Friday, February 16, 2018

Part 3...Personal Growth

Well...If I'm being honest this post was my most difficult one to compose. You see...talking about my struggles is much more difficult than the glowing, smiling social media posts that adorn my Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It's hard to be real. 
But the truth is...Every single step of my Teacher of the Year journey has been filled with fear, uncertainty, anxiety, self-doubt, and even full blown panic attacks at times.  

Anxiety is a demon I have wrestled with for most of my life in some form or fashion and has been my most prominent struggle in adulthood. There are times it's controlled and times it's grabbing me by the throat and not letting me breathe.  Regardless it's my go-to excuse as to why I cannot accomplish great things. 

I recall sitting in the auditorium during our welcome back faculty gathering and our district teacher of the year stepped onto the stage to give her speech. I recall very vividly thinking "How cool is that...But I could never be able to do something as brave as that."

6 years later (this past August) I was the one stepping onto that stage to give my speech as district teacher of the year. 
The months leading up to this were completely filled with sleepless nights, relentless rehearsing of my speech, obsessive TED-talk watching, and sheet doubt that I would not literally pass out on that stage. As I stood off to the side waiting to be introduced I literally dug my fingernails into my arm so hard that I have permanent scars left behind. Moments before I spoke I could feel that all too familiar feeling of fear bubbling up and about to take over. I began to speak...something changed. I felt powerful....and calm...and in control. It was one of the most exhilarating moments I can recall. And as I stepped off that stage I felt the most insane sense of relief that I was DONE with my big Teacher of the Year responsibilities. 

Well. I wasn't done.  My journey continued over the next few weeks until I was announced as the state teacher of the year in late September. And THAT is when the true, overwhelming, sheer panic set in. I was going to be put into all sorts of new situations and would be the face...the voice...of an entire state of educators. The task was just too big for me and I was convinced I could not do it. My anxiety would not let me do it. 

Yet. I did. 
Each new step...each new meeting...each new situation... I survived. I may have been shaky and sweaty but I survived.

And amazingly enough every time I accomplished something new...the next thing was not so scary.

I was changing. my first big ATOY trip approached....I began down that familiar spiral of self-doubt. I was convinced that I would panic on the airplane, that I would get lost, that I would lose an important piece of paper at the airport, that my luggage would get lost, the plane would crash, no one would talk to me, etc. I could literally fill an entire page of fears I had built up. I would be placed into seriously challenging situations and new experiences....flying for the first time...maneuvering the airport...finding transportation...teaching in front of strangers....sharing my thoughts with others...being the voice of my state...being on my own. 

However....I did it. I did them all. I flew on 4 planes through 3 airports...took 4 an entire nation of teachers...spoke from my heart...made new friends and I survived each new or challenging experience. Again...I may have been sweaty and shaky but I tackled each new experience. 

But what I was most fearful of was that I would show up at this big meeting with all these amazing educators from across the country and they would look at me and think...
"What in the hell is she doing here?"

I was absolutely certain everyone would see exactly what I had felt since September..."Well...they sure picked the wrong chick for Arkansas. This cannot be the person they want as their voice." 

Self-doubt could have easily been tattooed across my face. 

But...then as I sat down for my first session...our presenter shared that every single person in the room was having those same thoughts and doubts. And as she spoke I looked around the room and could see the truth resonating in so many other's eyes. I wasn't the only one doubting their place in this room. Many of us were. And it would be our jobs over the next few days to prove ourselves that we were deserving of our titles and that we did deserve a seat at the state teacher of the year table. 

And so...over the next few days...I found my voice. I felt validation  from others. I found confidence I didn't know existed in me.  

Each and every step gave me something to build upon...something to cling to. Each step changed me just a teensy bit. 

And as I stepped off the plane coming home, I knew I would go forward in this journey with a different self-talk...a different expectation...and a whole new support team behind me. 

I accomplished so many silly, small things during my trip to Google that used to feel like such huge things that I could "never do." 

All those small things are just that...small. My once HUGE fear of speaking in front of my district now seems like such a tiny feat now. At the was the greatest thing imaginable for me to accomplish. And looking was the pivotal moment in which I began to find my voice. 

Anxiety will always be a burden that goes along with me on every journey I my journey get bigger and greater than I could've ever imagined...fear and anxiety seem to be getting smaller and smaller.  

And honestly...I have no clue what all lies in my year ahead...but I do know one thing for sure...I can accomplish great things and will continue to grow and change and learn. 

For I am...Randi House, the 2018 Arkansas Teacher of the Year

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Part TWO- Professional Growth

So in my last post I wrote about the relationships piece of my experience at Google. In this post I'm focusing on my professional growth.

So over those few days I heard Sal Kahn (founder of The Kahn Academy) tell his story. was a doozy. He was so focused and driven on accomplishing his goal. Just so impressed.

Andy Goodman taught me how to utilize storytelling to ignite change and how to sculpt my stories to being more impactful.

