Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

#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!” 

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometime you are meant to stick out. This is a statement I say to myself often. When you feel like you don’t fit in, you try to find ways to go about your day, to accomplish your objectives and to feel proud of whom you have become. It isn’t always easy; there are many obstacles you will encounter, but in the end, you have to have hope that being different is your purpose.

As a child, I never fit into the norm. Although I came from a traditional family, my mom and dad, my sister and myself, I found out quite quickly that I was not like everyone else. I had different interests as a boy: I liked reading, spending time with family, having game nights and watching movies. My weekly schedule was different as well. I was sent to a French school, a language I did not speak, I spent my Saturdays in a Polish school to enrich my culture and I did not play sports or go on play dates or to birthday parties, because financially we couldn’t afford it. I went to Church every Sunday and I was part of my church’s children’s choir. As I reflect back on my childhood, although I learned so much and grew up in a loving environment, I am not surprised that I didn’t fit into the regular crowd.

As a student, I wasn’t one to blend in either. I was left-handed, I was often the first to put up my hand to share the answer to a question, I excelled at the “game of school” from an early age and was an extreme perfectionist. I can still remember drawing in my art class. When I would want to make a change to a pencil drawing, I couldn’t simply erase my work because I knew there would be a mark left on the sheet; I would rip up the page with the mistake and start anew. Socially, I was more awkward. When you don’t spend your childhood in organized sports, you don’t learn the same skills as kids your age.  I was often the last kid picked in gym class, I often didn’t fit into the street hockey games at recess and I was chosen less often for group projects. That kid, who ate his lunch alone or would hide in the school to avoid recess, was me.

To this day, I don’t know if the teachers in my school knew the torment I felt in the halls. As an educator myself, I am assuming not, because I can’t imagine watching a child walk, feeling that little, and doing nothing. The whispers that came as I walked anywhere, the looks I got for being different, the teasing and taunting I endured were all part of my norm. These experiences, which for some would be characterized as “part of growing up” or “building character” or “building a tough skin”, were not always easy to get through.

Relationships and friendships have always been more difficult from me. I didn’t come from a social family. My lack of participation in traditional “western” events and ideologies did not contribute to the building of a positive self and the doubt created by an emotional school experience had a lasting impact. When you live a large part of your life in a deficit-based mindset rather than a strength-based mindset, your views change. The colours in the world that seem so obvious and vivid to some appear dull and lackluster to others.

There is no doubt that as an adult, I have been deeply shaped by the experiences I have lived. Where I once dreaded sticking out and preferred hiding, I now find strength and solace in being unique and different. My history has also given me a different perspective on education. I strive to find those colourful penguins who are different, who don’t fit in. I focus on building relationships and spending time with students. The time that I once hoped for with someone, the wish to be noticed, the relationships I once wanted as a child, are now the focus of my teaching career. Making a person feel noticed and important is the only way we can truly make a difference in someone’s life.

As I transpose this same celebratory mindset with adults, it is also both rewarding and challenging. It is a mission to help build people up, to help them reach new heights, to appreciate them, to celebrate them and to make them achieve more than they knew possible. After all, isn’t that one of the missions of a true leader? At the same time, like that seesaw in our childhood playground, as you push someone up, you often find yourself down. If you don’t find the balance in celebrating others and celebrating yourself, you can often encounter another challenge: finding your happiness and your accomplishment.

So what is the magic solution? There is none. No recipe exists to make the world a perfect place. But I do know one thing. If we all embrace being that colourful penguin who doesn’t mind sticking out in a crowd, if we all become conscientious of those around us, if we all take care of each other and treat one another with dignity…the world will be a more beautiful place.

So take the time to listen. Give the gift of your time. Reach out to those around you. Celebrate the uniqueness of every person around you. It is your heart that will make the real difference in someone’s life.

