Saturday, January 19, 2019


How often do we experience silence in this world?

[As teachers, not much!]

I have recently been reading Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, and Chapter 7 is all about silence. [Wait, a chapter on silence in a book about conversations? You will have to read it to find out more - definitely worth your time!]
Reading this chapter got me thinking...

...silence is when we are alone with our thoughts. When we can process through things.
...silence is when we can be mindful of who we are, how we are feeling, and where we are.
...silence is essential for developing new ideas and solving problems.

I usually like to be busy at work, but over break, I had the chance for large blocks of time of silence. It wasn't really silence, since I could hear the murmur of everything else going on in the office, but it was large uninterrupted blocks of time for me to think. And I was so productive! It was a different kind of productivity - not my usual checks on the to-do list or responding to emails - but more of a time to vision and let puzzle pieces fall into place.

Although my work life has picked up since then, I continue to build in bits of time to do this silent, thinking work. When I walk to church. When I run or swim in the mornings. When I close my email and sit in my office for five minutes without a task. I often solve problems during these times, coming up with solutions that I couldn't quite piece together before, because I just have a moment to stop and think.

This has led me to an interesting thought - do we give our kids the time for this type of quiet, reflective work? I can only imagine trying this in the classroom - how can we build this in (in a way that is not b-o-r-i-n-g)?

My challenge to you this week: make time for silence in your work, in your conversations, and in your life!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

2018 Reading: A Recap

When I was teaching in the classroom, I had this sign on my door. It was laminated, and I would fill in whatever book I was currently reading with a white board marker. I wanted my students to see that reading wasn't just for LA class, it was something that I, as their music teacher, enjoyed too! I loved the conversations it sparked with my students, and they really would ask me about my book. Talk about great accountability - if I had the same book on there for too long, they would ask, "Ms. Yeh, is that a really long book or something?"

I'm not in the classroom anymore, but I still love reading! I was inspired by my friend Mari's blog and, for the first time, kept track of my reading in 2018. I finished a total of 48 books (and started three more that I am getting close to finishing now in 2019). The nerd in me really wanted to get to a round number (50) or to one per week (52), but alas, I'll have to settle for 48. Meanwhile, here are a couple of interesting stats about my reading:

  • I read 35 books for the first time, and 13 as re-reads (although one was by accident - I was a couple of chapters in, thinking it sounded really familiar, when I realized I had read it a few years ago)
  • I read 5 professional books, 4 faith-based books, and the rest (39) were mostly YA novels or biographical novels.
  • I really enjoy getting into series - this year, my series reads included Harry Potter, Ender's Game, The Beyonders, The Golden Compass, The Lunar Chronicles, The Breadwinner, and Dragonwatch!
  • I started getting into audiobooks for the first time. I still struggle to focus when listening to books, but I really enjoyed listening to books that I have previously read on audiobook. It brought a new dimension to my imagination of the story, and if I zoned out for a bit (which is not unusual), I could still track what was happening.
Overall, I really enjoy reading for pleasure, and it's a great escape from my day-to-day life! Maybe I should read more professionally, but honestly, I do a lot of other professional reading through blogs, articles, etc. As I begin 2019, I don't have any major goals for reading this year except to keep it up and continue tracking what I read. I do have quite a list of books related to refugees or migrants that I started in 2018, and I will probably continue to work through it in 2019.

One thing I am always on the lookout for is good YA novels, especially series! My favorite stories tend to be adventure, fantasy, or historical fiction. If you have anything good to recommend - please let me know!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

#OneWord2019 | Courage

Happy new year, #PLN! As 2019 approached, I spent some time thinking about what my #oneword2019 should be. For the past two years, I have chosen one word to focus on for the year, and they have both been very appropriate. In 2017, my word was lead, and I ended up getting my principal's license, leading a summer school site, and changing jobs to more of a district leadership role! Last year, my word was integrity, which was a guiding force as I faced challenges and choices in big and small ways. This year, I am following up with another word that relates to my past two...


Courage to embrace change

There are many changes coming in my work, and probably in other areas of life, too! I want to have the courage to embrace them, rather than be anxious about them.

Courage to look at things differently

Keeping with the status quo is safe. It takes courage to voice a different perspective and be willing to explore new ideas!

Courage to say no to some things and give up control

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to say no. It can take courage to admit that you don't have the capacity for that right now, or that it just isn't what you want to be focusing on. Especially when saying no might mean that the thing you are talking about may not happen...or it may look very different. I want to have the courage to say no to some things so I can say yes to the right things.

