No. 47 – Work of Heart

No. 47 – Work of Heart

Working as a teacher is tough stuff. No year has been easy, and I don’t expect it will ever be so. However, with the finish line in sight of my 5th year, I feel as if it has been my first all over again.

The classroom I’m in this year has shaken up my entire world. Teaching students with low incidence disabilities has challenged me beyond measure. The absolute sweetest humans in the world living in untraditional packaging. These students deserve nothing but the best and it often feels like my best isn’t enough. There are many limitations both between my students and myself: cognitively, physically, mentally and emotionally. And it is frequently discouraging. 

I’m constantly self-assessing, working on improving myself and my teaching styles so that I can meet these students in their needs. Consistent positive progress is few and far between as fluctuations are expected, but often blur the progression. It’s been a lot of trial and error; a constant journey. Wondering the whole way through if I’ve gotten a single thing right. 

Today, during my conference, one of my students walked in with several flowers in his hands and a grin on his face. “Mrs. Carter!” he exclaimed, “I got these for you!” 

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My heart melted and all that worrying about my teaching performance melted with it. Oftentimes as a teacher we get so wrapped up in performance, data and if we’re checking all the boxes our campus and district requires that we satisfy. That it becomes easy to lose sight of why true teachers began in the first place: an innate calling to serve. To serve students through building relationships, providing a safe haven and acting as a catalyst that ignites the passion for lifelong learning. 

A precious student of mine reminded me of my reason behind teaching, students with special needs especially. I’m reminded that what I teach them couldn’t possibly compare to what they teach me. And keeping that at the forefront of my planning and instruction will guide everything else. 

I can’t fully control everything my students retain, but I can be sure of this: they’re hearing me. Hearing my call to serve them. Hearing my love for them and their quality of life. My dedication to give them my best, even if it will never feel enough. 

So if you’re a struggling educator counting down the days until summer while simultaneously not wanting to let this precious group of students go at the end of the year, be uplifted. They’re hearing you. Maybe not in a way that will necessarily show up on test scores or report cards. But your students are hearing you where it most counts- they’re hearing you from the heart. 

That’s all the feedback I need. 

xxx

No. 39 – It’s Our Anniversary

No. 39 – It’s Our Anniversary

It’s been one entire year to the day since I hit publish on my first post on relentless Sarah. So, what have I learned in the past year of blogging?

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Show up and keep showing up. People can’t support and engage with an absent account.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it NEVER will. Post it anyway. The imperfect words, the flaw-full picture. Post it and move on. Don’t stress over what could have been better. Critique kindlyand apply next time. No one wants a robot. They want a real person.

Be vulnerable. It sucks. It’s hard. It’s scary. But it’s so important. Letting your guard down lets others in. While also opening up you to others as well. A fully guarded heart helps no one, not even itself.

You aren’t suffering alone. Even if you believe your situation is completely unique to you, it’s not. Someone else has or is currently dealing with something similar. Don’t hide out. Strength lies in numbers. It doesn’t come from muscling through, it comes from breaking down and building anew.

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Let yourself heal on your own terms. Don’t force it or rush it or fake it. It will progress naturally as long as you work to give yourself the time, space and mindset.

Be gentle. Gentle with others but especially with yourself. You can be your own harshest critic, and stand in your own way. Set realistic expectations. And when you fall short, because you will, treat yourself with grace.

While your pain may not be unique, your voice is. Don’t ever undervalue that. What you say, think and feel matters. Even if no one else ever hears it, your heart needs to say it. And that is plenty reason enough to speak up.

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Pain has a purpose, but so does joy. Don’t believe the lie that only out of pain can you produce. Pain is not the only catalyst. You don’t have to marinate in your suffering.

Be creative. Step outside of your own box of comfort that you created and placed yourself in. Don’t take yourself too seriously. This should be fun and creative, not a chore or a stressor.

Be open to change. You cannot grow otherwise. Yes, it can be scary, but so can a stagnant life. I’d much rather be open to new opportunities and try. Even if I fail, then to settle for complacency and mediocrity.

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Just start. The process is worth the effort. I didn’t begin this journey with an end in mind. I just started. My only plan was to post once a week. That’s it; I could figure out the rest along the way. I didn’t have some looming pie in the sky I was reaching toward. I was more concerned with the act than the result. And that’s okay. In certain situations focusing on the craft rather than the product can lead to possibilities we would have never dreamed of.

You can’t plan everything. As a natural-born planner, the unknown stresses me out. And while having an outline can be helpful, it can also stifle the creative process. Many times I had an idea for a post, spent hours trying to stick to the script, only to scrap it and write about something completely unplanned. And every time, I surprise myself. In the best possible way.

I spend lots of time, energy and finances on my blog. And up to date have yet to make a cent. Close up, it sounds like I have an expensive hobby. And if I only focused on a product like money as a gauge of success, I would be running a failing operation. But, because I measure success based upon outreach, internal personal growth, creativity and discipline, I’ve already earned far more than I ever thought possible.

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Reflecting back over the version of Sarah before the blog and the version of me today, the difference is remarkable. The lessons I learned from my blog are just as applicable in life. You can’t always control where you’re planted, but you can blossom just the same. Through the unfertile soil, droughts, storms and lack of affection and resources, you can still bloom. A flower in a garden surrounded by other flowers is indisputably beautiful. But a flower that blooms despite a rocky terrain is breath-taking.

Just like the confetti in my photographs, I have hand selected beautiful words and breathed them out into the universe. Unsure if anyone would catch even a tiny sparkle. And each week I am overwhelmed by the reception of my words and experiences. But what I didn’t expect was for so many of you to shower me right back.

Reaching this year milestone wells my spirit with gratitude. I only hope to continue this journey and see where my confetti lands. So from the depths of my soul, thank you for allowing me this great privilege and for receiving me and my words with utmost kindness.

Cheers to many more years of growth and encouragement together!

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xoxo

Sarah