Ice cream before dinner…why, yes!

Ice cream before dinner…why, yes!

I found out at the beginning of June that I wouldn’t be teaching at CCHS next year because I don’t hold an endorsement that allows me to teach Webpage Design and Programming classes and those are two classes that will be offered next year.  I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t disappointed.  I was disappointed.  And, a lot.  I live right by my high school and I drive past it almost every single day.  To be honest, it just sucks (and sometimes you face these types of challenges on the way up the mountain of life).  I loved my job, and more than anything I loved inspiring my students.  I’m going to let my guard down a little bit more than normal in this post, and it will probably humanize me more to others and show you that life really is like climbing a mountain.  Just when you think your hard work, dedication, and passion will pay off that may not actually be the case (at least, not at the time when you think it should be.)  I poured my heart and soul into this last semester at CCHS (not to impress anyone), but because it’s part of my spirit.  I love giving back and that’s just what I chose to do at the high school by volunteering at the robotics competition, judging the high school talent show, passing out pizza to the freshman class, chaperoning prom, coordinating a backpack drive, and attending the Multicultural Festival as well as participating in it by going to each table to learn more about other countries. It was certainly a fully-filled adventure that I had (and a learning experience, too)!

I am strong though, so I knew I could and would move on (and that’s just what I did.)  I decided the evening I found out and the next to begin the process of cleaning out my classroom.  I didn’t want to waste any time getting it done. After all, I had so much in my classroom from team building games I created, a Food Truck auctioning project we did, risk management games we played, and the like.  But, one thing about cleaning my classroom was that it actually was a bit therapeutic.  I decided to clean out my classroom and then as an adult I chose to drown myself in some delicious ice cream before dinner. Yes, you read that correctly. I wanted (and probably needed) something to make myself feel better about what would come next.  That would be the ever so dreaded task of job searching.  One of the things I think I might hate most in life.  After all, I have 221 cover letters in my ‘Cover Letter’ folder on my jump drive and that isn’t even all of them.  I have been searching for jobs in my life more than I would like to even think about.  After all, my professional career is something I have dreamed about ever since I was a little adopted Indian girl.  It is something I have always taken great pride in.  And so, while my professional life certainly has been more like climbing a mountain, it has always taught me a lesson.  That lesson is that somehow everything seems to work out and that’s something I can rest assured about even if it does mean moving on to something new and different.  Remember, life isn’t easy, but it does provide lessons that we can learn from and carry with us through life.

Now that I have eaten my ice cream and packed up my classroom, it’s time to move on to what’s next.  And, there is always going to be something next (when and where is TBD).  So, now you can translate this into your own life’s adventures, the ups and the downs, and remember that moving on after disappointment is key to picking yourself back up and being better than you were before.

The cherry on top of my ice cream is that on my very last day one of my students from spring semester came up to talk to me.  I told him that I wasn’t rehired and that I wouldn’t be back at CCHS next year. He said, “I’m going to miss seeing you next year.”  He is one of those students that always said, “Hi, Mrs. Jamieson” in the hallways and always interacted with his teachers.  As he walked away after I told him good luck at his SkillsUSA competition that was coming up he said, “I liked having you as a teacher, Mrs. Jamieson.”

~jj

Is it possible to add more to your plate?

Is it possible to add more to your plate?

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There’s so much to be said about making it to the other end of the tunnel at the end of the year, at least most teachers can relate to this!  I loved every minute of being back at my old high school as a teacher.  It was a new challenge, a new learning experience, and more than that a new way to give back to my community and the people in it.  I must say not only did I survive happily through the exhaustion, chaos, and craziness of the school year, but I managed to do a few side projects as well.  After all, life is supposed to by crazy busy, right?!

