Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hello 2019!

While today is the official first day of the new year, I really see it as the transition day before the real kick off to the new year. Many of us return to work tomorrow and for the most part we'll all be jumping right back in.

So today we laze about, consider our goals for the year, and get ready to act on them tomorrow. Like everyone else, I have some goals in all the big categories - family/relationships, health, financial, professional development, personal development, and, of course, my yearly book goal (42 books in 2019). However, my inspiration to write this post is not about sharing my resolutions or presenting big, lofty goals. This is more of me keeping it real and speaking it into my new year. Bring on the 365 stories and opportunities that will fill the pages of my book.

So what do I want in 2019?
  • To keep exploring and stay curious
  • Embrace big and small adventures 
  • Learn from the difficult  
  • Try some new things 
  • Fail (okay, truth be told I don't really want to fail or have things not go my way, but I can accept that it will happen more than once this year and there is growth in that)
  • Know when to ask for help
  • Love up on my family 
  • Be there for my students
  • Make time for what's important 
  • Remember that silence is not always golden and we must speak up when it matters
  • Spread the positive
  • Be at peace with being an imperfect parent who's trying and leading with love. 
  • Never lose sight of who I am 
  • Strive to improve and grow every day
  • Don't let anyone limit or define me
  • Know that I am enough
  • Slay
And to wholeheartedly embrace my one word for 2019 in all aspects of my life.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Until Next Year PoCC....

On the eve of my re-entry after PoCC, I write my final conference post. First of all, thank you PoCC family for a wonderful reunion, for filling my bucket, and for continuing to breathe life into me. I drew so much knowledge, energy, and inspiration from our days together. We often talk about the importance of self-care and let me tell you, coming to PoCC is Self-care with a capital S. As a parent, I try to help my son understand the difference between needs and wants. PoCC is a need. It helps recharge the batteries and centers me in a way that allows me to keep doing the work.

Now that we are all returning to our schools, we must continue to think about how we can help move our schools forward in their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. Now, let me clarify that this charge is not the sole responsibility of the educators from marginalized backgrounds. We need everyone invested in the work. The help we can offer is by sharing our truths, our experiences, and our lens. We need to be, as Marian Wright Edelman said, "strategic fleas and good pests" when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work. So what can schools start (or continue doing)?

Schools can:
  • Look in the mirror at themselves and say, how can we do better? And then start doing better. 
  • Dedicate institutional resources to this work (i.e. time, money, space). Priorities are shown by where we put our resources.
  • Demonstrate the administration's support by moving from the opt-in DEI professional development to a mandatory model which means whole school accountability. 
  • Knowing that students who experience a true sense of belonging in their school communities have positive social and academic outcomes means questioning what in our schools inhibits students' sense of belonging. We need to make sure we are intentional about fostering a sense of belonging for each student. (NMH's Stephanie Harris and Thérèse Collins session gave us the definition of belonging as "a sense of community and acceptance a student feels in school". Brené Brown states "fitting in is about being accepted for being like everyone else, belonging is about being accepted for being yourself.")
  • And to quote Dr. Hill in his closing keynote speech, schools need to know that "it is nothing for us to have a inclusive community aesthetically and demographically if the core of the institution still looks the same."
Finally, in our final affinity group session, we were asked to think about what kindness we need to show to ourselves and what kindness can we ask others to do for us.

Me to Me
  • Just breathe
  • Make sure to prioritize my needs (i.e. put on my oxygen mask first)
Kindness others can do for me
  • Please do the work to educate yourselves. There are plenty of really helpful articles, books, podcasts, videos, professional development opportunities. We use these types of resources when honing our craft in our academic disciplines so we can grow our knowledge, strengthen our practice, and address our gaps. The same approach works when it comes to DEI work. 
  • Go from ally to accomplice. What that means is "an ally will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. An accomplice will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group--and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group." (Colleen Clemens, "Ally or Accomplice: The Language of Activism" Teaching Tolerance, June 5, 2017, https://bit.ly/2Sqrnmm)
  • See me
Looking forward to reuniting with everyone next year in Seattle for PoCC 2019! Until then, be a powerful force for positive change and keep keeping it real.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Power of Words at POCC

I have a confession.

While I meant every word of my first blog post of the conference, I wasn't necessarily feeling my own words. It actually took walking into the Grand Ballroom for the POCC opening ceremony for the emotion of my words to hit me. The true beauty of our family reunion POCC moved me to tears. The energy and excitement of the 6300+ POCC and SDLC attendees was palpable as we all geared up to do the work. The Tennessee State University Aristocrats of Band had everyone up on their feet as they brought down the house with their performance.

