Archive for October, 2017

#nationaldayofwriting - You are You-er than You!

In honour of #nationaldayofwriting, I reflected on what I wanted to contribute as a learner to mark this important day. I have recently struggled to keep up with a regular schedule of writing. With my busy work schedule, balancing family life, kids’ activities and homework, I find myself caught in a whirlwind of events that often leave me too tired to devote the time needed to share a written expression of my thoughts.

So as I ponder the recent reflections of educators and students on #whyiwrite and #nationaldayofwriting, I am left thinking of my students who often share their difficulties in keeping up with the demands of writing prompts, writing certain types of texts and the overall rigid demands they often face at school. I often find myself sharing my own struggles with writing and how I try to overcome them.

Passion for me is of the utmost importance when writing. When faced with the task of writing a prescribed piece, where structure is rigid, I also lack motivation. So as I think of students and their struggles with writing, I see myself being the champion of voice and choice.  As much as we want to share the characteristics of certain texts, as much as we want them to have that perfect essay or newspaper article, my true goal is to have students who want to express themselves, who know how to formulate their ideas and who can communicate clearly.

Therefore, in honor of #nationaldayofwriting, I have decided to write with my passion in mind: education. In a recent post, I celebrated my own learning and shared a piece of my story. As an educator, I do not only shine, I don’t always have the most exemplary strategies and have the most engaged students and my class isn’t always a picture from a magazine. So as I write about my passion, I strive to continue sharing not only my successes, but to also share my struggles. Therefore, I feel compelled to write about my first teaching experience.

As teachers, we often think that our first life changing experience will be either during our practice-teaching placement or even the first day of school following our teacher’s certification. In Ontario, where I grew up, there was such a shortage of certified teachers that I began my first contract during my second year of university, while completing my honors in History and French literature.

At 20 years old, I was going to be in charge of arts and physical education for grade 4-8 students. I was excited because I wanted to get my career started as soon as possible. I was warned about one of my groups because I was going to be their fifth teacher in several months and they were known as an “active” group. Thinking back so many years, I didn’t know what I did today. I didn’t walk into my job thinking about building relationships and getting to know my students. I went into my classroom with the same mentality that I grew up with: I am the teacher, you owe me respect.

Picture this: I walk into the classroom on my first day, slam the door shut and begin by giving these 25 students a lecture on respect and how they would listen to me and because I was the teacher and authority figure. Thinking back to this moment, I am not proud. I cannot even believe that it was me. I mean, it is definitely no Ron Clark moment (yes he is my first EDUhero). To add insult to injury, when one student actually did act out (why am I not surprised), I made her copy a page from the dictionary.

So why do I share a story that most people would keep hidden? I could have, and honestly, until this post, I have never talked about this experience. I share it so others can realize that no matter where we currently are in our career, we have all had those not so good moments. Life isn’t perfect. If Twitter existed back then (yes I am old enough to say this), I don’t think I would have tweeted the moment, but I would have reached out to PLN for support. That is the difference.

So my challenge to all of you today: Don’t be afraid to share your story, your moments of weakness, your learning. That story will resonate for someone. Your lesson will help uplift someone going through a difficult time. Most of all, by sharing your story, you help support the idea that not being perfect is okay. Today may be #nationaldayofwriting, but I encourage every educator, every student and every learner to keep writing when passion strikes, keep writing every day. Find your voice, share your words, and no matter how imperfect things are, remember the words of Dr. Seuss:

“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is you-er than you. Shout aloud, I am glad to be what I am. Thank goodness I’m not a ham, or a clam, or a dusty old jar of gooseberry jam. I am what I am, what a great thing to be. If I say so myself, happy everyday to me!” 

“Dare to reach out your hand in darkness, to pull another hand into the light.”

– Norman B. Rice

In education, like many other professions, it is easy to be inundated with the daily grind of stress, pressure and negative feelings. As a student, teacher and administrator, often we find ourselves frustrated and doubting our abilities. In our schools, we emphasize the importance of building strong relationships, both with students and staff. It is through these relationships that we are not only able to build connections, we are setting the table to allow learning to happen. As in any relationship, we need to remember that time needs to be invested. Time to not only learn with someone but time to celebrate the learning that is happening.

If I (Roman) go back to my experience as a student, I can vividly remember my experiences as a learner. I listened in class, I studied, filled out the assessment and got back my corrected copy. Based on the amount of red ink on my paper, I was able to decipher whether I was good or not. When I needed to deepen my knowledge on a topic, I did what most teachers suggested: study more. As a teacher, I have lived similar experiences. When it is time to get assessed by my administration, I listen during meetings, I prepare, I teach my lesson and I get a copy of my assessment. Based on the amount of comments, I am able to decipher whether I was good or not. Reflecting on my experiences, learning with my professional learning network (PLN), I have come to discover that this isn’t the way I want to continue to experience learning.

