Feelings Don’t Lie!

Kids dont learn from people they dont like!- Rita Pierson

The teacher-student relationship is an incredibly delicate balance that vacillates during the year.  Many factors can change the way a teacher feels about her students and the way a student feels about his/her teacher.  Although all of this is true, there are many ways to avoid the inevitable disconnect.  Show your students that they matter. 
The quote above really resonates with me because I dont have a poker face.  Many times my emotions show up all over my face, whether I want them there or not.  It can, at times, be my fatal flaw.  However, one thing that Ive learned, with children, is that they are more perceptive than most adults.
In a high school English course, I was addressing an issue with the students and I sincerely said, Im not upset, but!   One of the students interjected right in the middle of my statement. 
He said, You always say that, but you really are upset by what we are doing.  He was right.  It was at that point that I stopped telling my students one thing, but thinking something else.  It is okay for them to know that you are disappointed, pleased or even satisfied with their actions.  Whats not okay is the alternative.  Students dont like what they cant trust.  So in turn, if my students dont trust me, then they cant really like me.  They dont know what Im thinking or if I am going to tell them the truth when it counts. The term for this is shady.   
I want my kids to learn from me, so I am honest with them about how I feel.  It may not make them happy, but it will help them trust me and that will allow them to open up and learn.  I am not implying that you should give them feedback in the most unfiltered ways, but I am suggesting that you give them true feedback. 
Ill leave you with this.  A few years ago, one of my high school juniors came to me after a summer of having me for English and she said, I really like the fact that you were honest with me when you didnt like my behavior, but that didnt change the way that you graded my work. You were always fair.

Be honest with your kids, but dont let that change your teacher-student dynamic.  Ive learned, and am still learning, that delivery is everything.  

Do You Bloom Where You Are Planted?

This particular post is one that I have struggled with for some time.  I wonder if its counterproductive to ask questions that I may already know the answer to, but in this case, it may be okay.  I was listening to my hair dresser talk about relationships and how it is necessary to water them in order to see growth.  Now, I have heard this before, but it was something about the way that he presented it that made me think about the relationship that I have with my career. 
Blooming where you are planted is an important part of any educational journey because your plan may not always be the direction that your career will take.  For instance, when I began my educational career with my current district, I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher.  It seemed like the place that I would call home.  Eventually, as I began to grow in the position, I was asked to consider moving to third grade.  I wasnt initially excited about it because I wanted to chart my own path.  However, after transferring to another school, I was told that there were not any kindergarten positions left, and I was offered a 1st grade position.  I thought, why not”!  This move changed my views on many things.  I realized that as a kindergarten teacher, I needed to teach 100 times harder in order to have the students sufficiently prepared for first grade.  I taught first grade for 4 years, realizing that it is by far the most difficult grade to teach, but the most rewarding.  Blooming where you are planted can be challenging, but most effective when you make an effort to do it!
A few years later, I was called into the office and told that I was being moved to second grade.  We were changing our curriculum and our reading series, so I was a bit excited about my new move.  I didnt think anything could top kindergarten and first grade, but I was certainly wrong.  Second grade became my newest love. 
Each move that I had within grades was one that I didnt initiate, but enjoyed nonetheless.  I am left to wonder if I had moved to third grade 9 years ago, how different my perspective would be.  I look at this time and these experiences and really ask myself if its just easier to bloom where you are planted and enjoy the process. I am reminding myself that in education there is usually a silver lining and if I look for it, I will certainly find it. 

Do the Students that stand out stand a chance?

This is the first week for most teachers, but in many areas school has been in session for some time.  We have now been introduced to new coworkers, parents and most importantly, new students.  Each year, when I see the students that I will be working with, I look forward to understanding their needs.   
In most cases, many of the students are vocal about what they want and need in a teacher, but there are few students who stand out more than others.  They ask really telling questions or require extra attention when doing small tasks.  These are the students that may have parents that hang around a little longer than expected.  They may take a bit longer to sit or prepare for the lesson.  They are also the students that are apprehensive about coming through the door each morning. These are the students that become your stories or pull at your heart strings.  Because these students stand out, do they stand a chance?  Do we place our students in boxes in the same way that we place adults in specific categories?  If this is the case, many times, as adults, we are left struggling to prove that we are different than what was previously thought. 

In life, it is easy to meet people, or in our case, students and place them in categories based on initial interactions.  These interactions do not write the story for the remainder of the year.  We cant box our students in the way we box in coworkers, friends or family.  We have to allow them the opportunity to evolve.  Many times the students that stand out and cause concerns may end up being the students that exceed your expectations.  Day one does not determine what will happen for the remainder of the year.  I encourage you to allow all of your students the opportunity to grow, even the ones that stand out on the first day!  They just might surprise you.   

It Does Glitter!

“Anyone can find the dirt in someone.  Be the one that finds the gold.  Proverbs 11:27

Many times, when we begin a new project, before we celebrate the successes, we often spend time condemning ourselves for the failures that happened along the way.  Very seldom we take the opportunity to look at the areas of our lives that are right on track.  We spend so much time dwelling on those aspects of our journey that we’d like to redo, rework, rewrite, or remove.  Although this is something that we struggle with as adults, our students are the exact opposite. 

Kids tend to have instinctive confidence in their abilities to do anything.  That confidence is intuitive, and somewhere along the way that confidence turns into doubt.  I’m unsure if that doubt comes from repeated failure or not enough positive reinforcement for the need to continue trying, but it does exist.  Not only does it exist, but it emerges at a young age.  I am often saddened to see the lack of confidence in our students because it means they don’t realize that failures teach you more about life than any success does.  When students fail at a task and have a teacher in their corner, repeatedly encouraging them to continue trying until they succeed, their confidence is encouraged.  We reinforce the idea that failure is a part of success. It is so easy to find the bad in situations, but if you look for it, you can also uncover glimmers of hope.  As teachers, our job is to find the gold; it exists!