Wise Women Wednesday: Ann McAfee

Ann in China

Ann in China

It's Wise Women Wednesday, each week I interview a woman that I believe is inspiring, living abundantly and following her passions.  These are all women who live a life of abundance and bring creativity into the world.  

It's not every Wednesday that I get to interview someone that I know so well.  This week I'm highlighting my sister.  I only have one, and I'm really glad I have her.  Ann is a brilliant women, talented teacher, funny, bold, and adventurous.  She thinks up projects to help her children learn and she's done something that I haven't had the guts to do yet which would be to go live in another country.  I hope that she inspires you the way she inspires me.  I'm proud and honored to introduce to you Ann McAfee.  

Q.  Who are you? 
A.  Ann McAfee, little sister of Alisha, teacher, rock climber, and lover of frisbee and of being outside.

Q.  How do we know each other?
A.  If you don't know the story of how we met, you are in for a 31-year saga of sisterly battles that I will boil down to one snarky paragraph. Meeting Alisha didn't happen by choice and, like some sisterly relationships, started off a tad rocky. One of my personal favourite stories that my parents retell about us as kids was of how I used to stare innocently and adoringly into Alisha's eyes as she demanded that I be taken back. Of course, I don't remember this, but I've been told the words she chose were, "Take that baby back!" I happened to be the permanent and, at the time, unwelcome visitor who rocked her little onlychild-world some 31 years ago. I can't say that I was totally innocent over the years. I did some messed up things too. After all, I did rip off He-Man's head and flush it down the toilet--and she still brings that up. However, since then, since the growing pains, sisterly battles, years of hair pulling, and getting stuck in a corner--for stuff that she did, obviously ;)--we seem to have worked out most of the aggression. It takes many years to forge a friendship like sisters have and today I am so glad we had all of those rough years. Today, there's probably nothing I'd love more than to spend more than just a weekend at a time every year or every other year in her company. Nothing's changed for me though. I still stare (figuratively, from India) adoringly into her eyes and at the awesome life she's created and at the cool and inspiring person she is. I see a woman who blazes her own path and I've really only ever looked up to her. I also still see pictures of her on Facebook and can't help but wonder if those jeans would fit me and how I can convince her to give them to me. Haha! JK, that's what she does! Anyway, I think she likes me quite a bit now too and may even think I'm pretty cool based on the premise that she asked me to be featured here, on her blog. I love my sister and wouldn't change our past for the world. 

Q.  What is your work?
A.  I am a teacher. For the last 6 years I have been teaching math and science to 7th graders. My first 5 years of teaching were at a project-based learning (PBL) charter school--which I adore--in San Diego, CA. Although I really loved where I was in my job, the place, my colleagues (and friends), and the students, I knew I needed to make things fresh. The time was right. My husband and I were both itching for something new and adventurous. We had been talking for a few years about working abroad, exploring options such as the Peace Corps, but didn't move on it. Then, one day, an opportunity presented itself for a job in India. We spent a lot of time deliberating over it, weighing pros and cons but decided that we had to do it. It was a huge risk and a major commitment for both of us, even more so for him than me, but we agreed and made the choice to move to India where I continue to teach at an international school in Mumbai.

Ann McAfee Climbing the boys only ledge in CA

Ann McAfee Climbing the boys only ledge in CA

Q.  What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A.  I'm really excited to be bringing my knowledge of PBL to my new school in Mumbai. PBL is something that I really believe changes education for students. It motivates and creates really memorable experiences and right now I get to share that with my new teaching community. I recognize how PBL inspires me to come to work and inspires my students to come to class. I see so much growth, self-discovery, and learning in my kiddos after every project and I love that. So, amongst many other things, I'm trying to help facilitate PBL here. It's very challenging but I know that it's helping me to become a better teacher.

Q.  What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. Definitely moving to Mumbai with my husband this year was scary. We both knew how good we had it in San Diego. We knew we were living the dream, lucky enough to have excellent jobs that we loved. We had the closest community of friends a person could ever want and the most beautiful spaces as our backyards to play in. For several years though, we had been talking about living and working abroad, wanting to do something new and exciting, as I mentioned before. We knew that this wouldn't be a cakewalk when I took the job but we were ready for it and invigorated by the opportunity even though at times it scared us to think about leaving friends and family to live in a really unfamiliar place. There was certainly an exciting honeymoon period where everything was the most new and most exciting but when that wore away, it felt really hard and challenging. Five months in and it still feels challenging at times. I get homesick a lot, I miss my friends and family a lot and I definitely get frustrated by how different it is here. However, there are people who are really down to earth here and have helped us settle in. Colleagues and friends who are patient and caring and that helps a great deal. My wonderful teaching partner shared a thought provoking video with our staff recently that was mainly geared towards teaching and students but applies here. In the video, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski talks about how the lobster's stimulus for growth is stress, or discomfort. Without it, there would be no growth. I've certainly felt uncomfortable quite often since I've been here and have been trying to take those moments and learn from them.

Q.  What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you?
A.  I think that I'm doing it. There are always what-ifs and I do sometimes have dreams of going back to school to just be a student again and learn really cool stuff, although, I'm not sure what I'd focus on. Overall, though, I know I just want a job where I get to constantly learn, grow, and create, and I get to do that most of the time. I have a job where I get to do a lot of cool stuff that people don't get to do. I get to create really awesome projects and learning moments for kids, and demo really fun math and science investigations. I get to reflect on my work and make improvements in it and in myself every day. No, It's not easy, it's not always fun, and I'm guilty of complaining sometimes but I really love what I do.

Ann in China

Ann in China

Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. Follow the rules a little less and care what other people think of you a lot less.

Q.  What's one piece of advice or moto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. I am going to share something that a wise and wonderful colleague shared with me once and I always really loved it. She came around and put little picture collages on every classroom door. The collage was actually of us and our students, pictures she had taken of us jumping through the air, smiling and on the collage it said, "So much to celebrate!" I can't say that this is my dailymotto--because sometimes, I forget--but i certainly love it and think we should all live by it! There is SO MUCH to celebrate when you look for it.

Q.  What keeps you teaching when you don't feel like it?
A.  Haha! Usually, it is just the thought of potentially really messing a kid up for life. We all remember that one thing that that one teacher did or said to us (or didn't) that _________. That, I think about that all of the time. Also, and more importantly, I really like seeing when my students get excited about something cool we are doing. I usually just want to keep making projects better in hopes that my students will get really into it. That's the best!

Ann and Kory McAfee Climbing

Ann and Kory McAfee Climbing

Q.  What's your favorite yoga pose?  
A. My favourite yoga pose to try to do is a handstand. Is that a real yoga pose? When I turned 30 I decided I was going to start practicing and because I just wanted to do one. Now, I am still practising and can mostly hold a handstand for a second or 2.

Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. I know that balance is key even though at times I struggle with finding it but I still have abundance! I notice that I am the most fulfilled when I get to spend time learning for the sake of learning, playing, and more than anything, being with my husband. He is my companion and best friend. If I have lots of those things in my life, I feel like I have abundance.

Ann McAfee in India

Ann McAfee in India