Monday, December 30, 2013

Getting Parents Involved

Parents are the first teachers.  Beginning at an early age, parents read to their children, talk with their children and instill a love of learning.  Once our children begin in school, how do we keep parents an active partner in developing the learning of their children?

1. Keep open lines of communication
Communication is key for helping to initially get parents involved and keep them involved.  Through the use of newsletters, schools can narrow the information gap.  In the schools I have worked at, either as a teacher or an administrator, I have seen daily newsletters, weekly newsletters, and monthly newsletters used to share school happenings, school celebrations and school information.  We can't assume families know what to expect.  As a parent of a kindergartner this year, I have received many emails with information about school traditions which I know very little about.  Take the time to clarify and describe so everyone is on the same page.  One of my mentors sends articles to the families on a monthly basis.  These articles provide opportunities for families to learn and grow.  He accompanies these articles by including a personal story to show he is an educator, a parent and is still learning all the time.  Adding this personal touch makes some families more willing to read, learn and grow together.

2.  Invite them into school
What better way to have parents be involved than to invite them into your school.  Whether it is through a curriculum night, family event, or volunteering, getting families into the school is key.  For some families, school was not an enjoyable experience because school did not work for them.  It is our responsibility to create an environment where all families feel comfortable enough to be at school.  As a community of learners, we need to provide families to come and observe the many different learning opportunities and reasons for celebrations throughout the year.  One of the schools I work at has fireside chats for Veterans Day.  We invite veterans to come and talk about their experiences while providing an opportunity for our students to ask questions and learn from their experiences.  The other school I work at has a welcome committee.  When a new family joins our community, we have parents and teachers reach out to welcome them, student ambassadors to show them around school, and additional families to follow up after a few weeks to see if they have any questions.  We want our families to feel welcome at our school.  What ways do you invite your families into school?

3.  Tap into parent talent
Our families have many talents which can enhance our school experience.  On a monthly basis, we have our parents can sign up to come and speak to our classes.  We ask the parents to share what they do and how school helped prepare them for their job.  These monthly opportunities again allow the parents to be in the building while sharing their talents.  Based on these conversations, we have had parents help us as a staff based on their talents and profession. What talents do your own families have that can enhance your own school experience for your students?

4.  Use technology to hook them
The best way to reach parents is use the tools they are using on a daily basis.  There are so many tech tools out there to help parents stay connected.  Here are just a few we have used (or intend to use in the coming months): facebook, twitter, remind101, school apps, touchcast for video messages, QR codes for curriculum and class schedules, online data notebooks through GAFE, broadcasting PTA meetings (coming soon), shutterfly classroom pages... the list goes on and on.  What tools are you using with your families?

5. Ask questions
How often do we ask families for feedback?  When you do ask for feedback, how do you share their feedback with the masses and how you plan to work toward their feedback?  At our last parent-teacher conferences, we asked 5 questions in each grade level for families to provide feedback to us as a learning community.  These questions were derived from our bi-annual report card.  We asked families to complete a consensogram to help us gather data for our BSIP and for us to continually strive to meet the needs of our families. Asking for feedback is an important aspect of creating a partnership and letting families (our clients) know we value their input and will work together to meet our learning community needs.

What other ways are you getting your parents involved?  I would love for you to comment below so we can learn from you and your efforts in creating effective partnerships.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Some Weekend Homework

I was recently given a task by a close friend of mine, John Wink (@johnwink90).  I don't blog as much as I would like to and I am not sure why.  I don't know if it is because I don't view myself as a talented writer or if I have not made this a priority with my time.  When I look back on my blog posts, I have enjoyed the process because it allows me to a reflective practitioner.  Thank you John for giving me an incentive to start blogging again.

Before I start, I want to take a minute to thank John for his friendship and leadership.  Even though I have never met John in person, I have learned so much from him about school leadership, developing and sustaining PLC's, and the power of a strong culture.  Thank you, John.  Your teachers, students and families are lucky to have you be the lead learner at Gilmer Elementary.

