Stumble or Fall....

This blog will be brief, as it’s simple food for thought, or a nugget of wisdom.  Consider this: “When babies take their first step and then fall on their bottoms, we praise them for taking the step.  We don’t criticize their fall.  As adults, this is an essential lesson.  We spend more time criticizing our falls and not enough time applauding our small steps.” ~Unknown
As we begin summer, it is natural to reassess our year as a necessary part of the close out process.  There are several aspects of our profession that we could dissect.  However, it’s equally important to recharge and refuel.  It’s essential to focus on the positive aspects of the school year before looking at ways to alter those areas that weren’t as successful. 
Heal for a moment before working through the difficult parts of the previous year.  In doing so, reflect on what you were able to offer your students and how you enhanced their lives. 
If you introduced a new program, walked the halls of a new school, moved to a new grade level / position or simply changed your room d├ęcor, you should take a moment to applaud the “small steps”.  Over the summer, look at ways to celebrate yourself more and criticize yourself less!  You deserve it. 

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.