I am blessed with two amazing children. Both incredibly smart, but both quite different. My son, Trevor, used to be that kid who always walked around with a book in his hand. He would read any chance he got. He devoured the entire Harry Potter Series before he entered fourth grade. He loved learning and he loved school...until.
In his first week of middle school, they were asked to bring in a “book of choice” to read in class. He chose to bring Middle School, The Worst Years Of Your Life. He had struggled to find a book he enjoyed, because as he told me, “What’s left after Harry Potter”?. We picked that particular book because of the humor and the relevance. When he pulled the book out to read in class, the teacher let him know that he needed to bring a different book tomorrow, because that book was far too low for his reading level. And that is where his love of reading and school, ended.
He continued to get good grades, because that is who he was...he played the game of school well. He completed the work that was required, he aced his tests...he was compliant. He admitted to me that he never completed reading another book after that and that he learned things only for the test and to get his grade. I am sad to admit, that it was school that ended my son’s love of learning.
He is now 19 and just began his second semester of college. Earlier this week, I couldn’t believe what I witnessed and heard. My son was excited about school...about reading, learning and writing! My quiet kid (technically a man) volunteered to tell me about his day at school. Not only did he tell me about it, he was excited to tell me. Not only was he excited to tell me, he was excited to tell my mom and was dying to share his writing with us. I can't recall ever seeing any of his writing before this.
He talked about his English class and how much he enjoyed the professor, how he made the class "interesting". His required reading was filled with philosophical books, which Trevor was really digging. He was reading about things that caught his interest and sparked interesting discussions. But here is the thing that I have known, I have written about and I often speak about...but just finally witnessed first hand and close to my heart.
Here is where his mind was blown. Not long after he posted it, he received a lengthy comment from his teacher. And this was not a grade, this was not a “good job” or “great effort”...this was well thought out and personalized feedback. Before he read it to me, I wondered if it was going to be some canned response that was cut and pasted on to everyone’s...but it wasn’t. We could tell that this teacher took the time to read through his work, digest it, reflect on it and give feedback. Here is the kicker...this was done almost immediately! This was new, to Trevor. He was so excited to not only read his own writing to us, (which blew me away...I had NO CLUE he was a such a talented writer) but he was excited to read us the comments from the teacher. He was proud, he was enlightened and he was empowered. THEN, he began reading the comments from his classmates. Yes...his peers also gave him timely feedback...and it was good, specific, thought out feedback.
As this kid, my adult son, was beaming, I didn’t want him to see the tears in my eyes. I had tears not only because I was incredibly proud of his work, but I was even more moved by how proud HE was. He saw the power of writing to an authentic audience. He felt the power of real, timely feedback and he was changed.
He then began to read me responses that he wrote on his classmates’ writing. His feedback was authentic, specific and timely. He took the time to really read though their writing piece, digest it and respond...and he was excited! He couldn't wait to go back to school, he was excited to go back to that class and he was excited about learning again.
This all happened on the same night that my 13 year old crawled into bed next to me, upset that she was going to fail her two tests the next day. She was dreading school and all she could talk about that night and on the morning drive in, was how worried she was that she was going to get an “F” on her multiple choice Social Studies test. She has always struggled with memorization, but is highly intelligent and has a great analytical mind. This girl was built for Common Core and the 4 Cs, but unfortunately, that is not the experience she had been receiving. She has learned to make her own accommodations, to play the game- but at what expense? She put undue stress on herself, apologizes to me before she takes a test and doesn't recall anything after the test is over.
As educators, we have great power...we can make or break a child. This is an immense responsibility! We effect students though our words, our actions and in this case, our tasks. Let us be cognizant of these, let us be empathetic to our learners. Let us think about them, that is who we are in this for, right? We are dealing with humans here. We are tasked with serving these important and special humans. Let us make sure we are doing that...in all we do. It makes a difference.
My call to action is this: Let us really think about the purpose of what we are asking students to do. Are the tasks helping them to learn and grow? Are the experiences helping them to think? Are our students, becoming prepared for their future, their life or are they just playing the game of school to survive?
