Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leah’s List of 10 Zany, Random Tips That May or May Not Help Change Your Life

I used to like teaching mathematics because it was neat and tidy and you could tie it up in the bow of a right answer.  Nowadays we incorporate lots of problem solving and critical thinking and challenging activities and games that make it more complicated to organize but a whole lot more fun to teach (and do).  The cool thing is that there is more than one way to come to an answer.  There may be a formula that you've been taught to use in math, but there may just be another way to figure it out, too.  How great is that?

I get stuck in patterns that sometimes go on for years.  Some of them are good, some of them not so much.  Every once in a while I hear something (either in my head or someone tells me) that really resonates with me, but goes against the status quo and I decide to give it a try.  Here are some of the non-status quo tips that have helped me to become the person I am today, in all my nuttiness.

Leah’s List of 10 Zany, Random Tips That May or May Not Help You Change Your Life

(By the way, feel free to steal any that might work for you, and call them your own!)

1.    Use the ten minute on/ten minute off strategy

I don’t know who ever put me on to this or if I invented it myself, but I don’t have a long attention span, especially when it comes to studying or doing homework.  I got through my undergrad, my masters and writing a novel 10 minutes at a time.  The idea was that if I worked solidly with no interruptions for 10 minutes, I could take a 10-minute break and do whatever I wanted during that time off.  The ideal is that you find yourself so engrossed that an hour has passed instead of 10 minutes.  Then, of course, you get one hour off.

2.    Celebrate your birthday two weeks before and two weeks after

Some diva from my past taught me this one and I have adhered to it quite closely.  People call me high maintenance, but I am worth it. Just ask my sweetheart.  Anyway, most of the celebratory treats are self-indulged anyway.  Treat yourself like a queen and politely request that others do the same.  Who doesn’t deserve a whole month of “insert your name here” time?  I highly recommend this one.

3.    Write for five minutes every day

I am presently on page 60 of a memoir about my personal puberty perils doing precisely this.  (Don’t worry: it’s not highly alliterative.)  I have written essays, articles, and stories by simply committing to the five minutes a day rule.  If I had done this consistently for the past 20 years, I’d be prolific and just maybe famous. Here’s hoping I can stay consistent on this one so you can read all about my dorky teenage years.

4.    Don’t be a perfectionist except when it comes to punctuation

Perfectionism comes at a high cost: happiness.  As a teacher, I find looking at the big picture a much more effective way to help kids learn and to move forward with inquiry.  When I get into the minutiae, things get over done to the point of being stagnant, boring and uninspiring.  Big picture thinking enables me to think of the big ideas, dream big, and be flexible.  Plus, you don’t feel like you need to commit suicide every time you screw up.  You just look at the big picture and keep moving toward it. 

Also, I hate fiddly stuff.  Except for punctuation.  I love it.  It’s important, folks.  Learn it.  People will judge you for your punctuation or lack thereof. (Facebook has exposed many culprits who do not take this tip to heart.) When you know the rules of punctuation, you can break some of them, as you may have noticed I sometimes do.  Until you know them, however: Do. Not. Break the Rules. Ever.

5.    Try things you’re not good at, but stick with what you’re good at for a profession

That makes good sense, doesn’t it?  I was kicked out of candy striping (volunteering at a hospital to see if you might just want to be a nurse) at the Chilliwack General Hospital at the age of 15 for a serious mishap involving broken dishes, a trolley, a long hallway and a race with my best buddy.  But that worked out okay because I’m not good at blood or biology.  This leads well into my next tip.

6.    Don’t choose a profession where you have to wear a uniform (unless you like wearing uniforms: then, by all means, go for it)

  Enough said on this one.

7.    Wear a pedometer and get to at least 10,000 steps every day no matter what

This isn’t going to turn you into a lean, mean fighting machine, but at least it gets you moving, or in my case, shuffling.    You should do it even if it means jogging on the spot when you brush and floss and shaking the pedometer under the covers before you go to sleep. 

8.    Turn what you don’t like doing into a game

A long time ago, I taught in the Canadian Federal Prison System.  It was insanely exciting, but that’s another blog (or book).  In order to work full time, I was told I would have to teach GED mathematics, which involved rudimentary algebra.  I had taken honors algebra in high school but nearly failed.  (The only reason I took is because my dad told me it was “Mickey Mouse” to take the “dumb kids math” and I didn’t want to disappoint him.  This was a colossal mistake that you can read more about in my puberty memoir if I keep writing for five minutes a day.)

Anyway, I needed the work so I agreed to teach the algebra, but first I had to learn it.  How did I do it?  You guessed it.  I turned it into a game!  I loved crosswords and acrostics and puzzles involving words so I decided to love games that involved numbers, too.  And then I started calling algebra a game.  And then I learned.  And I actually liked it.  It was fun.  How do you like that?

9.    Ask, “What’s good about this?”

Being a pessimist by nature, this one is important to me because I am always finding things to complain about. I am also convinced that I or someone I love could be dying at least 50 times every day.  I could easily turn into one of those doomsayers who preach the end of the world is coming tomorrow at 2:00 pm because it appeals to my morbid personality. 

What I’ve learned to do through sheer force of habit is to stop myself in my tracks every single (okay, not quite every single) time I have a negative-ish thought and ask myself, “What’s good about this?”  For example, when I realized I had paid the equivalent of 500 US dollars for a stalk of celery at the grocery store and not even questioned it, I asked myself, “What’s good about this?” (In my defense, we were having a party and I had bought quite a bit of alcohol.)

My answer was:
a)    My sweetheart was smart enough to question the exorbitant grocery bill
b)    My sweetheart was kind enough to fish the grocery bill out of the stagnating garbage
c)    My sweetheart was ambitious enough to take said stalk of celery along with the receipt back to the grocery store and get a refund
d)    We got to keep the alcohol
e)    It makes for a good story

Which segue ways very nicely into my 10th and final tip:

10.                  Learn the art of self deprecation

In other words, make fun of yourself before anybody else does and your feelings will never get hurt (except by yourself).


  1. I am sooooo enjoying your blog! I love so many of your ideas and I think it's GREAT to write every day. Good for you and keep it up!

  2. I am sooooo enjoying your blog! I love so many of your ideas and I think it's GREAT to write every day. Good for you and keep it up!

  3. Aww, thanks Sweetie. It sure is fun to write and it seems to be holding my evening snack habit at bay, too! I really appreciate the encouragement!