Stick And Stones May Break My Bones But Negative Words Will Not Define Me

I don’t want to be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately. All I can do is think of me and I have peace of mind. I’m tired of looking around rooms wondering what I’ve gotta do or who I’m supposed to be. I don’t want to be anything other than me. – I Don’t Want to Be Lyrics by Gavin Degraw

As a child I heard this phrase whenever someone was being bullied: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!” And as a child it gave me a sense of control to utter that at another person because I was letting them know that their words had no effect on me. Boy was I delusional.

Those words not only had an effect, but they had a power that unfortunately sometimes determined my choices. More often than not, they made me question my existence, and not in a positive way, because no matter how strong and brave I wanted to be, I was really a scared and vulnerable kid just trying to find her way in life.

Awareness

Etymology, the study of word origins, is more associated with Spelling Bee participants or Historians versus classroom teachers who don’t teach Language Arts. However, I wish those who were in authority over me had considered the meanings of words when I was told I wasn’t smart enough to be in the upper level classes based on my GPA from 8th grade or that I shouldn’t be hired at my first teaching position because I was considered a slacker in high school.

Some words said by those teachers and counselors were easy to shake off but the ones that were also said by people whose opinions I valued most were the hardest to shake because they were believed to be more true. The battle of not letting someone else’s opinion/description affect you is hard enough without hearing similar things from the people we love, trust, and respect the most. If you hear it enough you begin to believe it. And once you believe it you begin to own it. It becomes convenient to exist in that reality rather than prove to them, and yourself, otherwise.

Actions Can Be Like Words Too

Every day the students come in the building is a new day to either plant or water seeds that can impact the fertile ground known as their self esteem. We can start by getting rid of behavior charts that are posted in the classroom or writing names on the board for behavior punishment. Both of these, in my opinion, place labels on kids that are very hard to remove. Because when other students go home to talk about their day and they mention again how Lil’ Rhonda’s name is on the board again, parents jump into protective mode and encourage their kids to stay away from the troublemaker.

Just like that she will forever be labeled as troublemaker to that classmate. And like an aggressive cancer cell the label spreads. No one likes a troublemaker. No one wants to be around a troublemaker. Can’t be friends with one either. A life defining moment for a primary grade student shouldn’t be made for them. Especially by those entrusted to protect and nurture them 8 hours a day during the school year.

I’ll Just Be Me

We don’t know every student’s story. The students that come into our building are the best and brightest their parents/guardians have to send. They’re “as is models prepped for awesome upgrades” and the best way educators like me can help them reach their potential is by carefully choosing the words said to them both publicly and privately.

Some students may not be told that they’re loved before they come to class, so we have to tell them. A warm sincere smile will speak volumes to a student who needs it. All students’ need is for 1 person to “see” them and help them see themselves. Remind students that a brief moment in time is only as defining as they allow it to be. Choose words and actions that constructively correct behavior as well as guide academic growth. Encourage students to be the best version of themselves while teaching others to accept their “differences” will work miracles if given a chance. I know because it worked for me.

6 Months Later And I’m #GoogleET

Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride! – Hunter S. Thompson

Wow! Who knew that when I started this professional journey in January 2018 to challenge myself and grow as an Instructional Technology Coach, I would be here, a Google Certified Educator and Trainer!

Put Yourself Out There

I’ve been a member of Twitter for years, but never have I used it for professional purposes. I attended my first professional tech conference in November 2017 and although I participated in the hashtags, pictures, and networking events, I still felt disconnected from others in my profession. So, I decided to expand my Twitterverse and I created a professional account. The first week I joined as many chats as I could find and as a result, I discovered so many like-minded individuals that I decided to become a co-moderator in my local district monthly chats.

Within a month of my first chat session, my contacts, #PLN, had grown, I was invited to host TECHtalkGA chat, and I was on my way to participating in edcamps and attending my first EdTechTeam Summit where I learned about getting Google for Education Certifications. I felt like a kid in a candy store full of Jelly Bellies and Chocolate and what amazed me the most was the fact that this store had been opened for business long before I wandered down the street!