Anyone that knows me, knows that I am a quote lover. For some reason, I connect to other people's words. They seem to be able to eloquently give life to thoughts and aspirations that I can't seem to put in to words for myself.
On this day, we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. - who to me is one of the most inspiring leaders of our time. As I searched some of his famous quotes this morning, I struggled to find a favorite. They ALL spoke to me in one way or another. And so, this post was born. I am going to share some of his quotes that speak to me in terms of education, life and leadership. I hope you find some connection as well.
If we are educators, we are "servant leaders". We entered into this line of work for one reason. To help kids. This profession is one of care giving and that is what we do. For me, this "servant's heart" is just a part of me. In my every day dealings, I am always looking at how I can help others. Two of the easiest ways to do this are free. We can serve others with our words and our time. Words have power, let's use that power for good. Let's be encouraging, helpful, lift up others and be that light house.
Our words can also ask questions. Let us use those questions to serve others. To learn about and connect to them. To find out how to support them. Rephrasing a simple question such as "Do you need help?" to "How can I help?' may just be the difference someone needs. We then must actually listen, hear and act. We can use our time to show up for others. To walk along side to share, behind to push or ahead to pull. Whatever is needed at the time, but just showing up matters.
To me...integrity is number 1. It is saying what you do and doing what you say. It is shown through your actions, especially when no one is looking. It is either who you are or who you aren't...you can't fake that. The true you eventually comes out.
Most people can look like the "hero" during easy and good times. Integrity shows up in how you deal when times get tough, when you fight for things that matter. When you stick to and fight for your core purpose-that is what drives you. THAT is the true measure of you. Integrity matters.
Our jobs as educators is to help mold those that sit before us. Will we help shape students with our content or with our culture, our communication, our commitment, our care? I believe our job is to help students navigate the waters of life. We can use our content as a vehicle, but I think we are doing our students a disservice if we leave out the life skills that they need to succeed. We need to guide students to be creative critical thinkers rather than passive consumers of information. What will they do with the content they are given? Beyond that, we need to model and instill empathy, kindness, caring...good character. Let's create tasks where students can practice it all. What problems do they want to solve? Why and how? Let's have them start from an empathetic heart and move on from there. Character matters.
There are many roadblocks in education and in life. But we can't let those roadblocks stop us from achieving our great. We can't let those roadblocks stop us from helping students achieve their great. There is always a starting point. Find it. Just start. Always keep moving forward. If you need to crawl around, jump over, leap onto or knock down that road block...just do it. It's better than not moving at all. As you start moving forward, you begin to see new possibilities and new paths...it's amazing what can happen if you just keep going. Moving forward matters.
Change is hard, but change is here...always. What do we do with it? Do we ignore it, do we fight it or do we use it as a catalyst? Even better...do we create it, when we see the need for it? Any way you look at it, there will be some struggle. It is through these struggles that we can change for the better. It's all in how we frame it. What if we look at change as an opportunity to learn and grow? Growing pains are part of life, but we can endure them...we can do hard things...we always do. So let's use those struggles, that pain to stretch ourselves for good. Flip the switch and pay it forward. Take that learning and growth and use it in life to help others along the way. Perspective matters.
This post is just a stream of consciousness of all the things that float around inside my head. I guess it all boils down to the fact that YOU matter and what you DO matters. We are given this life, let's choose to live like it matters, because it does!
I wanted to spend the last day of 2017 in my "happy place". I packed up a book, a towel and a chair and jumped into my car. But as I approached my usual beach spot, I kept going...on a whim, I decided that I needed a new perspective. I found myself parking and paying for three hours of unknown.
Hiking is one of my favorite things to do, so off on the trail I went. It wasn't until about half an hour in, that I looked down and realized that I had the wrong shoes and was wearing the wrong clothes. I had no sunscreen, no water and no plan (I also had no map, but if you know me, that wouldn't have helped). I giggled, shrugged and kept on trekking. This is just typical behavior for me. When has being unprepared ever held me back from a challenge? And so...on I went.
While my feet were doing the walking, my brain was doing a lot of thinking. I reflected on how many times over the last two years, my life has mimicked this journey. How many times I didn't know the destination, but just went, anyway. How many times I was not prepared for the thing I was about to do, but figured it out and did it anyway (hopefully well).
