Posted in Education, Empowerment, Life, Wellness

Doing Different-Take 2

Year 3 of teaching on deck…I’ve realized I can do all the research in the world, all the planning, idolizing my teaching heroes, borrowing from other teachers but ultimately, if I DON’T DO DIFFERENT? Nothing will change.

I was on to something this time last year when I realized that I was expecting others to support me when I was unwilling to support myself!

I had a great plan and then…everything changed. Nothing went the way I thought it would go.

So how do you handle when change comes your way and all the plans you had, go out of the window?

I cannot lie, I haven’t been the greatest in handling curveballs life throws me. SO much happened last year that I could have never planned for…getting unexpected expenses, my car getting totaled, and my budget being shot to tell. And all the self-care plans went out the window when I was thrown into survival mode and I had to make a move to give myself some breathing room.

Now that I was able to make that move, I can’t yet say I’ve fully exhaled, but I can say that I realize plans being made are only one part of the solution to doing different.

Mindset, is EVERYTHING. How can I shift from surviving to thriving, without my income increasing? Thriving is all about MINDSET, not income level.

So, how can I shift in lean times and still thrive?

I’m in the process of discovering how to do that now. By committing to something even in the hard times, even when I want to quit. Mastery and thriving doesn’t happen overnight…rather, it is a series of intentional decisions to keep at something until you are doing well.

So how can I shift in lean times?

By sticking to my commitment in the face of adversity. By shifting my means of getting to a destination even when the unexpected hits. It means having a Plan A-at least G. By committing to self-care even when things go haywire and not allowing anything to keep me out of being in the zone.

I’m learning how to thrive. And that, is a huge part of doing different-committing to thriving.

Posted in Education, purpose

Year 3 Loading…

I’m in year 3 of teaching and yep, a new district again. This time on my own volition. Atlanta wasn’t the last stop and I knew it wasn’t the moment I stepped out of the car when I arrived towards the end of last summer. Georgia has been quite the adjustment, first was me getting adjusted to a slower pace, then the people (still getting used to the people) and the more conservative lifestyles here in GA. GA MIGHT not be for you if you’re looking for something more progressive (unless you do Atlanta) but I digress…

It’s year THREE of teaching for me! Teaching in ATL year 2 was…a lot of learning and growing, personally and professionally. The challenges that plagued me in my first year in Texas, followed me to GA. This third year of teaching, I’m approaching it differently, through planning and organization. Smaller district but middle school kids are the same everywhere, so I know I will have to enter with a different mindset than the previous two years.

What keeps me coming back? THE KIDS. No doubt. There’s SO much to contend with and compete with, from cell phones, to social media…I know my middle school teachers must have faced similar challenges. Everyone wants to say the generation following them is worse but I firmly disagree. We all have our own challenges that the previous generation didn’t understand but the real ones committed to making a difference, seek to understand us and love us anyhow.

And that is my approach!

This year I’m doing planning on the front end and coming in with a growth mindset, along with my deep desire to figure out how to motivate my kids to do their absolute best. I’m researching best practices for instruction and building relationships but the best way to go about it? is to be like Nike-JUST DO IT!

I’m excited to be meeting my kids in a couple of weeks, excited for year 3, this will be the year that things CLICK and flow in the classroom and my kids grow in leaps and bounds!

I’m excited to get my kids acclimated to middle school and provide them with support academically and socially/emotionally. SO much I want to do and try but ultimately I’m there to educate and push and challenge them to grow!

I’m exploring the idea of having a blog where I can reflect and share what works/doesnt work in the middle school ELA classroom, particularly with urban kids. Still sketching out in my head what that’s going to look like as well as brainstorming on paper. Stay tuned, I may or may not share that information here!

But for now, time to enjoy the rest of my summer. ❤

Posted in Education, Life

Adventures of a First Year Middle School Teacher-Semester 1 is DONE!

I still remember the first day I started teaching. I was naive. I didn’t think I needed to do routines and procedures practice with my kids. I thought I could just tell them and they’d remember.

