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4 Lessons I’ve Learned in the Last Year

4 Lessons Learned in the Last Year

What I’ve Learned after 1 Year of Reimagining School & Becoming my Own Boss Inner Goddess

On Friday, March 13, 2020, I found myself at a lunch meeting at My Farmer’s Table with a local professor from a San Diego University, whom I had been trying to meet with for a month! The summer programming we were initially meeting to discuss suddenly seemed like an impossible future given all of the new plans we needed to make to transition into pandemic times.

Suddenly, everything I thought I knew went out the window. The educational landscape that we shared vision to reform had instantly transformed school into something we could no longer predict.

On March 13, 2020 I started doubting myself. I started doubting my instincts, my voice, my methodologies, everything. I doubted the expertise I thought I possessed about education, so I waited for the real “experts” to release guidance to Reimagine School during a global pandemic.

Stop waiting for expertise. Start owning that YOU are the Expert.

That was the first lesson I learned during quarantine ^. I realized that everyone was put in the same situation to trail-blaze into the unknown and create the future that we want and deserve.

During the last year, I’ve observed, read, researched, felt, reflected, experimented, failed, and succeeded. All of that has helped me accept the sparkly inner strength I’ve always had within myself. This year I have decided to be my own boss, my own inner goddess.

Here are some lessons that have helped me discover, nurture, & empower my inner goddess:

1) My Voice Matters. Your Voice Matters, too.

Assertiveness & Belonging

This last year has exposed the power of Voice (as well as the power of Mute), like none we’ve experienced in a long time!

We have seen how the most effective guidance doesn’t necessarily come from the loudest voices. We’ve seen brilliant guidance and innovations emerge from “amateurs” who didn’t previously have a platform to share ideas, so they created their own. These are the real trailblazers.

Ultimately, the new challenges of today and tomorrow require everyone’s voice, not just those from the top. Everyone needs a safe space to talk, share, and ideate without fear … or get put on mute!

The voices of women and POC matter. Did you catch the groundbreaking Grammy’s last weekend?! Beyoncé broke the record for the most Grammy-wins of all time. Not to mention, we clearly saw women and POC valued who embraced their individuality, and didn’t let anyone devalue their voice along the way.

“I didn’t imagine that my fear and that my pain would turn into impact, and that it would possibly turn into change. I think that’s what this is about. That’s why I write music. That’s why I do this.”

H.E.R., Song of the Year Grammy-Award Winner 2021

This year’s Grammy winners used their voice, felt their feelings, and weren’t afraid to share them with the world! Clearly, the world has warmly embraced their Assertiveness.

2) Feel your Feelings, and Engage the Body

Active Engagement & Reflection

For many people, this past pandemic year has been the first real trauma they’ve [fortunately] had to encounter. Thus, this might be the first time that a lot of folks have had to sit with uncomfortable thoughts or feelings without knowing how to cope with them.

After many mistakes and hours of therapy, I personally feel the most resilient when I feel my feelings and trust my gut. I find that if I take the time to understand why I’m feeling something, I can actually teach myself how to interpret my inner warning signs.

The human body is pretty remarkable, and it can understand what you need even better than your conscious mind! For example, when my heart starts racing and my face gets hot, I now know that I need to take a breath and a break before I return to my work.

Previously, I used to feel guilty about enforcing my boundaries because I somehow felt weaker for having needs. In the last year of quarantine, we’ve all seen human needs first-hand, and how higher-order behaviors really rely on our foundational basic needs.

But I realized that ignoring the warning signs didn’t make the negative thoughts or feelings go away. In fact, I actually had to spend more time backtracking to correct the work I had done or communications I’d sent while trying to suppress my anxiety.

I find that I am my best self, personally and professionally, when I put my own oxygen mask on and address my own needs first.

However, this type of introspection is new to many of us, and we might be losing ourselves too deeply ruminating in unhealthy Reflection. Like Yin & Yang, you cannot fully develop the Reflection SEL Domain without Active Engagement to physically “step outside our thoughts.”

Our physical bodies need Active Engagement in order to get into a good headspace and be productive in anything requiring Reflection, especially in 2021.

To create more balance, develop the active engagement domain to help [youth] step outside their thoughts by engaging the body.

Noam & Triggs, 2018, The Clover Model, PEAR Institute

Engage your body to fuel your mind. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination! Think outside the box. Allow more time for play. Allow yourself to take a few 15 minute breaks throughout the day. Find the Active Engagement that works for YOU.

Take the dog for a walk! Leave your phone at home on your walk (if that is a safe option for you). Chin up! It’s amazing how walking without a device in your hand opens your shoulders and your eyes to align the physical body and increase the sensory inputs from the natural world!

3) Own it – Turn Vulnerabilities into Strengths

Assertiveness & Belonging

In last week’s blog post, I talked extensively about leading with the heart. I quoted a few powerful female leaders who embrace their vulnerabilities, including DVF’s new book, Own It! With these thoughts and the 2021 Grammy Winners, predominantly women, POC, and folks who embraced their individuality and vulnerability.

