Tag Archives: inspiration

Inspired by Educated by Tara Westover

Over Spring Break I finished reading Educated by Tara Westover. The memoir is about a young woman’s journey from her religious family to higher education. The book has several themes. There are areas that focus on identity, family, faith, education, etc. The book really resonated with me for several reasons, but the area that really resonated with me the most was the power of education in the author’s life and how it helped her to evaluate who she was and discover the woman that she is today.  Her ability to go through this process is really due to her education inside and outside of the classroom.

A huge part of my identity revolves around education. Just like the author, I was able to discover who I am and who I wanted to be in life. My parents encouraged all of their children to get an education, they believed that they were the keys to success. I thrust myself into my studies and quite a few of the lessons I learned came from inside  and outside of the classroom. As educators, we must never forget the impact the classroom has on not only our students and their profession but also who they are as an individual. The author learned a lot about herself inside and outside of school. Here are some things I learned about myself from my educational experiences:

I didn’t want to be a lawyer when I grew up. For the longest time I wanted to be a lawyer. We did a mock trial in high school and I realized, THIS IS NOT FOR ME. I played the lawyer and I choked. My heart was not in it. My heart is in teaching.

Hard work and belief go a long way. I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but I was not the best speech and debate competitor in college. I lacked confidence and some key skills. Over time I decided to up my work ethic and to really believe that I could do it. The end result, I have some championships under my belt and I’m proud of that accomplishment.

I’m a nerd and I’m proud of it. I love school, reading, studying, and watching and engaging in nerdy things like Game of Thrones. I have reaped many benefits and rewards from my nerdiness. I even include it in my lessons in the classroom.

Prayer and Coffee. Ever since high school, people have mentioned to me how they can’t believe how I get through the crazy business of life. I tell them that I get through it with a whole lot of prayer and a whole lot of coffee. Both came from my family. I grew up in a religious home and everything revolved around prayer. The coffee came from my mom, she loves it, I picked up the habit my senior year of high school and I have not let it go. Prayer and coffee are my lifeline. =>)

Life will hand you some serious lemons, make the best batch of lemonade you can, and drink a giant big gulp cup of it in front of life. I’ve drunk several big gulp cups of lemonade in front of life. I’ve done my best to make the best lemonade from some sour lemons in life. I’ve had uncertainty and struggles with school, work, and health, but I’m thankful that lemonade has come from that. I’m grateful.

The lessons learned are only a small portion of the things that have shaped me. All of the lessons learned, just like the author in Educated, have contributed to who I am today, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

 

 

The Reimagine Project Dares to Lead

Dare-to-Lead-Cover-Facebook (1)I am proud. I am proud of the leadership of GCC faculty and staff. Over the past few months I have seen faculty and staff courageously offer their thoughts and opinions of how to improve our district, campus, and our classrooms. The work of GCC faculty and staff have resulted in committees being created, campus calls to action, panel discussions, task force, etc. I wish I had the time and space to call everyone’s attention to several things that represent the sheer amount of tenacity, passion, and courage on our campus. I only have the time and the space to focus on one thing, so I will focus on the Reimagine Project.

The Reimagine Project is a project that centrally focuses on encouraging faculty to reimagine their classrooms with high impact classroom strategies. I am one of the individuals responsible for teaching our cohorts a specific strategy and assisting them with implementation in the classroom. The program was launched this academic year. The purpose of the project is to encourage faculty to try these strategies so that we can create the best learning environments that we possibly can for our students.

The Reimagine Project is daring to lead because they are addressing an important question from Brene Brown’s book, Dare to Lead, which is: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture? Brown proposes doing it through vulnerability, values, trust, and learning to rise. Participants have to be vulnerable, which means being open to the process and trying new things in the classroom that they have never tried before. The program also encompasses all of GCC’s values which includes learning and quality. Participants also have to trust themselves and trust the facilitators guiding them through the experience. Finally, participants have to learn how to rise because they may experience failure along the way, and failure is not completely negative, it’s actually a lesson in disguise.

Shout out to to Jennifer Lane and Meghan Kennedy for creating the nuts and bolts of the program. Shout out to the institution for the support. Shout out to the participants who are engaged in the program. Shout out to the leads for guiding the participants through the strategy. I dare everyone to follow in their footsteps and dare to lead in the places and spaces of their profession. If you are already Daring to Lead, I encourage you to keep leading in this way, because you are having impact in the work that you do.

 

 

 

Interviewing Tour

The writing prompt for Write 6 x 6 this week asked this question:

What would you love to be able to do to improve yourself in relation to your job or to change your job?

I would love to interview teachers from different professions in MCCCD, the state of Arizona, the U.S. and around the world. I want to talk to teachers who teach higher education, or karate, or piano, or knitting. I want to get a collective sense of why they are teaching , the keys to successful teaching, and what they love most about it. I would love to pull from their experiences and get a sense of what drives them everyday.