Clearly, I’d never worked with kids before.

There were so many things I wanted to do as a first year teacher, during my first semester.

And then right after the eclipse in August, by that Wednesday, we’d gotten word that a hurricane was headed our way. By that Thursday it was predicted that it’d be a strong category 4, maybe even a category 5, possibly worse than Katrina. We joked that we’d still have school on Friday. But when they cancelled school, we knew it was serious.

I spent most of that next week, worried about my kids I’d just met but fallen in love with. Were they okay? Did any of them deal with flooding and lose valuable belongings? How many of them would return to my school or be forced to relocate due to the hurricane?

Fortunately most of them would return but a few of them had been affected by the hurricane. As soon as we returned we had to hit the ground running to make up for lost time.

And everything I wanted to do, went out the window, because, I had to prepare them for testing and cover lost ground. In the midst of all of that I had my own personal stuff going on. I moved immediately after Hurricane Harvey into a new spot and had to fly back and forth to Cleveland to take care of some business and see family, in the midst of me teaching.

To put it simply, I had ALOT going on my first semester of teaching. I struggled with classroom management and pacing and faced a steep learning curve of lesson design. I put in long days of lesson planning and procrastinated with grading. There’s SO much to juggle in teaching, it is truly a juggling act that takes lots of practice and preparation.

It is now the end of the first semester and I can honestly say, I’m proud of myself, I’m proud of my students. Gains are happening, even if they aren’t huge. Many of my kids came to me reading grades below the grade they are actually in and many of them are catching up or are caught up. I actually can make it through a lesson now (I couldn’t say that in September or even October)!

But the biggest lesson I learned, is grace. Grace with myself, and with my students. I look at my students when they ask me why I cant be more like Ms. ____________ or Mr. ______________.

But they’re not asking me to be JUST like the other teachers. They’re asking me to be more of myself. To find those parts deep down inside that my kids need. The humor they need in the midst of not so exciting material. The strictness and structure that provides not just boundaries, but safety. And most importantly…the love they need to grow not just academically but emotionally, and socially as well.

All in all, my first semester of teaching was an adventure. I learned alot. I have alot ahead of me for next semester, as I prepare my kiddos for state testing and moving on to the 7th grade. It’s TOUGH but…I love what I do.

Posted in Education, Life, Uncategorized

No Place I’d rather be…

First Year Teacher Struggles

Classroom management…if I can just get these kids to BE QUIET!!!! I love them dearly, but geez…can y’all wait til I’m done teaching before y’all talk? I promise I don’t stand in front of them long!

How can I engage them in a way that is interesting to them so they will want to listen?

Comparison…comparing myself to other teachers does my students (as well as myself) a great disservice. There’s only one Ms. G…and when I’m too busy comparing myself to others, trying to be something other than me…my kids miss out. My kids need the authentic Ms. G. Not someone trying to be another teacher.

Content struggles. Ahhhhh poetry. Poetry, like much other forms of writing, is an art form. And its’ interpretation is subjective. Trying to figure it out in order to answer questions so I can teach my kids how to answer questions the way the writer writes them? Can we say frustration?

100 minutes. 100 minutes of engaging my kids. Many different levels of learning in one class, 3 times a day. Many different personalities. Many different times of repeating myself, giving consequences, telling kids to stay in their seats, stop messing with another kid, etc.

And yet, I wouldn’t trade ANY OF IT.

Despite the struggles, my kids do actually learn something from me. and it feels good when they do.

My kids actually learn. And it means I teach. and I’m not half bad.

Well I’ll be damned.

And there’s no place I’d rather be!

Posted in Education, Life, Uncategorized

The Long Road Home-A Teacher’s Late Bloomer Story-The Intro

I knew I was supposed to become a teacher, 11 years ago.

