Friday, August 19, 2016

Jumping off... part 2.



I don't even really know where to begin. I'm having trouble writing this blog post because of all of my own crazy self doubt and worry that somehow people I thought are my friends will be mad at me, or tell me what I can't do, so stay with me.

I've told you all that I was taking a year off to explore different projects. This summer the different projects came together under one roof ... in the form of a small business.

It's hard to write about, or even talk about, because it still seems strange to me. Who am I to think I can have my own small business? Who am I to think people will actually hire me to work with their children? I mean, forget that the school system hired me to work with lots of children, the idea of parents personally hiring me seems absolutely crazy.

So, while I've been busy this summer connecting with parents, teachers, independent school representatives, and different therapists to talk about what families need and different possibilities I can offer, I've been somewhat quiet about all of this, especially as my different projects started to come together into the form of a business. I think most of me wanted to be able to do this without talking about it, ever. I've blogged anonymously for over 9 years now, so whose to say I couldn't run an anonymous business, right?

BUT, a good friend said I needed to stop apologizing for what I'm doing, so I'm trying hard to talk about it without looking at the floor.

Admitting what I'm doing is the first step.

So how did I get here?

Someone over a year ago asked me what I wanted out of life. I couldn't get that question out of my head. I wasn't really happy with my current job, even though I couldn't put my finger on exactly why. In some ways it was the perfect job, a good mix of working with kids and getting to help parents. But it still wasn't what I wanted. I didn't want to become an administrator in a school system. I wanted to work with kids, have the time to be on a constant search for knowledge to become better at working with kids, and I wanted to support families with children with special needs. I thought I'd find that if I could find the perfect PhD program, but I didn't want to dive into a PhD program without first seeing what I wanted to do with that program when it ended. So I took the coming year off to start new projects and see what sticks and what doesn't.

So that's what this is. A project in the form of a small business, that lets me explore possibilities, hopefully will help lots of families and let my own family not starve in the process.

It's funny when you tell people you are starting your own business. They either become ridiculously excited for you and tell you their own future business dreams, or they look at you like you have three heads and say, "Wow, really? Good luck with that!" I don't take that personally because I have those same thoughts myself. Really? WHAT? That's crazy town. I'm just kidding. I totally didn't mean a small business. You totally misunderstood me. I meant small hobby.

I am terrified. This might be the scariest thing I've done in my whole life. And yet, so far I'm loving it. I love connecting with families and working with their kids. I love putting together learning kits for the children and helping people understand how to use them. I love collaborating with other professionals. And surprisingly, I'm enjoying learning about the business side of things. So maybe one day I'll make money doing this. Until then, I'm learning a lot. And if it doesn't stick? If it doesn't work? It's OK. I'll have learned a lot in my year off and figured out more about what I want out of life.

So, what are these small projects that came together into one business?

I'm doing private tutoring, but really it's more than just tutoring. I'm providing support and materials to families. Kind of like a private special education teacher who can design personalized behavior plans and lessons for the home environment. I have book kits I loan families for a week (or more) and personalize plans to match their child's goals.

I've teamed up with an incredible counselor and we're offering 'drop in' social groups this fall. (Announcement about dates and topics coming soon...)

I'm putting on book clubs for home schooled 4th and 5th graders in Arlington, Virginia. Interested? Let me know.

I'm doing presentations and professional development, and supporting independent schools and community groups in become more inclusive.

I hope to offer adapted music classes with an amazing music teacher I know, as well as different social groups.

All of these projects have bounded together into a small business, Lipsett Learning Connection.

I am still working with my school one day a week, and because I am still employed by the school system I cannot work with any children within my school's boundaries. I also will not sit in any IEPs or eligibility meetings as an advocate for the parent. I want to be very careful in not crossing professional boundaries. From my experience as a teacher it always felt like private therapists were somehow against us in the school. That's not good for the family or the child. I want to help families coordinate their care so that everyone serving the child is working toward the same end.

I've never done anything this scary before. It feels very much like jumping off a cliff without being able to see the bottom. So stay with me and my family on this journey as they support me from going from a household with two incomes, to a household with one income and one absolutely crazy person.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Class Updates and Teacher Pride

Yesterday everyone in my undergraduate class received an email with our class updates. These weren't the ones that people bother to send into the official magazine. This was just for our class newsletter, which is published sporadically via email. They solicited updates from us earlier in the summer, and for days I tried to figure out what to write.

