Sunday, May 21, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Getting Through Stuck

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

I'm taking a quick break from revisions to share how I got through stuck. 

I was stuck. 

I had lots of reasons for being stuck. 

But then those reasons started to feel like excuses.

So I made time to sit down and get unstuck. 

But little bits of time here and there became me just staring at the words that were there and not knowing where to go next.

I was still stuck. 

Stuck on chapter three. 

I'm revising a young adult novel and chapter three was like a muddy rut and even though I was there, splattered with mud, desperately wanting to get out, the tires just couldn't catch. I was going no where. 

Two things helped me finally get through stuck. 

1. I found a nice chunk of time to actually really feel like I could get past chapter three. Something about knowing that I had enough time to wrestle with it made a difference. My mind was in the mode of knowing I had to do whatever it would take. Sometimes it's all mental but I find that if I pay attention to what's going on in my head, I can get past it. (For example, not that long ago, I was convinced I need a candle to be able to revise. I spent some time and a little money going to buy a candle, but then I could sit and focus. Moral of the story: It helped me get stuff done.)

2. I found other things to do than just figure out what would come after chapter three. I already had a list of thing to do with this novel based on CP feedback. I needed to add some description of a few places and characters so I focused on that. It felt like progress even though I had no idea where these descriptions were going to go. Free writing helped me feel like I was adding words to the page and it got me connected to the story again. 

And now I'm not stuck any more!

I'm way past chapter three and it feels good. I'm celebrating getting through stuck today. Maybe you've been there too and what got me through might get you through. Maybe you have ideas to share with me. (I'd love to hear them!) Maybe I'll need to remember what worked this time I was stuck...because I'm sure I'll be stuck again.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Podcasts

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

Last week, I had to spend an hour in the car driving to visit a school. They're doing something called blended learning and a small group of us were going to see what it looks like in action. 

Knowing I would be in the car for an hour, I looked up some podcasts. I had a This Creative Life episode waiting for me and also an episode from Dear Hank & John. I listened to both and then I also listened to a couple of episodes from I Should Be Writing.

I used to drive at least 45 minutes both way but now I barely have a 5 minute drive so I don't listen to audiobooks like I used to but I decided I really like podcasts so I started looking for others I might like. 

Well, I found Happier with Gretchen Rubin and I'm in love! I've listened to almost 20 episodes now. I love that they are short (about 20 minutes) and they have good ideas to share about life and building better habits. I've been telling all my friends about it so I wanted to share here and tell you!
I'm so curious! Do you listen to podcasts? I know a ton of people do...and if you are one of them, I'd love to hear which podcasts you love most and why. Thanks for sharing!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Spring Break and Time

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

I'm celebrating the fact that I had time to relax this week. I didn't realize how much I needed spring break. 

I had time
to sleep in
to play with my kids
to meet up with friends
to wander a flea market
to cook healthy meals
to read
to write
to catch up on homework
to make a video
to organize the house
to build two dressers from Ikea
to do research
to play with Perdi
to visit the library
to recharge.

It was much needed! 
And now it's the weekend. Whether you have a spring break or not, I hope you enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

WATCH: Thoughts on How Education Can Change the World By Jen Vincent

I am and always will be an educator at heart. 

Sometimes being an educator keeps me up at night.

And that leads to me creating a middle-of-the-night video that shares my thoughts on education because I'm so fired up I can't sleep. 

Teachers have the power 
to change the world
because we are charged 
with changing the lives of children.

I believe every teacher has to show kids they see them and they have to inspire them. And the easiest way to do that is to get them fired up to be consumers and creators. That's why I blog at Teach Mentor Texts and Story Exploratory to share ideas for how we can all be consumer and creators. With everything I share, I hope someone is inspired in some way.

I'm over doing things how they have always been done when we know better. 

I'm sharing this education-focused video here because I'd love to generate more discussion about how education can change the world. Whether you are an educator yourself or not, I appreciate your thoughts on education! 

Here are some things you can do to join in or share:
  • Visit and share my post at Teach Mentor Texts. You can comment here but I'd really love to keep the conversation there if possible.
  • Watch this amazingly powerful speech from Chris Emdin. It helped me solidify some of my own thoughts. (Thanks to Kathy Burnette for sharing it with me.)
  • Create your response to the question: How can education change the world? Link or share it in the comments here.
  • Share the post and my video. We need more people in this conversation! Please invite others to think about this and join in. 
Thanks for listening! I see you. You inspire me. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

READ: Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I find power in others telling their stories and 
I hope you do too!
Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Book Date
For the kidlit version, visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

A couple of weeks ago, it was a super windy day. I mean gusts of winds stormed through our culdesac and I braced myself as my hair blew all around my face as I walked Perdi. It was a Wednesday. I know because it was also garbage day. 

It was garbage day and the garbage cans and recycling bins lined the end of all the driveways. Perdi and I made it to the end of the street, we did our usual loop and then headed back towards home. Up ahead, across the street from my house, our neighbor's garbage can had blown over. Contents of their garbage can now were strewn all around their part of the circle. A Pringles can was slowly clattering it's way towards us.

Ugh. I was annoyed. A voice in my head complained about people and how they can't keep things nice and can you believe they would let their garbage just take over the street and were they going to clean it up and ohmigosh, the nerve. I walked the whole way down the street so cranky and mad at them. 

