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Dalai Lama does it again

Food for Thought:

“The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture is the set. ” ~H.H.The Dalai Lama

How true!

Tomorrow I finally get to see my kiddos again – STOKED! 🙂 It is also supposed to be 25 degrees, which means it will basically feel like spring. MN problems.

Sweet dreams, beautiful people!

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A Great Read: “Wild”

Wow, can you tell that I am bored from all of these snow days? Thank the Lord school is back in session tomorrow!

Anyway… I wanted to share a book that I started reading and cannot put down. Wild: From Lost To Found On the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed is a fantastic book! Strayed’s writing is compelling and addictive.

Wild is a memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s life falling in shambles, and then being healed and put back together through a self-initiated, solo adventure along the Pacific Crest Trail. If you want a good read during this frigid winter, definitely check out this inspiring story!

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El Paso Forever In My Heart: Living vs. Existing

Ever since this summer I have been thinking about El Paso on a daily basis. At least a couple of times per day. I still feel the loss of being there and seeing the same people who became my family very quickly. I still feel the loss of being able to see the beautiful mountains when I’m out for a walk or driving. I still feel the loss of receiving hugs on hugs from my youth group. I still feel the loss of being greeted by people with arms wide open and a gentle kiss on the cheek. I still feel the loss of the amazing Mexican food. I still feel the loss of those inspiring and breath-taking views out while hiking. I still feel the loss of it all.

Although I have overcome a depressive state of loss, I think to some extent I will always be grieving and missing everyone. Isn’t it amazing how it’s much easier to open up to people you just meet, and find yourself in a place you’ve never been? It’s just such a beautiful concept that I hope everyone gets to experience at some point.

I have been fortunate enough to still keep in touch with my friends and family who now encompass my heart. I chit-chatted with one last night and had a terrific conversation with her via Skype. I think friends who you meet during meaningful experiences really become a major part of you. You experience so much change and inspiring moments together, as well as the not-so-pretty times. Although we live states and states away, it is such a given that we will always be true friends and connected by our souls. She is just one of the many who became a kindred spirit. I appreciate those who still communicate with me on a regular basis to the highest extent possible. People are wonderful and we can learn so much from them. Most likely, we learn the most from those who are physically present in our life for a temporary amount of time. The brief time really teaches us to appreciate what is given to us when it is presented. It’s a lesson that I carry with me everyday in life. It’s a blessing to know that my friends I met in El Paso have taught me this very valuable lesson. I truly do love them dearly!

El Paso solidified that I must do something, even if teaching does not end up being it, that is giving to all communities for the rest of my life…especially with youth. My heart has always sought out adventures and moments that would allow me to give my heart and words and actions to someone important, or something greater than myself. It is just very freeing to know that following my heart has benefited in finding my purpose in life. Isn’t it interesting how giving yourself and being available to others is the most freeing feeling?

I am very excited for the day when I’m reunited with loved ones in El Paso. Hopefully the day will come sooner than later, and when that day comes I will most likely never stop smiling! Or I’ll cry…one or the other 🙂

 

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Loud Mind

How many snow days have we had? I’ve honestly lost count. Being away from doing what I love and staying busy has made me realize that I would be such a terrible stay-at-home mom… These 5 day weeks are going to feel longer than usual after multiple weeks of only 3 school days. However, I am SO ready to be busy again!

There have been so many thoughts running around in this brain of mine. One thing in particular has been the question: I wonder how different the world would be if everyone had the “It happened for me” vs. “It happened to me” mentality? We all experience incredible ups and downs and, being human, it is so very easy to look at the situations in the second way. I feel like when enough time has passed and we are ready to accept that a hardship has occurred to teach us something, it is then when we realize that it happened for me. It’s a process of healing, but it comes in such different stages for each individual. So I understand how it is easy to automatically think the second way, but I wonder if people would be happier if they looked at every situation, bad AND good, in “It happened for me.”

Another thought that has been stewing has been that we really need to teach our kids and ourselves to trust our feelings more. Our feelings and gut instincts are insanely accurate most of the time. They guide us in every direction and help us come to terms with our strengths and weaknesses. For example, when students say, “This is hard” so often teachers say “It’s not that hard” or “You can do it” before acknowledging that the students’ feelings are totally justifiable. I myself have been practicing the skill of admitting to my kiddos, “You’re right, this is hard stuff” before saying “You can do it!” By not acknowledging their feelings of frustration (however frustrated they may be) we are teaching kids and ourselves not to trust their feelings and instincts. Shouldn’t we be doing the opposite? If kids are not comfortable trusting themselves when an event later on in life is hard on them, then it seems like we are teaching them that they are wrong in thinking and feeling a certain way. I know we do not mean any harm in saying “You’re fine” or “You can do it” when they bring up how they are feeling, especially when it is the opposite reaction of what you are looking for. However I think it is important that we continue to take an even closer look at our words and how they could potentially be interpreted.