I just watched a You Tube video that’s an oldie, but a goodie, from someone known as the Kid President. The videos on this channel never get old, and is usually a good go to when my work week has been crazy and I haven’t had enough time to work on my blog post. In the video Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students! He asks a central question I’d ask in all of my interviews: What are you teaching the world?

Have you thought about that? What are you teaching the world? I would love to jump into that question and unpack it with others in an interview. I feel their answer would really inform mine and would help me to grow as a person and as a professional.

 

 

 

Re-Post: See You. See Me. See Possibility

We recently received the news that our former GCC President Dr. Velvie Green had passed away. She inspired me when I met her as a student at GCC. In 2018, I posted a cultural reflection/inspirational story connected to her on Write 6 x 6. I thought that it would be appropriate to re-post it here in honor of her.

Originally posted February 8th, 2018

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Dr. Velvie Green

My cultural reflection/inspirational story is connected to Dr. Velvie Green, the former President of Glendale Community College. I met her when I was a student at GCC. I was hanging around the Communication Department and Jim Reed, the Department Chair, was giving our newly appointed President a tour of the department. Jim came around the corner and said that he wanted to introduce me to her. When she came around the corner I saw an African American woman standing in front of me. I had a moment of pause. I looked at this stranger and felt like I was looking at my future physical self. I couldn’t tell you what I was expecting, but I could definitely tell you that I was not expecting her.

I recognized something in her that connected with me on a level I had never recognized before. I recognized possibility in something that I would have never considered without this encounter, the possibility that I could become a college president myself. I saw a cultural reflection of myself on campus and it inspired me. For years I pursued becoming a college president. My pursuit brought me to teaching and I fell in love with it and changed course.

That day motivates and inspires me daily. It really showcases the importance of cultural reflection on college campuses. That day is one of the things that motivates me to bring excellence into everything that I do, because someone out there may see themselves in me through my work. They may see me and they may be encouraged to be excellent in their career. They may see me and see the possibility of a career path that they would have never considered for themselves. They look at me and think to themselves if she can do it, I can do it too.

I encourage others to think of themselves in the same way. All it takes is someone seeing themselves represented, right in front of them to inspire and motivate them to greatness.  Each encounter that you have on this campus could make or break someone’s hopes, dreams, or desires. Be mindful of the fact that you matter to someone and that they are paying attention to what you say and do.

I don’t know Dr. Velvie Green personally. She doesn’t know the impact she has had on me. I hope that she will come across this one day, so she can read about the difference she has made in my life. I am thankful and grateful that I had the opportunity to meet her. It changed my life.

What’s Inspiring Me Now

     The best a teacher can hope for and try to encourage is for her/his students to go off and become successful and, someday, to check back in to report on that success. Is there a better feeling? It turns out, there is. I know because I'm experiencing it right now.

Social Media Plus

     Fortunately, because of social media, it's easier than ever to stay in touch with former students. And while there are many, many I get to see become successful by earning their bachelor's degree, a master's degree, or even a PhD--some have gone on to become college professors, have written textbooks, books, have started families, have become politically active--there are a couple who have been speaking to me via their social media presence in ways I'm less familiar with. They're inspiring me to be more thoughtful in my own life. They're encouraging me to consider their passions like I once did in the classroom, I hope, for them.

    One is Tarrin who was a student of mine in 2003-2004. She is a certified Spiritual Director. Tarrin has been popping into my life in various ways lately. I started following her posts that had spiritual messages. Then we ran into each other at the Santigold concert at the Van Buren. Shortly after that, I spotted her business card in my favorite coffee shop: Esso Coffeehouse and Roastery. And lately, I've tuned in for some of her Monday tarot readings on Facebook. I do believe in synchronicity, and I think our crossing paths is meaningful. I'm trying to listen to what messages might be helpful--and this is a challenge for me because of reasons that would make another blog post or 200. Regardless, I've been seeking balance, and Tarrin has provided some hope to me. 

     Another is Sara. Sara is a talented athlete from a team I coached in 2011. She has just started a business in personal training with a small home gym. Sara's business social media is filled with inspiring photos of women working out, encouraging messages laid over her business logo, and thoughtful words of encouragement in her posts. Folks, I'm not even there working out with her, and I am finding inspiration from her and what she's doing. I have made some changes in my life--also regarding balance--and I am crediting Sara partly for those changes. 

When the Student Becomes the Teacher 

     There is a trust between teacher and student, unspoken. Students become vulnerable and open themselves up to learning and, as part of learning, failing. The teacher is vulnerable when she tries her best but may also sometimes fail and fail in front of a lot of people. Or expose herself as a giant nerd. The list could go on. But I find myself listening better when as a student, I have that trust--trust in the expertise of my teachers and trust that they have my best interests in mind and want to see me succeed. Some of that trust I give to teachers immediately because I don't know them, but I trust the profession. Tarrin and Sara get all of the trust because there is a history and, importantly, a relationship. How powerful is the combination of trust, relationship, and inspiration in changing lives.

