Beet Juice Smoothie

I had some work to do in my garage this morning

Some tinkering with the vehicle

Making sure it is ready 

for the next adventure

And it got me to thinking…
.

I remember when I first got the keys

Those precious keys 

opening a whole new world
.

I’m so grateful for this vehicle

For the journey it has taken me on

Always going places

wonderful destinations

Where I just get to be me

Beautiful trails

Inspiring gardens

Resting by the lake

Heart soaring

And peaceful

Simultaneously
.

My beet-juice-smoothie-red car

In its’ own way

Has nourished me

Been a home of sorts

Like the beet juice smoothies 

That greet me each morning

A quirky drink perhaps

But my drink

Forever

My little taste of home each day
.

That car keeps me going places

Even though I’m not really going anywhere at the moment

Just tinkering in the garage

Making sure the vehicle is smiling

Knowing how cherished it is

Grateful for every moment 

Spent together
.

I know every inch of the car

And it has grown to know me

We’re two distinct beings

But when we ride

We are one

The car enveloping me

Much like I do that morning smoothie

Grateful for the earthy sweetness

That my juju beets have brought
.

They’ve nourished me daily

Fed my heart 

And soul

With richness

And stories

And energy

That carries me

Mile after mile

Just like the car
.

So as the car door closes

And the keys hang together

Yet alone

I reminisce

Polishing silently

Grateful for all the miles

A treasure trove of memories

Wishing I had savored them 

even more preciously

And looking forward

To the new journey

That unfolds ahead.

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A Beautiful Catch


The cover of a baseball

composed of two distinct halves

Woven together

Stitch by stitch

Along the seams

Becoming singular

Seamless

One.

.
Two mitts

Two hands

Two hearts

Tossing the ball

Gently through the air

Ascending

Then falling

Trusting 

The catch.

.
There is no score

No competition

Only connection

Two mitts

Two hands

Two hearts

Woven together

Seamlessly

Singularly

One.

The Ugly Triumph of Unwelcome Failure


The results came back in an email, just a few minutes after I completed the test. It was a rather pleasant “Thank You” letter, masking the unpleasant news. 
Dear Greg Armamentos, 
Thank you for completing the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam. 
Exam Result: FAIL 
It was of course sent in a “Do Not Reply” email. But my reply, or response, was utter disbelief. And embarrassment. And all those annoying, haunting, insecurity-inducing little inner voices that instantly seize the opportunity to heap shame upon you when you don’t accomplish a task that you set out to do.
“You’re not technologically savvy.”
“Your students can handle these apps better than you.”
“What makes you think you are qualified for this certification?”
Now I have been using various Google Educational Tools in my classroom daily for the past few years. When I signed up for a training session to prepare me for this test, I assumed I would be filling in a few small gaps and then breezing through the test later that day. But a few minutes into the training presentation, I realized the instruction was much more comprehensive than my knowledge to date. So I dug in, and tried to absorb everything shared over the 8 hour session. 
They also provided a link to website that offered additional preparation for the certification exam. This site had thirteen training modules, and I spent over 20 more hours pouring over the materials to make sure I was ready for the test. Because I was determined that there was no way I was going to fail that test. 
And to top it off, I signed up to take the test with a group of colleagues. We would all meet together, and have each others’ backs while navigating the test. It was overkill to be sure, but sometimes I can be a perfectionist. Eve though I caution my students against the self-imposed stresses of perfectionism.
Easier said than done.
A colleague emailed me the night before, letting me know that she had just taken the exam and passed, and sending her best wishes for my results. When I replied with what I had done to prepare for the test, she quickly emailed back:
“OMG! You’re more than prepared!”
Famous last words.
I used every minute of the three hours allotted, and still I didn’t reach one of the 11 test scenarios, and failed to complete another one. But I felt very confident in all of the sections that I had finished. 
Those of us gathered to take the test together began getting our results at the same time. And immediately the horror of not passing in front of my colleagues dawned on me. The email alerts came one after another.
“Exam Result: PASS”
“Exam Result: PASS”
“Exam Result: FAIL”
Now I remind my students all the time of the importance of failure. Of having a growth mindset. Of daring greatly. We talk about JK Rowling’s inspiring Harvard commencement speech extolling the benefits of failure. But truth be told, I’d rather learn from your failure than my own. I’d rather be an empathetic colleague, patting you on the back and encouraging you to try again, than falling flat on my face and having you extend a hand to help me up. I’m just being honest.
But that day wasn’t a day for welcome results. It wasn’t a day to bask in glory. It was just plain ugly.
For a few moments, I inflated a few proverbial black balloons and wallowed in a bit of self pity. I listened to those little voices, leaning in to tell me that I didn’t quite measure up to my colleagues, and that I likely am a fraud masquerading as a competent educator. But then I resolved to get back in the arena, and dare greatly again. I reminded myself that failure isn’t permanent, and while it is ugly, and I might still secretly wish to learn from its’ virtues when it befalls others instead of me, I nonetheless embraced the moment, and resolved to take the test again. I took out my notes from the training session, and revisited any area that posed some difficulty. I went through the litany of modules, again.
And after a gut-wrenching, stress-filled, “shove-it-in-your-face” to those haunting little voices, I finished the test with plenty of time to spare. And yes, this time I passed.
But the real lesson for me was to authentically embrace my own failures, as unwelcome as they may be. I was reminded that some of life’s little triumphs aren’t pretty, but ugly. That trying and failing, only to rise and fight again, always trumps not trying at all.

