I'm Glad You're Here!!

 


Happy Virtual Teaching!  I know may of us are on a virtual track for a few weeks and there are a few that are starting back face to face.  Wherever you are and however you are receiving your students, I know you are receiving them with love and patience.  As we begin this journey, or continue it, let us remember a few things.  Reminding our students that we are happy to see them is the most inspiring thing we can do.  They struggle and jump over so many hurdles to get to school, just as we do.  Imagine if someone stood at the door and greeted you each morning.  Now imagine if that greeting was warm, genuine, and involved some variation of “I’m glad you are here.”  It is my hope that as we begin greeting our babies, we let them know how happy we are to see them.  That is really all they’ve been waiting for.  Have an amazing year. 

Inhale, Exhale

 Many educators have started the school year, and many more will begin in the coming days.  As we navigate the virtual halls of our new normal, we have so many things to consider.  In the 22 weeks since we have seen our students, they have gone through so much.  This includes the pandemic, the social unrest throughout the country, the political warfare and lastly, isolation.  There are so many ways to approach the various topics discussed above, but we must be what we want to see in our students.  What we exhale is what they will inhale.  As we begin to discuss how to move forward as a community, work diligently to include your students in that conversation.  Processes and procedures are important, but it is equally important to address our student's questions, calm their fears and pour positivity back into their spirits.  We are not saying “hello” to our students as we have in years past.  Their eyes will have so many more stories to tell and it’s important to read your “virtual” room and understand that compassion is going to get us farther than our lesson plans ever will.  Be observant, be patient, but most of all be kind.  Our kids will need very bit of our positivity! 

What are your Expectations?

I usually blog on nuggets of wisdom that I encounter during the week or month.  Today’s topic seems to be right on target with what is happening in and around us during this time.  My Sunday sermon referenced expecting things of God, but I would like to discuss what we expect of ourselves during this very uncertain time.

Teachers have been the topic of so much conversation over the last few months.  As boards and governing bodies discuss the opening of schools across the country, the expectation is that student learning will be negatively impacted by distance learning. 

The Rosenthal-Jacobson Study argues that:  High expectations lead to improved performance.  I have never heard the scientific term for what we in education have normalized as “high expectations lead to greater outcomes and low expectations lead to lower outcomes”.  This term is a mainstay in an educator’s toolbox.  For these reasons, we are drawn to the idea that we must expect so much more from our students so they can produce amazing results.  However, what expectations do we have for ourselves?

Many districts are battling with having educators come into the building to teach instead of working from home.  This method is lauded as the most effective way to increase productivity.  The expectation is that educators can/will be more productive within the walls of the school. However, following the guise of the R-J Study, shouldn’t the expectations be that wherever we are, we will rise to the challenge of educating our children with the same level of excellence? 

Years from now, we will dissect these moments and hopefully, they will be some of the most innovative of our careers. However, while we are in the midst of this challenging landscape called education, I encourage you to expect excellent outcomes daily.  When we expect them from ourselves, we will surely receive them from our students.  Enjoy this school year and make it one for the history books, as it surely will be.

 


Normalize Losing Hope


I was reading an article about hope earlier in the summer and it discussed both optimism and hope.  It argued that they are the only way we will make it through the pandemic.  I realized that although I am a realist, I am realistically optimistic.  I try to see the silver lining in a situation, after I have dissected it, of course.  It is this practice that affords me the opportunity to see things from all sides and then make an informed decision.  Having or losing hope is no different.  You have to research and make an informed decision about what hope should look like and then move accordingly. 
Hope is similar to faith.  In some ways, it’s unwavering, something that you only need a small amount of for it to be effective.  However, similar to faith it is also unseen.  Hope is defined as an expectation and faith is defined as confidence.  When I look at them side by side, and defined in this way, I realize that having hope is having an expectation that something will work out.  In essence, faith is having confidence in the same thing.  They are not synonymous in definition.  However, they are both abstract feelings. 
I named my blog, teachthemhope, in an effort to help people understand that as a community, it is our job to teach our kids about hope, or expectations.  Sometimes faith must take over so that this expectation morphs into confidence.  So, in essence, sometimes it’s okay to normalize a loss of hope, or expectation in order to gain a little slice of faith.  Stay safe and wear a mask. 