On this particular trail, every time I thought I was at the top of this mountain, I discovered more trail. As I climbed higher and higher, I began to lose sight of the top. All I saw was fog. Is it worth it to keep going toward something I can't even see? I ran into a family on the way up and asked the question. The mother's response was this: "It gets clearer as you go up, it is definitely worth it, keep going." Well, there it is. Such is life. These are words that I will tuck in my pocket for later use!
So I did keep going, with every wrap around the mountain, I stopped and took a picture of the ocean, but I also looked back down to see how far I had come. How often do we do this in life? How often do we stop on our journey to gain perspective? To take stock of where we are, where we are going and where we began? If this is not normal practice, let's make it. There is great power in this. Perspective unleashes the power of possibility.
So what happened when I reached my top? I wanted more...a better view. So what did I do? I went off the path, to gain a better perspective. Last time I "off roaded", it lead to a fall, a slide down. I was a bit scraped up and bruised, but I kept going. It is often when we take the unworn road...that we fall, but we also grow. This time, there was no fall...just some really scraped up legs. Worth every scratch, because what I gained was an amazing view, great perspective and a lot of beauty.
I often find myself on these journeys, off the mountain...in life. Trying something new, just to see what happens. Hoping to learn and grow. So far, it has always paid off. Taking the unbeaten path isn't always easy, but often leads to growth. We sometimes can't see the destination through the fog, until we get there. And yes, it is worth the journey...it does pay off to keep on trekking.
Here is my call to action: Next time an opportunity comes your way, don't think...just do. But as you do, stop along the way...look around...look behind...look ahead. Take it all in. It is all important. It is, in fact, what happens during the climb that matters.
The beach is where I go to get away, to recharge, to relax, to think and reflect. I have spent a lot of time there this year. On one of my last trips, as I watched the waves roll in and out and gazed out into the vastness of the ocean, my #oneword2018 manifested itself: Possibility.
I don't take this exercise lightly. Last year, it took quite a bit of time to narrow down the one word that I wanted to live from. I looked back at what I wrote: Good Bye 2016 and I was pleased, reflective and appreciative. My word for 2017 was: Forward. I wore a bracelet every day this year with that word engraved on it, so I wouldn't forget. It was this word that got me through a lot in 2017. No one's journey is easy, if it was, it would just be called a stroll. When I reflect on this last year, there are key events when I wanted to throw in the towel, where I went down rabbit holes, where I just wished to turn back or stop...but I didn't. I just kept moving in one direction...forward. But why? In my professional life, it has always been about the kids. As I am halfway through my fourth year away from the classroom, I am feeling more and more removed from those in which I work to serve. This realization just hit me, as I was writing. This realization makes me sad. I believe that in order to best serve those in our care, we must be with them. I need to be with them.
This is actually my second attempt at this post. I realized that my first draft was really focused on me and my journey. But I don't want it to be...I don't live my life for it to be. I need to refocus back on my purpose...Which a good friend reminded me not long ago is: To change school...for kids.
So how can my #oneword2018 help not only me, but other educators and students? I always start the work by creating a six word memoir. For me, the word constraint helps me to really hone in on the real. Here is my 2018 version: Look for possibility in every situation.
My call to action is this: Take some time to create your 6 word memoir and #oneword2018. Use the time to reflect and plan forward. Share it...live it! The time is now.
My heart is broken-I am shaken to my core.
Picking up a prescription, I overheard a teenage girl explaining why she was on a laundry list of medications. The reason; she had just been released from the hospital after checking herself in on a 51/50 hold. If you don't know what that is, it is usually an involuntary psychiatric hold for those that are in danger of hurting themselves or others. This brave girl couldn't have been older than 17 or 18 with a hurt so intense that she admitted herself. Heart broken.
This is where it gets awkward. My heart and mind race back and forth between empathetic action and conforming social norms. There is what I wanted to do and there is what I did do.