I went to a pretty good college. Not an ivy, but a lot of my classmates got into ivy schools but went to my college because of it's scholarships. I graduated with some very intelligent, driven, and well-connected people.

Those people now have incredible updates to submit. I read them with a glass of wine yesterday and tried to tell myself that I too have a good life.

Johnny became a partner at the Best Law Firm in Atlanta. After the birth of his twin daughters, he realized he wanted to give back to the community so he started his own non-profit where he is helping families with their legal paperwork. 

After completing both medical school and law school Sally was appointed by President Obama to the head the "save all children everywhere" team. Here s a picture of her and her gorgeous children vacationing in Spain. Her husband will be competing in Rio this summer.

Rachel just finished writing her eighth children's book, which will be on the shelves in November. When she isn't writing, she is managing the accounting firm she owns and keeping up with her twin boys.

After completing his time in the Peace Corps in 2006, Chris has been busy starting up nonprofits in the Charleston area with the help of his wife, who is completing her residency in pediatric surgery. 

In trying to decide what to write I considered my choices:

Do I go with giving as little information as possible:
"Mrs. Lipstick lives outside of Washington, DC with her family. She is a teacher."

Or the truth?
"Mrs. Lipstick spends her days racked with guilt from being a working mom of two little girls, who are beautiful when their hair is brushed. To accomplish that feat she sits on them every morning, occasionally growling at them when they turn their heads and mess up the braiding. She just completed her 13th year of teaching, but is making less than all of you lawyers made your first year out of law school. Before your bonus. As school systems do not offer "partnerships" as your law firms do, she continues to hold the same job anyone just out of college is eligible to hold, despite her years of experience and her masters degree. Her husband is extremely patient with her as he watches her put in late nights of completing special education paperwork and writing reports."

That might be too much of a downer and sounds way more bitter than I intended it too, even just for this blog post.

(Truth be told, any of those people above could also write depressingly realistic updates about the tedium of their jobs and day to day lives, their job titles would just continue to make the tedium sound more impressive).

I wrote my best friend's, because sometimes when you are going to brag you need to have someone else put the words together for you...

TeacherMom continues to live in Virgnia with her beautiful family. Her Wonder Woman skills continued to be revealed as she completed her masters in Education Administration while taking care of her two active and sweet boys. Her creativity will be on display this coming year in the art room, where she will revolutionize elementary art before taking the world by storm as an administrator. Yet even in all this glory she continues to find time to socialize with other alumni including the equally incredible Mrs. Lipstick! (she added that last part.)

There isn't anything like Class Updates if you are a teacher to make you ponder your place in the world (except maybe cocktail parties hosted by lobbying firms). Us teachers need to get better at selling ourselves. We need to brag on ourselves and the AMAZING work we do day to day. I was so glad my friend submitted the one I wrote for her because it is true. She IS wonder woman. She may not have a law degree, be competing for partner, or starting her own private equity firm, but she is rocking it out. She took all that intelligence and promise that got her into our "good" college and applied it to helping children. Helping them every single day, teaching them to read, write, and get them passionate about school. She puts in so many extra hours that I don't think she sleeps.

It's hard as teachers to make ourselves sound successful in two to three sentences. We don't get promoted if we want to continue to teach children everyday. We can't say we've become a CEO or made partner, or become chief resident. To get promoted we have to actually reduce the time we work with kids.

Reading over this post I worry it came off more bitter than I intended. I hope not. Maybe it's because so many people I went to school with used to ask me why I was going to go to my school if I was just going to be a teacher. (The school has since started an education program, but it didn't exist when I was there.) As teachers we make sacrifices that many people don't even consider. It's not about the pay, but committing to a lifestyle where some people are going to make assumptions about your intellect and your capabilities because of your profession.

I want teaching to be a profession where the teachers in the room are given the same awe-inspiring respect as lawyers and doctors. We shouldn't feel ashamed in telling our classmates we are teachers. We should shout it from the rooftops.

I must admit, I enjoyed reading what my classmates are up to these days, and how successful they've become. I'm proud of them and their success, but I'm especially proud of the ones who became teachers.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympics, Belly Buttons, and Life Lessons

Since the start of the Olympics, my daughters have become obsessed with beach volleyball. Mostly, because they think it is hysterical that they are "in their underwear" as my four year old said. "Nobody wants to see their belly buttons, right Mommy?" she asked the first time she saw them in the sand.

They giggle hysterically while watching it. Last night, after getting out of the bath and before getting into pajamas, my two year old started acting like she was hitting a volley ball. It's the new thing to do while naked, apparently.

