Slowing Down to Listen

Independent. Strong-willed. Determined. 

All of the things I want my daughter to be, all of the things I am, and all of the things that got in the way of me listening to everything around me. 

Four years ago I was in the process of packing up my house in California to move back to the Midwest. I was recently divorced, working for a charter school that was being closed down, and completely lost. You see, the world keeps telling us that women can do anything, and they aren’t wrong. I could do anything, I had the world at my fingertips, and, yet, I wasn’t willing to listen.

I was so determined to be independent and make my ideal life work, that I had been stuck in an emotionally abusive marriage. Then, I started listening. Listening to my family who kept asking if I was okay. Listening to God telling me to go back to church. Listening to my friends who kept sending me job postings for places in the Midwest. I felt like my life had completely fallen apart, but it was right there in front of me. 

I needed exactly what every computer needs every now and then: a factory restore. I needed to go home. I needed to learn who I was again and turn the page. I needed every cliche in the book. So I went. I can’t say it was easy. In fact, I received my first bad teacher evaluation that first semester I was back. I sat in that meeting in tears and literally said, “I’m better than this.” And I was. I am. 

And in the most unexpected turn of events, the guy from California who didn’t want a girlfriend moved out there, too. We consistently traded stories about how much we loved California, so when we found out I was pregnant, we knew we wanted to raise our family there. It was hard. I finally started listening to my family and then I was telling them goodbye, again.

This time, though, it wasn’t as sad. They weren’t worried about me and I wasn’t trying to prove a point. I was being independent instead of stubborn. So here I am, in my now-husband’s hometown, raising our family because I started listening. Listening to the signs all around me from God, my family, and even strangers on the street. 

I guess my point of all this rambling is this: being independent, strong-willed and determined doesn’t mean you stop listening. It means you have the courage to do what you know is right for you, and be kind and confident in the process. Once I learned the difference between stubborn and determined, a whole new world opened up, and here I am watching my life fall back together again. 

I’ll Admit It – I’m a Teacher Who Doesn’t Work on Breaks


Two of the most beautiful words to a teacher. You see, in the spring we are so close to the end of the school year, but in full-blown testing mode (a blog for another day) and it is exhausting.

[Before I go on, please know that I completely understand every single job has a busy season, and I am in no way saying teaching is harder than your job, I’m simply saying I could sleep for 47 days and then maybe, finally, feel rejuvenated.]

Then along comes spring break, and guess where you can find many teachers? Working. There’s grades not done, bulletin boards that haven’t been changed all year (not mine, of course 🙄), plans to be made, and curriculum to cram before the real big deal {summer}. I could find enough things to keep myself busy full time over spring break, no doubt. But, guess what? I’m saying no.

I’m saying no to spend my break working, and yes to extra snuggles with my baby girl, a couple extra naps, an ice cream date with my teacher bestie (in yoga pants and messy buns, of course), and, if I get lucky, a few moments of sweet, sweet silence. Self care isn’t always about an expensive trip, massage and facial (although I’m sure they don’t hurt) and sometimes just about taking a moment to do what this life doesn’t give us nearly enough time to do: plain old relax.

In teaching, you are making a decision, answering a question or redirecting, adapting, changing plans or any combination of the above at any given moment. During testing season, it’s like making it to the Super Bowl, and you’re the coach of the Cinderella team, knowing they can do it but everyone is doubting you. Being able to take a break for a bit is more than needed.

So, teachers that find it rewarding to work over break, I’m a little envious, but you do you. And teachers that need to sit back and relax, I have ice cream and wine, want to figure out what in the world TikTok is with me?

The New B Word

“Don’t use those kinds of letters”

-things I never thought I would say as a teacher

In today’s world, it seems that every phrase has some time of alternative meaning or negative connotation. When kids tell me that another kid said the A, B, S, J, C or F word, I have to pull them outside and ask them what word they are even talking about. Sometimes it’s what you’d expect, sometimes it’s something like crap, shut up or jail – all words their parents have told them are not nice.

With so many taboo words, some that I have always considered taboo are not anymore. For example, somehow “bitch” is now a compliment to people. With that word out the window, there’s a new B word in town: bully.

First of all, I am not here to dispute that bullying is real and a problem. Bullying is real. It is something to be taken seriously. It is heartbreaking and needs to be stopped.

On that note, though, I think it’s time to take a serious look at a use of the word bully. You see, when a word is thrown around so often, it loses meaning. When everyone is a bully, no one is. When everyone wins an award, what’s the meaning behind the award?

Merriam-Webster states that the definition of a bully is “one who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker, smaller, or in some way vulnerable.”

It’s time to stand up to bullies without calling everyone a bully.

A kid doesn’t want to play? Maybe rude, but not a bully.

Calling someone names? Mean, but not a bully.

As a teacher, I cringe thinking about my sweet, innocent, perfect little girl going through school and being teased. I hated it, and I want to protect her to the ends of the Earth. In reality, though, she needs to learn to stand up for herself and know how to handle those situations, because the truth is I can’t protect her forever. I want Campbell to know that it’s okay to tell a kid no and it’s not rude. I want her to know it’s okay to be harsh and tell someone she doesn’t like how they are acting and there’s nothing wrong with that.

