Open Your Heart

The moment happened.

The moment when I let my emotions overcome me. I let my tears roll down my cheek. I tried to collect myself with no luck while wiping away my tears. I was crying hard, like ugly cry…hard. Even worse, in front of my students!

No, this sob-fest didn’t happen on top of top of Machu Picchu (even though I did shed a tear). Nor, did I breakdown when I rolled up my sleeves and worked beside the locals. No.

I broke down at the dinner table when posed the simple question, ‘What do you hope to get out of this trip?’ First, let me put this out there: our EF Tour Director, Jorge, was fantastic in all facets of his job, but even more-so pulling at the strings of our heart. He repeated to our students the line, “Not only open your eyes on this trip, but open your hearts” and it is now stuck in my heart.

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With tears streaming down my cheeks and a smile out of the corner of my mouth, I opened my heart. With 17 pairs of eyes on me (remind you many were my students), I took off my armor, completely unguarded–vulnerable–and felt no shame (thank you Brené Brown!).

That night I opened my heart.

But…why did it take this long? Why did I feel the need to apologize for my tears? Why?

A million reasons flushed through my head, but it finally clicked when I came back to the states and I had some time to reflect. I’ve never truly opened my heart. Sure, I open my heart every day with my friends and family, students and co-workers. Yet, I never opened my heart so passionately that I let myself feel deep enough to allow tears to openly flow down my cheek.

My life-changing trip to the Incan world started with hopes of changing students lives. I smiled as I watched them try new things. I cringed as they dared more than I would have ever imagined. I cried (yes, more than once) as I witnessed them opening their hearts to new cultures, practices and a way of living.

I left the States hoping for what I always hope for:  to gain new global citizens through our students; but, I (along with 16 other young adults and chaperones) came back with so much more.

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I am an educator; I always will be. Nine years ago, my 22-year-old self walked into an empty classroom unsure how to access a grade book, how to organize a successful seating chart, or how to even turn on my projector! Nine years ago I walked into the unknown, a new beginning, with butterflies in my stomach and nightmares of second guessing myself. I started a chapter without a first draft, without a pencil in hand, without even knowing how it would end. But in exactly nine days, this chapter will end.

In nine days, I will be closing this chapter of my life to start writing a new one. A chapter filled with butterflies, with an open heart, with an open-ending (once again). For the past nine years, I have identified as a Spanish teacher/Instructional coach, and now, for the next five years, nine years, twenty years (who knows), I will be “re-identifying” myself. But…will I really?

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I have spent a lot of time (probably too much) really pondering the thought of closing this chapter of my life and searching for this ‘new’ identity. Closing this chapter has been one of the most difficult decisions of my life; but, why? Is it entering the unknown, out of my comfort zone? Is it letting go of my identity? Is it saying “see you later” to the relationships I have built? Is it the fact that starting over is hard?

Quite frankly, it is a combination of it all! If I were to say I’m not terrified, petrified, and completely clueless, I would be lying to you. I am taking a leap of faith into the unknown. We have placed a label, as society, on the unknown as a horrible, scary place. Yet, what is there to be scared of? Without taking these leaps, there is no stretching oneself. There is no personal or professional growth. There is no telling what your limits are.

After three weeks of wandering — on the trails, in my mind, in conversation — I have smiled at the thought of closing this chapter and beginning a new one. I refuse to limit myself; I am capable of anything I put my mind to. I refuse to re-identify myself; my past is just as important as my future. I refuse to run from the unknown; the unknown will only make me stronger.

A chapter closed does not mean it is forgotten. You can’t finish a chapter without first beginning. The pages do not go untouched. The characters do not become a figment of the imagination. The written words are your laughs and tears; your smiles and sighs. Those chapters are real. They are genuine. They are pure.

It is my hope to educators and students, to world travelers, to authors and poets, to athletes and musicians…whoever you might be…that you smile at the thought of starting a new chapter. Nerves are normal, fears expected. The book is meant to go on. There’s meant to be laughs and tears; plot twists and cliff-hangers; and in the end, we are all meant to turn the page and continue on.

A Chapter Closed; A New Beginning

What If…

Whenever I’m feeling in touch with my daydreamer side, I drink my morning coffee from a very special mug–my ‘what if’ mug. It’s not a special color or made from special material, but it is special. WFullSizeRender.jpegith each sip, my morning coffee allows my mind to relax and wander. My hands grasp my warm mug, and my fingers slowly and gently trace the fragile words ‘what if’. This mug allows me to sip in my dreams and warm up to my possibilities. This mug allows my mind to wander into the unknown, without hearing the rebuttals or excuses. Each and every morning I use this mug, I sip in my dreams until my coffee cup is left stained with morning, old coffee. My dreams left until tomorrow’s brew. 