As I continued to attend edcamps and host and participate in Twitter chats, I realized that I needed more. I had a fire inside that was pushing me to learn as much as I could from as many resources there were available. I consumed knowledge from everyone I encountered and I offered my heartfelt opinion as often as I was given the opportunity to do so.

Buckle up. The ride is about to begin.

Let’s Get Certified

Despite the fire, I had growing inside, I still found myself apprehensive about taking that plunge into the certification process. Not only was I attending edcamps every month, I was now putting my name on the board to hold a session about Google productivity tools. So what was I waiting for? I didn’t want to let my family down, but more than anything, I didn’t want to let myself down. Taking the famous Nike phrase, “Just Do It” to heart, I started the Google Certified Educator Level 1 process during spring break the first week in April.

Between moving homes, spending time with my family, and working on presentations I proposed for a local Digital Learning Conference, I once again found myself putting my certification pursuits on the back burner. Come on Rhonda, you can do it. Imagine what will happen to you once you do. Envision the possibilities. See your future. Go for it!

I scheduled a date on my calendar to take the exam. Once I completed the payment there was no turning back. May 3, 2018, gave me a 7-day window to fish or cut bait. Fingers were crossed and prayers went up.

I took the exam on May 6, 2018, and 3 hours later I got the results. PASSED! Bitmoji Yes

Whew! The apprehension I once had quickly dissipated and was immediately replaced with exhilaration and relief. I can do this after all. I began preparing for the Level 2 exam. Right around 5 days later I completed the training materials, took the exam, and again, 3 hours later I got the results. PASSED! I am on a roll!

Up next: Trainer or Innovator? Whoa, pump the brakes a little there Rhonda. Enjoy these accomplishments before you go reaching for the brass ring! Are you really ready to be a Certified Google Trainer? Have you done enough training yet? At all? Can you say ambitious?

After much consideration and deliberation, I decided to take a chance on the materials I had and I put in the application for Google Trainer. I felt a strong internal push that my timing was just right and that my application would showcase my uniqueness. It was now or never.

Monday, May 28, 2018, was the day a simple button click made me do a quick review of my life and all that I had done in such a short period of time. Everything was happening so fast! Was I really ready for the application to be accepted or was I going to use this as a learning experience and prepare better for a future application? Either way, I win right? Submit, click. Fingers were crossed again and more prayers went up.

The Waiting Is Finally Over

Despite the canned response of a 4-6 weeks processing time, every day for 2 weeks, I checked the status of my application. Anxious can’t begin to effectively describe the feelings I had as I slowly scrolled to read the status change from Submitted to In Review on my phone. I felt like I was free falling.

On Thursday, June 14, 2018, as I sat in preparation for my presentations, I looked one more time. Talk about taking a risk. If it is not favorable news, how will it affect my day full of presentations? If it is the previous status, In Review, at least it will be no worse than it was yesterday. But, maybe, just maybe today is the day. I began my usual slow scroll down the screen. This time In Review has been replaced with ACCEPTED!

I gasped out loud and a huge smile took over my face! My friend, who encouraged me to use the materials I had, was sitting next to me at the time, and all I could do was just show her my phone. She gasped out loud too and then gave me the biggest congratulatory hug you can imagine.

I posted this on Twitter making sure to thank all the people who supported and encouraged me along the way. Without my #PLN, I don’t know if I would have jumped out of the gate the way I did.

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I did it! I set a goal in January to grow professionally and I am official #GoogleET. I cannot wait to see where this adventure takes me and I’m looking forward to working with even more great educators through this opportunity.

This ride is far from over, but what a ride it has been!

 

We Do What We Are

Alex Cross: You do what you are Jezzie.

Jezzie Flannigan: You mean you are what you do.

