Sunday, June 26, 2016

3 lessons I learned from golf

Recently, I had the chance to play a round of golf with my dad when he came to visit our family. Being that my parents live in New Hampshire, I don't often get the chance to play golf with him so I was excited for us to hit the links together.  As I reflect back on our time together on the course, three lessons came to mind.

1. Enjoy the good shots
Unlike one of my brothers who is a very good golfer, almost a scratch golfer, I do not possess the same golf skills. I am not a terrible golfer nor am I a really good golfer.  I often hit more bad shots than I do good shots.  But why do I like golf so much?  It is because of the good shots.  The good shots are what I remember and are what keep me coming back for my next round of golf.  So how does this look in our schools?  What good shots (feedback, learning opportunities and experiences...) do we give our students that make them wanting to return the next day?

2. Celebrate the successes
At one point, I had 2 chances for birdies and just lipped out the putt. On one of the par three holes, my drive was about 8 yards from the hole. I had a great drive on one of the par fives which led to a great approach shot and getting on the green in three shots.  After each one, my dad would say, "Wow!  Great shot!" and give me a high-five. All of these great shots made me feel good and boosted my confidence for the next shot. We didn't wait until the end of the round to talk about the good shots we had.  We celebrated these shots as they occurred.  So how does this look in schools?  Do we provide opportunities for our learners to celebrate along the journey or do we wait until the end of the unit, quarter, semester or year?

3.  Find your strength

I do not hit the longest drives.  My iron play is average.  I know my strengths and my limitations.  I cannot expect to clear the water hazard when it is 275+ yards away.  My game is not suited for that (perhaps that is why I like to play scrambles with other golfers). However, I do know what I am good at and what I can accomplish.  My strength lies in my ability to hit somewhat accurate pitch shots as I approach the green.  I need to work within my limitations and continue to push myself to drive the ball a bit longer and hit the ball a bit straighter until I get close enough to the green.  So how does this look in our schools?  It all starts with the relationships we have with our learners.  What are they passionate about? What are their strengths and limitations so we can nudge them forward? Without strong relationships, this gentle nudge does not occur so easily.  I have never regretted getting to know someone on a personal level.

Being this was the first time out and only the second time playing golf in the last two years, I was quite pleased with my score of 43.  More importantly, I will cherish the time spent with my dad playing golf, laughing and enjoying one another's company.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Teachers, Share Your Story

Teachers have amazing stories to tell. These stories occur on a daily basis because of the many interactions teachers have with their students, their students’ families, their colleagues, and the community. Often times, these stories do not make the television or newspaper headlines, and that is a shame. These stories are the emotional bonds that link teachers and students, teachers and teachers, and teachers and the community. These stories are what make teaching so rewarding.
Think of the student who made tremendous growth in her reading abilities this year. How is her story going to be told? Think of the student who applied his understanding of bar graphs and his knowledge of football to demonstrate a running back’s yards per season over time. How is his story going to be told? Think of the student who is a peer tutor to another student and spends part of recess helping this younger student learn to add and subtract. How is this story going to be told? Think of the student who came up with the idea to have a school store selling items with the school mascot on them. How is this story going to be told? Think of the teacher who organized a flashlight drive for the homeless in her town to have light in the nighttime. How is this story going to be told?
The reality is that if these stories are not told, no one will know. But these are the stories we want to share. These are the stories we need to share. These are the stories that help schools create an image and a brand. If these stories are not told by the school, they will not be told. Schools need to be marketing and branding experts to share their purpose and mission, their traditions, and the things their students are learning.
When the focus is on the positive stories and traditions of a school, everyone—students, staff, and families—can be proud of the school and all the school community has to offer. Sharing these positive stories is a way to promote the good happening in schools.
These stories can be told in a variety of ways. Through the use of technology and social media, stories can be easily shared by students, families, and staff members. They can be posted on a school’s website, blog, or Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts, and they can also be shared through word of mouth. As the year begins to wind down, I encourage everyone to share their stories. Share the stories that make you want to come back to school each day, more excited than the day before. The method of delivery is not as important as making sure the story is shared. Shout it from the rooftops for all to hear.

This blog post was first published on ASCD inservice.