Sharing Your Talents

By: Shannon Boatwright

I came across a very inspirational video on Facebook. It happens to all us Facebook users from time to time and we’re actually happy that we clicked the “watch” button.  This particular video really tugged at my heart strings, totally produced tears and made me do some deep thinking. Some of you may have seen it, too. It’s a video of a precious, most talented young lady on Romania’s Got Talent.

I didn’t realize how many countries have these types of talent television shows! In this particular clip, although the song is sung in English, not a bit of the spoken dialogue is in English, yet you’re still able to totally get the intensity of the specialness of the moment.  This amazing young lady has no arms or legs, but proved herself a total superstar. What an all-around beauty! I honestly still don’t know the history to this young talent’s story. I still need to research it because I’m curious how she got to the point in her life to be on the television show, as well as what she is doing now.

Upon watching the video though, I immediately knew that I wanted to use it as a teaching tool for my honors drama students. I knew I should take the opportunity to give them some inspiration and a good reminder that life is too short not to follow your dreams. Interestingly enough, the topic of this singing, keyboard-playing talent’s song is about following your dreams. It’s emotional to see grown men crying as they hear this young lady perform. If watching the video is so incredibly moving, I can only imagine how touching it is to see her perform in person.

For me, this performance served as a reminder that we should share our talents. Too many of us do things that we love, whether it’s something with the arts or any other interesting talent, and we tend to not share it. We get joy from doing whatever it is, yet most of us are too insecure, shy or scared to share our talent with others. I told my students to imagine if this special girl had decided not to take that leap of faith and share her love of music despite her challenges. She could’ve easily given up and not taken the risks, but she decided to share that joy that she gets from music and when she did, WOW! Hundreds, thousands, millions have been inspired thanks to this brave young soul sharing her beautiful musical abilities. How thankful are we that she did!

So the lesson is, if you have a talent that brings you joy, please consider sharing it! It just may bring joy to others too and inspire them as well. 🙂

Are You Exhausted?

By: Shannon Boatwright

I’m exhausted. I’m so tired, it hurts. Why is this? I ask myself all the time, why does it seem that I’m always so worn out physically and mentally? It’s that time of year for me, when my world is rocked by deadlines, school requirements, performances,…some of my greatest career accomplishments tend to happen during this time of the year, so yes, I’m overwhelmed and overworked. But after so many years of feeling this way, I’m beginning to get really frustrated about it. Is it just the fact that I’m a teacher? Or is it just me? Is it because I’m an over-achiever?

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I have a terrible time sleeping. I literally cannot shut my brain off. I don’t take medication to sleep, and I probably should, but I’d really rather not! I’m sure if I could actually get good, restful sleep and a decent amount of it, I’d feel so much better! But heaven forbid I actually be able to achieve that. Most unfortunately, a good night’s sleep is totally foreign to me these days.  I live in constant fear that I’ll get sick because I know my body and mind need rest. But I’m stumped when it comes to figuring out the right formula to actually achieve this.

So I decided to do some research. A healthy living article in the Huffington Post called “How To Shut Your Brain Off When You Just Can’t Sleep,” by Shelby Freedman Harris, Psy.D. gives several tips for those of us with an overactive mind. The problem is, I’m not so sure these tips can or will work for me. For example, one of the tips is to “not worry in bed.” Yea, um, not an option for me! I’m a mother, a teacher, a wife…worry is something I will never be able to get rid of. I try not to let it rule my world, of course, but worrying is a fact of my life. The article suggests that when you can’t calm the worries that plague your mind, to get out of bed. Getting up and going to another room, doing a simple chore, etc may help someone else realize how sleepy they are and enable them to go back to bed and actually sleep, but I guarantee you that WILL NOT work for me! Not only would that wake up the pets and truly give me more to deal with, but if I get up out of bed and start doing something, my body will think it’s time to get stuff done! Sadly, that is a technique that will not work for me in my circumstances.