My First Task - 11 Random Facts about Me.

This was a bit challenging to answer because I don't like to talk about myself very often.  But here goes:

1. I am married to a wonderful wife who inspires me everyday.  We met at a wedding of a mutual college friend.  She asked what I did for a living and I replied, "I am a kindergarten teacher."  I had her hook, line and sinker!

2. I have three children and they are my world.  Our oldest is 5 and in kindergarten, our middle is almost four and your youngest is 20 months.  Needless to say, we have a fun and busy house right now!

3. I was a kindergarten teacher for 9 years.  My certification was K-12 partly because I was not sure which level I wanted to teach.  I student taught in kindergarten and first grade for part of my experience and then finished my student teaching at the high school level teaching geography, geometry and honors calculus.  I can say I worked with both ends of the educational spectrum.

4. My family lives in New England.  My parents and sister live in NH and my two younger brothers live in Boston.  They moved out to the east coast when I was in college and although I love to visit them and the region, the midwest is my home.

5. I played tennis as a young child all the way through high school.  I played competitively for quite a while and eventually was sponsored by Dunlop and K-Swiss.  I had lots of clothes, shoes and rackets.  While in high school, I started coaching tennis and that is when I realized I wanted to be an educator.

6. I studied abroad in Scotland while in college.  This experience was one of my best experiences I have ever had.  I lived with 5 students from Scotland and England in a small flat  It truly was an eye-opening and amazing experience.

7. Here are some of my favorite movies:

  • Braveheart - I have seen it over 24 times (that is rather disturbing to think about it as I write it down) and tried to visit as many historical sites during my time in Scotland.  The city where I studies actually has the national William Wallace memorial along with Wallace's actual claymore sword.
  • Good Will Hunting - some many great lines and lessons from this movie
  • The Big Lebowski - a typical cult movie with many, many one-liners
  • Saving Private Ryan - is there a better opening to a movie?
  • Jeremiah Johnson - something about the simplicity of life makes me watch this whenever it is on
  • Vacation - a timeless classic
  • The list goes on and on...
8. In college, I was once auctioned off for a date as part of a live telecast when we donated toys to Toys for Tots.  It never amounted to anything but is a fun story nonetheless.

9. I am more of a college sports fan than a professional sports fan.  I would much rather watch college basketball (especially the Jayhawks) over the NBA and college football over the NFL.

10. I love to grill and smoke meats.  Living in Kansas City, I am surrounded my numerous award-winning BBQ joints.  Needless to say, I don't have a lack of inspiration to try to enhance my BBQ craft.

11.  I don't like gravy or whipped cream.  If I am eating mashed potatoes, just leave off the gravy.  Forget the whipped cream with ice cream or dessert... just plain please.

My Second Task - Answer John's Questions

1.  What is your favorite Christmas tradition and why?
     Growing up, we moved around as a family for my dad's job.  This took us away from family so our holidays were just us.  We started a tradition of going to mass on Christmas Eve and then going out to a Japanese Steakhouse (because it was one of the few restaurants open on Christmas Eve).  We have been doing this for over 20 years now.

2.  If you could have anyone over for the holidays, who would it be and why?
     I would love to have all of my family over for Christmas.  We have family in Chicago and Indianapolis and we don't get to see them very often.  I would love to have a meal where all of our extended families were in the same place at the same time.

3.  Flaming hot hot sauce or mild and bland sauce?
     Definitely hot sauce.  Give it that kick!

4.  Do you root for the underdog or the team predicted to win?
      I typically root for the underdog (except when they play the Jayhawks).  I love to see everyone have their moment.

5.  Which person in your PLN do you find most interesting and why?
      David Culberhouse.  I am not sure if David sleeps.  He is always posting tremendously reflective posts which allow me to grow and learn.  

