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When You Aim High

Aim low, and you stay stagnant.

Aim high, and you go places.

Literally.

It’s a lesson I try to impart on my students.

I lead by example.

All of my life, I have set goals for myself.

I’m not sure where this drive to succeed began.  I suspect it came from a need to please my mom.

Nothing was ever quite good enough for her.  Not my hairstyle, and not my grades.

I wanted to please people from an early age.

Eventually, I transferred to who I wanted to please from her to myself.

And, perhaps, the employers I’ve worked for over the years, and now, even my students.

Personal goals, though.  They are things that others cannot do for you.

For a number of years, I’ve wanted to be a runner.  I’ve toyed with the idea and made feeble, inconsistent attempts to accomplish this goal.

Last year, I ran my first IRL 5k.  Well, I walked more of it than I ran, but I did go out, among other people, and complete the route.

I joined the Hogwarts Running Club last fall and began earning medals for various distances, but still, the running was inconsistent.

Then this year, I qualified for Perfect Prefect status because I’d signed up for all seven races this year.

That didn’t mean I’d completed them, though.

Life and Florida humidity got in the way.

Until a few weeks ago when I finished my Beachbody program, 22 Minute Hard Corps.

I got serious about running.

Every time I went out, I challenged myself to walk shorter intervals and run for longer ones.

Most days, I was able to do this.  Sometimes, I couldn’t…especially if I wasn’t feeling well.

I didn’t run every day, but I knew that was okay.

I got down to the One HRC House Marathon and had one medal left…the 21k…so many miles…13.1.

Oy vey.

I figured I’d have to do the run in three or four segments.

The first round, I did 5.5 miles.

I ran nearly five of those miles.  Huge day for me.

Then, the last couple of days, I toyed with my planned run for today.

I wanted to finish.  I didn’t want to have to use a third day.

There’s a saying I’ve clung to of late…”She believed she could, and so she did.”

I believed.

And then I did.

I got up early on a SATURDAY morning…a day that all teachers live for because we don’t need to answer to an alarm clock.  Especially empty nester teachers who are not slaves to playdates or soccer schedules.

It was chilly, y’all.

I dressed the part…fuzzy hair/ear band and long sleeves to start out with.

I warmed up for the first .47 miles…the distance from my house to the entrance to my neighborhood.

Then, I pumped my arms and began my slow jog…for I am not fast, you see.

I had a tentative route planned out.

That’s what “runners” do, I’ve learned.

I knew I wanted to get the part I loathed out of the way.  It’s a lonely stretch of road.  It feels endless.

I got that done with nary a bad feeling, turned the corner, and headed up to a main road.

As I ran the next segment, I began to reconsider my route.  Dare I go straight at the light and push on up said main road to the next light?

I dared.

It wasn’t bad.  My music and the cars speeding by distracted me.

I turned the corner, intent on my pre-planned, now-altererd route, and I ran past an alternative / technical school, headed for a left turn I intended to make.

But wait!  I considered my soon-to-be footsteps carefully.

Dare I not turn the next corner but go straight, on a path I’d never been on before?

I dared.

This was a road I’d traveled more times, via car, than I could count.  It was the road that Rooster’s elementary school was on.

Daily trips for drop offs and pick ups were my life for a few years.

The distance didn’t seem to bad.

Until I was on my feet running them.

I couldn’t see the traffic light that I knew was at the end.

The road was e-n-d-l-e-s-s.

I had to cross the street where the sidewalk ended; it started over on the other side.

I crossed back when that side’s walkway ended.

And then the sidewalk ended altogether, but I could see the light by then.

I turned the corner.

And then there was NO sidewalk at all…on a heavily-traveled, two-lane road.

Oy vey.

I ran on grass that was not smooth and even angled toward a ditch at times.

I did run in the street when traffic happened to be light.  It was still pretty early for a Saturday morning.

There was no sidewalk for that stretch, but I knew that at the corner, which I could finally see and which I would turn, I’d have my beautiful, safe pavement to run on again.

I headed in a new direction…toward home…downhill part of the way.

The angels sang.

But first, a detour into my friend’s neighborhood.  I knew that it was about a mile around, and I was keeping an eye on my Garmin fitness watch.

I had a goal…a certain distance I wanted to cover.

