January 21

Changes And What We Are Doing

Our world is constantly changing and that is nothing new.  Seasons change.  Generations change. The earth changes.  People change.  Nothing stays the same.  Since the beginning of time we have been changing and that is a good thing.  Most of the time change is subtle and we hardly even notice.  Sometimes change is more dramatic and more noticeable and it rocks us back on our heels.

This week we have experienced a piece of that dramatic change.  For the first time in eight years we have a new president to lead our country.  No matter what your politics might be, that is a fact.  We have change in our midst.

I must admit that I had grown comfortable with the way things were and had settled in to a comfort zone of sorts thinking that I kind of knew what to expect.  So, with the swearing in of a new president, I had been rocked back on my heels a bit because with such a change there is uncertainty.  The only certainty ahead of us is that there will be more change.  So, I looked around for a little bit of inspiration and encouragement and it was quite easy to find.

The first place I found inspiration and encouragement was in a blog post which suggests that vocabulary is a powerful thing.  Elizabeth Moore reminded me that even though there are lots of things we cannot control in the classroom, one thing we can control is the  language we use.   Moore encouraged learners that we have choices and those choices are at the heart of learning and growing.  So, I’m planning to try to make choices in the language I use with teachers and students to encourage them to realize they have choices for growing and learning as well.

Another place I found inspiration and encouragement was in a quote from Andy Rooney.  Happiness is something we all strive for whether we recognize it or not.  Melissa at 320 Sycamore used Rooney’s words to offer up Courage for the Week.  In essence, it says that if we base our happiness or unhappiness on major events, we are not going to be happy much of the time.  However, if we base our happiness on the simple necessities and pleasures in life, we will live with quite a bit of happiness.  So, I’m trying to look for the simplistic things in life to enjoy and celebrate their pleasures.

The next place I found inspiration and encouragement was right under my nose.  Students at one of our elementary schools right here in the district are steadily posting to their student created newsblog.  One of the students had crafted an encouraging piece suggesting How to be a Hero.  It is powerful and it is inspiring and it truly proclaims that each of us has the opportunity to be a hero.  So, I’m reminding myself that I need to continue doing the right thing, to be respectful, and to be that someone who others can trust.

And finally, another place I found inspiration and encouragement is a post which really resonated as I was searching for a way to honor one of our country’s former leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr.  I landed on a post which started with the powerful quote featured at the beginning of this post.  I may not always embrace change even though I know that change is inevitable and constant.  As public school teachers we are certainly in the business of doing for others.  Our paycheck comes from the contribution of tax dollars.  While we don’t get to choose lots of things about our classroom, we do get to choose the language we use to guide and encourage student learning.  Teaching and learning is all about courage and taking risks and changing from who we are and what we know and how we do things toward growing and maturing and becoming more.  Sometimes it is just the simplest thing that makes all the difference in our teaching and in our learning and that should be celebrated and bring about happiness.  The words of young writers certainly emphasize the importance of being a model for them.  They remind us that we are heroes in some ways whether it is intentional or not.  They remind us that we are being observed always and it is important to walk the walk and talk the talk for those students and one another.  As public school teachers we are Architects of Change each and every day and maybe part of what we also need to do is share with students ideas about how another person took something that was being set aside as useful and make it serve another purpose.  In this day and age when we are constantly bombarded by change and frequently rocked back on our heels by change, sometimes we feel just a little bit lost.  This week I was reminded by the words of Mahatma Ghandi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

I always have been and continue to be fortunate, grateful, and proud to be an American citizen.  As teachers in our country’s public school system, let us not forget that we are a service professional and we are preparing our students to take care of our world and of us in the future.  That is a huge responsibility and we handle that responsibility in our ever changing world with the most simplistic and often overlooked ways that we go about doing our job.

January 11

Tenets of an Effective Educator

I’m working to put a workshop for teachers together.  So, the first thing I always do when mapping out a workshop is to remind myself of the characteristics which I need to embody and the tools that I need to employ.  In a recent post by Carl Hendrick I noticed a comparison between great coaches and great teachers.  He reinforced the concept that effective teaching is a result of good relationships.

As with planning a lesson for the classroom, I put some thought into what outcome I wanted.  I considered what my measuring stick might look like and the details of what I would be measuring.  Begin with the end in mind.  So, I jotted down some ideas that would guide me through creating and facilitating the workshop.  Then, I realized, these same criterion might be a good guide for most any effective educator.

