Whimsical Walls

Do you remember when Microsoft Word first came out and we all played around with the different fonts?  Comic Sans, Chiller – they were all so fun.  Did you ever try to change your writing to Wingdings?  It could make a word like, hello look like this:

Although it was fun and whimsical, nobody could possibly decode a message using that font.

So what does this have to do with teaching?  In an effort to make our primary classrooms look and feel as fun, coordinated, and whimsical as possible, we hop online and purchase classroom signs, direction cards, or games for our students at little or no cost.  We “add to cart” like crazy (especially when something super fun is free that day), print them out on the color printer (when nobody is looking) and laminate them (to use for ever and ever!)

It’s a total win because:

  1. They are cute
  2. They are usually free
  3. They require minimal prep

Here are a few examples:

 

But here’s the thing – when I work with developing readers, I’m noticing an increasingly common pattern.  Oftentimes, these young readers struggle decoding these fanciful fonts.  Their brains are negotiating capital letters interspersed with lowercase letters coupled with improper height, placement, or spacing of letters.

This is a loss because:

  1. Students are frustrated
  2. They are focusing on things that have little to do with actual reading
  3. We expend more energy helping them focus on foundational skills like sound-to-symbol correspondence, decoding, and phonemic awareness

If you are imagining your classroom and thinking, “Yikes. It’s a land of whimsical fonts in there!”  There is no shame here, dear reader.  This is simply an invitation.

An invitation to envision how the physical print in our classroom translates to the eyes of a 5, 6, or 7 year old, or to students whose primary language is not English.  Our eyes may see something fun with whimsy and character and fun colors that perfectly complement our classroom’s theme.

But to their eyes?  They just may see wingdings.

Here’s to RSVP-ing yes to this invitation!

 

A Textbook Reunion

I am originally from Western New York.  The winters there are l-o-n-g. And cold.  And gray.  So schools in this area always get a “February break” – one glorious, rejuvenating week to escape the snow and wind to get some well-deserved sunshine.

 

I’ve lived in Southeastern Pennsylvania for the past 17 years, and February break is not a thing. People actually laugh when I tell them about this fairy tale of a full week off this time of year.  However, we get a 4 day weekend – a sacred Friday (time accrued from parent conferences), Saturday, Sunday and Monday where we get some well-deserved rest.

 

On Wednesday, 2 days before the coveted 4 day weekend, there was a fire at one of our elementary schools.   The evacuation of 529 students (including my 2 children) on a snowy February day was safe and seamless.  It was a textbook evacuation.

 

On Thursday, about 1,200 teachers gathered for a mid-year professional development day and heard from keynote speaker Jimmy Casas, who inspired us to reach Every Student.  Every Day. Whatever it Takes.

 

And then it was Friday.  The day we’ve been waiting for since January.  The first day we could have off for that well-deserved 4 day weekend.

 

And on this sunny Friday, it was deemed safe for students and parents to return to school to gather kids’ belongings in the cafeteria.  As I walked across the parking lot with my 9 and 10 year old ready to handle the logistics, I watched parents walk out of the school silently reaching for their child’s hand, or lovingly kiss them on the forehead.  It was a noticeably quiet, tender exit.  It was then I realized I should steady and prepare myself for what would affect me once we walked inside the building.

 

It wasn’t the sight of securely sealed off hallways.  It wasn’t the noise of forceful fans or rumbling utility trucks.  It wasn’t even the faint smell of smoke still lingering in the air.

 

It was the humanity.

 

The teachers.  The teachers on their day off.  The teachers who still didn’t know the condition of their classroom were there the moment families walked in.  Little first grade arms flung around the waists of their teacher, big fifth grade arms wrapped around teachers’ shoulders, the hugs lasting a little longer than usual.  Eyes closed for just a moment.  Former teachers found former students to offer even more hugs and words of comfort because they know there is no such thing as “other people’s” children and once we have a student, they are always “ours”.

