Category: #Education

October is a time to celebrate!

I believe you can always find something to celebrate! Many people will say holidays were created so people in the card business could sell more cards. Sounds like a great business plan. However, I don’t think that is a factual statement. A fact check opportunity for someone.

October marks the start of fall for me, harvest time for farmers, and the best one of all….National Principal Appreciation Month! I love celebrating Principals! It was the best job I ever had!

What do Principals do? What have you seen them do? Do you know a Principal? Can you remember your Principal?

“What time is it?”

“It is 4:30.”

“In the morning?”

“Yes, I need to get in early so I can get to the bus garage. I am going to ride a bus today because it has been having some issues.”

“Do you need some help in here serving lunch today?”

“You are the Principal you do not have time to help in here.”

“We are short in the kitchen, and kids need to eat, so I believe we are a team. So could you put me in coach?”

“I forgot my book bag at home.”

“Do you need things in it, or do I have stuff in my office you can use today?”

“I need my homework, uniform and my permission slip for the field trip.”

“Okay, let’s call to see if I can run you home to get it.”

“I do not want to live anymore without my brother.”

“I know how hard all of the last few weeks have been. My husband has lost both brothers, but he was not in middle school or a twin. I can not promise you it will be easy, but I can tell you how many supports will be here for you. Can we start with one day and then another? Can I help get supports in place?”

Principals make sure teachers are ready to teach, have what they need, check on the safety of the building. This is not a job but a calling of service. Every minute of the day is filled with meeting the needs of those they serve. It does not stop when the school bell rings to end the day; in fact, it continues in ways they are happy to share, and in other moments they feel the most profound heartbreak.

I celebrate this month the expectancy of a baby girl with two of my former students as they invite me to the celebration. Then I find myself joining in the mourning of the loss of a former student whose death is unresolved. Would you please pray for the family of Jelani Day and the help to resolve #JusticeforJelaniDay?

If you have an opportunity, thank a Principal serving today, as they are balancing more than ever. All educators are doing so much during this time to help the leaders for the future.

Let’s take a StoryWalk

Teachers, if you do not know about StoryWalks, please take a look at the following article! I love it! As a 5th grade teacher, we did many different things to engage readers, but this is the best idea ever!

I can see how you can utilize this as a fun family night activity! So many things you can do. The author of the attached article “walks” you through creating, selecting, and organizing a StoryWalk. I can see the creation of mystery walks during fall. We can make a fun StoryWalk about our school, community, or state. How about science? A StoryWalk through a human cell?

I have worked with some very creative teachers and administrators who could, I know, do amazing things with StoryWalks. If you do one, please, please share with me. I would love it! Happy to share with others and brag on you! This seems so incredible to me.

I am looking forward to seeing your StoryWalks! If I can help you with ideas, send me an email at Yohobren@gmail.com.

https://www.edutopia.org/article/fun-way-engage-students-minds-and-bodies-books

Ambition

Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher

Cultivating Healthy Ambition

Ambition is an essential element to an organization and individual. Ambition begins with understanding the desires, aspirations, and goals you have for yourself and your team. What exactly are your desired outcomes for yourself and those of your team?

Knowing and understanding how far to reach is key to harnessing healthy ambition. Setting goals that require just the right level of difficulty push and struggle helps ensure to reach beyond your current abilities. Suppose the challenge is too great; a risk of giving up or becoming discouraged when target goals fall short happens. If the challenge isn’t significant enough, a risk of disconnecting, not being engaged, and never reaching the levels of total performance is accomplished.

I worked with a young ambitious leader who was very talented. His desire to accomplish was greater than the skill levels of himself and his team. They pushed full steam ahead, but lacked the ability to sustain all of the components of their plans. Piles of data was collected, but being able to utilize it wisely with a targeted purpose was missing. They could accomplish some small wins, but the frustration levels grew with trying to maintain the action plans. Creating the action plans was difficult to establish because the data seemed to become outdated by the time they reviewed it together. It became overwhelming with the stacks of data collected.

There is more to accomplish than performance with ambition. We need to think about growth, achievement, sustainable and solution-focused ambitions. Each of these requires more in-depth conversations we can continue in future blog posts. We need a balance for ambition to find the formula for success. In the meantime, ponder these questions with your purpose of performance:

Questions for Focus

  • What are our current performance goals?
  • What goals can you reach with your efforts?
  • What goals can you help guide your team in accomplishing?
  • How can the efforts of “all” work together to accomplish the goals?
  • Do the goals need to be prioritized?
  • Have you assigned timelines, responsibilities, tasks, or other ways to accomplish them?
  • What do I wish was different today?
  • What frustrates me the most?
  • Have I asked the team any of these questions?
  • Do I listen to the team, data and information?

