Finding Inspiration

Lately, I’ve been feeling unsettled and unsure of my goals.  I have been asking myself, “What do I want to do professionally?”  Now that my children are older, I feel more and more compelled to return to work at least part-time. This past weekend I had a nagging feeling to do more than what I am currently doing.  I wish to engage with other educators again and to do work that helps others.

Summer 2013

I was a teacher for ten years and I loved it even with difficult circumstances because I loved my students.  I left the classroom when I had my second child.  It was around the time of increased state testing and accountability. Policy changes and instructional practices were implemented which I felt were developmentally inappropriate for Kindergarten students.  With the combination of low pay and the focus on testing, I made the choice to stay home with my children.

In Arizona, there is serious teacher crisis and teacher salaries are some of the lowest in the country.  We rank anywhere from 48th to 50th depending on the data and statistics used to rank teacher pay.  I would love to return to the classroom.  My heart is in learning and teaching.  It truly is my passion.  Yet, I can’t imagine raising three kids and working full-time in a position that requires so much dedication.

The kids’ craft area in our old house.

For the last twelve years, I have focused on creating a fun and playful home environment for the kids where they can do crafts or learn about topics they find interesting.  I have dedicated my time to providing materials and opportunities to make and learn.   I help them find inspiration and plan going-outs (A term the kids’ school uses to describe trips to visit places in the community based on a child’s interest).

Spring 2018

In all these years, I have forgotten to do the same for myself. I did however, spend most of the last 12 years running and training for half and full marathons. Running gives me the time and space be alone and with friends as well as helps me be a better parent and partner because I take the time to do something for myself.  It is my hobby.

Boston Marathon 2016

In 2016, I went back to school for a M.Ed. in Gifted Education.  I was interested in learning more about the needs of children identified as high potential learners.  My interest began as that of a parent.  As I gained greater insight my interest grew as an educator.

I completed the program in December, took time to enjoy my family and the holidays.  I began this blog soon after to share my thoughts and ideas about learning and teaching, gifted education, learning environments and learning at home.

In the months since completing the program, I have been thinking about what is next.  What can I do with the knowledge I gained in my program and the experience of parenting for thirteen years?  I need to dedicate time and effort to find my inspiration, to research the areas of education that I am interested in, and to read how other educators follow their passion.  My hope is that by remaining curious, I can find an opportunity or create one that makes use of my skills and serves the needs of the community.

It is important to take time to reflect about our own interests. Whether we are a classroom teacher, home educator, or working parent, we need to take the time to do what we love and are interested in.

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Maria Arana

Hi, I am Maria, a mom to three wonderful kiddos. My family and I live in Phoenix, Arizona. We love the beauty of the desert southwest. I am a former primary teacher and elementary math coach. I love to encourage my children to follow their interests and passions. At Guided Learning Studio, I offer private personalized lessons and enrichment classes. Tutoring services are best for families seeking long-term educational support over a semester or school-year.

5 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration

  1. Kia ora Maria, I just found your Blog and what a lovely start to my day to read your thoughts about children and education. I too am trying to find the next professional direction for me, but I am in a different space, with a 24-year old son (the years fly by!) and 12 years as a tertiary educator in a New Zealand university’s business school.
    So far, I have found digital ethnography a fascinating area as I am interested to find out how young children learn about themselves, I guess build a sense of identity, whilst using online resources, or just using the internet and coming into contact with marketer-created content. We know very little about this area.
    I completed my PhD looking at how children use social media – we know little about this topic either!
    My Blog is not as carefully crafted as yours, and asks some tricky questions about our university environment here in New Zealand; but, like you, we have lots of challenges.
    Education is such a complex area. Best wishes in finding something you love, and thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. It feels as though technology, especially social media use has exploded and that we are barely able to keep up with the effects it has on children. The topic of children and technology use is hot topic, widely debated and filled with emotion, yet as you mention we know little about it. My kids do not use social media and I hope to keep them off of it for as long as possible. As an teacher, I’ve learned how technology is used to make kids make connections with others who share similar interests and how it makes learning outside the classroom possible. Yet, as a parent I worry about all the very same thing when it is used to connect with inappropriate topics. In our community there has been a rise of adolescent suicide. I wonder about the role that cyberbullying and social media play in the life of adolescents today, especially when there is a rise in anxiety and depression. Is there a link? Are students able to disconnect to rest from the constant notifications? Does the high alert status affect their brain development? There is lots of research that need to be done in this area. I hope we learn that there are more benefits than drawbacks. I think it there is difference between how technology is used in educational settings and how it is used socially by children and for marketing purposes.
      I look forward to reading more of your posts on technology use and the positive uses you have found in your setting. You have added given me more to think about, thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Morena Maria
        Thank you for the kind feedback!
        Interestingly, I am currently reading about how children learn about “persuasion” in the advertising sense. We know already that children learn what we call “persuasion knowledge” by lots of exposure to advertising, especially in their family setting as that gives plenty of opportunities for family to discuss what ads are, what they might mean, and what we should do about the messages we see and hear. So children have good opportunities to build up this persuasion knowledge, which can protect them from being so exploited by advertising.
        But what we think is happening now is that because of all the “new media” opportunities that children have to consume content, e.g. using websites, watching TV on demand, using apps, and so on, we find that parents are fast forwarding through any advertising, e.g. with on demand TV, and children are not getting the chances to build up their persuasion knowledge.
        We think this is a problem, and might be increasing children’s vulnerabilities to advertising that they do see in online contexts. We also know that the new media consumption by children is much less moderated by parents, so there is less talk about what ads mean when children do see them.
        Presently, my research with some other colleagues here is very focused on this issue as we think children are quite vulnerable in online contexts when they see and interact with marketer-created materials.
        You are right, there is so much more to be done in this area!
        I think that social media can add to our lives, but I think we need to be more aware of how these platforms work and we need to be teaching our children, in more formal ways, about how social and advertising and marketing go hand-in-hand. So it is not all bad news, but I think that we are behind in understanding the implications of the technologies for our children’s well-being. Your post mentioned cyberbullying, and rising adolescent suicide, we have the same concerns in New Zealand, such a difficult thing to cope with and to understand. What to do?
        I hope your weekend goes well, enjoy your family, I will post up some interesting articles I find if you like to have a read.
        All the best


      2. Morning Maria, I just thought you might wonder about the greetings I use: they are Maori, Kia ora means “Hello” and Morena means “good morning” informal. I am part Maori and trying to learn the language properly!
        Nga mihi means “kind regards”

        Liked by 1 person

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