Asides from giggling about belly buttons, my girls also noticed something else about the players. "Mommy! Look!" my four year old exclaimed in complete awe, "She fell down IN THE SAND and she got right back up! She didn't even cry!"

"Yeah," my two year old agreed. "No crying!"

It always surprises me the difference in how children view the world. I honestly hadn't even registered the fall.

The NBC newscasters can tell us all about the athletes strict training regimens, the obstacles and injuries they've overcome, and their extreme perseverance, but the visual image that stuck with my kids is the athlete falling down and getting right back into the game. They zone out during the inspirational cut aways, but are somehow inspired by falling athelets. It makes sense, I suppose. Early morning gym workouts mean nothing to them. But falling in the sand? Total connection there.

Our Olympic viewing has now become a constant stream of "She fell!" "He fell!" I SEE A BELLY BUTTON!" "She fell!"

Then they act it out. One of them will fall down (laughing hysterically) and will get right back up. "I"m up! I'm ready to play!" she'll say.
"I SEE YOUR BELLY BUTTON!" the other one will scream.

My facebook feed is filled with videos of how the athletes overcame obstacles and ways they can inspire us in our own lives. As adults we're in awe of these athletes and are constantly looking for ways we can copy their dedication and determination. It makes sense our kids would want to do the same. We just need to bring the conversation to their level.

While it's so important to talk with our kids about how hard these athletes worked and the grit and perseverance it took to get them to the Olympics, that is still a fairly intangible concept for our little ones. But we can point out in-the-moment perseverance that will give our kids a visual image of these grand concepts we want them to demonstrate themselves.

While watching swimming we've talked a lot about how tired they must be. "OH MY GOODNESS! They are turning at the wall again!! They must be so tired! But they aren't stopping! Wow!!"

We've paused the DVR after the swimmers shake hands with each other at the end and talked about how they don't even know each other but they are still shaking hands and saying good job.

We've talked about how those gymnasts are nervous just standing their, waiting for their turn. We look at their faces and talk about how we can tell how nervous they are. It must feel like the first day of school for them. It's OK to be nervous. Even Olympians are nervous.

We talk about how much fun they are having too. They are tired, nervous, and keep falling down, but they are still having fun! Wow! With all those feelings they are still smiling and laughing. Falling down didn't make the fun go away. Being nervous didn't mean everything needed to end. They kept going and now they are so happy.

Hopefully, even after the games are over we'll be able to refer back to these conversations when things come up in our own lives. Saying "You have to work hard at gymnastic class now so you can be like Simone!" probably won't have much of an impact on my kids, but saying, "I know you are nervous, just like Simone looked. What did she do next? She took a deep breath and then tried her best. Think you can try that? Let's do it!"

I read that Michael Phelps' mother had a visual cue she would give him when he was having trouble with sportsmanship as a child. For older kids that would be a great tidbit to share and apply in the moment.

Sometimes I worry that these blog posts are what my kids will one day bring to their therapists to say "She even wrote publicly about how she tortured us. We couldn't even enjoy the Olympics!" So, daughters 20 years years from now- think about the money I'm saving you. Just printing this out and giving it to your therapist will save so much time in you having to explain it. Right?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Choosing Engaging Read Alouds for Non-Sitters

I offer sensory-storytimes at the local libraries. Although many of these storytimes are similar to more traditional storytimes, they are specifically designed to engage kids that may not be able to sit still in a large group and listen to a story silently.

One way to make these story times meet the needs of these kids is in reading books that encourage a high level of interaction. We don't want to ask a child to sit perfectly still and listen to a book. Instead, we are asking them to move, sing, and dance with a book in a (somewhat) organized manner. 

Book choice is critical. Some of my absolute favorite books just can't be used here because there are too many words on the page, too many detailed drawings in the pictures, and too deep of a storyline. Here are some guidelines I use when I'm thinking about book choice.

Repeated Lines of Text
The key concept I look at in choosing a book is looking for repeated lines of text or a repeated pattern. Does the book have a few lines that the children can memorize and "read" along with me? This is great for non-verbal students as well. By giving them an egg shaker or a maraca, they can actively participate with the book. Before you read, establish a cue with your group so they will know when to chime in. It can be done by pointing at them, pointing at the letters, or saying "Ready?"

The repeated lines get the kids involved in the book, but also encourage them to learn concepts of print. As children begin to learn that print contains meaning they can point to the repeated line on the page as you read it aloud. As they become more aware of print they can go from pointing from to each line on the page to pointing to each individual word. When they read the story to themselves they can touch the line and repeat the memorized portion. 

