What’s Left?

You can’t pour from an empty cup!   ~unknown

Last week I was talking to a friend, also an educator/administrator and she was overwhelmed at work, but pushing through what would be one more grueling week before the much needed break.  I asked her what she was doing to take care of herself.  She had no answer. 
I simply told her what we all know to be true as educators.  “You can’t pour from an empty cup. You have to take care of yourself first.”
In life we know that taking care of responsibilities comes before taking care of ourselves.  It shouldn’t be that way, but it often times is.  In work, many people have the same perspective. 
Education is no different, but it morphs into an extreme form of “self-neglect” termed “burn out”. 
Pouring from or attempting to pour from an empty cup is dangerous because when there isn’t anything left to give, you begin to borrow from an unavailable place. 
Self-care is the most essential aspect of teaching because it promotes a sense of maintenance that is unmatched.  I encourage each of you to take a moment and look at one part of your day that could be spent focusing on something other than work.  If you are not sure when that is, carve out these moments. 
Never be ashamed to spend a day doing nothing during a break or holiday.  Many times that “nothing” is the exact thing you need to recharge or reboot.  Education is a difficult journey because as students borrow pieces of our heart, it has the potential to leave us in pieces.  Work diligently on refilling your cup!

What are you leaving in 2018?

I was reading a small blog the other day and a teacher recounted her visit to another school.  She ended by saying, “I borrowed a pen from another teacher and I didn’t have to give up anything in return.  What a great feeling.  I wonder if our kids will ever experience that.” 
I didn’t spend a lot of time reflecting on it until I began sharpening what seemed like the hundredth pencil of the year. Many times we experience haste when we have to lend or give students yet another pencil because they have broken, lost, or discarded the pencil they “just had”.  While I was sharpening and reflecting, I thought of one thing that I should give up in 2019.  That thing is pencil or pen accountability. 
Yes, it’s incredibly important for our students to be held responsible for their supplies and it is certainly a waste of resources to continue giving students pencils day in and day out, but the most essential question remains. Do they need the pencil?  Yes! They have to have it in order to complete the work and we want the work done.  So, we have to give up the pencil. 
It seems like the simplest task, but for many educators, it’s where they draw the imaginary line in the sand.  In 2019, my goal is to just hand over the pencil.  I encourage you to look at one ritual that becomes more of a chore each year.  Examine how you can change your mentality in reference to this one thing.  Let’s challenge ourselves to be better.  What can you leave in 2018?   

The Harvest…

This semester is as crucial as last semester.  During the previous semester, educators were tasked with laying foundational skills and now, after activating prior knowledge, we must enhance our students’ abilities to retain information and problem solve.  It’s now time to receive the harvest of the seeds we’ve sown over the last few months.  Let’s get ready to deliver on our promises and change some lives! 

Happy New Year! 

Finding Inspiration…

Find your flame and keep it lit! ~ Michelle Obama

As we venture into the second semester, many of us are fatigued because of the months of heavy lifting we’ve done to get our little ones to this point.  The heavy lifting is not yet over, but we will begin to reap the benefits of all of our hard work in due time! This is the most exciting and essential part of our journey as educators.

When I read the quote, I immediately thought about our jobs as educators and the various ways that we inspire our students.  We encourage them to read books that interest them, join clubs that seem exciting or even explore professional aspirations that inspire them.  That is their flame.  We continuously light their flames, but what inspires you as educators?

As you walk into the final month of the year and the last few weeks of the semester, I encourage you to “find your flame” as well!  Whatever you have to do, work really hard to “keep it lit”.  You deserve it, and so do your students!

Work Your Effort…

“The Only thing in your control is effort”

As we walk into the third season of the year, many of our students are settling into their routines.  While the teachers work to normalize student behaviors and classroom expectations in the halls and across the building, it is necessary to do a “self-wellness check” as well.
When we begin the school year, our excitement and anticipation dominate mundane tasks like lesson planning, grading homework and tests as well as working with colleagues.  As the summer months morph into fall months, staff excitement wanes as much, if not more than the students.
It is always imperative to remember that “effort” is the only aspect of our job that’s under our control.  Educators have the difficult task of balancing many object, several of which are not foreseeable.  However, most times these tasks are handled with grace and persistence.  We must not allow the task nor the necessity for completion, to damage our “wellbeing”. 
Remember, the “only thing in your control is effort”.  While many may argue that this quote is directly associated with teacher performance, I will argue it’s directed at teacher enhancement and wellness.  Take a moment and breathe.  The school year is underway and you’ve survived the beginning, but it’s the middle that counts.  Keep pushing and work your effort!

