Saturday, September 21, 2019

A good dream

My son:  Did I tell you about my dream?
Me: No
Son: It was about Papa Don.
Me: Ah.
Son: I was walking the dog by a fence, and Papa Don was up ahead with some cousins, and they were cleaning up a pile of leaves.  He was wearing his red sweater vest.
Me: *tears*
Son: He turned around and saw me, and he said, "Hey! Hello!" and he walked over and gave me a hug.
Me: *sobs*
Son: I cried all morning.  It was a good dream.

It's not lost on me that we're so lucky to have only good memories of him.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

30,218 Days


On May 7, 2019, my principal, Cheryl, rushed me out the door to go to the Staff Recognition Banquet.  I was tutoring some kids since it was getting close to testing, and they wanted to make sure they ready.  Who was I to say no?  But I didn't have time to get ready for the banquet.  I had on jeans, my hair was a mess, but I knew I was getting my 10-year pen so I quickly headed off to the banquet. 

There's this thing our district does that is completely awesome.  They allow 10 graduating seniors to choose a teacher to give a golden bell award to.  The students read a letter to the teachers about the memories they have from their classrooms.  That night, unbeknownst to me, a former student was presenting me with a bell. This student couldn't speak, because she lost her voice the weekend before, but her mom read the letter for her.  As I was listening to the story, it dawned on me that she could be presenting the bell to me.  Once I realized it was me, the tears flowed, because she was relating a struggle she had had before coming to my class that I didn't know about. I can't tell you how humbling it was to receive this award from this student.  She's an amazing person, so to be her bell recipient put me on cloud nine.  

I've always felt this is the best award a teacher can receive: an acknowledgement from a former student. It's better than anything the district can dream up and is something every teacher dreams of.  We know when we go into teaching our efforts will be largely overlooked.  Let me tell you, this makes up for all of it.

My drive home that night, about 10 minutes worth, was wonderful, exhilarating, and I remember thinking it was going to take a long time to come down from that high. I'm so glad I had that moment.  Everyone should have that moment.  I posted, "Feeling blessed" on Facebook.  Then I got the text.

It was from mom.  "Sweetie, I think dad is closer to heaven's gate than we realized."  Then the flurry of texts between me, my mom, and my sister-in-law.  Me: "What is going on?"  Mom: "He hasn't been out of bed since Wednesday (this was Tuesday) and he hasn't eaten in three days."  Sister-in-law: "You should come."  So at 11:00 pm I made the phone calls for subs, packed up, and drove two and a half hours to my sister-in-law's home. 

I was glad they called.  I had been with dad 10 days before.  He met me at the door when I arrived, which surprised me.  He was usually too weak.  That weekend we sat on the couch together, we ate dinner together, I helped him take off some socks he was pretty irritated about. But I noticed by the time I left on Sunday he was pretty weak.  

Dad passed away just a couple of hours after I arrived that night.  He died in his sleep.  A peaceful death for a peaceful man.  I love these pictures of dad and me below.  He was my sounding board. We had wonderful talks about thoughts, ideas, and when I was looking for answers. "You know God even used asses," was one of my favorite bits of advice he would give me when I was frustrated with someone.  He was wise, and he loved to learn and study.  He was an inspirational leader, and it never went to his head.  I love that about him.

So for the dad who said, "Oh for Pete's sake" when they announced my name as homecoming queen (which is why I loved this picture...it was our inside joke)...
...and for the dad who piled on the brown plastic couch with us, and did the things dads do like fall asleep while watching TV, or teaching me how to ride a bike, or using my doll dishes to teach me and Steve table manners, or sneaking in my room to leave me gifts from Santa, or pulling my teeth, or giving me that well-deserved spanking....my dad was a big influence on me.  And I choose to be thankful for those amazing 30,218 days he lived.  The world is a better place because he was in it.



Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Reflecting on Life

As a lifelong learner, I am pretty curious.  I enjoy thinking about new ideas and looking at research about all kinds of topics: space, education, Biblical studies, science... you name it.  I like to be stumped and have to think on things for long periods of time so that when I learn something new I work to see how it fits into things I've already learned.  Sometimes my views change, sometimes I wait and see, and sometimes my views are reaffirmed.  There are a few things that have me thinking, growing, and changing.  They also are reaffirming.