     It is truly a pleasure getting to learn from those I once taught. It really is the best feeling.

Inspiration From Kindergarten Through College

I am someone who is inspired by so many different things in life. I was recently inspired by the Netflix Series Cheer. In what way? Well, that’s another blog post for another day.

The two consistent things that have inspired me the most are my former teachers and my mentors. Some of these individuals have played the role of both the former teacher and the mentor.  Who I am today and the work that I do is representative of the key individuals who have crossed my path in education. Below you will find six lessons learned from teachers/mentors, that I apply in the classroom and my life.

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Kindergarten Teacher: The only thing that limits you is your imagination. I learned this when we had green eggs and ham in class. We read the book and my teacher made it a reality. My little mind was blown and the food was delicious!!!!

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4th Grade Teacher: No matter how behind you are, you can always catch up, you gotta work a little harder, but you can make it. I learned this when I transitioned from one school district that was lagging into another school district that was way ahead of where I was at. I caught up eventually, but it took a little bit of time.

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High School Theater Teacher: Go against the grain and take risks. My high school theater teacher always had us involved in work that was not typical for high school students. We did Shakespeare (A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream) and Greek tragedy (Antigone) and adult work like A Few Good Men and A Lion in Winter. The same attitude was also placed in our speech pieces since he was our speech and debate coach. I also learned that, no one is above or below anyone else. We were taught to respect each other as actors and tech people. Everyone contributed to building the set, the production of the play, and tearing down the set. No one was allowed to talk down to each other or treat anyone as less than because of their “status”.

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High School Multicultural Club Adviser: People are different, but there is so much that we could offer each other in this world if we would just take a moment to listen to each other and learn from each other. All we need to do is to get out of our own way. I am so thankful that I was a part of this club. In high school I learned about the importance of diversity and inclusivity. We also learned about the barriers of racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc. I had the opportunity to serve as the President of the club and as a counselor for our multicultural camp Rammietown. The experiences I had then, still impact me to this day.

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College Speech and Debate Coach/Mentor: The most successful people in life are those who combine talent with hard work. When I started speech and debate in college, I was not the most talented person. I lacked a lot of confidence and felt like I was pretty small compared to the big competitors on the team. Many came in with several titles and I had one. I was absolutely terrified in many of the practices I had my first year because I felt like I was  completely exposed and that everyone could see my weaknesses on the team. Despite my insecurities, I kept working hard, while those who were naturally talented, just coasted on their talent. I continued to get better and eventually surpassed some of them. I eventually became a multi national and international champion. I discovered that I had some talent, but what separated me from everyone else was how hard I worked. I never want to be wasted talent.

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College Professor/Mentor: Be excellent in everything that you do and how you live your life. I am a firm believer in excellence, it aligns with our campus value of quality. I try to strive for excellence in my personal and professional life. Like Oprah has said ” Excellence is the best deterrent to racism, sexism, etc.,” but it also brings me joy and pride. When people enjoy my work, I have joy and pride because I did my best work, and the end result is the most satisfying. My college professor is an embodiment of excellence. They taught me the importance of putting your best foot forward in everything that you do.

I have so many more that I could share. The list goes on and on. I’m sharing this because what we do in the classroom matters. As instructors we must never forget the impact that we have on our students. The list above shows the impact we can have on our students.

Iyanla Vanzant Says You Matter

7502b197610a52e13fcf9e3c753a636287f000a4aff0f21648a9780dc7ffed178d792954105314f7ce1494f2cc6447195d08dc5edd27b0fe7bd1aae706afd20f     Many people know that I love Oprah! I am of course subscribed to her podcast Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Yesterday I listened to the episode: Iyanla Vanzant: You Matter. Iyanla Vanzant is a woman who helps people overcome some major issues on a show on OWN called Fix My Life. When I saw the title of the podcast I had to listen and I was not disappointed. It perfectly aligns with what I have been talking about for the past few weeks. If you get a moment to listen, check it out.

The statement that stuck out to me the most was:

“…we get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell a story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter…..”

When she said this in the podcast it made me think. How many of our faculty, staff, and students have created stories in their heads that discourage and disempower them? Stories of discouragement and disempowerment prevent them from realizing that they matter. If their story includes people who tell them they are not good enough or that they will never amount to anything or that they are not good at reading, writing, or math, it will not only impact them but also the people who serve them. When I work with a student one on one and they express frustrations and are really tough on themselves I will think about what Iyanla says. What story are they telling themselves and what does it mean to them? How is it impacting them in the classroom?

