Coaching and Wellness, faith, self improvement

Take Two Shots of Empathy and Call Me in the Morning

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In yesterday’s post I spoke of a student who leaves me letters on my desk. In one she told me her grade was unfair. I wrote her back, telling her why it was not. Then she wrote me another one which really blew me away:

Dear Ms. Frizzle, 

Okay, I do not do my sketching in my sketch book because, well, I didn’t want to tell you but… I’m POOR. I do not want you to buy me one like you offered because then it would stand out from the rest of class and that would embarrass me soooo… I can’t do my work. 

There.

Student.

If I saw this story on BuzzFeed or Up, complete with tear jerking music and photos, I’d have all the feels.

In this case, I found myself rolling my eyes. 1) I had bought 40 sketch books for my many students who could not afford it or didn’t have resources to get one.

2) She HAS a notebook! I know because I have the same one has hers, courtesy of our local Dollar Store, and I thought we had swapped them by accident. I was annoyed to go running all over campus on my break to track her butt down, only to realize my composition book was sitting on my desk all along.

You know… in plain sight.

The moral of the story is this: I have in my class, in plain sight, a student who is not the norm. She finds it easier to make stuff up to get sympathy then to take responsibility for her work. In addition, she clearly has some special needs. Both facts don’t excuse laziness, but both deserve empathy. Because somewhere in between the mess of learning issues and home issues is a kid who is scared and reaching out for attention. I can’t fix her, but I can fix my own lazy and irresponsible traits by trying my best to give her loving but firm feedback.

The End Is Near… I Think

This gig might end April 2. On one hand I’ll be grateful to have jobs closer to where I live. On the other, I’ve grown rather fond of these rag tag kids. I have gotten used to their boisterous talking, confessions about boyfriend issues, ridiculous outbursts (duck honks? oh yeah) and artwork (all equal parts horrific and genius.) I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have learned way more from them than they have learned from me. And today, despite being so tired I could pass out on this public school computer stand, I’m grateful.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #32: Empathy: It’s My Drug of Choice. Feel Free to Get Addicted Yourself!

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Are you showing empathy today? If not to others, to yourself?

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Coaching and Wellness, education, faith, self improvement, spirituality

Hypocrite in Transition: Staple That to My Cardigan!

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Just yesterday I was saying how I meditate every day. If I don’t, I’m a mess.

Today I didn’t meditate. And shock of all shocks, I was a mess this morning.

I gotta admit it, I’m TIRED. I can’t keep on top of the waves of life that are rocking me these days. Work? I can do that. Kids to doctors? I can do that. But all the other stuff like remembering market items and birthdays… being on time for meetings or slowing down with my kids to really see them in the morning and not just rush rush rush while being cranky that my husband had the audacity to fix the pockets in my jeans so I don’t look like a vintage homeless giant? I’m kind of losing the game there.

Because I don’t allow myself to get into victim mode anymore, my mornings don’t define my entire day. There’s always an opportunity to start over. How? Hint: It doesn’t involve getting other people to behave. The only way for that to happen is to right size oneself. And the only way right size wonky, upside down thinking is to get in gratitude and be of service.

I’m no mathematician, but that’s a formula that has kept me from being homicidal or suicidal for the past year and so I gladly share it with you.

Ex: Today one of my students was sitting at my desk doing a big fat nothing. “Why do you let her sit at your desk?” you might ask. The answer: “Because she’s a bit on the fringe. I keep an eye on her. I make sure she’s doing work. Which, sometimes she doesn’t. And by “sometimes” I mean “often.” Clearly this is an IEP kid who needs some extra nudging. In a class of 40 with no aid, this isn’t easy. I can only offer lack of judgement and encouragement when the energy of the class transitions from savage ingrates to mediocre feral.

Knowing her wiring, and adding in the fact that she is not spitting, licking the desktop or throwing a basketball from one table to the next (yeah, that happened once) I gave her a passing grade during progress reports. So you can imagine my surprise when she left a homemade envelope on my note. It had more staples than guards at San Quentin. On it, in my black sharpie (which she did not ask permission to use, of course) read the words “MS. FRIZZLE. READ THIS. IN PRIVATE. NOW.” It was decorated with very sad cartoon drawings which, truthfully, were way better constructed than this awkward art teacher could have done. But I digress.

On the inside was a letter that read:

Dear Ms. Frizzle. I am very very upset with you. I got a B in this class and CLEARLY I deserved an A. I am very mad at you and want to tell you how WRONG this is. L.

What could I do? I wrote her back on the same strip of paper. I sealed it with more staples, hoping they wouldn’t poke her little paws and bleed all over my freshly washed desk. It read:

Dear L: I am so glad you took the time to write me! You spell very well! I am surprised that you are sad with your B, given that 25% of your grade is participation (you do not participate) 25% is your vision board (you did not complete this) 25% is your test (you have not taken any so that was an automatic A – Congrats on your easy win!) and 25% is behavior (you rarely take out your work after multiple prompts.) When you add this up you technically deserve an F in my class. Are you willing to change some habits, and your perception, to bring your B to an A by June? Ms. Frizzle. 