I finished my #ProjectKindnessBook which is titled Giving Back: Lessons from an adopted immigrant on why a happy life is about helping others, eloped to Ireland, and coordinated a backpack drive in my local community to help students in need.  I was so excited to have lots of my own projects to do this summer including sort pictures, which has been on my ‘to do’ list for ages.  And, then I was asked to serve as the community member for the SIU Carbondale Homecoming Committee which is where I do a lot of my volunteer work aside from other misc. volunteer projects I get myself roped up in!  I pondered it for the night, curiously cautious about whether I wanted to give more free time.  A lot of it over summer.  I thought to myself how the heck can I be signing up to give my time to another project?  It’s summer and I need to catch up on MY life. And then, I realized just how extremely selfish that is and was to think.  I have so much more than the average person and the ability and control to always add more too my plate if I prioritize my projects correctly and use my time wisely.  And, you have that same exact power!  You can add more to your plate than you probably ever thought or realized.  You can seek projects to get involved, find ways to give back by fulfilling disparities within your community, and realizing that life is bigger than you and your life, but about what you can do for others.  At the moment, I felt like I needed some rest and relaxation after being a full-time beginning teacher, being newly married, writing a book, and then I remembered that my rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation in life comes from giving back and doing things for others in my ‘spare’ time.  I use spare time loosely because I don’t seem to allow too much of that in my life.  (Though, don’t let me deceive you, I plan on having a few fun days this summer with family and friends, enjoying the local wineries, and spending time with my husband – who usually helps along with the crazy projects I commit to and doesn’t get annoyed by all the extra time I spend doing things for others.)

The moral of the story isn’t that I make myself do good things or make myself give back or make myself have a passion for my community.  It isn’t that I am this phenomenal person who is selfless.  It’s just that giving back has become second nature to me in life.  I have gotten so used to it being part of my life and who I am.  It’s become my passion.  I challenge you to join me with your pictures of giving back.  Use these when you tag your pictures: #BeKind, #GiveBack, #HelpOthers, and #ProjectKindnessBook.

~jj

Diversity can change the world!

Diversity can change the world!

If you know me, you know I love diversity.   The first time I remember heavily considering and thinking about diversity is in 8th grade when I begged my mom to move high schools so I could be in a more diverse district filled with lots of ethnicities and different cultural experiences.

I love diversity because I love what it brings to my life, and more than anything I love what it teaches me.  Similarly, I remember as we headed to Ireland to elope that I recall how noticeable the diversity was in London and Dublin.  From the waiters and staff that helped with our wedding to the many people that we met, the vacation was filled with Muslims, Indians, Americans, Romanians, and many others.

These experiences have further reminded me how much I appreciate and love to be immersed in projects and opportunities that expose me to people and students with different opportunities, educational backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, and experiences.

I hope others are able to learn and appreciate those they are surrounded by and the communities in which they live.  It is so easy to judge those who are different, but I personally prefer to learn from them, and I hope you do, too!  We can learn why they do things the way they do, why they wear the clothing they do, what their religion means to them, how their journey brought them to where they are now, and so on.

Back to the whole high school story which is what set me on my path of wondering about diversity.  We eventually moved and I loved my new high school that had so much more diversity, my alma mater, and where I now have the privilege of working.  I once again was lucky enough to witness the diversity at prom.  I realized how lucky I am to be in a place that offers so much diversity and experiences for me to grow.

It is so easy to judge those that are diverse or different than us, but I hope at some point we learn to embrace them because of the many great things they can teach us.  I challenge you to think about this next time you are helping someone from a different culture, someone that isn’t like you, or someone that may be far different than you are used to.  All the diversity we see and have among us is what brings people together to invent new things, find new cures, expand community projects, teach our students, and ultimately to change the world!

~jj

Finding meaning among structured chaos!

Finding meaning among structured chaos!

This new adventure at my old high school has proven to be a very fun one.  I love getting involved and supporting the students.  The atmosphere is awesome and that’s probably what I love most about being there.  There are great ways to give back and that’s what I find really cool about it.  I have the opportunity to impact the lives of young high school students and that’s pretty remarkable.  I have the chance to inspire, motivate, and encourage them to follow their dreams and find something they are extremely passionate about.