6.  Which book has made the most profound impact on your life?
      This is a great question.  There are so many books which have impacted me.  I would say Shifting the Monkey by Todd Whitaker.  This is a book I have read over and over and is a book which has helped me focus on those things that are important and help others realize the importance of solving their own problems.

7.  What is your favorite decade of all time and what made it the best for you?
      I love the 90's.  Great music, great sports, great memories.

8.  What is the best movie of all time?
     As I mentioned earlier, Braveheart is my favorite movie of all time.  Love the history, the scenery and the power of doing what is right.

9.  Which animal best represents your personality and why?
      A dog.  I would say I am very loyal, personable and want to please and support.

10. What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
      My greatest professional accomplishment is helping a child who entered kindergarten learn to read and have confidence in himself.  He entered kindergarten with no exposure to letters, numbers or print and had very little confidence in himself.  He left able to read and saw himself as a learner.

11.  What is your New Year's Resolution for 2014? 
        To blog more.  I want to make it more of a priority to reflect and share my thoughts - at least 2x a month.

My Third Task - Questions for you

1.  What book have your recently read?

2.  If you could sit down with any two people from history, who would you choose and why?

3.  Hamburgers or Hotdogs?

4.  What is your favorite season of the year and why?

5.  Which person in your PLN do you find most interesting and why?

6.  What song/album have you recently listened to?

7.  Who influenced you to be an educator?

8.  What are you most proud of this past year?

9.  If you did not go into education, what profession would you have chosen and why?

10. If you could switch shoes with one person, who would it be and why?

11.  What is your New Year's Resolution for 2014?

My Fourth Task - Nominate 11 Bloggers to Join the Homework Club

Tom Whitford
Jimmy Casas
Aaron Becker
Bill Powers
Jayme Linton
Shelley Burgess
Michele Corbat
Rodney Hetherton
Ken Williams
Drew Frank
Joey Sagel

Add yourself to the list and join the fun

Here is your Task

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4. List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Vision for Schools

Week #2 of the SAVMP #savmp project asked us to identify our vision and philosophy of schools as it relates to our role as leaders and what our schools should look like for our students.  The core of my educational philosophy is rooted in my role as a father.  When I make a decision, I ask myself "is this good enough for my own children?"  I view all of the students in our school as "my students" and if something is not good enough for my own three children, it is not good enough for my students.

I make it my goal each day to keep my students and teachers safe, happy while creating a love of learning. But what exactly does that look like?  What is my vision for our school community?  Here is a synopsis of what I believe in, what I work to create and what I want our schools to be models of in and around our learning environments.

1. Create an environment where everyone wants to be.
Our school community works extremely hard to create an environment where the children want to be.  Our school community works extremely hard to create an environment where the children are excited to come and are eager to return the following day.  Our school community works extremely hard to create an environment where our staff wakes up each day and views this work as our passion, not simply our work. Our school community works extremely hard to create a welcoming, inviting place for families to come to, learn with and be proud of.  We want our school to be "the place" where everyone wants to be.

2. Respect individuals.
One of our school expectations is to show respect.  Our students and teachers understand this notion but I want to take this level of respect up a notch.  I want to create a learning environment where choice is the norm and individual learning styles are understood and respected.  Allowing students the flexibility and autonomy to own their learning however they best learn in a manner that will demonstrate learning and mastery of skills and concepts by applying their learning.  Children should be encouraged to learn how they learn best - in chairs, on the floor, standing up, walking around the room... One size does not fit all and we need to help children identify how they learn best and trust them to utilize those learning opportunities. Teachers can model these opportunities and encourage children to strive for "autonomy, purpose and mastery" (Daniel Pink). The same principles apply to teachers.  Traditional PD opportunities do not work for all teachers.  That is why the edcamp model is so powerful.  Allow teachers to spend quality time observing one another and sharing their expertise with their colleagues.  As an instructional leader, I need to help understand the power behind different professional learning opportunities and model how to effectively create individual learning opportunities for all staff to grow and thrive!