Alex Cross: No, I mean, you do what you are. You’re born with a gift. If not that, then you get good at something along the way. And what you’re good at, you don’t take for granted. You don’t betray it.

Jezzie Flannigan: What if you do, betray your gift?

Alex Cross: Then you betray yourself. That’s a sad thing. (c) Along Came A Spider (2001)

ME: “I’m going to med school, Mom. I want to be a surgeon. I want to help save people’s lives. I want to make a difference!”

MOM: “Before, or after, you’re finished playing school with your dolls and stuffed animals?”

ME: “After. Shhhh, they’re taking a test.”

Nine years later, I graduated from high school at 17 and embarked on my journey to become a doctor. I spent the next four years studying Chemistry and preparing for the MCAT at Xavier University of LA. On the day of the exam, I was overcome with a sense of uneasiness and discomfort. I chalked it up to test anxiety, so I began settling into my seat, and I took out my test utensils.

The test proctor started going over the rules for the test, thoroughly explaining how the test sections would be administered and where one could find the restrooms and water fountains. Once the proctor finished issuing the basic what to do, when to do, and how to directions, he asked the usual rhetorical question: “Are there any questions?” As expected, everyone shook their heads, in unison, indicating no. Everyone, except me. For the first time in my life, I truly began to ponder the question with regards to my life.

Are there any questions? Suddenly the room became deafeningly silent. I felt my heart begin to race. Here comes that test anxiety again. Are there any questions? I hear myself scream: YES! Why am I here? Do I really want to take the MCAT? What will I do if I don’t go to med school? Do I have a plan B? I look around and noticed no one was paying me any attention, so that meant I wasn’t talking out loud. Good. Now, I’m sure he was referring to the rigid nature of the directions he had just spent the last 10 minutes reading and not the quintessential question I obviously heard. But who asks such a loaded question to individuals who are already stressed about this exam and not expect at least one of us to have a “moment”? Needless to say, I quickly got up out of my seat, gathered my belongings, left the lecture hall, and exhaled a sigh of relief.

Several months later, college graduation came and the internship I had at USDA ended. I moved back home to GA. Still no plan B. After a round of job applications and interviews with different scientific labs, I couldn’t shake the “need” to make a difference in people’s lives. My old school system had an alternative certification program for non-education majors. Science majors make better science teachers, right?

I got hired at my second interview! I was going to be a mid September, mid-week, replacement teaching 8th grade Honors and CP (college prep) Physical Science. Life just got real. Paperwork. ID photo. Classroom keys. Meet department chair. Shop for professional clothes. Nervous energy and pure excitement were oozing out of my pores. I was going to be a teacher! I wonder if the students will look like my stuffed animals?

Up bright and early, still nervous and excited about my new adventure, I hurriedly got ready for my first day. Pep talk. You’ve got this! You helped tutor kids in the 5th grade. You were a TA, of sorts, in college. You taught the engineering major dude Organic Chemistry as your way of studying for your exams. You’ve BEEN doing this! Then I heard: “Teachers help save lives too. Teachers make a difference. Don’t forget, all your “pupils” got straight A’s. I saw the tests you gave. Snoopy struggled a little but he eventually got himself together!” It was my mother. She sensed my nervous energy, plus she overheard my pep talk, and she did what she always does, she encouraged me and reminded me of my dream: save lives, make a difference. Thanks Mom!

The morning bell rang and the bright young minds I’m about to influence come bustling though the door. So young. So energetic. So full of life. They belong to me and I belong to them. Wow, I am their teacher. This ebb and flow of students and bells continued for 6 more hours, with an hour for planning and about 45 minutes for lunch squeezed in between. Today was rather overwhelming but undeniably fulfilling. How will I ever remember all of those names? As I gathered my things, turned off the lights, and closed the door to my room, I thought to myself: Snoopy would be proud!

The Journey Begins

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” — Bruce Lee

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