Thursday, February 14, 2019

#D100bloggerPD #DaringGreatly Conclusion

Welcome and thank you for joining in again as we celebrate the end of another #D100bloggerPD blog book study! If you’ve been following along, you know we’ve had 6 amazing blog posts leading up to today’s 7th and final post in this study of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly. I’ll be focusing on Chapter 7: Wholehearted Parenting. Colleen over at Literacy Loving Gals started us off back on January 31st and we’ve had 5 other members of from Berwyn South District 100 blogging and sharing along the way. If you missed any of those amazing posts (from veteran and NEW #D100bloggerPD crew members), they are linked in Colleen’s blog at the bottom of her post. Also, if you’re wondering what other books the crew has tackled, check out our previous studies on Reading in the WildHacking EducationMove Your BusHacking the Common CoreStart.Right.Now, and What Teachers MakeHacking Engagement, and Ditch That Textbook.

***Disclaimer: This post turned out to be WAY longer than I anticipated. As you read on, you’ll see why. Just know that I don’t expect you to read every word, but writing every word was a really powerful experience. Again, sorry for the novel. ***

If I’m being honest, all of those logistics are just a way of me biding my time before having to get down to the nitty gritty of writing this blog post. I’ve been both anticipating and dreading this moment since Colleen and I first sat down back at the end of December to plan this study. We met in a coffee shop and started like we always do-catching up and sharing stories. Having been December 28th, and both having tiny humans, I quickly divulged that I was getting excited to get back into the swing of things at work and out of the house. Not the best mom moment...maybe. Honest...absolutely. I mean, being cooped up in the house with a 7.5 and almost 6-year-old has its perks. But it also has its moments.  
I should probably mention that my husband is also a teacher- so it’s not even just me- it’s just that I’ve been struggling lately. My daughter (the almost, and actually just turned 6 now) is giving me a run for my money. I joke (not really) that she is everything I want my 27-year-old daughter to be, it’s just that she is six. I lamented to Colleen that I am running out of ideas/sanity/control/positivity and just feel like I am stuck in a rough parenting moment. When we met, I hadn’t yet finished the book. She had. Once we got down to making the schedule, Colleen gently and lovingly noted that I should definitely do the conclusion this time- she knew how cathartic reading this chapter would be for me. She knew I needed to read and reflect on it. At the time, I didn’t know what I was in for- but now that I’ve read it, I can honestly say that she was right. I can’t say reading a chapter about parenting in a book about vulnerability always made me feel great- but it certainly made me feel.

I’m about to break this chapter down for you in the best and only way I know possible. If you’ve been to my blog for some of these studies before, you know I like write in a more reflective way. Pick out quotes that speak to me and draw parallels to my life. Well, in the past, we have always studied mostly education books. Opening up to the world about my teaching and my classroom has been a welcomed challenge- something I viewed as a way to grow and keep getting better for my students. In this case, however, opening up to the world about my parenting and my vulnerability- it’s literally terrifying to me. But then I took Brené’s advice (I hope I can call her Brené...she did put me through the ringer with this book so I kind of feel like we’re friends...) and decided that I can write this post. And instead of my students getting better- it’s me. And my family. And the people around me. Because we are all worth this struggle. Especially my family.

The first section in the chapter is Parenting in a Culture of Never Enough. Brené starts out by noting that there isn’t a one size fits all book about parenting for us all to flip through and find the answers. That we are all on this journey on our own-drawing from our own lives and our own experiences in order to do the best we can with what we have. I like how she mentioned, “Somewhere buried deep inside our hopes and fears for our children is the terrifying truth that there is no such thing as perfect parenting and there are no guarantees” (page 216). When I read this initially, I thought, well that’s a relief that she’s pointing this out, because I’m certainly not perfect. My husband and I often joke about how we know we’re going to screw stuff up-we just don’t know what yet. But what I really think Brené is getting at here is that, no matter what we say/think about parenting, the truth is that it’s a terrifying race that has a start line and literally nothing else. No map, no course, no checkpoints, and certainly no finish line. For me, the brevity of that statement is a lot. It’s a burden that, while 100% worth carrying, is terrifying.
The next quote that spoke to me in the section was when Brené said, “Like many of you, parenting is by far my boldest and most daring adventure” (page 216). It’s funny that she mentions this- because it certainly feels that way to me right now. I definitely have moments of pure joy when things are going well and pure failure when they’re not. But perhaps the point of reading this chapter wasn’t to categorize these moments into good vs. bad. Perhaps the point of this reading and reflection was to realize that it’s not about good vs. bad. I have to stop feeling bad about myself when things don’t go as planned because-as I noted above- there literally is no plan. So, there I am holding myself and my parenting to a standard that doesn’t even exist. Let me tell you- it’s pretty great to let that go. The last, and most powerful quote that I pulled from this section is, “In other words, if we want our children to love and accept who they are, our job is to love an accept who we are” (page 219). Might as well be vulnerable here (that is the name of the game, after all) and admit that when I read this, I thought, well that’s easy for you to say, Brené. Modeling and living acceptance is not an easy path to walk. I’m trying. Every day, I’m trying. The good news is- the more progress I make on this path, the better we all become.