Since joining the CCHS team, I have helped at a robotics competition (which I knew very little about), volunteered to judge our school’s talent show, and on a more personal level I have begun working on a project to collect backpacks for Carbondale students who cannot afford them.

I have learned that some things work really well in the classroom and some ideas don’t come to fruition the way I anticipate them to.  I have taken notes and written pointers, hoping to improve projects and activities for next year.  I have gotten to know my students much more, and that’s something I really enjoy.  Beyond the quizzes, handouts, projects, presentations, and work that I do with my class, I hope I leave a small imprint upon their life that inspires them to go out into the world and do something for others – to give back, be kind, and be willing to offer a helping hand to someone else.  I hope I inspire my students in ways that help build their self-esteem and confidence.  More than anything, I want my students to know they can come to me when they need a listening ear.  After all, teachers are not only there to teach their students, but to motivate them, mentor them, and offer positive reinforcement along the way.

I challenge teachers who feel stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted (which I do!) to remember to channel the reason why you entered the profession to begin with.  You have the power to do so much in your classroom.  While there are benchmarks to make, topics that have to be covered, and work that has to be completed, remember that your students need you.  They need your support, kindness, and help because while you’re pushing papers around and doing work, you are also shaping a person.  We, as educators, have the ability to change a student’s life!

As this second semester wraps up, be sure to consider your role in your students’ lives and in the community.  As a new high school teacher, I feel a bit overwhelmed, at times lost, and sometimes surrounded by structured chaos.  Sometimes adding more stress, more projects, more chaos, or more anything seems impossible, but it is actually always possible. With a wedding in less than a month (that has turned into something far bigger than I wanted or anticipated), the publication of my #ProjectKindnessBook, and planning meaningful lessons, I feel like my life is zigzagging in lots of directions.  Some days I feel defeated, but I keep swimming.

~jj

Will I sink or will I swim as I teach?

Will I sink or will I swim as I teach?

It feels very appropriate to be writing a new blog entry now that I have officially survived my first week in a new chapter of life.  My new chapter was opened last week when I started my position as a Business Teacher at my old high school (Go Terriers!).  It’s also my first ‘snow day’ due to freezing rain, which I am thankful for because it gives this new teacher a chance to play catch up!

I have found myself sitting at my desk each day during my plan period trying to keep up with the endless grading.  Not only during my plan period, but at every spare moment – morning, afternoon, and evening – I find myself grading, planning lessons, or doing something that revolves around teaching and inspiring my students.  I leave school and find myself working at home planning lessons, and trying to keep my head above the water that seems to be inching ever closer.  After just a week, I have found that I love working with my students, I am getting used to my schedule, and I am starting to find a rhythm that I hope works for me.  That doesn’t change that I am still at the very beginning of this chapter, and I still feel as though I am swimming, paddling, and kicking my legs in the water to keep my head above it.  I know other beginning teachers, seasoned teachers, and even retired teachers can relate to how I am feeling.

As I was grading, and grading, and grading some more I was beginning to become overwhelmed and exhausted by it.  I was also getting a little sick of it because the piles seemed like they were never ending.  My ‘To be graded’ and ‘To be entered’ folders always seem full and I’m not giving an overabundance of homework or class assignments (nothing more than other teachers in my department or in the building, in general).

Then I realized something as I was sitting at my desk grading papers.  This wasn’t just endless grading.  It was meaningful information.  In fact, it was great information because my students were teaching me.  Students included things I didn’t expect in their assignments, made inferences I was amazed by, and allowed me to learn something new.  I have come to recognize that I not only love my students, but I also love what grading has given to me.  They are actually teaching me a lot when I grade their assignments, things about the world, sports, and life.  For example, I was reading one student’s research on computer programming jobs and he had said that the computer programming field is actually declining.  He said that the job outlook is not good and I was surprised by this.  I actually thought computer programming would be a rising field since so many things revolve around technology and computers.  On another occasion, a student taught me that wrestling is a year round sport.  I haven’t watched a lot of wrestling and it was surprising to me.  I learned something new from him!  That was pretty cool, and it was something I wouldn’t have known if my student hadn’t shared that with me.

