Monday, August 12, 2019

back to school vibes

Another school year is upon us! I'm not going to lie, last night I was feeling the Sunday Scaries pretty bigtime. Coming back after a two-month hiatus isn't easy, especially when you've been on beaches with friends and family, at day games at Wrigley, staying up all hours of the night (when I say this, I mean 11pm, ha!) and redecorating your apartment. Even for those of us who have been doing this a long time, that transition can be difficult.

But then I came into Heritage for a team leader meeting this Monday morning, and was flooded with hugs, and catching up, and the excitement amongst the new teachers and I was reminded again WHY i've been doing this for 17 years... and still feeling happy about it.

First: Relationships. You guys, it's all about the people. Some of my VERY BEST FRIENDS I've found because of teaching. 17 years worth of students that have crossed my path have made it so much fun to learn as I go. I've had excellent admistrators and our coaching staff is on point. I could never do a job that didn't involve other people, it's all of them that bring so much joy to my day-to-day work.

Second: Balance. This one was a little harder to come by; I don't feel like I really started to master this until like year 6, and then in the past few years I think I've gotten really good at it. Teaching can feel kinda hobby-ish for some, myself included. That coupled with the fact that I get OBSESSED with things (reading and writing workshop) can make a teacher live teaching only. It's so importnat to find hobbies and interests outside of education that are really fun, because just like any great relationship, you have to get away from it a bit in order for it to really flourish. Want to chat more about this? Come to the Self-Care Roundtable at iEngage with Gorz and I!

Third: Creativity. It's so cool to start fresh every year. You get to try new things out and set new goals. You can modify really great lessons from years prior and create totally new ones. You can work with new people and read new books. This year I have a few goals: to amp up the anecdotal notes on my coaching log, do a little hand-written journaling in my agenda each day, and to coteach with a bunch of teachers in my building. I'm also toying with the idea of a Young Authors club - I am not teaching a section of ELA this year, so I feel like I have to get some kid time that is JUST MINE in some way. If you've ever done this, please let me know!

There's obviously so much more to a year of teaching, but we'll just keep it short and simple, which is what I recommend to all the new teachers starting their very first year! As I saw on Twitter the other day, YOU are your classrooms greatest resource, so don't go hard all day every day in your classroom in the week(s) leading up to the kids return. They need you fully rested and refreshed when they get there, so go to the beach instead!

What makes back to school best for you? Leave a comment and let's keep the conversation going!

Happy Monday!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

original gangsta

This isn't even my slice to tell, but it was so funny, I had to post it.

My ELA class is a combination of 7th and 8th grade students. They stay for two years, so our current eighth graders are on year two with us. It's cool, because they become the mentors to the seventh graders.

Yesterday, when I was home sick, I guess one of the seventh graders told one of the eighth graders that he needed to rename the turtle (the stuffed animal turtle that sits in the window and is used as a talking piece sometimes during discussions).

She replied, "You aren't even an OG in this class, you can't name the turtle!"

My coteacher told me she overheard this conversation yesterday and meant to text it to me last night. Kids are so funny, especially when they use language like this in the perfect context!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

good news

This is a model from writing I picked up watching Rachel Hollis on Amazon Prime in Made for More. Before they start their training, they ask the crowd to share good news. This news could be simple things like "I found my fave new shoes ON SALE" or bigger things like, "My cousin beat cancer." All news is good news, so here is some from me today.

Good news:

I got a huge chunk of my To Do list completed on Thursday.

Good news:
The weather in Chicago is creeping up into the 40s. It's a heat wave!

Good news:
My class's behavior was ON POINT Thursday. Like, so much that I offered 15 minutes of free time tomorrow (first time all year) if they could do that again. It was BLISSSSSSS.

Good news:
I saw Aziz Ansari the other night. SOOO GOOD.

Good news:
The last of four book club books came in and our new 7th grade book clubs are all set in poetry: The Crossover, Brown Girl Dreaming, Bronx Masquerade, and Home of the Brave. Can't wait to get started with these after spring break!

Good news:
After days of indulging on not-so-healthy food choices, it's always great to return to routines and add health back in via densely nutritious protein shakes and detox teas.

Good news:
We rolled the clocks back so the daylight will stay with us even longer now. Summer is on the horizon!

Saturday, March 9, 2019


Every year my friend, she's so kind, takes me to the Avani Spa in Fontana, Wisconsin. We get a massage and hang out in the pool area all day. It's lovely.

My fave location in the whole place? The steam room. I had never been in one before coming here, but I love sitting in there.

Just Thursday I finally caught a cold, so to sit in a room that's like a giant netty pot is THE BEST. (Minus the gross part of the netty pot.) I swear, my skin is so conditioned every time I get to spend some time in this little, it's-a-good-sweat room! Wanna go sit in a giant humidifier? Yes, please!

Friday, March 8, 2019

when lunch stinks

I am a meal planning person. Every weekend I make a bunch of lunches and some dinners and portion them up so I'm good to go daily with healthy food to keep me feeling well throughout the week. This week I made a Portillo's Chopped salad (it's delicious) and homemade dressing.

