Let’s Be Vulnerable – series, part 1

OCD and Me

I plan to blog random thoughts until the cows come home, because that’s just who I am. Although, I prefer they show up in sets of two. I don’t want an odd cow with no buddy, why, don’t even get me started…

I heard the wisest quote the other day,

“Vulnerability is freeing.”

I was listening to one of my fitness faves, Chalene Johnson, who in the past has reminded me that, “I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.” And because of her video, I have not shied away from any topic in my blog. In fact, if it scares me, I write about it. Why, because I need to get the thoughts out, and someone may need to read it. Writing is cathartic. So, in an effort to remain transparent, I want to start this series with heart and shed some light on OCD.

I’m not referring to the casual OCD mentioned on Christmas shirts or Facebook posts about keeping lines straight and sides equal. I’m talking about gut wrenching, relentless OCD. The kind that sneaks up on you almost every minute of every day. In fact, as I write this, thoughts are swirling because I am wearing a set of clothes that my mind is telling me not to, and I’m fighting the thoughts to change. I know once I change, I will change again and again.

In all realness, I have dealt with this disorder since I was a kid. It has followed me through life, and it seems to have held on to life’s ups and downs with vigor. I remember touching door knobs eight times and walking across the carpet in sets and a myriad of other odd behaviors. I remember family members watching and thinking I was the “crazy” kid. I never quite fit in. Too bad, it wasn’t cool then, because now it’s cool to not fit in. But back then, I was the odd kid out.

If you asked me, I’d say I got it from my dad. He was always a little peculiar. And, I got my writing ability from him, so it all kind of fits together in a weird psychological way. Thankfully, I see no signs of this lonely disorder in my child. I’m pretty sure he thinks of me as his peculiar parent, and who can blame him, I have earned that title.

I blame OCD. I blame it for many reasons. I blame it for the fears that show up everyday. I blame it because I can only wear certain clothes on certain days, I can only buy certain foods at the store, I clean the apartment a certain way, I watch certain shows, I am drawn to certain colors, I basically live my life in a certain way, every day. Although, I take responsibility for how I let it control me. Over the years, I have learned to test it, to deal with it, to not let it have as much control over me. I use distraction and my own type of exposure therapy to find my grip. I refuse to allow OCD to control me all the time. OCD is real, it is exhausting, it is a mental reality that shows up physically. I have learned to hide that part of me to the outside world.

I think in a way, most of us have something that we hide. It could be anything that we do excessively like shopping, drinking, working, parenting or anything else that we do constantly because it not only makes us feel out of control, but it also gives us control. I count and overthink and rethink and recount, you get the picture. OCD is one of my hidden truths. I yearn to gain control, so I do another compulsion, and then another until I feel calm enough to let it go.

So as this series goes on, I will share my insecurities and vulnerabilities in an effort to find freedom in the journey. OCD is merely a part of me, it is not me. I will not hide. Let’s be vulnerable together, let’s heal.

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Over – Diagnosed

300 similarly reworded questions.

Parent form, teacher form.

Labels galore.

Abbreviations in waiting.

How much is too much?

It seems like the next best thing is to get a diagnosis. It seems so much more complicated than it used to be. Did the umbrella get bigger, did the testing get more generic, or is the loop hole more blatant? The symptoms are real, the tests are real, although the scale slides. There is a little known, rarely talked about condition called the “points syndrome.”  Disclaimer: I am not a Diagnostician, just an educator that asks questions and constantly contemplates the inner workings of the tests themselves. Points are scored from all over the map. They are gauged from numerous forms, observations, and in our case, a medical and computer evaluation. Yes, this was based on age and concluded by points. Yes, this cost a pretty penny. Yes, we were surprised and relieved. Why? Because we had an answer. Although, I would have taken an individual personality disorder diagnosis over what we got. He is an individual and he is unique. The testing in essence grouped him on a much larger spectrum, one that I hadn’t understood at the time. I needed more information. What I got instead was a label and an acronym.

Yes, I’m a mom of a diagnosed child. Does he have an attention deficit some days, of course. Does he have that same deficit other days, that is questionable. One or two points on any given day could possibly have changed his diagnosis. I am appreciative and at the same time bound by his diagnosis. I view school differently because of this. I let more grades slide, and I allow him more excuses. We chose the medical route while it served a purpose. Unbeknownst to me, the options were actually quite numerous. I had been complacent, until I saw through the diagnosis and realized that it was more than just a mere compilation of letters.

Instead it is a STRUGGLE. Everyone of us has a struggle that could be represented with a myriad of letters. Every spectrum is different and some qualify with just a few points and some by many more. I do think we more quickly diagnose and are more apt to settle for the answer.