The next section is called Understanding and Combatting Shame. I’m going to try and stick to around three feature quotes per section- but that means that I’ll have to have some honorable mentions at the end of this one. Hopefully by now, you have read all the other posts in this blog study-and maybe even the book. If so, you know that vulnerability and shame make an appearance all over the place. In that sense, it’s no surprise to find them here- in parenting- where the world seems to be a hotbed for shame and negativity. Giving me hope through this shame, though, is when Brené said, “Wholehearted parenting is not having it all figured out and passing it down- it’s learning and exploring together” (page 220).  Like I mentioned above- my husband and I went in to this parenting game knowing we’d make mistakes- so I felt really validated when I read this that I was at least on the right track. But to prove her point, imagine it the other way around. If I thought everything had to be perfect, and then read that it wasn’t, I’d feel shame. This is what she is getting at here. There’s whole aspect of believing in yourself and your choices that need to coincide with parenting.
The sooner I realized that, the less shame I experienced. Another notable moment from the section is when she says, “Raising children who believe in their worthiness requires us to model that journey and that struggle” (page 220). I believe, that by writing this blog post right now, that I am modeling the struggle. This is hard for me. This is hard to write about parenting and pretend like what I have to say has meaning. But I’m starting to realize that it doesn’t have to have meaning to anyone but me in order to be worthwhile. There’s so much in life that is or isn’t ‘enough’ and I think, just maybe, we’re measuring with the wrong ideals. We can be enough just by being ourselves. We can struggle, we can strive, we can do so many things or none at all. The only trick is that we keep on going. The last notable quote from this section for me has been the one that has had the most immediate impact on my parenting from the entire chapter. Brené points out, “This means we need to separate our children from their behaviors. As it turns out, there’s a significant difference between you are bad and you did something bad. And no, it’s not just semantics” (page 224). Like I said (a long time ago at the beginning), I’ve been struggling with my daughter. When I read this section, though, I made a conscious effort to start pointing out her choices instead of her. Or she’d start throwing a fit and I wouldn’t say that she’s being bad, but I’d say, I’d like you to think about the choice you’re making. Or when she hits her brother. I’m trying not to say that she’s bad for doing that- but that I think hitting is bad and I know that she is a good sister and that I’d like for her to make a different choice. I’m not sure it’s been as life changing (yet) for her as it has been for me, but it’s certainly making a difference in the way I feel and go about things.
Honorable quote mentions from the section:
“Shame loves prerequisites.” (page 221)
“Again, we can’t shame proof our children.” (page 227)

The next section in the chapter is Minding the Gap: Supporting our Children Means Supporting Each Other. This was a really interesting section for me to read, because I focused on how brave someone (Brené) must be in order to implore people to stop judging/shaming others in a world that seemingly revolves around those things. As I was reading this section, I really felt like Brené was being so transparent and logical-and that really speaks to me because I like the sense of order. I really liked when she explained, “You can’t claim to care about the welfare of children if you’re shaming other parents for the choices they’re making” (page 229-230). This seems obvious. And it feels obvious. But it’s something that needs to be said. This kind of reminds me of a mantra I like to tell myself if I’m getting frustrated with someone or when I’m struggling to put reason to action. I tell myself that everyone is doing the best they can.
This helps me believe that just because I don’t get it, or don’t see it, or even don’t agree with it- they’re doing the best they can and that has to be enough. Going along the same lines of this, I appreciated when she pointed out that, “Daring greatly means finding out own path and respecting what the search looks like for other folks” (page 231). Maybe I was drawn to this quote because my husband (a New York/Alabama/all over from the Navy transplant) says folks all the time. And he gets a lot of grief for it because it sounds so abnormal in Chicago-  but I find it (and him) to be adorable. But I also enjoy this quote because it reminds you to realize that people are going to make their own choices. They might be the same as yours, similar to yours, or totally different- but they are their choices. Let the people make their own choices and you make yours. It sounds easy- but like everything else in this book, it’s just the tip of the vulnerability iceberg.