I ran, knowing the route like the back of my hand.

I left her neighborhood and crossed the street into my own.

I knew how far around I needed to go; I had a mile left.

Somehow, it was the hardest mile.

It was also the easiest.

I knew that I was very close to attaining something I’d been working hard for.

I wound up running FURTHER than my goal.

Y’all, I covered 9.03 miles this morning.  I ran a total of 8.56 miles STRAIGHT.

Once I had left the neighborhood and started running, I had not stopped until I’d gotten back to my house.

I wanted to cry.

I was finally able to finish coloring in all of the boxes on my tracker sheet.

I made the Mr. take pictures of me.

Because I’m extra like that.

He was full of compliments.  “You stink,” he said.  Ha!  Runner’s perfume, I wanted to say.

Besides that, obtaining goals is messy business sometimes.  It definitely isn’t always pretty, as evidenced by my hair.

Later, after he’d left to go to the grocery store (ladies, be jealous), I jumped in the shower and processed my morning.

I thought about goal setting…why I do it.

I thought about my students and the goals they’d recently reflected about.

I teach my kids so much more than reading and writing, you see.

I’d had a tough week at work…namely because someone had suggested that my standards might be too high.

I just didn’t know how to respond to that.  The statement confused me.

The goals I set for my classroom…for my lessons…are the same that the state of Florida sets.

Sometimes, the state’s goals are unreasonable…especially for some of the students I teach, given their learning impairments.

For the other students, the goals are fair, I think.

But here’s the thing.  I set goals in my classroom based on the potential I see in my kids.

I know what they can accomplish, even when they don’t know it themselves yet.

They think the road is supposed to be easy.  Maybe they’ve had things handed to them.  Maybe parents have stepped in when the going has gotten tough and tried to “help” by trying to make the way easier.  Ahem.

Maybe they’ve never had people who challenged them a little beyond what they were used to, so they don’t know how to stretch themselves.

Maybe they don’t have confidence because they’ve never failed, dusted themselves off, and tried again, only to finally meet those goals.

I can relate to every single one of these thoughts.  Except the one about a parent stepping in.  Mine never did that.  Ever.  I didn’t do it for my kids either.  I was not “that” parent.

As adults, we know that life isn’t all butterflies and, dare I say, happy Disney songs.

Today, as I ran, the road was not always paved.  I’ve got the stickers on my shoes to prove it.

It was bumpy, and I had to watch for things like cracks in the sidewalk, uneven slabs of concrete, and deep puddles of dirt that begged for the opportunity to twist my ankles.

I was also by myself, music excluded.

I knew, though, that I had a cheerleader waiting in the wings (my sweet Mr.)…lots of them actually, when you consider my HRC Facebook group.

My students are not alone.  They have me, cheering them on, giving them an encouraging word, challenging them to do more, making them re-do work that was shoddy the first time.

I do not want my students to settle for just meeting goals.

I want them to “do to the most,” be “extra,” and reach for higher.

The end game isn’t necessarily a medal, although I will say that I do like each one I get for completing a race.

The result should be progress from where one started to where one wound up at the end of the day.

When my students were creating new goals for the second nine weeks, one of them wouldn’t write down anything.

“I’m doing just fine the way I am,” he said.

My jaw dropped.

“Really?” I said.  “So, you don’t think there’s anything new you can learn…any way to improve yourself?”

“Nope,” he said.

How many of us feel the same way, I wonder?

Aim low, stay stagnant…or dare I say regress.

Aim high, and the sky is the limit.

I practice what I preach.  These are life lessons, not necessarily academic ones.

They’ll get it, eventually, and maybe I’ll get more letters like the one I found on my desk on Thursday from a student I taught last year.

Always give 110%.  Never lower your standards.  Always reach for more.  By doing so, you’ll get what you wanted plus a little more to boot.  That’s never a bad thing.

Goal-Oriented

One of the things I am going to be more intentional about with my students this year is helping them be goal-oriented.

I know that this is probably why I have usually been successful at the things I’ve attempted in my own life.

I’ve always derived much satisfaction from accomplishing tasks.  This has included such things as learning to knit, obtaining my college degree, and becoming a teacher.