Two representative from TEDed taught us how to pick a topic and develop that topic into a Ted Talk. We will be piloting a new program that will result in us giving our own Ted Talk...turbo yikes! For this project we partner up with someone to bounce ideas off of and cheer each other on.

I taught a 5 minute lesson to a room full of other elementary teachers and got to hear their lessons as well. I took 7 pages of notes. Literally. 7 pages. These folks are incredible.

I learned of the history the Teacher of the Year program and felt pride fill every ounce of my being to be a part of this amazing group of people.

I visited The Primary School which is founded by Pricilla Chan (wife of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg). This school focuses on serving homeless and severely impoverished students ages 3-5. The school takes a holistic approach to including families and community into the classroom. It focuses on three areas of growth/development academic, soul, and health/wellness. I got to observe in several classrooms and meet some precious kiddos.

I learned how to navigate various forms of media.

I expanded my knowledge of equity and parent/community engagement.

However, the most impactful thing I did was to listen to my fellows STOYS and engage in "edu-talk" with them. I felt like I gained more knowledge in those 3 days than I did in years of college work. I came home with a book full of notes, several new professional texts, and ideas swirling galore.

And this is only the beginning!

Stay tuned for part 3...personal growth...coming soon!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

I went to Google and it changed my life.

Yes I get that title is a little overdone, however it speaks so much truth. I went to Google a week ago and it literally changed my life.

As Arkansas Teacher of the Year, I was invited to an Induction Ceremony hosted by CCSSO in San Francisco...and Google hosted us. So I, along with 54 other state/territory teachers of the year, met for the first time in Palo Alto and would spend approximately 14 hours a day together for the next 3 days. Complete strangers coming together to share stories and talk education. It didn't take long before complete strangers became cohorts and partners in change.

After much reflection about my experience...I have decided to break my blog posts into three parts because I feel this experience changed me in 3 specific ways.

1. Relationships
2. Professional Growth
3. Personal Growth

First....let's talk relationships.

I cannot describe the feeling of arriving at a hotel in Palo Alto and riding down the elevator to meet my new National Teacher of the Year family for our meet and greet reception. The people I would spend my next year of life with. The people that will be along side me as I take on my new role and responsibilities. And it was like the first day of school in junior high. I was completely overwhelmed with nervousness and fear that I would have no one to talk to. Walking into the lobby which was bustling with excitement and standing on the edge of group looking in, I felt completely vulnerable. I imagine this is how many students feel the first day of school. I secretly prayed that someone...anyone...would approach me and strike up a conversation.

And thankfully...someone did. And then someone else did...and eventually I began to feel a part of the tribe. It was very obvious that most others were experiencing the same fears and feelings as well. Over the next few days we began to connect and converse and bond. We supported each other and cheered each other on. We laughed and cried and even danced. I met some amazing teachers. The kinds of teachers I strive to be...the kinds of teachers that lead and blaze new trails. The kinds of teachers that inspire me.

I met Melissa from Montana, Becky from Idaho, and Erin from Connecticut and they quickly became my homies. We connected instantly and clung to each other for comfort in new situations. We laughed entirely too much for folks that just met. Melissa...our sweet politician...who has amazing hair and shares my same enthusiasm for caricaturists.  Becky...oh sweet Becky...her sarcasm and quick wit captured my heart right away. fellow newbie traveler...who amazed us all with her techie note taking and ability to be the calm to our storm. And they all 3 have such passion for their students. I am so excited to learn from them.

I met Lisa from North Carolina, Rachel from South Dakota, and Sara from Wyoming...the other 3 kindergarten teachers. We instantly shared a bond as the only kinder teachers and we all are the voice of early education. I cannot wait to learn from them.

I met Joshua from Arizona who validated me right when I needed it and Ben from Alaska who taught me about scientific literacy and Michael from Pennsylvania who amazed me with his 5 clues project that I have already borrowed for my own classroom. I met Jinni from Delaware whose excitement for education fueled my fire and developed into a classroom connection between our two classes.

I could go on and on and on. Every single person I met inspired me. As those 3 days wrapped up, I was sad to realize that for every awesome teacher I connected with, there was another I missed. I have already made my list for our next event so that I can continue to connect with these amazing people who represent our nation!

It really is a unique experience to have a group of people come together as complete strangers and leave 3 days later as friends. I have spent my time since being home continuing to connect with them as we are all navigating our roles. I am thankful to have them all by my side for this insane ride.

Part two coming soon...professional growth!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sometimes you just color.

Yesterday was one of THOSE days at school. I was grumpy. A cold front was blowing in. Christmas is barreling down on us. There was a Supermoon recently and my kiddos were just W.I.L.D!!! After school  I was just in funk and knew we needed a day to get back on track. So...I drove over to Michaels and purchased a giant cardboard gingerbread house. We are currently wrapping up a 2 week study of The Gingerbread Man stories and I had seen a friend post about these cute cardboard houses.

