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Believe Coaching Energy Healing Teacher Life

It’s Working

This shouldn’t feel like such a revelation to me. All of my teachers, coaches, gurus, and role models have been saying it to me (directly or through their work) forever. It took some serious intention and work over the last few months, but it clicked in this past Tuesday night when I flung open the garage door and asked the Bunny-Daddy: Why don’t I feel like an anxious mess right now?

He said: Because you slowed down.

It was the evening after our first day back in the classroom. Teachers are sold the paradigm that we’re supposed to be exhausted, or worse, after the first day. But I didn’t feel tired.

I work at one of two high schools in our county that went back “all in,” with something like 91% of the student body opting to come to school in-person rather than attend virtually. Masks, barriers, distancing, staggered passing in the halls, teaching that handful of virtual learners simultaneously along with the in-person students. I was supposed to be in fear and doubt… but I was rolling with it.

I had my Rescue and business responsibilities to attend to, personal and professional preparations to manage, all the things I’ve been working towards and on for a few years now. But the pressure to get it all done right now I would normally feel, that pressure that would typically manifest as a lump in my throat and moving at a chaotic pace was missing. That’s why I went out to the garage to ask, to seek clarity, to ask What am I forgetting to do? Because I felt at peace, I felt in control, I felt genuinely good… and I couldn’t understand why or how in that moment.

A-ha… all the work is working. Call it surrender, call it letting go, or quote my teacher Gabby and say, “Slow down, sister.” I never thought I could slow down. I didn’t trust enough to delegate. I cared too much about the wrong things to even understand the concept of surrender. I used to say, to anyone who would listen, that I needed a retreat… and then I would follow up with a word-vomit of how I could never even take a half-day of a break, no less go on an actual retreat.

What I did, however, was capitalize on time at home over the past few months. I lived without the pressure of doing more and doing everything. I started digging deeper with my angel of a therapist. We worked (and are still working) on the causes, not just on the symptoms. One’s relationship with food is often a symptom. Overdoing it with substances, work, exercise, or distractions is often a symptom. Gotta find that cause, then honor, treat and heal it!

Once I saw and felt true progress, I hired a coach to keep me accountable and focused. It would have been so easy to slip back into the ways I’d always done things, the ways that didn’t feel great but felt familiar. I was not going to backslide. And, of course, along the way I oiled up, I opened up, and I committed to consuming only what made me feel good– that includes food, conversations, and media.

I needed to slow down, just a notch in some areas, completely in others, to feel better. My pace was crushing me. I’m happy to report that I’m embracing feeling good now. I’m still doing a lot… but it feels different. Ah, the feels…

I don’t say this to impress you. I say this to impress upon you that you can choose a better feeling thought, you can develop your mindset, and you can get real with just how darn powerful and magical you truly are. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some breath work to do. Much love.

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Guest Blogger Purpose Teacher Life

Words & Intention

I know Emika Smith through my Rescue work… but I’ve gotten to know her, the brave, introspective her who is unafraid to tell her truth and is empowered to step out and speak up, through her social media posts.

She posted something several weeks ago about her weight loss journey that just struck me. In the post, Emika shared, with candor and with strength, about the impact of people’s verbal feedback… how, even when their intentions aren’t harmful, their word choice can be hurtful.

Emika’s message struck me so profoundly that I asked her to write a guest post for my beloved blog… and I am honored that she said yes.

Emika Smith, the floor is yours…

Something they don’t tell you in college, specifically if you studying to become a teacher, is that most days you will not always teach the content of your specific degree.  I currently have my Bachelors Degree in Music Education and right now I’m hustling for my Masters of Science in Music Education.  I’m halfway through my 6th professional year.  Not a brand new teacher, but also not a veteran teacher.  Right smack in the middle.  Maybe once I hit 10 years in the classroom I’ll deem myself a “veteran” but who knows.  Every September feels like day 1, year 1 and I immediately forget everything I know about music.

What they don’t tell you in college is that you will be a parent, a friend, a psychologist, a nurse, a counselor, and a cheerleader.  You will teach kindness, social skills, coping skills, emotional processing, and then, maybe a couple of rounds of Hot Cross Buns.

I recently had a situation in my classroom with a 4th grade class where I had to stop the music-making and switch gears.  The kids were talking about who knows what.  Frankly, my “teacher ears” were on.  Meaning I’m not listening to everything the kids are saying, just keeping an ear open to anything inappropriate.  And lo and behold one child goes “Oh Emily (not her real name) is so annoying!” Literally shouted the statement.  And then there’s me, rolling my eyes in my head, Alright, here we go…“John (also not his real name) that may be your opinion but keep it to yourself, it’s unkind.”