The Aristocrats of Bands' performance was only the start of something great. More greatness came as speakers dropped some serious gems on us.

Gems dropped...
"Allow students to keep shaping and shaking our school communities." - Donna Orem

"Reclaim our time, talent, treasure, and testimony." - Collinus Newsome

"We came here to be fortified, so we can go back and do the work we need to do." - Rodney Glasgow

"Now that you know, you can't pretend that you don't." - Lisa Ling sharing Oprah's advice to her

When people give us gems, we can't just sit back and admire them. We must string them together to create something new, powerful, and beautiful. Words can stay words if we let them, but what a waste that would be. We need to use these words and so many others that we hear throughout the day to fuel action and inspire change in our schools.

So my POCC family, what will you do with all the gems you hear?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

POCC - A Family Reunion

On the eve of the official launch of POCC, I can't help but feel like I've just arrived at a family reunion. The family reunion you have when you have a ginormous family and you're happy to see everyone.

After not being able to attend POCC the past two years, I couldn't wait to finally make my return. For me, POCC is about the people, the amazing energy, the connecting, and the reconnecting. POCC is personal and professional development. It's a place where we can refill our buckets. Many of us may be one of a few people of color (or the only) at our schools and that can take a toll. When I come to POCC, it's like reuniting with family. I get to walk into spaces filled with a sea of beautiful black and brown faces and I belong.

Over the next few days, Nashville's Music City Center will be home to welcome hugs, hearty laughter, old friends catching up, new friendships being built, deep conversations, knowledge sharing, and lots and lots of real talk. The learning, affirmation, inspiration, fellowship, and ability to be unapologetically yourself feeds the soul.

Throughout the conference, I'll be blogging about my experience, sharing my reflections, and bringing you along with me to my POCC family reunion.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Thanks"giving 2018

Some traditions are worth carrying on. Back in high school, we had an all school assembly right before the November break where students expressed their gratitude for the various people, places, and things in touched their life. Some sentiments were thoughtful, some were heartwarming, and some were completely nonsensical (but really who are we to judge). Either way we all looked forward to that assembly each year. It's been quite a while since high school for me, but I still carry on the Madeira School assembly tradition of giving thanks and expressing gratitude each year with post.

I am grateful for my family. We have been on many adventures together and weathered some storms, but through it all we are always there for each other. We may not be perfect and we may not always agree, but we come together when it counts and we Anyasos are definitely a force to be reckoned with.

I am grateful for the family I created. There's no manual for how to be good partners or parents and even if there was, it would be outdated as soon as it was publish. The rules are always changing and there is no one way to do it right. So we figure it out and we learn from our missteps, but most of all we keep love and each other at the center of it all.

I am grateful for having a job that is not just a job, but my purpose. I get to learn, grow, and reflect every day.

I am grateful for books. I love books and I fully admit that I have a book problem as evidenced by the talk pile of books at my bedside. I embrace the learning, windows, mirrors, and sliding doors that books give me.

I am grateful for all those things in my life from the simple to the complicated that fill me with joy, including podcasts, momcation, movies in the theater, volleyball, nonchocolate candy, quotes that really speak to me, comfort foods, reading aloud with my son, laughter, and so much more.

I am grateful for the trials and tribulations of life. We all get bumps and bruises along the way, but that does not take away from the wonderful moments we experience.

I am grateful for my imperfections because they remind me that I'm human and keep me humble. They also remind me to be kind to myself because I don't need to be perfect to be amazing.

I am grateful for my staying friends. Friends come and go. Some longtime friendships may fade and while we are glad to have been blessed with those relationships, we have to okay okay letting them go. I am grateful for the time we had together and even more for those friends have been there through and through.

I am grateful for my students - past and present. Our time together are filled with ups, downs, and all around. We may not always see eye to eye, but you challenge me in many of the best ways and I learn from you each day. It's a privilege to get to be on a part of your journey with you and I love seeing you grow, come into your own, discover your voice, explore your passions, and be at peace with just being yourself. Be bold. Be brave. Be you. Don't take your time together for granted and always make the time to take care of yourself - mind, body, and spirit.

I am grateful for community. As someone who lives far from family, I am truly grateful for those friends, colleagues, and Jack & Jill mother members who embraced me like family.