Some of my favorite books with repeated lines are:

Click, Clack, Moo (and anything in the Click, Clack series)
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More
Farmyard Beat
Dancing Feet
Good Night Gorilla
Blue Hat, Green Hat
What Shall we do with the Boo Hoo Baby?
Pete the Cat

Brown Bear, Brown Bear is perfect for this in many ways, but I guarantee you that after you've taught for 5 years you'll never want to look at any brown bear again. Or talk about what it sees. Ever.

Opportunities to Be Silly
Books that just beg you to use silly voices when you read aloud, or that provide opportunities for the kids to act out the parts are perfect for engaging readers who have difficulty sitting still. When you read the Elephant and Piggy books, for instance, it is hard not to make the different voices for Gerald and Piggy. And can you read the Pigeon books without sounding whinny or angry like the Pigeon? These books are highly engaging to your readers because they love being able to watch an adult be silly.

My favorite be silly books:
The Pigeon books by Mo Willems
Elephant and Piggy by Mo Willems
Rhyming Dust Bunnies (Or anything by Jan Thomas)

Opportunities to Act
Books that give kids a chance to act out the storyline are another great way to engage the wiggly listeners. The trick here is usually to do something that keeps them active but sitting down, so that they aren't getting up and wondering around the room. Many books lend themselves to this once you start looking for it. Is there a horn to beep? A door to knock on? Clothes to put on? Hands to wash? Getting a whole group to engage in the simple actions of the book can go a long way in keeping the kids engaged.

Some good Act-It-Out books:
5 Little Monkeys (in the beginning of the book they put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, and get ready for bed.)
Alice the Fairy
Good Night, Gorilla 
Little Blue Truck
The Napping House
Caps for Sale
Knuffle Bunny
The Snowy Day

I am NOT a rhythmic person, but I do appreciate a good rhythmic book. Books that can be read like a chant are great at engaging kids and keeping their interest. This is particularly helpful when reading one on one with a squirmy toddler. If you bounce them on your lap to the beat of the book you will keep them engaged with the language. Match the bouncing to the lines of text so that the movement connects the movement with the language. Kids can also be engaged by giving them egg shakers (if you can read loudly over the noise) or even scarves they can wave while you read.

Great Rhythmic Books:
Dancing Feet
Farmyard Beat
Five Little Monkeys
Little Blue Truck
Shiver Me Letters
Pete the Cat
The Llama Llama series

Opportunities to Discuss Emotions
As adult readers we know that emotions are often what drives the storyline in any good novel. Legal thrillers, spy adventures, or chick lit are all based around someone's jealousy, greed, or sadness. Kid books are the same and the more we discuss the character's emotions in the books the more we can connect the children to the plot line. Additionally, drawing kid's attention to the characters' emotions helps them connect with the story (he's angry and I can think of a time when I was angry too!) and gives another great opportunity for acting out the story. I love asking kids to make a mean face, scary face, or happy face.

Books that make discussing emotions easy:
The Pigeon books (I love talking about how angry he gets.)
Alice the Fairy
I Ain't Gonna Paint No More (That is one angry mom!)
Rhyming Dust Bunnies (They go from happy to scared)
The Paper Bag Princess
Katie and the Kittens
Peter's Chair
The Llama Llama Series

If you are interested in additional activities that go along with these books, you can sign up for my free weekly newsletter. I take one book a month and provide a new activity for each week that corresponds with the book. Click here to sign up!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lost Boys and Peter Pans

My four year old's current favorite song is Lost Boys by Ruth B. She's obsessed. If she has her way we could listen to it on repeat for a full hour. (Eventually I cut her off after 4 repetitions, which is still more than anyone should ever listen to a song).

So, needless to say, these lyrics have been running through my head on repeat these last few weeks. I admit, I love the song too (although not after I've heard it four times in a row). People usually think of Peter Pan as a story about a boy who doesn't want to grow up, and he's often used as a reference for a longing for a prolonged childhood. Yet the more I listen to the song, I realize it draws us into the another side of the Peter Pan story- the sense of belonging Peter Pan offers these lost children.

If you interpret the lyrics in an unsettling way, you realize the Peter Pan story creepier than before. It tells the story of an unhappy, depressed child "in a town that never loved" him. The lyrics go...