On a plus side, the article mentions “mental imagery.” Now this is something I do try to attempt when I can’t shut my brain off. They say there’s a reason why people say to count sheep. Something about the repetitive, soothing nature of it. I’m not a math person, so that would just aggravate me, but I do like to use visualization. So I’ll try to envision myself getting a massage or floating on a cloud, or lounging weightless in a glorious, hot tub. Sometimes I am able to actually do this and it helps me get back to sleep. Yet sometimes I work so hard trying to focus on relaxing imagery that my brain engages and leads me to other thoughts that keep me awake. Though it doesn’t always work, it’s definitely worth a try!

They say to write things down, create your to-do list so that you don’t engage in “unproductive worry.” I am a to-do list maker, something major! And, fortunately, this past year, I have found my go-to solution for helping me remember to do things. In addition to hand written to-do lists, I create alarms on my phone to remind me of things that I need to accomplish, whether it’s a simple daily task or something major. That alarm going off on my phone is my little savior at helping me not to fret about forgetting to do something on my list. And I don’t have some annoying alarm noise go off, I use a song that will make me smile or do a little dance as I’m reminded of what I need to do. My family, students and fellow teachers know that if they hear a song start randomly playing from my pocket, there must be something Shannon needs to do. It’s funny, but hey, it helps!

sleeplessI wish I had the time and energy to create an official daily wind-down, decompression time that could allow me to engage in some honest relaxation, distancing me from worries and to-do’s, but some days I don’t have the energy to make that bubble bath. Sadly, sometimes I think of a soak in a bath as more work ‘cause I’d have to prep and clean the tub and in the end, use up more time that I could’ve/should’ve just been in bed sleeping. Pathetic, I know. Ever feel like you put yourself in a position where you just can’t seem to win? Yea, me too.

There are many tips and techniques to help one get better sleep, ranging from drinking a warm glass of milk to turning off the TV and any other stimulating gadgets. I’m a firm believer that the TV should be off and the room dark and calm, but… and yes, another BUT…some days when I have had a really tough, stressful day, I need that TV on, at least for a bit. Watching something light and fluffy can help keep my mind off the stress, so that I
can indeed eventually get some sleep instead of letting the stress consume me. That’s what good stories, whether from a book, magazine, the television, etc., are wonderful for – helping us escape! I could write page after page of tips and techniques. Ha! I wish I had the time and energy to do so, but who am I kidding, my phone alarm has already been playing a Bruno Mars song repeatedly, reminding me of yet another thing I must accomplish on my fat to-do list.

So what are the techniques that work for you? After doing my research, I know that I’ve got to make more of an effort to get more exercise, create a solid routine for winding down at the end of the day and some way, somehow find more ways to simply relax. If I ever figure out the winning equation for shutting my brain off at night, I’ll definitely share. In the meantime, please do share what works for you. It might just be something that could actually help create some zzz’s for us overactive brainiacs!

Here are some links with more info on how to get better sleep.

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/how-to-sleep-better.htm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/23/shut-off-brain-cant-sleep_n_5161774.html

http://www.youbeauty.com/life/habits-for-better-sleep/

Working with Friends

By: Shannon Boatwright

I recently read an enlightening article called, “How Coworkers Affect Your Job Satisfaction,” written by Jacob Shriar.

In the article, I came across an interesting bit of information about the results of a 20-year study on the work environment in all sorts of different job fields. They expected factors like long work hours or having a mean boss to be a major factor affecting a person’s health. According to the article, “What they found instead, was that the factor most closely linked to health was the support of coworkers. The meaner a colleague was, the higher their risk of dying. According to the study, middle-aged workers with little or no “peer social support” in the workplace were 2.4 times more likely to die during the study.”

 Wowzers! Isn’t that crazy!? This was really eye opening for me, especially since lately I have felt especially thankful for my amazing coworkers. I am truly blessed to have colleagues that are not only supportive, but many of them are like family. We’ve created a special bond that has helped us all to better survive and make the best of our job situations. I always say, if it weren’t for them, I’d never last in my position in our messed up education system. We band together and lift each other up. We always have each other’s backs. We love and care for one another. The support is real and genuine. I can’t imagine my life without these people I’ve come to know and love.