180 Chances...

      Many of the risks associated with teaching outweigh the results.  However, the process is unlike any other project.  Each year educators venture out on uncharted terrain, hoping to reach the masses, but settling for reaching the students within their voice or within their grasp.  As we work towards the goals established by administration, both in and outside of the building, there are a few things that we can be certain of. 
      One of those certainties lies in our opportunities to change the tide.  We have roughly 180 chances to make an impact and it is so important to capitalize on each one.  Every day isn’t a stellar day.  That loss may be by way of a coworker, parent or sadly a student, but we have an opportunity the next day to recover. 
      Our task this season is a great one, but it lends way to so much potential.  In each instance, we must realize that we have 180 days to make an impact and if we wake up each day vowing that it will be better than the one before it, we will win. 
      Take advantage of your 180 chances and watch your kids grow this year!

Uproot what needs to be Changed…

Recently I heard a story about a landscape overhaul.  The narrator suggested that before he could plant something new, he had to assess the current conditions of the yard.  More specifically, he said, “You can’t plant a house on a foundation without uprooting and toiling old soil.”

This was a powerful quote for so many reasons.  I thought about the students that we work with on a daily basis.  As educators we are trying to build a solid foundation in various disciplines, but we haven’t quite uprooted all of the “old soil” that exists.  “Old soil” is essentially the baggage that comes along with learning something new. 

Many times, as we begin to lay the foundation for a new way of learning, there is quite a bit of baggage associated with previous knowledge.  We need to know and understand the baggage and unpack or uproot it.  Similar to unpacking “standards” or creating objectives, we must uproot common misconceptions and begin there. 

Learning doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  The students don’t just magically fall from heaven, they are coming to us with various ideas and thoughts about learning.  It is our job to take what they have and create something new while at the same time uprooting what needs to be weeded out.

You Can’t Correct if you Don’t Connect…

We are nearing the end of the first few weeks of school for many educators.  As we begin to understand the data attached to the students that we have on our various class lists and rosters, we must keep a few things in mind.  Bad teaching cannot be erased, but it can be corrected.  In order to correct the varied misconceptions, we must connect with our students.  A part of this connection is through knowing our students’ data.
In order to assess student knowledge, we must know the “whole” student by walking through their data.  Data tells a story like no other.  We hasten to call any teaching bad teaching, but many times students are not introduced to the best or most efficient ways to approach a topic or problem.  These strategies must be retaught and in every case, relearned by the student.  As we connect with students it is essential to observe the ways in which they approach problems, not as a punitive measure, but in an effort to assess whether or not we can enhance their ability in that area and thus, improve their data.
We are just meeting the babies that we will interact with and they come with experiences, some good and some bad.  Our job as educators is to help them process these experience and create a sense of synergy so that they may in essence begin to learn from us as well.
Students trust the process when they understand the process.  Let’s work through the misconceptions that exist to help our students grow in the most productive ways possible.  Although our students may encounter a bump in the road, it cannot and should not derail their entire learning process.  Let’s work to connect with our students through their previous data so we can be a positive change in next year’s data.    

Advice Is Always Free…

This month’s blog is not created with words of wisdom from me, but from educators that have been in the field for quite some time.  I have compiled a list of the 50 most important things that a new teacher should remember as he/she enters the field.  Over the course of time, we confront many obstacles, but in some cases we don’t have the tools to handle them. This list is in part, a master list of advice for how to cope or keep pushing through the rough patches.  Enjoy the first month….

1. Choose 2 days out the week to take work home.
2. Just say no!
3. Be their teacher not their friend
4.Well the first piece of advice is to be honest with your students. If you make a mistake, admit it. Let them know it's ok to mess up and you never stop learning.
5. Communication with parents (grades, take home folders) is essential.
6. Discipline plans are important for classroom management.
7. Use a timer to stay on task with teaching schedule.
8. Set up your classroom before pre-planning.
9. Befriend the janitor.
10. The first year is the hardest.
11. Collaborate with your peers. The worst thing you can do is try to be on your own island. This is a tough job...it takes the help of others. Work with your team....try to get to know them both on a professional level as well as a personal level. Being new has its advantages, you are refreshing and full of ideas. Share them....some will be resistant and that’s ok. Don’t change who you are or what you bring to the team. People will notice and appreciate your efforts.