"Then one night, as I closed my eyes,
I saw a shadow flying high
He came to me with the sweetest smile
Told me he wanted to talk for awhile
He said, "Peter Pan. That's what they call me.
I promise that you'll never be lonely."
And ever since that day..."
Remove the image of Peter Pan and insert anything else we worry about influencing our teenagers - ISIS recruiters, drug dealers, even strange religious cults. Maybe the ISIS online recruitment has been on my mind after listening to this podcast, but some days that's all I can hear when I listen to the song.

Peter Pan represents a promise. A promise of a place to belong, a family one never had, a safe space to be ones self. That promise is something we are all seeking, what most of us want out of life.

Our students want this too, and as they get older they can find it in different places. Will they find it in school, in an after school club, on a sports team, or through a mentor? Or will they find it elsewhere? What Peter Pan forces are out there for them?

There is one little boy I've found myself thinking about a lot this summer. He's incredibly bright, creative, and inquisitive. In just one conversation with him you can quickly realize he has the power to go far in life with his people skills and his intelligence. But he also has ADHD, which makes school difficult for him. How long before he decides everyone hates him? He can be successful at whatever he chooses in life, and we can only hope he'll choose to use his powers for good and not evil. I worry about high school with its drug dealers and gangs and the pull they could have on him. How long before he finds a place to belong with older boys who realize what a good salesman he is?

We can prevent that, I know we can. It's not easy. It's far quicker to get angry with his impulsivity, banish him from the classroom, or punish him by taking away recess or sending him to the principal's office. It's easy to think he can't learn, or won't learn, and that he's too much of a distraction to other students. But it's all of those actions that tell him he doesn't belong here with us.

We have to take a step back and teach him how to learn. We have to help him manage his impulsivity, teach him how to regulate himself. We have to put structures in place for him to learn without making him feel like it is him vs us. Because there are Peter Pans out there who will lead him away, with nothing more than a promise of a place to belong.

How can we set up places for these students so that they find belonging in school and not on the streets? How can we be the pull on these lost boys/students so that they can stand strong against negative Peter Pan influences?

Friday, July 1, 2016

Body Image, Weight and Little Girls

Warning: This isn't so much an education post as it is a mommy revelation post. It is also probably more than you want or need to know about me. But these thoughts have been running through my head for awhile and once a post has formed I can't move on until I've written it.

~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  ~~  My bubbly four year old danced around her sister's bedroom to a song in her own head. It was morning, before school, and she was supposed to be getting ready. Instead, she was rocking out and decidedly NOT brushing her teeth.

Suddenly she stopped her dance moves and looked at me. "I have a big bottom," she said, matter-of-factly. "Not like yours."

I froze. Time stopped. Four? This is when this conversation starts? Now?

First of all, she doesn't have a big bottom. She's four. Have you ever seen a four year old with a big bottom? Is it possible? She's perfect. PERFECT!

Ever since she was born I made a conscious decision to not talk about my weight in front of her. It was hard, especially when I was trying to lose the pregnancy weight after my second child. But anytime any negative thought about my own body came into my head I swallowed it. (Funny thing, the more I didn't acknowledge these thoughts the less they came. I mean, I don't look in the mirror and think "My thighs rock!" but I don't look in the mirror and groan or see all the work I need to do. In just not verbalizing these thoughts my body became just a thing instead of NOT PERFECT.)

I even snapped at my brother one day when he made an off hand comment about his weight in front of my daughters. "We don't talk about weight in this house!" I haughtily announced, in one of my snottiest parenting moments. I was immediately embarrassed, as though I was one of those parents who announces they don't let their child eat any processed food or believes Melissa and Doug toys are too commercial.

In our house the scale is for celebrating how big and strong you are. (Actually my two year old thinks it is a step stool. She calls it mommy's stool. I'm not sure why she thinks I have a three inch stool in the closet, but I'm not going to correct her.)

Yet despite carefully laying the groundwork for protecting my child from negative body image thoughts, there was my four year old, examining her behind, comparing it to mine, and announcing hers was bigger.

Now, it should be noted that she didn't add any negative connotations to this observation. Perhaps, in her four year old mind she was noting that her behind was big and beautiful and mine was not. Maybe her preschool friends have taught her to appreciate her curves.

I muttered something about her being perfect and then changed the subject, but my heart was breaking. Why is a four year old talking about her body? All About the Bass is one of her favorite songs.

But what hit me the most was that she compared her body to mine. I suddenly did not just see my body as my own weight-struggle symbol. Instead it became what it represented to my daughters about what healthy weight.

