Women Empowering Women

Meet two women who taught me about yoga, self-care, and empowered me to live my best life.

As women, we’ve come a long way. My hope is that we continue to make progress and lift one another up as we move forward. We are better together and when we share our stories, our dreams, and celebrate our success together, the sky is the limit.

When I recently published my first article on Thrive Global about creating a self care practice, I had a list of women I wanted to call and share my big news with, partly because I knew they’d celebrate with me, but also because they helped me reach this goal. These women I’m highlighting and celebrating this month have been my coaches, my cheerleaders, my friends, and all-around Wonder Women who are empowering other women in the work they do every day.  This week I introduce you to two of my yoga teachers. These women have helped me create and sustain a consistent yoga practice along with many other teachings about self-care. If you are looking to incorporate more body/mind/spirit wellness into your life, I encourage you to check them out!

Meet Renee Gauthier

Renee and I have been friends since the 4th grade. Technically. There were some years after high school and college that our paths went in different directions, but we’ve always been able to pick up where we left off. About 5 years ago we started to connect more regularly. She is one of the bright lights in my life. Renee is one of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever known. She has an infectious smile and a sense of playfulness and fun that reminds you to “lighten up”. 

Renee is a wellness educator, yoga teacher, and girl mom. She offers online classes and workshops for implementing a wellness lifestyle with essential oils. When the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020, Renee quickly shifted her yoga classes from studios all over the San Diego area to offering virtual yoga classes via Zoom throughout the week. Her yoga classes include aromatherapy and guided meditations. Don’t just take my word for it, try one of her yoga classes, reach out to her for your essential oil needs, or book her for a private yoga session, virtually. You can learn more about how Renee can help you reach your wellness goals at www.reneegauthier.com, or on Instagram @renee_gauthier.

 Meet Ashli Winter

Ashli Winter

Ashli and I met a few years ago when I began my self-care journey. I stumbled upon yoga classes at her yoga studio, Pure Bliss in Lake Wylie.  Ashli is warm and welcoming immediately upon walking into the studio. She created Pure Bliss, a boutique yoga studio, that welcomes everyone. Whether you are a beginning yogi like I was at the time or an experienced yogi, she offers classes for all levels. It’s evident that Ashli and her small staff of instructors care about people as they go out of their way to connect with yogis before and after class.  At Pure Bliss, instructors honor your time on the mat by placing emphasis on “it’s your practice”. In her yoga classes, meditation, and vision board workshops, Ashli wants to empower women to be their best selves. She creates an encouraging environment while teaching her students about the importance and necessity of creating a self-care practice. If you’re in the Lake Wylie area and ready to get back into a live yoga studio, check out the class schedule and workshop offerings at Pure Bliss or find them on Instagram @pureblisslkw.

Come back next week to meet another amazing woman.

-Kristen

PLANT THE SEEDS OF HOPE

One thought, one word, one person, one act of kindness, These are how we plant the seeds of HOPE!

We are living in complex times. Covid 19 Pandemic, Racial Injustice, Political Discontent. I’m at a loss for words that can solve all of these in one larger movement, other than PLANT SMALL SEEDS, AND HOPE!

This year when we planted our garden, we decided not to get starter plants, we decided to try planting seeds and hope that they would bear fruit/vegetables. We are new to gardening and we know that we still have so much to learn! We’ve learned that we can’t control the seeds, but we can nurture them to grow into what we want! I believe this is similar to changing the world for the better.

I have gratitude and respect for the brave activists who are showing up to PEACEFULLY demonstrate and speak out for their beliefs. Please know that while you are doing your part, I’m doing mine too. It just looks different.

I’ve been a teacher longer than I’ve been a parent. I thought I knew a lot about kids and teaching. LOL! As a teacher and a student I’ve always just liked to learn new things. I’ve always tried to plant the seeds for students to want to learn. To question and think. As a parent I’m trying to plant the seeds in my daughter to be a kind person, first to herself, and then to others. Now I’m trying to blend these two things together, and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to continue being the change I HOPE to see in the world. The change that I DO see in our world. One person, one moment, one breath at a time.

In our home, and with our friends and family we are having tough conversations. I HOPE you are too! It starts with a question. When George Floyd was killed, I asked my daughter (without her knowledge of anything really happening other than “the virus”) “Do you notice some people have different color skin than us?” She does. She replied by naming her friends and classmates who have different color skin and how it’s so pretty! We all see color. Truth. Color makes our world beautiful. Embrace color. Let it be what helps us see the beauty in our world.

I HOPE we learn from our mistakes, and do better. Good people make mistakes. When good people reflect on their mistakes, and learn to do better, we grow. Truth. Let’s reflect on how far we’ve come as a society, let’s learn from the mistakes, and let’s work together to grow! I’m learning A LOT by asking questions and reflecting on my own thoughts and actions.

