Wherein I Dub Myself “Hashtag Girl”

My Streaks app is telling me that today is a writing day.  I’ve been using Streaks to help me set some habits.  Right now it includes writing 3 days per week, doing Barre3 four days per week, picking up for 10 minutes a day, and drinking more water than coffee.  Anyhow, my app is telling me I need to write, so I’m writing even though I’m not entirely sure what to write about.

I’m struggling a bit with some things that are happening at work.  It’s a long story, but there is some political yuckiness happening with the school board.  I’m struggling with my passion for my work, my desire to hug everyone and tell them it will be ok, and my desire to shout from the rooftops that people need to sit up and pay attention.  Basically, I want to fix everything…and I have to recognize that I can only do what I can do.  It’s making me especially emotional because not only have I worked for 11 years in my district, next year my daughters will start school in my district.  It’s personal. It’s emotional. It’s not my favorite. I’m working on doing what I can, being the best me I can be, and helping our district, teachers, and students to shine.

I’m sort of the Hashtag Girl these days.  I push colleagues to tweet and use our district hashtag.  It’s always important for us to show our work and tell our story, but especially so in difficult times.  We have to own our stories and not let others tell them for us.  We must avoid the danger of a single story.  I truly believe that owning our story is transformational, so I’ll keep on pushing us in that direction.  One tweet at a time.

This is 35

Thirty-five is recognizing that my voice is always with me. 

Thirty-five is knowing what I like and what I don’t like. 

Thirty-five is feeling more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. 

Thirty-five is being brave enough to say what I think, to stand up for what I believe in, to admit when I need help. 

Thirty-five is a coffee addiction. 

Thirty-five is recognizing the people who build me up and taking a pass on those who tear me down. 

Thirty-five is seeing how far I’ve come since twenty-five and seeing how far I can go by forty-five. 

Thirty-five is being proud of who I am. 

Thirty-five is not nearly enough sleep, but lots of love and snuggles. 

Thirty-five is being the mom to two five-year-olds. 

Thirty-five is rocking my fashion sense. 

Thirty-five is a messy house, messy desk, messy car. 

Thirty-five is completely owning my goofy, nerdy, ridiculous self. 

Thirty-five is knowing how important quiet time is for my soul. 

Thirty-five is grey hair and a few extra pounds. 

Thirty-five is knowing when to say yes and that it’s ok to say no. 

Thirty-five is looking pretty good so far. 


Tell Me What To Do/Don’t Tell Me What To Do

In my role as a coach over the past few years, I’ve had many conversations with teachers where someone said to me, “Please just tell me what to do,” and then, sometimes in the same breath, followed that with, “I don’t want to be told what to do.” I have had similar thoughts myself as a teacher, a coach, and a parent. Just tell me what to do…except I’m the expert on my students/teachers/children so don’t tell me what to do. Every time I’ve heard or felt this, I’ve been confused. We can’t have it both ways…right? How can these seemingly polar opposite ideas coexist?

I’ve recently had an epiphany.

As with many of my epiphanies, this one came to me while I was reading…and reading something not related to education at that.

In the book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande explores aging, dying, and death in the modern medical age.  He uses research and storytelling to bring forth the idea that quality of life is what we are looking for at the end of our time. My epiphany occurred while reading a chapter on nursing homes and assisted living.  What Gawande brings to light is that in elder care structure, routine, and autonomy are key.  Nursing homes have the structure and routine part working like a well-oiled machine, but they often neglect the autonomy. The elderly who live on their own have their autonomy, but they may lack the structures and supports to keep them as safe and healthy as possible. For a successful, healthy, fulfilling life both components are necessary. I immediately connected this idea with my experiences as an early childhood special education teacher. My students needed a predictable routine and classroom structures in order to feel safe and to know what to expect.  They also needed time and space to practice being independent and to explore their interests.  If I structured every minute of their day, not only would they be bored and rebel, but they wouldn’t learn anything.  On the other hand, if I just made my classroom a free for all, it would be stressful environment that lacked the safety necessary for learning. It’s about the balance of both.

