Do You React or Respond in Situations?

Recently, while listening to a DJ, he asked one of his viewers if they react to situations or respond. Now for some time, I didnt realize that there was a difference. I listened to hear a difference in the two but didnt ever hear a distinction made between a reaction and a response.  Well, I thought about this in reference to my students and life in general.  When I look at the two, is there a difference and if so, which am I more likely to do?  Also, which is best for my students? 
At first thought, both words seem synonymous.  If you place them side by side, theres not much of a difference.  However, at second glance, the two words are very different. 
A response is a well thought out answer or comment to something said or done.  On the other hand, a reaction is an emotional response.  So, in essence they are similar in that both include a response, however one is teamed with emotion while the other is based on reason or logic if you will. 
As I evaluate situations with my students, I wonder if I lead with my emotions and react or if I think about my impact and respond after a lot of thought.  It varies based on what is at stake and what is necessary, but is there ever a time and place for one over the other?  I plan to take some time this year to adjust my reactions and replace them with responses and see if the outcome is different, better or the same?

If you teach them…..

A Harvard Professor of Psychology walked around a room full of students while teaching about stress management.
To begin his lecture he grabbed a glass of water and raised it above his head as if he was going to propose a toast, and instantly everyone expected theyd be asked if the glass was half empty or half full as part of the lesson.  Instead though, with a smile on his face, the professor asked "How heavy is this glass of water?
 Students called out answers "6 ounces" and "10 ounces" but he shrugged them off.
He replied, The actual weight doesnt matter. What really matters is how long I've been holding it.  If I hold it for just a minute it feels very light.  If I hold it for an hour, Ill have an ache in my arm.  If I hold it for a whole day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed.  Any longer than that and I will be very tempted to give up and drop it.  In each case, the weight of the glass doesnt change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.
The students were all blown away by the simplicity yet truth of this lesson.
However, the professor continued, The stresses and worries in life are like this glass of water.  Carry them for only a short while and they're manageable.  Worry about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt.
And if we think about them all day long, or longer, we can begin to feel paralyzed and hopeless – incapable of concentrating or focusing on anything else.

The upcoming year is fast approaching and like the above anecdote, teachers feel paralyzed by the many responsibilities that they will face with their newest students.  Worry never fixes a situation, action does.  Stress is the result of unwarranted worry!  As we walk into this new school year, we must ensure that we dont hold the glass too long.  We have to plan for situations and have a backup plan, considering the best interest of our students. Once that plan is effectively in place, we have to teach and lead.  Our goal is to make sure that we wake up each day with the intent to teach, the intent to lead by example and the assurances that if we do, our students will grow.

If you give a student a Skittle…. Are Incentives Overrated?

If you give a student a Skittle is obviously a play on words from the popular book, If you give a Mouse a Cookie.  However, in this blog, it is the best way to explain negotiations in the classroom.  The Skittle, in this instance is symbolic for incentives.
Each summer, I think of new ways to negotiate with my students.  Is this right?  No! But, its a pivotal part of the teacher-student interaction in most cases.  A Skittle, gummi bear or candy corn is such a small thing and it can create so much drive and interest in students.  Coupons, candy or free time are all incentives that teachers use to keep kids invested in the learning process, but do we ever ask ourselves what happens if you give a student a Skittle?  Are incentives necessary or a pivotal part of the learning process?
I carry a box of skittles around on my cart, handing out candy for focused students, correct pronunciations of words, whole stories read, goals met and anything else that warrants a treat in the small group.  I am so predictable when it comes to these incentives that the students expect it daily and I am not all that sure that they are as excited about work without them. As I give my students these skittles, what am I teaching them about life?  A friend asked me that as she watched me purchase a 54 ounce bag one Sunday.  I tried to explain to her the background of the incentive and she laughed, laughed at the idea that I would consider giving them a tiny treat after small group.  I didnt like the reaction, but I questioned why it seemed so strange.  I love working in education, but incentives are nice and that just sweetens the pot.  Should we not expect that our students feel the same way?  They can love learning new things, but incentives sweeten their pot also!  Im not sure what the lasting effects of a skittle or two are on the learning process, but I am sure that incentives are a necessary part of the teacher student interaction.  Whether these incentives are candy, stickers, coupons, free time or time with the teacher, they are important.  I, for one dont think incentives are overrated, they are necessary!  

What’s Your Brand?

Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room.
-   Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon

We have four Mondays before that bell rings again!  Summer has come and it is on its way out.  However, there are still a few more moments of silence, moments to think about the upcoming school year and whats next on the agenda as it relates to education and our students. In these moments of quiet, I begin to question choices that I made last year, students that I didnt quite reach the way that I wanted to and lastly, what my impact was.  AS an educator, your best moments are not the moments that people remember, they are the moments that you cherish, but to everyone else, they are just moments.  You dont get pats on the back for every great idea or lesson and certainly not accolades for every student that crosses your threshold, but you do have an incredible impact and that impact is your legacy or brand.  When I first began teaching, one of my colleagues said when youteach after people, you are able to see what or how they taught.  I trembled when I heard that for the first time because I certainly dont ever want the next teacher to think that I just taught.  I want them to understand that I strive to make a positive impact on all of my students!  If your brand is truly what people say about you when you are not in the room”, what do you want it to be?  Do you want people to say that you coddle your kids or that you play all day or that you teach to the test or that your kids experience the sit and get method more than they should or that you teach from bell to bell or that you create unforgettable experiences!  Im not sure if Im ever concerned about what that brand is to my colleagues *(only the people evaluating my performance)*, but Im hopeful that my brand or impact is meaningful to my students.  How do you feel about your brand; whats your impact? 

The Courage to Change Old Ideas....

We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.  

Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune is one of this countrys greatest educators.  She suggests that service and dedication are consistently linked and one without the other is not only difficult to achieve, but not advised.  I am always engrossed in any conversation that concerns her work as an educator.  Her practices are unmatched and are deeply rooted in the idea that our children can change the world if we allow them to!  I think about her tonight as I write this post because I am at a crossroads in my educational career.  I have had the opportunity to work with a specific program for over a decade and I recently found out that this program has been defunded, leaving me to wonder, whats next?  I question whether or not I have the capacity or courage to change [my] old ideas and practices so that my students can excel.  I know that I do, but I am concerned, as many educator are.  How or what are the next steps in this process?  Where do we go from here? As these concerns linger, I think about the old school educators that didnt have fancy programs, teachers editions or websites to help charter their paths, they did it, and they did it well.  However, it was not without purpose or planning.  I see my next steps in this process as ones that will require an incredible amount of research and patience, but its a necessary part of the profession, one that should be embraced.  We cannot teach our children that trying new things is essential to growth and refuse to do the same.  I realize that the next decade of my career as an educator might be driven by something other than tangible resources, it must include what it always has, dedication to the idea that if I am willing and open minded, my children will be the most important beneficiaries.