Monday, February 29, 2016

Monday Motivation: What will be your next NSV?

Screw the Scale.
Seriously.  We know better.  It's one measurement - one way of keeping us on track, but you know what?  It's the NSVs (non-scale victories) that keep me rolling, that keep me motivated, and that's what I was reminded of this week.

I'm lucky enough to be on my weight loss journey with someone.  In fact it's my favorite someone -  my hubby Luis.  This weekend, we went shopping for a couple of new shirts just to update the wardrobe for some springy colors, and that's when I got to witness his first NSV on tihs jourey - he was a whole shirt size smaller!  

Seeing the flush in his cheeks and the beaming smile on his face made me so proud and so happy for him, but it also reminded me of my own things to look forward.  I'm so excited for new clothes to fit and to be ablel to do things in the gym that I can't do right now.
If you're on a weight loss journey too, keep an eye out for your NSVs.  Jeans feel a bit looser?  Have you stopped craving that late night bowl of ice cream?  Pay attention to the little things that make you feel good along the journey - not just the number on the scale.  Follow the hashtag #nsv on Instagram to see examples of others on this journey, too!  

Live your journey with anticipation:  what will my next NSV be?


P.S.  Don't forget to check out Monday Motivation from my buddies below!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Monday Motivation!

Welcome to our very first MONDAY MOTIVATION post!  My friends Myranda from Keep Calm and Teach 5th Grade and Kristen from Eat. Pray. Travel. Teach are teaming up to bring our readers some much needed Monday Motivation.  You can look forward to a new one each Monday!

This week, I want to talk about long term vision.  One thing that keeps me motivated (especially in the nasty winters in Chicagoland!) is keeping in mind the big picture - why am I on this journey in the first place?  Why am I working so hard to log meals in MFP and get to the gym six days a week?  Why am I saying no to massive, beautiful cupcakes at Mariano's?

For me, that's my future family and future travel.  These are two things I want more than anything.  I want to be, first of all, healthy enough to have kiddos.  And if, God willing, that all works out, I want to be an active mom that sets a great example for her kiddos.  At my current weight, I'm not there yet, but each day that I put in an extra step at school and an extra half mile at the gym, I'm just that much closer to that goal - something that will make life better for the people I love!
And then there's travel.  If you know me or have read some of my Facebook posts, my husband and I have a ten year goal to leave our jobs and take our family on a year long road trip from Alaska to Argentina.  We want to do a lot more traveling besides that, but so much of what we want to do I am uncomfortable doing or flat out can't do because I'm too heavy.  I want to be comfortable on an airplane.  I want to go ziplining.  All of these things ARE POSSIBILITIES FOR ME when I reach my goals.  

So if you're struggling today, zoom out.  Remind yourself about the big picture.  What do you want in the end?  How will today's good choices get you just a bit closer to realizing your dreams?

Be sure to check out my Monday Meal Plan if you need help getting back on track :-)


P.S.  Don't forget to check out Monday Motivation from my buddies below!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

#TeacherTruth - An Interview with Hannah Leib

Welcome to our weekly series of #TeacherTruth Thursdays!  Every Thursday, check back here for the latest interview with teachers from across the globe.  This Thursday, I was able to interview Hannah Leib, first grade teacher at Geff Grade School in rural, southern Illinois.  Hannah is a first year teacher (oh man, do I remember the struggle!) and she is known as Miss Leib to her kiddos, but as she says, "there’s always a day when I get 'Mom', 'Leiv, or 'Miss Leaf'".


Describe your teaching journey.  What major (or minor) events have led you to where you are today? 
It all started in the 4th grade when I had an amazing teacher by the name of Sue Burt.  At the first of the school year I was very hesitant to be in her classroom because she’s a very vocal and vibrant person, unlike myself at that point in my life.  I grew to realize she truly cared for me and my future while I was in her classroom.  She taught me how to be a kind and caring person while also teaching me very valuable life lessons.  One lesson I vividly remember is when I was taking a science test that I hadn’t studied for.  I decided that I could be sly and keep my study guide in my desk to look off of while “trading erasers and pencils.”  Being a fourth grader  and not very sneaky, I was busted.  Instead of Mrs. Burt taking my test away and not giving me another chance to take the test, she offered another solution.  She had me right an apology letter to my parents explaining what I had done and why I was sorry for cheating.  Not only did Mrs. Burt show me grace in that situation, she also taught me a valuable lesson that I strive to instill in my students.
Throughout my school years, I had many other wonderful teachers who taught me to love learning but more importantly to keep trying no matter how tough it may be.   Fast Forward to my Senior year of high school when I somehow received a brochure about the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois program in the mail.  I decided to put off filling out the scholarship application until a couple days before the due date.  Never in my dreams would I have known how much of an impact the Scholars program had on my teaching career and my personal life.  During one of my four summer institutes I was placed in a classroom with a teacher  who taught me what I should NEVER do in a classroom.  This woman did some things that would make a person cringe and I would leave at lunch every day worrying about what she would do while I was gone.  During my time in that classroom I learned that a teacher has an enormous impact of how a student feels about him/herself.  From that point on, I knew I wanted to be the teacher that made every child feel like he/she was the most important child in my classroom.  It has been a long journey to get me to where I am today but I wouldn’t change it for the fact that I learned so many life lessons along the way.