The marks that stain my mug, the choices that stain my life. The fragile, but the strong question of ‘what if’. What if I traveled the world? What if I got a new haircut? What if my life took a complete 180? What if… What if… What if…

At a younger age, I used to dance with the question of ‘what if’. What if I became a Disney princess? What if my secret admirer asked me to the movies? What if I got into my dream school?

Yet for the past five years, I have found myself paralyzed by that exact same question.

Stuck and stagnant.

The ‘what if’ brings the unknown. The ‘what if’ is something out of my control. The ‘what if’ brings uncertainty. The ‘what if’ brings me…fear.

Until one day when a good mentor and even better friend of mine poured me a fresh cup of coffee in a new ‘what if’ mug. He told me, ‘kid, chase your ‘what if’. What’s holding you back?’

What was holding me back?

The fear held me paralyzed; the stains procrastinating to my tomorrow. I was paralyzing myself and taking advantage of my tomorrow. That sip was the first of many. Each sip after reminds me of the very first. A reminder of that simple, yet meaningful advice–that unforgettable sip.

From each sip forward, mentor, I will chase my ‘what if’. Because of you, I will no longer be paralyzed, but rather dance in my ‘what if’. I will breathe in the aromas of uncertainty and smile at each stain, reminding me of each mark of my past.

For those of you stuck, stagnant in the stains of ‘what if’, I challenge you to pour another cup of coffee. I urge you to sip into your dreams and let yourself dance towards your possibilities. Trace that ‘what if’ gently. Inhale the cozy warm smell of your fresh beginning, your new opportunities; and smile, as you allow yourself to become comfortable with your ‘what if’.

Be a wanderer. Be a daydreamer.  

Chase those dreams.

Cheers to the ‘what-if’.

 

 

Teacher Regret – Let It Go!

To the teacher who regrets not attending an extracurricular event after school this year, let it go.

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To the teacher who regrets not teaching a little bit outside of their comfort zone this year, let it go.

To the teacher who regrets not building better relationships with their co-workers, let it go.

Just, let it go. There you go, I said it…

Let. It. Go.

As my last couple of days in the school year come to a close, I cannot help but feel some regret. Perhaps I should have put a little more effort into helping my students? I should have made that parent phone call home a little earlier? How couldn’t I have noticed my student was struggling with life…outside of school?

I should have done something. I could have done better. All I need is one more chance, and I will do better.

The teacher regret, the guilt, it is the real deal. Educators all feel it. We all experience those sleepless nights, worrying about that lesson that felt like an epic fail. We all replay how we handle classroom management–is my seating arrangement right to increase student achievement?. We all feel it. But, why?

We, educators, that carry that guilt and regret, also carry the passion needed to impact lives. Our passion is seen through our smiles and heard through our voices. Our passion outweighs everything. It is our passion that overcomes us, good or bad.

Yet here is the thing– when that door closes, the past is the past. There is nothing more we can do. Can we reflect? Yes. Can we handle it a different way the next time? Sure. By all means, I’m not saying make the same mistake twice. What I am saying is to reflect, learn from the experience. Let our passions guide us to a better tomorrow because tomorrow could be that chance to make things right.

So if you have a regret, it is okay to feel the guilt. You are not alone. If you have regret, though, it is not okay to stay stuck, stagnant in the guilt. It is time to move forward.

It is time to close that door, breathe, and just let that regret go.

 

I Just Want You to Know That…

What kind of message do you send your students? Do you truly take the time to get to know those smiling (or sometimes maybe not so smiling) faces in your classroom every day.

As educators, it is important to build those strong teacher-student relationships so that students feel safe to learn in your classroom. More than often it’s not that students do not like your class or that tScreen Shot 2018-09-03 at 10.06.32 AMhey don’t want to learn, students simply have tons of baggage to deal with outside of the classroom. That is not an excuse; it is the truth. Believe me, I do not tolerate excuses. After all, everyone has baggage. However, think about how many years you have on your students… We have had the time to learn our life lessons and figure it out. We, educators, are here to help our students figure it out!

In my classroom, on the very first day (without greeting my students at the door), I hid i the back of the room. I left them a note saying that I would be right back and to find a seat. Impressively, they did just that! After a couple of minutes of chatter, I started my letter to my students–a recording of a letter I wrote. The room went silent. Some wondering how the video magically started, but then settling into complete attention. My letter was from the heart and what I want to say to EVERY student if I had the chance. The words were too powerful to say in person because I know that tears would trickle down my face.

I have this letter printed for students that need a friendly reminder of how much I truly care about them. I challenge you to do the same. Break down your walls; be vulnerable. You do not need to be Mr. (or Mrs.) Tough Guy on day 1, like many say. Just be human because that is what students need.

I just want you to know that!

Check out my recorded letter here.