Reading this article just added scientific back-up to what I knew in my heart already: having friends at work is truly important to our mental health. Check out the article link above and take stock of your own work environment. Do you have a friend at work? Do you have a family of fabulous colleagues? It really is important and can be so beneficial to your overall health! If you’re like me and are blessed to have an incredible support system at your place of work, thank those special friends. Let them know how much you appreciate them. As they say…appreciate the good people in your life. They are hard to come by!

To my family at CMS, I positively adore you all! I’m here for you and can’t thank you enough for being there for me in return. You fill my heart and lift my soul! Big smiles and millions of thank you’s!

Creative, Special Book Wreaths

By: Shannon Boatwright 

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I had the privilege of learning a new craft before the holidays, thanks to a dear colleague. One day at school, at the start of the year, I happened to see a beautiful, very unique wreath made of the pages of a book displayed in our library. I thought it was fabulous! I discovered that my colleague had actually made it. She offered to teach me how to make one. I took her up on her offer and in time discovered what a joy it was to create something so cool, unique and special. And the interesting thing is that this particular craft is so inexpensive! Yes, it is time consuming, twisting the pages and getting everything positioned just right to make all the pieces come together into a lovely creation worthy of being displayed. But it is definitely a cheap project. I bought a few books from the dollar store, choosing books that had good pages. And also from the dollar store, I bought foam board and some more glue sticks for the glue gun I already had at home. And that’s it! One wreath costs me less than $5.

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Creating these lovely book wreaths really was a labor of love. The expense is not in the materials, but in the time. I spent several hours over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday making these particular wreaths to give as Christmas gifts. I only wish I’d had the time to make more! There are so many fabulous ways you can create wreaths with the pages of a book! Or, as you’ll see in my picture, a book wreath can be made with sheet music as well. I was especially proud of this wreath that I made for my Mama.

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So if you’re the creative type and love to take the time to make handmade special things to give to others, you ought to give this project a try! You can research them online and find all sorts of amazing ideas for your own creations.  Here’s to getting crafty and putting time and love into special handmade gifts!

The Midlands Arts Conservatory

Providing a Free, Public Education that Combines Arts and Academics

By: Shannon Boatwright

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Just one year ago, in January of 2016, I wrote this blog entry sharing news of a mission to bring an arts conservatory to Columbia, SC. With great zeal, I shared my support for this mission and why the arts are such a huge part of creating a quality, top notch education for the young minds of today.

“Amazing things happen and great knowledge is attained when the arts help to bring core school subjects to life. The joy of the arts is that they can be integrated into every subject. In a perfect educational world, every school would have a fine arts program and arts integration would be a part of every school’s curriculum. Students and teachers would only benefit; there are no negative aspects whatsoever, only the deepening of understanding. To those who recognize the benefits of, engage in and truly support the arts, bravo to you! And thank you.”
– Shannon Elizabeth Boatwright

I am thrilled to help announce that people have rallied behind the mission of the Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) and an outpouring of support is helping to make it a reality! Please help me continue to support the mission and share the progress of MAC. There are informational meetings being held this coming weekend that parents and families can attend to get all their questions answered. If you know of any student in the area with a passion for the arts, absolutely do not hesitate to share this info with them! For more details, please read the information below and share it in every way that you can. Let’s help make the arts shine so that young minds can be enriched, deeper understanding can be attained and creativity can thrive!

Arts Charter School to Open in Columbia:
Midlands Arts Conservatory

A committee of arts professionals, educators, parents and community members is moving forward with plans to open an arts charter school in Columbia. The Midlands Arts Conservatory (MAC) will have a focus on the visual arts, theater, dance and music.

mac-logo-squareThe school will hold two informational meetings for parents and the community: on Saturday, January 7th at the North Main branch of the Richland Public Library at 4:00pm, and on Sunday, January 8th in the second floor theatre at the main branch of the Richland Public Library at 3:00.