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Kickin’ it with Kindergarteners

As a follow up from my last post, I am now student teaching again! It has been such a joy. I am teaching in a kindergarten classroom. There are 27 kiddos and, let me tell you, they sure do keep me on my toes!

My co-operating teacher is a terrific human being. She should be the poster woman for kindergarten teachers everywhere. Her gentle spirit and huge heart shines all day everyday. If I end up being a kindergarten teacher, I hope to be as energetic and passionate on a daily basis.

It feels so amazing being myself again in my new classroom. Everyday is an exciting new start. The kids are always wanting hugs and are saying “I love you, Ms Neidich.” It is beyond heart-warming and just brightens my soul so much. I’ve only been with them for 2 weeks, so I cannot say a huge amount about my experience, yet! Although I have learned a great deal so far. If there is one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that being a kindergarten teacher requires you to have never-ending, spunky, spritely energy. Luckily, it is so easy to achieve this because my kiddos are always fueling me and giving me a run for my money.

Kindergarteners are for sure my homies. I love kickin’ it with them and nurturing them with compassion and an open heart.

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Teaching brought me back to life

“Jen, are you ok?” … “I’m fine.”

“Hey Jen, how are ya today?” … “Oh, I’m fine. Just tired.”

“Jen, are you doing alright?” … “Yeah, sorry. I’m just really tired.”

It’s scary how you can go from being yourself to completely forgetting who you are. Life is so unpredictable. We are so in reach of our dreams one minute, and then unexpected circumstances can pull us apart before we know it. For those who have experienced the impacts of depression and anxiety know how much it can take a toll on your personality.

“Morning, Ms. N! *gives hug*”

“Ms. N, you seem sad today.” … “No, I’m not sad, just feeling really tired is all.” … “What could you be tired about?” … “(sarcasm) Oh, I don’t know. Maybe that I stay up late at night to make sure that I can give you the best education possible. Might have something to do with it, right?” … “Haha! Yeah! Shoot, I’d be tired too!”

“Ms. N, do you have an iphone?” … “Yes” … “Do you have the facebook and the twitter on it?” … “Uh, I do…” … “Do you have snapchat?” … “…Yes……” … “Oh can you add me so that I can snapchat with you!?”

“Oh my gosh Ms. N. You will NEVER guess what I heard today at recess…”

“Ms. N, what do you do on the weekends?” … ‘Well I get to sleep in until 8, so that’s pretty cool. Otherwise I’m usually planning for school and working so that I can teach you. Try not to be too jealous of my wild and exciting life.” … “You have to plan on the weekends?! That sounds boring… don’t you ever go out to the bars with your friends or something like that??”

“Ms. N, do you have a boyfriend?” … “Nope” … “A husband?” … “No” … “A fiance??” … “You guys…” … “Well…why don’t you??”

“Good morning, Ms. N!” … “Good morning, Silly Lilly! How was your weekend?” … “SO GOOD I smiled, like, all weekend!”

“I read this whole chapter book over the weekend by myself!!” … “Woohoo! Give me five!” … “Do I own at reading?” … “Dude. You own at reading.”

For those of you who work with kids everyday know the amount of joy and happiness they can bring you. 5th graders are sassy, sarcastic, social young adults who just want to be hugged, praised, and acknowledged as much as a kindergartener. Teachers have it lucky in that we can positively impact our kids’ lives AND the feelings are easily reciprocated. Teachers also know that it is hard to always give your 120% while you are at your best. So imagine trying to be on your A-Game when you are hating yourself? However, also imagine what it feels like when your kids somehow manage to see the real you, even though you know you are not your true self.

Fall 2013 I was set to start student teaching. I was placed in a 5th grade classroom. The kids? Absolutely wonderful individuals with so much beauty and personality! Seriously, the personality was insane. The baggage that they brought with them from home life? Heart-breaking. In retrospect, knowing how they especially were depending on the classroom to be a consistent safe space made me that much more dedicated. I mean, all kids deserve their classroom to be safe and uphold consistency. But those who come from no solid foundation at home deserve it all even more. They deserve a teacher who is dedicated and excited to be there for them. They deserve a teacher who is ready with answers to their questions and who wants to see them grow into confident individuals.

They deserved a teacher who, at the time, was not me.