Next up in our section list is Minding the Gap and Belonging. By now you’re probably getting the idea that so much in the chapter spoke to me- and this section is no different. I actually found parallels in here in both my personal and professional lives. The first quote that spoke to me is the one that applies to both those worlds. As Brené points out, “If we want to cultivate worthiness in our children, we need to make sure they know that they belong and that their belonging is unconditional” (page 233). After I read this, I noticed that some students in my 6th grade class were acting out and I wasn’t quite sure why. I teach different students each quarter and I had just gotten/met these kids. It was bizarre to me that they would be acting out so suddenly, so I decided to unleash a little Daring Greatly on them. I decided to try and see how many times I could tell/show them I care about them in an 88-minute block.
Turns out, it was a lot. Also turns out, the results were amazing. As teachers, we sometimes forget that our students are human. We need to prove to them that we care. Especially in middle school, that trust doesn’t come unconditionally. Once I started doing this in my class, I saw a change for the better. I also started using this on my kids at home. I’d like to think I tell them that I care about them all the time- but now I’m thinking that I need to tell them this when they don’t expect to hear it. For example, when trying to calm my daughter down from a frustration, I just kept throwing in there how much I care and love her and think she’s amazing. It really did help- I think she was surprised to hear that I love her when she’s not ‘behaving perfectly’ and it helped to keep me calm by remembering that while I may be upset with her actions right now-I’m not actually upset with her. The other notable quote from this section is when Brené explains, “There is no question that engagement requires sacrifice, but that’s what we signed up for when we decided to become parents” (page 237). This stuck out to me specifically because my husband and I have a sort of parenting mantra. It’s that we ‘parent through inconvenience’ and what it means is that, if we are out and the kids need to go, we leave.
It might not be the most convenient thing for us, but we do it. Or if we are watching a non-kid show (anything not channel 11, lol) after bedtime but a kid comes downstairs, we pause or turn it off. It might not be the best timing, but we do it. Or if we want to meet our friends out for dinner but we realize the kids aren’t feeling it, we stay home. We try to acknowledge the needs of our kids and put them first, above our own.

The last section in Chapter 7 is The Courage to Be Vulnerable. This section brings the chapter to a close in a really beautiful and powerful way. As I was reading the chapter (and let’s be honest, the whole book), I felt like I was living through so much emotion and vulnerability- and this chapter ties everything together by giving you hope and excitement for the journey to come. While I had many notable quotes from this section, I’m going to focus on two of them. The first is that, “Hope is a function of struggle. If we want our children to develop high levels of hopefulness, we have to let them struggle” (page 239). I think is such a great reminder. We can’t cover and protect and block out everything from our children. We have to let them experience life- the good and the bad- in order for them to survive. It’s nice that Brené is reminding us here that struggle, while it typically has a negative connotation, is not a bad word. It’s a good word that leads to better things.
The other notable quote I picked from the section is definitely one, if you’ve read the book or follow Brené Brown, that you have heard before. She explains, “If we’re always following our children into the arena, hushing the critics, and assuring their victory, they’ll never learn that they have the vulnerability to dare greatly on their own” (page 240). While that wasn’t much to type-it’s certainly TONS to live by. If you have kids, you know how hard this is to do. As a mom, of course I want children who dare greatly. But also as a mom, I want to protect these little lives from as much ridiculousness as possible. This is where the trouble lies. If I protect them from everything, where/when does that stop? But if I don’t protect them, what happens if something goes wrong? I guess the best answer is that, yes, things will go wrong. But the sooner I equip my kids to cope/deal/persevere/survive the ‘wrong’, the better off they will be.

I’m not sure there’s a good way to wrap up a post this long, other than to finish it with a notable quote from the Final Thoughts of the book. Brené, upon greeting us at the end of this emotional rollercoaster we’ve just been on, explains that, “Daring greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage” (page 248).
In that sense, all the everything I just typed here- the vulnerability, the drawn-out anecdotes, the glimpses into my shame and personal world- all of it is worth it because I did it. I risked the chance to dare greatly by having the courage to put these words on paper. Thank you, Brené Brown, for writing a book to bring that sentence out in my voice.

Monday, January 7, 2019


I’m excited to be taking time to reflect and focus on my #oneword2019. In the past, it has been difficult for me to settle and focus on picking just one word that I plan to focus my year around. In fact, last year (2018), I didn’t even compose a post because I truly don’t think I had the time to sit and devote my attention to the process. That was a mistake. Self-care and self-reflection are vital- and while I’d like to think that I did have a word, not taking the time to write and process it was doing myself a disservice. That’s why I made the writing of this post a priority for 2019. I began thinking about my word choice at the end of 2018 and spent some time rolling it around in my mind for the first week of 2019. The process of picking a word occupied my thoughts in the car, cooking dinner, and even when trying to fall asleep. Ultimately, I picked a word that I could use to guide my year- both in my professional and personal life. This word is going to cause some happiness, some pain, some discomfort, and some frustration- but in the end, I keep coming back to it as the perfect word for me. My #oneword2019 is lose.