Looking back on my career as a student, I (Joshua) worked incredibly hard for teachers who I felt cared about me, provided encouragement and celebrated success. My grades reflected my exact feeling toward a teacher. If my grade was good, it was likely because I respected the teacher and worked to get the respect and praise of that teacher. If my grade was poor, it was because I didn’t feel the teacher cared about me, therefore I didn’t provide the appropriate effort.  As a teacher and administrator, I continue to seek out people who are genuinely invested in my growth and who care about my well being.

Before we even talk about learning or assessments, we need to address the question of building relationships. Every person is unique and has amazing gifts and talents to share. As leaders, we need to make sure we get to know each person and to know all they have to offer. As we get to know them, we must also remember that we need to take the time to interact with them on a regular basis. Foundations for strong relationships are always created out of positive experiences. We must therefore learn to celebrate and uplift those around us in order to pave the way for more meaningful and ongoing conversations. We teach students that learning continues across a lifetime. We want teachers to acknowledge that they themselves are lifelong learners and that students and parents are great collaborators to their learning. What is most important, if we want our staff to believe in this, is that we as leaders must also be lifelong learners alongside our teachers. We are all in this together.

During a recent Twitter chat, we were asked how we coached, supported and gave feedback to under-performing teachers. This question also applies to students who are under-performing in our classrooms. As I (Roman) was reflecting on how to answer, I couldn’t help but go back to my own learning experiences shared earlier. I didn’t want to reflect the same old model that separated learning from relationships. Therefore my new conviction has become, “let me learn with you. Let’s see how amazing WE can make this.” If we truly want to celebrate learning, as leaders we must be willing to go in the trenches with teachers and students. Learning will not and should not happen alone. Let’s find the time to go on the journey with them. Let’s find the time to always lead with the positive!

What are some of the ways we can go on this learning journey and celebrate with teachers and students?

  1. Written Affirmation: When you see accomplishments, learning, good actions or progress, take the time to mail out a handwritten card. It can be done after your observations or in conjunction with various holidays throughout the year. Celebrate those around you as much as you can. Yes, it does take time and yes, it does involve a certain cost. Trust us, the impact is much greater than you think.
  2. Conversation: Take the time to simply pull someone aside and share your celebration with them. Help emphasize the positive that you saw in them. Share with them your pride in them for what they have accomplished. As leaders, we sometimes feel that sharing positive comments may seem overly sentimental; in reality these words have unimaginable positive effects.
  3. Gestures: If we really want to go out of our way to show appreciation, small gestures of kindness and appreciation have profound effects. It shows another person that they were important enough for us to invest time in them; it makes them feel special. So when we can, take that person out for a special lunch, buy them a surprise coffee in the morning, share a special book with them, bake them a small surprise, share a gift card with them, do a special activity with a student, give an extra planning period to a teacher and go teach that class yourself. A gesture does not have to be over the top, all we need to do is show that we care and we appreciate them.
  4. Involvement and Collaboration: Take the time to involve staff and students in decision-making and the transformation of school culture. When you want to find innovative ways to show appreciation and create new traditions at your school, ask them how they would like it to happen. As leaders, we sometimes feel like we must have all the answers. Involving and collaborating with staff and students goes a long way in continuing to build those strong foundational relationships.  

wediscover

We all lead busy lives and the school year goes by extremely fast. There are many challenges and emergencies that we must face on a daily basis. Let’s make it a promise, that no matter the obstacles, no matter the surprises in our daily routine, we must remember to always make room for the positive. Let’s make it a priority to celebrate others, to lift their spirits and to do our part in making the world a better place. After all, if we don’t lead the way, who will?

To those who inspire us, to those who lift us up and to those who support us: Thank you! It means the world. Let’s all be lights of hope and kindness to others. That is our pledge, that is our mission.

Edu-Leaders Emphasizing the Positive

Mark French / @PrincipalFrench
#GoodNewsCallOfTheDay

Mark’s #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay movement has had a sweeping impact on the educational world. On Twitter, you can see the hashtag being used by many schools as administrators are calling home to brag, celebrate, and uplift their students. Mark inspires us all to build relationships with our students by eating lunch with them, reading books to classes and celebrating kindness of others.

Based on several educational leaders’ impact and inspiration, such as Mark French’s #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay, my (Joshua’s) campus has adopted a system to reward positive behavior each day, which leads to a positive phone call home to let the student’s parents or guardian know how their child has made good choices. The practice of calling home and getting to know students who are making a positive impact on our campus has been uplifting and extremely rewarding for everyone involved. It’s fun and interesting to see each child come to the office with reservation until they find out they are being celebrated.

 

Todd Nesloney / @TechNinjaTodd)
#KidsDeserveIt

Todd is the co-founder of #KidsDeserveIt and he continues to find innovative ways to celebrate students and staff. At Todd’s campus, they celebrate students by writing students’ names on a chalk board wall, taking a picture of the student and tweeting the student with a campus hashtag. Todd also has large photographs of his students and staff throughout the school and staff family photos in the staff lounge to share a sense of belonging. For staff, Todd has also called the teacher’s parents to share all the positive things they are doing on a regular basis.