11 years ago, I was a college sophomore at a community college in NE Ohio (which would later become my alma mater). I took a summertime math class with a brilliant black mathemetician, Dr. Bilal Bomani. Before his class, I was not really feeling math. I always felt like I was bad at it. Or bored. And I wasn’t looking forward to taking a summer math course. But soon as I stepped foot in his class, I knew this would be different. He wasn’t the first black math teacher I’d had but, he was definitely the first black math professor I’d had. And he told us from the first day that his class had one of the highest drop rates.

But I was determined. I had goals to reach. In order to transfer to the local university within a certain time frame (the following spring), I had to take and pass this particular math course. So here we go!

He was the first professor I had in college that pushed me, that challenged me. I was a naturally gifted writer, I loved reading, so most classes, especially English courses, were a breeze. But me and math, had always been at odds. He pushed us to practice and to think and never told us we couldn’t do it. He was firm yet encouraging. And I ended up getting an A in math for the first time EVER. I felt empowered. I felt like I could do anything if I put my mind to it. It was the best feeling ever. And I wanted others to experience that feeling. Because I knew there were so many other kids, especially black girls, who felt like I did. Who felt like they weren’t good at math.

And at that moment, I knew I wanted to become an educator. I actually almost went to school to become a middle school math teacher but the classes I needed to take, scared me away. Also I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to teach forever. But none of that mattered. I just needed to trust in what I knew and trust that God knew what the rest looked like.

What I didn’t understand at the time is that all I needed to worry about was taking that first step towards becoming an educator and trusting that the rest would be in God’s hands.

After college I worked for the government, in higher education, and for a non profit with after school programs before finally deciding to enter the classroom as a teacher. I was tired of feeling unfulfilled, of not making enough money, of not being able to have enough time with my son. I decided to finally try teaching.

The training during the summer that I went through, I was nervous as heck about teaching middle school, or just teaching in general.

But the moment I stepped in front of my sixth graders on the first day of school, power point clicker in hand, and opened my mouth…I knew I had [finally] come home.

Posted in Faith, higher education, Life, purpose, Religion

No Regrets on Purpose

“If you could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be?” is a common question asked on a regular basis on a variety of different platforms and situations.
My answer? Nothing. Because the smallest change could literally change the course of my entire life.

My freshman year I [briefly] attended a HBCU in Virginia. And while now, I look back on my experience and time there fondly, at the time I was depressed, homesick and unhappy while I was there.

Years later I am able to set aside the depression I experienced and remember mostly the valuable lessons I was taught there, both in and outside of the classroom. Those lessons stuck with me and even shaped me into who I am at this very moment.

Leaving that school was devastating, as I looked at it as coming home empty-handed. No college credits under my belt, no degree, nothing. Just feelings of failure and embarrassment as I enrolled at the local community college.

But who knew that in the moment of my despair, the foundation was laid for my personal and character development? Who knew that depression I went through would strengthen me and position me to encourage others later on? Who knew coming back home would lead to even greater opportunities, meeting my husband, and discovering my passion for education?

God knew. Just like He knew in the Old Testament story of Joseph, that Joseph getting sold into slavery by his own brothers, being imprisoned and punished, would set him up to be one of the highest ranking officials in the country, putting him in a position to save his family’s life during a famine, one of the worst ever.

I’m sure Joseph never saw any of that coming. But I’m sure if he were alive today and you asked him if he could go back and change anything in his life, his answer would be the same as mine.

“Nothing.”

And how do I know this?

Genesis 50: 20 told me so.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

You may have lost a loved one. Or some friends. or a job. You may find yourself in a situation you never expected to be in. But God allowed it to happen. It all has a greater purpose.

You losing your job led to a career change, or allowed you to be able to take care of a sick relative. Losing friends allowed you to make new friends, appropriate for the season of life you are in now. God knew what you needed before you did, before you even opened your mouth to ask Him.

Your pain, your frustration, has purpose.

God is interested in our happiness, our success, our triumphs, absolutely He is. But He is more concerned with making us like Him. And whatever He has to do or use to do that, He will.

