How are you making students feel?

As an attempt to change up how I am blogging and am starting to record videos on my thoughts.  I usually have plenty of time to record a 4-5 minute video while I am driving to and from the school.  I figured this would give me a more authentic posting and more frequent posting as well.  I rarely have time to sit down and write a long post about what I am learning or struggles that I am going through to share with other educators.  So for 2018, it is my hope that this will inspire you and help you along your way to being a successful educator.  You can find a link to my YouTube Channel on the sidebar.

Remember, what will you do with the time that you have been given? (#WWYDWTTTYHBG)

You will run out of tomorrows….. What will you do today, for those that need you?

I recently read a tweet (pic below) from Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) that had me thinking more about the power of relationships. While every leader in the world would stress the importance of relationships, some do not practice this life skill or have the passion to do so. I have been so blessed to have many good examples of relationship builders in my life.

With the recent passing of my father-in-law, I have spent more time in reflection than I normally have in the past.  Most of my reflection has been centered on the importance of relationships and how they are so crucial in all aspects of life.

My father-in-law Dave was a teacher at a small school middle in Oregon for 21 years.  During his 21-year tenure, he had many impacts on students, parents, and community members like many teachers do.

This morning I overheard my mother-in-law reading a message to my wife that she received from a lady that was connected to the school.  In her message, she said that she did not get to know Dave well other than the few interactions that she had with him during his time at the school.  She said that all of the kids that left that school to head on to high school have been hit very hard by the loss.

This is just one story of the students and parents that have been hit with this loss.  There have been hundreds of others.  Phone calls, cards, trains, planes, and cars have come from all areas of the country to be with him in his final days, and after, just because he put them first before himself.  A prime example of servant leadership.

But, did he realize the impact that relationship had on them?  Did he know that the relationship that he had with them would impact their lives forever?  Do any of us know this?  Whether we know or not, the relationships that we have with others will set their path along with ours on a different course forever.  What course do you want the relationship to go?

Today, you have a choice in each relationship that you have.  Whether at work, home, church, or the community.  How do you want that relationship to move forward?

  1. Listen twice as much as we talk.  This is why we have two ears and only one mouth.  Use them in that proportion.
  2. Let your yes be yes and your no is no.
  3. Do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
  4. Never let the sun set on our anger.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  We only have today to make a difference.

We were designed to be a people that crave and need relationships within our daily lives.  Without these relationships, we are nothing but an empty shell riding this rock until the end of our days.

We are all in this together.  You will run out of tomorrows, so what will you do today, for those that need you?  Dave would say “We cannot change who we are, but we can change who we are going to be.”

I am in your corner…

This weekend, as I was reflecting on my week, I ran across an article by Daniel Steele entitled “Letter to a Discouraged Student“.  This was a very profound letter.  Beautifully written from a principal to student perspective.  While I have no idea if this was actually written for a specific student or for the general masses.  One thing is for sure, it applies to every student who struggles with school and every student who did struggle with school.  I can relate to this letter.

We as educators always put ourselves in the place to make things better for kids.  I am not the type of person that likes to be at the front of attention, especially in large crowds.  Being in a leadership position at times does put you at the forefront.  Remembering my first year as an Athletic Director being put in the position of heading one of the largest departments in the district was a real growing moment in my professional/personal life.  At the end of each year, we held an athletic awards banquet.  Of course, the MC?  Me.  This was a nerve-racking situation for me all year.  I started working out what I was going to say months before it was time.  In the end, it was fine.  I was nervous, to say the least.  The next year I repeated the event and pushed through.

While I know that this was a weakness of mine, it didn’t stop me from doing what was important, being there for kids.  Most recently I was in a similar position where our student-body was looking for people to be part of a fundraiser that in the end, the winner would get a pie in the face in front of the whole school.  There were some pretty popular teachers as well as the Principal that all signed up.  I figured I would be way down the list before getting picked.  Nope!  I was in the top three.  So that meant pie in the face!  Now, this is something that put me in front of everybody again.  I did it because it was important to kids.

Kids, I know my weaknesses and I know my strengths.  Being part of the attention is not one of them.  But know that even if it means being front and center with the spotlight on me, if that is what you need, I will do it.  Know that I am in your corner.

 

Positive School Culture

What school culture really looks like

Be relentless about creating, maintaining, and sustaining a positive culture in your schools. What students experience becomes their norm.

We all know that many of our students experience norms at home that we would not want in our schools, but we must counteract that with a positive culture. That all begins with the relationships we develop with our stakeholders, most importantly our students. While high-quality instruction and rigorous content are important, relationships trump all of that. I am often taken back to a quote that my former high school principal said to me when I was in grad school. “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” There is so much truth to that statement. The roadmap to being a great teacher with solid relationships with students is no different than being a great parent. It is filled with love and high expectations.

Just remember moving forward that school climate is how teachers and students act when the superintendent is in the room but culture is how they act when he/she is not in the room. Focus on culture, not climate. Climates change from day-to-day but cultures will stand the test of time.

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Discipline System

The best systems in the world will never be as effective as good relationships with all people in your building.  Having said that you still must rely on systems to help keep it running smoothly.

An effective discipline system can be quite simple.  Have it designed in such a way that it is there to help teachers.  Make it easy to access for them.  Teachers do not want something that is difficult and requires a lot of time.

