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"Never Lose Your Sense of Wonder"

Do you ever feel like you get stuck in a rut? Like you have been burning the candles from both ends to no avail? Me too, y'all! As an educator, I feel like I had been running a marathon at full speed for the past three years. A marathon where there are flaming asteroids, stampeding dinosaurs, and fire balls to dodge from every direction. During the "Days of Doom" (that I refer to as pandemic teaching), I felt like I kept my head low and tried to push through the many obstacles that were thrown at teachers during that time. Don't get me wrong, though; there is nothing wrong with surviving! However, I felt so uninspired, so uncreative, and I lacked the energy to pursue my passions. I didn't feel like my usual happy-go-lucky, energetic self. I was tired all the time and simply trying to balance teaching, grad school, being a wife, a friend, and more. I quickly realized that something had to give...I had to get my spark back!

Flashforward to last year...I applied to be in a program called Teachers as Leaders. I had heard great things about this year long professional development that my district offered. I heard it would transform my life as a teacher! I was SO excited to be pouring back into me. During this year of my life, I learned SO incredibly much about leadership. But most importantly, I learned that the first person you have to lead well is yourself! The theme that the PD focused on during my cohort was "joy" and BOY was it a joyful experience for me. I got my spark back! I took many of the ideas I learned during my professional learning and applied it to my classroom. I can truly say that last year was probably one of the BEST years of all my years in teaching. But what changed? I learned to lead myself well. I planned experiences for my students that brought excitement and enthusiasm for learning back into the classroom. I taught my students to master their mindset; something I had learned during this leadership experience. I noticed a ripple effect begin to happen; I was sharing ideas and positivity with other teachers around me. I bloomed where I was planted- but I had to "take a few weeds" out of my mental garden. I had to learn to retrain my brain to see the silver lining- to lead a life of gratitude. That made all the difference for me.

Flashforward to THIS year and I am truly thriving with a real sense of purpose. I'm a sucker for a New Year's Resolution. There is something about reflecting on your growth and dreaming BIG. I created a vision board for myself this year that revolved around one word: EXPLORE. I am taking this year to explore all aspects of myself: my interests, hobbies, passions, and learning what excites me! One of the first things I did for ME this year was signing myself up for the University of Georgia's annual Children's Literature Conference (held in March). I got to meet one of my FAVORITE children's book authors, Carole Boston Weatherford. It has always been a dream of mine to write children's books! Ever since I was a child, I have loved writing creatively. As an educator, it is still one of the areas that gives me all the fuzzy feelings to pass onto my own students. I signed up for an author's workshop with Carole and learned so much of her writing process. It was ~magical~ to say the least.

You, too, may have lost your spark somewhere along the way. You may feel like you are coasting aimlessly, with no real sense of purpose. And let me tell you, that's a hard space to be in. I truly believe each of us on this Earth has a purpose; which I feel is why so many people feel depression, anxiety, and sadness when they do not feel that they are actively living out their purpose. I am here to tell you, from an educator's perspective, that you can get your spark back. But the number ONE thing you MUST do is lead yourself well. For me, that meant trying new things with my students that was refreshing. It meant having FUN and focusing on the simple joys of life. Other times it meant getting outside of my comfort zone and facing the unknown! I created a teacher Instagram - @whimsyinelementary to share my love of teaching and to be a positive light to others. This was truly something new that I was trying and this endeavor has been very fulfilling and something I enjoy doing. I had to invest in me FIRST, which helped me to be a blessing to others. I had to figure out what gave me energy, brought me joy, and KEEP on doing those things.

So, what brings you joy? What makes you feel alive? It's okay if you don't know. Go explore. Go live life. Go experience new things. Learn to sit in the quiet of your own thoughts. Training my mind to practice gratitude and contentedness is a journey that I am still on, but it is a journey I choose to travel each day. Choose to pursue the magic in life; it's out there if you choose to find it!


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