3. Make today better than it was yesterday.
The goal of schools is learning - but that come in so many different ways.  It is our responsibility to meet children where they are and help move them forward.  Some students need academic help.  Others need emotional help.  Still, others need help with communication and inter-personal skills.  If we can know our children, know their needs, and work to make today better than the previous day, we have accomplished a mighty task.

4. Relationships matter.
It sounds so simple, yet it is so true.  I have been in schools where relationships did not matter very much and it was extremely evident in the culture of the building.  I spend time building trust with those I work with so they know me and I know them.  I work extremely hard to know ALL of the children's names.  I want to get to know who they are, their interests and something about them on a personal level.  I work extremely hard to know each staff member's family, their interests and passions.  I want to personalize my information I share with the teachers and I cannot possibly share blogs, articles, ideas, tweets... without knowing who they are.  I want to get to know the families and spend time building those relationships.  I recently started doing a weekly video message with the app touchcast.  I have used this service to summarize the week, share important and exciting elements at our school in a new and exciting format for our families to engage in and with.  My long-term goal would be for the teachers to all take this idea and either create their own video message each week to their families or "sub" for me and create the video for the larger school community.  I have never regretted spending time getting to know someone on a personal level.  I value those trusting relationships. People know I will die on the hill for them and they will do the same for me because of the relationships we have built.

5. Lead by Example.
I will never ask anyone to do something I would not do myself.  I am really passionate about learning, teaching, curriculum and technology.  My goal is to learn something new each day that I can share with someone.  I want to remain current on educational trends, topics, and best practices so we can collectively create the most influential, powerful and engaging learning experience for all of our teachers and students.

This list could go go on and on but I believe you get the main crux of my educational vision and philosophy - it all starts with people!  We work hard to create the environment, the culture, and the work that allows for learning to occur at all levels each and every day.  What about you?  What is your educational philosophy?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Why do I lead?

When I found out that I was selected to be a part of the #SAVMP and learn with so many wonderfully talented and experienced educators, I was thrilled.  I know I have a great deal to learn and share with others and am encouraged by the opportunity to do so with educators all around the country.

I never really envisioned my career heading into administration.  I loved what I did... kindergarten teacher, building level leadership teams, and district leadership committees.  Why would I leave what I loved doing? A good friend went back to get her degree in administration and asked me to join her so we could have some classes together.  After talking it over with my principal at the time, I thought it might be something nice to have in my back pocket if I ever wanted to move that direction.  But I never really envisioned leaving the classroom.

I then had the opportunity to shadow a few different principals at different levels, principals I highly respected.  After seeing what they did on a daily basis, I knew a change was coming my way.  I saw the passion they had for their teachers, for their children, for their families, and for the schools and I wanted to emulate that passion.  Instead of directly impacting a classroom of 25 kindergartners, I could now impact a school of 400+ children, families and teachers.

I have never really reflected on this question before.  This simple and powerful question has forced me over the past few days to really think about why I do what I do each and every day.  As I reflected on this question, the same reasons kept popping into my mind over and over.

1. The main reason I love the position I am in is because of the relationships.  I am privileged to be a part of many lives day in and day out.  As a leader, I get the chance to work with children, families and teachers in a variety of settings.  I get to know about them personally and professionally and they get to know me, my family and who I am.  I enjoy and look forward to building those relationships.  Those relationships are the foundation for our challenging work.  When I truly know people and they know me, we are more willing to work together for a common goal.

2.  I love the position I am in because I can grow and learn.  Being a school administrator, I get the privilege of being in all different classrooms.  I have the wonderful experience of seeing the best of the best in all grade levels.  This opportunity allows me to grow and develop my craft as an educator.

3.  I love the position I am in because I get to help be an advocate for the children.  There are times when children don't have a voice.  Every decision I make centers around what is best for the children and teachers. When I keep that the best interest of the children in mind, I know I am making the correct decision, even when people do not like a decision.

