Sunday, August 15, 2010

Let Us Begin

It is that time of year, once again. Time for the whining to begin anew. "But I don't wanna go back to school!!" "I just got out of school, it can't be time to go back!!" "Please, oh please, can't I have a few more weeks?!" And that's just the teachers!

Yes, even teachers whine to their mothers. Somehow, whining to someone who is retired about having to go back to work just isn't all that fulfilling.

I'll admit it...I'm not looking forward to going back to work. I enjoy sleeping in, getting dressed only if absolutely necessary, eating lunch at a time other than 12:15, and, in general, being a lazy bum. I loved doing a little traveling this summer, a whole lot of learning, and meeting some of the most wonderful people I've ever known! (even though I knew them before I knew them!) I loved watching television, reading magazines, visiting bookstores, and having long chats with friends (online and on the phone), all without having to worry about the lengthy list of items that need to get done for school.

But I am most definitely looking forward to seeing all of my friends on Tuesday; the people who help create the wonderful community at our school; the people who keep me sane on a daily basis...or at least try to. It is for their sake as well as mine that I make the following statement:

Each day, upon waking, I will remind myself that I am a person of value. I have something wonderful to share with the people in my life, including my students. My attitude is my choice. I choose to begin each day feeling positive about life. I choose happiness.

Now, it is very easy to say that from where I sit at the end of my summer vacation. I know it will be much harder to maintain after, say, Tuesday morning when the alarm goes off for the first time in two months. I'm sure I'll need help in maintaining my positive outlook. Fortunately I have some wonderful friends who will help me with this whenever I need it, either with a supportive shoulder or a good swift kick. They always seem to know the right thing to do or say...even if I don't want to hear it.

But I thought I should have a back-up plan for when my friends aren't nearby; something to go to and find a bit of positivity when I'm in desperate need. So I Googled it. "Positivity," that is. The first site listed was The Positivity Blog by Henrik Edberg, a "30 year old guy from Sweden" (his words) who managed to make some pretty significant changes in his life, the first of which was to move from "a generally pretty negative attitude to a much more positive one." Well, that's exactly what I'd like to do. So I think I'll check out his blog from time to time (or whenever he adds a new post!) There are several blogs linked on my blog that I haven't viewed in quite some time. Why is that?

Actually, I think the question should be why do I take so little time for myself during the school year? Why don't I ever make the time to do something I love to do? Do I really think that I hold so little value as a human being that the needs of everyone else should come before the needs of this teacher? Those of you who know me well already know the answer to that last question. But I'm working on it.

My dear friend Teryl put out a question to our PLN (Personal Learning Network) the other day: "What do you do well outside of education?" As teachers we spend so much of our time (yes, even during our summer vacation) consumed with all the things that need to be done for our students, for their parents, for our school, that we can get lost in the process. But when asked that question, "What do you do well outside of education?" the answer should not be, "Umm..."

That was my answer, by the way. It's not that I feel I don't do anything well other than teach. That wasn't the problem with my answer. The problem was I had to think about it! "What do you do well...?" could also be interpreted as "What do you love to do?" That should not be a question that requires a great deal of thought. That should be the easiest of questions to answer.


Ok, Teryl. I get it. We all need to have something outside of our careers that makes us happy. Just us! Something that we do only because we love it and it makes us feel like we are a person of value. Or it's something we do because it's a challenge and we know we can overcome it because we want to. I need to start exploring ideas, look at potential hobbies, try something new. Try something positive.

Umm...I'm open to suggestions.


One quick side note. I was out running errands today and was struck by the number of people who crossed my path on this beautiful Sunday morning who seemed to be in wonderfully cheerful moods. It was infectious. From the mother and young daughter who were having a rather amusing debate in Target over which small whiteboard was "cuter," to the clerk who rang me up and just really seemed to be enjoying her day, to the young woman at the drive-thru window at Wendy's who, when I pulled up, greeted me with a very cheery, "Welcome to Wendy's!" She had the biggest, most genuine smile on her face. It was beautiful!

"Oh, um...thank you," I chuckled.

She handed my lunch to me with a, "Thank you so much! Have a wonderful day!!"

"Thank you!" I chuckled again.

She was just so cute! And sweet! And so sadly unique. At least that's what I thought at first.

As I drove away with a smile on my face - happy people will do that to you, if you let them - I started thinking that she really isn't all that unique. Kind, good people like this young woman whose name I did not manage to notice are really the norm in life. There are far more of them than I think most people want to admit. We seem to want to believe that mean, unhappy people outnumber the rest of us. Those are the people who make us miserable at work or who take the last parking space in the lot as we waited patiently for it; the people who hurtle themselves down the freeway at breakneck speed and cut you off and then make rude gestures at you. They aren't bad people, per se. Just unhappy. Or unknowledgeable. Yes, I know...I'm making up words now.