I wanted to grab her and hug her and tell her that she matters. I wanted her to know that if she could just push past, there is an amazing life ahead. I wanted to let her know that she is valued and she is worthy of love, caring and belonging. I wanted to cry with her and I wanted to hear her story. I wanted to give her perspective and show her that she is needed. I wanted to tell her how brave she was for getting help and reaching out. I wanted to let her know that she will, in fact, be ok.
But I didn't. I couldn't. All I could do was get in my car and cry. All I could do was create the above quote and share it out. All I could do was think about all of those in her same situation. Those who were not fortunate enough to reach out for help, but so desperately needed it. All I could do was reach out to some of those I care about, and let them know I care. All I could do was try to figure out a way in which to help.
We can all help. We can help by being vocal. We can help by letting others know their worth. That they matter. That they have a purpose. That they are loved. That they are worthy of care and belonging. We don't share enough. Why? Why is this not the norm? Why are people uncomfortable letting others know how they feel? Why is showing emotion, taboo? How is that working for us? Based on the stories I have born witness to, not very well. So let's try something different.
Think about those people that you encounter daily...students, colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, enemies, strangers. They all have a story...they are all dealing with their own truths. We have no idea of knowing what is going on in someone's head or in someone's heart. In this, we do not have any control. What we do have control over is how we interact with others. We may just be the ONLY interaction someone has that day- what do you want that mark to be?
But here is the thing. If we are going to do this, we need to be authentic in it. It needs to come from a vulnerable, caring place. There is nothing worse than inauthentic words- they have the complete opposite effect. We also need to be utterly in tune to the receiver. In this instance- if I would have inserted myself into this young girl's conversation, it would not have worked. I did not know her, she did not know me. In fact, I was just an outsider who happened to hear. Would things have gone differently if she was conversing with me? Absolutely! Would she have received what I wanted to say? That is unknown. So...
My call to action is this: Let us live our lives with intent. Let our actions and words help to lift others up. They are free but have incredible power. Let's use that power for good. You don't know how many stories I have heard about how someone's kind words or actions have changed the trajectory of someone's day-- or life. #choosekind
"But I don't do anything special...". How would you respond to this child in your care? How would you respond to this colleague? How would you respond to this friend? Now...I want you to think about how many times you say that phrase...about yourself. Either in your head or out loud. Hmmm...does your response change?
I have heard this phrase (or similar) a lot lately. One of the things that I am passionate about is sharing forward. Over the last year and a half, I have been blessed with meeting and collaborating with the most incredible minds and beautiful hearts. I have grown incredibly because of them. I want others to experience this as well, so I ask them to share their ideas and stories with others. I am often hit with "But I don't do anything special...".
It is interesting to me that no matter who they are...how accomplished they are...regardless of role, title, success or fame...many people have doubt. They question themselves; their purpose and wonder if they are making a difference. Either that or they don't realize their own impact. When people share these things, my response is two fold. On the one hand, I try to guide them in changing their perspective. To see themselves as I see them, because I do see their "special". The second thing is to make sure that they never stop questioning themselves. Well, that seems counter intuitive, right? But hear me out. To me, one of the best qualities of a leader is humility. Although I want others to see their own "great", I also don't want that to over take them. It is the humbleness that makes them great. It is what makes them self reflect, challenge their own ideas and seek to grow. If someone loses that humbleness, that someone loses their effectiveness to connect with others and create change.
So when someone shares with me that they don't think they are doing anything different, or they don't see their impact...I ask them to zoom out for two reasons:
1) Birds of a feather: It is in our nature to gravitate to those who are like minded. This is very powerful, because we are social beings. We need others. We grow with others. We stretch with others. But what also happens is, when we spend so much time with like minded individuals, we tend to forget that not all think and do the same. When this happens, we start to believe "I'm not doing anything different than everyone else", because we start to see our "everyone" as those in our circle. So I ask them to zoom out, and start to look at a wider sampling. By doing this, the hope is that their is a change in perspective about themselves. That they see they ARE doing things differently. After that realization, it is up to the individual to grapple with that and use that information, forward.