I am one of those insanely lucky people who sheds pounds by breast feeding. It is ridiculous. It didn't come off overnight, but after a year I was down to my high school weight with both of my girls. Best diet ever. It honestly crossed my mind that maybe I should have another child to get off the five pounds I recently gained. Instead, I've mentally planned a diet and exercise routine to maintain this high school weight. The thoughts in my head tell me that I can't let myself get back up to where I was before pregnancy. That would be lazy and unfortunately, and...

And what? Why? Why is it so important that I weigh what I weighed when I was 17 and had little else to do but study, hang out with friends, and run 5-8 miles a day. Two kids, a masters degree, and a career later, I don't think I should still hang on to my 17 year old self. But isn't that what we all do? As women we want to freeze our bodies as though we haven't experienced our life. There isn't much I want to go back in time for, and you could not pay me enough to go back to high school. So why would I want my high school body?

My daughter's off-hand bottom comparison left me with a stark reality. If I want her to have a healthy body image I need to have a healthy body image. Even if I'm not talking about how much weight I need to lose she is going to be looking at me (at least until she becomes a tween and hates me) as an image of what it means to be a woman. Do I want her to think being a woman is staying thin? Can I be comfortable with gaining the 5-10 pounds that are going to come naturally as I get older, so that I can model what it means to be a woman who is comfortable with her body?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Jumping Off

I'm about to close out on my 13th year of teaching. It does not seem possible it has been that long because in so many ways I feel like I am still a recent college graduate, excited to start on my adventures in teaching but with so much to learn.

Yet a lot has happened in those 13 years and I've been able to see many different facets in the field of education. I've taught in three different schools. I've had my own general education classroom, and my own special education classroom. I've supported children in inclusion classrooms in every grade but second. I've been the local screening chair, which is a fancy title for dealing with the paperwork side of the special education eligibility process within my school. I worked at a brand new school and experienced what it is like to open a new building.

Somewhere in there something changed. I can't put my finger on what it was, or when it happened. But something - maybe me, maybe the profession - is very different than in was when I entered the field 13 years ago.

So after some nail-biting months, long talks about the future, what I want out of life, and how to get there, I decided that after this school year I will be taking a leave of absence from teaching. I'm not finished with teaching or education, at least, I don't think so.

Like many teachers out there I have a love/hate relationship with teaching. The field has changed considerably in the last 13 years and is very different than when I entered the profession. There is a different feel in the day to day life of a school. The thing is (and I realize this makes me different than many of the teachers out there who write public "I'm quitting" letters) I'm not sure the change is all that bad. We should be asking the tough questions about why children are not learning, and we should be making sure every single child is working on grade level, or at least has a plan to get them there. I have seen many positive changes at my current school that involve practices that did not exist in the field ten years ago. My struggle is that I'm not sure where my role in these changes should be or if I fit here at all.

I continue to love working with children. I LOVE teaching children to read and I love working with children with unique needs. I love teaching children social skills and emotional regulation. I love creating behavior plans, helping teachers manage behaviors in their classroom, and building positive communities within classrooms. I don't intend to use the word 'love' lightly here either. I mean it. I love these aspects of my day. I did not go to law school because I knew I loved these things. I knew I wanted to wake up everyday and go to a job I loved instead of a job that could provide financial security and a respectful social status. But now I'm not sure I can say I love coming to work every day.

My head has been swimming with questions. Is it me or the profession? Has being a mom changed my daily passion toward my job? Is teaching a job I will only enjoy if I can put in 12 hour days? Did the profession change in a way I no longer am comfortable with my introverted habits? Has what I wanted out of life changed? Why am I no longer fulfilled by what I am doing? What's missing? Am I asking too much from a job? Should I be happy with a job that provides a steady income and allows me to help others? Is it fair to ask for more?

I know I want to go back and get my PhD, but I am not sure exactly in what area of education or which school. I've tried to figure that out while working and taking care of my girls but I haven't been overly successful with that search. I need time.

What else is out there?

I have different projects in the works. I am working with some amazing people and we hope to have some social skills groups and music/literacy programs up and running this summer and next fall. (If you live in the Northern Virginia area and are interested in these please let me know!) I am continuing to provide sensory storytimes at a local library and have started a newsletter to give parents additional ways to engage their children in learning.

Next year will be my gap year where I can follow different projects to see what I enjoy and what doesn't quite do it for me. Perhaps in a year I will be back at my school, appreciating the structure and routine of employment (not to mention the secure paycheck), loving the kids and the teamwork a school provides. Or perhaps I will enroll in a PhD program, or find another alternative I can't even dream up right now.