When we work only on performance ambition, our teams may look to us in different ways. If our goals seem unattainable, they will look at us as being “unrealistic.” Maybe you have set too many or too high of goals. The team believes you are setting them up for failure.

What if you do not take any risks and have too few of goals? The team thinks you do not believe in them, you are not a risk-taker and you have low expectations.

We do not want to lose our sense of purpose. Our team must believe in the goals, values, and beliefs we establish. It is essential to keep a check on the level of ambition we have and to maintain high sustainable energy to develop the accomplishments we want to achieve.

Hook, line and sinker

Do not spread false reports. Exodus 23:1

The coach spots a little boy in the stands with a glove waiting to catch a baseball. The coach decides he will toss a ball to the little boy. Then suddenly, a man swoops in and catches the ball. Cameras snap the picture; video cameras record the moment, and the story goes viral.

Everyone could not believe what this man did to get this ball. He took a baseball meant for a little ball for himself. The pictures and video were shared with comments about this man. How could he take this ball away from this little boy?

As these video clips were shared, no one ever thought to ensure all the information was factual. Everyone could see he jumped in front of the boy and caught the ball. Case closed!

Except viewers watching the clip and the live scene didn’t know the whole story. Earlier in the game, the man had helped the young boy snag a foul ball. They agreed to share any additional balls that would come their way. Unfortunately for the man, it took twenty-four hours before the actual story emerged. The media mob and citizens had already done their damage, demonizing an innocent man.

The world we live in today deals with fragments of information and twists it to meet the narrative they try to push. Facts seem to be few and far between as you try to listen to any media source. The baseball story is factual from 2018 a Chicago Cubs game. This is one example of thousands; I am sure of people who have been judged with fragments of information.

Hook, line, and sinker, we take fragments of information as the whole truth. The evidence is clear before us daily. We must do everything possible to confirm the truth before leveling accusations and going along with the beliefs. We need complete facts making sure not to participate in lies. We should be cautious whenever passions ignite and waves of judgment swell. We want to safeguard ourselves from “following the crowd in doing wrong” In this “gotcha” “cancel culture” time, we see more and more divisions than unity.

Please take the time to look at the bait on the “hook.” Is it fragments or complete? Use the “line” to trace the sources of the story and research the evidence. Is this a “sinker” to bring down someone or everyone? Don’t just swallow it hook, line and sinker! We have ways to help us rise above together, to overcome any hardships, and to float to the top! Be the solution daily in an ocean full of sinkers! Rise up!

Missing Out

I am writing this post thinking about families and especially children. I can remember days going home to mom and dad’s for Sunday dinner after church. Everyone crowed in for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, homemade yeast rolls, noodles, chocolate pie, and so much more.

My husband and I had the opportunity to spend time with his sisters and husbands. During that time, it is always fun to talk about “growing up” and sharing stories of our children and for some of us grandchildren.

What kinds of things did you spend time doing with your families? How much time did you spend outside? I am worried about the children of today and what they would say to answer these questions. Watch this video: https://vimeo.com/133769368

Debbie Silver, Ed.D. is a former Louisiana Teacher of the Year, a popular speaker, and the author of best-selling books, including her latest revised Fall Down 7 Times, Get Up 8 (2nd ed.): Raising and Teaching Self-Motivated Learners. (Corwin Press, 2021) I had the opportunity to host her as a middle school principal in one of our professional development days several years ago. She was fantastic, and the staff enjoyed having her. In the following post, she provides a thought-provoking look at the concerns I have for the next generation of children. I feel they are missing out on critical components in a holistic approach to growth by excluding natural play in nature, personal experiences in real-time, and so much more. Would you please leave your thoughts as you review? Nature is something we should nurture in the development of our future generations.

Helping Gen Z Students Balance Digital Life

Leadership is 360 degrees and 365 days

As we study math and science we learn a great deal about measurements. When we discuss 360 degrees, we can recognize this as a reference of measurement in angles, a circle’s circumference. If we compare to the temperature in Fahrenheit, it is above 212, the temperature of boiling water. If we include a calendar year, it contains 365 days. Leadership encompasses all of these components.

John Maxwell’s book 360 Leadership is a great book. His description of organizations needs leaders who can lead in every direction. Then Jon Lockhorst’s new book, Mission-Critical Leadership, reconfirms the importance of leadership at every level with the ability to support others at different levels.

The qualities and attributes of leaders identified as 360 leaders include:

  • Adaptibility
  • Discernment
  • Perspective
  • Communication
  • Security
  • Resourcefulness
  • Maturity
  • Endurance
  • Reliability

Leaders do not work every day, but their qualities are present 365 days a year. On some days the temperature of the situation they are working on can reach 212 degrees. This is when the steam pushes them on to reach extraordinary levels of accomplishment.