Shadow.

He is my frequent companion

walking alongside me

always listening

my secrets are safe

a silent partner

my distorted twin

playfully forging ahead

or sporadically trailing behind

I hope to watch over me

We’re always connected

but at times he is hidden

craving the light 

to have his darkness recognized

a continuum of grey shades

stretching out

then fading

seeping through fenceposts

clinging to walls

one silhouette after another

imitating my every move

is it flattery

or mockery?

he never lets on

keeping secrets of his own

Leaving me to question

Are his quiet ways

melancholy 

or menacing?

In my own darkness

I’m left to wonder

My secrets are safe

In his silence

But am I?

Life is a Classroom

Blackboard-Life-Grayscale

Every year I write a few words to the students as they leave the classroom and head off into the summer, and their future. This letter is one last pause; one final reflection on the lessons hopefully learned during our time together.

 

     You are leaving the classroom.  School is out.  The desks are empty, the lockers are cleared, and the homework is through.  First, take a moment and consider what you learned.  Think beyond the subjects.  Look past the projects.  See further than the report cards and the national competitions that give witness to what tremendous students you are.  What were the lessons?  What did you learn about life?  What did you learn about yourself?

    Life is a classroom.  It is an open, mysterious, wonderful daily adventure in learning. The attributes that make you great students, will also make you great people.  This year, we joined many wonderful characters that were on their own journeys in the classroom of life.  In a fictional way, Edward Tulane (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane), Katrina Katrell (Zorgamazoo), Jessica Carlisle (The Running Dream), Ava Anderson (All the Answers), Nolan Byrd (Shredderman), and Basil Pepperell (The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Basil) were on their own similar adventure.  These characters learned great lessons about the world around them, but more importantly, they learned about themselves.  They learned to cherish their unique talents and perspectives, as well as the people in their lives.  

    I hope to hear from you as you continue this journey in the classroom of life.  My own journey has been enriched and enhanced by each of you, and I look forward to learning from your personal adventures.  As Jessica Carlisle stated after crossing the finish line (with some minor adjustments):

“I’m aware that my friends and my teachers are here, telling me how proud they are.  It’s all fuzzy in my head because I’m shaky and exhausted, but I’m also aware that I am very, very happy.  I’m surrounded by people that have helped me in some way to get over that finish line.  But as we gather, I realize something.  That wasn’t a finish line for me.  Ten months ago, it required a great effort for me to stand in front of this classroom.  But today, I stand in front of my classmates with confidence.  Ten months ago, I wondered if I could do anything.  This year has made me believe there is nothing I can’t do.  

This is my new starting line.”  

    Thank you for making this school year a wonderful “run” for all of us, and hopefully through it all, finding a new “starting line” for you.   