So this morning I set out to break our funk with a giant cardboard box.

During learning stations I pulled out each cardboard piece, dumped markers all over the floor, and said "have at it guys."  And they did. They were so excited. They colored with a fever I had never witnessed before.  I had kiddos choosing to color rather than playing on Ipads or in waterbeads. In fact 15 out of my 20 kiddos chose to color the house rather than work in learning stations.

At first I relished in the few moments of peace and tried to check off things on my never-ending to do list but after seeing my kiddos having so much fun I decided to push that to the side and lay down beside them and color.

And we colored. For an hour and a half. We colored. And talked. And laughed.  And sang Christmas songs. And bonded. Nope...this was not on my lesson plans. No...I had not planned out standards or anything "academic".

But sometimes that is okay. You putting aside learning objectives and school get to actually listen to your kiddos. I learned about a  student's trip to eat pizza the night before, what one kiddo ate for dinner at his grandmother's house the night before, and that one kiddo was secretly hoping his tooth would fall out at school so he could get one of those cool treasure boxes to put his tooth in. I heard stories of Melvin and Marvin...two elves that live at one student's home as well as many other elf stories. Elves are important to kindergarteners right now. I heard my kids encouraging each other and complimenting each other. They helped each other out and showed endurance because they wanted to finish the project.

But academics were not completely pushed away. They are always there. We planned and looked ahead to see which part needed colored next. We discussed how colors changed as they overlapped. We discussed patterning and counted gum drops. We worked as a team.

And it was much fun. I had lost my joy for a bit in the classroom as I was caught up in all the "stuff" that comes at this time of year. But today...I found it coloring a giant gingerbread house with my kinders.

And it was beautiful!

Monday, October 23, 2017

What a journey so far...

Let's go back to last April when this whole journey began. At the end of the day, I was greeted by my principal and daughter who presented me with balloons and flowers announcing I was voted as Teacher of the Year for our building. I was surprised and so honored to be selected by my peers.

Fast forward to the end of May. We were just about to wrap up the school year and we were in the middle of my favorite day of the year...our big OSCARS themed awards ceremony. Everyone was decked out in their movie star best, the room was filled with parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. and the hallways and classroom was completely decked out. It was standing room only. Halfway through the ceremony, in walked my principal again...this time followed by our superintendent and several other people from our central office. They halted the ceremony to announce I had been selected as district teacher of the year. I was completely shocked and so blown away...I just broke down in tears. It was such a memorable day to have so many people there for the surprise announcement and I was so honored to represent our district.

After that, it was a whirlwind time of preparing applications for district teacher of the year and writing my big back to school speech. In August, as the school year began the district comes together for a back to school assembly. During that assembly I gave my first big speech in front of about 2,000 people. It was both an exhilarating and completely terrifying day for me.

Later that week during a professional development session, we received an email stating I had been selected as a regional finalist.

In September, I was invited to the state capitol to be recognized as a regional finalist. The ceremony was live streamed so my coworkers and family were able to watch live as the announcement was made of who was in the top 4 state semi-finalists. I was thrilled to hear my name called.

I was welcomed back to school the next day with signs. posters, flowers, a lounge filled with my favorite treats, and so many well-wished I couldn't breathe!

Two weeks later, the Arkansas Department of Education came to my school to observe and conduct formal interviews. I was told they would announce the 2018 Teacher of the Year "before Christmas".

Then just a few weeks ago, on September the middle of a reading assembly I got the surprise of a lifetime. After our superintendent finished up reading a book to the entire student body, Commissioner Key walked in to read another story. As he began to read aloud the story, members of the school board, department of education, community. press, and my family began to file in. Commissioner Key read a story about a teacher (me) and officially announced me as the 2018 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. I was I was completely overwhelmed.

These past few weeks have been filled with media visits, photo sessions, and working on my National Teacher of the Year application...which in itself is a unreal experience.

I am still completely overwhelmed at this point and looking forward to what lies ahead on this journey as ATOY!

Monday, April 7, 2014

on the Magic Schooooooooooooool Bus...

For book character day this year, we were inspired this year by our favorite science-minded redhead and her magical school bus.  I have always adored Miss Frizzle and her out of this world fashions.  I love that her dress is always themed.  I found the most perfect blue swing dress on clearance at Old Navy and the deal was set!  I made some felt planets, stars, and other fun things to sew on it.  I found the most perfect shade of yellow tights (Target clearance) and added my own red shoes and my little girl's Merida wig.  I had to pin the wig and put part into a pony to create the Frizzle look. I thought it turned out pretty fabulous and my students LOVED it.

Mr. Howse made THE most incredible bus out of carboard and paper.  He even added those sweet familiar faces of the kiddos in the back!  The bus opened up so our other kinder teachers could hop on!

This was by far my most favorite book character day!