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Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the  world. – Auggie

In the past few weeks, I saw the trailer to the movie Wonder with Julia Roberts and it looked amazing. It is one of those trailers that when you see it, you automatically get goose bumps and chills. I told my wife immediately, when this movie comes out, we have to go see it. The English teacher in me also said, you must read the book before you see the movie. There is nothing better than visualizing the story through your eyes before you see someone else’s interpretation.  So I bought the book, and yesterday morning, while on the plane to a meeting, I started reading it. Less than 24 hours later, I made sure I finished it. The impact? Immense!

The amazing and touching story of Auggie, a boy who is different and unique, who is often mistreated for the way he looks. Many prevalent school and life-related themes and issues arise when reading this book: bullying, kindness, courage, friendship, love, judgement.  English teachers for many years have debated the “literature canon” and what should be taught in schools; when you read Wonder, the reflection suddenly turns to why are we not reading this in our schools.

Auggie’s journey and his experiences are both enriching and heart-braking. As I intently read every word, one passage ripped my heart out. One character, Auggie’s friend says:

“I can’t imagine looking in the mirror every day and seeing myself like that. It would be too awful. And getting stared at all the time.”

“and I really think…if I looked like him seriously, I think that I’d kill myself”.

As I read these words, I filled with emotions and tears rolled down my cheek. How many of our students and how many people around us walk around every day feeling this broken? To some, it is the way they look; comments about their hair, body type, facial features, etc. To others, it is comments about how they look on the inside; the choices they make, the friends they have or do not have, their religion or beliefs, etc. Everyone has a certain image or perception of themselves. This image is often thwarted or modified based on our relationships or on constant comments made from people around us.

This book needs to be read by everyone. A dialogue needs to be started. A reflection ought to take place. We can no longer hide behind ignorance, inaction, blame or traditions.  Kindness, love, compassion, empathy, these are all values we get to choose and they should be part of how we teach and how we build relationships.

You never know what is hiding behind someone’s smile. You never know what someone has lived that morning, in the past or the anguish they are going through. We all need to be more aware, more caring and better people. It is up to us to make the difference in someone’s life.

So as the end of the school year approaches or for some, has just concluded, reflect on how compassion and love will become regular priorities in your life, in your class and in your school. Do not judge, do not abandon, do not mock. Everyone has worth. It is up to us to make their worth shine, to nurture it and to protect it. If we don’t, the end result could be dangerous. So take the challenge! Be there for others, celebrate them, love them and build them up. For some, it may simply be an affirmation of self-worth, for others, it will define their existence.  Remember, everyone deserves a standing ovation once in their lifetime.

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“One of the largest barriers to our success is the creation of our own limitations through these fears.”

Social media has changed the way we live our day to day lives. Today, Facebook helped me remember an important step in my life. On this day two years ago, I began the interview process for a job that changed my educational career. For the first time, I would leave the comfort and happiness of my classroom with my students. I would now work at a larger scale helping develop and implement programs for student success in middle and high school.

This wasn’t an easy decision for me. It weighed heavily on my soul. How would taking this step change my vision? How would it help me realize my dream of learning and influencing change? The first time the posting went up in the fall, I did not apply. I kept wondering how my students would react to me leaving. Would I be happy? Could I make a real impact outside of the classroom? How would this impact my family?

The second time the posting went up, in the spring, I took it as a sign. I felt like I need to live a change and so I tried. I figured I wouldn’t get the job, so at least the application process would be a learning experience. To my surprise, I was the chosen candidate. Now here I am, with an amazing PLN on Twitter and beyond, learning more than I could imagine and connecting more and more with exceptional educators who help me grow as a person, as a parent and as a teacher.

One of the most important lessons this has taught me is the place fear plays in your life. Fear of the unknown, fear of judgment, fear of inadequacy and the fear of failure. Usually, one of the largest barriers to our success is the creation of our own limitations through these fears. And as I reflect today on everything I have learned, I am reminded of a thought: “Stars can’t shine without darkness.” It is okay to live our emotions and feel fear. However, that fear needs to be our driving force to help us achieve what we want and what we need.

