The mountains we call life!

The mountains we call life!

As if we haven’t heard it a thousand times that life is full of highs and lows and twists and turns.  It’s something our parents tell us, our teachers told us, and something you can hear and witness every single day.  Sometimes life seems glamorous when we are young (and, it certainly is at times and most definitely more times than not!), but it isn’t always glamorous.  And, it is important to teach your children this, your students this, and all the people around you this.  It makes that fall to the ground a little bit less painful in the end.

I am a new teacher surrounded by many veterans, but we all have bad days, the ones who are new and the ones that have tons of experience.  I was recently evaluated and the class didn’t really go as planned, not at all, not even a little bit.  It was stressful, chaotic, and more than anything it felt like a bit of a failure.  That day was you guessed it…a mountain.  But then again, in life, almost every single day is going to present you with a mountain (or hill) of some kind.  It’s the reality and we must come to accept that when we plan things out in our head and they go in a complete different direction we recognize it is as a learning experience and not a failure.  Now, not all people will lead you to believe this – you may not have friends, family, bosses, supervisors, leaders, or people that believe that a loss of profit, a bad decision, or a poor evaluation is a learning experience, but it is.

My evaluation did turn into a learning experience and a lesson to stick in my pocket.  It’s one I can carry with me.  That evaluation will make me a better person even if I would like to forget about it.  This leads to the last part.  I work with a wide range of students.  Some that have family and a great home and others that aren’t sure where they will sleep that night.  Students that eat out often and others that aren’t sure when their next meal will come.  It came at just the perfect time.  Less than 24 hours later I received a note about the impact I was having on several students.

What’s the point of sharing these highs and lows?  Because it’s life.  You can translate this to your own life, job, relationships, and chaos.  Life is full of moments where you feel like you have reached the peak of the mountain and feel like you have met success, but you will also find challenges and frustrations right around the corner.

~jj

Curriculum that comes to life!

Curriculum that comes to life!

It can be a lot of work to be a teacher that truly takes the time to create ‘fun’ curriculum which to me (as a teacher) actually means meaningful curriculum that makes the topics and concepts come to life.  Books have tons and tons of definitions, topics, and concepts, but they aren’t always exciting and thrilling.  They don’t always make learning fun and often times as teachers we recognize that making learning fun is actually a lot more work.  After all, students often want things that are interactive and hands-on, but what they don’t realize is that the ‘fun’ things that teachers plan require a lot of organizing, coordinating, and most of all time.  Remember that this is the type of curriculum that helps the students retain important information, but also provides life lessons.

This past week I have done quite a bit of self-reflection on my activities and lessons in hopes of becoming a better teacher and improving my projects for future classes.  I recently planned my annual ‘Cutthroat Food Truck’ project where there is auctioning and chaos within the classroom.  It’s during my Supply & Demand Unit which makes it really fun.  There’s a shortage of ink in the marketplace so there is no printing allowed, there is an unlimited supply of white computer paper available because there is a major supplier producing it, markers are readily available and not in short supply, but due to the demand of scissors, glue, tape, and colored paper there is a limited number of premium resources available and the groups must bid to obtain these wants.  It’s quite entertaining because I do most of the auctioning while students are creating their food cart which adds an extra layer to the project.  Students must pay attention to items that are up for bid as they create and brainstorm on their food truck.  They get a set amount of ‘money’ (yes, it’s fake!) to use toward bidding on items.  They must consider whether they will bid each other up for items, trade-off items, or how they will strategize to create a cool and fun food truck.

It is quite exhausting to coordinate, organize, and implement (and a bit costly because I bring in patterned decorative tape and paper, special stickers, etc), but it turns out to be a cool project that teaches supply, demand, wants, needs, scarcity, and limited and unlimited resources.  What is most important about this project is that it brings these complex, boring economic concepts (okay, let’s be honest I am a Financial Economics major so it hurt to have to type ‘boring’ to describe those concepts, but for most students it is the reality) to LIFE!  It gives meaning and excitement to these students.

This also helps bring your students that have different learning styles and levels to an area that connects with real life.  Nearly all students can relate to some of the concepts and it puts money in their hands!  They have to figure out how to spend it efficiently or else they learn a lesson on how not to spend money (which can be equally as important)!  My point is that if you bring your lessons to life you will find so much more success in your classroom.  I will guarantee that!

This one is for my fellow teachers, economic lovers (me!), and all those that strive to make a difference in every single student’s life.

~jj

What is SUCCESS?

What is SUCCESS?

I had to laugh at myself when I typed success because I started teaching in the middle of the year (January) so I shuffled to get my classroom, lessons, and several activities ready over the two week Christmas break.  It was a lot of work to clean out someone’s classroom (who had left a lot behind) and find a way to decorate and organize it so I was ready to teach.  I wanted it to be a very inviting and comfortable atmosphere for my students.  As I completed my bulletin board one evening over break, I got the entire thing laminated, cut out, and put up when I realized I had forgotten a ‘c’ in success.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was overwhelmed with annoyance at how I had misspelled ‘success’ after being in a hurry.