The responding note I received blew me away. In a good way. And it couldn’t have happened had I not switched my own perspective. Check in tomorrow to find out!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #31: When you get centered, other people behave. It’s really that simple!

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Are you ready to stop blaming other people for what only you can do which is to center yourself? If so, sign your name to commit to the journey. (For me it was commit or be committed. I’m glad I took the first step.) Let’s support each other!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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meditation, self improvement, spirituality, Uncategorized

Fear: It’s Not a Great Spiritual Advisor (Then Why Is It On the Payroll?)

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So you’ll be tired of me saying this (or you won’t… you’ll just leave and only people interested in this topic will stay) but I pray and meditate daily. Faith isn’t something I just kind of have in the background. Instead, God is my everything. I don’t build God around my life anymore. I build my life around God.

This is not to say I’m perfect or think I have it all figured out. I do not. As my friend Ava likes to remind me, “I just don’t like to feel pain. I’ll avoid it at all costs!”This means I must take my medicine. When I take these pills in the form of a few simple steps to get out of self (hence prayer and meditation) I have a little space in between to respond rather than react. It means:

  •  I don’t have to flip off the sixteen year old driving single in the carpool lane when I’m running late to work and can’t, thanks to my damn conscious, do the same thing.
  • I don’t have to scream at 200 middle schoolers who just WON’T. STOP.TALKING simply because I was having a bad day and didn’t feel like dealing with their incessant “Can I use the bathrooms?” and “I can’t find my composition books” and “Why did I get a ‘D’ in this class… I mean… I don’t do anything, but I thought you liked me, Ms. Frizzle?!!!”
  • I can calmly listen to my husband growl at me when I’ve cut him off in conversation (when I swear to God I thought he was done with that topic 10 blocks ago) and just say, “Okay, I’m sorry.”

Prayer and meditation keep me from living in the What If’s. It allows me to live in faith, not fear. To quote my sponsor, “Fear is not a great spiritual advisor.” Fear keeps us looking to the worst case scenario. Faith keeps us in the moment. And in the moment, if we stay centered and breathe, it’s nearly impossible to not see God. I saw him today in:

  • That reckless teenage driver. “Dear God, keep him safe. That will be my boy in a few months.”
  • Those obnoxious annoying blessed middle schoolers. “Dear God, how wonderful that they have so much energy. May I learn to channel it and not squash their joy.”
  • My husband. He is dealing with a terrible personal loss. Maybe I wasn’t listening as closely as I could have been. How can I be of service and not make this about me?

I am not a saint. But I’m also not a victim. And this means I get to fire bad counselors. That means “See ya later, Fear! Your services are no longer needed.”

And guess what? If you relate to this statement, I give you permission to fire your advisor also. Let’s freelance life together!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #30: Fear is a terrible spiritual advisor. Hire yourself some faith today!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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Coaching and Wellness, meditation, self improvement, spirituality

Pain Sucks. But There’s Another Side

I used to hide my pain behind talking about people, putting myself down or drinking too much wine.

These days, I face it, I grieve and I move on. It’s so much easier. It’s so much easier, in fact, I don’t often feel pain.

No pain? How is that possible? 

For me, the answer is acceptance. Always acceptance. I don’t have to like a situation, but when I accept it, I surrender. Like in a battle, I put down my guns of defiance and anger. They weren’t protecting me anyway. If anything, they were protecting me from the other side. That “other side” being you… my fellow fighter… who seems so scary and more together than me but… when you put down your gun, too… you are just like me. A human being who suffers.

Death and Darkness

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There’s been a lot of darkness in my family lately. People dying. People ill. People sad. My immediate family, thank God, is okay. But I can’t pretend like the people around me are. That they aren’t truly hurting. It’s not easy because  I can’t take it away from them. If anything, I can only share my story if they want to hear it. Maybe they will surrender like I did to find peace. Maybe they won’t. But it’s not up to me to holler my ideas at them.  (Have you tried screaming over gunfire? It doesn’t work and you are taking the risk of best case going deaf, worse case getting maimed or killed.)

What is the Point of Pain?

Everyone has different beliefs on this. As a Christian, it makes sense to me that this Jesus character was kind of a bad ass, because he felt pain just like you and I do, but he rose above it. He left his spirit in us so we, too, could rise above it. Jesus didn’t want to face death. But in surrendering to it, God was with him during his dark times.

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To me, this is comforting. And it helps me realize that the pain of my past wasn’t in vain. I can use to help others find hope. This is good news – literally – because it means the suffering has meaning. It means I can endure the dark again because there is always light in helping others later.

pain 2

If you are going through a dark time right now, I’m sorry. I won’t preach at you. I won’t tell you to believe what I do. I won’t suggest you try some certain medication or organic llama bone crushed inside an essential oil that will make you both joyful and anchored. But I will tell you that I have been there, I got through it, and you will also.

My Greatest Teacher

I might be a teacher now by trade, but Pain will always go down as my best Professor. When I surrendered and embraced it, it taught me that I could be bitter or trust that something bigger was coming down the pike. And for me, friends, that something better is my fellows. A hand out to a new student. A compliment to the old dude handing out samples of Fig Newtons in Costco. A smile at the school secretary who deals with one million requests from hormonal middle schoolers/day.