I find many parallels in my story and in my dreams to Dorothy’s journey down the yellow brick road. Life will take you to many places. It will present you with many unknowns. As you travel down your path, you will find those who give you courage, those who impart wisdom, those who show you love, and yes, there will also be those who darken your path and who create negativity in your life. In the end, you will create your own story and you will draw out your destiny. As you try to build the relationships with the people on your journey, you must remember that everyone is there for a reason. Not everyone that crosses your path is there to stay or there to encourage. Sometimes they are there to help you learn a valuable life lesson. And this is okay. As an educator and as a leader, you need to reflect on what your goals are and how to stay focused on them. In order to move forward, you sometimes have to let go of certain things or certain people weighing you down. And that is such an important lesson in growing as a leader. I recently read a blog post by @CoriOrlando1 called Zoom Out. Cori reminds us that we need to take the time to stop, pause and give ourselves perspective, to shift our focus and to continue growing. That is so very important, and we rarely let ourselves reflect like this.

As Angela Maiers puts so simply and so eloquently: You matter! It is necessary and okay to think about you. Happiness is rooted in how you help others, but you need to be truly grounded and proud of what you are accomplishing. Time is the greatest gift and the greatest symbol of love for another. So make sure to give your time to others. In Stephen Covey’s metaphor of water, rocks and sand in a jar, he reminds us that we decide what our priorities are. For those who give you that time, cherish it and celebrate it. For those who need your time: make yourself available to them, make the choice to be there for them. It can sometimes be the one thing that saves a life.

Kids and adults are living in a fast-paced life. They are bombarded with stimulation, entertainment, stresses, priorities, money. As a teacher, as a leader, we need to cognizant of what people are feeling and we need to just be there for others.  So why do I do what I do? It is simple. I do it to make a difference. I do it for the kids. I do it to be there for others. Am I perfect? The answer is simple, no. But I will always keep trying to be better, to be proud of myself and to help others find their purpose. As you reflect on your story, on your purpose, on your impact, just remember one thing: You matter!

“I used to think that a teacher needed to know everything and be the expert at the front of the classroom. When a student asked me a question, if I didn’t really know the response, an immediate sense of panic, accompanied by a sudden onset of sweat droplets found themselves taking over my life. This was how teaching was always presented to me: an adult who had the answers who shared them with students. Funny enough, that is what I wanted to become.”

Today, as an educator, it is important to help students find their voice, not simply listen to ours. Everybody has a story; relationships are built on stories. Cultures and societies for centuries have relied on stories to progress, support and develop their communities. Yet since our “modern day” education system has been implemented, as a whole, educators have left little place for students to use and develop their voice. This must change, if we want society to grow, prosper and make a meaningful impact, we need to transform education and how it is lived by all people involved.

For students to find their voice, they need to see teachers who also find their own voice. They need to know how to take risks, to be comfortable and how to deal with mistakes and changes. Do we allow such an environment for our students? A visual representation for the word FAIL is well known to educators.fail

 

The question remains. Do we really build this growth mindset in our classrooms? Are our actions congruent with the message we are sharing? For students to feel comfortable to share their voice, they must truly feel as if they are in a safe environment to learn, to make mistakes and to start over. They must also be comfortable to live and share their emotions. Life isn’t always “pink” and things aren’t always okay. Through the hardships, we learn how to deal with challenges and obstacles. Are we willing to share our own hardships to help them overcome their own?

Over the past several months, I have slowly begun to build my own voice. After a lifetime of feeling like my voice was suppressed, some people have helped empower me and helped me continue to grow as a leader. My life growing up was filled with betrayal, disappointment, shame and doubt. As I went through the motions of school, I never felt like I belonged, never felt like my voice was important.

