Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: What Are Your Words?
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Slice of Life: What Are Your Words?

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As I walked around the floor of her community, I read all words inside each person’s picture frame.

What words should I put in her frame?

Which words sum up my mom?

How many words should I choose?

How would she want to be remembered?

How would she define herself?

I remembered this moment as I packed her frame after my mother passed. Her residence asks each family to post words in a frame outside the resident’s room. They feel it helps the community know the person – who they are and who they were before dementia.  I found myself going through words in my head for several weeks. I couldn’t choose. The responsibility was too much. I faced the blank photo frame day after day.

Then I started to look through old photos with my kids.  My children began asking about the photos.

Where are you here?

What are you guys doing?

Tell us the story of this one.

Mom, remember the time when…

Oh, I will never forget when…

Mom always loved…

I told the stories of the photos with them and with mom.  I know it sounds crazy, but I turned to formative assessment. I triangulated the many moments of her life and noticed patterns in her stories.  Ideas, words and themes began to emerge.

Kind

Appreciates the Beauty of Simplicity

Good Listener

Funny

Mom

Grandma

Wife

Loves Food

Strong

Optimistic

Loves a Long Walk

 

Brene Brown said, “Stories are data with a soul.” I found my mom’s story.

It makes me wonder about my photo frame. What are my words? What would my family and friends choose as my words? Would they be the same words? How do I want to be remembered?

It makes me wonder about the photo frames of students. Do we look for patterns in their story? What words describe them as students and as people? Do we know them, really know them? Are we including the person behind the data when we triangulate to find their story? Look at your class, do you know the words for each student?

As parents and teachers it is powerful to think about living our lives with our words in mind. It is powerful to think about noticing our children, looking for patterns and helping them find their story. If we keep the photo frame in mind it pushes us to live our best lives. What are your words?

 Clare

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for us to share our stories each day in March.  Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts and consider joining this community.

17 Comments
  • Avatar
    Kimberley Moran
    Posted at 10:50h, 07 March Reply

    I love this idea. It also makes me happy that an adult facility would put this concept into place. How lovely that you were able to rediscover your mother in your search.

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 10:54h, 07 March Reply

    So beautiful! Such an important idea. I’m going to reflect on what I want my words to be. Thank you for the idea! (I’m also glad that you got the chance to go back and remember your mom for all of her goodness.)

  • Avatar
    Meg
    Posted at 10:59h, 07 March Reply

    What a wonderful idea to have this outside a room to know people with dementia. Definietly food for thought when thinking about my students as well as what my words would be. It is a valuable new perspective to think about.

  • Avatar
    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 11:31h, 07 March Reply

    Such a beautiful and thoughtful post! Words…they are so powerful. You found your mom’s words in pieces of her life that mattered. Makes me think about what mine would be. How would I live my life differently? Or would it be the same? I love reading your posts. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 12:03h, 07 March Reply

    Clare, What a lovely idea the facility put in place! And how wonderful to have had the chance to remember your mom with your children present. Sad but also joyful as memories can be. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Avatar
    Rose
    Posted at 12:10h, 07 March Reply

    Your posts are so thoughtful! I am in awe of how you can take a personal experience and relate it to the work we do as educators. I think some of your words would be reflective, loving, thoughtful.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 02:35h, 08 March Reply

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my words — I hope I live up to them!
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 13:00h, 07 March Reply

    Clare, I to had a mom with dementia so I very much related to your post this morning. You actually moved me to tears.
    I love the idea of thinking about the words for each student. What a great way to see the good in everyone especially those you greet each day.
    My words for you (thank you for the idea Rose) would be caring, child-centered, focused and knowledgeable.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 02:35h, 08 March Reply

      Thank you Christine – your slice today moved me to tears as well!
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Tara
    Posted at 15:52h, 07 March Reply

    This is another powerful post, Clare – and I’m especially moved by the idea of the framed reminder outside a patient’s door – that was who they lived their life as, that is what they would wish for us to remember.

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 16:28h, 07 March Reply

    This is an idea to share with teachers, an exercise of thoughtfulness about their students. When my husband was in a similar place we were asked to create a collage so that others could get to know him, just as your facility asked for words. A dear friend created this for me, plus a book of memories for others to look at. It’s a thoughtful way to help know that there was a wonderful lifetime of memories to know about this person. Thanks for sharing, Clare, and I love that you connected us with our love of students too.

  • Avatar
    Anna Cockerille
    Posted at 16:43h, 07 March Reply

    Here is one of the many things I’m taking from this beautiful post. It’s important to consider the words we want other to use to think of us, and spend our time and energy cultivating those and eschewing words we don’t want associated with ourselves.

  • Avatar
    Paula Ruedebusch
    Posted at 17:13h, 07 March Reply

    I just returned from a lovely visit with my mom, who lives with dementia. Thank you. I’m thinking of her words…

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 02:37h, 08 March Reply

      I am so glad…. it is a long journey, but there are many wonderful things along the way. I hope you stop to find those wonderful moments.

      Clare

  • Avatar
    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 01:19h, 08 March Reply

    Anna’s comment us much more eloquent than I could come up with quickly, but her words completely capture my response to your post. I think often of how I want to be remembered, what impact I want to be sure to have, if I’m living in a way to have my wrinkles crinkle in smile form—I’m not sure that I have transferred it to explicitly thinking about students’ frames, and I love that concept. You are writing really reflective, thought provoking posts. Thank you.

    • Clare and Tammy
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 02:38h, 08 March Reply

      Thanks Melanie — I think the posts are writing themselves. Slicing seems to be what I need right now – thankful to have such an open, responsive community to share.

      Clare

  • Avatar
    Michelle
    Posted at 03:08h, 08 March Reply

    Clare, wow. You amaze me with your insights as you reflectively think about your life and the challenges you are confronting. Such a powerful way to think about your mom, yourself, your children and students in a triangulation of patterns and words. I need to go back and reread this again because there is so much goodness packed in this slice!

    I’m so happy that you found the words you were searching for for your mom. Such special memories. Such a special mom. I’m glad that the writing this month is helping you through the healing and understanding.
    Michelle

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