What are the biggest obstacles that you’ve faced this year of teaching?
With this being my first year of teaching, there have been many different obstacles throughout this year.  One of the biggest obstacles I’ve faced is finding the balance between work and home.  It’s been difficult to take time in the evenings to just spend time doing something that I enjoy and isn’t related to school.  I truly do enjoying planning engaging and fun lessons for my students so most nights I don’t mind putting in the extra hour to plan and prepare for the next day.
Another obstacle that I’ve found challenging is how to establish a good communication avenue between myself and my students’ parents.  This is something that I’ve set as a personal goal during the second half of the school year.  I’ve tried to contact every parent at least once a month telling them a positive thing that their student has done in the classroom.  Parent communication is something that I aim to grow in every year during my teaching career.

What are the greatest joys that you’ve experienced this year of teaching?
I absolutely love going to school everyday and seeing my first graders so excited and ready to learn!  In my classroom we do a morning meeting before our calendar time.  I’ve recently started a “morning greeting” before our morning meeting in which I greet every student.  The fun part about the morning greeting is that the students get to choose how they want to be greeted whether it’s a hug, high five, or handshake.  It makes my morning much more enjoyable when I receive 8 or 9 hugs!  Another joy that I’ve experienced this year is seeing my students look out and care for each other.  At the beginning of the school year I told the students that we are a family in this class and it has truly been a joy to see them love and care for each other.  This past week the students brought in a box to decorate for our Valentine’s day party and I saw the students really bond and help each other create adorable boxes all on their own.  It was a heartwarming moment to step back and watch them work together.  Overall, I love watching kids be kids and hearing the hilarious things they say!
Why did you want to become a teacher?  Do those reasons still resonate with you?  Are you still inspired by those ideas?
As I mentioned earlier, I had a teacher who had such a large impact on my life and ultimately I wanted to do the same for my students.  Young children are so impressionable and I want to leave a positive mark on their life.  I always wanted to inspire children to be the person they never thought they could be.  Teaching is a great way to inspire kids to learn something they never knew about before.  From there, they branch out and find something that they will love for a lifetime whether it's researching new medicine, creating masterpieces, or becoming another teacher. Another reason I wanted to become a teacher was to teach kids to love learning.  I want my students to find something they love learning about and continue to grow in knowledge throughout their lifetime.  Some days I forget why I wanted to teach because every day isn’t always the best.  But there are always moments when one of my students looks at me and says they don’t want to go home because they love school.  It’s moments like those that still inspire me to teach.

What is your favorite lesson plan that you’ve taught this year? 
I did a thematic unit at Christmas time about holidays around the world and I had so much fun learning alongside my students about a variety of countries and how they celebrate Christmas or another winter holiday.  We took several trips around the world to various countries such as Italy, France, Mexico, Germany, Sweden, and England.  We learned what the children do during the holidays and how families celebrate together.  The most fun was learning what the Santa figure is in those countries and how he delivers gifts.  I had an absolute blast bringing in other cultures and learning how to say Merry Christmas in six other languages!  It really made me step back and smile when I saw my kids attempting to say “Merry Christmas” in another language and watching them tell the other classes how other people celebrate Christmas around the world.  Overall that was by far my favorite lesson from this year!
I used the Christmas Around the World Scrapbook by Sarah Cooley from Teachers Pay Teachers.

How are you handling your work/life balance?