What better reasons are there to lead?  I get to form relationships with others.  I get to learn with and from others.  And I can help children be successful.  Why wouldn't I lead?

I am excited to learn with and from Amber, Amanda and Chris and all of #savmp during this journey!

Friday, June 7, 2013

We are all in a position to lead

"No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings."
— Peter Drucker

I recently saw a quote on twitter that made me stop and think about our roles as leaders:

"We are all in a position to lead."

As classroom teachers, we are in a position to lead.  We can lead ourselves to learn something new and develop as a teacher and learner; we can lead the students in their quest for learning; we can lead our teams to continue the work toward the moral imperative of our daily jobs; we can lead our colleagues to focus on the "right work" and to be agents of change; and we can lead our families to understand the abilities of their children and how together we can impact their learning.

As support staff, we are in a position to lead.  We can lead ourselves to learn and share something new with those around us and contribute to the greater cause of our learning community; we can lead the students in their quest for learning; we can lead our colleagues in identifying strengths and challenges of each child and how to be an advocate for the children; we can lead families into wanting to be a part of our learning community and encouraging them to be active in their child's learning.

As administrators, we are in a position to lead.  We can lead ourselves to have higher expectations for ourselves than we have for others; we can lead teachers to help develop their craft; we can lead teachers to empower themselves to make decisions that can be made in the best interest of the children; we can lead teachers to create a learning environment where each person's (child and teacher) strengths are accentuated and celebrated; we can lead families to be an active participant in their child's learning.

"Control is not leadership; management is not leadership; leadership is leadership. If you seek to lead, invest at least 50% of your time in leading yourself—your own purpose, ethics, principles, motivation, conduct. Invest at least 20% leading those with authority over you and 15% leading your peers."
— Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus, Visa

What are we doing to cultivate and grow this leadership in our schools?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lessons from my daughters

Over the past few weeks, our oldest daughter (who is five) started to ride her bike without training wheels while our youngest daughter (who is one) started walking.  It has been a few weeks full of excitement, challenges and lots to celebrate.  Looking back on these two events, I could not help but think about how these lessons apply to the classroom and how we support learning.

Encouraging a child to try something new is essential for learning to occur.  If we never encouraged children to move beyond where they currently are, their potential and full learning would not be reached.  Sometimes this even means pushing him to the edge of his comfort level with the necessary support structures.   Using appropriate encouragement allows the child to know they are safe and their efforts are being acknowledged.
Lydia started walking a few weeks ago.  When she first started, she would stand and just wonder what she needed to do next.  We were quick to praise her efforts and encourage her to take a step, even a small step.   When she took that first step, we encouraged another step and then another.   Next thing we know, she was stepping all over the place!

Susan Brookhart, in her book, How to give effective feedback to your students, writes:

Feedback can be very powerful if done well. The power of formative feedback lies in its double-barreled approach, addressing both cognitive and motivational factors at the same time. Good feedback gives students information they need so they can understand where they are in their learning and what to do next—the cognitive factor. Once they feel they understand what to do and why, most students develop a feeling that they have control over their own learning—the motivational factor.

Good feedback contains information that a student can use, which means that the student has to be able to hear and understand it. Students can't hear something that's beyond their comprehension; nor can they hear something if they are not listening or are feeling like it would be useless to listen. Because students' feelings of control and self-efficacy are involved, even well-intentioned feedback can be very destructive. ("See? I knew I was stupid!") The research on feedback shows its Jekyll-and-Hyde character. Not all studies about feedback show positive effects. The nature of the feedback and the context in which it is given matter a great deal.

When Maggie was learning to ride her bike without training wheels, one of her biggest challenges was riding downhill.  Inevitably, she would start off rather slow and then get faster and faster.  I explained to her how to use her brakes, I demonstrated on the bike how to use the brakes, and I told her when to use the brakes as she was riding.  The feedback that I gave her was immediate and specific so she knew when and how to use the brakes to achieve her goal – slowing down.