Courage to do what's right, not just what's easy

In my leadership role, I have been in so many situations where it's just easier to let things slide. There is a temptation to take the easy route, whether that is not involving everybody in shared decision-making, shying away from pushing people to continually grow, or allocating resources in the same way they've been allocated in the past rather than really analyzing why they are allocated that way. None of these would be particularly wrong if I went a different route, but I want to be holding myself to the standard of caring more about doing things the right way than doing things the easy way.

Courage to not run from tough conversations

This is a personal area of growth for me - I don't like conflict! I want to be willing to face the tough conversations and handle them with compassion, love, grace, and sincerity while still standing firm.

Courage to step out with confidence and lead

This is another very personal area of growth - I feel like I have been placed in a position of leadership and responsibility pretty quickly (in my career), and I am still growing into it. I want to grow in my own personal confidence in my abilities and trust myself. This doesn't mean that I won't seek out help from others (at all!), but that I won't constantly be second-guessing myself and will be a better advocate and leader.

What's your #OneWord2019?

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 Reflection | #OneWord2018 | INTEGRITY

As 2018 comes to a close, I am sitting in a warm house, looking out at the sparkling snow, with much to be grateful for. A new job (which I love!), new experiences (best of all, #DEN18), and so much growth, both personal and professional. I want to look back on my #OneWord2018 to guide my reflections.
*Fair warning: This post is about me, and I feel a bit selfish writing it. But isn't that what personal reflections are?

Image result for ms_a_yeh integrity

This year, I wanted to focus on integrity, with three components being engage(ing), courage, and initiative. This played out in many ways as through the year!

In January, I was able to be spontaneous and engage with new friends as I took a trip to California to meet #PLN buddies in person! I also enjoyed a trip to string camp, in which I found & had the integrity to admit, for the first time, that I was happy to be in ed tech and moving on from my time teaching in the classroom.

In February, I celebrated the culmination of my #OneWord2017 (LEAD) journey by summoning the courage to press "submit" on my PRAXIS (spoiler: I passed)!

In March, I did a lot of reflecting, and took the initiative to really think about #selfcare as a part of being a healthy educator.

In April, I earned my #GoogleET certification and blogged publicly, for the first time, about my desire to apply for the #GoogleEI program - it took courage to put it out there for accountability!

In May, I wrote about continuing to learn and grow as an ed tech leader and engaged in "real talk" as I shared my first #GoogleEI application and thoughts along the way.

In June, I wrote with integrity about my honest feelings about not getting into #LAX18, enjoyed seeing ways that music teachers were taking initiative to take ideas even further, and met SO MANY friends IRL at #ISTE2018! What a highlight that was, and a reminder of how special it is when we are ourselves - both online and in person - rather than wearing a mask or putting on a persona!

In July, I engaged in some more honest sharing as I wrote about changes (having no idea what was coming in my own life) and took the initiative to not only attend another #EdTechTeam summit but convince my brother to present with me (which was amazing)!

In August, I learned about taking a step back and allowing others to find the courage to lead and published one of my more popular posts of the year with the results of a survey about what people were looking for from ed tech specialists in schools that I took the initiative to put together.

In September, a lot happened as I had the courage to put myself out there! I moderated my first Twitter chat, applied for #GoogleEI again (and got accepted this time!), and started a new job. Talk about a big month!

In October, I thought a lot about leading with integrity and what that meant in my new position - from the messages I was sending to the struggle with balance to the need for courageous choices & conversations.

November wins the award for the most blogs written in a month, because I was at #DEN18 and blogged my way through! I made the decision after the first day of the academy to write vulnerably and engage in a real, raw way, which took courage and initiative. It ended up being a great experience that further fueled my desire to live with integrity and walk my talk of what I think is important!

Which brings us to December, where I exercised that integrity by making sure I was living a life that demonstrated #selfcare, took the initiative to bring some fun to the office, and wrote about my struggles and lessons learned with listening to others.

It's been a great year, and I truly see how my #OneWord2018 was woven in and out of my experiences! What will 2019 bring? Check back next week to see my #OneWord2019 and let's find out! Happy New Year, everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

This Winter Break...

We all need a break! This season, I hope you can...
Say no to work (work-work or stuff that needs to be done).
Say yes to fun and spontaneity.
Play games.
Sing songs.
Make good food.
Eat good food.
Spend time with friends and family.
Serve others.
Be bored.
Sleep in.
Do nothing.

At the same time, I hope that we can remember those...
...who are missing loved ones.
...who dread the days at home without the structure of school.
...who fear that they won't have presents this season.
...who do not find the holidays joyful.
...who are in pain (physical, emotional, spiritual).
...who need a reminder that they are loved.