 

Always your teacher; Always your friend,

Mr. Armamentos  

 

CampDays45

Eye Level

Ten minutes into recess, the skies were clear and the sun was shining, but I found him alone in the upstairs hallway, on all fours, eyes squinting into the multi-colored carpet.
My little Ashton.
Apparently he had lost one of the minuscule little screws for his glasses, and couldn’t see without them. Crawling backwards and forwards, scrounging for the missing hardware, he was determined. Relentless. Eyes on the prize.
And I was on my first and only break of the day.
I had better things to do, and of course, he did as well, but right now he wanted to fix the problem at hand. So I got down on all fours with him, eye to eye, and fixed my gaze into the kaleidoscopic abyss. 
Your mind can quickly imagine what we did find. Traces of glitter. Carpet furs. Smudges of a green substance that were tracked in by hundreds of feet that previously trounced through geese-infested fields. Yuck. 
But no screw. No luck. And also, no worries.
Ashton was incredibly patient, and would undoubtedly still be running his little hands across that patch of carpet, which of course just happens to be outside of the boys bathroom (don’t let your mind linger on that urinary fact for too long), if it weren’t for Mrs. Z saving the day.
Of course, Mrs. Z is one of those teachers who is prepared for just such an emergency. She has one of those bags that seems to have whatever you need inside. Had it been left to me, Ashton would be sporting a pair of duct-taped spectacles this afternoon, but Mrs. Z is more prepared, and more thoughtful. She had three of those mini screwdrivers, and an assortment of teeny-tiny screws that hold together a watch, a bracelet, or a small child’s glasses. So we carefully and painstakingly repaired the frames for Ashton’s lenses in time for him to enjoy a few minutes of recess. 
And while I might not have gotten the break time I envisioned, I got the break I apparently needed. The one that reminds me of the importance of perspective, and staying eye level with my students, so I can see the world through their eyes as well. Even when a screw may be loose, or my hands might get dirty.

Though She Be Little, She is Fierce

She slunk into my classroom with a forlorn glance. Head bowed down. Walking tentatively. But she needed to interrupt the class; this was important.
“I can’t run with our run club today, Mr. A. I broke my arm. The doctor wants me to keep it stable. But may I come anyway? I can still help.”
Her timidity dissipated as I welcomed her assistance. With the cold winds blowing outside, we were already short on volunteers, and we could always use that “I can help” attitude. 
When the meeting began, diminutive little Avya came back to me, asking “Where do you want me, Mr. A.? How can I help?” We were doing fartlek runs today, alternating between jogs, sprint, walks, and skips. After our stretches and warmups, I gave Avya a “jog” sign, and we headed out to the other side of the small lake.
My mind was swirling with the details of keeping roughly 100 kids engaged and supervised while we traversed the 1.6 mile course. 
“So tell me your name again?”
“I’m Avya.”
“So How did you break your arm?”
“I fell off a scooter this weekend.”
“Well thank you for wanting to help out today.”
“Oh Mr. A, you just don’t know. You have no idea how much this run club has changed me. I never thought of myself as much of a runner. I was mostly a walker. But this club changed me.”
I was floored by her intensity. Though she be little, she is fierce.
“Avya, why do you enjoy the running?”
“I get to be outside, and push myself. I’m amazed at how much I’ve grown! I just love the feeling of running.”
We continued walking together to her post. She pointed to her house across the water, and I asked her if she had participated in the race last year, which follows our seven weeks in the club.
She beamed.
“The 5K was the most lovely experience for me!”
I chuckled at the use of the term ‘lovely’ coupled with running. Imagining the heat. All the sweat. Hordes of stinky adults in drenched shirts running nearby her on the street.
“Why was it lovely?”
“Because I was able to run!”
There you have it. The wisdom of the ages. I’m happy, because I am. I run, because I can. With just a few short words, and a gigantic smile, Avya reminded me just why we began the run club at our school a few years ago.
To show kids who don’t identify as athletes, that they can find their own groove.

To point out some healthy habits with food and fitness.

To celebrate our abilities, and our gifts.

To run, because we can.