  • Parkinson's.  My dad has it, and I've watched it take a brilliant, funny, humble, and godly man on a personal journey that tests his faith, and reaffirms it.  They say when people start losing their cognitive abilities you see who they truly are.  In my case, my dad is even more humorous, more godly, and more humble than he's ever been.  He's also just as brilliant, he just can't find the words to show it.  I'm so proud of him.
  • Education.  I made the choice to move to a school of choice middle school from a wonderful position teaching gifted students.  I loved teaching gifted students, but I also wanted a challenge. This middle school is very much a challenge, and it has pushed me to shore up my beliefs about education.  It also reminded me how much I love middle schoolers, even when they drive me crazy.  They have real issues going on in their lives, and I want them to know my class is their safe place.  
  • Mother-in-law.  This year I welcomed two daughters-in-law into our lives, and I am so amazed at how God brought together the perfect helpmates for my sons.  They complement each other perfectly and push the boys enough to encourage growth.  I love their new traditions they bring, and the fact that they are both letter writers. They have strong values.  I love them. 
  • Growth.  I finished my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in 2017, and I have used what I learned SO much.  That education changed my thinking about what good education looks like, and made me a better educator.  However, I'm not finished.  Another masters is on the horizon, and once I committed I became more and more excited.  I'm happy to say I will be pursuing a Masters in Educational Leadership and Policies beginning at the end of August.  I look forward to learning from this same university again.  
  • Personal conflict.  My eyes were opened in a big way after hearing and understanding about covert aggression.  It is something we have been dealing with for many years and was a way of life for us for a while but I haven't been able to put it into words.  Hearing this term and what it represents was so joyful for me, because it describes perfectly the problems we have been dealing with.  That affirmation was life-changing because  I now know how to deal with them and that the hope they would someday change so that we could have a relationship we once had will never happen unless God moves and changes their hearts. I do hope for that, but I'm more realistic about the possibilities. 
It's good to be in this place of reflection before school begins again.  I'm blessed. Not because our lives are free from difficulties....they're not.  Not because we are reaping financial gains.... we're not. A lot of people confuse those things with being blessed.  Sometimes God blesses us with difficulties so that we can know him better and can grow and change.  Growth comes from struggle.  I love that.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Embracing the Struggle

One of the things I push with my students is the importance of embracing struggle.  We should be actively looking for our weak areas and working to shore them up.  This means that we need to be willing to grow and change.

This year I decided to practice what I preach. I was in a comfortable place at my old schools.  The rotation of themes I taught each year was in a good place.  Everything was routine.  My students were challenged with design thinking, Kohlberg's stages of Moral Development, the circle of control, collaboration, leadership, etc., along with deep and rigorous content. But there was a new school in town, and I liked the concept:  a gaming school.  The school focuses on students who game, and those who typically do not do well in a traditional classroom.

Let me tell you, I am embracing the struggle.  It has not been easy.  There are NO gaming schools on which we can model this school.  We're breaking new ground. This year we made mistakes.  I will start the year differently.  I will break up my classes differently.  I will prepare in a broader way.  And I will cast a vision to my students. 

However, once again, my students have taught me so much.  They know SO much more about their technology than I do.  I now know how to make multiple desktops, how to use shortcuts, and how to "rollercoaster."  But more than that, I know there are kids who are so resilient in the face of their circumstances.  I know saying, "I hope you have a good day" can make someone's day. I know they listen because they tell each other "All you have to do to pass math is listen to Mrs. Hughes." I know pets die, family members die, hearts break, and friends leave, but 11 and 12-year-olds have it within them to keep going and rise above.

So, here's to last year's struggle and growth.  Bring on next year.  I can't wait to see where it leads!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Growth mindset is something I have been studying for awhile.  The term was coined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, and the idea has taken the educational world by storm.  The idea is fairly simple, but as I've learned, life is made up of simple rules with complex consequences.  This idea enables us to find the simplicity in things but allows for complexity and beauty. This idea can also make things more complicated.
Growth mindset, simply stated, divides how we react to and learn from situations into two categories: fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.  Carol Dweck relates these ideas to learning. Someone with a fixed mindset believes they are not able to grow, they don't have the mental capacity to do so.  Their intelligence is fixed, so their learning is fixed. If someone with a fixed mindset makes a mistake, their inner voice (or the actual voice of others around them) reminds them of their fixed state, and that failure means learning and growing is futile. Growth mindset is just the opposite.  Failure is expected, but instead, it is seen as part of the growth process.  The expectation then is to learn from the failure and let that learning inform future decisions.
This is great for me in the classroom, and I have found that growth mindset is transformational not only for my high achieving and gifted students, who tend to be perfectionists, but also with low achieving students.  Those who are low achieving very often have higher ability, but are crippled by the fear of failure.  They have voices around them that look forward to failure, or tell them, "See, I told you you'd fail." Additionally, lower achieving students have been put in a box, and are expected not to achieve, so they conform because it is too exhausting to fight. 
Enter my epiphany as a teacher.  I need to be careful not to put and keep students in a box. I have conceded that I might have a fixed mindset about them!  In taking Carol Dweck's idea of fixed mindset a step further, I came to the realization that our fixed mindsets about others may be preventing growth in them.  My influence on some students may be fixed, and it may be stifling their growth.  That's a weighty thing.
When students are frustrated, a lot of their energy is placed in something they can't control.  They are angry about things outside of their realm of control: other's thoughts, other's actions, other's words.  It is quite possible that students are also frustrated by the mindsets teachers have about them.  That also is out of their control.  What if we used a little empathy, and worked to understand the motivations of our students' frustrations. What if we identified our role, and worked to change that?  We might open up a whole new world of possibilities for our students.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Catching up