2) See the forest beyond the trees: It is hard to keep going when we don't see the impact of our actions. It is also hard to see our impact when we are in the middle of it. So many of the highly influential people I know; shockingly do not realize their reach...their impact on others. This can cause frustration at times, especially when the going gets tough. But when one can zoom out and really take a look, the hope is that they can see the truth clearly. That everything they say and do impacts others, and those others will impact others and so on...there is a ripple effect. We all have the potential for great power...but with power comes great responsibility. So it is important to check our reach, to keep us in line with our own purpose as we move forward and continue our impact.
My call to action is this: Take some time to look at yourself from a different perspective. My friends Jon Corippo and David Culberhouse often talk about looking from the 30,000 foot view of organizations. But let's use the same idea when we are reflecting on ourselves. Change your perspective and it will change you.
"Why do you care?". Just four words. Pretty simple question. But it captured all of my thoughts yesterday. This question was posed after I was venting to a friend. I was sharing some frustration about what I call "running on the hamster wheel". I feel like I just keep saying the same thing and I am not being heard, so why do I keep talking? Sounds like there should be a logical solution to that problem. Just. Stop. But I can't. Why? My answer to the question was this. "I guess I care because we can do better, because our students deserve better." If I didn't care and I didn't keep fighting the good fight, I wouldn't be me. I have learned, as of late, that I am a fighter and fighters don't quit.
This idea of starting with "why" is not a new concept. Most of us have either read or seen Simon Sinek's Ted Talk. But I think this is an extremely important concept when we are self reflecting. To me, our "why" is our purpose and our purpose is what grounds us. It is also our compass, our thermometer and our springboard. In the book Emotional Agility; Susan David writes "Walking with your why" is the art of living by your own personal set of values- the beliefs and behaviors that you hold dear and that give you meaning and satisfaction. " Whenever I feel uncertain about my path, whether it is chatter from others or chatter in my head...it always helps to focus back on my true purpose. Is what I am doing and saying aligned with that? If so, I feel more confident in moving forward, if not...time to course correct.
This idea of finding and pulling from our purpose has come up in a lot of conversations lately. I have learned that regardless of who someone is, their role, their title, their success...there is struggle and there is doubt. We are all human. In those times, people often begin to question themselves, personally. Are they making a difference? Is this worth the fight? Am I good enough? Am I on the right path? Can I do this? Why bother? This is when it is most important to refocus on our "why". If what we are doing is not aligned with our purpose, then maybe we need to rethink our line of action. But, as Dr. David writes "To make decisions that match up with the way you hope to live going forward, you have to be in touch with the things that matter to you so you can use them as signposts." When people share with me that they are at a crossroads, questioning themselves, I often take them through a series of questions to get them to hone down on their purpose. Once they are armed with that, they can "walk their why".
This blog post was inspired by many conversations as of late, but it was also inspired by a single tweet from my good friend, Tony Sinanis:
This is why I believe so much in self reflection and spelling out your purpose. So when someone asks you why you care, you...yourself know the answer. When you are "walking your why", you have YOUR signposts to help guide you in YOUR right direction.
My call to action is this: Take some time to write out your "why". I like to do this as a "Six word memoir". The reason I do that is because I believe the constraints help us to synthesize and really focus, drill down to our core. I created mine four years ago and it is displayed above my desk. I look to it often as my anchor. "One who inspires and encourages others." If I am not living that every day, I am not being me.
A few years ago, one of our Middle School principals shared an activity she did at her site. She printed out pictures of every student on the campus and hung them up in the teachers' lounge. The teachers were to put a tally mark under the picture if they spoke to the student that day. What was the outcome? Realization. Shocking realization. Some students had 0 tally marks. Some students went through an entire school day without any adult contact. That is heart breaking. This is not to fault the teachers, this is to call attention to this idea. What are the implications from this exercise and what changes were made?
But here is a layer I would like to add. How many of those tally marks were marked because the teacher talked TO the student rather than WITH them? There is a difference. Stop and think about that for a second...
I often say that words matter, because they absolutely do. This is an immense responsibility. How are we using this power?