The dressing consists of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and a bunch of spices.

Fast forward to yesterday, I ate in my classroom alone. Was much in need of some quiet time. Salad was delicious, I ate at my conferring table. And as the kids came in for block 4, I haphazardly threw all the dishes into my lunch bag, but didn't close up the containers. I didn't realize how strong of a scent that particular dressing had.

Block 4 began, I was working on some other things outside of my room, but ran back to my space about 45 minutes later to grab something. I come in to Israel shaking his head. "Ms. Brezek. Why?" He, along with a few others, were working together with their teacher at my conferring table. Israel continues, "That smell, it's terrible. What was that?"

I had no context for what he was talking about. I must have looked confused, because his teacher chimed in. "I moved your lunch bag over there and also dropped a few drops of lavender essential oil. The kids were really distracted by your lunch."

Israel continued, "Yeah, it smells so bad. What *was that?"

Feeling a little embarrassed, I realized I didn't wash the dishes or or even close the lids. "Oh yeah, sorry guys, it was salad dressing..."

Israel interrupts again, "It's like, I just can't focus. It's so strong." He's shaking his head, clearly distraught.

At the time, I didn't realize how strong it was. But that night after school, I didn't go home, I had another commitment. And on my way there, I slammed on my brakes, my lunch bag flew to the floor, and the scents got all wound up again. I picked it all up, but when I got into my car that evening after about 3 hours of time, it did smell. It totally stunk, and I could feel Israel's pain.

How is it that I can have a delicious lunch and the remnants are just miserable?!

Thursday, March 7, 2019

on being a mom (kinda)

So did you read my post about Annie a few days ago? If not, start there.

Today I saw her during block 4 and I don't even remember what she was talking my ear off about but then I interrupted, "I wrote about you and Adam on my blog."

"AHHHHH, MS. BREZEK! WHYYYYY?" She paused, then continued, "I gotta read it."

Lauren was overhearing this and says, "Oh, on bigtimeliteracy? Let me pull that up." (Lauren did her first slice of life challenge in 4th grade with me, FOUR years ago, nbd.) :-)

She does and reads it. She tells me, "You write so descriptively."

My heart swells. Because (1) she compliments my writing, but more so (2) she can appreciate descriptive writing.

Annie walks back over to me, all smiles. Kinda embarrassed, but also kinda appreciating the attention. "You're like my mom, Ms. Brezek." She's smiling, kinda laughing. "Like, she does stuff like this. I don't know, you're just kinda like her."

(I honestly don't remember anything she said after the comparison.)

Mostly I was just feeling like I got the best compliment ever.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

multitasking is cr*p

I bought this book awhile ago:

I tried it out and it was difficult, so I set it aside. Then I noticed Oprah was doing a book study with the author, Eckhart Tolle, on her podcast. This week she released the conversation about chapter 9, next week it will all conclude.

In chapter 9 book, Eckhart states:

I used to think multitasking was the thing. Like look at me, I'm getting all these things done all at once, woweeeee!

But in the past few years, I've reconsidered. You can't be doing all the things at once. Well, to rephrase, you can be, but you won't be doing them well.

I find myself sitting at my desk at work, focused on one task. Then my email will ping, and I USED to just stop my work flow and go over to my email. At times now, I still do that, but now I catch myself. And I stop myself. And I go back to the first thing I was doing until it's complete. Then I will probably check my to do list before I go to the email, because people do not need a reply within 1 or 10 or even 60 minutes. Things can wait.

Our phones cause the same problem. We are doing something - making lunch or washing dishes, or folding laundry, or even at dinner with a friend or family member. The phone pings, and you interrupt what you're doing and give your attention that that.

Now that I've been more reflective of this fact, I've gotten so much more mindful of my phone. If I'm out with a friend, the phone is out of sight. I want the people I'm with to know that they are what's most important. I want my full attention to be on them.

If I'm home working on something, like right now, I'm writing this blog. My phone is on silent. It's still within arm's reach, but it's turned over and on silent. I want to finish one thing at a time.

When I'm at work in planning meetings of any sort, my phone is usually right there, but it's on silent and turned over. I'm not responding to email and I even try super hard to keep head space fully engaged with what I'm working on with people. It's important to me to be fully present for the 40-45 minutes we are working together.

And when I'm alone, I am tired of being anxious about the future or stressed about something I said earlier in the day. So now I just try and catch myself when I'm in anything but the present moment. It takes time, but it's making a difference to be fully present at each moment. And it helps.

Anyways, I guess I used to think multitasking was the sh*t, but now I think it's b*llsh*t. So let's spend some time together so I can get fully present to you and I and the work or fun we will find ourselves in.

Sidenote #1: I do like taking pics, so I may grab my phone for that. But the posting of said pics, later on :-)

Sidenote #2: I highly recommend you listen to Oprah's series on this book. Chapters 1 and 2 are tough, but starting on 3, it's amazing, and I think about as life-changing as Brené Brown's work!

Who's with me on this?
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