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!

Saturday, December 1, 2018


As I sit here with Christmas decorations (mostly) up, enjoying the cozy light of the tree, it seems to be an appropriate time to write #MyRelaxing5. This blog challenge began with @msventurino, and has made its way through the #sunchatbloggers group, focusing on something educators are not always good at - taking time for ourselves.

If you know me IRL or have seen me online for any length of time, it's probably not a secret that I am a go-go-go type of person! I enjoy a fast-paced lifestyle, I love being involved in many different things, and I'm passionate about the work I do. The flip side of this is that I'm not good at resting. Or saying no. Or doing things for myself. But neglecting that side of life can definitely lead to burnout and not being as effective at...well...anything. This is the perfect time of the year for a reminder to slow down and take a moment to just relax.

Here are #MyRelaxing5, 5 non-work things that I will commit to doing for ourselves before the end of 2018.

1. Go on a vacation!

Okay, this is sorta cheating because I've already done it, but it was a big one! Once I left the classroom, I also left behind Thanksgiving break, winter break, spring break, and summer. As a teacher, I was "told" when my time off was, and I took advantage of it! Now, I work year-round, and it didn't occur to me at first that I purposefully need to plan some chunks of time to take off. I've taken a couple of long weekends or time off to go to other conferences (which doesn't really count), but this is the first real, extended vacation I've taken in several years, making it worthy of inclusion on this list! I need to do this at least once per year, whether it's traveling out of the country or just taking days off for a staycation!

2. Making fun food

I always know my stress level is low when I feel like I have time to experiment in the kitchen. And what better time to cook than the holidays? Whether it's trying a new recipe or making my traditional Christmas fudge, I want to make time to play in the kitchen.

Image result for doing nothing cartoon 3. Sit on the couch and do nothing.

I'm serious. Sometimes the best thing I can do is...nothing. There's something relaxing about just saying no to deadlines, work-work, fun-work, volunteer responsibilities, chores, and everything else for a moment. It's hard to quiet my mind, but when I can get to that place of doing nothing and letting my thoughts wander, it's one of the most relaxing things in the world!

4. Reading

On my recent trip, lots of time on airplanes meant time to read. As I updated my "Books I've Read in 2018" list, I realized I hadn't finished a book in two months! Yikes. Somehow, between switching jobs and everything else I had going on, reading just got pushed to the bottom of the priority list. But it is something that brings me great joy! My recent "kick" has been reading books that are stories, whether nonfiction or fiction, of refugees, along with some professional reading to help me in my new role. I'm happy to say that over the past two weeks, I've read 7 books and am in the middle of #8. It feels so good to be back into it!

5. Making Music

One of my favorite relaxing things to do is to play piano. Or to play violin with friends. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is playing piano duets with my sister. It's time to practice! Making music always calms me, no matter how stressed I am, and provides a good, quick outlet for my creative juices. I want to play more before the end of 2018.

So there you go - #MyRelaxing5. Please feel free to ask and hold me accountable for actually doing these things!

What will you commit to doing for yourself by the end of the year? Share using the hashtag #MyRelaxing5, and don't forget to take care of YOU in this busy season!