“You have two choices, either evolve or repeat”~ Unknown

The quote above simplifies much of what we do on a daily basis as educators.  When presented with issues that we’ve experienced in the past, we can either choose the easy route and “repeat” or customize a different journey that requires us to “evolve”.

During November and December, we have an opportunity to evaluate our missed opportunities to “evolve” as educators.  Many times our choice has been to “repeat” the previous lesson, task, mistake, or pattern.  However, as we move into a new season with our students, we are also responsible for moving into a new mindset as adults.  

Consider the aspects of our lives that are constantly on “repeat”.  Are there areas in our classroom or embedded in our routines that will allow for an evolution?  If and when those occasions for evolution present themselves, I challenge you to choose the opportunity to “evolve”!

There is too much at stake when we remain stagnant.  Evolution requires flexibility and flexibility requires a willingness to stay open to the process.  As you walk into your classroom over the next few weeks prior to winter break, look for the limitless opportunities to “evolve” as educators.

Bite by bite…

“How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.” ~ Unknown

This month’s blog is a friendly reminder for educators.  Everything cannot be taught in one lesson, one week or one month.  As we begin to succumb to the numerous stressors that are inevitable, there are several things to remember.  Take the time to unpack the skills for your students, creating a consistent flow and their growth will be apparent.  As educators, it’s tempting to teach, reteach, remediate and then stress.  Once concepts are taught, give students an opportunity to digest the lesson.  Each of your students may not experience the light bulb at the same time, but it will come.  Remind yourself to breath and you will be just fine.  We are only one quarter in.  This is not the time to throw in the towel.  It’s time to reboot and get back in the game.  You eat an elephant “one bite at a time” and you teach a child, one lesson at a time. 

Save Yourself…

“When I is replaced by We, Illness becomes Wellness” ~ Malcolm X

There is so much to be learned from this very brief quote.  Many times, during this season, we become stressed by the minutia that fills the day.  We also forget that we do not teach on an island.  We need the help of colleagues to make it through the year.  Malcolm X argues that illness is a byproduct of trying to accomplish a goal alone.  When you decide it’s okay to rely on or ask for help, many of the issue that plague you become void.  It is helpful to remember that working alone creates stressful conditions, but collaboration creates a sense of peace.  It is essential to find a colleague or “teacher friend” that you can depend on.  Wellness is not one option, it’s the only option.  Ask for help if or when you begin to struggle.  There will always be someone there to smile, lend a hand or offer sound advice.  Education is a team sport.  Teach on…. 🍎

Pay or Profit?

For these are all our children and we shall profit by or pay for what they become.
James Baldwin

Our babies have finished their first week of school!  As I thought about what to discuss this month, I recalled the faces of the pre-kindergarten students entering their classroom for the first time. Their faces were full of both fear and excitement.  For many, it was their first experience in a classroom.  Much like the teachers, students don’t know what to expect when they enter a new space and begin this journey.  
I love this quote by James Baldwin and its embedded reference to education and the system that strives to create strong learners.  We profit from the creation of strong learners and we pay for students that struggle through their educational journey. 
We can look at our purpose as educators in one of two ways:  we can help students thrive as they experience learning, or we can pay for the byproduct of what happens as a result of their failure. 
When walking into week two, think of the faces of the students you journeyed with on your first year as an educator.  That anticipation that you felt when they entered should be the same anticipation experienced each and every year. 
If we continue to strive for unmatched experiences in our classrooms, we will continue to experience them in the most concrete ways, ensuring a debt free journey for our students! 


Reflect on your first year…

Be the reason someone smiles today! ~ unknown

We are beginning yet another school year and while most of my blogs focus on the treatment of our students, I want to spend a few minutes discussing the treatment of our coworkers.  Many times, as educators, we have a tenancy to get so caught up in the “return to work drama” that we forget to openly welcome the new teachers.  When I think back on the times that I sat in professional developments and didn’t try to explain in detail a concept to a coworker or reiterate an idea because it would “take too long”, I cringe.    
I remember the first year of teaching and I can name on one hand the number of teachers that really extended themselves.  Those opportunities for mercy were welcomed and, in many cases, received with a level of gratitude and loyalty that I still feel inside when thinking of them. 
The reasons that new teachers smile inside the classroom are very few.  A student may touch their heart, give them a small trinket or recall information.  However, ask yourself if they are also smiling outside of their classroom.  If that answer is no or very little, your only responsibility for the 2019-2020 school year is to “be the reason someone smiles” every day.   When you see new educators in the hall, and you see a lack of optimism but sense defeat, step in and offer a thoughtful word or strategy.  Education is hard but teaching alone is harder. Enjoy your year, but also try to help make some “struggling” educator’s year a little easier by helping them smile! 

Yesterday is behind us…

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow…- Dalai Lama

As we approach the new year, many quotes or anecdotes emerge, either urging teachers to do something new or reinforcing their already strong ideas about education.  Like most educators, my social media feed has been no different.  However, when I saw this quote, I immediately stopped to think about what it really meant on a personal level. 
When I reflect on my students from past years, I know that I cannot erase the carbon footprint on their educational journey.  Dalai Lama’s inspirational words are true.  We cannot do anything to change the past.  Yet, worrying about how our impact on students we will have in the future is also futile.  We must focus on the students we have in front of us at this very moment.  School year 2019-2020 should be one for the books. We have all of the tools necessary to excel as educators.  Let’s make this a truly incredible year with our students. 

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 décor, 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!