How can we have stories that empower us and helps us to create meaning so that we feel like we matter? One way to do this is to pay attention to the people who are in your lives and what they tell you on a daily basis. Being surrounded by people who tear you down makes it difficult to build yourself up. Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. I mentioned that in a previous post. We have a tendency of tearing ourselves down when we don’t feel like we measure up.

Iyanla Vanzant Says You Matter

7502b197610a52e13fcf9e3c753a636287f000a4aff0f21648a9780dc7ffed178d792954105314f7ce1494f2cc6447195d08dc5edd27b0fe7bd1aae706afd20f     Many people know that I love Oprah! I am of course subscribed to her podcast Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations. Yesterday I listened to the episode: Iyanla Vanzant: You Matter. Iyanla Vanzant is a woman who helps people overcome some major issues on a show on OWN called Fix My Life. When I saw the title of the podcast I had to listen and I was not disappointed. It perfectly aligns with what I have been talking about for the past few weeks. If you get a moment to listen, check it out.

The statement that stuck out to me the most was:

“…we get our meaning and our mattering from our story and if we tell a story in a way that disempowers us we won’t know that we matter…..”

When she said this in the podcast it made me think. How many of our faculty, staff, and students have created stories in their heads that discourage and disempower them? Stories of discouragement and disempowerment prevent them from realizing that they matter. If their story includes people who tell them they are not good enough or that they will never amount to anything or that they are not good at reading, writing, or math, it will not only impact them but also the people who serve them. When I work with a student one on one and they express frustrations and are really tough on themselves I will think about what Iyanla says. What story are they telling themselves and what does it mean to them? How is it impacting them in the classroom?

How can we have stories that empower us and helps us to create meaning so that we feel like we matter? One way to do this is to pay attention to the people who are in your lives and what they tell you on a daily basis. Being surrounded by people who tear you down makes it difficult to build yourself up. Another way is to stop comparing yourself to others. I mentioned that in a previous post. We have a tendency of tearing ourselves down when we don’t feel like we measure up.

A Capacity to Care

I want to make a disclaimer: This article will most likely lack the structure and finesse of my other blogs.

I originally had planned a different article this week with the same title. My goal was to do a full education/politics crossover next week with four critical traits. However, on Thursday I had a meeting that put today’s trait front and center. I am going to go with my heart and go more in-depth today than I had originally planned. I will include as many of my draft thoughts about caring as I can.

AZQuote image of Teddy Roosevelt quote "Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care."
TR Quote 1 of 2 for the day. I often look to our 26th president when I am in need of inspiration. (C) AZQuotes

Every educator I have met that has been in the profession for an extended amount of time is caring by nature. Even for those that don’t know this first hand, it doesn’t take a great deal of research to find that almost all educators do what they do despite the financial and emotional toll that comes with the title of teacher. Those sacrifices are made with the intention of building up others every semester, every day, and every class.

The essence of education is a desire to make the world a better place and to empower others.

Ideally, anyone in a position of power should share the same goal, especially those in political power.

I spent the better part of the afternoon Thursday in a room surrounded by powerful regional entities: utility owners, ports, economic advisors, mayors, councilmembers, development directors.

I walked out of that meeting feeling frustrated, defeated, and depressed. I walked out questioning my volunteerism and optimism for the future.

Many of the conversations I witnessed at that meeting boiled people down to numbers, put profit over affordable living, and came across with a callous disconnect that broke my heart.

Image of money from pixabay
Currency has people on it. Close enough, right?

More than anything at this very moment, I regret not saying anything. I regret just listening and accepting the pecking order. I doubt anyone in that room would have listened to me. I doubt my speech would have been as eloquent and as well rehearsed as those I would have been opposing. Nevertheless, it would have been the right thing to do.

AZQuote image of Teddy Roosevelt quote "In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing"
Sorry Teddy… I forgot. (C) AZQuotes

Others were silent as well, I would like to think that those in silence felt the same as me, but I will never know the answer.

When I sat down in front of my computer, wanting to talk about the capacity to care, of how it is reflected in everyone I meet in education, I simply couldn’t shake how I had just seen the opposite end of the spectrum.

I could have stuck with my plan and said some of these things in my closing next week. As important as the other traits I have discussed are, upon reflection, the capacity to care is the cornerstone. The vast majority of educators have open caring hearts. The vast majority of those I have met in positions of power do not.  Fortunately, the problem presents a solution: have more educators active in their communities and governments.

Solution over problem on chalkboard - pixabay
A Capacity to Care.
 

Confidence Matters: 3 Tips to Boost Your Confidence

Everyone could use a little more confidence. Imagine a campus where faculty, staff, and students walked around with a little more confidence, it would make a significant difference in the academic environment. When you have more confidence you feel like you are a person of worth and value and you feel like you can take on anything. You feel like what you do matters. Below you will find 3 tips on how to improve your confidence. Hope you enjoy!