Why? We yearn for something more definitive. Maybe the answer is that my child has a definitive personality that has been nurtured in both love and circumstance. He is who he is and an acronym cannot change that.

Midlife Crisis 

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Sometimes it’s much more complicated.

Sometimes I feel trapped.

Sometimes I want to start over and make different choices.

Life is basically a billion little decisions put together to make up our everyday circumstances. Sometimes we work hard to change those circumstances, sometimes we accept them.

I believe in God. I don’t believe in religion. I believe in the simple act of prayer. Although, I also believe that life includes sacrificing my wants for the needs of others.

While I’m past what I would consider the middle of my life, I find myself twisting and turning over decisions I have previously made that have set me on my current path. This path seems pretty cut and dry. No forks up ahead, no u-turn in the near distance. I made the choices that chose this path. So, why isn’t it what I want?

Is what we think we really want just a feeling? If I could u-turn now would I really write that book? Would I choose to pursue fitness in lieu of teaching knowing I could have started my fitness business many years earlier? Would I have taken those chances in the earlier part of my life? Would they have led me to where I am now or to a whole different life?

Rather than call it a true midlife crisis, I think I long to leave more of a footprint in this world. While I genuinely think I am not of this world, I live in this world. My legacy represents who I am, and while I get up everyday set to achieve the most out of my day, it doesn’t seem enough. I want more. I’m sitting at neutral while everyone around me moves swiftly toward their goals.

God doesn’t judge us on our accomplishments, but life does. In my version, I have slacked. I have kept my eyes on the road, I have made the safe turns, although I haven’t taken the risks. Whenever I hear someone contemplating a risky career decision, I want to cheer them on and tell them to do it. Why? Because you never know where it will lead. So why do I feel too old to risk my safe path and take some chances? Truth is, most of us call that a midlife crisis, a change in our consistent reality that leaves others and ourselves questioning our sanity. Does it become too much to travel the straight and narrow that we start looking for the exit ramp? Do we begin to live our life with one foot out the door? Life is beautiful and harrowing at best. On the contrary, there are no clear cut paths, no correct choices. It is blind faith combined with the motivation to provide the life we think we must live.

I’m at a place in my life where I contemplate every choice, I weigh each possible outcome, and I continue to choose the safest path. Although, if I continue to do this, am I truly living by faith? Is my midlife crisis just around the corner?

Clip Changes and Controlled Chaos

designTeacher tired,” is an understatement. Although this phrase gets thrown around a LOT, in the teaching world, it is a form of camaradarie, a right of passage if you will. The first two weeks are like a whirl wind of controlled chaos and raw emotions. And I can guarantee you that I felt each and every one.

Everything about this year felt brand new: the classroom, the curriculum, the district, the students, and my teaching abilities. I felt almost as if I was underprepared and naive even though I had been in the teaching profession for about 12 years. As I yearned for the summer that had too quickly passed, I had thought I was ready for the fall ahead. Little did I know that everything I thought I knew would be questioned in the first two weeks if not the very first day.

Can I get a summer redo?

I literally had no idea what was coming my way.

What I do know is that I run my classroom with a strong foundation and a simple principle, and that is RESPECT. Respect is a two way street. I want my student’s respect, so I know that I need to show them respect. I can honestly tell you that looking back on the first week is a blur of exhaustion and rule repetition at its finest. I knew that I wanted my students to enjoy school, although I also knew that I needed to set routines and expectations. This is much, much easier said than done. Laughably, I’m not sure I set either in those first couple of days. I’m not sure I actually ate lunch or much less stopped to take a breath those days either. Instead, I used EVERY . SINGLE teacher tool possible to just sort out the kid chaos. Every time I turned around, I was correcting behavior much like a broken record.

Don’t think that I did not second guess my career choice every day that first week. Sigh.

I know we all like a good come back story, so I came back to do it all again on the second week. I mean one can never have too much of a challenge. So, on the second week, I decided that my classroom full of chaos and I would just have to reach an understanding. We were going to have to earn each other’s respect. I was going to have to put in the time and make sure my praise and rewards were the loudest thing they heard. I also dusted off the clip change chart, just in case. Truthfully, in my head, I wanted to whisper, “go change you clip” instead of use Love and Logic about a thousand times that first week.