We go back and forth a little and John goes “But Mrs. Smith, words don’t hurt.”

Stop.  Music-making done for the day.  Objective: Students will be able to be a good human being.  I respond, “Words do hurt, John.”

I’m not going to give you a dialog of our discussion, but ultimately I (hopefully) gave the children a lesson in how although we are entitled to our opinions, it’s best to keep those that may be hurtful to ourselves.

What I’ve learned over the past 6 years is that it is literally my job, to pick and choose the words I say out loud to children with such caution, not only to make it clear what I’m trying to teach, but to make sure that every child leaves my lesson with knowledge and understanding.  What I have recently learned (if you need a time line, maybe say the last 2 years) is that this skill, if you want to call it that, applies to every aspect of my life when it comes to communicating with others.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder back in 2016.  Through trying to express and articulate my symptoms, feelings, emotions, reactions, and needs to various medical professionals and family members, I learned how important choosing words truly is.  If I were to substitute one word for something else, it can mean a whole different thing.  And in a case where my physical and mental health depend on my ability to communicate what I am feeling, it can mean a huge difference in care and progress.  Thus, not only affecting me, but my family and those I interact with on a daily basis.

In February 2019 I made the decision to go ahead and get weight loss surgery.  Multiple factors led me to this decision and I had the support of my husband and my family to gather up all of my courage to proceed with one of the biggest decisions of my life.  In the months leading up to my surgery, scheduled for July 1, 2019, I slowly and discreetly let my administration, coworkers, and other family members know about my decision.  I’m a relatively private person, but if someone asks me a question about something personal I usually let them know.  Most of what I post on social media is pictures of my family or pets, and a funny meme. If I post something personal it’s usually for a good reason, I’m not out there advertising every little thing I do.

Summer came and went and I returned to work in August about 35 pounds lighter.  There was a visible difference and it was noticed by everyone.  We are a small school and we are all relatively close to each other.  I enjoyed the compliments and enjoyed informing people of what I had done.  I answered questions that were personal, but not invasive.  Everyone was genuinely happy for me and it was extremely uplifting.

It’s now January 26, 2020 and I’ve dropped down to 71 pounds gone forever.  I am in the single digits for pant sizes, no longer labeled as “obese” according to my BMI, and my overall health has improved drastically.  I still get compliments from coworkers which is lovely and I like to think I accept them gracefully.  Recently a school worker commented, “Oh Emika, you are just wasting away!”  The week before she had used the word “disappearing.”  Both statements were with a huge smile on her face and I didn’t detect any negativity behind her…*clears throat*…“compliment.”

Flashback to my 4th grade class and that statement from my student echoes in my head, “words don’t hurt.”

Today, those words did hurt.  Wasting away?  Do I look sick? Do I look unhealthy?  Am I really “disappearing?”

I go home and look at my print out of my results from my last weigh-in at my surgeon’s office.  My BMI is down, my cholesterol is normal, my muscle mass increased, my fat percentage has dropped significantly.  No, I am not “wasting away” I am HEALTHY!  And it occurred to me—I was wasting away when I was heavier and morbidly obese.  I was wasting away when I was huffing and puffing going up and down the stairs at 28 years old.  I was wasting away when my belly was too big for me to buckle my shoes for my best friend’s wedding and needed my husband’s help.  I was wasting away when I couldn’t get up from sitting on the floor in my classroom.  No one was concerned about my health back then…

In a time where we constantly write and post words online, and we establish electronic paper trails between us, our peers, and colleagues, our words and the language we use are permanently attached to us.  They follow us forever.  There is no more “he said, she said” because most of what we say is shared out online for the world to see; for people to screenshot and “share” before you get the chance to hit the “delete” button.

Every day I am amazed at what my students do, say, and accomplish.  Many of them show the grace and maturity of an adult, when actual adults lack awareness and mindfulness.  People are so quick to just say what they think without actually thinking about how their words may come across.  I understand and appreciate the intent behind that woman’s words, however they still stung.  I know she is genuinely happy for me and my success.

If we are friends, you know that I will say something if you say something that comes across a certain way, or that I will question your intended meaning.  I had a moment like that with a friend earlier this week.  If I love and care about you, I love and care about you hard.  And that means I am also going to challenge you and make you think because the last thing I want for you is to be misunderstood and have negative consequences.

You can’t take words back.  You can explain your words, but you can’t take them back.  So before you say anything, just think about your intent. And as the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

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Coaching Healing Purpose Teacher Life

Back to Ms. B

Summer Denise is a legend in her own mind.