This has by far been the most difficult part of being a first year teacher.  I have been so swamped with school stuff that most days I don’t stop working until my head hits the pillow at night.  On top of school, I’ve also been planning my wedding which is so much fun but a huge undertaking.  Most days I feel like I’m acrobat trying to balance school, wedding planning, and life.  I’ve made it a point to take a little time in the morning or at night to have some quiet time and really just spend time reading my Bible and being still.  My faith in our everloving God is the reason that keeps me going.  I know that no matter how tough and stressed I get, I know that God is always there to hear my concerns and loves me so deeply through it all.  I give him all the glory for this first year of teaching!
What advice do you have for other teachers?  
One piece of advice that I have for other teachers especially at the elementary level is to keep your kids active in the classroom.  I’ve found a website that my students and I LOVE!!! It’s called GoNoodle and it has a variety of videos to help get the wiggles out and to also have fun.  I love using the stretching in the mornings to get the kids calm and focused.  Some of the dancing videos are our favorites if we’ve been sitting for quite some time. All in all, its an awesome FREE website that I highly recommend. 
I would say to the veteran teachers to remember why you wanted to teach and keep that in the front of your thoughts when you hear about all the changes that are taking place during this day and age.  Another thing that older teachers should remember is how to step out of their comfort zone and try something new like incorporating more technology into their everyday lessons or having the students be more creative with their projects and how they present.  Technology can be such a scary thing for most veteran teachers but I know that there are plenty of teachers like myself who would be more than willing to lend a hand to teach them how to use it in the classroom. 
All in all, I would have to say to any aspiring teacher or veteran teacher is that teaching is such a rewarding and prestigious profession but we have to make the effort to find the good in the little things every day in order to see the long term outcomes in the future.

Thanks for reading!  

You can connect with Hannah on social media here:
Facebook: Hannah Leib
Pinterest: Hannah Leib
Instagram: @hleib

Sunday, February 14, 2016

5 Reasons I Love Teaching

This Valentine's Day weekend has been delightful so far.  My honey sent me a DELICIOUS Edible Arrangement to school for a surprise on Friday and we celebrated at our favorite BBQ joint down in the city - Rub's Backcountry Smokehouse.  If you're ever in Chicago, trust me, this is a must-eat.  Not, it's not downtown in the hubbub of the touristy things, but it's worth a little drive north!

But today I wanted to jump on the blog to share the love I have for teaching.  Honestly, this time of year can get really tiring and downright depressing, so I'm challenging myself to reflect on why I love this job (even though seriously, it's so cold every morning I wake up, all I want to do is STAY UNDER THE COVERS FOREVER).

1.  The Kids
This one is probably obvious, but they are always the ones that make my day.  Even when they're being a huge pain!  As most of you know, I teach 10th and 12th grade and at this stage in their lives, I feel like there are so many shaping, poignant moments that they endure and I love being someone that is either there for them personally or simply providing classwork that is inspiring, engaging, and challenging them to really think about the decisions they are making day in and day out.

2.  I'm My Own Boss
Let's ignore, for a moment, our principals, division heads, and the powers that be at Common Core and other institutions - most days, I relish the autonomy of my profession.  This is something that I need to remind myself of because I can take it for granted.  I get to be creative all the time and I think I'd die without that.  In so many other jobs, employees have their days scheduled by other people.  Teachers?  We decide how our lessons run and how our days are structured.  The more I remind myself of this the more I realize how important it is to use that power positively.  With the power to structure, I also have the power to shape the tone of the day - for better or for worse.

3.  My Team
I have to give a huge shout out here to my team!  I have the most amazing group of teachers that I get to work with, and they make my job even better.  These guys are so open to my crazy ideas and we are so good at supporting one another through the tough times with kids.  Our team invents and reinvents new lessons and units every year and refuses to settle for what worked last year.  Our kids are always different and we are always trying to make our content relevant and challenging for each new group of students.

4.  Building Community
Being part of a school is like being part of a family.  I've only worked at one school, so I guess I'm not sure if this applies everywhere, but my school treats me as one of their own.  I've taught siblings and sat through parent conferences with entire families through all of their children.  I get invited to quinceaneras and baby showers.  When I go to football games, there are hundreds of students and alumni that I know.  It's amazing how small the job can feel in my living room grading papers, and then how enormous it is when I count how many lives I've been able to be a small part of.

5.  The Stuff I Teach!
Finally, I have to celebrate my content.  I love teaching English.  In a given year, I get to cover everything from creative writing (fiction, poetry, screenwriting) to dystopian literature to service learning research projects vested in social justice and even a little Shakespeare.  And the icing on the cake?  Getting to use creative problem solving to make it allllll fit together.  It's a delicious journey and I'm so glad that I found my calling.

What do you love about teaching?  I hope to hear from you!