My #OneWordOnt 2018

Last year my word was fuel. I had been inspired by a late November evening conversation (via Twitter) with Colleen Rose (@colleenkr) and Amy Burvall (@amyburvall) about people whose work kept us going, who provided light in the darkness. I realized I wanted to think consciously in 2017 about who and what fuels me, how I could best fuel my students, and how I could also fuel my relationships with other people. I felt like there were a lot of activities and people that required my time, and I wanted to work on making sure I was fuelling me enough to provide fuel for others. I also knew that I would be heading into a self-funded leave year, beginning in September 2017, and I wanted to make sure that a big part of that time was spent fuelling me for the last 5 years of my teaching career.

And it was in that process, of figuring out how to fuel myself, that I ran smack into this year’s word: expectations – both my own and others – and began to realize that I need to do some exploring of these before I can totally benefit (and pass on the benefits) from the choices I make to fuel me.

I’m a first-born child, as well as first grandchild on my mom’s side. I am a second generation teacher on dad’s side, and 3rd on my mom’s. Couple that with being a first-generation Canadian on my dad’s side, and you know, if you share any of those identifiers, that I have some experience with expectations. If you are also a parent, you know that it can be challenging to not lay some of those (sometimes difficult) expectations on your own kids. Continuing that journey of balance with my spouse is one of the reasons expectations is my word for this year, as my older son is in Grade 11 and thinking about what comes next. I want him to be able to feel free to explore what fuels him without my expectations creating a barrier.

I also want to explore how I deal with other peoples’ expectations of me. Every time I explain that no, I’m not going on a long trip on this year off, and no, I’m not pulling my teenaged children out of school, and no, I’m not going anywhere warm, and no, I’m not doing a Master’s degree, and yes, I’m doing the math PD my board is offering, and yes, I’m occasionally helping out and visiting friend’s classrooms, and yes, I can sometimes be found working on planning in a quiet corner of the board office, I shrink a little. A little bit of me feels like I’m doing my year off wrong, because I’m trying to use it to live my everyday life at a slightly deeper level. I’m trying to use it to put structures and planning in place to help my family and I weather my return to work next September. I need to do some work on why it’s hard for me to advocate for that. Why it’s hard for me to deal with the expectations many people have of what a year off work should look Iike (and trust me that I will never ask another person on leave if they’re travelling).(Check out my #selffundedleave hashtag on Instagram if you’d like to leave your expectations at the door). This is a symptom of a larger issue for me, where I sometimes feel like I’m not living up to some phantom list of other people’s expectations.

Which leads into the expectations I place on myself. I tend to do a fair amount of beating myself up for not being/doing enough. Not a good enough parent, spouse, teacher, planner, exerciser, blogger, presenter, musician, housekeeper (that’s a big one for me, and largely self-inflicted). There’s a lot of shame going on in my head about the expectations I don’t measure up to, despite the many loving people in my world who assure me that I do, and I’d really like to work on letting go of some of that. I know I’m not the only one in the profession who lives with this, and I’d love to hear from others about their struggles and successes.

All of these things of course, tie into how I work in the classroom. How do my expectations of myself affect my expectations of my students. What expectations am I putting on my students, consciously and unconsciously? And how do they feel about that? How do my expectations of my colleagues affect our ability to learn together? One of my husband’s excellent questions on this journey has been about what expectations I’m willing to let go of in the classroom next year, so that I can have a bit more of a life. I have way more questions than answers right now, so that’s probably a good place to stop.

So, onward, bravely, into 2018, hoping to let go of some unhealthy expectations, and find some reasonable ones to help fuel my journey forward.


14 thoughts on “My #OneWordOnt 2018

  1. Lisa, this is such a beautiful post. Thanks for tagging me, especially because I know that you’re aware of some of my struggles this past year — and how you helped me through some of them too. I love that you chose a word that was so personal, not popular. Your stories and reflections are important for you to share and learn from, but they will help others sort through very necessary struggles as they face their own expectations.