I HOPE we work together as humans to be kind, partner in our efforts to educate OURSELVES and others. We are all human. Truth. As this time period is being written into our human history, let’s create more hope, less fear. Together.

Thank you for reading and I HOPE this planted another small seed with you!

Kristen

Teaching with Toys

Unique Mermaid
Unique the Mermaid

I LOVE how teachable moments come up when you least expect them to! A colleague of mine once said, “Sometimes it’s good not to have a plan.”  The best lessons are not always written in the lesson plan.

My girl got a new mermaid toy while on vacation and after 24 hours, it broke. While she got very upset about a crack in the mermaid’s body, I tried to console her. I didn’t want to offer to buy another one, as that would’ve been a waste of money. We can’t always just replace things because they are broken. We have to sometimes work with them, try to fix them, and sometimes, they just don’t need to be replaced! And hey, what better time to teach her that not all things broken or flawed need to be replaced.  So I took the opportunity to talk with her about how this mermaid is UNIQUE!

Being mindful and having my own mindfulness practice has really helped me in these parenting moments. Here’s how it went:

Me: “Smell the flowers, and blow out the candles. Let’s do it together. Breathe.”

After 5 rounds of breath, she was calm enough to have the conversation. (Regulation skills)

Me: “Look at this crack, this doesn’t mean she needs to be replaced, this means she is SPECIAL!”

E: With eyes lit up, “What do you mean special Mommy?”

Me: “Well, only your mermaid has this crack, that makes her unique. None of the other mermaids in the store have this special crack.” 

E: “Okay, I will keep her.”

She went about her play and I haven’t heard a peep about it since!

Using her toy as a tool to teach her a really important life lesson was making it easier for her to understand. Learning through play is evidence based in building executive functions, problem solving, resiliency, and so much more in young children.

For more information and resources on PLAY for young children, and all that it teaches them, check out NAEYC (National Association for Early Childhood).

 

Would You Rather?

As you know my word for 2018 is time. Since the start of the new year I’ve spent a lot of time away from my computer, away from social media, and away from things that might fill my brain with too much to think about! (I already do too much thinking on my own, LOL!)  Also, I’ve taken on a new job, so keeping the harmony and balance I worked hard to achieve during my sabbatical is how I’ve focused my time. I’m so grateful for that time, and I’m also grateful for the new opportunity with this job.

Would you rather your child(ren) have teachers who love him/her, or teachers who push your child(ren) academically?

Image result for free images of hearts

This is a lofty question that I have been thinking about A LOT as my child has entered the public school system this year. It’s a question I’ve been asked as a parent (more than once), it’s also a question I’ve always asked as an educator, trying to look at parental perspectives. It’s also a question that doesn’t have a cut and dry answer. As parents and educators, growing the same human beings, I think we all want what is best for the children. However that doesn’t look the same for every child at the same time. (And our own fears and insecurities get in the way #truth)

Recently, a friend and I were talking about this question and my immediate answer was, “Right now, when my child is 4 years old, I would rather have a teacher who loves my child and teaches her kindness, compassion, and empathy. All of the academics will come. To me, it’s more important to teach a  young child these social emotional lessons, so that when academics get harder, more challenging, they can cope.” I continued to add that when my child is older, I do want teachers who can push her and challenge her in a healthy way.

When I left our conversation, I continued to think about this question. ( I know, I think waaaay too much!) I even thought about how my answer has changed. I want to trust my child’s teachers to know when she is ready to be challenged, and to love her enough to do so. I think hope I’ve communicated this with her teachers. I’m trying.

I had this conversation with another parent and naturally, her response was that she wanted both, teachers who love and challenge her children. Then I had this epiphany!

What if as parents and teachers we give children both love and challenges, but we might go through ebbs and flows. Let me explain. Let’s say your child has a teacher who is really strict, or really stressed and can’t find the space to love on your child at school. However this teacher has really high expectations because he/she knows that students can rise to the occasion. Maybe that’s the year or the grade where as a parent, you are the lover. Your role is to show your child love, compassion, empathy for the challenges of school, but you don’t have to be the slave driver at home when it comes to school work. Then let’s say that another year or grade level your child has a teacher who is loving, yet might not have all of the instructional expectations to challenge and push your child. This is the year that at home, your role is to push, challenge, and find ways to enrich the daily education. And that doesn’t mean that you, the parent, have to be the teacher, you might reach out to other resources such as friends, tutors or learning centers who can help!

Growing humans is REALLY tough work. If anyone tells you differently, they’re in denial! As parents we need to take a step back and reflect on what does my child need from me right now. As teachers we need to slow down and reflect on what do my students need from me right now. With love and healthy challenges, and TIME our children will succeed at this thing called life.

*Leave a comment to keep this conversation going, I’m curious what you think.

