How To Be Yourself

I feel like now, at the age of 30, I’m starting to really know who I am. I’ve understood pieces, but I think that I’m finally figuring out how the many parts fit together. I’m learning what’s truly important to me, what really matters, the things I want to stand for.

Sometimes I make things so complicated. I turn little molehills into mountains – changing simple everyday choices into monumental decisions that will, in my mind, affect my entire future and determine who I really am.

But in reality, being me should be so simple. I got a lesson on being myself from a sweet little 6 year old last week. It brought me to tears and it hit home in a big way. Here’s his 11 step plan on how to be yourself.

How To Be Yourself

  1. Do not copy somebody.
  2. Act like you.
  3. Be nice.
  4. Do what you usually do.
  5. Play what you usually play.
  6. Be who you are.
  7. Do what you like to do.
  8. Do your thing.
  9. Help people.
  10. Do what you’re supposed to.
  11. Have grace.

So simple.

So profound.

No catchy phrases.

No quiz determining what your personality type is or what the color of your aura is.

No instructions on figuring out if your true style is hipster or bohemian.

No analysis of whether you are a hands-on parent or a free-spirit parent.

No thoughts on the car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, or the dietary plan you’ve selected for your family.


Once again in my classroom, I was the student and my student was the teacher. And I remembered Jesus’ words…
Matthew 18:2-4
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

My hope is that I can learn to be myself in a simple, beautiful way like this little child.  That I can take away the complications and the silly details that don’t matter one little bit.

My hope is that I can remember to just do my thing, be nice, and have grace.  Because that sounds like a Shannon I can be proud of.


Being a Teacher

I’ve been seeing lots of blog posts and articles written by frustrated teachers in my news feed.  These teachers are writing about frustrations with administrators and the decisions they’re making.  They are frustrated with lawmakers and the constantly changing and growing legislation trickling down to those of us actually inhabiting these classrooms.  They are frustrated with THE TEST and how much it’s changing our profession and our students’ lives.

And I get it.  I understand where they are coming from.  In my nine years as a teacher I’ve seen some decisions made that I didn’t think were best for kids and they made me angry.  I’ve heard stories of educational leaders that sound like tyrants.  I’ve seen THE TEST grow and grow and grow.  I can only imagine how veteran teachers must feel seeing things change so much since they began 20, 30, 40 years ago.  It’s definitely a flawed system.

But as I’ve read these articles I keep coming back to this:  We’re in it for the kids.  We’re not in it for success or fame and we’re definitely not in it for the money.  And while we may not like what’s put upon us from above, the kids coming into our classrooms each day still need the same things.  They need love.  They need acceptance.  They need someone who will put in the time with them.  Someone who will help them learn to think and love to learn.  Isn’t that what being a teacher is all about?

Being a teacher is about teaching, but it’s about so much more than that.

It’s about pushing them to do more than they ever believed they could.

It’s about being that one constant thing when Grandma gets cancer or Mom and Dad split up or big sister dies.  Being constant when their world is crumbling.

Being a teacher may mean being the only smile and hug they get that day.

It’s being the one to introduce them to Jan Brett and Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss and teaching them to love books and reading.

It means being the one to say, “I’m proud of you” and seeing their face light up in a smile.

Being a teacher means watching them perform the dance they “choreographed” last night without laughing and clapping when they finish.

It’s being the one to give them a breakfast bar when they come to school crying because their tummy is rumbling so loudly.

Being a teacher is being the person who notices their fancy haircut or new tennis shoes or missing tooth.

It’s being the one to pull them aside when they just don’t seem okay and letting them talk.

It’s being the one who introduces them to The Golden Rule and using eye contact and respectful body language.

Sometimes being a teacher means being mom and dad, counselor, and motivational speaker.

It’s being the one who wipes their tears when they skin their knee or their dog dies or their cousins move away.

It means being the one who tells them they’re strong and tough and brave when they doubt themselves.

Being a teacher means being the one who watches their amazement when they look back at their writing from nine months ago and can finally see that all their hard work paid off.

It’s being the adult who teaches them to say, “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”.

It’s being the one to proudly wear their Rainbow Loom bracelet and tape their painting up on the wall.

It’s being the person who will not accept less than their best and will hold them accountable to be who you know they can be.

Being a teacher is all about teaching.  It’s about teaching them how to add and subtract.  It’s about teaching them how to read and write.  It’s about teaching them how to think.  But it’s also about teaching them what love looks like, every single day.

And no matter what laws are passed and how big and scary THE TEST gets, love will always be the same.


There is something beautiful about a fresh start.

A newborn baby with a clean slate.
The first gleam of the sun on a new morning.
An empty page waiting to be written on.

Doesn’t the beginning of school feel like that?  Everything’s new.  It’s a fresh start for all of us.  As I look around my classroom, the “sharp” cup for pencils is full – all of them anticipating making their first marks.  Crayons still have their points and their full wrappers.  Bulletin boards are empty, ready to exhibit our learning.  Each desk has a nametag, but no substance yet.  Journals are blank, scissors are in packages, and our charts are bare.  The floors are still shiny from their summer waxing, unsullied from the muddy feet that are to come.

DSC_0002 DSC_0010

And I am new too.  Each August I get a chance to begin my school year as the teacher I want to be.  The lethargy I felt in April is gone.  The mistakes I made last year are wiped away and I get a fresh slate — sparkly and brand new.  I get the opportunity to introduce myself to 21 little people who I will spend the next 9 months with.

One looks me square in the eye and shakes my hand.

Another hides behind his mom, peeking out from between her legs, trying to size me up.

A little girl shyly whispers, “Do you still have your turtle?”.

A boy marches in like he owns the place, and gives his dad the grand tour.

Each child comes in with a story.  Their story.  It’s theirs to tell and theirs to share.  I am so blessed to get to help them tell it.  And just as importantly, I get to be a character in it.  I get a role in this chapter of their story — a chance to impact the way the rest of their novel will play out.  I can play the nemesis, throwing obstacles and discouragement in their way.  I can choose to tear them down and spend my days just getting by.

Or I can choose to be the one to make the difference.  The one who stands beside them against all odds — encouraging them, believing in them, pushing them to do things they never imagined they could.  I can be the one who gives them the only hug they’ll get that day.  I can be the one who tells them I’m proud of them when they feel like they don’t deserve it.  I can be the one who helps light the flame of a passion for learning.  I can be the one to say, “You’re a reader!” when they didn’t think they could be.  I can be the one who shows them a little piece of Jesus’ love for them.  Lord, in this new year, help me be the one.