MAC will provide a free, public education that effectively combines arts and academics. The school plans to open in the Fall of 2017 with 6th and 7th grades, and will add a grade level each year, reaching 12th grade in 2022. The Midlands Arts Conservatory will be free for any South Carolina resident student in the appropriate grade level who has an interest in the arts and is willing to meet the high academic expectations of the school.

The school will be staffed with highly qualified arts and academic instructors in an environment that provides training, exposure and practical application in the arts and the integration of arts into the academics of the school. The student-teacher ratio in classes will be no higher than 20 to 1 and lower in specialized arts areas. MAC will have small group and individualized instruction in the arts with a wide spectrum of academic support available.

The MAC Planning Committee members understand the importance of a high-quality arts education for young people. They want to ensure that every child in the Midlands has the opportunity to experience the power of creative self-expression.

For more information, contact J Britt at (803)-630-1622 or (803)-630-1MAC; visit http://midlandsartsconservatory.org; or follow them on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MidlandsArtsCon.

Priceless Notes

By: Shannon Boatwright

So, I think recent times have been incredibly stressful for many of us. As a teacher, my life has been especially busy, stressful and overwhelming. Nothing I can’t handle. But between major teacher observations, preparing for my big honors drama production next week – taking on the role of not only teacher, but director, producer, costume/set/props master, stage manager, media relations, etc. – plus, teaching my regular classes, and fulfilling my regular duties, the ten to twelve hour work days start to weigh on ya. All the work responsibilities are of course on top of family needs and activities. And I won’t even bother to go into the stresses of the recent election.

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All that being said though, it’s the smallest, most random acts of kindness that can lift one’s heart and help get one through the busy and tough times. They say the smallest acts of kindness make the biggest differences in a person’s life. Like a sweet smile, a genuine compliment, or someone taking the time to open the door for you and greet you; a kind note can light up a person’s world.

This has been the case for me lately. I don’t know if God and the universe whispered the need to those around me, but I have been blessed with random, precious notes of kindness in the past month that have warmed my heart, brought me to tears and given me the strength to keep moving forward, knowing I’m appreciated and loved. No lavish gifts necessary. It’s the little things in life. These tokens of gratitude and love, these lovely little findings that bring the biggest smiles and instill a positive energy in me that helps to remind me of why I do what I do.

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Over the past month, I have gotten to school super early, before most teachers show, to get work done and prepare for my classes or rehearsals, and I’ll go to update my whiteboard and find these fabulous notes that my students have left on my board. And though some teachers may get aggravated that their board was messed up, I positively adore these notes they leave me. It is never easy for me to erase them when I have to. So, I always make sure to take a picture of their heartwarming notes, to forever cherish and to look at in those moments when I’m struggling.   

Just last week, two of my students from one of the fun academies at my school, called Random Acts of Kindness, busted into my Zumba fun academy while I was teaching. They had papers in their hands and smiles on their faces that truly lit up the room. With giddy excitement, they left these precious notes for me to read when I was done teaching. Their notes said that they were thankful for me, stating that I make them excited to come to school and that my class always puts a smile on their face and is the best part of their day. To read those words, written by a middle school student….whew, brings tears to my eyes. It’s what we live for as a good teacher. To know that I’m making a positive difference in someone’s life. To know that I’m inspiring someone and that someone appreciates what I do….it’s truly priceless!

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I’ve also had the joy of coming across unexpected notes from my incredible family. Waking up to a note on the bathroom mirror written in lipstick by my sweet husband, finding a lovely note from my pre-teen daughter, hidden under her bed covers, because she knew I’d find it when I went to wash her bed linens, super cute handwritten notes from my son, letting me know he loves me… just seeing their handwriting and knowing that they’re thinking of me and love me – truly priceless. My daughter even left a random sweet note on my iPhone charger and I absolutely love it. My amazing Mama dropping by unexpectedly with an awesome gift and card, for no special reason, just to say she loves me! I’ve even gotten random texts from family members and dear friends saying hello, they love me and are thinking me. Those kinds of texts that make you respond out loud with a drawn out, “Awe….” and make you sit there wondering how in the world they ever knew you needed that sweet message in that moment. It’s all absolutely PRICELESS. Priceless treasures that fill my heart and soul.