“So how do you think your lesson went?” … “Awful” … “What did you think was awful?” … “Everything”

As teaching progressed I grew into this cynical, negative, crabby, sad person. It seemed that it came out of nowhere (came in like a wrecking ball). Tears were shed on a daily basis, meltdowns occurred from the stress, and forget the constructive self-criticism after teaching lessons. There was nothing constructive about it. I can remember the days of driving into school thinking “Why am I doing this?” or “What behavior is going to stretch me far today?” or “I hate working with kids.” It was such a switch from the usual, “I can’t wait to see what today brings!” and, “Heck yeah my kids are the sh**!”

Weeks passed and I kept becoming this person I didn’t recognize. This person who was always sad, crying, crabby, avoiding people, confused, and developing self-harmful thoughts. One morning as I was driving into school I was having a serious conversation with myself about quitting student teaching and just forgetting about it all together. I knew that if I cried again during prep that it would be the last time. I went into school early to go over my lessons with my teacher. She sat me down and said that she was concerned about me. She noticed that my behavior was impacting my ability to comprehend the tasks at hand. She said that the kids have not noticed me being a negative person, but that it could develop into that type of situation. Without warning the tears came and I began to not just cry, but sob. The tears would not stop flowing and I felt my heart sink deep into my stomach. I expressed how I would wake up feeling instantly sad. “My mind is always wired with worries and thoughts that did not seem reasonable.” I had been avoiding friends, and my energy level was pathetic. My teacher comforted me and said that it would be in my best interest to take the day off and go talk to a counselor. I apologized for being such a lousy student teacher. She responded in a motherly tone, “I’m worried about you, kiddo. You are not a lousy student teacher.” I was able to get seen by a counselor, who referred me to a psychiatrist. It was then that my life began to turn around for the better.

After my diagnosis, my parents helped me come to terms that it was not my time to be a teacher. They helped me admit that it was best to take an incomplete for the semester and start over fresh in the spring, or a year if necessary. My teacher allowed and requested that I come back into the classroom and volunteer. She wanted me to feel like I had a purpose, and added that the kids really missed me and were sad to hear that I would not be their teacher anymore. I agreed to come back in. It was uncomfortable and almost brought me to tears when I told them I am not their teacher anymore for health reasons. The kids reacted as though they were bummed, but also with sensitivity and understanding. “Ms. N… you gotta do what you gotta do, you know?” So, so true.

Volunteering in the classroom was the best decision. I had a blast coming in and maintaining my relationship with the kids. Everyday they all greeted me with a hug saying, “Yay Ms. N is here!” At the beginning of my volunteering, it was challenging to always show my happiness and enthusiasm, but deep down I wanted to be my old self again very badly. The person who was energetic and joyful with kids, who was not afraid to pull sarcasm out in the open and use it to make kids smile and laugh.

As my volunteering time continued, it was inevitable that the kids wanted to have meaningful conversations. We would talk about home life, school drama (mostly about what happened at recess/who had a crush on who), and what it is like to be a teenager. They were so interested in hearing about how I survived junior high and teen years. They were quick to say thank you and offer smiles and hugs, and slow to talk back and lash out. They were beginning to learn that there were kinder ways to react and speak to adults. Before I knew it, I felt like I had a purpose to be there. I began to feel like my old self again and had no problem working with kids in small groups. It became wonderful watching them improve and develop their confidence in asking questions. I loved every minute of their successes – the small and the big ones.

My time in the classroom was wrapping up. The kids kept asking, “When are you leaving again?” and “Do you have to leave us?” It melted my heart knowing that they seemed to enjoy having me come in and be there for them. On my last day volunteering I brought them cards and candy canes. I received hug after hug, and kids telling me that they were going to miss me “a ton.” However, I don’t think they realized how much I would miss them. We had a party in the room and played the game 4 Corners. Some of the kids wanted a picture together, so we saved some time at the end of the day for that. It was such a memorable last day. It was not until the last day volunteering that I realized that I was myself again. The kids helped me bring myself back to life.

Even though I am not their teacher anymore, I still think of them all everyday and wonder how they are doing. I know many of their home situations and personal struggles, and just hope that they are doing the best that they can. Teaching is a terrific career. It is a tough lifestyle, but has so many rewards that have a much higher value than any dollar amount. Teachers and students have such a unique relationship in that they do so much for each other. You have the ability to impact a student’s life, and they too have an incredible way of touching our lives. Ten(+) years from now I know that wherever I’m teaching and living, I’ll always be thinking of my 5th graders and how they helped me find myself again and turn my life around.