Take comfort in knowing that God wants you to be the very best version of you possible and He will bring you to unexpected places so that can happen. Trust that God knows better than you or any of us ever will.

And in times of trials, frustration, devastation, despair…know there is a purpose, a reason for it all.

Posted in Education, Life, Motherhood

Things I Wish

I watched American Promise tonight, a documentary on two African American boys and their experience in education from Kindergarten to 12th grade. It was eye opening, it had me looking at my desires for my son’s future education in a new light.

The two boys started Kindergarten at the prestigious, predominantly white The Dalton School in New York City. The documentary followed the boys through their highs and lows through 13 years. I watched as the two boys struggled academically, socially, and were even labeled as disruptive at one point. Administrators acknlowedged the struggle to keep black boys enrolled at the school, noting that the black girls usually excelled there.

I won’t give away too much more of the documentary, but I looked over at my son, my bright, curious, active 7 month old boy, and thought about the kind of educational experiences I hope for him.

Growing up in inner city public schools, mainly magnet and honors programs, my experience was different from that of my male counterparts. The boys in my classes especially in elementary and high school, were far outnumbered by girls. Especially amongst minorities. I can count all the black boys in my high school honors classes on one hand.

I think about what I want for my son. On one hand I want diversity for him, similar to the upbringing I had, as well as my husband. But then I think about what was sacrificed-aside from my middle school years at a majority black school on the other side of town, I had very few teachers and administrators of color, that looked like me. I don’t recall a black male teacher anywhere prior to middle school. I am thinking I want a different experience for my son.

I want him to thrive academically, socially. I now appreciate the caring family/community I experienced at the HBCU I attended, as well as the inner city campus of the community college I graduated from. Those two experiences alone were more formative than any other time in my life academically-I was empowered, encouraged, to pursue opportunities that my peers at majority white institutions weren’t necessarily exposed to. I was in an environment that not only was I encouraged to excel, but was expected to.

I want that for my son.

My nephews are thriving in a diverse suburb, after struggling in inner city schools. But I also wonder what my son’s experience will be like if placed in a similar setting, as I remain hesitant to enroll him in the worsening city schools my husband and I graduated from.

Only time will tell what we will decide, but we will fight for our son to have the best possible education.

Posted in Education, higher education, Life, Sports

Just ONE Thing

I was a teenager when the confusion first began. I wanted to be a sportscaster…and a music label CEO. I loved music…and sports.

“Clearly, you must love something more than the other” my father told me. I was confused…I loved both music..and sports…and couldn’t possibly think of not pursuing both.

Earlier this year, around summer time, I decided to really focus on writing, and launching a career in higher education/student affairs.

Focusing on writing, while I was waiting to land a position in higher education, worked out for a little bit.

Then I landed my dream position.

I thought ‘why not do both simultaneously’? I made a conscious effort to make time to write, while also being effective at my job.

It worked, for a bit, while I was training and getting acquainted with my job. As things began to kick into full speed at my job, it became increasingly difficult to find the motivation to write. I began to pour most of my energy into my job and less into my writing.

Only recently have I discovered that you can have it all, just not at once. You have to decide to put things on the back burner. For me? Writing will be on the back burner.

Just to be clear, some folks can have it all, and some have it all at once, seemingly. I will say, they live HIGHLY compartmentalized lives, from what I’ve observed.

For passionate folks like myself? I find it impossible for my passion not to bleed into everything that I do. I can write and work in higher education, simultaneously, but if I write, it’s usually going to be probably about higher education. It helps for me to focus on just one thing. As I get to the place I want to be in higher education, I can branch out and write books, write for journals, etc…I could even do it while I’m launching my career. However  I find it more rewarding and enriching if all my work is intertwined  It doesn’t have to be, but I find that I’m more effective for me to live, eat, breathe my passion, than to divide my time between several things. If you do find that you’re interested in multiple things, find ways to marry your passions. For me, my passion for urban studies and higher education has led me to discovering ways in which the two subjects intersect.