Small Steps:
Learning does not occur all at once.  No two children learn the same way nor do they learn at the same time.  The learning should be the constant and the time is the variable.  We need to understand that learning does not occur in the same manner for all students and sometimes we need to scaffold their learning and break it into smaller chunks to help them achieve their overall goal.
When Maggie was learning to get started on her bike all by herself, the support we gave her varied as she learned new skills. Initially, I held on to the back of her seat.  Then I showed her how to push off with her feet to get her bike going.  Then I showed her how to push off with one foot while the other was on the pedal.  Then she was able to push off and start pedaling. 

Susan Brookhart, in her book, How to give effective feedback to your students, also writes:

A strong learning environment in which students see constructive criticism as a good thing and understand that learning cannot occur without practice. If part of the classroom culture is to always "get things right," then if something needs improvement, it's "wrong." If, instead, the classroom culture values finding and using suggestions for improvement, students will be able to use feedback, plan and execute steps for improvement.
One of my favorite acronyms for FAIL is First Attempt in Learning.  I can’t tell you how many times Lydia would take a step and then fall over, but she would get back up and try again.   And I can’t tell you how many times Maggie would attempt to get her bike going all by herself and not be successful.   However, when she was able to do so, the expression on her face and the sense of accomplishment was unmatched by anything I have seen before.

Celebrating efforts and success is an important part of what we do each and every day.  Children need to be able to find success in and out of the classroom and we need to take the time to celebrate these successes along the way.  Not all celebrations need to be a grand event; as long as the celebration is authentic and timely, it can have long lasting effects!

When both Maggie and Lydia were attempting to master their goals, we provided little celebrations along the way.  High Fives, verbal praise, calling grandparents… all these little things helped them continue to work toward meeting their goals.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Navigating the turns

"In our cars we spend 95% of the time going straight, but it's the turns that determine where we end up."

Have you ever felt like you sometimes just go through the motions?  We all have those days where we might feel as if we are just “cruising along” not paying close attention to everything going on around us.  Whether we are interacting with a child, teaching a lesson, communicating with parents, communicating with other teachers… sometimes we just stay the course and don’t make those turns.
But what would happen if we did make those turns?  What would happen if we changed our course which affected how we interacted with a child, how we taught a lesson, how we communicated with parents, and how we communicated with our peers?  On our journey, the turns will bring about change, allow us to take new routes (approaches) and might even result in a wrong turn.
Bringing about change
Start small… don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.  There is no need to start from scratch with everything!  When you are ready to bring about change in the classroom, evaluate what you would like to change by reflecting on these changes (why do you want to bring about change?  What are you hoping to get out of this change? How will this affect the children?  What support do you need to bring about this change?).  When you feel comfortable and are ready, just jump in and go for it!
Trying new approaches
Your co-teachers are a wealth of knowledge and experience.  Use them as resources.  Bounce ideas off one another.  Ask them for their perspective to get a fresh take on an idea.   No teacher is expected to re-invent the wheel.  Collaborating on student learning is the best way to try something new.
Making mistakes
After reading @twhitford’s most recent post ( about fear in learning, I have thought long and hard about ways we can create environments where teachers are not afraid to make a mistake.  I saw this sign and thought what a perfect way to emphasize taking risks and making mistakes:

As educators, we need to model for our students our own ability to make mistakes.  When we are not successful in something, it is our First Attempt In Learning.  How we respond to that attempt sets the stage for our future attempts.  Students need to know it is okay to take risks and that failures are just our first attempts.  We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try, try again! 