 

And after they knew the kids were OK? Classroom teachers, specialists, building substitutes, the principal and district administration took the time to make sure that the parents felt reassured.  These hugs lasted even longer.  Eyes closed with tears of profound relief and gratitude.

 

Every Student.  Every Day. Whatever it Takes.

 

It was a textbook reunion.

 

 

Knowing our Readers & Writers by Heart

Working alongside 600+ elementary teachers. I am often asked, “How can I help my students love reading and writing?”

 

Welp, that’s a tall order.  Not only do we have to teach kids how to read and write, we want to help them become lifelong, joyful readers and writers.

 

And that’s an even taller order.  The privilege and opportunity that accompanies this can be inspiring, but downright overwhelming.

 

There are about 742 books or articles that could give us research-based ideas of how to approach this.  But in my experience, I think it can be accomplished by starting with 2 simple things.

 

Love your kids.

 

Think about the students in front of you this school year.  What do they love?  What are their interests? What are their dreams?  Start there.  Whether they are looking for a new book or are stuck trying to find something to write about, the relationship we have with our students will always help us find a meaningful starting point.  One student I just worked with loves horses.  Like loves every single thing about riding and equipment and barns and ponies and training.  Narrative unit?  I’m encouraging her to write about the time she was so proud when cantor jumping.  Informative?  You can bet your bottom dollar she can write about different horse breeds and how to take care of them.  Opinion writing?  It’s easy to guess what she’ll want to convince her reader to believe.

 

As for reading,  many students just haven’t found the right book yet.  When we genuinely know our students’ interests, we can genuinely help them find that book.  That book they end up loving.  That book they end up loving that helps them discover the joy of reading. Kylene Beers (@KyleneBeers) tells us, “The 7 most important words we can say to a young reader; I read this and thought of you.”

 

Love reading and writing.

 

If we want students to become joyful readers and writers, it starts with us.  As we read and write beside our students, do we demonstrate happiness and enthusiasm?  Do our students know when we read and write outside of the school day?  As teachers, we are the best reader or writer in our classroom (Gasp! It’s true)! and our students will often imitate the attitude we convey.

 

Sounds great on paper, but it can be a challenge in real life.  Personally, I love writing personal narratives, so my enthusiasm during that unit of study comes quite naturally, so students tend to happily rock narratives.  But informative pieces?  That’s a bit of a stretch  – so I find ways to muster up a little (albeit manufactured) excitement for that unit of study.  Does it take a little extra effort and energy on my part?  Yep.  And at the end of the day, is that effort and energy worth it?  Yep.

 

Reading and discussing realistic fiction?  My wheelhouse.  I could do this all day.  Fantasy or graphic novels – or both combined?! Yikes.  Not my thing.  But do my students know that?  Nope.  When they are wrapped up in a fantasy graphic novel that they love and I just can’t get into without blatantly faking it, I rely on the genuine relationships I’ve made with my students.  During our reading conversations, I can still connect to them as readers in a meaningful way.  One of my heroes, Penny Kittle (@pennykittle) proclaims, “Our passion has to be contagious: for books, for students, and our belief that there is a book for every dormant reader we meet”.

 

So that’s it.  Start this overwhelming challenge by loving your kids and sharing your love of reading and writing.  And then watch those dormant readers and writers awaken.

 

The privilege and opportunity is downright magical.

 

Sideline Conversations

It’s the craziest, warmest, busiest, most anticipated time of the school year. The sweet, sunshiney days before school is out for the summer.

Parents. Kids. Teachers. We’re all giddy.

Since our giddiness and busyness are at their peak, many of us are not yet in that reflective how-did-it-go-and-how-do-we-all-feel state of mind (we usually get there sometime by early July). But I’d love to share something I overheard at the sidelines of my son’s little league baseball game that could prove otherwise.

One mom begins a polite conversation with another mom. “How did school go for Shane this year? Is he excited for summer?”

“This year? This year was unlike any other,” Shane’s mother replies.

Oh boy. Here we go. This could be good. This could be bad.

Reader, it was beautiful.

Shane’s mom begins.  “The year started really rocky. You heard me talking in October about Shane’s struggles. Lots of people were telling me lots of things about him with all kinds of numbers and percents and using words like time-on-task, attention, impulsivity. I could hardly keep up with it all.”

The mother sitting next to her quietly replies, “I’m so sorry to hear that.”

“Oh don’t be sorry. We had Ms. Cobble. She got Shane. Like, she really got him.   I honestly don’t know exactly what she did, but I do know she worked with him and tried all kinds of things all year long until things clicked with Shane. And get this – we had a meeting last week and every single one of those data points and percentages were so much better than they were at the beginning of the year – literally every single one! He feels better, I feel better, we all feel so much better. Ms. Cobble was like magic for my boy.”

George Couros (@gcouros) says, “Teachers are trajectory changers.”

 

Trajectory changers!

 

Ms. Cobble literally changed the trajectory for this 9 year old and his path will forever be different because of her.

Are we giddy for the slower pace of summer? Oh, yes we are. But this sideline conversation invites us to pause and reflect during this demanding time of year to celebrate all that was accomplished with our own “Shanes” from the 2017-18 school year.

We are completing report cards, checking off a seemingly endless to-do list, closing down our classrooms, and welcoming summer.  May we all create the time and space to feel rejuvenated and recharged so we can come back ready to do it all over again in a few weeks.

The Shanes of 2018-19 are counting on us.

 

 

 

Sharing the Spotlight

If you have ever been to a Pink concert, your heart nearly stops over a dozen times. The stage, the effects, the dancers, the TRAPEEZE – it’s unlike any other show I’ve ever seen.

It wasn’t the graphics on the jumbo screens or Pink suspending herself in the air doing flips while belting out, “So What” that made my heart stop. About 90 minutes into the show, Pink paused to acknowledge how her Philadelphia concert feels like coming home. After all, she was a student in our district and reigns as one of the most famous people from Doylestown, PA. If you are a Pink fan, you already know she wasn’t a model student. School was hard for her. She felt like she never fit in. She often had a hard time finding herself – finding her voice.

On went the spotlight. This time it wasn’t on Pink, but on a smiling fan in the seats to the left of the stage. It was shining on her former middle school guidance counselor, Ann Kuntzmann. As Ann’s surprised face was projected on the big screens of the Wells Fargo Arena we heard, “Thank you to my middle school guidance counselor Mrs. Kuntzmann, for always being there for me at a time when it felt like nobody else was. Hi Mrs. Kuntzmaaaannnnnn!!!!!!”

Cue the thunderous applause from thousands of people celebrating Ann’s unwavering support and dedication to her students as she and her former student, Alecia Moore, waved and blew kisses back and forth to one another. When the camera zoomed back to Pink, the gratitude shining from her eyes was nearly indescribable.

Reader, can you even imagine?!

Pink eventually found her voice.  And Ann helped her do that.

Although it’s unlikely that we will one day get a public shout-out in front of 20,000 people thanking us for the lifelong impact we’ve made, it’s highly likely we have made that positive impact on many of our students. Some we may never know about, but some we will. They may tell us through a letter, email, direct message, or surprise visit.

And when they thank us, our hearts won’t stop. They will undoubtedly beat with happiness and gratitude for the work that was accomplished together between teacher and student.

It’s unlike any other feeling we’ll ever know.

 

Who is the best teacher you know? (Is it YOU?!)

 

A few weeks ago, I saw an email from one of the most well-respected administrators in my district.  I was asked to identify the two best and well-respected elementary teachers in our district.

Name 2 teachers out of approximately 600 caring, innovative, knowledgeable, dedicated, inspiring colleagues?! Impossible!

I knew I had to respond in a timely manner so I started to virtually walk up and down every single hallway in 15 elementary schools, peeking into hundreds of classrooms, looking at hundreds of teachers, and watching thousands of students. Then all the buzzwords scrolled in front of me: formative assessment, differentiation, student engagement, educational technology.  As the buzzwords kept coming I felt overwhelmed asking myself, “Who does all of these all of the time? What does it really mean to be one of the best teachers?”

Is it the Pinterest perfect walls? Nope.

How about the highest state test scores? Not a chance.

Is it a yoga ball chair or a standing desk? Keep on scrolling.

This incredibly daunting task was immediately simplified by asking two questions:

  • Who goes into their classroom each and every day with passion and joyful energy creating an environment where students feel challenge, success, and growth every day; Someone who believes their work within those classroom walls develops successful learners outside of those walls?

  and

  •  Whose students go to their classroom each and every day with joyful energy to be challenged and grow; Someone who believes the work they accomplish within those classroom walls makes them successful outside of those walls?

These questions made an overwhelming task incredibly simple. Once the focus was on the energy of the teachers and students, about those who JOYFULLY SHOW UP, hitting “reply” was the easiest thing ever.

Like Hope King (@hopekingteach) says, do our students feel like they HAVE to be with us or do they feel like they GET to be with us?

Do we have to be perfect? Nope.

Do we have to burn ourselves out to be one of the best? Not a chance.

Do we have to approach our craft with love, passion, and joy? Keep on scrolling.

Imagine what the world outside of our classroom walls would look like if we all said yes.

 

5 Things Teachers Should Hold Close this Time of Year

If you are a teacher in March, chances are you are feeling tired and overwhelmed. At times we find ourselves struggling to manage our to-do list and negotiate what to let go of and what to hang onto. Here are some thoughts of just a few things we need to hold close in these upcoming months.

Your Tribe

Most of us have read Jennifer Gonzalez’s (@cultofpedagogy) Find Your Marigold post, (if you haven’t, click out of here and go read that post immediately!) She beautifully describes how new teachers need to “find our marigold” so we can have the right conditions to flourish and grow professionally.  At this point in the year, we are gearing up for “testing season” and questioning whether or not we’ve made the difference the energized, September version of ourselves promised months ago. There will be cranky complainers down mostly every hallway in our schools. Walk right on past them and walk directly towards your tribe and field of marigolds; those who genuinely want you to succeed and be happy. If we surround ourselves with those who uplift, energize, and inspire, it will help us harness the positive energy to uplift, energize, and inspire our students.

Perspective

Along with warmer temperatures, spring also brings mandatory state testing. Testing is not the reason any of us decided to go into teaching, yet here we are smack dab in the middle of covering bulletin boards, stocking up on number 2 pencils, and reshuffling lunch and special schedules to accommodate. As public school teachers, it is so easy for us to become consumed with worry in this season; Will my students do well on these tests? Will it look like I couldn’t reach all of my students in these last 6 months? Will I help or harm my school’s rating that will be publicly published? These tests are simply one measure of how our students are growing. Keep perspective knowing that there are about 748 other ways we can show the student growth.

What child began this school year with anxiety and can now walk into the classroom ready to learn?

High five.

Which student told you in October that he’ll, “never read unless my teacher tells me to” and you introduced him to a series he can’t put down?

Fist bump.

And that parent that questioned your “crazy, unstructured classroom with yoga balls, standing desks, and pillows” now saying thank you?

Big hugs all around.

Good Lunches

This time of year is not only the beginning of testing season, but it also sprinkles in parent conferences, report cards, maybe a few snow day make ups, evening spring performances, Reading Olympics, and begin planning for NEXT YEAR while simultaneously sprinting to the finish line of the one we are in. Our minds and bodies simply do not stop. So when we have even the tiniest moment to pause and eat, we should fuel our bodies well. Take the 5 minutes to pack a good lunch that will feel nourishing and satisfying. Having a good lunch to look forward to allows us to feel a bit recharged for the rest of the day – which I have yet to experience with a cafeteria tray of chicken nuggets and tater tots 😊

Own Your Morale

It’s easy to react to much of what is swirling around us this time of year. I first heard the term “Own Your Morale” in Jimmy Casas’ (@casas_jimmy), Culturize, and find it to be such an empowering phrase that it’s becoming my mantra. We get to choose our attitude every day. This attitude sets the tone for how we interact and collaborate with children, colleagues, parents, and administrators. Over time, hundreds and thousands of tiny interactions ultimately become morale. So let’s own ours. Let’s try to respond rather than react. Let’s make the effort to think of the student or teammate that needs up be uplifted and lift them up! Like Glennon Doyle (@GlennonDoyle) says, “Let’s use up all of our grace, patience, humor, love, kindness, perspective, and optimism today. All of it. We’ll get a whole new batch tomorrow.”

Prioritize time for YOU

Ever hear the quote, “Balance is not found, it’s created”?

How great is that?! It’s created!

Many may believe, “After [insert life moment] things will feel less stressful” or “Once [insert school obligation] is complete, I will have more time to relax”. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work that way. We have to do the work in order to create our own balance, and to do that, we have to conscientiously prioritize our own well-being. When we feel our best, we can be the best for our families both at school and at home. How can you feel your best?  Some need to begin the day with exercise or end the day quietly reading or meditating. Others are energized by calling a friend on the ride home from school to connect.  I know a lot of colleagues who start their day quietly with a cup of coffee before anybody else in the family awakes. What is one thing you could you do to practice self-care? Start there and see if it makes a positive impact in your daily life. Self-care is not selfish – it’s giving the world the best version of yourself!

***

Fellow teachers, this time of year is bananas. We need to hold on close to what helps us feel balanced, happy, and focused. We have the privilege and opportunity to do some of the world’s most important work with the students in front of us. Like Casas says, “We are blessed every day with the opportunity to help change the course of someone’s life by our words, our actions, and our belief in their abilities.”

Colleagues, we don’t have to go to work each day.

We get to go to work each day and show up for kids.

Lunch, good people, a little time to ourselves – those are just a few of the things we can hold close this time of year. Interested in what to let go of? Stay tuned because that’s the next post and it’s coming soon!

 

Joyful PD in 5 Easy Steps

I’m grateful to work in a school district where high-quality professional development is a part of our culture and welcomed by the vast majority of colleagues (spoiler alert: many colleagues would actually say they get “jazzed” for district workshops!) Whether this is similar to your experience or sounds completely foreign, I’d like to share 5 easy steps to planning and facilitating joyful district-wide, mid-year PD. You may be pleasantly surprised with their simplicity.

Coffee

It’s the simple things that make a big difference. Greeting teachers (all 650 of them!) with a coffee bar sets a welcoming tone for the day and encourages causal collegial conversations before everything officially begins. You wouldn’t believe how often I hear, “It’s so nice to drink coffee while it’s still hot!” This is a luxury that is hard to come by when 27 students enter the classroom!  Looking to earn bonus points?  Have the coffee in a real mug if possible!

Get out of your “bubble”

It’s refreshing to step out of your district’s “bubble” and invite an outside expert to present on a topic that reinforces a district initiative or conversation. Reader, did you notice I mentioned it reinforces something? Mid-year PD is not an ideal time to introduce a brand new initiative (see: the exact opposite of joyful PD)! In the past few years, we have had experts inform and motivate us about a variety of topics that have been an existing part of current district conversations. Some of the fabulous presenters/topics have included:

Penny Kittle (@pennykittle): Increasing Engagement & Joy in Reading and Writing

Katherine Dahlsgaard (@kdahlsgaard): Building Students’ Coping Skills for Anxiety in the Classroom

George Couros (@gcouros): Innovator’s Mindset

Colleagues will likely leave this presentation energized and motivated. Since it is often difficult for most teachers to attend statewide or national conferences, it’s always a win to bring engaging, inspiring experts right to them!

Bonus points may be awarded in this section if you play upbeat, happy music as everyone arrives to the auditorium.  This year, we made a montage of tweets from around the district, coupled with artists like Beyoncé and OutKast…so fun!

Standing ovation for @gcouros!