Take a minute and text someone, will you? Send them a chocolate bar. Stop by and say hi. Give them a hug. Send a little encouragement their way this holiday season. Let them know that they are not alone.

Happy holidays to you all!

happy ChristmasBitmoji Image

Saturday, December 15, 2018

3 Ways to Build Community & Have Fun Together!

As the busy holiday season continues, I'm determined to not forget a few #selfcare tips (remember #MyRelaxing5?). Today's installment: 3 ways to have some team-building office fun!

1. Get outside & take a walk!

This one is super easy to implement. Find a buddy, and take a walk together! This gives you the chance to get some fresh air, to get some exercise, and to get to know each other in a little bit less formal setting. In Colorado, we are lucky enough to have sunny weather most days, but the temperature does vary quite a bit. Even when it's cold, put on your jackets/hats/gloves, and get out there!

I know it feels hard to give up even 10-15 minutes of plan time (or work time), but I have found that I am so much more productive after giving my mind & body a break, and I wouldn't trade the conversations and relationships for anything!

2. Stick Together

This activity was introduced to me by @zmidler, and has made an appearance in several school libraries! The basic idea is like paint-by-number, except with stickers - each little square (or pixel, so to speak) has a letter in it, and, using the key, you can put the thousands of different-colored little square stickers in the correct place. My favorite is pulling out the picture of the final product so you have to discover it as you go :-).
The fun of this activity is that it brings people together to work on something collaboratively! It is a great brain break that can last for 30 seconds or 10 minutes (just depending on how many stickers you add to the final product). And lots of people can be working on it at once!

I am not selling the product in any way, but if you want to find out more, visit #adultslikestickerstoo

3. Coloring Tablecloths

This is another one I learned about from @zmidler - clearly, I like her ideas! Put out a coloring tablecloth + a bunch of markers, and see what happens! Coloring is a great brain break, and a chance to express your creativity! Just like StickTogether, several people can be working on it at once, and we've noticed that when one person sits down to color, it often draws more people in to take a quick 5-10 minute brain break, and builds community that way!

It's been interesting to see the progression of our coloring, as well. It started with being very concrete, and coloring in the lines, but as we get close to finishing it (and find ourselves coloring the same pictures at a different part of the tablecloth), people are branching out and being more creative in the way they use the markers to fill the space!

The bonus part of this is - if you use washable markers, you can wash it once you are done and start over again next year! Again, I am not selling anything, but if you want to find out more, here's the link: #adultscolortoo

As the resident director of Fine & Performing Arts, I love creative ways to bring people together - adults or students! What ideas do you have? Please share in the comments!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

The Importance of Listening


True confession: I'm bad at it. Too often, I am thinking about how to share my views, rather than really listening to what others are saying. And it gets me into trouble at times!

Switching places for a moment, it feels amazing when somebody is listening to you. Especially somebody with "power," somebody who can create change. I always feel so valued when people take the time to just listen! Often, I don't want or need a solution, but I want them to consider my viewpoint. I want to share (that's the human connection piece). I want to feel heard.

Over the past several weeks, I've been in situations with students, parents, and staff members where I have to check my natural instinct to talk and focus on being a listener. It's hard! But I believe it holds the power to build relationships, and that makes it worth it!

I am far from being an expert, but here are a few tips and tricks that I have been using to be a better listener:

1. "Tell me more about..."

Often, a pause in the conversation indicates an opportunity for the other person to respond. At times, though, there may be something that was left unsaid, and probing deeper brings us to the real heart of what is going on. Using that pause to say, "Tell me more" rather than "Here's what I think" often opens up a whole new level of understanding.

2. Silence is golden.

Silence is uncomfortable. We tend to fill it with words. But sometimes those words distract from the heart of the issue. Don't be afraid to let silence sit in a conversation. Sometimes it leads to further reflection and revelation, but sometimes it just serves to acknowledge that you are hearing and thinking about what was just said.

3. Don't interrupt.

Oh, this is so hard! Especially in conversations that are more controversial, it is so tempting to want to stop someone when they are saying something that is hard to hear or not accurate (from your perspective). But what does that do? Immediately put them on the defensive. More often than not, it is worth it to let them finish their entire train of thought and look for the deeper heart of the issue, rather than quibbling over details in a back-and-forth ping-pong match. Even in conversations that are benign, it's easy to want to interrupt with my agreement, my story or experience, or my take on the matter. Hold your tongue & don't do it!

How do you focus on being a good listener? Please share your tips & tricks in the comments below!