Although, in past years, my students and I have talked about goals, and I’ve even had them write a couple of them down on note cards that I’ve given back at the end of the school year, I can’t say that I’ve stressed the importance of creating an action plan and then self-monitoring periodically, reflecting on what’s working or not working.  That’s going to change.

Children need to be taught, explicitly, how to be metacognitive.  They need to learn how to evaluate their actions and the thinking process behind their decisions.

To help my students understand my revamped plan, I’m going to use myself as an example by listing my own personal and professional goals, which will probably look something like the following…

Personal Goal
Run my first 5k

Plan of Action

  • ✔️ Sign up for Color Run
  • Train three days a week using the Zombies Run app to track my progress
  • ✔️ Sign up for Hogwarts Running Club Platform 9 3/4 virtual race to stay motivated (who doesn’t like bling?)
  • Check in, via Instagram, with the HRC on September 1 when I’ve finished my training run that will double the 9 3/4 race

Professional Goal
Improve classroom culture

Plan of Action

  • Incorporate more Kagan Team and Class Building activities into my lesson plans (I didn’t do as good of a job with this last year)
  • Work with students to create affirmations and killer statements and gestures that will serve as reminders of how to respect themselves as individuals and each another as a learning community

Along with big goals, I’m going to have students create specific reading goals.  I read Penny Kittle’s book, Book Love.  She gives instructions for helping students determine how many pages they should be reading per week.  Her students write down their goals, and they assess their progress weekly and reflect on the numbers.  I just love, love, love this!

If you haven’t read her book and you are a teacher (home school, online, or brick and mortar), buy it.  You’ll love it too!

Back to my post…

After creating goals and action plans, I’ll have students place them into data folders.  We’ll revisit these goals and write reflections at least once every nine weeks.

It is my hope that as students see themselves taking steps toward reaching their goals…or even acknowledging backward steps, that they’ll take ownership of their learning, holding themselves accountable in the process.

2013 – Goal Oriented

Last night, while watching one of the Bowl games, I was struck by a commentary one of the analysts made about one of the football players.  Forgive me for not remembering specific details such as the player’s name and team he played for.

Those things aren’t what’s important in this post.  What is important, however, is the lesson of the commentary.

The analyst relayed the story of how this particular football player had heard a speaker lecture while the player was in middle school.  One of the things the speaker had the students do was to write down one goal they had for that year.

The now-player did so and accomplished his goal, whatever that was.

He continued writing his goals and accomplished every one of them as he progressed through school.

Even while in college, this young man has written down his goals…before every season.  He is proof that setting goals is the key to achieving success.

This commentary inspired me.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions.  I’ve never really kept the ones I’ve made.

However, I like the idea of setting goals.

Perhaps it’s just semantics, eh?  You say po-TA-to, and I say po-TAH-to.

😉

Either way, I am a task-oriented kind of gal.  I derive much pleasure from finished products.

Thus, I’m creating a list of goals for myself.

Career

  • Finish Reading Endorsement (anticipated finish date is Fall 2013)
  • Finish three ESOL classes (hopefully the FLDOE will not require me to complete the full 300-hour coursework since I’ll have my Reading Endorsement soon)
  • Keep my lesson plans SIMPLE…don’t overthink so much!

Personal

  • Take time each day to maintain some semblance of cleanliness in my home, whether it’s scooping poop from the back yard, vacuuming dog hair, or cleaning the shower
  • Allot time each day to just “be” without thinking about work
  • Stay away from my tweezers unless I have a splinter (I get a bit tweezer happy…it’s a habit I am determined to break!)
  • Listen more
  • Talk less…or at least less about MYSELF!
  • Stop visiting Starbucks
  • Buy one toy or some other type of “gift” once per month…saving these items to donate next Christmas

Spiritual

  • Spend time in God’s Word to reconnect with the One who I owe EVERYTHING to
  • Be more purposeful about getting up and worshiping on Sunday mornings

Yarn-Related

  • Knit at least ten minutes four or five days per week
  • Finish knitting the Omelet Shawl I began last summer
  • Participate in a sweater knit-a-long (KAL) with my friend, Christina, and knit my first pullover sweater!
  • Learn to crochet

My hope is that by writing these things down, I’ll be able to revisit this list, refocus when my priorities get out of whack, and live life more purposefully.

Happy New Year to all of you!

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