The process of finding your word takes time. You might create a list, you might read through Twitter blogs, you might browse through Google Search to research words. I did them all. But for me, looking at my life experiences and connecting with my personality was ultimately what helped me land on my word.
I really liked the word “precision”. In the 8 mathematical practices, the 6th practice is "attend to precision". I love that word!! Precision. I thought that was it, but I thought that it might turn into perfection. And for me, perfection can be limiting.
I really liked the word “listen”. As I started moving towards a student-led classroom, I found that the more I listen to my students, the more I learn about them. And in turn, students are doing the talking and therefore, the learning. I know I need to be a better listener, but it wasn’t my one word.
I still had some thinking to do. The way my mind works is that it “percolates” as my husband calls it. Then I wait. Then I listen for that still small voice in my heart. Then it comes.
I looked in and listened to my heart
I woke up this morning and I had discovered my word. It’s a word that I’ve been admiring in my students for the past couple of years. As babies we’re born with it, when we enter school some of us keep it and some of us unfortunately lose it. As adults many of us mask it to conform to peer groups, work expectations, or societal norms. My word . . .
Let me tell you a story . . . or two.
About 15 years ago, I had a life-changing encounter. I was in the teacher’s lounge making copies, that’s what we did back then. : ) Anyway, a teacher came up to me and said, “Not everyone can be happy like you all the time, Marilyn.” Boy did that sting. I didn’t know what to say. I probably said nothing. But to this day, I remember her words. I decided to be be serious, more “professional”, laugh less, be “deep” in conversation. For about six months I tried living this “new me”. Then one day, another teacher came up to me and asked me what was wrong. I told her what happened and why I decided to change. This second teacher gave me a HUGE lecture about being me. That my personality is what makes me a great teacher. I had lost myself in trying to “be” what I thought someone else thought I should be. Need I say that I was miserable for sixth months. That’s an understatement.
Last year, I had this precious student that completely owned who she was. As a sixth grader, that can be pretty tough. She loves color, she loves anime, she loves music, she loves You-Tube stars, and she loves poetry. I would continually find myself watching her and admiring how she owned her true self. Her authentic self. At the end of the year, we give out six presidential awards. Johann was a recipient. Here’s what I wrote about her:
"Johann epitomizes this phrase. After 23, maybe 24 years of teaching, I honestly can’t remember, Johann is one of a handful of students that truly owns who she is. She is a singer, an artist, a great student, and overall friendly person. She is flexible beyond measure. She’ll work with anyone and do it with joy. As she goes to junior high, I’m confident that her zest for life and confidence in who she is will help her conquer any new experience that comes her way. I’m so happy to present this silver Presidential award to Johann. Her parents are to be commended for raising such a positive young lady." Love, Mrs. McAlister
I looked up and discovered my one word.
Now it’s time for me to look out into the world, my world, and live it. This is a milestone year for me . . . I’m turning 50. It seems like a pretty daunting number, but at the end of the day, it’s just a number. My husband is 51 and he’s already calling me 50. Grrrr, that boy!!! I keep telling him that we’re going to rock 50. We are!!! By being authentic. By being real. By living our best lives now, not later, but now. By living authentically, we’re bound to rock 50.
At school, we have a #CelebrateMonday shout out box. One of my students thanked me for letting her be who she is. (I’ll try to find her note and post it here.) That shout out provided me with a moment of clarity. She lives her authentic self in my classroom. The environment is safe and she feels like she is able to be true to herself . . . her authentic self.
As I look out, I aim to be the best version of me that I can be. I aim to encourage my students to be authentic versions of themselves. (We’re starting passion projects in January. I hope to see some amazing authentic projects.) I aim watch in awe as my personal children, 17 and 20, live their authentic lives. And I aim to rock 50 with my husband!!!
As educators, we are models to our students and peers around us. Let's aim to be the best, authentic versions of ourselves. Your word may be inspire, or focus, or even audacious. Whatever it is, own it, live it, make it authentic!
Expecting greatness for all of us in 2017,
Here's my #OneWord2016.