But think about it...of all the people you had to deal with last year - co-workers, parents, students - how many of them caused you grief? Which party represented the greatest majority? Those who were easy to deal with or those who were not? Of one hundred people in your working life, how many would you say negatively impacted your life? One? Two? Five? Ten? Even if it was ten out of one hundred people, that means that ninety percent (90%) of the people you worked with in one capacity or another last year were good people who positively impacted your life. I can live with that. How about you?

Try this experiment. The next time you go out to run errands, greet everyone who crosses your path with a cheery "Good morning!" (or whatever time of day it happens to be) Hold the door open for people. Let someone else go ahead of you in line at the supermarket. Sure, you'll get a few stares from people who might be thinking "Oh, crazy woman! Just smile and walk away!!" But for the most part, happiness will be met by happiness.

Try it. And let me know what happens. More importantly, let me know how you feel afterwards!

William James said, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes." What would happen if many human beings altered their lives by altering their attitudes? What kind of change would we be able to make in our world if we just believed we could?

So, here's to a new school year! May it bring us joy with little sorrow, playfulness with little toil, and a wonderfully positive outlook with little negativity.
The sun shines and warms and lights us and we have no curiosity to know why this is so; but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger, and mosquitoes and silly people. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


  1. Beautiful post, You will do fine. Remember I am up and on my way to school at least 3 hours before you are. I try to look at each school day as a new beginning; I know how fortunate I am to be in a school where I am valued by mostly everyone. If you need daily words or encouragement, try They will email you a quote each day. I enjoy them, and post many of them on Facebook and twitter.
    I will be think of you tomorrow. I don;t start back until Thursday. I am waking bright and early to keep my gyn appointment.

  2. Hi Karen,
    Loved this post. I started back to school last week and I was not chomping at the bit to get back like I usually am. I wondered why and then realized I had so enjoyed my summer this year that I wanted it to last a little longer.

    However once I got into the swing of getting up at 6:00 a.m. each morning, I hit the ground running. I am determined not to let negativity try and block my path. I'm going to employ the "rule of two" that I learned at EduBloggerCon this summer. If someone is being negative, I'm going to use my two feet to walk away.

    What I do well outside of education? I am a very social person, so I love interacting with people on Twitter, Nings, blogs, and in real life too. I'm great at engaging others in conversation.

    Stay positive.

  3. Amazing post!!! I appreciate your views and outlook so much, and even more the challenges! I wish the same for you!
    Have an amazing year!

  4. I love this post, Karen. I will be the first to remind you to smile this year. I will also let you know you are a person of value. I enjoy working with you, and I depend on you- particularly for computer advice. By-the-way, this summer I thought I should do something for myself away from teaching so I began piano lessons-much to the chagrin of my family. I love them. I would highly recommend a hobby away from teaching. It is very satisfying. I am not very good-yet. I am struggling but am learning and loving the process. I can, however, play a mean 'When the Saints Go Marching In'.

  5. Thank you everyone! I truly appreciate all of your kind words! I was feeling pretty good about this post after I wrote it, but now I feel even better about it. Thank you!!

    Natalie...I love that you're taking piano lessons! Katie and I were thinking we should get a group together and start jamming! Oh, and just to be're already WAY ahead of the rest of us when it comes to musical ability!!! But you have me thinking. Carol was kind enough to tune my guitar before we left for summer break, but I haven't picked it up since then. I think it's going to start calling my name soon...

  6. Have a wonderful 1st day back! Glad I didn't have to wake you up!

  7. First of all, I loved this description of your summer, "I enjoy sleeping in, getting dressed only if absolutely necessary, eating lunch at a time other than 12:15, and, in general, being a lazy bum." I totally relate. Also, I relate to the fact you've spent the summer traveling and learning tons. Me too!

    Secondly, I was just thinking how teachers I know always put on this front of, "I'm so HAPPY to be starting the school year off again!" When I believe that is false; nobody prefers working over not working. They don't call it work for nothing.

    Finally, I thank God that although I too admit I would rather not think about how soon school will be re-starting (Sept. 7th for NJ) I LOVE my job as a teacher. I love spending the summers figuring out ways to make my upcoming year even easier and more fun than the previous one. I love reading blogs like yours to maintain a fresh and positive outlook. I love helping others learn (and in the process learn tons myself).

    I can't imagine how people who HATE their jobs do it all year long. It sounds like Hell.

    My conclusion: Everyone should be a teacher.

  8. My new very favorite blog post of yours. I'm bookmarking it with the title be positive so when I am having a day, I can come back to it and be reminded. Thanks friend!