I go back to work Tuesday and by Wednesday afternoon, it will feel like we never left… but for the first time in my recollection, I really feel restored, renewed and rested. Yes, it is possible to have two months off from the day job and feel like you haven’t had a break (I’m sure those with human children are nodding emphatically). For me, achieving this restored feeling is all about mindset—deciding in July that I had to slow down, committing to myself to be here now and not barreling into the next project, launch or endeavor! I spent a lot of this summer glued to the couch and more time on the yoga mat than I expected… pleasantly surprised with myself.

In the spirit of transitioning from Summer Denise to Ms. Bertolotti, I want to share with you some of the ways I keep it festive through the school year.

  • Seasons & Episodes: Yeah, it’s weird, but follow me here. You know I love a good metaphor. I count the years and days of school as seasons and episodes. This silly tradition started when I was working towards tenure, as a way to cope with the pressure. I thought of myself as a guest star on a show, probably a long-running soap opera. I had a contract for 183 episodes each season and it was my job to rock the role so well that my character would become a series regular and star. It worked. I’m entering into Season 15 this week!

 

  • It’s not a classroom; it’s a disco: There is always music playing in my classroom, just like there is always music playing in our house. In the morning before the first bell, I listen to whatever I’m in the mood for, usually something heavy. Once the din of 7:28 am sounds, every day has a theme, as follows:
    • Hair Metal Mondays
    • 80s Tuesdays
    • 90s Wednesdays
    • Guilty Pleasures Thursdays
    • Disco Fridays

I’m revamping the playlists, so please share your song suggestions. And yes, I dance in the hallways. Judge all you want… or join in the fun.

 

  • First Day Massage: I book a massage for 4 pm on the first day of classes. I started this tradition in Season 1. If I have a tough day, I know there’s relaxation coming. If I have a great day, this is the perfect cherry on top.

 

Okay, loyal readers, it’s back to my book and my lounge chair for two more days. May the spirit of Summer Denise flourish… see you in 10 months! Cheers to Season 15!

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Believe Healing Purpose Rescue Uncategorized

Who am I to…

Yesterday afternoon, I sat on a blue and teal seat, facing forward (although facing backward doesn’t bother me) on the Long Island Railroad. I was Manhattan-bound to see one of my spiritual advisors, psychic medium Calise Simone. On my journey, I read from The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene’ Brown. This is the book we’ll be discussing at book club at the end of this month. If you’re local, you should join us.

Somewhere between the Merrick and Freeport stops, I read this passage. Then I re-read it, highlighted it and wished my Kindle had a print feature. Taking a picture of the screen would have to suffice. Dr. Brown writes:

Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out it’s not merely benign or “too bad” if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighed down by feeling of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief.

There it is, in a block quotation—me, before Rescue rescued me. The years of feeling directionless, of feeling purposeless in a career that felt like I was squeezing my foot into a shoe two sizes too small. The annoyance and resentment that manifested as anger, as buckets of tears because I felt stifled, like those walls were somehow crushing my insides.  The moments of disappointment in myself for playing small, for holding back to fit in with the rest of them. The days on end where I slept, masking depression.

What I was doing every day, the same stuff I was told I would be doing for 30 or so years, just didn’t feel like enough for me. I felt empty because the system does not allow me to use or grow my gifts. I felt frustrated and resentful because I was told, down to the literal shoes I was wearing, how I should best try to conform with the system and the rest of them. I was disappointed in myself for squashing the little girl with big dreams, afraid that this was it for me forever and grieving the contributions I wasn’t going to make to the world.

Tears are coming now, but they aren’t sad tears. I am no longer squandering my gifts. I’m still in the same career but I rock it differently. Don’t worry—I teach to the state standards, but I’m unafraid now to season the work heavily with texts and activities that will foster confidence and empowerment in my students. I take the time, when appropriate, to have purposeful conversations, to address their world and their experience, rather than just stay on the curriculum schedule for that prescriptive schedule’s sake. I teach people.

At school, I lead young people to find their joy. In Rescue, I work alongside incredible volunteers to protect and care for those who need it. In my wellness business, I coach people to live their healthiest, happiest, safest lives. I am no longer squandering my gifts!

I don’t just have to be a teacher and like it. I can flourish, in multiple areas. I spent so many years holding that back, playing small. Thank you, Dr. Brene’ Brown and your colleagues whom I study, for putting on paper what I’ve been feeling since I was a little Denise, walking around the house with a notebook, a pen and big dreams. Thank you for affirming in black and white that my struggles were very real and that I absolutely must cultivate my gifts. Much love.

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