Although I came from an immigrant family, first generation in Canada, as a white male, I was definitely not a minority. I had lots of love and structure in my family, but we came from near poverty. I didn’t play sports, didn’t go to birthday parties, didn’t wear the brand name labels and didn’t have big group of friends. All of these involved a big investment in time and money, something we just simply didn’t have. I went to Polish school on Saturdays instead of watching cartoons or playing hockey. I sang in our Church choir. I developed my culture immensely, but at a young age, that just wasn’t cool. I also battled weight issues and still do to this day. As I didn’t fit any traditional mold, I spent most of my life being ridiculed, bullied and alone. I would never talk about it because I couldn’t bear breaking my parent’s’ heart. I was often considered a teacher’s pet, but for most of my life, some teachers, who were truly angels, made me feel safe and made me feel somewhat important.

As I reflect on my past, on my experiences, I see how broken my voice was and sometimes still is. I hope that every year, as I work with students, I can be a pillar of strength, a supportive ear and a sense of empowerment to their voice. No child should ever live a life of shame, guilt or loneliness.

There is no perfect way to teach a class. There is no magic way to help students find their voice. In the end, it is the relationships we build with our students, the experiences we help create and the support we give them that empowers them. As teachers continue to explore new ways of teaching and learning, incorporate technology-enabled learning and continue in professional development, we simply need to remember one thing: our voice is important. Students’ voices are important. Let’s make a greater place for these voices in our classrooms and our schools. It is these voices that will help change the world, that will bring happiness to those who need it most.

Counting Down

“Let’s not countdown the moments until we have a break, and instead starting today, let’s countdown the moments that we have left to make a difference in the lives before us.”

On social media, so often we see posts of countdowns to the weekend, Christmas, Spring Break, summer; it is usually accompanied by elation and celebration. As students and educators, we often can’t wait until there is a break from school. Why is that? We know it’s because we work HARD!  Education is a tireless job and the breaks are something we look forward to and desperately need.

This “tradition” has been around for many decades. We don’t know about you, but we can definitely remember our teachers keeping track of countdowns. In many cases it isn’t done with a negative intention; however this seemingly harmless practice can have profound consequences.  

You may have heard the phrase “perception is reality”; think about it, when someone online, who is not an educator, sees us gleefully posting about how much we can’t wait for a break, what message does that send? What about to the parents of the children we serve?  It sends a message of “these kids are driving me insane and I need a break” or “Woe is me, my job is so much harder than others so I deserve this break”.  Now don’t get us wrong, teachers do work hard. We work harder than most realize and with many unpaid hours.  But again, what message do we really want to be putting out there?

Let’s have a quick comparison with anyone who has ever trained a dog. We are taught with dogs to be conscious of our tone of voice. When disciplining a dog for a bad action, we should not use a pleasant voice, because a dog will associate that with good behavior. This of course is possible because of that pleasant tone we use to praise a dog. We are also taught to be repetitive with dogs. In order for behaviour to be learned, it must be constantly addressed.

Now let’s come back to school. Hypothetically, from a young age, teachers put down that innocent countdown on a blackboard or a bulletin board. Also regularly, when referring to that countdown, a pleasant and often exciting voice is used by the teacher. Students in turn mimic that pleasant voice and share their excitement from that break from school. We all need breaks because we feel tired, overworked, and uninspired. But we think that maybe instead we should be building up a pleasant tone with the amount of time we have left!

I don’t know about you, but we’ve had those teachers who talk about how they can’t wait to be out of this school.  How they deserve this break.  And as a student, I (Todd) remember a teacher once telling us just that, and somehow, in someway, I felt like the problem.  I felt like it was my fault the teacher was counting down the day until she could rid herself of me and my classmates.

I (Roman) also had a similar experience. As a child, I loved school. It was a place to learn new things, to meet new people and to escape reality that wasn’t always fun. I knew that no matter what, with the teachers that were there, I was in a safe place where I could shine and be recognized. Every time teachers would put up that countdown, I would always feel a sense of being weird and different. While most were like the teachers, happy to be escaping school, I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be in my “fun place” for the summer. These made me feel inadequate. I couldn’t share what I felt because no one would understand. Unbeknownst to be, I kept this tradition alive in my early years of teaching.