Here's the thing. This does not only hold true for our students...it holds true for all people, young and old. I believe that we don't tell people enough what they mean to us. We don't share our appreciation, our caring thoughts, our genuine care for one another. This is not the norm, but why? If these sentiments are genuine, coming from the heart, they should be shared. But if it is just inauthentic lip service, it could have a detrimental effect. There is a difference and it is felt. We usually do not know what others are dealing with...everyone has doubt, struggle, issues. No one's are bigger or worse than another because it is their reality. So let us be more cognizant of the effects of our words and be intentional with them. Let us use them to create good...to create positive...to make a difference. They just might be exactly what someone needs. Be the difference.
Change. That one word evokes so many different emotions. Why? Because those six letters have an incredible magnitude. Over the past four years, I have been both fascinated and frustrated with the change process. I have read many research articles on topics such as Implementation Science. I have read many books describing different change theories. And I have had numerous discussions with many bright minds on all things "change". My conclusion is...change is difficult. Large change is extremely difficult. But so what? Does that mean we just don't make the effort? Most days, I feel like it isn't worth it because in the end, there is little, if any movement. BUT I also know that if we are not trying to solve the problem, we are just contributing to it. So...WE can do hard things, because we need to. Our kids are counting on us.
In a recent post: "Stop The Insanity", I wrote about a math lesson that I observed. This could have been any lesson in any classroom. Things need to change. But how? I have thought long and hard on this and here are some of my thoughts. I am going to use Math as my example, but insert any educational idea for clarity.
Start with a Mindset shift: This is so incredibly difficult, changing minds...but I believe if this step isn't conquered, the rest will not be sustained. Our wold, our students, our future are continually changing at a rapid rate. Education, instruction and classrooms must change with it. How can it not? But for some, it hasn't. I go to my former schools for Back To School Night and Open House and they are not much different from when I went to school. I have been through 13 years of school with my own children and have seen worksheets that are dated from when I did them as a student. I have witnessed frustration to complete endless problems that are not understood. Why do we need to change? Because everything else has.
I believe that in order to change mindset, we must create urgency. The urgency is our future and our students' futures. They don't need rote memorization skills, they don't need copy notes off the board skills. They need the skills that will help them to be adaptable and agile in the real world because that world is yet unknown. They need to be critical thinkers, creative problem solvers who aren't afraid of risk taking and persevere through many iterations.
Under mindset, I believe there are three ideas we need to consider:
1)The Myth of Average: In Todd Rose's TedX Talk, he pleads the case that there is no "average" student, so we need to change the way we teach. He talks about "designing to the edges" to meet the needs of our diverse learners. I have written about this idea here. Because of this, we can no longer teach one way. We can not "shoot down the middle". We can not say we did a "reteach" by just redoing the exact same lesson. We must meet the students where they are. To do this, we must take the time to first know them. Then we must be equipped with a large tool belt of strategies and ideas to pull from, to meet them.
The unfortunate part is that I don't think many educators have had the opportunities to add many tools. Maya Angelou said "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, you do better." When I was in the classroom, I never visited other rooms, I didn't see others teach, so how could I do better? Luckily, I had an instructional coach come in to my room to do a two day math lesson...and she changed me. She demonstrated how to ask questions to elicit thinking in my students. She showed me how to pose problems to get them talking and struggling in math. But had I not had that one experience, I very well could have been teaching the same way I was taught. Luckily now, with so many resources at our fingertips, we no longer need to be on an island. Teachers can learn and collaborate at any time, any where. But beyond that, we need to create opportunities for them to see others, collaborate and grow their toolkit.
2) Change the tasks: We need to be looking at what the students are doing through out their day. Not what the teacher is doing, the students. Are they being passive learners, "listening" to the teacher or are they digging in and doing the work? One of the easiest checks I use when creating experiences for students is the 4 Cs. Are they critically thinking, communicating, collaborating, creating? If not, we need to change the task. Another idea is that less is more. Specifically in math...we need to have students dig deeper, not wider. I used to have my students spend a whole math period working through one problem. Why? More bang for their buck. The conversations, thinking and understanding about math were far more complex with that one problem, than if I would have had them spend the time doing 30 of the same problem. The difference? The task. Students were given "low floor, high ceiling" problems. They were open ended tasks that all students could access (low floor) but could take it as far as they are able (high ceiling) and stretch beyond, with scaffolds. They were asked to first think on their own and then with a group. There was productive struggle which leads to deeper learning. But it didn't end there. There was always discussion. Not lecture, not me showing them how...discussion on how they solved the problem. They did the talking, they did the teaching, they did the learning. And the proof was in the pudding. My students (at a Title 1 school) always hit it out of the park on the standardized math tests. Why? Because they had an understanding and had the ability and stamina to think and work through the problems.