I am grateful for sunrises, sunsets, good food, good health, and good people. We only get one life and I am grateful to wake up each morning with one goal - make the most of each day and live my best life.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

"You Don't Have To Be Perfect To Be Amazing"

Sometimes you hear something that speaks life into you. It touches your head, heart, and soul. That is what the below quote did when I recently heard it for the first time from Danielle Brown, the National President of Jack and Jill of America, Inc. As someone who loves quotes, it's hard to believe that I had never heard this one before, but I digress. She spoke those words and not only did they resonate with me, it released me. It released me from how we mothers beat ourselves up for those times when we've dropped the ball, couldn't attend something, or (over)reacted instead of responded. It released me from those times as a dean when I didn't have all the answers, had a conversation go poorly, or couldn't make it to a student performance. We are so hard on ourselves that we keep letting the narrative playing in our head (on repeat) tell us that we have to do it all and do it all well. That voice is basically saying "don't screw it up." How can you live up to the societal expectations of what success looks like when it comes to your career, parenthood, marriage, and everything other role you play in your day-to-day life? How exhausting and completely unattainable. 

Let me tell you, I have forgotten to make my son's lunch the night before (and perhaps, even forgotten to pick him up from the bus stop). I have left the house with a few wrinkles in my dress and my hair out of place. I have double booked myself with meetings at work. I have mailed a birthday card late. I have picked my son up for the bus and realized that perhaps he shouldn't have been allowed to pick out his clothes that day. I could give you a laundry list of tasks on which I have fallen short, but what purpose does that really serve? All it does is leave me disappointed and feeling like a failure because it seems like everyone else has it together. Well, guess what? We need to stop the nonesense because it's not true. They don't have it all together. We are all just trying the best we can. Sometimes we mess it up, but more often than not we get it awesomely right (or more realistically, we're on the right track). In the end, we have to remember that we get to decide the narrative that's going to play in our head and frankly, "you don't have to be perfect to be amazing" is the one I'll be playing from here on out. On repeat!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Upping My Self-Care Game

I talk a pretty good self-care game and for the most part I walk my talk. The thing is that it's easier to talk a good game when you're just dealing with your "normal" busyness of life. However, when life throws you some curveballs and taps into your energy source in different ways, your go-to self-care plan may not be enough or, at least, how well you care for yourself needs to be revisited. 

I write this as I sit in the airport in Washington D.C. waiting to board the plane home from my momcation. My "normal" busyness mostly involves juggling my roles of dean, wife, mother and all that comes with that. Yes, there can be some hectic days and emotional days and down right exhausting days, but I've learned to navigate those. It's not always graceful, but it works. 

What I have come to realize is that when life happens unexpectedly, that's when your self-care plan is really tested. You must take the time to evaluate just how well you're taking care of yourself. As someone who often thinks of and tries to take of others, putting myself first when I'm trying to distract myself from my thoughts is not so simple. It's not as easy as watching Hallmark movies with a bowl of popcorn (which I do enjoy).  I realized that I had lapsed in some of my self-care practices that I really needed to employ, such as journaling,keeping up my walks, and playing volleyball. Journaling comes in handy because it always me to put my thoughts and feelings somewhere. Writing has always been a way to help me express myself and process life. Walking gets me moving outside in nature and gives me time to just breathe.Volleyball is just the best sport ever and a great way to get out aggresdion. I'm not saying that I need to abandon my movie watching or an occasional spa treatment or even my momcation. I'm saying that sometimes sitting with one's thoughts is healthier that occupying oneself in order to distract from life's challenges. Actually, the truth is the busyness isn't really a distraction because my worry about my older brother's condition and when he'll regain consciousness never leaves me. When I'm a little extra tired at the day, it's because that worry is always with me. It's not something you can shake off or ignore. So I don't. I chose when I can and can't go there. 

My momcation is about taking care of myself because I step away from the day to day busyness, make my own schedule (or not), and just do me. This year doing me looked like catching up with old friends, spending four hours at the National Museum of African American Heritage and Culture, having afternoon tea with a former student, and being able to sleep diagonally in my king size hotel bed. I didn't distract myself, I just experienced and appreciated where I was and who was with me. I traversed through the city streets in the rain and instead of complaining about my sogginess, took in the beauty of the city, reveled in the fact that it was super cold, laughed at my sogginess, and patted myself on the back for not getting lost. I filled my bucket. 

So what now as I return home? I will write. I will walk. I will connect. I will play. I will take as many hugs from my son as he'll give me. I will cry when I need to. I will laugh. I will make the time to be alone. I will talk about things when I need to talk about things. I will up my self-care game by putting myself first when necessary. Upping my game means being intentional, mindful, and remembering to just breathe.