I am sharing this because if we think outside of the box and color outside of the lines we may be surprised by what we see or learn.  It allows us to see things from another person’s perspective, appreciate life more fully, and understand why we do what we do.  Why we do something (such as grade papers) may seem obvious, but if we think of it in a different context we are able to see that it can be more than just grading.  It can be a learning experience.  We often go through life doing our job tasks mindlessly because they have become mundane and repetitive.  I hope this helps you put things in perspective and find new ways to bring meaning to your own life whether you’re a teacher, social worker, electrician, construction worker, or film director.  We can all find ways that our job provides meaning.  This is precisely what my #ProjectKindnessBook is about.

Oh, and by the way, I will most definitely be swimming during this chapter, not sinking, even if I have to kick and paddle the entire way!

~jj

Share Your Joy!

Share Your Joy!

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Tis’ the season to remember that Christmas isn’t a happy, cheerful, fun, and joyous time for all.  Some find this time of year to be extremely hard due to loss, stress, anxiety, financial strain, or internal struggles that many of us may not even be able to see.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the holiday lights, the music, and the lovely Christmas and New Year’s festivities, forgetting the many people that have no one to share the season with, or don’t feel the happiness that others feel throughout the season.  There are kids that won’t have presents under the tree on Christmas morning, people suffering from depression and anxiety, divorced parents that must share the holiday with their ex-spouse, and endless situations that create anger, sadness, and uneasiness.

Remember that you have the ability to change that for someone. You can use your joy to help put a smile on the faces of others.  Smile at those who are hurting to give them hope and strength that shows them you care.  After all, your smile may be the best part of their day.  Consider changing the way you celebrate Christmas by decreasing the amount you do in your own family so that you can help give to another family.  Further, be willing to reach out and help strangers by delivering cookies, gift certificates, or presents to a family in need.  You could help someone putting air in their tires, a shopper who can’t reach groceries on the top shelf, or holding doors for senior citizens.  Be sure to also show a little extra appreciation this time of year to those in the customer service field, including retail workers and food service employees who work tirelessly and endlessly throughout the season (often at very low wages) to ensure that others are able to create special memories with their loved ones. (I speak from experience on this one!)

As you wrap up the holiday week, please keep in mind all those that may be suffering.  Those are the people we desperately need to reach out and offer a hand to.  It can be as simple as a smile, or as elaborate as offering to give to those in need.  After all, there are many people that struggle to even meet their basic needs this time of year and all year long.

So my challenge and hope is that by reading this you choose to use my #ProjectKindnessBook to spread YOUR cheer this holiday season.  Your cheer could be the difference in someone’s life; even if you only change one life this holiday season, that is better than none.  Happy Christmas with love and hugs from me to you!  May 2017 be the year of spreading kindness to strangers.

~jj

Make #GivingTuesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday an everyday thing!

Make #GivingTuesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday an everyday thing!

There are lots of organizations, big and small, all around the world that would LOVE to receive a donation from you this #GivingTuesday.  I got at least five or more emails asking for donations today.  I usually give donations to big and small companies or organizations throughout the entire year, but more times than not my time and money goes to local initiatives and events.  I do on occasion reach out to larger organizations because I like helping both in some capacity, even if it’s a very, very small amount it can make a profound impact.  Kind of like being a teacher, while you may only work with a student for thirty minutes, one hour, one day, one month, or one year, the way you approach and work with that student can leave a footprint on their life forever.  It’s the beauty of teaching, giving quality service to others, listening to those around you, and reaching out to those in need – you have the power to make a difference in the life of someone else.  And, to me, that’s pretty cool!