  2. Thanks, Colleen. Your post a couple of weeks ago definitely influenced this one. You have been so appreciated as somebody I can honestly talk to about the struggles behind the smile. Let’s keep the support network going.


  3. It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m catching up on my #onewordont blog reading after participating in a virtual party on Minecraft (my first time on the game since June, I suspect). Thank you so much for this post, and making me/us aware of those unconscious things we say or do that push a certain expectation. I apologize if I ever did anything to suggest you weren’t doing your leave “properly”. Tell Terry he’s a fantastic spouse for you – I love how it’s evident that you support each other and talk about things. Please let us know how this one word works out


    • You, my friend, are one of those people who always let me know that you support me. I am inspired by the way you share your thinking, and the great relationship you have with your kids and spouse. I have some deep digging to do this year – some excavating of expectations – and I know you’ll ask great questions along the way.


      • You are most welcome. In hearing about the struggles some of my friends face with their families, I can only say that I am rather blessed to have who I have in my life. (At church last week, the priest mentioned that a son only said “I love you” to his father once – at his father’s funeral. I am so fortunate that those three words get said to me daily by my husband, son and daughter. We aren’t perfect but at least we know how we feel about each other). “Excavating Expectations” is a fantastic way to phrase it and I look forward to seeing what gets uncovered.


      • We are overwhelmingly blessed. I spent 12 hours on trains with my family last Friday, and we had a rather lovely time. I am learning much about how much extroversion my sweethearts can manage in small spaces, but the adjustment requests are always given with love.


    • You, my friend, are one of those people who always let me know that you support me. I am inspired by the way you share your thinking, and the great relationship you have with your kids and spouse. I have some deep digging to do this year – some excavating of expectations – and I know you’ll ask great questions along the way.


  4. Love this post, Lisa! Your post really struck a chord with me, as I know a couple of people from our Board that took self-funded leaves, and used them to travel. Then another person I know, chose not to, and I think faced many of the same questions that you are facing now. I love your bravery in speaking from the heart, and sharing the thinking behind your choices and your questions/uncertainties connected to “expectations.” I kind of wonder if a focus on this word might lead to a focus on “balance”: a big #oneword goal for many.

    Excited to hear more about this focus throughout the year! Happy New Year, Lisa!



    • Thanks so much, Aviva! In some ways, I’m beyond looking for balance – it’s more for me about digging into why I tend to be an approval junkie, why other people’s expectations matter so much to me, and why I’m not willing to accept that I am enough. Big questions to wrestle with, but I feel like I can’t move forward until they’re brought into the light from the shadows. I have taught students who were impaired by their own and their parents expectations to the point that they could not risk take. I see me in them, and want to do some figuring out of ways to help me and them.


  5. Lisa thank you for your honesty and openness with your struggles. This year has been a very difficult one for me. I had to abandon the expectations of others and focus on myself. This year I decided as well to take a leave of absence from my job as principal and move to China to be an international school principal. I decided that I needed to find a balance, renew my passion and spend more time on myself. Many of my colleagues do not understand this path, question my judgement, and wonder why? It is brave and noble to follow your own path and to abandon what others “think” you should do and what path you should follow. I love that you are defining what it is you need, taking the time to reflect and setting direction for moving forward. You are at a place of great change in your life. I have been there and taking the time to figure out where you want to go next, what you can leave behind and what fills your cup while letting go of others expectations is the right thing to do for you and that is all that matters. Enjoy the journey!


    • Thanks so much, Ann Marie. I really appreciate your feedback. I am 5 years away from retirement, and so part of this year means figuring out what comes next, as well. It is sometimes challenging to swim against the current, and it gets tiring sometimes, but it’s part of the journey. At times, my fight with expectations can become almost crippling, so something has to change.


  6. Pingback: My #OneWordOnt 2018 - Educational Computing Organization of Ontario

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s