If you’re thinking this is a strange choice for a word and a year focused on self-reflection and self-growth- you’re not necessarily wrong. But here’s the way I look at it. When I focus on what I need to (because of what I have to) lose, the things I have to gain will be illuminated.

I’m big on lists- I’m the kind of person who makes a to-do list for everything. Sometimes, I make the actual list after I’ve accomplished something on my mental list. In that case, I write it down JUST so I can cross it off. Control freak? Maybe. Enjoy seeing things accomplished? Definitely. So, for my #oneword2019 journey, I’m going to make a list to keep myself on track and to serve as a reminder of all the things I hope to lose this year.

Things to lose in 2019:
1.      Lose the idea of doing things “right”
2.   Lose stress
Other things to lose but that don’t need a lengthy explanation:
3.  Lose negativity (and negative influences)
4. Lose (a little bit!) of control
5.  Lose myself (Thanks, Eminem....but mostly I mean to get lost in the world (travel) and maybe actually lose some of me (weight!), lol!
6.  Lose money (give myself permission to spend $$ on the things that make me (and my family) happy!
7.   Lose the frustration with the word lose after looking at  it so many times and thinking it just has to be wrong

I’m only going to focus on explaining a couple of these- in the interest of not writing a novel today- so let’s start with #1. This is probably my biggest determining factor for choosing the word lose. Lately, I’ve been stuck in a rut and feeling pretty down/frustrated/helpless with things like parenting, teaching, etc. After some (okay, LOTS) of reflection, I’ve come to realize that I’m feeling subpar on these things because I’m comparing myself to an invisible bar of “right”. I’m holding myself to this standard that, in reality, doesn’t apply to me. I need to lose the idea of tying my self-worth to something other than my own life and choices. Luckily, from a personal standpoint, I have someone to help with this. My husband is amazing and when it comes to parenting, he’s 100% my partner and supporter. I need to let go of how things are supposed to be and start realizing that our life is just that- ours. We don’t need our kids to be like everyone else’s kids. We just need them to be OURS. Same thing with teaching. The education world is inundated with best practices that you should be doing in your classroom. And I enjoy reading these things, I really do. However, what if the best practice for my classroom is doing what I think is best for my students? Of course, I will still read and learn and absorb all of the education tidbits in the world- but at the end of the day- what happens in other classrooms versus what does or doesn’t happen in mine isn’t right or wrong. I’m not doing anything wrong when I set out to do what is best for my students. With that as my guiding principle, I can focus on losing the idea of simply doing something “right” and instead focus on doing what IS right.

Next, I need to lose some stress. I’m not sure that the stress I’m feeling is unique- in fact- I think everyone with a full-time job, a spouse, in the last semester of a second round of grad school, and two kids feels stress. So, I’m not saying I want the stress to go away entirely, I just want to lose some of it that I absolutely do not need. I want those things I listed to cause me joy- not stress. For example, I want to focus on the parts of my job that I love- and less on the parts that make me crazy. Today was the first day back after a 2-week winter break. I truly and honestly missed my students. All of them. I missed their smiles, their shy grins, their energy, and even their attitudes. I mean, I do teach middle school, after all! However, stress tries to butt in and get in between me and those warm fuzzy feelings. I start worrying about time and, quite frankly, things in education that have nothing to do with the education of actual students. Therefore, I need to let go of the grip those things have on me and lose those worries. If I can stay focused on what really matters in my job, I can gain a lot more happiness and in that sense, everyone will benefit. In terms of the other things listed (the spouse, grad school, kids), I think if I focus on being less stressed in those aspects of my life, it will declutter my world and allow some of the gratitude to sink in. Sometimes, focusing on stress has been blocking my ability to be grateful for every wonderful thing in my life. Now, I’m sure I’m making it sound worse than it is- but the fact that I can say this at all means I have some readjusting to do. I am a lucky human. I live an amazing life with amazing people. I get to do a job I love every day and come home to people I love every night. I shouldn’t be letting stress win. I should be counting every lucky star out there that I get to lead a life that so many others are deprived of. Yes, definitely lose the grip of stress and gain the ability to appreciate and enjoy.

After writing this post, I remember why I loved doing this so much back in 2017. There’s something really genuine about sitting down and reflecting on yourself and your needs. Here’s to a great year in 2019 and all the things I hope to lose!