Teaching tolerance…


For the past few blog posts I have added ellipses to the end of each title.  I do that because an ellipses suggests that there is more, and there is always more embedded in the language of my blog posts.  I wanted to take a moment to explain why they appear.  In education, the ellipses in primarily used in a reference to suggest that you are leaving something out.  When something is omitted in a reference, it is important to go back and read the entire quote to determine how it supports the ideas presented by the writer. 

In this same instance, I am using the ellipses to suggest there is more to “teaching tolerance” than the title suggests.  As educators our priority is grounded in the idea that we accept all students as they are.  In addition, we understand that the totality of what we experience in each of our students is not presented daily.  It emerges as we get to know them.  We learn their story by experiencing them daily.  When we discuss tolerance as an idea, it means patience.  Do we really teach our students tolerance: patience? 

I am guilty of giving my students a finite amount of time to finish a task, requiring them to “get it done”.  This is not the type of patience or tolerance I am referencing in this post.  I am asking if we truly teach our students how to have patience with each other daily.  During the course of the pandemic, we used words like kind, understanding, patient and flexible.  Do we use those words in the brick and mortar building?  I believe that many of the issues we encounter in the classroom “raise our students’ awareness” more than we realize. 

As we look at the current cultural crisis, we must remember that as educators we are on the front lines.  It is our responsibility to teach our students through our own actions.  We must learn how to emulate patience and teach it to others.  Our students learn much more by “seeing” not by “hearing”.  Let’s show them what being tolerant looks like.  Each of us can change the world one little person at a time!



Not Yet!


Believe in the power of yet. ~ Unknown

This school year has taught us many things.  We have become more aware of our skills and abilities as educators and are now more comfortable than ever suggesting that “being flexible” is one of our strong suits.  The final semester of the 19-20 school year has taught me that flexibility is certainly the newest buzz word in education. 
Also, the idea of yet resurfaces as I think of flexibility.  After the first few weeks turned into a month, a few teachers asked about what that would mean for testing.  We were told, “we don’t know yet.” 
Once we started to engage in a more structured distance learning schedule, the kids asked if we were going back to school.  We could only answer them with, “we don’t know yet.”
As the governor of Georgia announced school closings in late April, the yet became certain. 
Now, 10 weeks later, I am in a better position to understand the power of yet. 
The idea of “yet” suggests that there is not a definite answer and it still leaves the door open for a glimmer of hope.  There are so many unanswered questions about the upcoming school year, and each of them ends in the sentiment, yet. 
As we walk into summer, we have to understand that we don’t have all of the answers.  Many times, the folks we ask won’t have those answers either.  However, answering the questions with “yet” merely suggests that there is a possibility of something favorable.  I encourage you not to dismiss this idea as we remain in the realm of positivity.  Believe in the “power of yet.”  Stay healthy, stay positive, and if you can, stay home. 

Inspiring hope…


“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill a love of learning.” – Brad Henry

This is the second blog on hope during this crisis and it is designed to inspire the teacher that is powered on nothing but hope and imagination.  As traditional teachers, many didn’t feel the need to acquire an abundance of skills beyond those needed to use the technology in the classroom or on the district’s interface.  However, during this worldwide crisis, we have gained so many new skills.  Although many of them have been unintentional, they are now added to the toolbox of necessary skills.  When we look at our students and what we expect them to pick up over the course of the year, much of it is grounded in learning how to use new applications and memorize logins aimed at giving them access to portals that may be beyond their reach initially. 
During this crisis, we have been asked to do the same thing.  Many of us have excelled, a few have dug in kicking and screaming, but none of us have quit.
Good teachers inspire hope, and it is our hope, combined with love that power our collective journeys.  We hope that we will eventually get back to the classroom and inside the walls of the school so that we can continue impacting our students.  What we fail to realize is that we have already made an impact. 
By showing up to each live session with a new skill or tool, we are giving our students the hope and inspiration they need to continue.  They see us showing up and trying and that’s why they continue to show up.  We’ve engaged in good teaching these last few weeks because we’ve checked all of the necessary boxes designed to inspire kids.  The crisis won’t last forever, but the impact of perseverance will! 

Teaching with Hope In Mind…


“Hope is not cancelled.”  ~ State Farm

On March 13th, our students left the building with packets of work, a few pencils, old papers, and a sense of uncertainty.  As a veteran educator, I’ve closed out 13 school years.  Each with its own set of challenges, but even I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right about the way we left things. Although we were told it would only be two weeks, the feeling of heaviness lasted for some time.