One thing I chose to do this year for the holidays was to give money to the Shawnee Hills Arts Council when I ran their Reindeer 5k to provide additional funding to performing, visual, and literary arts.  Not only was it a great way to give back to a local organization, but it also fell on #SmallBusinessSaturday which is a vital day for many small businesses and communities that depend on that economic boost each year.  It is so easy to order from online retailers where the prices may be a few dollars cheaper, but those few extra dollars you might spend at your local toy store, pet shop, or restaurant really boost your local economy and help money stay in the area.

Another donation I am planning to give this holiday season is my hair – literally!  It is almost time for me to head to the chopping block so that I can donate at least eight inches of hair to a woman in need.  This is something that you can give no matter what time of year.  You can make the commitment to grow your hair out without coloring it to send to an organization that will help change the lives of others.

You can do similar things in your local area to keep your economy thriving.  #GivingTuesday and #SmallBusinessSaturday aren’t just once a year if you make the commitment to help improve your local economy – volunteer, buy local goods, go to your Farmer’s markets, eat at your local restaurants, and make a commitment to helping with events, initiatives, and activities in your area.  After all, your local economy depends on your support and willingness to make a difference in the many lives and communities in which you are a part of.

~jj

A new year of kindness!

A new year of kindness!

I just turned 29, which matters for a few reasons, but not for the reasons you might think.  It wasn’t really all about celebrating me, or eating lots of birthday cake.  Instead it was about completing my first full year of my #ProjectKindnessBook goal.  I have a picture of each random act of kindness for the 28 things I did to help change the lives of others throughout the previous 12 months.  I didn’t post very many of them on social media, and I didn’t count the things I did for friends or family as random acts of kindness.  In fact, I actually took the pictures to keep myself accountable and to serve as a reminder of the positive actions I have the ability to do for strangers and people I barely know.

Not only was it a time to wrap up my year of 28 random acts of kindness, but it also meant it was time to start my year of 29 random acts of kindness. It has helped remind me to give more, take less for granted, help strangers, and cherish what I am able to do for others.  My year of 28 random acts of kindness proved to be a bit difficult at times, probably because it was my first year.  My #ProjectKindnessBook initiative was a new thing for me and I wasn’t sure what type of random acts to do that would keep it anonymous.  By the end I had so many different ideas of what I could do, including an overabundance of ideas to use this year.  I now have many ideas on how I can give to strangers without identifying myself to get recognition or credit.

With only a few weeks into my year of 29 random acts of kindness I am farther ahead than I would have anticipated at this point.  The random acts I do are almost always for individuals and families rather than donations to causes or organizations because I hope to touch the heart of everyday people in the world – people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, gender, and race.  My year 29 random acts of kindness will have a minimum of 29 different things I do, but by the looks of it thus far I will probably far outreach my goal which is a great thing.  That makes me happy because it means I am spreading more random acts of kindness out into the world.  I hope others will join me on my journey of giving back and spreading kindness all around us and throughout the world – no matter where you live.  Happy sprinkling random acts of kindness wherever you are!  View my Project Kindness page or visit my previous post What is #ProjectKindnessBook? to learn more.

~jj

How my students changed my life!

How my students changed my life!

I remember how frustrated, angry, and even depressed I felt about my lack of success with finding a job in my field.  It was consuming my life as well as how I felt about my life.  At times, I even let it impact my mood and happiness.  After spending six years in college, I felt like finding a job would come more naturally since I was applying for hundreds and hundreds of jobs everywhere–literally all around the world.

I knew I had to do something.  I was getting stressed and unsettled from my continuous and never-ending job search.  One day, I came across a position at a school as a Playground Supervisor.  It didn’t fit my education or work background (at all), but I thought it would at least be a start.  Nothing else seemed to be working and while it wasn’t the job I dreamed of or even thought I wanted, it did seem like something I could adapt to.  It would give me a somewhat routine schedule and get my foot into a new arena.  I would have a new challenge to chase (whether good or bad)!