3) Honor and celebrate divergent thinking: Just like there is no average student, there is no longer "one way" to solve a problem. This is uncomfortable as the teacher, as I have lived it. But it isn't about us, it's about them and the pay off is tremendous! We need to allow, encourage and celebrate different ideas in the classroom. We need to be the "activator" in the classroom, we are not the one with all the answers. To do this, we must offer open ended tasks where students feel safe to discuss their ideas. One tactic I used, that left the students empowered was I was just the scribe. When students shared their ideas, I simply wrote it out in real time. I then named it ("Brian's Way") and we talked about "Brian's Way". By the end of the Math Talk, there were multiple students' "Ways" charted to be hung up in the classroom. This not only empowered the student that shared the idea, but it also gave the rest of the class ideas in which to hold on to and build.
These are just some preliminary thoughts that I often share in different settings, but decided it was time to write them out. Will these ideas change the world? Probably not. Will they change our students? Absolutely. And those students can change our world.
Here we are, Thanksgiving 2017... The holidays can be a time of joy, family, fun, stress and for some, sadness and loneliness. The holidays seem to amplify every emotion we have bubbling under the surface. I spent a lot of time yesterday doing something different. I decided to send "Gratitude Messages" to some important people in my life. I did this not only to help lift others up, but to help lift myself up as well.
Many years ago, I heard Oprah speak about a "Gratitude Journal" that she kept. She wrote in it every day. Throughout the day, she would jot things in that journal. Sometimes they were big things, but often times, they were the little things. One of her examples was being grateful for waking up. That is something that we often take for granted, but we probably shouldn't. Her reason? When you go through the day, looking for things to be grateful for, it changes your day and it changes you. I loved this idea, so I started my own. I will be honest that it has a lot on the first few pages and it has been blank for the past few years. This doesn't mean that there were not things to be grateful for, I just didn't write them down. BUT, from that first day forth...I do set an intent to go through the day looking for those "bright spots" no matter how big or how small...it really does change you.
Another interesting thing...this morning, I went back and re-read my blog post from last Thanksgiving (this is something I rarely do), I don't even remember writing it. In it, I decided to reflect on things in my life that I was thankful for...this one below, stuck out today:
"My experiences: We are all shaped by our experiences, it is what we choose to do with those experiences that make the difference. We can choose to either repeat or change those stories for others. I choose to help create a new narrative. Through my experiences, I have learned how much people need to feel valued and appreciated. We are all doing the best we can, at the time, with what we have...and often times, we feel it isn't enough. So I have made a conscious effort to always...always let people know that they are important and valued. I try my best to show appreciation and let them know about all the good that they are doing. This is completely authentic and sincere, and I hope that is how it comes across. I have also learned how important it is to support and help others grow. I try to find that "thing" in everyone and foster and grow that."
I still believe this. That is why I sent those "Gratitude Messages" yesterday. But here is the thing. Thanksgiving is not the only day that I send those, for those exact reasons I wrote about last year. I often, randomly let people know that they are valued and appreciated. For most people, they don't seem to know what to do with me when I send them. I usually send a "warning" message first that things are about to get #mushy :). But why? Why are people uncomfortable with words of gratitude? Is it because it is not the norm? Is it because they don't believe it? I always hesitate before I say or send them, because I don't want to put people off...but I believe that people need to hear about their good. There is enough negative chatter both inside and outside of our own heads, we need a different narrative. So this is why I do it...and here is the thing...it is completely authentic. I am not one to blow smoke, I don't say things that I don't believe.
So here is my call to action: Don't wait until this specific holiday to look for and appreciate what you are grateful for. Let those in your life know that they matter. You friends, family, colleagues and most importantly, your students. We all want to know we are valued and cared about...let's not leave people wondering. Make everyday a Thanksgiving.
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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