  1. Identify your passion and share it.

Find an element that you strongly believe is important and outline exactly what it is you love about that element.  Relate your passion for that element to those with whom you are working.  Share your enthusiasm and excitement.  Show them how much you love it.  Let your passion be contagious.

2. Be knowledgeable.

There will be things that you know and resources that you rely upon for most any topic you are going to address with your teaching.  Don’t stop with what you already know or what you have learned – strive to know more.  Learn as much as possible.  Refresh and renew the resources to make your knowledge the most current and grounded.

3. Set high expectations.

We all want our students to strive for and achieve excellence.  What is the ultimate goal?  Set the bar high.  Just because your learners may not have the same background knowledge or experience, that doesn’t mean they cannot make great strides of achievement.  With support, anything can be accomplished!

4. Model expected behavior.

The best example is a good model.  Do as I tell you is not as effective as let me show you.  We are always showing others through example whether we realize it or not.  So, why not be a positive example?  When we model expected behavior, there is a guide for others to follow.

5. Command respect and trust.

The best way to command respect is to give respect to others.  When we show respect to others, we are honoring them and showing our reverence for them.  If we want to be respected, showing that respect is a must.  Along with that, remember that a true community of learners develops a concept of trust in one another.  We grow to know what to expect and to rely upon one another.  So, if we don’t trust others to give us their best, we can never be the receivers of trust and respect.

6. Create a space for scholarly endeavors.

Just as we decorate our homes, when we create materials such as explanatory handouts or research guides or even rubrics, we are decorating our scholarly space.  We are not living up to our own expectations when there are grammatical and spelling errors or when the materials are not eye appealing and inviting.  Design with the expectations in mind.  Your work is a reflection of you; so let that reflection show who you are and what you expect.

Inspire your students to be better than they thought they could be!

January 5

Getting Back Into The Swing Of Things

Over the holiday break I noticed several ideas and suggestions for lessons on setting goals and making resolutions and choosing one little word.  Some were even focused on creating lesson plans which guided students through setting goals and making resolutions like this one and this one.  While I’m not really one for making new year resolutions, I did find value in the concepts put forth by these aforementioned blog posts.  I gave each of them some thought.  I pondered and I jotted down ideas and I pondered some more.  Then, I seriously tried to set some goals for myself.  If you clicked on one of the previous links, you noticed that I did wind up setting a few personal goals.  Then, I took a wee little bit of time and considered how I might approach this concept if I were returning to the classroom in a few days.  What would I do to help my students settle in and get focused to persevere toward the end of the school year?  Here are the concepts I landed upon:

  1.  Set a couple of professional goals for myself and commit to them by writing them down.  I wouldn’t just write down a word or a phrase, I would use some of the suggestions I saw in the blog posts I read and flesh them out a little bit.
  2. I would not only write these goals down, I would probably also write down my thoughts and ideas for where I brainstormed so that I could share that process with my students.  I would want to have my thinking be visible in order to model what takes place for my students.
  3. I would do a bit of reflection and make a list or two relating to my reflection.  List one would be, what have I done in the past that made me successful to achieving my goals?  List two would be, what do I think I need to do to make me successful toward achieving new goals?  I might even make a third list; whatop20bottom17t risks would I like to take at this time?
  4. I would create a couple of planning templates to share with my students to help guide them if they feel they need a graphic guide.  One of them could be something like Orman’s Top 20/Bottom 17.  If you would like a ready-made template example of the one shown below, just click HERE.  Of course, I would work through the template or something similar to model such planning for my stuidea-plan-actiondents.
  5. I would ask students to follow up with brainstorming and creating a plan.  Encouraging students perform a bit of deep thinking and refining of their goals.  Again, they might need an organizer to guide their thoughts.  HERE is an example you might offer if they do.  It expounds on the ideas offered from one of the blog posts linked above and encourages students to carefully consider and brainstorm to come up with a plan for making a limited number of their to-do goals a reality.  I would also encourage students to do the same with a couple or three of their not-to-do goals a reality.  Again, I would certainly model this practice.

Since goal-setting is a natural focus for the beginning of a new year, guiding students to do some thinking and planning for making their goals a reality might be a good way to transition back into thinking and writing.  Happy New Year and happy goal setting and planning!