Monday, August 18, 2014

Oops, I'll Keep Practicing

Last night I sat here and wrote about how my commitment was to be "all in" this school year.  I was going to live life "full out".  I wasn't going to "mark it".

And then today happened.  

This morning our school continued math staff development that we have been doing for the past year.  Our presenter has really mastered her content and is passionate about sharing her pedagogy with us.  Her information is very firmly grounded in developmental research.  She's giving us good stuff.

And.  I.  was.  having.  none.  of.  it.

I was expecting to attend the first hour of the training, then be dismissed with the other specialists to work on our own content area tasks.  And despite knowing myself and my needs, I figured I could sit still and focus for an hour, so I didn't bring a fidget.  I sat in the back, which might not have fit yesterday's commitment but proved helpful when, 45 minutes into the session, I needed to get up and move.  I stretched.  I rocked.  I tapped my fingers.  I did some pretzel breathing.  I popped the cushion on my stylus in and out, in and out.  In short, I self-destructed.

We were an hour and a half into the session when we took our first official beak.  At that point our specialists' team leader shared that we were being asked to return after the break and stay in the training until our 11:30 lunch break.

And I slid right down into my emotional state.

How do I know that was my brain state?

  • Words started flying.  "I can't handle this."  "How am I supposed to sit still this long?"  "Are we going to have time for our team meeting or are we going to be stuck in here all day?"  "If you looked at my CEUs you'd see far more credits earned for academic stuff than dance stuff."  
  • You know how some people say they wear their emotions on their sleeve?  Well, once I'm in my emotional state I wear mine quite bluntly on my face.  And trust me, you could take one look at me and see that I was NOT HAPPY.  
  • I suddenly felt like I was fighting back tears for no reason.
  • And the biggest symptom of being in my emotional state?  My mental version of the "am I loved?" question associated with that particular brain state was "is my curriculum/contribution to the school valued?"  
So why am I sharing this?

Several reasons:
  • I don't want this blog to give the appearance that I live in emotionally stable and happy land.  What I've discovered lately is that I can now identify when I'm in my emotional state, but that doesn't mean I always readily put in the work to move to my executive state.  I'm not perfect, and I can't say that enough.  But the thing I've learned over the last several years is that I can't ignore my feelings; I need to identify them and face them head on.  
  • Remember when I talked about the Power of the Oops?  Today was a big oops.  After my big public declaration of my intention to be all in, I turned around a day later and failed miserably.  But I'm embracing that mistake.  The fact that I didn't keep my commitment doesn't mean I'm doomed, it just means that I get to try again tomorrow.  And I will.  Tomorrow when I feel myself slipping into my emotional state I will take three breaths and regain my composure.  If I could only teach my students one thing, it would be the power of the oops.  Don't beat yourself up, just recognize your progress (hey, you self-assessed and made a commitment, right?  that's a step in the right direction!) and move forward.  Or as Dory so wisely put it, "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming."  
  • In some way I need to apologize to those around me for my attitude today.  So if you had to see my sour expression, I'm sorry.  Or if you had to hear my complaining, I'm sorry.  Please don't hold my emotional state against me.  Because I'm still working on it and I'm slowly living in that state less and less, but it's definitely a journey that I'm just beginning.
  • It's times like this that I think about our students.  How often do we expect them to sit still, face forward, and listen (or at least look like they're listening), whether they're invested in the topic or not?  How often do we witness the strategies they've created to help themselves stay present but judge them as evidence of a lack of focus.  (For example - when I'm in training I tend to tweet my notes.  This means I can later easily access those ideas at a later day just by searching for a given hash tag.  But I know that someone could easily see me and think I'm just playing with my device instead of being an active learner.)   And how often do we expect them to sit longer than their bodies can handle?  
And so now I've done some reflecting on the day.  And I realize that I wasn't my best self.  But I'm safe and I can handle it.  And, in the words of Scarlett, tomorrow is another day.  When I reflected on my commitment for today I couldn't say I did it, I couldn't even say I almost did.  I have to say that I'll keep practicing.  

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