my second to last slice, I realize that I gained so much more than just 15 minutes of ‘me time.’

What I didn’t realize was that I would be welcomed into such a wonderful writing community.

What I didn’t realize was that I would go about each moment of every day wondering, “Is this moment going to be my slice?”  What a different perspective!

What I didn’t realize was the satisfaction that I would feel when I struggled to write a slice and could click the ‘publish’ button with pride.

What I didn’t realize was that other people would consider my writing powerful, uplifting, heartwarming, hopeful, and even inspirational. Imagine that?!

What I didn’t realize was that writing could really help me work through many personal challenges.

What I didn’t realize was that my writing could actually make an impact on someone else.

What I didn’t realize was that I would have the opportunity to meet so many amazing writers and get a sneak peek into their lives.

What I didn’t realize was that I would actually look forward to next year’s Slice of Life Challenge!


What a Wonderful World

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 1.02.12 AMAt the conclusion of the directed play session, parents formed a circle around their toddlers for free play.  It was during this time that parents were given the opportunity to share out parenting celebrations and/or challenges.  As moms were gushing over how amazing their children were, I couldn’t help but think about how just the day before, my two-year old decided to snack on a little girl’s face.  I was dreading my turn . . . I didn’t want to share out . . . I couldn’t possibly say . . . and before I knew what was happening . . . I began, 

“I haven’t slept in a year…

My baby doesn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time…

My husband is never home and leaves me all alone with a 2-year old, and THIS – –  (holding up in front of me) a  baby that NEVER stops crying…

I wasn’t here last week because my father died…

And now…

I’m pregnant – AGAIN!”

I could no longer contain my emotions.  Words I didn’t know I could admit, spilled out of my mouth; tears began falling uncontrollably from my eyes.  I shared my misery with such happy strangers and these joyful mothers, with perfect children, simply stared back, completely silent.  I was ready to burst!

Just one week prior, Monsignor, who my siblings and I knew for no more than ten minutes, explained to us that when a loved one dies, it is important to be open to ‘signs.’  I assume I was in the third stage of death (anger), because I was instantly infuriated.  Who is this man, knowing nothing about my family, thinking that he could say anything to take the pain away?!

My father was just 70 years old.  He was the patriarch of the family.  He was at the beginning of his well earned retirement. He was the grandfather that my children would never remember.  This was not fair!

I was so angry.

Angry at everyone and everything.  

Angry that my father left us so early.  

Angry that I hadn’t slept in over a year.  

Angry that my husband somehow managed to sleep through the cries and was able to make the great escape every single morning.  

Angry that I just stopped experiencing 9 months of morning sickness and it was already starting again.

So angry at my father!

Hanging my head down low and wiping my nose on my sleeve, I couldn’t breakout of Gymboree fast enough.  As I was wrestling to ‘buckle my baby up for safety,’ I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder.  A stranger reluctantly asked me if I would follow her to the mall.  She explained that she wanted to purchase a book that was going to save my life.  

Without a second thought, I followed the stranger to the nearby mall where she directed me to wait in my car while she went in to purchase the book.  Within minutes, she handed me a package, suggested and noted which chapters to read, and wished me luck.  Before I could even say thank you and offer payment for the book, her car sped off.  

I continued attending the play and learn classes week after week but I never saw my stranger again.  It wasn’t until after I finished reading the book and getting consecutive nights sleep, I realized that my stranger was actually my father’s first sign.  

The upcoming holiday marks 15 years of receiving various signs from my father.  Yesterday, as I was struggling to make important personal decisions, I happened to turn on some background music.  Instantly I knew everything was going to be all right as my father/daughter wedding dance song played.  

What a Wonderful World  it is when I keep my eyes (and ears) open for signs from my father.  When I need my father most, he somehow manages to make his presence known.