It’s easy to change clips, in fact it is so easy that it becomes a crutch. Now, is it occasionally necessary to change a clip to yellow or red due to unacceptable behavior, yes. Is it rewarding to move a clip up to blue or purple for good behavior, yes. It takes balance. This was discovered during my second week. As I caught myself throwing out the phrase, “move your clip” a few times, I also realized that this was not what I wanted for my students. So, I tried a tactic that I had used in the past, even though I was not feeling it. Instead of changing a clip, I asked a student if he would be my helper to make sure he stayed on green. Now if you are a teacher, you know how hard it is to watch an unacceptable behavior and reward it as a teacher helper.

That slight change in my behavior, resulted in a slight change in his behavior. I listened as he told me how much he liked to be my helper. The tone was set and the light turned on. This may just work out after all. By the end of the second week, my heart had officially melted. As I walked toward my hall to start my day, I heard sweet little “Hi Ms. Clayton’s” and got hugs as they walked in the room.

This year is definitely going to be a test. Isn’t life a constant test. I know I won’t pass everything, although if my students do their best, love school, and know how much I care about them, than I have already passed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scratch the Surface

img_0036Technology is where it’s at.

I’m a teacher, I’m supposed to teach. It’s a pretty big responsibility. And, when a teacher lacks the necessary tools to support the learning process, it’s a pretty big deal.

Let me give you a little synopsis of my tech in the classroom. I spent numerous years with a few desktop computers, and within the last couple of years I got to exchange those desktops for a few laptops. Just this past year, we were “lucky” enough to get a dozen Kindle Fires. When I envision a proper classroom or learning environment, I see a Smart Board and some IPads at the very least. I see enough technology to produce brilliant minds, in essence to support smart students. Now, I realize all schools do not have the resources or financial abilities to garner advancements in technology, although if the school does have the capacity to do so, why would it not? I pondered this question for many years, as I am a huge proponent of technology, the world changing kind. All I could figure out, is that sometimes age dictates outcomes. To translate this thought, we have to recognize the possibility that technology changes so fast, that sometimes we can’t keep up. A certain fear comes with this unknown factor, and instead of embracing the true potential, we try to control it.  Although, if we control it, are we actually controlling our student’s full potential?

I had a job interview a few weeks ago, and to be honest, I feared going in and talking to a room full of teachers and administrators and getting asked the dreaded question, “How do you feel about technology?” It’s not that I didn’t know how I felt about it, I knew exactly how I felt about it. It was more about trying to explain my lack of awareness and training for the modern classroom. From previous experience, I knew you couldn’t just throw a computer or two into a classroom and say we support technology. I had longed for the day that I could press a surface to change pen colors or zoom and practically bring pieces of history alive. So, I went into the interview and explained my views and freely spoke aloud the phrase, “If we do not support our students through technology, than we are not supporting their future.” This resonates with my teaching philosophy.

I made a controversial choice many moons ago to place my child in a school with technology and not at the school where I worked. Of course, I selfishly wanted him to be with me everyday, although I reluctantly knew that he needed more. He needed to be submersed in a reality that constantly showed him a glimpse of his future. Who was I to limit his possibilities. I gave birth to a world changer. I dare not to just let him scratch the surface, I want him to make an impact.

In just a little more than a month, I unleash my child into another tech world, Tech High. I refuse to set him up for failure. I want him to understand every aspect of the tech arena. I do not fear technology. It’s filled with clear screens and bright minds. That brings me back to the ultimate question concerning technology in the classroom. I am an educator in all subjects. It is my responsibility to open eager minds to all the world has to offer. If a school has resources, and money is not going back to the classrooms nor toward technology, the day comes when you have to ask yourself, WHY? What are we controlling and what are we causing?

Eventually, I will get my fitness blogging back on track, although until then, I will continue to use this outlet to question ideals and share unequivocable truths.

I hope my child embraces all technology has to offer and helps change the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth or Lies

 

A little tiny lie here or there never hurt anyone, right? Actually, I think it does. I think it hurts the steadfast rule followers. I think it creates a canvas of distrust. I think it creates uncertainty and inconsistency.

When I was little, my mom had a needle point wall picture that listed some of the Golden Rules, and among them were,

Treat people the way you want to be treated. And, love your neighbor as yourself. Now I have definitely faltered in my walk, although I have strived to stay close to these rules.

The Golden Rules have, indirectly, caused me to be a rule follower. My conscience basically weighs heavily if I break a rule. Now, I won’t “lie”, I definitely have considered becoming a rule breaker and living a life of freedom, although my mindset just won’t allow me to.

This brings me to why I think the truth is so important. The truth sheds light on your character and the basic framework of who you are. The truth is painful. It can leave you vulnerable and reveal your soul. Isn’t that what God sees on a daily basis? I can’t hide anymore. He sees me, I have no other choice than to stand on my morals and speak the truth.