COVID-19 affected all of us alike for a while in the beginning: famous, normal, rich, poor. None of us really had a say in anything that was happening to us. It was almost like our voices didn’t matter. What do you do when you have built-up energy, feelings, thoughts but nowhere to channel them?

For a lot of us, celebrities and normal folks alike, we created! Transform your abstract inner feelings into something tangible to share with the outside world. Who knows? Maybe someone else out there has felt similarly to you. Maybe some else also feels like the only one. Maybe you’ll even be recognized with a Grammy one day!

Like the other SEL Domains, one cannot have fully-developed Belonging without Assertiveness, and vice-versa. Maybe, we need to share our vulnerable inner-selves with others in order to truly bond, socialize, Belong.

I had been grappling internally with Yin vs Yang and light vs dark when I heard Amanda Gorman’s mesmerizing voice on January 20th’s Inauguration. The young poet began by asking, “Where can we find light in this never-ending shade?”

Immediately, I lifted my head from my laptop. My work could wait, I needed to listen and witness this historic moment. In the matter of minutes, the voice and inspiration for the United States of Tomorrow were taken, respectfully, and owned by a 22 year-old young woman of color. Her beautiful, vulnerable words were listened-to, accepted, followed, repeated, remixed, and not one person dare question her expertise.

Because in 2021, we are all forging and trailblazing towards a future that none of us can predict. In a sense we are all vulnerable, because none of us know exactly what awaits us. In 2021, the experts are the vulnerable voices who aren’t afraid to stand up and say they don’t know everything, but they believe in light and love. Maybe we need the light-bearers to lead the way of love, to feel our way out of this global pandemic, not think our way out.

4) Find What Works for YOU (& your Community)

Active Engagement & Reflection

Ultimately, all of us are building the plane while we try to fly it! If there were ever a time to embrace that one-size-does-not-fit-all, the time is NOW!

While Amanda Gorman may write poetry to get into a good headspace, and Billie Eilish creates beats with her brother, no one knows themselves better than you, so find what works best for you!

For me, sometimes Active Engagement means singing and dancing to loud music that makes me feel something. Since I’ve worked on developing my Reflection SEL Domain, I know that around 4:00 my shoulders start hurting, and I start feeling irritable. I need to take a break and let go in order to regroup, finish any work for the day, and make dinner.

But personalized needs and solutions go beyond the individual self to include the “collective self.” What works in one community, might not work for another.

Remember, YOU are an expert too… especially when it comes to yourself and your community. Engage your own Reflection domain by recognizing when you do need to bring in outside expertise, and when you need to step up to become your own inner boss goddess that you and your whole educational community need you to be.

For those Educational Leaders reading this, I hope you are owning your strengths and vulnerabilities a bit more now than a few minutes ago! You are your own community’s expert!

For any additional expertise to Reimagine your School for tomorrow, elevatEd Classrooms has what you need to go from surviving to thriving!

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Paula Blanco, MAT

Paula Blanco is currently a bilingual  kindergarten teacher at a dual-immersion school. Paula first received a bachelor’s degree in foreign language teaching and in infant education. Paula found her passion teaching and went back for a MAT Spanish (teaching Spanish as a second language).  After her education, Paula moved from Spain to the United States. Ms. Blanco is an experienced teacher with 9+ years of classroom experience.

Amiee Masters Altman, MsEd

Aimee Masters Altman is currently a middle school language arts teacher in southern New Jersey.  As a teacher with over 13 years experience, she has worked as a Kindergarten-6th grade Library-Media Specialist, a 3rd grade inclusion teacher, as well as a middle school language arts teacher.  Mrs. Altman graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Sociology with a concentration in health and medicine and a minor in Women’s Studies.  During her time at UPenn, she found her passion for teaching while working the Extended School Year program for students with special needs.  She then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Education in Reading/Writing/Literacy with a certification as a Reading Specialist from the University of Pennsylvania School of Education.  She continued her education for a Library-Media Specialist certification at Rutgers University.  Mrs. Altman has sat on many committees to analyze, select, and write curriculum.

Korey Sewell, PhD

Dr. Korey Sewell , founder of Hands-On Technology Education, is a professional engineer and educator specializing in Computer Science & Engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan (2012) and his Bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Riverside (2004). His professional background consists of work at places such as Intel, Apple, Qualcomm and MIPS Technologies with interests in Microprocessors, CPU Workloads, and Simulation Methodology. As an educator, Dr. Sewell aspires for Hands-On Technology to continue to fulfill its mission of empowering the K-12 demographic with innovative, practical, and affordable technology-based activities (summer camps, workshops, and after-school programs).

Jacqueline Masters, EDS, MA

Jacqueline received her Ed.S and M.A. degree in School Psychology from Rowan University and her B.S. degree in Psychology from Drexel University. She is currently certified in New Jersey and practices full time in the public school system. She has been working with the elementary and middle school students for 6+ years. She works to consult and collaborate with teachers, parents, and students to maximize their education and social experience. Additionally she completes cognitive and behavioral assessments as part of the Special Education process. She specializes in educating students, teachers, and parents on a variety of disorders such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, Autism, Specific Learning Disabilities, as well mood disorders and various developmental disorders.