I got the job as the Playground Supervisor which allowed me to be entertained by second and third graders for a few hours a day.  I knew I wanted more hours, but tying shoes, listening to stories, and getting countless hugs changed me.  I kind of liked this whole “being in a school” thing even if it was chaotic.  Plus, it was a start in the right direction.  Maybe it would lead to a new opportunity.

Eventually I was able to become full-time at the school as a Reading Aide.  While it didn’t compensate me based on my educational level (since I don’t have an elementary teaching degree), I grew to like it (for the most part).  As the full-time Reading Aide, I got to cherish many moments with students that often have very unstable home environments.

These students have changed my life.  It might sound crazy to most, but they have changed my life in such a wonderful way. They bring a smile to my face every single day at school.  I recently was out eating lunch and I hurried inside to get in line.  All of a sudden I felt someone grab around my waist.  It was a young boy who had weaved his way through a line of customers to be sure that he came to say, “Hi, Miss. Jamieson” and to give me a hug because nothing makes a young third grader more excited than to be able to see and talk to someone from their school outside of the normal school environment.

I also have a student that I know has faced a lot in his life so far and he is only eight years old.  I developed a great rapport with this student and he began to always want to talk to me at recess.  He told me about his life and I listened, always without judgment, but rather I felt sadness in my heart.  He is now in third grade and he still likes to talk to me and work with me one on one.  For some reason, he has found comfort in working with me at school.  The other day I saw him and I said, “Good Morning, XXXXX.”  His schedule and my schedule changed at school so I don’t work with him as much as I did last year, but I said, “I miss working with you this year, XXXXX.”  He smiled and said, “I miss working with you, too, Miss. Jamieson.  They just had to go and change my schedule to where I don’t get to be in your group this year.”

Their stories inspire me to help them learn and to be a listening ear when they need one.  While I often have no idea about the things they are facing at home, I want them to always know that I care.  After all, I have come to love the kids.  These stories and countless others are the reasons why my students have changed my life. They have added to it in so many amazing ways and for that I am grateful.  I don’t know how long this “working at a school” journey will last, but I know at the moment it feels like just the right place to be.

~jj

Thinking beyond the obstacles!

Thinking beyond the obstacles!

My fiancé and I have been working on applications to teach in South Korea or some other place in the world (location will depend on what kind of teaching contracts we can find and negotiate).  It is a long and daunting process, but an incredible learning opportunity if we can make it come to fruition.  It will provide an experience in which we will be forced to think outside of the box, learn about another culture, and reach beyond our own horizons.  This is an adventure that is different than what is considered the “typical” life plan, but an opportunity that can provide an exceptional way to think beyond the American culture that we have both become accustomed to.

So often we follow on a path that society tells us to take or encourages us to follow.  We go to school, go to college (if you’re lucky enough to be able to afford it), get married, buy a house, and have kids. Typically, we are required or encouraged to work for 30-35+ years for some type of company (or companies) to support ourselves.  It may sound perfect to some, or even to most.  The problem is this isn’t always the reality of the chapters that life presents.  For starters, this plan isn’t for everyone. Some people change jobs endlessly throughout their life while others don’t want to follow the typical plan society has set forth. Regardless of how you feel, whether you like society’s plan or want to pave your own new path, life will present challenges and obstacles no matter whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, male or female, gay or straight, and race doesn’t matter either.

That’s because life has a way of being an adventure that is sometimes fun and sometimes not so fun.  It should be a reminder that you can plan your life or schedule as much as you want, but planning life can often leave you disappointed.  It rarely follows plans and always includes obstacles, challenges, and hurdles, most of which give us the opportunity to learn and grow.

So as we set out on this teaching adventure abroad, we most definitely will need to remember that the cultural and language differences will at times present challenges we will have to overcome.  But, that’s life.  We must all remember to put one step in front of the other and move forward despite life’s obstacles.

~jj

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