The Good in the World…

It has been a long time since I have written in my own professional blog. Hundreds of posts have been crafted in my head. Yet, they never make it here, to the place and space for those ideas to become more than murmurings and ideas of my own. A place and space to share my own learning with hope that it becomes part of a collective process to inspire, encourage, challenge, empower and grow us all as lead learners.

I haven’t been completely radio silent. Every week I write a blog post for my campus. It is designed to come from where we have grown, the pulse of our present need, and provide focus for where we need to go. This is where some of my murmurings and ideas have found their place and space: SRE Longhorn Learning.

Still, I find other things that I want to share in regards to impact as an educator that do not fit the purposes for my campus blog if I want to keep it focused to the needs of the campus.

Still these other things need a place and space. For that I come back to the “Tag… you’re it!” personal professional blog to share. I will have to say, it’s been a battle. I have reasoned with myself it wasn’t necessary. However, I couldn’t shake that there was a need for me to write again in this space and place after I read a recent post “Why Aren’t You Blogging More…” ,from the blog “The Principal of Change” by George Couros. I was challenged. I stopped the excuses.

In George Couros’ post that I mentioned, he says “be kind, be thoughtful, don’t overthink it.” So this is where I begin to share again. It starts at as a murmuring about being kind and thoughtful, and maybe leads to an idea…

Today I was asked to help one of my sweet students. He is an adorable little boy who, like many adults, doesn’t like the things he creates or his belongings to be moved or “messed up.” He was upset. His Rube Goldberg project that consisted of a chain of dominoes had been “messed up” by another student and thus ensued a disagreement. After some deep breaths, empathetic listening and talking through things, I shared some wisdom. I suggested he apologize first. His sweet little five year old brain felt he had been wronged first and it puzzled him that I asked him to apologize first. So I explained, sometimes to help others see what upset us, we first have to be the one to say “I am sorry.” I reasoned with him, “If we say sorry first, we lead the way. We are the leaders for making things peaceful.” I then asked him, “Do you want things to be peaceful and to get along with the friend you were upset with?” He nodded. Then he shared, “I don’t think I can do it by myself.” As I offered to go with him, I pondered… if only, when we struggle to make amends, we admitted we can’t do it by ourselves and accepted the help of others would so much be resolved.

We walked back into the classroom. He walked right up to his classmate and genuinely offered his apologies… his classmate in turn apologized with the same measure of sincerity. The Rube Goldberg project was back on and the students were at peace.

peace-quotesThere is good in the world. This moment is evidence. So I encourage us all… be the first to apologize, even if you were the one wronged. Be the leaders for making things peaceful. These students learned a valuable lesson in life. Let us continue to be the example and look for ways to be thoughtful and kind. Let’s work to create a world that creates peace for the future… for our students.

 

 

Rituals, Routines and Relationships… I’ve got this?

Every classroom that has been in full swing for four or more days probably appears like a well-oiled machine.  It amazes me how quickly teachers and students alike adopt procedures, rituals and routines with lightening speed and quickly move into the content.

We all give heavy thought to developing relationships with our students and, I believe, work very hard to build those student to teacher relationships. However, I think we may need to reflect and re-evalulate.

Are we changing how we facilitate and coach how our students interact?

Peter Senge quote

We all agree there is more emphasis on group work, “talk moves,” collaborative learning and peer feedback, as it should be. We all agree that WE, the educator in the room, have worked to establish a community of trust and respect… but, dare I say, WE direct that so it is about the teacher to student relationship, not the student to student relationships. In fact, many times the classroom will have the “look” of a student-designed and led learning environment, but when we peel back the layers it is very much teacher directed and led.

Edward Fiske quote

As I reflect on this, I know I may be upsetting educators by my questions. I am fully aware of the pressures and the dense curriculum and content breathing down the necks of classroom educators that must be delivered in a finite amount of time with data that reflects critical thinking visibly, depth of knowledge and a transfer of knowledge across disciplines.

Consider, though, if we are wanting students to think in deep and creative ways that must come from a deeply personal place.  If students own their learning, then the feedback and input of others, particularly peers, can be profoundly scary if there is not the relationships and trust built between students.

Robert Reich quote

We are asking students to get in front of their peers and present, sit with their peers and share their ideas and thinking, create solutions and products with other students passionate about the same ideas via PBL opportunities, but are we facilitating a “Ropes course” approach to building those teams of learners within the walls of our classroom?

If you are wanting to create an environment of self-driven autonomous learners that thrive in their learning community, then I challenge you to reflect and re-evaluate.