This is where our disappointment comes in; disappointment for two reasons. First, we all have been guilty of this practice in our careers. Second, disappointment because the very job we chose out of love for learning and teaching has so many students and teachers celebrating the end moment instead of focusing on the here and now.

And that’s the kind of countdowns we now need to hold in our offices and classrooms.  Not countdowns that celebrate the moment we get to “escape”, but instead countdowns that celebrate the moments we have left. Even more, why not start a count up until the beginning of the next school year, where greater learning adventures and fun will take place? Where all of us, kids and adults alike, will grow together as a family.

Our world is so filled with turmoil and pain.  As educators we are held to a different (and sometimes unfair) standard.  So even though it may seem like a countdown to summer is innocent, we have to take a step back and evaluate.  What is the message we’re sending, even unintentionally?

We know that the message we want to send is that every moment matters.  That even though we look forward to time with our families and time to decompress, we know that at school, that is a child’s safe place.  A child’s place to feel valued, important, worthy, and get the best education possible.

Let’s not countdown the moments until we have a break, and instead starting today, let’s countdown the moments that we have left to make a difference in the lives before us.  Our Kids Deserve It.

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Posted: April 17, 2017 in Inspiration, Posts with Eli Casaus

9.14.16-Think-outside-your-box

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kinds of thinking we used when we created them.”                  — Albert Einstein

As an educator, unless you are in a formal leadership role (Principal, Superintendent, etc.), you often feel powerless when it comes to influencing change. Why would someone listen to one single teacher when it comes to transforming teaching practices or district policies? So what do most teachers end up doing? They stick to the box that is given to them; limits are set and boundaries are created. We follow what others say is best.

In the past few months, as we have met amazing educators across North America and the world, we have found a voice and began to share a message. We can’t settle any longer for the boxes that are handed to us. We can’t accept status quo in education when it is simply not working. We need to put kids first; we need to think about well-being and building up our leaders and educators rather than tearing them down with thoughtless cuts, constant obstacles and unimaginable challenges in assessment and supports for teachers.

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As a father, I am blessed with two daughters who love animated movies. When a movie of strength and female leadership comes along, I am a big supporter. The last few years, we have been fortunate with many amazing movies: from Frozen, to Trolls and most recently, Moana. As a self-directed leader in education, Moana spoke to me. The story of a girl who could have chosen the path that was destined for her in her community, or to create her own unique leadership role.

The words from one of the songs, “How Far I’ll Go,” have many parallels to what we live in education. From leadership assertions: “I can lead with pride, I can make us strong”, to accepting status quo: “I’ll be satisfied if I play along”, to accepting a new path: “But the voice inside sings a different song…And it seems like it’s calling out to me, so come find me.”

We can choose to live our life and just be a part of a community. Similarly to the characters in the movie, “everybody on this island seems so happy on the island” because “everything is by design”. Policy makers tend to want to design an education that works, both pedagogically and financially. Certain states prescribe daily lessons in subjects because that is the supposed best method to teach. There is one problem: when you take created lesson plans and copy them, you are ignoring the individuality and uniqueness of each student in front of you. If we truly want to have an education system that not only cherishes students’ personal talents, ambitions and strengths, we need to allow learning to be tailored to their needs and passions. Having a pre-created lessons does not serve anyone: neither the teaching, nor the learning.

 

Every student, every teacher, every principal is unique. They all have special qualities, interests, likes and dislikes. We must make that human connection; we must get to know each and every one of them, no matter what their role. It is the connections that will make a difference. Relationships are the foundation to every great community. By transforming our roles to reflect this necessity, we will create schools that empower learners, create new hope and that will change the world for the better.