In closing, I can pass on hope to you because someone passed it on to me. I lost… but in losing, I rose to be a better person. Pain didn’t win.

Coffee on the other hand? That wins every time.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #26: When we don’t run from pain but choose to welcome it as our greatest teacher, not only will we transform but we can use it help others transform from dark to light also. 

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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self improvement

Asking Questions. It’s My New Form of Talking

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This just in: I am talking less and asking more questions.

I’ll just let that sink in and get back to you tomorrow.

Until then, I’d love to ask you a question – and be honest: Do you listen to truly listen, or are you computing info to best formulate a comeback that proves your side of the street?

Leave a comment and we’ll talk tomorrow!

Happily Ticked Off Tip #24: We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. When I remember that, life goes along just fine!

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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education, self improvement, writing

Bad Behavior? Oh, Well. You Do You. Be Kind.

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The above meme is so cheesy and means nothing by itself other than a “Wow, be an inspirational person” sound byte. Living it is so much harder. Which means, if you actually do, you’re an actual inspirational person!

Bottom line: These quotes make cute tee shirts for the Etsy shopper.
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(Not bad… only $9.90)

But… no disrespect to this virtual shop owner, but $9.90 can also be spent going to the Dollar Tree and buying cheap made-in-China stickers and handing them out to random shoppers at the grocery store. ssssss(Especially the cranky Russian lady with the whisker pushing the metal pull basket who gave you the stink eye for reaching above her for the gluten-free Joe Joe’s.)

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Why do that? I’ll tell you. Because most people don’t get out of their comfort zone to make eye contact with someone, ask how they are doing, and give them something to break them out of their zombie like “It’s all about me” trance.

Me? I haven’t yet given out stickers. But I dole out little treats and unearned grace with my kids in middle school. Sure, I’m just a long term sub. And do I have a Masters in Art? No. But I do have a Doctorate in Understanding People. (Plus I graduated Magna Cum Loud Mouth so can relate to my fellow talkers.)

You, Rowdy Kid. I GET YOU

I know that bad behavior often means something gross is going on at home. It means that if kids are grabbing tape that doesn’t belong to them or tossing bananas or water bottles on their desks (OMG THE WATER BOTTLE FLIPS KILL ME) they are likely annoying the crap out of teachers in another class. I can either get insanely annoyed (it’s happened) or I can pull them aside and have a one on one conversation. I can once again review my expectations. And then I can speak light and love into them.

Me: “Andy, I can tell you’re not a kid who likes to sit still.”

Long quiet stare as he looks up at the 6 foot woman in pig tails with the “I Love Pitbulls” tee shirt towering over him.

Me: “Tell you what. I will let you walk around whenever you want.”

More silence, then: “For real?”

Me: “Yes. ‘Why?’ you might ask.”

No response.

Me: “Go ahead. Ask why?”

Kid: “Uhhhh… why?”

Me: “Because I’m a long term SUB. It means, WHO CARES! My job is not to feed the school system an all-size-fit-in-the box kid. I can be like Grandma and fudge a bit. I can give you a little wiggle room to be the kid YOU need to be. Unless LAUSD is reading in which case I am the epitome of excellence in all teaching standards. Do you understand?”

Kid: “I don’t have a grandma.”

Me: Deep breath. “I simply mean I care more about you learning to communicate and being heard than being perfect. Do you understand?”

Kid: “Yes.”

Me: “Good. Then sit at your regular table. Move around if you need to. But do not touch/talk/nudge/move/pinch or annoy anyone. Like the zoo signs you see on field trips! Only replace that last word with ‘STUDENT’. ”

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Kid: “I never get to go on field trips.”

Me: “What a shock.”  That must feel bad.

Kid: Shrugs. Head down. “It’s no biggie.”

I spot a tear but don’t say anything.

Me: “So today you get to start over! Today is one more better day toward a field trip. But if you can’t keep it together, I am moving you to the front near me. Deal?”

Kid: “Deal.”

Then we shake hands.

Then he goes to his seat.

Then he inevitably gets up and annoys, bugs, moves, pinches or throws water a some kid.

Then I move him next to my desk.

Then he complains and threatens to tell his school counselor who I’m sure has never heard of this behavior from him for the past two years of middle school not to mention the stack of IEPs from his grade school years taking up more space in the files than Trump’s ridiculous tweets about the wall.

And we start over the next day.

Because while I can’t change someone’s trauma induced behavior, I don’t have to replay mine. Which means showing kindness every single day. Every single time.

Plus, it’s Friday. So everyone is an angel on Friday.

Happily Ticked Off Tip #21: Don’t just wear tee shirts promoting kindness. Live it. Even when it’s hard. It’ll shape your character, and someone else’s, more than you’ll ever know.

My book is available on Amazon. (Note: It’s a special ed journey… your kid doesn’t need to have Tourettes to relate!) Follow me on Twitter@AndreaFrazerWrites or on Facebook. 

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