Last Saturday, I joined my niece and sister-in-law to shop for my niece’s wedding gown. To say it was a special day would be an understatement. As Kristin’s doting aunt, her favorite she assures me, and a closet fan of everything bridal (as well as Project Runway, What Not to Wear, Fashion Police), I was thrilled to participate and add drama to “saying yes to the dress!” It was magical; the possibilities were endless… so many styles, so many fabrics, so many shades of white (no grey, keep it clean people). Every gown, gorgeous…Every moment, emotional…All leading up to the tearful final choice. Kidding aside, sharing in the start of Kristin’s wedding journey, filled me with hope and fueled me to finally initiate my own beginning.
After procrastinating for six months, I am ready to launch my blog. Although it’s a bit intimidating – actually scares me to death to publicly share my thoughs, I know it’s necessary in order to be considered an authentic writing teacher. Rather than create lofty goals, (after all there’s a wedding to plan) I’ve decided to use the forum of the One Little Word community as a means to stay on track and focus my posts. According to Ali Edwards, the originator of this brilliant idea, “One Little Word is about pinpointing one guiding principle and then walking with that word throughout the year.”
Long before I learned about the OLW practice, my word, believe, actually found me. It was just one of those coincidences that started with an unusual autocorrect on my phone. In short, here’s what happened. While I was composing an email one afternoon back in October, the word @believe popped up out of nowhere; I wasn’t attempting to spell a word anywhere near believe. That incident was followed by an immediate chain of events, which concluded with a call into a local radio station, not for concert tickets I’m afraid, but more importantly, for hearing a profound message. As often happens in life, assistance appears from unlikely sources often in the guise of comforting words. Believe has followed me ever since, paving the way for this process and blog launch.
Following suggested prompts by Ali, I began my reflection by defining the word believe and finding quotes to support my interpretation. In my search I came across this simple definition. I really like when information comes in threes, especially since I plan on focusing this practice in my personal, professional and spiritual life. Reflecting further on my word, I explored the question, “What do I want to invite into my life?” Although initially my list ran off the page (blame it on hopeless optimism coupled with lingering wedding bliss), I managed to reduce and sum it up in the following statements:
- To express my personal beliefs authentically and creatively
- To clarify and communicate my professional beliefs
- To strengthen my spiritual beliefs by further exploring my faith
In reflecting on my personal goals, I’m guilty like many educators, in putting my work life ahead of my home life. However, when work is a calling or vocation like the teaching profession, the lines can become blurred. On one hand, I am fortunate to be immersed in the literate life, which is both creative and authentic. On the other it can become all-consuming, to the point where one can easily forget personal pleasures that bring joy. My shopping excursion on Saturday was a reminder to me on the importance of family and authentic relationships. Since my daughter Dana will be Kristin’s maid of honor (sister cousins), this wedding will truly be a family affair, and naturally provide moments to enrich my life and indulge my creativity. Likewise, this blog will also serve as a means for authentic expression, as I plan on melding posts driven by both professional and personal interests.
Professionally, I am quite content, yet never want to become complacent. Switching careers back in 2002, was a huge decision, but one I’ve never regretted. After teaching 5th grade and 7th grade, I stepped into a newly created role in my district as the K-5 Balanced Literacy Coordinator, aka the literacy coach. Although I love assisting teachers with literacy initiatives, I miss the classroom, a sentiment shared by many coaches, including Melanie Levy, a coach who recently returned to the classroom – her post is a must-read. Beyond the void of student/teacher relationships, a priceless gift, I also miss having a forum to put my new thinking into practice. Therefore, in order to preserve an honest perspective on classroom practices, I need to be careful not to impose my beliefs onto others. After all, elementary teachers are charged with implementing every single subject, a challenging feat to say the least. And although literacy is an all day event, it should enhance rather than consume classroom practices, especially when it comes to assessment.
From a spiritual perspective, exploring my faith has been a lifelong process. Raised in an Irish/Italian household, parochial school was a standard; better to have the nuns deal with the messy work of discipline, especially with the Tafuni children. Despite my rebellious nature, and weekly visits to the principal, where, by the way, I marched past my mother who was the school secretary, (I know), St. James School did provide me with a moral compass and code of behavior. It also left me with many unanswered questions. This year I will continue to study with my prayer group, as an active member of the ultimate book club. Where else can you find mysterious, inspirational, and controversial stories? I started this endeavor with my cousin Judy, who like the rest of us, is really struggling with the concept of fate versus free will. The best argument she posed to date is that Judas was set up. According to Judy, if God has a plan for all of us, and knows the outcome before we do, then how did poor Judas ever have a choice? You can only imagine the discussions when so much of what we are supposed to believe relies on faith!
In truth, just like wedding vows, it’s simply not enough to have beliefs; it’s far more challenging to act on those beliefs and put them into practice. Believe is a powerful verb. On this year-long journey, I am hoping this word will steer my course, aiding me to discern my priorities, speak my truth, and take action accordingly.
Special thanks to close friends and colleagues, Lisa Kruse, Jonathan Olsen, Danielle Soldivieri, and Jennifer Serravallo, for helping me to develop and focus this blog; your honesty and encouragement was/is greatly appreciated. Thank you also to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, aka The Poem Farm, for leading a group of educators last summer in her workshop, Teacher as Writer, Writer as Teacher. The guided practice you provided assisted my writing practice long after the workshop ended. And to Colleen Cruz and Mary Ehrenworth, my go-to writing teachers @TCRWP summer institutes, whose leadership has informed the whole of my classroom instruction on the teaching of writing. Finally, a shout out to Michelle Haseltine, whose post on OneGratefulTeacher, led me to discover the gift of One Little Word.