In my work as a coach, I’ve discovered that these conversations about support and autonomy happen across grade levels.  All of our learners thrive on the healthy balance of structure and independence.  This is where is hit me: teachers ARE learners.  If this is true for our students, it’s true for us as teachers too. When we say, “Tell me what to do but don’t tell me what to do,” we are asking for support in finding that balance.  Show me how to structure my work, but don’t hand me a script to read off of.  Help me have a routine for what I need to do, but recognize that I bring my own expertise into the classroom.  As a coach, I need to recognize that teachers may be seeking structure and routine as well as autonomy and independence. I need to be aware that they may need more structure in some areas than others, and I need to help them find the right balance.  Now that I have a better handle on what, “Tell me but don’t tell me,” means, I can use this knowledge to better serve and support teachers…and myself!

Hi – A Reentry Blog Post

You can’t find your voice if you don’t use it. Or so says Austin Kleon. Lately, I haven’t been using my voice as much as I would like. I want to write, to reflect, to tell my story, to show my work.  I want to write about my work and my family and books and cheese…you know…the important things.

I keep getting stuck, though.

Part of it is that my job is so reflective that reflecting has come to feel like work in the most banal sense of the word.  I am extremely reflective by nature and find it rejuvenating, but I haven’t been doing it enough for myself lately.  My work as a coach has me supporting others’ reflections and reflecting on their reflections. Reflect, reflect, reflect.  I have to make sure that I’m part of that reflection.  I have to make sure I don’t get lost in the reflection.

And that brings me to the second reason I keep getting stuck – I keep thinking I’ve lost my voice. I haven’t though.  I just keep forgetting to use it. My wonderful friend Jen Vincent wrote a lovely blog post about me this summer. As part of her post, she read through my entire blog (no small feat) and compiled her favorite words of mine into this slideshow.

Erin Jackle is Awesome from Jennifer Vincent

I have come back to this slideshow again and again, and it never fails to surprise me.  Those are my words! That’s my voice! It’s always been there, and I just need to use it.

I Have Hope For You #NIAW

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and I’ve been struggling all week with what I wanted to say.  This year’s theme is “You are not alone,” which I adore since sharing my infertility story brought me so much love and support during our struggle.  Still, there were days when, despite the love around me, I felt so alone.  How do I honor the love shown to me while still acknowledging that I often felt alone?

During a particularly low day, one of my nurses said to me, “I’ve been hoping for you.  I keep your name in my hope box to remind me to hope for you.”

I was so touched.

Now that I’ve survived infertility and come out on the other side with two beautiful happy endings, you might think that infertility is part of my past.  It’s not.  It’s an ever-constant part of who I am.  While I may not talk about it much these days, I haven’t left that community or stopped supporting those dealing with this disease.

You see…I have a box of names now.  It’s a plain, cheap black jewelry box.  I’m not even sure where it came from, but it lives in the drawer of my nightstand.  This little box is full of names.  It’s full of the names of those I’m sending hope to, no matter what stage of the journey they are in.  Just starting out, IVF, adoption, laproscopy, hysterectomy, Clomid, you name it.  Whenever I see someone tweet or blog about their struggles, their name goes into the box.  There are blank pieces too, since I am hoping for those whose names I don’t even know.

If you are struggling, I am hoping for you.

I am hoping for you even when you can’t hope for yoursevles.

I see you.

I have hope for you.

Even in your darkest days when it feels like you have no one, I will hope for you.

You are not alone.

I Saw Your Face Today

I saw your face today while I was driving. 

I saw your face in the rear view mirror. 

I couldn’t see your eyes, but I’d know that double chin anywhere. 

Not the bullfrog double-chin from the steroids. Just your regular dad double-chin. 

I couldn’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure you were wearing one of your shirts with boats or fish or some other nauticalness. 

I saw your face today and couldn’t tear my eyes away. 

I kept checking the mirror to make sure it was you. It was. Even though I know you’d never drive a Prius. 

I saw your face today and immediately my mind began telling you everything I’ve wanted to say since I last saw you. 

I saw your face today and my eyes filled with tears. 

But also…

I saw your face today and it made me smile. 

I Simply Remember My Favorite Things #sol15

Earl Grey tea with just a splash of milk.

The moment Harry finds out he’s a wizard.

Freshly painted toenails.

Colorful tights.

The sound of a train just as I’m falling asleep.

Freshly laundered sheets.

Photos of my dad.

Belting out “Sweet Caroline.”

Blush, lipstick, and mascara.

Scrolling through Instagram.

The words, “Out for delivery.”