Those little turns make all the difference – the difference in bringing about change, trying new approaches to learning, and not being afraid to make a mistake.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Raise your words, not your voices

I recently read the quote by Rumi “Raise your words, not your voice… it is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

What a powerful quote!   We all know that it is important not to yell, especially when interacting with children.  But we also know sometimes that is easier said than done.
This past week, Abe and I were rough housing after I got home from work.  We like to wrestle and play around from time to time.  After we were done, he ran right up to Maggie and hit her square in the back while she was coloring.  Obviously this was not what she wanted as she was just minding her own business and coloring all by herself.  My first reaction was to get mad at Abe, yell at him to not hit his sister, and have him sit out for a bit.  Instead I took a different approach.  I calmly (which was not the easiest thing to do) walked him away from Maggie and had the following conversation:

Me - Abe, please tell me what just happened?
Abe - I hit Maggie.
Me - Do you think Maggie wanted you to hit her?
Abe - No.
Me - Why do you think Maggie did not want you to hit her?
Abe - Because she was coloring.

Me - Exactly.  She was not wrestling with us so she probably did not want to get hit.
Me - Is it nice to hit your sister or your friends?
Abe - No.
Me - When do you think it is okay to hit me or mom or your sister?
Abe - I don’t know.
Me - Would it be okay to hit when we are eating dinner?
Abe - No.
Me - Would it be okay to hit when we are reading books?
Abe - No.
Me - Would it be okay to hit when we are wrestling at home?
Abe - Yes.
Me - So, it sounds like the only time we can hit and be rough is when we are wrestling.  Does that sound like a deal?
Abe - Yes. 
Me - So when can we hit and be rough with mom, dad or Maggie?
Abe - When we are wrestling.
Me - Can we wrestle or hit at school?
Abe - No.
Me - Where can we wrestle?
Abe - At home.
Me - Do you think you can follow those rules to keep everyone safe, including you?
Abe - Yes.
Me - Great!  So just so I know, when can we wrestle?
Abe - When we are at home.
Me - Perfect!  Thanks for talking with me.
Abe - I love you, Dad (he says this often and it just warms my heart)
Me - I love you too, buddy!

This is just a short example of how I raised my words and not my voice.  I raised the expectations of when it is appropriate to wrestle, where it is appropriate to wrestle, and had him repeat this multiple times.  In future days, prior to wrestling, we would rehash this conversation to make sure he understood the when, where and why we can wrestle.  By raising my words and expectations, even when it is difficult when my emotions are getting the best of me, I helped Abe understand why we can only wrestle at home!  In our classrooms, it is so important to raise our words to help the children understand the why.  Are you raising your words when your emotions are running high?  We owe it to our children and ourselves to raise our words and not our voices!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Come a little closer

This past week at our church service, our pastor told a story about a small village in Peru.  This little village was torn apart from years of infighting and violence - almost like a modern day Hatfields and McCoys.  The local pastor gather a group of villagers around the scripture which he placed in the center.  The villagers stood around the scripture in a rather large circle.  The pastor then asked the villagers to take a step forward.  Puzzled, they look around and carefully took a small step forward not knowing what to think.  The pastor then asked them to take another step closer, and then another step until they were standing shoulder to shoulder.  The pastor then asked the villagers what had occurred.  Silence fell over the villagers, afraid to speak up, until a little 11 year-old girl broke the silence and said, "we took steps together and now we are one close circle".

This message from the sermon rings true to the essence of collaboration.  There are physical barriers (walls) and emotional barriers (hurt feelings) that prevent collaboration from occuring in our schools.  Teachers can isolate themselves and their knowledge because of physical and emotional barriers.  But what would happen if those barriers were torn down?  What would happen is teachers stood around and replaced the scripture with a child?

As the teachers shared their ideas and collective knowledge, they would be able to find new ideas and ways to help that child.  As they took a step closer to the child and better understand his challenges, they would continue to share ideas and their collective knowledge.  With each step forward, more ideas and knowledge would be shared.   We cannot expect any one teacher to have the answer to all the questions and challenges thrown her way.  However, together as a group, we can use our collective knowledge, experiences and ideas to help each and every child!  As teachers, we can put aside our differences, focus on the children, and work interdependently with one another to help out each other.

It definitely takes a village to raise a child and let's not be afraid to allow the village to raise the child!