I'm feeling a little shame-faced.  I had every intention of taking a blogging break for a few months and then get back to it.  Now here I am, two and a half years later, and the break has been a bit too long!
A lot has happened since this last post!  I am now a mother-in-law for one amazingly talented young lady and am about to be a mother-in-law to another amazingly talented young lady. Our last child graduated high school, our oldest has successfully navigated the job force even through her disability, and we are blessed beyond measure. I've entered into the part of life in which my parents are not as healthy as they once were, and we all have learned to navigate the healthcare system and insurance companies. (Lord help me and them!) I earned my Masters and changed positions from teaching gifted children to teaching 6th-grade math at a gaming school (Texas' first!).  And of course, our Student Spaceflight experiments have continued to make it to the International Space Station every year, and our students are continuing to present their experiments at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.  Life is full and good.
Writing this blog started out as a way to express my thoughts about things going on in my life, then I went through a phase of using it to communicate to someone indirectly (bad idea), and then moved on to documenting our family activities and keeping track of some of the fun/funny things we've done.  One friend told me it felt like she was reading my personal diary.  I don't want to be that personal at this point, but I do want to use this blog to document life as I learn it and to reflect on the things I have learned.
I never want to come across as an expert on life, or that you all should be learning from my experiences.  While I may have an experience you can gain insight from, we each are still bringing our own experiences to the table, and applications, insights, and results will be different for each of us.  SO, I will never feel like I have "arrived" and you all should listen.  Instead, these are conversations, give and takes if you will.
Life is good, is perfectly imperfect, and this is Life as I Learn it.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Celebrations in order

First, I just noticed this is my 401st post.  I should have celebrated 400.  Oh well, I do feel a little accomplished with that number.  I don't write as much as I used to, and looking back on old posts, I see I used this space for making sense of some things.  I'm glad I had this outlet, but I'm also glad that part of my life is through.  It sure takes a long time for me to process things!  But hey, lifelong learner here.

Second, I personally took some big risks in the past year.  They paid off, and I am thankful for those friends in my life that push me.  I like my little comfort zone, but I wouldn't have had such a fantastic year.  I took on the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program for our district, which was huge.  I didn't do it alone, of course, but I had a lot of responsibility in it, and it turned out to be such an amazing adventure.  I even got a hug from Dr. Jeff Goldstein out of it.  He's a rockstar in our world, and that was fun.  I also put myself out there for a bigger job/role in our district.  That is something I never would have done.  I didn't get the job, but applying for that led to my third big thing, applying for my master's.  That DID happen, and being accepted into the University of Texas at Arlington masters program makes me feel very accomplished.  It is going to mean a busy year and a half!

Third,  my focus this year is on team building.  There have been some negative people on the campuses where I work, and even just one negative person can inhibit so much growth!  My goal is to foster growth mindset in my work relationships, so that it spills over to their relationships and so on, so that we all are thinking of positive change, problem solving, and constant improvement.

T has been such a great support for all of these changes.  I rely on him so heavily these days.  I bounce ideas off of him, get his insights, and he helps by checking my blind spots.  He is so detail oriented and I'm not, so his insights are truly valuable to me.  I adore him.  Besides that, he's another reason to celebrate, as we enjoyed our 27th anniversary yesterday. :)

So see?  Celebrations all around.  Should I call myself blessed?  I'm not sure.  Just because things are going my way doesn't mean I have God's blessings on me.  I'm blessed as in happy, but I also am thankful for God's blessings that don't go my way.  Otherwise I'd get too comfy.

Go celebrate.  The good and the difficult.  Keep growing!