We have our setup in a way that any teacher who has exhausted their “bag of tricks” with students may access the Office of Student Conduct (OSC).  The process is simple:

  1. Teachers ask the student to leave the classroom and head to the OSC.
  2. Call down to the OSC so they know that the student or students are on their way.
    • We want to ensure that students are accounted for as part of our safety protocol.
  3. Fill out a referral before you leave at the end of the day or turn it in first thing in the morning.
  4. Call home and inform parents of the situation.

After this, the rest is up to the administration to look at the referral and past behaviors, call the student in to speak with them and determine the appropriate consequence.

Probably the best communication with students in addition to reminding them the expectation in this meeting is our weekly CHAMPs that we have each week at the end of 3rd period.  This short time and well construction PowerPoint allows us the time to remind students of important dates and remind them of the expectations.  Students and staff both appreciate CHAMPs and utilize it each week to get out important information.  CHAMPs is part of Dr. Randy Sprick’s work on Safe & Civil Schools.

Care First

I recently saw this graphic on Twitter posted from @JustinTarte. This image sums up one of my favorite quotes. “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. This quote has stuck with me over the years. The first time that I heard it I was in graduate school working on my Masters in Education. This quote is so true. Even the perception of caring is important. If we as educators who deeply care about kids don’t actually show that we care, kids will perceive that we don’t.

I remember back in grad school there was this professor that taught us about all the skills for classroom management. One of the statements that he always said that we should take to heart is “Don’t smile until after Thanksgiving”. I guess this was to show kids that you are all business and not to be messed with and that it would help out with classroom management issues. Personally, I never bought into this. The teachers that I remember in school were the ones that were funny and smiled.

Kids need to know that their teachers are human and that they can have fun too. It is possible to have fun with kids and smile each day while still having successful classroom management. Perception of caring does matter.

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Choice Kids or All Kids?

This week I overheard a conversation between a counselor and the principal about a teacher who had advocated to teach an honors class next year over the regular counterpart. The feeling of the teacher was that the new first-year teacher who was scheduled to teach the honors class would not be able to provide the rigor that the class needed.

As I sat in my office hearing this conversation, all I could keep asking myself was “Was rigor the real reason this teacher wanted the honors class?” Later I found myself muttering quietly, “Just teach kids!” We have this unspoken rule/policy/addendum, whatever you would like to call it, that every teacher in core classes get to teach an honors type class with the high achieving kids. Something about each teachers wanting the “prestige”. Did we really come to this that teaching is about the prestige? I thought that teaching was about the kids?
When we change the focus from certain kids to ALL kids we truly get back to the roots of education. Education is a humanitarian career path. Nobody got into this profession for the money and prestige. Everybody during their first interview and every interview after that displayed a sincere joy for kids and want to see them succeed. Somewhere along the way, some teachers lose the focus of ALL students and focus on CERTAIN students.
Regardless, teaching is still one of the most prestigious professions. According to a Harris Interactive poll done sporadically from 1977 to 2009, teaching is still one of the most well-respected and prestigious professions, ranking 6th under firefighters, scientists, doctors, nurses, and military officers. While the cultural view is that teachers are held in high regard and that teaching is a very prestigious career, we need to always remember why we got into this profession, kids.

TGIF!

Friday’s are great! Everybody comes to school with smiles on their faces knowing that in a few short hours they will get a couple of days to unplug.
While teachers work hard and deserve some time to unplug like weekends, winter, and spring breaks, some students do not feel the same way. For some kids in all of our communities, school is the best environment that they have. Teachers are the most positive role model that some kids have in their lives. Leaving for a weekend for these kids is not a time to unplug but rather filled with negative and sometimes hurtful times. For some, this will be two days that they won’t have a warm building to be in or food to eat.
I recently saw this tweet by Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte) that really had me thinking more about the reality of what some of our kids go home to every night.

Not all of your students are as excited about Friday as you are. Make each moment count today as they could mean much more than you think.

Failure is rehearsal for success!

I saw this image on Dan Rockwell’s blog today and it really made me think about what I have been talking with kids about all along. “Failure is just rehearsal for success”.

That is the reality in life. There are things we are successful right off the bat with, then there are some things that require lots of practice. Famous NBA basketball icon Michael Jordan once said:

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

As educators, we are the children’s coaches in the classroom. It is our responsibility to help them figure out a way around the obstacles they are facing. We cannot stand idly by and watch them stumble into the madness of never-ending failure. Blaming demographics for the lack of student success is a simple way to give up. When kids see adults give up we send the message that it is OK for them to give up as well.

Remember to teach your kids that failing and learning from mistakes is part of life. How they deal with those mistakes and own them, will make them better citizens.

Isolation eliminates success in education

I was recently reading on Leadershipfreak.com about three types of people you should surround yourself with as a leader.

The post was very interesting. Starting out with the statement “The enemy of success is isolation.” Now, this for sure applies to leaders but how about teachers in the classroom? Most teachers are in isolation. Rarely do they leave their room and they stay there for most of their career.

Are these teachers unsuccessful? I do not believe that they are totally but as cliche, as it sounds, it does take a village to raise a child. Teachers need to be getting out of their rooms as much as they can in order to network with other teachers from other disciplines. In order to be successful in the classroom, we must network together learning from one another.