I don’t pretend to know the secret to success. I do know, what works for me, and all I can do is share what I’ve learned. Maybe it’ll help you, or maybe you’ll find something else that works for you. Either way…Just one thing…that’s my strategy and what works for me!

Posted in Cleveland, Education, Faith, higher education, Life, Married Life, Relationships

Time to Fly

I’m such a chicken…I can go literally ANYWHERE in the country for grad school and I’m afraid to go TOO far from my family and in-laws but I’m too scared to fly from the nest…or at least to fly too far away. Every time I’ve gone somewhere unfamiliar, I’ve always ran back to safety, to my comfort zone. Never mind the fact that I wasn’t always happy there.

When I left for Hampton at 18, not only was I dealing with depression, but I was also dealing with homesickness. I was over nine hours away from home. I had plenty of resources available to me that I could have taken advantage of…counseling, TRIO, I had 2 ‘big brothers’-upperclassmen who adopted me as their little sister & had taken me under their wings.  I opted to go back home instead and deal with depression near my family.

Fast forward three years, I was over 18 hours away when my grandmother passed away-I was in Southwest Louisiana for Alternative Spring Break, and my beloved grandmother was on her deathbed, and I knew it. We all knew it. I remember wanting to stay home instead of doing ASB that year…my mother urged me to go, because I couldn’t prevent anything from happening. And she was right. And just like I feared, I ended up getting that call that my grandmother had passed away, while I was down south. It was incredibly hard, but thankfully, I wasn’t alone.

Why am I telling these stories? Because they have everything to do with me being afraid to leave the nest. I’ve been talking about leaving my hometown ever since I was a little girl. And I’m scared to leave home. Scared to leave my family and the only city I’ve ever known. Scared that I will have trouble making friends wherever I end up next. Scared that hubby & I will have trouble finding jobs. Scared that I will fail and end up back here.

I seem to forget that the times that I DID step out of my comfort zone? Yes it was scary…but it all worked out. And I always had the time of my life. Including this current job now.

I really do need to step out of my comfort zone with graduate school, and trust that everything will work out, because it will. I think also, I stay here in town, not expecting things to change, but they do, and they already are changing. Life goes on, whether you are ready or not, and I’m finally realizing that, as I watch all of my friends step out of their comfort zones and do amazing things. It’s time for me to do the same, to face my fears, and not only survive, but thrive.

It’s time to leave the nest, it’s time to fly. Wherever we land, everything will work out. Might not be smooth sailing at first, but things will work out. And best part is, I won’t be alone this time-I’ll have my husband by my side. In the words of my wise friend/sis ‘yes we definitely need to face our fears and get out of our comfort zone, because GOD knows where he wants to take and place us, we just have to put that trust in Him.’

Posted in higher education, Life

#30in30 A Helping Hand

So as you all know, I started a new job on August 1st, at my Alma Mater. I am a College Completion Coach working with first year remedial and pell-eligible students, connecting them to the campus and local community with the necessary resources needed to finish their degree or certificate programs.

My job is a BLAST, it really doesn’t feel like work. This week was Welcome Week and we held different activities each day to welcome new and returning students to campus.

As part of my job, I’m recruiting 100 students to be coached by me for this academic year. I have a list of 100+ students, and it’s my job to sell them on participating in this program.

It can be a bit overwhelming, as an introvert. I am excellent at building rapport and relationships, but when it comes to initially meeting people? I’m a bit awkward. Recruiting is also not my expertise, not my favorite thing to do, but I want to learn and get better.

That being said, I reached out to my colleagues and asked for tips. And let me tell you, it was much better than sitting in my office wondering how in the heck I was going to recruit. They gave me some helpful tips, that left me feeling so much better.

When you go to work, you have coworkers for a reason. They hold knowledge that may be useful to you.

It’s that way in life in general. No man is an island. We are given family and friends for a reason, for companionship, and for life lessons.

We all have something to offer, something to teach. Make sure you extend a helping hand and return the favor to others when you can. We could all use a helping hand in life.