Life is an exciting adventure…

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In my life’s work as an educator and my personal life I am learning to do the things that feel right. Especially when I follow my gut feeling on things related to work I seek a combination of what sounds like tons of fun for my life and is aligned with my purpose to meaningfully serve others. As I reflect on how that’s been working out for me I can be honest that it usually freaks me out and leaves me grasping my forehead and asking myself why I even got into this (whatever it might be) in the first place. Recently, I’ve been “failing” at a lot of things when I follow that bliss+service combo. It’s been scary, and sometimes feels foolish like I’m wasting my time and energy on things that “aren’t working out” or appear to have minimal impact. And then things like this happen… I received this amazing appreciation note from a colleague who stopped by my house during a workshops series I run for second year teachers on Restorative Justice in schools. I’m so grateful when I’m reminded by colleagues, students, experiences, simple feelings or synchronistic moments that I am on the right path. It’s validation that the side projects, the volunteering, the all-nighters, the risk-taking and the failures are worth it.

Life is an exciting adventure..

The best thank you card I’ve ever received and never expected.

 

I’m learning and growing and becoming the woman, the educator and the community leader I know I am meant to be. We each have a voice telling us to go forward and do something; no matter how bold, simple, challenging or beautiful it may be, we all have something to add this this world. I’m learning that in order make our biggest impact we must have the courage to start small and follow our passion and happiness. In reality, authentic service and an life’s exciting adventures stem from someone who is in love with who they are and what they do.

Come-Alive

Be “The Light” Without Feeling Bad

 

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As a friend, a parent, an educator, a boss, a service provider, or generally a connected human, I can imagine that at some point in your life you have experienced the ironic frustration that sometimes happens when others seek your support in times of need. I think it is a fairly common human experience to feel annoyed, or even undervalued, that someone ONLY thinks of you when things are tough.

I’m guilty of this in both my personal and professional life.  I’ve been frustrated with friends who only call to talk about their problems.  I am the friend who has only called when I was lonely.  I am the daughter who hadn’t called my Mom for two weeks and then called crying at the end of a horrible week.  I am the student who only gets in touch when I need that recommendation.  I am the teacher who has begrudgingly helped a kid who acted like a jerk all semester and then sought support a week before the semester’s end.  I am the co-worker who said yes to helping out, but felt hurt because you made it clear I was your last resort.  I am the partner who said no (because it’s easiest to say know the ones you love the most, right?) and had to live with the pain I caused by leaving him alone in that darkness.

The experience of being annoyed by someone seeking your light in their darkest time come straight from the illusions of our ego.  When we involve our own judgements and fears of self-worth, it becomes about us, and not about the person in need.  These judgements are also the reason that so many of us shy away from reaching out to our loved ones, our colleagues, our support networks, etc.  Instead of judging people for when, how, or why they reach for you light in a time of darkness, it would help make this world a better place if we all tried our best to accept the blessing (and the privilege) of being that light for someone else.

 

Seeking Justice in the Classroom

Recently I was sent a random email from Teach for America asking me to approve a blurb they wrote about my work as a social justice educator. They thought of me when re-designing a part of their final interview process meant to “update how we talk about race, class, and privilege, the importance of personal identity and reflection, and community partnership”.

Thousands of new teacher applicants across the country will reference me and my students as they discuss Restorative Practices and Culturally Relevant practices and as part of their “theory of change”. Who would have thought…

“Let’s talk for a moment about Charla Agnoletti, a 2009 Colorado alum who focused not just on Language Arts, but also on developing “the skills [her] students needed to deal with the disproportionate levels of conflict, oppression and social issues they face as low-income youth of color.” Charla saw her students as “warriors for peace and justice” which led her to pilot restorative justice and culturally relevant practices within her class. She is now leading these efforts at a school wide level as her school’s first ever Restorative Justice Coordinator. Her past classroom curriculum and her current school wide initiatives focus on “creating critical consciousness in youth by discussing issues central to their lives while teaching practical tools for peace and justice to immediately implement in [their] community.” A student of Charla’s noted that Ms. Agnoletti “filled [her] with knowledge that will walk alongside [her] for the rest of [her] life.”

Gratitude is the Attitude

The most important vocabulary word in this past school year’s curriculum?  Gratitude.  Gratitude will change your life and it certainly transformed my teaching experience.  This year I had a student give me the most meaningful note I have ever received from a student.  In her letter she wrote to me that I had taught her things that will, “walk alongside me for the rest of my life”.  Although it could be the grammer rules, persuasive techniques, or new transition words she was referring to, my perception is her experience is rooted in our classroom gratitude practice.  She has been practicing weekly gratitude for over a year.

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Over a year and a half ago I picked up a book called Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar and  spark occurred.  I was intimately familiar with the miraculous power of gratitude as I had journals filled with gratitude lists.  However, Ben-Shahar began to interweave education and happiness in a way that I had never thought of before.  What if we found a way to teach gratitude to students?   Would they be happier?  Would we?  The spark became a flame that changed everything.

Immediately I started gratitude practice with my students.  In February of 2012 I began randomly giving students a warm-up journal prompt to list their gratitude.  Over those few short months I saw the social-emotional benefits of gratitude.  Tense moods became lighter, community was built and students were exploring their personal experiences and identities in way I had never before seen.  Students started with gratitude for Mom, Dad, friends, and food and with time explored deep expressions of gratitude for their heritage, privileges, hardships and accomplishments.  Self-awareness seeds were planted.

I believe this practice is essential to lowering my students affective filters, or their mood towards learning, so that we can actually learn.  My own experience with gratitude is always an automatic sense of relief, calm and happiness.  If you haven’t recently, or ever, created a gratitude list, try it.  Get a notebook, write it in your phone notes, say it out loud…whatever you do, try and make it a daily practice to find something to be thankful for.  If its been a while, start back up.  Share it as your facebook status, tweet it, or share a moment with a loved one saying your thanks.  My favorite yogi tea quote says, “An attitude of gratitude brings an abundance of opportunities”. No matter your position or profession, if you practice gratitude routinely you will feel the miraculous impact on many aspects of your daily life.  If you are an educator or parent, pay special attention to practicing with your youth to make a significant impact in their lives as well as your own.

Check out The Happiness Advantage Video, a great Ted Talks video about happiness in the work place, the power of positivity, and five practices to boost your happiness (gratitude is one of them!).  How could a few simple acts of happiness and gratitude affect your family, your relationships, your work, or your experience with life?

Please share something  you are grateful for or tips for a gratitude practice in the comments below!

Thanks!

XO, Charla