The moment before you start a new book.

Really hot showers.

Two little girls snuggled on my lap.

Dresses with pockets.

Fruity wine.

Staying in pajamas all day long.

Hugs from Ted.

The first sandal day of the year.

Reading in the backyard.

When Life Hands You Lemons #sol15

First, Charlotte got pneumonia.

Then, Evelyn ended up taking a trip to the ER at midnight.  Croup.

Of course, I was the next sick one.

During all of this we were scrambling to determine a new childcare situation, buy an additional set of car seats, and a more reliable car for Ted’s long drive to work.

It was crazy, but we were muddling through.

Then Monday happened.  On Monday, Ted and I were out enjoying a kid-free afternoon when the universe decided we needed a whole basket of lemons.

Ted’s new job fell through.

We are picking up the pieces and moving on as best we can, but we are still reeling.

Thankfully, Ted will be able to go back to his position with Trader Joe’s.  Not much will change other than we are now paying more for childcare than we were previously.

Everything will be ok.  But this was a tough blow for our family.

When life hands you lemons, sometimes the only thing to do is snuggle up with tea and a book.

  When life hands you lemons, sometimes the only thing to do is get froyo.

 When life hands you lemons, sometimes the only thing to do is take goofy selfies.

So, that’s what we are doing.  We have our home and our health and each other.  Everything will be just fine.

But…I’d like to avoid the lemons for a little while.

Mother Knows Best #sol15

I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write for the past couple of days because my poor Charlotte has pneumonia!  It’s been a tough few days.  Unfortunately, having a very sick little girl was made even more difficult when faced with a doctor who wasn’t listening to us.  Without rehashing all of the details, suffice it to say that we had to fight with the pediatrician to do the chest x-ray and give us an accurate diagnosis.

The whole experience left me reflecting on how we simply do not value parent input or trust that parents know their kids best.  It’s true in medicine, it’s true in education, and it’s just not okay.  How many times have you heard a colleague complain about “that mom” calling again?  Or heard a teacher say that a child would be so much better off if the teacher could just take her home?  How many times have you seen educators get frustrated with parents for wanting more support for their student?  Or for pushing for a general education placement when the team thinks the student  belongs in special education.  You’ve maybe even said or thought these things yourself.  I’ve always connected well with the  parents of my students and considered them team members, but even I’ve had those frustrated thoughts.  I’ve thought that I’ve known better.

If being a mom has taught me anything it’s that parents, for the most part, are truly doing the best they can with what they know.  While there are always exceptions, most parents love their kids fiercely and will do whatever it takes to support them.  While I valued parental input on my students before I became a mom, it wasn’t until I had my girls that I truly understood what it meant to partner with parents.  I expect Evelyn and Charlotte’s doctors and teachers to listen to me, to value my input, and to recognize that I come to the table with a certain level of expertise that they just don’t have.  Becoming a mom has really helped me to walk in the shoes of other parents.  To see that the constant phone calls aren’t meant to annoy me, or that they aren’t disagreeing with me for no reason.  Being a parent myself has helped me see even more clearly how important it is for us to work together with parents and to see their questions and concerns for what they are: parents advocating for their children.

Parents are the experts on their children.  This doesn’t mean that as educators we don’t have expertise of our own.  Rather it means that we need to collaborate with parents and combine our expertise in order to provide the best support for each and every child.


It’s Been A Day #sol15

It’s been a day full of worry because Charlotte is sicker than she’s ever been.

It’s been a day full of giggles while pretending to be dinosaurs with Evelyn.

It’s been a day full of multitasking as I try to follow up on nanny applications, send out agendas for work, entertain my healthy kiddo, and snuggle my sick one.

It’s been a day full of coffee because how else do you get through the day?

It’s been a day full of wonder with Evelyn asking me all of the questions.

It’s been a day full of heartbreak as my Charlotte has been in constant tears.

It’s been a day full of helplessness because I can’t make my little girl better.

It’s been a day full of pride as Evelyn bravely went to school without her sister for the first time.

It’s been a day full of balance (or lack thereof) while I attempt to give all of the people and things in my life the attention they deserve.

It’s been a day full of open windows and fresh air.

It’s been a day full of coffee which deserves mentioning twice.

Basically, it’s been an average, ordinary day for this mama.


During March, I’m participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers.