What #SelfCare Means To Me

Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you to blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort. – Deborah Day

selfcare bitmoji 1

I was always told to never define a word with the word itself. But the definition of self-care is rather self explanatory: taking care of self; and it means something different for everyone. For some it may mean exercise, going to a spa, reading a book, blogging, disconnecting from the digital world, or just chilling and doing nothing for the weekend. It really depends on the individual and doing something that feeds their soul. So the question is: “What feeds my soul?”

My soul feeds on doing what I was designed to do and that is my job as an educator. I know that sounds weird to many, “How can your job be a form of self-care?” It’s simple, if I can impact others, students, teachers and staff,  by helping them grow in their learning and thinking, my soul has been fed like a Sunday meal at my grandmother’s house! I’m talking FULL to the point that walking becomes a chore because you don’t want to do anything to disrupt the richness of the experience. Just sit back and bask in the sunshine of the food, family and fun then file that memory away for the moments when life brings you rain.

What Happened?

A few weeks ago I had a situation develop that caused me to question if this was still the job for me. I wasn’t feeling like I was making the difference I knew I had the ability to make at my school. I began to feel stressed and remembered that I promised myself that I would no longer stress over things I cannot control, so I did what I believed was best to combat the madness. I got my nails done.

It felt great! I did something for myself. I did something that made me feel good. As I sat in the chair being pampered by the nail technicians and getting the massage from the cushy spa chair, I felt relaxed and the cares from earlier in the month began to melt away into oblivion. However, that act of #selfcare wasn’t enough to bring me back to feeling like Rhonda again. Something was still missing. A few days later I went in for my annual physical and blood work. My blood pressure was high and the doctor wanted to prescribe me medicine. I told her no. I wanted to self-regulate my blood pressure through natural methods including eating better, exercising regularly, and practicing self-care.

The next morning, I put on my faux Fit Bit, packed my protein snacks for the day and ate a bowl of slow release carbohydrate oatmeal. As I ran the thoughts of my day through my mind, I became more determined to exercise my inalienable right to a healthier happier me by doing something that made me smile and put a skip in my step. I entered my office and as I began my daily routine of unpacking my computer and getting my ice water, a first year teacher came bustling in wanting me to triple check her grade book setup and help with some technology ideas for her LMS course page. Although my routine was interrupted, I could tell she needed me to bring her a sense of calm, so I helped her make sure things were setup properly and explained how to troubleshoot any concerns that may arise in case I’m not around to help. She left my office less anxious and feeling empowered to do her job well. But before she completely crossed the threshold, she turned and said to me, “Thanks for not making me feel like I should know this already.”  It was in that moment, I knew what I needed to do for my #selfcare. I remembered “Each One Can Reach One then Teach One” and my impact didn’t just have to be fueled by my ambition to save the world tomorrow. I felt a level of peace wash over me and I knew moments like this were MY happy place.

2020 Self-Care Resolution

So, my #selfcare, the thing that makes me feel like the Rhonda I was destined to be, will be helping a new teacher grow in her craft. I will not only share my knowledge of technology integration and expertise of some best teaching practices, but I also hope that my obvious happiness, doing what feeds my soul, will be noticed and highly infectious and everyone will see that self-care isn’t limited to doing things un-associated with their jobs.

Find what feeds your soul….find your self-care….don’t be confined by societal norms of what true self-care is. Do what makes you happy. Do what keeps you healthy and don’t let anything, or anyone, take that joy away or cause your stride to fail.

 

2020 One Word Crossover

Happy New Year!! This is my first blog post of the year!

I’m going to start posting on a biweekly basis, so some will be long and some will be short. But I’m committing myself to blogging more often in 2020!

2019 Gone But Not Forgotten

In January 2019 I was officially diagnosed with DCIS – Ductile Carcinoma In Situ – Breast Cancer Stage 0. Emotions were everywhere and yet nowhere at the same time. How do you deal with such news when 3 different highly respected professionals in their respective fields say “If you had to get cancer, this is the best kind“? As if there’s a vending machine of illnesses to choose from and “the claw” chose a noninvasive cancer from my spent token. Please stop trying to make me feel better. It’s not helping.

February brought about the second attempt to remove all cancerous cells only to discover a new cluster of cells and those margins were not clear. How many more surgeries will I need? Why can’t these people get this stuff out of me? Why doesn’t anyone see how hard this is for me?

March forced me to decide between mastectomy and radiation therapy plus hormones for up to 10 years or a complete bilateral mastectomy and me saying goodbye to two parts of my perceived womanhood. I found myself in need of prescribed pharmaceuticals to keep the negative angry thoughts at bay and my blood pressure under control. The struggle was real.

April was the surgery, but before that happened, I adopted a very positive attitude and hosted my own “retirement” party. I believe a great time was had by all. My faithful friends laughed and told jokes about how they met me and we discovered everyone was connected in some manner and not just through me. Everyone wished me well, offered prayers and meal train support beyond measure!❤️ When this is over I will no longer need a particular piece of clothing. Good thing or bad thing? Time will tell.

May through July was recovery and the need to get back to feeling useful but my mindset had shifted. Self-care became my top priority! How often do we get undressed on autopilot? Well I found out it happens more than you think. There were several times I reached to unhook something that is longer part of my wardrobe. That’s when reality hit me and again I relived the process one more time. It was then, and now still is. hard to get others to “see” the psychological effects of what transpired because physically I appeared the same. I always thought everyone naturally had empathy, but at 54 and down two body parts, I learned that was not the case.

August through October started the best whirlwind, if there is such a thing, that a person who is passionate about their impact in education could experience. I was accepted into, and participated in, the Google for Education Certified Innovators Academy in New York! Spending a week with people who have the same like-mindedness is exhilarating to say the least. Everyone needs a person who they can confide in and champion through life as an educator with…I found 49. I CANNOT speak enough about this experience! It has been transformative!!

November through December had some highs and lows, more like sideways than lows, but the low moments helped me remember my new mindset: SELF-CARE. I spent the entire Winter Break enjoying being with my family and doing things for me which included vegging out in my PJs exploring Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon on my Roku. 😎

2019 Resolved – One Word

If I had to choose a #oneword from 2019 for 2020 it will be #selfcare.

I strongly encourage everyone to practice self-care. Find something you enjoy doing and make time to go do that something! This blog will be mine.

I spent the first half of 2019 finding out what happens when I don’t put my mental and physical health first. That cannot and will not happen again.

Thanks for reading!

#NYC19 Google Innovator: Strangers to Family Edition

You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. – Frederick Beuchner

Image of the NYC19 GoogleEI Cohort members

Who would have thought, an insightful application, coupled with a burning desire to impact education, could result in the greatest professional development opportunity known as the Google for Education Certified Innovator Academy in New York, #NYC19 ? Who knew it would bring 42 hopefuls and 7 coaches together to form a familial bond and a forever friendship in the span of 3 days? I didn’t…WE didn’t…and yet WE did….YES, WE DID THAT THING!!

The Decision Email

There are several moments in your life where time seems to stand still and waiting on the August 13, 2019 email from the Google Innovator Program was definitely one of those times! A group of us hopefuls formed a slow chat on Twitter to help manage the 10 day wait a little bit better, but for some it caused a new level of anxiety. Many of us were frantically refreshing our email, repeatedly clearing the spam folder, checking the certified innovators website , finding multiple ways to keep our minds distracted/occupied, and secretly sending the Ed Tech Team DM’s via Twitter on the off chance that we would be let out of our misery just so we could relax our spirits and finally go to sleep! The exciting events of our day lasted until around 8:44 PM EST when the flood of emails were finally received indicating either acceptance into the NYC Cohort or extending encouragement to apply for a future cohort.

Bonding Began In Google Hangouts

One of the emails included an invite to join the NYC19 Innovators Google Hangout Chat where we began talking with these 49+ people involved with the program as if we had known each other for decades! Many of us were members of a bare minimum 2 Innovator related hangouts and all of them were simultaneously occurring all day every day. We talked about everything! Many of the conversations revolved around: meeting our team and coach; working together to solve riddles; helping our “Affinity Buddy” with their challenge; encouraging everyone who dealt with Imposter Syndrome; collectively designing and voting on the cohort logo; arranging transportation and NYC living arrangements; and just generally getting to know each other which inevitably grew us closer together.

The Academy

October 1, 2019 found 95% of us arriving in NYC and many celebrated that first night with traditional New York pizza and cannoli treats!

 

 

Although we were “meeting” for the first time in person, we greeted each other with heartfelt hugs and rejoiced at the sight of everyone as if we were at our 10-year-high -school-reunion! Those who were not in attendance at the pizza dinner were truly missed, because that dinner was an indication of the camaraderie we created through virtual meetings, and we knew once we were all gathered together it was going to be an epic experience!

Day 1

More hugs and more bonding! We arrived at the Google Office and began the first leg of an intense professional development designed to challenge our thinking and dispel preconceived ideas about who we are as educators, and education in general. This experience would eventually lead us toward learning effective brainstorming tactics that will help us create a solution for our challenges.

Throughout the day the 7 teams bonded through signature cheers, song, dance, laughter and Breakout box stories. Being vulnerable became a natural part of this innovator process and everyone willingly shared something personal that helped shape their approach to the activities of the day.

 

 

For Google to be a greatly tech-infused company, thru had us working without technology until about 5 PM! Post-It notes and markers were the tools of choice. These sticky-notes were plentiful and abundantly used causing many to be out of their problem solving comfort zone. What is this place? I can’t draw, I can’t think, and I definitely don’t see how this is helping me come to a solution!

How do you turn words into pictures when you’re not good at drawing, let alone drawing out your thoughts? Simply do the best you can. Draw from the heart. Talk it through with your team and coach. Ring the fail bell if you need/have to. We’re going to be okay, plus they’re serving us 3 meals today!

 

Lessons of the day: 1) Become comfortable being uncomfortable with how you will discover a solution for your challenge. 2) It’s okay to fail forward, ring the bell signaling a pivot, and rejoice because you’re not alone!

Day 2

Everyone returned! More hugs! More sticky-notes! Time for rapid-fire thinking. Jot down your thoughts, one per sticky-note, in 1 minute. Seriously? Yes, these people are truly evil! This time we get to work with others aside from our team and with our “affinity buddy” because every idea needs fresh eyes and different perspectives to help generate creativity and foster a breakthrough! THE hardest thing was hearing questions and statements that challenged your beautifully sketched out solution: What makes this better than that? Why would anyone want to use yours over the others out there?  What are you trying to do? I don’t get it. WOW!

That exercise made some of us take a step back. I personally questioned every decision I had made in life leading up to this experience and then, I cried. Yes, real tears. My ideas (seeds) were planted in fertile ground, they just needed a little rain to complete the growth process, right? Even though it was late in the evening, and most of the cohort was working on polishing their projects, I reached for the fail bell. My new family loudly cheered at the sound of the bell and it was in that moment I realized my life choices were perfectly engineered for me to arrive here, now, at Google NYC.

 

 

Lesson of the day: Passion and pivot are not the opposing forces life tries to make you believe they are, because it takes courage and strength to do both.

Day 3

Project proposal day is here! The day started as usual, a subway ride into the office, breakfast on site, dedicated time to work on any last minute ideas on our projects, more tours of the Google facility (they have a Lego room!), professional pictures taken, and above all, more family bonding time. After our final lunch, we prepared to give a 30 second “Once Upon A Time….” story about our solution. You could feel the excited yet nervous energy in the room because we were presenting in front of the room of Innovators, loved ones who were present for graduation, and it was also live streamed to the world! No pressure!

One by one, Innovators took the stage telling a beautiful story about how their solution is going to change the face of education as we know it. Listening to how different, yet similar, our challenges were, made being in that room full of like-minded individuals awe inspiring, extremely motivational, and overwhelmingly humbling. Even though 30 seconds might not have been enough time for a few of us, at the end of every presentation, the room erupted with cheers and applause, loved ones beamed with pride, and a huge sense of accomplishment washed over us all. We laughed together. We cried together. We encouraged each other. We supported each other. WE became Innovators together!

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Lesson of The Academy

Two (2) months ago we didn’t even know the other existed. Now, because of 3 days in NYC, we will carry each other in our hearts for the rest of our lives. We’ve already celebrated a few birthdays together, virtually and in person, and we continue to support one another via social media outlets and the infamous Google Hangout. We are excited to see how everyone’s project unfolds and we will definitely celebrate any fail bell pivots along the way.

No matter what happens next, one thing is certain, every moment of each day prior to graduation, every fail bell ring that echoed the room, every moment of self-doubt that tried to invade our minds, every motivational and up-lifting speech that kept pushing us forward, was all worth it to see 49+ strangers become friends and now family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Your Vision 20/10?

“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” — John Scully

A pair of eyeglasses on the countertop

One of my favorite movies is Field of Dreams (c). For me, it touches on an important aspect necessary to achieve greatness: Vision.

20/20 Vision

An annual eye exam trip to the Optometrist follows the same routine: stand on a predetermined distance line, look at an eye chart and call out the last line of letters/numbers you can clearly see without the aid of glasses. If you are fortunate you will be able to read the 8th line without any hesitation, which means you have normal visual acuity measured at a distance of 20 feet. However, if you are not as fortunate, you will need corrective lenses. Several days, and sometimes a pricey bill, later you carefully place your purposefully chosen specs on your face and look around the room. A sense of wonder waves over you as you ponder “What else have I not seen clearly in the past?”

20/10 Vision

Less than 10% of people tested have “perfect” vision which means about a maximum of 10 people tested every year per Optometrist are able to see things at a measured distance of 20 feet that the majority of people can only see 10 feet away. The main character in Field of Dreams had 20/10 vision when he decided to mow a chunk of his corn fields down and build a baseball diamond in its place. No one around him could see what he saw no matter how hard he tried to convince them otherwise. No one believed in his vision. No one appreciated his efforts. No one understood his resolve. However, everyone did see his dedication, determination, and belief in the vision. And because of his consistency everyone eventually “saw” the manifestation of the vision too.

If he were an educator, his actions would have been considered the same as “seeing” down the street and around the corner. His vision was unparalleled in comparison to others. And despite the criticisms and ridicule he experienced he never allowed what others thought of him and his actions make him lose his focus.

As an educator if you have 20/10 vision, be prepared for the times where you will experience criticism and ridicule. I strongly encourage you to stand fast in your resolve and find a friend to travel the road with you. Just like the main character in Field of Dreams, consistent behavior will convince others to get their vision rechecked. If all goes well, they may improve from 20/20 to 20/10!

Fail Forward and Rejection Rebound: A Very Personal Perspective

Never give up. People will always discount you, and you’ll always get rejected. But set your sights high. Be boldly ambitious. Be relentless and never give up. – Reshma Saujani

This year, so far, has had so many great things happening for me and in my life. I stepped out of my comfort zone professionally through Twitter, leading PD for my district, earning coveted certifications (Google Level 1&2, Google Certified Trainer) my oldest son and his family moving back to GA, my youngest son transferring colleges back to GA, and my husband getting the best dedicated trucking assignment since he began a new career in August 2017. We were all on a roll and life felt perfect!

Then came the disappointments: a job opportunity rejection; professional development proposals denied; not being selected for the Google for Education Certified Innovators Program; and general frustrations of standing still while everyone, and everything, around you are passing by at what appears to be lightning speed. I’ve been rejected from jobs before and I’ve rebounded rather quickly. However, this time it was rapid fire rejection. Three of them came 2 weeks apart. These feelings of failing beyond recovery were rushing in and doubt grew roots. I began to question myself and all the choices I’d made in my life up until this point. I needed a break from my thoughts ASAP!

Fall Break came 2 days after I got the email from Google, so it was perfect timing to go get out of my head, relax, recharge, and spend time with my husband on a get-away vacation we planned a few months earlier. We decided to go hiking, something I’ve never done before, in The Great Smoky Mountains and then drove on up to Gatlinburg, TN for the rest of the weekend. I was desperately in need of a respite from the emotional toll I was experiencing and I thought a walk in the woods, on a clear and cool Autumn day, would be the best medicine. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

As we approached the beginning of the trail, I became excited for the adventure we were about to embark upon and extremely nervous because I thought I wasn’t physically prepared enough to complete the course. Nevertheless, I strapped on my newly purchased survival backpack, grabbed my liter water bottle and my hiking stick, took my obligatory newbie photo and started on my way ahead of my seasoned hiker husband.

After what I thought was 1/2 the distance to the destination, I asked how much longer we had to go, he said “about 1.5 miles”. We hadn’t gone a mile yet! Ugh! I suddenly felt overwhelmed with the realization that I’m nowhere near the end and giving up IS an option because we weren’t that far up the trail- but that would make me a failure…again.

I started crying. I knew this moment wasn’t just associated with how much farther I had to go. These tears were deeply rooted in something else. These tears were about who I was at that moment and all the recent rejections I had received. I was questioning my ability to make sound decisions. My husband unhooked my backpack, hands me my water bottle, and sits me down in a cool shaded area. He asks about my welfare and what I was thinking. I poured my heart out. I felt: like a failure; inadequate; unaccomplished; stagnant; #failforward is a lie; #rejectionrebound another lie!

He wiped my tears away, looked me in the eyes and said “You’re not a failure, inadequate, unaccomplished, nor stagnant. You were rejected. If you give up on this hike you will experience failure. Besides, I’m not going to let you quit. So, rest in the shade, drink your water, rebound from the rejection, and let’s reach our goal!”

I shook my head in agreement, stood up, and started back up the trail. Along the way we came across other hikers coming down and they all said the same thing “you’re almost there; you can make it; the view is worth it-trust us.” Encouragement was coming from strangers…talk about perfect timing! An hour later we made it to the bluffs and the view WAS amazing! We sat down and soaked in the quiet serenity of nature for about 30 minutes.

On the way down the trail I began thinking about this post. Had I given in and turned around I would have failed at my #failforward #rejectionrebound mindset. I would have spent the rest of our vacation mad at myself and miserable thereby making my husband unhappy and he didn’t deserve that version of me.

I’m glad I checked off an item I didn’t even know was on my Bucket List by forging ahead when the going got really tough. We went Zip Lining the next day. Score another point for stepping out of one’s comfort zone and pushing personal limits. It was easier because of the previous day and both events brought clarity to my mind.

Fail Forward and Rejection Rebound are more than hashtags that sound great on Twitter. They are a mindset that should be active in every aspect of your life. My Fall Break vacation gave me new ideas about my next application to the Google for Education Innovators Academy. I received feedback about the other opportunities I didn’t get to be part of so I can make improvements on those applications as well. With each new application/proposal it will be #failforward because I tried, and if I get another “Unfortunately…..”letter/email, I will execute #rejectionrebound because I will try again.

My Google Train Ride Continues

 

The journey is part of the experience – an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca. –Anthony Bourdain, A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

bitmoji briefcase

3 months ago I wrote about my professional development journey and eventually becoming a Google Certified Education Trainer. I mentioned that the journey has been a ride full of ebbs and flows, oh what a ride it has been, and it is not over! The beginning of a new school year is always filled with new challenges and excitement. I look forward to it every year! Each day highlights opportunities for students and teachers to take risks, #failforward is a celebrated option now, and use the next day as a reset if necessary.  With this in mind, I decided to take a chance and apply for the Google Innovators Academy in Denmark #DEN18.

Why Should I Apply?

The idea of applying to become part of such a prestigious group of educators is undeniably intimidating. Who am I? What do I have to offer? These are the two questions that were constantly going through my mind as I read emails reminding me of the Denmark Cohort application opening and closing dates. Maybe I should wait and get a few more months of working within my school, the district, in my professional portfolio before I venture out globally. What if I don’t get accepted? How will I handle that degree of disappointment?  No matter the outcome, I still will have grown from a year ago, and that, in and of itself, is reason enough to apply.

The Application Process

On September 3, 2018, I downloaded the worksheet associated with the application and I began to answer the questions. I was not prepared for the types of questions asked (they are designed to stretch your thoughts and perspective) and trying to express myself within the expected character limits was an even bigger challenge. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed and I did not finish the worksheet at that time. Fear and apprehension had taken control and another week passed without me revisiting the worksheet. Next year, I’ll try again next year, when I don’t feel so out of my league.

An email arrived on September 10, 2018, with a webinar invite for all prospective applicants to go over tips and suggestions for a successful application video plus general information. Unfortunately I did not attend the webinar, but that email reminded me that if I don’t at least submit the application, I will spend the rest of the year wondering “what if?”. Another week was quickly coming to a close before I began working again on the worksheet. This also meant the September 21, 2018 deadline was around the corner and I needed to get the video together – yesterday.

As much as I talk about #failforward and transparency, I still find myself not wanting to be equally as transparent with others about certain things. However, I do understand the benefit of getting constructive feedback from others, so I invited friends and family to look over the worksheet and give me their opinions, suggestions, and, of course, their well wishes. After I got the feedback, I made the suggested and necessary adjustments to my short answers, those character limits were unrelenting, I uploaded my video, I completed the online application and hit submit.

Now We Wait

So now I’m back in a familiar, yet happily scary, place, as I, along with other applicants, some of them friends from Twitter, wait for the decision the week of October 1, 2018. I know I will be disappointed if I don’t make this cohort, I won’t give up though, I’ll just use it as an opportunity to grow. But if disappointment has to come I’d rather it be because I tried and not because I didn’t.

 Good Luck Everyone!

The 4th C of Feedback

Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.

– Bruce Lee

Being a “sports mom” I got to see my boys, and their classmates, get a lot of feedback over many years. Many of their coaches adopted the 3 C’s of feedback: Compliment, Criticize, Correct. I adopted the same approach in my classroom and part of my leadership style but I modified it over time by adding a fourth C – Challenge.

4th C of Feedback

Compliment

Every school year, get an index card holder and write something positive on each card for all your students. Add to it over time but keep everything positive. This way when you start the feedback conversation off with a compliment it will be sincere. Everyone likes medicine that tastes like cherries!

Criticize

Now that the air is less tense, the criticism will be only about the “thing” that needs to be corrected/improved and less likely to be taken personally. I’ve noticed that sticking to one point of criticism during a conversation works best because it allows both parties to have moments of reflection during the conversation.

Correct

Unlike step 2, this process can be personal because it will need to focus on strengthening an area of weakness. If possible demonstrate the correct method. Allowing students the opportunity to execute the correction is the best way to see if they’re receiving the feedback as the help it was intended.

Challenge

Now that you’re done Complimenting, Criticizing, and Correcting, send the students off with a challenge!

Challenge them to continue doing the things that they were complimented about, especially if it’s attendance! 😉

Challenge them to consider the criticism as the self help it was intended and appreciate the love and context in which it was given.

Challenge them to make the corrections and execute the changes for their personal growth. Doing better = being better.

Challenge them to circle back to the 3 C’s of feedback process when they’re alone with their thoughts about a project or an idea or even about their personal lives as a guide to help them out of the slump.

Challenge them to be better today than they were yesterday and even better tomorrow!

Most importantly, let’s challenge ourselves to remember the power of the 4th C of feedback.