One Word 2018

The power of words. How we choose our words and the words we choose matters. It matters for our own mindset as well as for those who we speak the words to. After seeing so many others choosing just one word to set the tone for 2018, I thought about what my word would be.  There’s a ton of words I thought about, and all with good reason. But I kept pushing myself to choose just one. After setting my own intentions for the new year, and living the first week of 2018, I finally narrowed it down to just one word.

TIME.

2017-06-20 17.36.59
Grateful for time. 

Time is a gift we are given. Some are given only a little time. Some are given a lot of time. However, it is the one constant that cannot be changed. We don’t get time back. The time we have is never guaranteed. Our time is unknown. Therefore I chose time as my one word for 2018 so that I can be intentional with the time I have been given.

The time I have for myself.

Time I spend with my family.

Time I get to to do work I love.

Time I choose to spend with people.

Time I get to learn new things.

Time for cooking and eating food I love.

Time for sharing with friends.

Time  to give to those I do not know.

Time to travel.

There are so many distractions and things we think we have to do. Everyone is given the same 24 hours in a day, it’s not how many hours are in the day, but how we spend those hours. On that note, I’m going to sleep!

 

Reading Worthy Math

Because my intended audience is both teachers and parents, I wanted to follow up on my post about parenting books, with a post on teaching books.  Specifically, books for teachers about teaching math. I know, it seems funny to think that you can actually read something to help you become a more effective math teacher, however I would say some of my most valuable professional development over the years has come from reading books. And if I get to discuss what  I read with others, even more learning takes place. (Don’t want to give away too much, but look for some online book studies here in the future!)

It’s my humble opinion that these books literally changed my life as a mathematician and as a teacher of math. They also became my go to resources as an instructional coach.I don’t have a recommended order you read these in.  It really depends on what you need or want to learn right now.

  • Purposeful Play A Teacher’s Guide to Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning Across the Day by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, Cheryl Tyler
    • This book puts the play back into early childhood education!  It is not math specific. There is research embedded on how young children play to learn and why we as adults need to control less, but set up more intentional play for students to learn through. There are also lesson plans and classroom snippets that show you how it can be done even in a world of high accountability and standards.
  • Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler
    • I’ve already mentioned that this is the book I presented about at SCCTM. If you are familiar with Growth Mindset, or Carol Dweck’s work, you will enjoy learning about how to change your own or others’ mathematical mindset. I.JUST.CAN’T. SAY. ENOUGH.ABOUT.THIS.BOOK.
  • Comprehending Math  Adapting Reading Strategies to Teach Mathematics, K-6 by Arthur Hyde
    • If you are “a literacy person”, this book can help bridge the connections between reading and math. While I don’t believe all strategies for reading work the same in math, I do believe that this can help you shift your thinking.
  •  Number Sense Routines Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3 by Jessica Shumway
    • I found this book when I was coaching at a Title I school and I knew we were lacking number sense. We immediately started implementing these routines and teachers saw a shift in student’s joy to do math, as well as we saw great gains in our number sense data.
  • Math Exchanges Guiding Young Mathematicians in Small Group Meetings by Kassia Omohundro Wedekind
    • When I first started as a math coach, I was charged with shifting our traditional math instruction to  more of a math workshop approach. This book became the most teacher-friendly I could find. It also really helped me with model lessons in showing teachers that differentiating math didn’t have to be overwhelming. Kassia shares problems to get started with, and she even shows different levels of students’ responses/work and comments on where that student might need more instruction.
  • Young Children’s Mathematics Cognitively Guided Instruction in Early Childhood by Thomas Carpenter et.al
    • I loved Cognitively Guided Instruction when I read it, I should go ahead and add that book to the list too.  While CGI itself is a framework for teaching mathematics that many schools adopt, it too is a mindset. A mindset that presents problems to students and lets them use their natural problem solving intuition to help teachers guide the instruction. This particular one focuses on the pre-kindergarten-kindergarten age students.

Each of these books focuses on our mindsets as teachers, our knowledge of child development, and how children develop the various mathematical skills they need for life.  While we teach in a standards based education system, there is still so much about child development that needs to be considered. These books help with that.

Let me put this disclaimer out there, everyone has different learning styles, and  a healthy mix of different professional development opportunities is key. (In person, on-line, reading, doing, sharing) I also know that you are busy as a teacher and by the end of the day, you are sometimes too drained to sit down and read a book (about teaching). However, I also know that you are a dedicated teacher who is always striving to provide the best for your students, and with that you have a growth mindset and are hungry for learning more yourself.

I hope, whatever you do, you continue to be open to learning different ways to teach math in a joyful way to your students! You will enjoy teaching math more too!

If you do pick up one of these books, please share your thoughts with me by sending me an email from the Contact page. I’d love to know your take-aways!