12. Take pictures of your work! You never know when you may have to show evidence of teaching and learning practices. Take pictures of the kids being engaged, your anchor charts, record yourself. I wish I could go back and see how far I have grown. It’s a great way to reflect!

13. Get to know your students. We get caught up in data...but really take the time to know what their strengths and interests are outside of the classroom and use that as your benefit. You never know what gifts and talents they have.

14.Maintain a continuous to do list perhaps on stickies or construction paper that’s visible daily (I keep mine on my laptop).

15.Communicate with every parent the 1st couple days of school with something positive.

16.Stay out of the teachers lounge the first month then sparingly after.
17.CYA!!! Lol.

18.For new teachers and the TKES I think the most important have to include the expectation for each area on TKES...like understanding what a 3 looks like, a 4 looks like for each standard. It is overwhelming to new teachers I think not fully understanding what the true expectations when being observed.
19.I joked about CYA, but keeping records of EVERYTHING pertaining to any sst, emails, etc is a hard lesson I think most teachers learn from getting burned

20.....its ok...its gonna be overwhelming...its gonna be stressful...dont try to be an island, create a community where you share resources and ask for help.
21. Flexibility is important
22. Routines are a must
23. Teach to the standards
24. You'll have a better and less stressful weekend if you do your lesson plans before you leave on Friday. Don't wait until Sunday evening
25. Work as a team...don't think you can do it all by yourself.
26. Communicate with your parents.
27.Learn to love
️ meetings...lol that's the truth, but not sure you should include it.

28.Don’t listen to others who may have heard of or know your new student. Especially those students that may have had behavior issues. Come to your own conclusions based on your experiences with the child. Don't go in with preconceived notions based on someone else's opinion. It's hard but holds true.
29.Get to know your students’ "stories". That goes a long way in you understanding their emotional / academic needs.
30. Look beyond their exterior, push through to that place within that makes them tick. If you show you care, children will respond to that.
31.Ask for help, collaborate to give and receive support.
32. Set daily/weekly expectations and chart a path as to how you plan to meet those expectations. The goals do not have to be lofty....they must however be realistic.
33. A must... use a planner...to keep you organized.
34.It's ok to stop a lesson that doesn't seem to be working, no matter how much you planned for it. Sometimes you " just have to fix your ponytail and try again".

35. Collaborate with your colleagues. Together anything is possible.
36. Study your lesson plans thoroughly and look for other resources to help understand the lessons. (YouTube, Teacher Tube, etc.) Trainings doesn't mean you got it you have to practice, practice, practice and you will get it.
37. Flow in your lane of teaching and don't try and adopt everyone's materials. Try and use PowerPoints w/differentiated slides, reviews, practices, etc.

38. Self-reflect frequently and track your glows and grows then create a check off list to correct areas that need improvements. Watch other veterans teach and ask All kinds of questions.
39. Know and become familiar with the services that are available for students at the school.

40. Establish and maintain discipline in your classroom.
41.Routines and procedures are key.
42.Do not be afraid to make mistakes and seek help from your peers, students and parents.
43.Stay ahead of paperwork and prioritize it.
44.Contact parents for good and bad, celebrate the little things, ASK QUESTIONS even if you think you know.
45.Documentation through email is important.
46.Know who you are and know your worth.
47.Connect with seasoned teacher(s) that will groom you professionally.
48.Love all of your students.
49.Do a 2x10. Spend 2 mins. a day for 10 days getting to know that “hard to reach” kid. Ask them about life outside of school (their family, soccer game, favorite show). Get to know their likes/dislikes. This helps to build a relationship with the child. And this helps you to get to know the child on another level.

50.Always start a difficult conversation with a parent with positive attributes about the child. This helps to lower their defenses. And there’s positives in every child.
51.Don’t forget we are also responsible for the social/emotional well-being of our students. Take the time to teach life lessons and communication skills. Teach the “total” child.