If you have read any of my blog posts this far, you may already know that I have had a few bumps that have played out recently with my teaching career. I recently resigned from a teaching charter that I had been apart of for almost a decade. Most of my other blog posts have been written in a subtle, respectful manner, and my goal this time is to open up and allow the realness, and in essence the truth, to prevail.

The truth is in the details.

I didn’t want to leave. I had found a purpose and a calling. I had spent numerous years refining my craft and establishing my career. I worked with the best teammate, the best coworkers, and I knew I was giving my best every day. The main stumble came about a month before school was out, I could feel the heaviness. I could sense the storm much like when you walk outside and smell the mist and witness the spiraling wind. I knew it was all around me. It showed its relentlessness in the way of a falsely presented improvement plan. I was placed on an improvement plan one month before school was out and almost 10 years after I began my teaching journey. I could not wrap my head around it. My head was spinning and the ground was shaking. Could it possibly be that I needed improvement? I mean I live my life every day on an improvement basis. Although, this plan was riddled with lies. I didn’t want to leave. So, I would take this plan and improve. I spent the next week teaching phonics, math, and reading just like I always had. I feared that my everyday teaching abilities were no longer enough. I couldn’t find myself, I could only see the storm. I only knew the lies.

I heard the rumors. I knew the truth. I checked my faith.

I resigned. I didn’t want to leave. I had absolutely no other choice. I knew I would not be asked back, and I needed to leave on my own terms before the storm hit.

I had one thing left on my plate before I could walk away. I had a sit-down end of year conference. I knew it was not going to be pretty. I walked in prepared to face the rain. It poured accusations and lies.

It made me think that I had failed the golden rules. That I had not played nice with others, I had undermined master teachers, I had displayed a negative attitude that affected the culture, I was inefficient, I did not follow RTI, I had little student redirection, I did not collaborate, I did not show MAP growth, I did not attend events, I used unapproved curriculum, I did not follow tutoring guidelines, I was unprofessional. These were among a long list of other not met standards, but the saddest accusation of all, I had failed my students by not pushing them toward their appropriate growth. I definitely felt like a rebel without a cause. The rebel I had once thought of but knew in my heart I would never be. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this was not who I was.

Did I love my neighbor as myself, did I love my students as myself…with every fiber of my being.

My character is what I hold dear. It is who I am. As I type these words, I feel the fog lift, and I know that I did not waver and have only spoken the truth. I challenged the accusations and I tested the truth.

I set my resolve to the side, I took off my armor, and I weathered the storm because I already knew the truth.

I am a truth seeker and always will be.

I did not want to leave.

The truth will set me free.

 

 

 

You Can Be That Girl

Let’s talk for a second about personal development. Until a few months ago, I hadn’t dusted off a personal development book since the craze of the Men are from Mars Women are from Venus books decades ago. And, I read those for a whole different reason. Today, my focus is less on why men act the way they do (by the way, if you have figured it out, please let the rest of us know) and more about how I can improve myself and push my entrepreneurial self. I’ve spent many years in avoidance, thinking why would I need to work on myself. I like to tell myself that I am a work in progress. Although, I’m not really a work in progress if I’m not working on my mind as well as my body.

Yes, it is summer break, and I’m fully mesmerized by every show and mystery that has waited for me throughout the school year. I mean Riverdale, Big Little Lies, and The Woman in Cabin 10 have me on my toes. While these are dramatic and edge of your seat gripping, I want to take myself on another journey this summer. I want to feed my mind and remind myself that even though I did not reach my goals the last few years, I can take the leap with a little self-support.

I spent too few years believing in myself. The funny part is that I didn’t know where to start. I know you’ve heard the quote, “The start is what keeps you from starting,” but it is too true. Actually, I tend to think it is our mind that keeps us from starting. We wait for the perfect time, for the perfect day, for the perfect feeling. That perfect notion has never shown up for me. Instead I let myself feel stuck for such a long time. I couldn’t even see the starting line. I didn’t even know what way to go. I needed direction. I needed some self-support.

So, I picked up my copy of You Are a Bada$$, I downloaded Girl Code, and I longed to take apart I Am That Girl. Why? because I need her, I want her in my corner. I want that powerful girl who does not care what others think, who powers through, who comes out on top. The girl who can get thrown from her comfort zone, pick herself up, dust herself off, and rediscover herself in the midst of all the unknown. I keep getting asked if I’ve found something, work related, and my answer at this time is no. Although, I’m beginning to find something better. Myself. My future is riddled with unknowns. So, I continue to forge ahead page by page, turn by turn. I will take to heart every quote, live my life transparently, and find my self in an opened book.