And then I realized, they probably took their garbage out, went to work and had absolutely no idea the wind had taken their garbage and spread it all over the street for everyone to see and be annoyed with. And here I was judging them for something they had no control over. In Rising Strong, Brené talks about seeing people through a lens of "they're doing the best they can".
So what did I do? I pulled out a poop bag from Perdi's stash and put my hand in it like a glove and I walked on over there, took a deep breathe, and picked up the garbage. 

Yup. I did. 

And I'm damn proud that I did. 

Did I want to?

Nope. Not at all. Not one bit. I don't even want to repeat some of the things I picked up that day. 

But I did it anyway. 

Because for all I know, they were doing the best they could that morning. 

It wasn't their fault the wind was being a jerk that day.

I have so many other great takeaways from this book but this one stood out the most. It's the most useful in life. Try it for a day. Try approaching people and situations with the perspective that everyone is doing the best they can and see how it changes your mentality. It lifted a burden off of my shoulders. It's easy to tell a story, whether I'm telling a story about myself, how others see me, or how I see others. My brain likes to fill in the gaps when it doesn't know the whole story. I bet yours does too. That's kind of how brains work. That's why I love this new way of looking at things. It's much easier to be compassionate if you start with the fact that everyone is doing the best they can offer at that very moment. 

I owe a huge big thanks to Patience Bertana for sharing her love of books and knowing I would like this one enough to buy me my very own copy. She was right. It's a gem of a book. I love Brené Brown's work. I've blogged about her Ted Talk on Listening to Shame before and if you aren't familiar with her, I definitely suggest checking out her Ted Talks or her books or her website or her Instagram. Really, she's amazing anywhere you can find her!

Have you read one of Brené Brown's books?
Is there a book that has shaped the way you look at life?
I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating Wilson Phillips and Mold-A-Rama

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

A few weeks ago we took a trip to the Field Museum in Chicago. We had never taken the boys before so we decided it was a good time to go now that our youngest is six. We explored the pyramid in the Egypt exhibit, we looked at the dinosaur fossils, and all the animals they had. Of course, I think what my kids will remember are the Mold-A-Rama machines. I'm not sure if you ever had these when you were a kid but I remember them mostly from every zoo visit and I loved them. I'm so glad we still have them and I didn't realize they are actually pretty rare these days. My parents were surprised that it costs $2.00 to make a wax animal now because it used to be a quarter or fifty cents. (It was funny because $2.00 seemed normal to me so I don't really remember how much they were.)
Hopefully they'll remember something besides the Mold-A-Rama machine and how it smelled of warm crayons and how they had to reach their hand in and pull it out and how it was warm and they had to hold it upside down as it dried but if they have this memory, that works for me too. 

And then this morning, my husband showed me a video of Wilson Phillips performing at the Bulls game and it took me back too. Part of me felt annoyed that they are trying to be the Backstreet Boys and make a mini-comeback but then I remembered listening to their album over and over again. Gosh I loved Hold On. I know every single word. Still. And I don't even care if it's basically the same lyrics over and over, I loved this song. It's still pretty awesome and relevant today. 

So I hope they do make a comeback. How about Wilson Phillips, Tiffany and Debbie Gibson...that's a show I would go see. Can you tell I grew up in the 80's?
Mold-A-Rama and Wilson Phillips were blasts from my past that I got to wax nostalgic for this recently. Has this happened to you recently? Something from your childhood came up and took you back to your childhood? I'd love to hear about it!

Also, anyone up for karaoke? 
I could belt out Hold On like you wouldn't believe...

Friday, March 17, 2017

WRITE: Energy In Our Words

In The Right to Write, Julia Cameron explains, “So much of what we need, so much of what we want, is to be savored, cherished, cared for, and cared about. So much of what is missing is tenderness. When we commit our thoughts to paper, we send a strong and clear message that what we are writing about and whom we are writing to matters. As Sonia Choquette, spiritual teacher, advises us, ‘The power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it. Your own words are the bricks and mortar of the dreams you want to realize. Behind every word flows energy.” (p. 97)

For me, I find that I understand my message - in a way it becomes clear - when I write it down. But I agree that it also becomes real and important and worthy when I write it down. I've been talking with a friend a lot about how our childhood shaped who we are and how we and we have experiences that give us the opportunity to advocate and talk about issues of diversity but at the same time, we feel a sense of privilege that also makes us hesitate to tell our stories and to advocate. It's a weird spot to be stuck in and we've talked about how we can best raise our voices.

But this year my word is zealous and my whole reason for choosing that word was to propel myself to speak more loudly and more clearly and more passionately. So I'm taking these ideas from Julia and Sonia to heart. I'll be writing about what's in my heart and hoping it will shed the light on what my heart knows I need to do.

Let's Write! Set a timer for 5 minutes and let yourself write and write and write. Just get the thoughts that are rumbling around in your heart out. Then take markers and highlight or write over the words that stand out to you. Boil your words down to your current manifesto. Here are some sample manifestos from Lifehack you can use as mentor texts. And here's a blog post from Alexandra Franzen where she outlines important elements of a manifesto. 

I'd love to read what you come up with! 
Feel free to share in the comments or email me at jen [@] teachmentortexts [dot] com.
I'm going to work on mine and I'll share it here soon!