A true bully will be persistent and pick on those weaker than him or her. This is when adults need to intervene. Adults need to teach kids what bullying is and that it is not okay. It is okay not to be friends with everyone, always share everything you have, or play the game someone else wants to play all of the time. It is not okay to be forceful and pick on someone vulnerable or unable to defend themself.

It’s a very fine line, one that is talked about a lot these days. Is it important we teach kids about bullying and how to deal with it? Absolutely. Is it also important that we not throw the word bully around like it’s no big deal? 100% yes. How kids view and handle bullies is up to the adults. So before using the new B word, think about what’s happening. Teach kids how to react. Then stand up to the true bullies, to teach them how wrong it really is.

Balancing on a Teeter-Totter

Remember the days “way back when” (I like to think it was last week, but to each their own) when you’d go out to the school playground, go running for a seat on the teeter-totter, make it in time, and then someone sat down and it promptly smacked you in the face? Yeah, me neither 😉

Lately, I’ve noticed my life is out of balance. Not in a major, I need to re-evaluate my life kind of way, but in a mom-guilt, teacher-guilt, I don’t know which one to focus on kind of way. Which brings me to this: we’re all searching for that perfect same-sized, teeter-totter partner that puts our life in a perfectly happy balance.

Sometimes we are stuck, a first grader being held hostage by a big, old 5th grader on the other end and we have no where to go. Sometimes we are the 5th grader weighing other people down.

This weekend I went on a hike with some friends. Being out in the fresh air with 2 hours to talk through your thoughts can really do the soul some good. I came to realize that I’m sitting here trying to find my perfect balance, when all I need to do is jump and give it a little push. If I’m the big, old 5th grader on the teeter-totter, it’s going to take me using my muscles to balance it out, I can’t just sit and wait for it to magically happen.

Being a working mom is hard. I feel bad for the time I’m away. On the other hand, I love my job and the students I teach, and it makes me feel accomplished to make a difference. At various times, one of the two takes over and I get stuck on the teeter-totter.

There’s so much push for self-care out there, and don’t get me wrong, it’s crucial. To me, though, self care isn’t about getting a facial or going some place fancy. It’s about being caught up in grading to spend a weekend uninterrupted with my daughter. It’s about going on a hike to clear my head for bit. It’s a glass of wine on a day where everything was out of sorts.

Find what makes your teeter-totter balance. Live your best life, because a best life needs both ups and downs to make it work.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in First Grade .. and Second .. and Third ..

There’s this cute little poem that talks about how everything you need to know in life you learned in kindergarten – sharing, being kind, how much glue to use, you know, the basics. I’m not here to dispute that, it’s true. Those things are all important and everyone should have learned them in kindergarten. Good job, kindergarten teachers, your job is not an easy one.

On that note, learning about life doesn’t stop at the basics of stop after kindergarten. You see, kids should be learning how to be kind, share, and so much more at every grade level.

I currently teach 4th grade. If you ask any of my students on any given day what my dream for them is, they all have the same answer.

To be a good person.

A good person portrays all of those kindergarten qualities, but as you get older, life gets more complicated. 4th graders are no longer arguing about which purple crayon was theirs (usually) or how long their turn on the swing was, but they are trying to find a group of friends, make basketball teams at recess, get good grades, and much more.

Most recently, my class had a week-long unit about empathy. What does it feel like to be in someone else’s shoes who gets picked last for basketball at recess as everyone rolls their eyes? What can you do when you’re so frustrated with someone you want to scream?

Learning new emotions and ways to deal with this emotions isn’t forgetting about being kind, it’s learning to be kind in a much more mature way. One I hope my students can carry with them as they continue on the path to be good people.

Let the Journey Begin

Here I am, 30 years old, a teacher with a just-turned-1 year old in tow. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I got here. Other times I know I exactly how it all fell together – one piece at a time. I’m not sure what it is about my daughter turning 1 that has me motivated to change the world, but I do know that starts with me.

I grew up in a happy, supportive suburban home full of food, clothes, toys, electricity, but, most of all, love. As an elementary school teacher, I know many homes are missing any number of the items I just listed, if not all of them. Trying to help every kid that walks through my classroom door, or just passes me in the store, is exhausting and overwhelming to say the least.

So here I am, desperate to make the world better for my daughter, but knowing I can’t fix everything that is wrong with it. So what do we do? Well, Campbell Elizabeth, we focus on love.

We love our family, our neighbors, even our enemies, just like God has commanded us. We live that love so loud that we help change the world, one act of kindness at a time. Maybe one day it’s inviting that “weird” kid over to play. Maybe it’s sharing some of our many blessings with those less fortunate. It doesn’t matter who it is, what they look like, or the choices they’ve made, we love them just the same.

So here we are, my little family of 3: a teacher, UPS worker and 1 year old, ready to make this world have a little more love, because it needs it more than ever before.

P. S. On that idealistic note, I know that life gets messy, and not every day is a perfect example. So grab your favorite wine and join us through the triumphs, try-again-tomorrows, and daily chaos that is life. Cheers.