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Not only do these random notes of love and kindness fill me with positive vibes, replenishing me with faith and encouragement, but they also remind me of the power of random acts of kindness and they serve as a lovely reminder of the strength a simple positive message to another individual. They remind me to pay it forward and to make a conscious effort to spread the positivity, taking the time to recognize someone else’s hard work or voice my love and adoration for someone else. Spreading the joy… it works wonders, in so many wonderful ways!

I felt this topic was appropriate considering the time of year we’re about to enter. In sharing all this, as Thanksgiving is upon us, I hope that I can encourage others to remember that making the smallest effort of leaving a simple, sweet note for someone can make the biggest difference in their lives. Let others know you appreciate them, that you love them, and that you’re thankful for them.  Who could you leave a priceless note for? If you think someone rocks!, tell them. 😉 It’ll make you feel good, and I can guarantee it’ll make them feel good.

How Do You Stay Inspired?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Stay Inspired

“Stay Inspired

It takes work to stay inspired in life. Negative people, experiences, and circumstances can easily get us off course, disconnected and off center. There is, however, always a path back to the positive, back to being inspired. Always have something to read that inspires you with you at all times, talk to those who love you to get you back on track, and the magical cure is to work hard in your own life and on yourself until you feel better. Negative times in life pass through. They come and they go. If they stay for too long, then there is something missing on your end. Focus forward, focus inward, set new goals, let go of the past and focus on what you can do today to make your life better. There is always something you can do to make your life better. The greatest attribute to apply to your off balance days is patience and faith. It will all pass, and things will be renewed again. Once you can accept where you are and you stop fighting it, the solutions you have been looking for will appear. As long as you are over focused on the negative and only thinking about how bad things are, the more you push your solutions away. Do all you can to stay inspired. Whatever works for you: church, exercise, writing, spending time with others, prayer, movie days, reading. Do it all and your luck will change.”

– Sherrie Campbell, PhD
http://www.sherriecampbellphd.com/

The above was shared by a Facebook friend. It has become my new mantra. I don’t personally know this beautiful lady, Dr. Campbell, but I’d like to. I can, without hesitation, say that I am very thankful to have come across this post. Like every human being, I go through ups and downs. Some days I am strong and full of faith and positivity. And other days, I struggle something fierce to keep my head above the heart-wrenching, suffocating waters of life. This short message from Sherrie truly embodies the ultimate survival guide, as far as I’m concerned. She manages to brilliantly say what I know in my heart, but all too often have a hard time accomplishing. Simply put, staying inspired can keep you on the positive and successful track of life. When I really think about it, I see how I do this already, without really knowing it. I will get overwhelmed with the stresses and negative forces in my life and there will be something that will inspire me, fill me up and help to rebuild my spirit, putting me back in a positive state of being. Whether it’s music, exercise, special moments with my angel babies, quality time with my true love, prayer, praise or affirmation of some sort from my students, co-workers, family, a quote, or lovely share like this one from Dr. Sherrie Campbell, that inspires me and fills my empty, aching spaces, reminding me of all the good there is to live for… whew… where would we be without these fulfilling moments?

Dr. Campbell is so incredibly right! We must stay inspired. Our inner wellbeing relies on it!
I love that she states to “focus forward, focus inward…let go of the past and focus on what you can do today to make your life better.” I read and reread her words above, and I believe it is now part of my anthem for a better life. Patience and faith are key. So as you grasp hold of that faith that you know is within you, as you’re having to reach through pain and/or grief, and you pull patience from your toes that you never knew you were capable of, remember to allow yourself to be inspired. Seek out those things in your life that provide priceless inspiration that begin to fill your heart and soul from the inside out and renew your inner workings that keep you full of the beautiful spirit of life and love. Stay inspired!

How do you keep a positive flow running through your life? What inspires you to open yourself to love, faith and success? Please share. We need all the inspiration we can get! 😉