 

Sean Gaillard / @smgaillard
#TrendThePositive

Bethany Hill / @bethhill2829
#JoyfulLeaders

 

Sean and Bethany have continuously celebrated students, teachers and other educational leaders through the #TrendThePositive, #CelebrateMondays and #JoyfulLeaders hashtags. Both show how their teachers share inspiring notes to each other, use positive referrals, and validate students with positive notes and twitter selfies. Sean and Bethany create a positive culture though their strong leadership, actions and communication.

 

For more posts from Joshua, please go to his blog at joshstamper.blogspot.com joshuas

Through the looking glass

Posted: October 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

“When you look at a person, any person, remember that everyone has a story. Everyone has gone through something that has changed them.”  – unknown

lookingglass

Sometimes, when we look at pictures of other teaching realities, especially on social media, we see such an awe inspiring view. A beautiful realm of decorations, colors, flexible seating, perfectly placed books and papers and well-behaved students. As I look at those images, I tell myself, who wouldn’t want to be a teacher? Now don’t get me wrong, we need goals, we need creativity and innovation, most of all, we need people to inspire us to be better; to reach for the stars, to shatter boundaries and to be the best that we could be.

With such ideals, the adverse effect can also be true. When we look through the looking glass shared by another, a surge of emotions can be felt. Many educators look to these posts and images and immediately feel inadequate. They feel like failures, they feel unworthy. Although we always hope to inspire teachers to try new things and to transform pedagogical practices, in the end, we sometimes push them to retreat into old habits, into isolation and we encourage a fixed mindset.

So how can we find that delicate balance between inspiration and reality?

What we must always strive to do, is to share our stories. We cannot only share the ideals and our successes. Whether good or bad, if we truly want to inspire others, we need to share our learning.

I, like many others, went into teaching in the hopes of making a difference. Isn’t that what we all strive for as educators, to be able to live those “aha moments”, to see the wonderment of learning, to support others? Although many look up to me as inspiring, I also need to share, that like many, I often look at myself and say: “I am surviving”.

As I reflect upon my experiences and let you peer into my looking glass, as you look at my pictures, as you look at my smiles, can you see me:

  • Being bullied during my first grade at school?
  • Being laughed at for the “no-name brand” clothes I wore because we had little money?
  • Eating almost a dozen muffins after school because I didn’t want my mom to to feel bad that no one chose the food she made for the potluck?
  • Feeling broken that I could never go to another kid’s birthday party because we couldn’t afford to buy presents?
  • Being ridiculed for being overweight?
  • Being the last one chosen on a team because you didn’t play sports because you couldn’t afford registration fees or equipment?
  • Feeling heartbroken at funerals for students following a car crash, an illness, a natural freak accident, a suicide?
  • Being told I was one of the last people a student talked to the night before he took his life and that I had no idea that those thoughts were even going through his head?
  • Witnessing breakups, family traumas and violent outburst?
  • Agonizing over students not getting their high school diploma, knowing the stumbling blocks they have faced, only to be faced with leaders telling me, that they are adults and they need to learn their lesson?
  • Being laughed at for being that first-year teacher (keener) who wanted to be on every club or committee?
  • Being told by veteran teachers to stop personalizing report card comments because it gave others unwanted pressure?
  • Being bullied by other educators because my “different” methods of teaching (according to them) weren’t preparing kids for the real world and didn’t match what others were doing?
  • Trying to survive, feeling hopeless, after the loss of both parents to cancer and losing a baby during pregnancy?
  • Feeling devastated after losing some of my closest friends?

There is no perfect life, there is no perfect teacher, there is no perfect classroom. No matter the ideals we want to share with others, we have to realize that we are role models and we set an example, not only for students, but for colleagues as well. I can choose to share those perfect moments, those picture-perfect scenes, or I can choose to share my life, through my looking glass. I can share my realities, no matter the ups nor the downs.  

So why share my story, the not so perfect moments and difficult challenges of my life? Because they have helped shape me into who I am today. How can I want students and teachers to open up and share their stories if I can’t do it myself?

So maybe you won’t always see pictures of my perfect decorations, my amazing bulletin boards, my amazing classroom activities. Maybe you won’t receive my 101 ideas for an amazing literacy activity or a creative math lesson. I can tell you that I look to so many educators and friends for inspiration and for ideas. What I do pledge is to always do my best, to share my positivity, my heart and my kindness with everyone. I truly believe that the world does need more of it.

But as you do look through my looking glass, as you read through my blogs, as you interact with me, I hope that you not only see what led me to experience the many highs I have had in education, but that just like any other person, I too have been broken. My story is not perfect and I often feel like it is not “Pinterest” worthy, but I hope to always share my story, to share the real me: a person who is flawed but who is also privileged to learn with the best educators out there.