CHOICE

It’s great to hear from a keynote speaker, but it’s also important for some cozy, homegrown sessions. When designing breakout sessions, (in this case, 68 of them!) consider 2 questions: What do teachers want? What would they enjoy? And not just classroom teachers – consider specialists, counselors, speech therapists, and school psychologists; there must be meaningful sessions for each group of educators! Knowing what would be welcomed could come by formally surveying different groups or just by knowing the pulse of the district by being present in lots of classrooms and working with lots of teachers and kids!

Giving teachers the freedom to CHOOSE THEIR SESSIONS is key. To offer multiple sessions, we pay teacher leaders to run these workshops to ensure the information presented is relevant and applicable to student needs. Topics can address many areas including emotional wellness (for students AND teachers!), educational technology, special education, best practices in content/special areas, creativity, innovation, and culture!

Bonus points can be earned here if you create and use a district hashtag (#cbsdpd) throughout the day that shares and celebrates new learning.  Not only does this spread innovative ideas across your district, it connects colleagues that may not know each other and adds a sense of community to any district, large or small.

 Extended Lunch

This is a day teachers get to do many things they cannot do with students in classrooms – freely chat with colleagues, use the bathroom at any time, and go out to lunch! Designing a schedule that gives extra time to eat is not only appreciated by teachers, it also does wonderful things for strengthening professional relationships, which matter so much. You may be surprised by how many of these lunch conversations become organic conversations about the morning sessions (win! win!)

 Time & Space

The 2 most needed and appreciated gifts for dedicated teachers: time and space. The last hour of a district-wide PD day is dedicated as one hour of UNSTRUCTURED time. Teachers have the choice to revisit one of their previous sessions to ask questions or dig deeper into what they learned earlier in the day, OR they can join together as a grade level/department to process what they learned or share resources they received earlier in the day. Remember that hashtag, #cbsdpd? This is the time when that hashtag will get a lot of views and interactivity! If you’re looking to earn more bonus points in this section, find a way to centrally house all of the resources from the day so anyone can access them (we use OneNote to accomplish this).

Happily underwhelmed? Good! It’s the simple stuff: Warm coffee, sitting(!) to hear a dynamic speaker, choice sessions, lunch, and a little time and space.

There you have it! Joyful, mid-year PD in 5 easy steps!

You’ve got this!

You are Here

In an ongoing quest to remain the “Well-Balanced Teacher” I often speak about, I get crafty finding the time and space to care for my physical and emotional health. This craftiness is what gets me to a 5:30 Monday morning kickboxing class; a class that helps me begin the week feeling strong and focused.

About 15 minutes in, the instructor prepares us for our next moves, providing modifications if needed. I’m hanging in there pretty well, but the woman to my left is killing it. And I mean KILLING IT. If our instructor says we can choose to do 2 burpees or 4, this woman does 4. Squats? This one is JUMP squatting. Planks? Girlfriend wants to do plank JACKS. At 5:45AM.

I struggle to breathe and manage my roundhouses, jabs, and hooks wondering, how is she doing this? It’s cold and dark and early and sweaty and this is hard.

The instructor says to her, “Wow! You are really getting after it today!”

Her response was immediate.

 

“I’m here.”

 

I. Am. Here.

So simple. So profound.

You guys, that’s IT. She was THERE. So she made the decision to SHOW UP and GIVE IT HER ALL.

I realized that I was also there and could decide to show up – like really show up. So I made the decision to at least attempt the extra burpees, squats, or plank jacks. Once I did that, the workout got a whole lot harder, but it also got a whole lot better. When I left class, I was energized and happy.

It inspired me to think about my upcoming work day; the places I’d be and the people I would see, committing myself to be as present as possible in whatever task I was doing. As a teacher, where are you during a typical school day? Conducting a small group reading lesson? Reteaching a math concept that one student just can’t get? Moderating a disagreement between two students?

You are THERE. Choose to be THERE. Like really be there.

Our students are here. Right in front of us. For 180 days.

I’m here. You’re here. We’re here.