Fast forward a few months and I was talking to my husband who had the question, “What is success?” asked during an interview.  I thought about it for a few moments before saying, “Making other people see the value of making the world a kinder and happier place for all.”  A bit vague, yes, and probably not what most think of when they define success, but it could mean volunteering during the busy times before schools and universities begin or giving directions and a friendly smile to someone new on campus or at school.  After all, there are a lot of new people in unfamiliar places that may need help, have questions, ask you for directions, and feel nervous and stressed about the new chapter they are beginning.

With the beginning of many new chapters for those around us, it is a great thing to consider success in this way of light.  We have lots of first-time college students, middle school/junior high students headed to high schools, young children starting school, and lots of people who are embarking on new adventures and journeys whether it be new jobs, traveling to new places, or struggling with a new diagnosis or unforeseen challenge (for some of us, it may be the unknown of a little thing called the Solar Eclipse 😉 ).  If when we see new faces at school, at work, in passing, or in our community, people took the opportunity to be welcoming and helpful it would help my ‘definition of success’ expand as more people would be helping each other.  Give directions to a stranger, smile and say hi to put a person at ease, provide exceptional service, let someone know you are happy to help if they need it, etc.  This time of year is often very stressful for many of us and we can become extremely focused on our own hectic and chaotic schedules that we may forget to help those around us.  I challenge you to help others this month as they embark on new adventures (and new challenges) so that together we create a kinder and happier world for all.

~jj

Do you like to laugh?

Do you like to laugh?

I can say with excitement that my book is NOW available…please shop local, eat local, and buy local when you can.  Support local people [artists, authors, programmers, etc], local places/businesses [computer repair shops, banks, clothing boutiques, etc], and local food options [grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets, etc].  Having said that, I truly hope you will consider buying and reading my book.  I hope you find the lessons I share to be fun, funny, and most of all inspire you to volunteer (when you can) and give back to your community and the people in it, in little ways or big ways.  While my name is on the cover of the book, the life lessons (that I have learned and shared) are thanks to the many people who have taught me something along the way.  And, here’s one of the lessons I shared in the book which I just happened to experience again this week!

This entire book process has been a new learning experience for me.  Sometimes stressful, sometimes challenging, but mostly fun because it’s a completely new realm and new learning curve and that’s pretty cool.  As a new experience, I had to learn how to go about putting together a book cover, how to buy ISBNs, where to find an editor, how to sell on a website, and now how to ship books.  I was lucky enough to have an amazing mentor who helped answer many of these questions, and for that I am truly grateful that Craig Lindvahl helped me along the way.  I had to consider:  Should I ship using the United States Postal Service?  Should I use a more specialty service such as FedEx, DHL, or UPS?  What will be most efficient for my customers?  Which would they prefer?  Or should I just buy a personal drone and ‘hand deliver’ books to my customers?  Yea right, I’m just kidding about that last one!

As I was figuring out the complexity of shipping and how to determine prices for shipping, I contacted several shipping providers to help me (or at least to request information), one being the United States Postal Service (USPS).  After all, I am a small business so I have to be realistic and efficient on my costs as well.  I called and spoke to a young man from USPS one afternoon and left a message and then for the next three weeks we played phone tag, leaving messages for each other until finally last week I got through and reached him!  What I didn’t realize is that our conversation would turn into one of the very stories that I included in the book, and it was a funny one at that!

He started talking to me about shipping with USPS, costs of shipping, how flat-rate shipping works (because shipping isn’t as easy as it may seem).  Different costs to different locations, different options, different lengths, and trying to decide what flat-rate to charge can be confusing.  The flat-rate boxes and envelopes are around $7.15 which seemed too high for customers and the lowest was around $2.75 – $3.75 for many places (which covered shipping, but not the packaging, labels, invoices, etc).  Enough about that jargon.  It was decided it would be best for me to purchase supplies and then ship from a physical USPS location.  As he was typing up info to send to me via email he asked if I had time for him to tell me a quick story.  I said sure, I had a moment to listen.  What proceeded was hilarious!

He said, “When we get customers that ask for assistance with shipping and other services through USPS, either myself or someone else that I work with in the office usually tries to get general info on what their business needs are before we call them back.”  One day, my assistant/co-worker called to give me your information and I asked have you looked her up yet and gotten general details on what she might need.  She told me she hadn’t had a chance and I said don’t worry about it, I can look her up and get what I need before I call her back.  So, I went and looked you up online and typed in ‘Jenna Jamieson’ and yea, something different came up.  I went back to your name to make sure I spelled it correctly.  Yep, I had spelled it correctly and there is a letter difference.  I said, “Yea, you got the porn star, right?  The famous porn star from the ’90s.”  I went on to say, “When I was in school, she was famous and depending on your age, you probably can recall her.”  He said, “Yea, the one letter difference still brought her up and I knew who she was.  Maybe that will actually help with your book sales.”  That’s when the laughing commenced.  I said, “Maybe you can remember me by the whiskey instead.”  You can read more about my name and it’s meaning in my book, Giving Back: Lessons from an adopted immigrant on why a happy life is about helping others.

Hope you got a few laughs out of that story!  Find more laughs and other raw emotions when you read my book!

~jj

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

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