Here are a few questions I would ask myself to be sure the relationships are just as much about the student to student relationships as they are about the student to teacher relationship:

1. Does everyone in the class know everyone’s name with ease (first and last)?

2. With getting to know you activities have they first been shared with a small group, then, when sharing out the “get to know you” facts someone other than the student in the group shares with the class?

3. Can students share with each other why another student’s presence with specificity is essential to the entire team (class) learning? (What makes them uniquely important to this particular class?)

4. Can students in your class share with passion what the community agreements or norms for learning are and why they are essential to the classroom?

5. Do your students see your classroom as an opportunity to practice democracy? (Are you training them to live in a democracy when they grow up, or are you giving them the chance to live in one today?- Alfie Kohn, TRIBES by Jeanne Gibbs, p. 25)

As educators, I know that we are risk-takers and want to encourage our students to be risk-takers as well.  To do that, in the classrooms of today, we can no longer be the only relationship builder, we must intentionally coach and facilitate positive relationship building between students.  They need to be sure of not just the safety of learning with the teacher, but with their peers.

Winnie the Pooh sure of you quote

Lauren. “My Still Small World.” The Loveliest Hour. N.p., 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 Sept. 2014.

How are you ensuring a learning community that is developed, driven and passionately protected by your students for their peers?

Words to live by…

In the midst of the reshaping that I wrote about in my last post a dear friend and mentor lost her 8 and 1/2 year battle with cancer.

Jan wasn’t a fellow educator when I met her.  She was a parent of a student I taught.  We bonded through our love for her daughter.  Our relationship continued after her daughter left my course.

She encouraged me to pursue my Masters in Educational Administration.  She challenged me to grow spiritually.  She modeled for me how to be a partner in a marriage.  When the day came, she coached me into motherhood.

She lived life passionately, with purpose and love.  She was called to be a deaf interpreter in her late 30s. From the time she pursued this passion until her death, she impacted children and adults in the deaf community in a profound way.  She educated them, loved on them and advocated for them.  Her profession of interpreting was done from a place of passion built on relationships.  Were goals met? Absolutely.  Did learning and growth occur? Ask the lives she impacted.  Were there challenges, some thought impossible to overcome? Certainly.  How was she successful? She focused on the people.

At her Life Celebration Service the pastor shared her “Top 10 List for Life.”

10- Love everyone.

9- Forgive often.

8- Always kiss goodnight.

7- Remember that strangers only exists if you let them. Everyone is a friend you just haven’t met yet.

6- Laugh at others if you must, but laugh at yourself for  growth.

5- Don’t wast time wondering what it would be like to do something, do it.

4- There is no such thing as “too purple.”

3- Growing up is over-rated.

2- Never forget to take your binoculars.

1- Life may present you with challenges, and hurdles that the world would have you believe can’t be overcome.  The world would have you believe that your response should be despair, but ultimately God is in control.  While you  might not be able to control your situation in like you CAN control how you choose to respond to it.  If you choose hope and joy, then even the dark days that may come, the days of sunshine can far exceed them.  The choice is yours.

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Jan, myself and her family, Christmas 2000

 

As I reflected on my dear friend’s words of advice I began to think about my own practice and the teachers that I coach.  I thought about how my friend lived by these ideals and knew through personal observation and the results of her work that it was by focusing on the main thing, PEOPLE. She never concerned herself with unimportant details.  It was about the work of developing friendships, connecting with people, enriching each others lives and expecting the best results in all situations.  She was never too busy to share a moment over a Sonic cherry limeade, hold your hand in a difficult moment, or come grab you for a quick get a way when you needed an escape.  She was passionate about life and about the living.

For her, how she chose to live her life was a calling and an example to others.  She lived a passionate life.

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As the quote states, her passion was not random.  It was purposeful, intentional and measurable.  Her impact was felt by everyone she met.  Was her work something that could not be replicated?  I think not.  She gave us the blueprint.  We don’t have to live it precisely as she wrote (frankly I don’t think there is such a thing as “too red” :-)). However, I do think it is my calling to build relationships.  I am passionate about learning and learners, both adult and student.  How do you say that is measured? Hmmm… well I know it can be measured in lives changed, hope rebuilt and passions discovered. It is also measured in ways that will not be realized in this world, but in heaven by the ultimate assessor of success, Jesus.

I am thankful for my friend, Jan.  Her life example reminded me of what is most important.  It isn’t how much I do, how I dress, how incredible the decor in a classroom is, but how I treat, love and mentor others.

Take away: Keep it simple, don’t get bogged down in the unnecessary details, and build genuine relationships.