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As a new campus leader and a fairly young educator I face this challenge a lot and have over the course of my career thus far. As an educator in the great state of New Mexico this is an even greater challenge. The Land of Enchantment is full of scenic beauty, amazing food and hopeful promises. Our “Land of Manana” (Land of Tomorrow) as many refer to it as we have a close-knit, go with the flow way of life which offers a unique culture. No matter where you go in this great state there is a sense of community (because everyone is related somehow – fourth cousins twice removed or related through marriage counts) and rich with tradition. With that though often also brings the mindset: “This is how it has always been so that’s how it just is” mentality. In Albuquerque, the mayor was Martin Chavez from 1993-1998 and 2003-2009 (most of my childhood and even part of my young adult life). There is even a local YouTube spoof of life in Albuquerque where there is a comment that says, “What do you mean Marty Chavez ain’t the mayor? He’s like… always the mayor.” I’m not saying by any means he did not do great things as mayor but like so many things it’s easy to get caught up the comfort zone and aforementioned mindset. How often do we allow ourselves in our schools or classrooms to get stuck in that same rut?

Every school has those teachers, you know the ones who have taught Kindergarten at the same school, the same classroom, and do the same exact things for 25 years. The ditto machine might even be hidden in their classroom still somewhere. I’m not saying being a career Kindergarten teacher or teaching at the same school your entire career are bad things, but if your pedagogy and craft look the same as they did even one year ago, then doing what’s best for kids is not what’s happening. We must remember that as kids develop, their needs change.

What sets educators apart, from the good to great, is the reflection piece. Those who are in touch with what kids need, the adaptations in education as it evolves, reflect on what is working, what is not working, and how to enrich, enhance or improve  – those are the game changers. There is a great blog post by Dave Burgess about how theme parks empty people into the gift shop and he used the analogy to do the same with homework. The week following that post, while I was out at recess, a teacher had a large group of students sitting out for recess writing letters to parents explaining why they had to lose recess (for not doing their homework). The teacher and I had a long conversation about how using writing as a punishment is detrimental to kids as they then see writing as a punishment and and in a negative light; how taking “active time” away from students in a schedule that doesn’t allow for a lot of activity to begin with is negative; And with half of her class not doing their homework, the problem was partly not their fault. We then talked about reflecting on whether or not students had been emptied into the gift shop and I will admit I was met with a lot of resistance in the conversation and her wanting to reflect. So often we do things in school because “it’s how you do school”. We must get away from that and stop allowing ourselves to be so constrained by the boxes placed around us.

If our schools are not outside of the box, if they do not move away from that typical way of life, then we too are stuck in a mentality that needs to shift; we must stop limiting the possibilities that may exist. In the budget crisis that my district and state are in, an administrator has to get creative with their spending and the justifications they provide when trying to stretch a dollar to assure that the possibilities are as far reaching as possible, given the circumstances (I’m so thankful for my mentor teaching me that while in my principal internship).

The change has to start somewhere. It has to come from the thick of it all, right in the center – that one small voice: from a teacher, an educational assistant, a student teacher, a parent, a first year principal or even a student. The ones living it each day, who become the voice of reality and evoke change. We joke about having a “teacher voice” because it commands a room and it is loud and powerful (sometimes hard to turn off or down – my sister always has to remind me to turn my teacher voice off) or maybe even the “teacher look”. All it takes is one to spark the fire. Just like in Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, the difference lies in one voice that connects with others. These voices can bring change and often the biggest change comes from the person who thought they were the smallest and most incapable.

 

Both of us:
So as we reflect on our role in education and our own learning, we go back to the symbolism of the boxes. We can either be happy and accept the way things are, in other words, stay in the box that was given to us, or we can choose a different road and venture out of that box. Out of the middle of those boxes we can make something new happen, we can create our own boxes. Boxes that will not only benefit the learner, but that will empower students, teachers, parents and community members into a new collective partnership that will see students learn at new levels and achieve limitless success.

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For more blog posts by Eli, see his website at : http://www.casauslearningteam.com/blog.