And while we’re here, we must ask ourselves if we are we SHOWING UP and GIVING IT OUR ALL. Because when we do, we feel connected, energized, and happy. This is such a simple shift, yet profoundly transformational.

When our school day is over and we go home to assume additional caregiving roles, as a parent/sibling/child, think about where you are. Playing Uno with your children? Keep that phone with its notifications far out of reach. Calling to check in with your aging parents? Find a quiet place so you can really listen and react to what they share. Watching your teenager play soccer? Look up and watch her during these fleeting family years. When we play cards, call family, or watch soccer, are we there? Like really there?

It’s a choice we can decide to make about 300 times every day. Choosing to show up and really be there.  Our work is just too important not to.

If this sounds inspiring and you are looking for that modification that good teachers and kickboxing trainers provide, here it is: Show up and give it your all. Joyfully. Even when it’s early and tiring and overwhelming and busy and demanding and hard. Especially when it’s early, tiring, overwhelming, busy, demanding, and hard.

And maybe, just maybe, when you leave your class, you will feel a bit more connected, energized, and happy.

 

Returning to the Classroom after Maternity Leave

It’s that time of the school year where some new mamas are preparing to head back to the classroom after a maternity leave. When I had my daughter, I often thought about the leave, but didn’t think much about the return. It was often a struggle to reconcile leaving my own child to teach other people’s children. It can be a challenging journey for a new mother’s mind and heart to navigate.

If you are trying to find words for someone making a “maternity return” to the classroom, especially after their first baby, I’d like to share a personalized version of some insights that my dear friend Beverly Keegan shared with me 9 years ago, and I still think of them almost every day. I have given this to many teachermama friends and colleagues when they return to the classroom, and I hope they can help you share perspective, empowerment, and even a little bit of joy to your colleague, friend, or sister.

You have total creative rights here – please personalize as you wish and share these words with anyone who needs to hear them. I put one note in each envelope (4 in total) with the headings written on the outside. This was the last one I sent to my friend Amy as she returned after having her daughter Ella.

Thank you for allowing me to honor Bev’s life by sharing her words. Since her passing 5 years ago, it brings me great joy to know her words continue to inspire and comfort others.

With high fives & fist bumps & hugs all around, fellow Teachermamas,

Suzanne

To be read the night before…

Dear Amy,

Ok, here we are.   The night before you head back to work full time, and I am honored to share with you some words of wisdom that were shared with me before I headed back. These words help me every day, and I hope they help you too.

Amy, it is not going to get harder than this night. Why? Because this is all new. You’ve never done the whole working mom thing before, and sweet Ella hasn’t either. But you have to be brave. And being brave is a choice. Being a brave mama means living through example. You are showing Ella that one day too, she can have it all – go to school, work hard, and have the job of her dreams. Meet someone, fall in love, and have the partner of her dreams, and then have the child of her dreams. You aren’t just telling her she can have it all.

You are showing her.

And what is more empowering than that?

There will be days you’ll want to stay home, days you’ll want to bury your face in her neck and cry, days you want to apologize for working or wanting to see your girlfriends, or wishing to have alone time with Terry or wanting to just have a little time just to be. Don’t apologize. Don’t be sorry for having it all. Instead, tell her you love your work, you love your friends, you love your husband, and you love the life you’ve built for yourself. After all, isn’t that exactly what you want for her one day?

So get some rest and repeat your mantra: Be Kind. Be Brave. Rest. Try Again.

I’m so proud of you,

Suzanne

To be read the Morning of…

Here we are, sister. Day 1. The bad news is this is going to be a rough morning. But the good news? It is never going to get harder than this day. I promise you. So give yourself permission to cry on the way to work. Be brave and know that you are living by example for sweet Ella. Think of it as Amy 2.0. YOU get to define what this journey means to you and your family. YOU get to choose how this goes. We are mamas now and we can do hard things.

2.0! 2.0! 2.0!!!!!

Break In Case of Emergency:

WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!

To hang in your Classroom:

(I like to make this a big sign on 11×17 paper)

Amy

2.0