One week later, we realized that the two weeks would turn into four. And most recently, schools have closed indefinitely amid concerns that returning too soon would cause great harm.  During all of this uncertainty, I still have hope that our students are able to maintain a sense of calm without the stability that their classrooms, desks, routines and teachers provide.

However, our students aren’t the only ones that need this routine.  Educators need this as well. As I was watching television, I saw the most beautiful commercial and at the end, there was a message etched in the fence.  The message said, “Hope is not cancelled.”  I needed to see that message, on that day. For whatever reason it inspired this post.

Our students deserve better answers than the ones we are able to provide, but although we can’t give them the answers that they need, we can give them a sense of hope that things will work out.

After virtual lessons, I encourage you to have conversations with your students.  Let them know that although we don’t know much about what comes next, we need to remain positive.  What we feed our spirit becomes our thoughts and thoughts become things. If we give our students a sense of hope, they can continue to encourage the folks around them as well.  The most essential aspect of our job now is to remind our students that although school as they know it is cancelled, hope remains: Hope is never cancelled.


March Madness ...


“Let him sleep, for when he wakes, he will move mountains”  ~ unknown

March is typically one of the longest teaching months.  However, in light of recent events, many educators across the world have been forced to take a step back.  Although not ideal, this respite has put many things into perspective. 
I had the opportunity to read up on rest and what is most effective.  I’ve learned that there are several types of rest.  Among them are:
~ Taking time away
~Allowing yourself permission not to be helpful
~Doing something unproductive
~Connecting to art and nature
~Recharging in solitude
~Breaking away from responsibility
~Decompressing in stillness
~Creating a safe space
~Preserving alone time at home

During this time away from the building, develop a new way to look at rest and the art of relaxation. You deserve the quiet moments.  When you return, you can and will move that “mountain” but for now, take it bit by bit, stone by stone. 

 

Love, Teach, Repeat…



“A child cannot be taught by anyone who despises him, and a child cannot afford to be fooled.”  ~ James Baldwin


March is the longest month of the school year because we don’t traditionally have a break.  The struggle to persevere is seen in both the students and teachers.  While this may be true, our focus cannot shift.  Our job is to prepare our students for the next grade.  Based on my previous years of experience, this journey requires a lot of discipline.  However, it can be simplified if we remember the formula for building a strong student.  We must love our kids, teach them well and repeat the process!

James Baldwin argues, “a child cannot afford to be fooled”.  He is more than accurate.  Our students are perceptive enough to sense everything:  fears, frustrations, anger, and love.  We cannot fool them, and they cannot afford to be fooled.  They need to trust their teacher and they must know that their teacher loves them and wants them to grow. 

During this month of no breaks, we must love harder than we ever have so our students can trust the process and show the growth that we require.  If all else fails, remember: LOVE, TEACH, AND REPEAT!   



Celebrate Black History Month



“ A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”  ~ Marcus Garvey


As we begin Black History Month, I am reminded of the various BHMs when I was an elementary, middle and high school student.  The month was peppered with various versions of stories about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and no one else. It wasn’t until I reached my senior year of high school that I delved into documentaries about famous Black Americans. 

When I changed professions and became an educator, I struggled with what to expose my students to and what to shield them from.  Black History is American history and should be treated as such.  When February 1 arrives, we should begin the celebration of all influential Black Americans and those that contributed to the culture! The month should be an endless celebration.  We have 11 additional months to focus on the struggle and the hardships that the culture endured, let’s take this one and focus on the strength and character that the culture maintains.  I suggest this because if done correctly, you are constantly teaching your students about Black History, so during this month that scholarship continues.  The continuation just morphs into a celebration.

I encourage you, as an educator to find one incredibly exciting aspect of the culture to celebrate daily or weekly!  Support a black business or entrepreneur, encourage a budding idea that will help influence the culture positively.  Do it all, and do it in the spirit of celebration.  Black History Month is dedicated to the evolution and expression of the culture and should be treated as such! 

 

Character is Important!


“We must remember that intelligence is not enough.  Intelligence plus character- that is the goal of true education. -------- Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we begin the next semester of the school year, we have so many new policies and procedures to implement in the classroom and many of those are based on ideas we tightened up over the break.  The students are not clean slates, as they are now coming to us with the knowledge that we shared with them during the first half of the year.  We must remember that during these times, we are not only responsible for intelligence, but we are also duly responsible for encouraging our students to exhibit strong character traits. 

We must teach out students that intelligence is no longer enough.  Character is developed by genuinely serving others.

Happy MLK Day!  “A Day On, Not a Day Off!”