One of the elements missing in the description of a 365 leader is initiative. My favorite way to provide professional learning on this subject is through the book The Dog Poop Initiative by Kirk Weisler.

Action Plan

  • Call a team meeting
  • Prepare the meeting room with pooper scoops on the tables filled with candy (tootsie rolls).
  • You can tell the story as written or change it to meet the needs of your organization. I have retold the story utilizing slight variations.
  • Parts of the presentation provide pauses in asking questions to make choices and decisions. You can add: Pieces of litter on the floor, Empty bottles of drinks, money on the floor, chair with something on it (gum, spilled drink)
  • When you came in today, who noticed the _____ Who pointed? Who walked by? Who did something to clean it up?
  • Now you don’t want to call people out. This is shaming, bullying and can be a bad situation. We can do these as hypothetical questions. You can find video clips to use as examples to help reinforce the message. But as a presenter coming in we could get by with pushing the envelope without calling people out. They all know who they are!
  • Reinforce the importance from the story of the time lost, opportunities missed, and how one individual or group can impact the change needed to accomplish a goal (no pun intended.)

“Why you lead and the way you lead are important. They define YOU, your leadership, and ultimately your contribution.” -John Maxwell

As an organization, our goal is to be the best, serve others with high levels of respect and support each other to accomplish our goals.

Action Steps for leadership 360

  • Lead Self first- to lead in all directions, begin with mastering self-management. People will not follow you if you have not taken control of valuing your own time, have a clear focus and purpose. You are disciplined in handling your emotions. Could you make them want to follow you?
  • Lead in the middle-across- Leading in this position is a consistent state of developing and maintaining credibility. Individuals need to influence and build on relationships of trust. Providing peers with success, opportunities to voice ideas with allowing the best to achieve credit. Most individuals in the middle will not receive credit for the work they do, but they need to know others’ know-how valuable the work they do is.
  • Leading down- Learning about all of the staff is an excellent part of understanding how to serve your teams better. Know the strengths of the individuals to make sure they are working in areas to maximize the skills they have and prevent burnout. The goal of leadership is to help people succeed. Their success is our success. Inspire them through the vision and providing what they need to succeed.
  • Leading up-, It is important to remember we started with ourselves. To help lead up, we must be the best “us” we can be. This allows the entire team to succeed and provides upper leaders with valuable resources. When you perform well, you can step in to help with the responsibility of the top leadership to support the overall growth of the organization.

What to do? According to data?

In every organization, data-driven decision-making was and is a phrase repeated often. Sitting around a big conference table, I can recall talking about the stacks and stacks of data collected by an individual for us to utilize. However, we all looked at each other with a huh what. Data-rich and information poor, why are we collecting all of this data, and what is it being used for?

Understand where you are, where you want to go, and then how you will get there. One of the biggest things we noticed was the duplication of data. We were assessing to answer the same questions.

What do you need to know and find solutions for to achieve the goals you established? Looking at your situation, what is the most critical issue facing your organization?

Mental health is an issue that is revealing itself as a priority since the pandemic. It has always been important, but recent data reveals it is steadily increasing with our children.

“Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 31% increase in the proportion of mental health-related emergency rooms visits in youth ages 12 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More youth are also reporting increases in depression, anxiety, and stress, according to a YouthTruth survey.” The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services pledged $85 million in funding to address the mental health needs of our children and teens. To learn more about funding and data, please read this short article:

https://www.k12dive.com/news/biden-administration-pledges-85m-to-support-student-mental-health/605750/

A clear focus on what improvements are needed will help to target these areas with direct assessments and instruction. Providing the strategies to support the desired outcomes will keep a transparent approach to achieve positive results.

“Art-full-heart”

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”-unknown.

When dealing with trauma, difficult stress, and many unknowns, we need to find ways to reduce these levels from harming our health. Many are providing ideas for self-help, but one of the universal ways to help all ages is through art.

Art is an expression of our emotions or a way to release the tensions we have. Everyone is an artist! It is connecting with something you love to do! Like baking, sewing, painting, drawing, construction, being a good friend, solving puzzles, playing an instrument, and my list could go on!

Experiencing art produced by someone else is an opportunity to experience life through their lens, explore their time, learn about their culture and history. Art provides unlimited access to learning if we open our hearts, minds, and imagination.

One of the first things eliminated during educational budget cuts is the art programs. It is encouraging to see more creativity, engagement, and opportunities for expression be included in the offerings for children. Children need hands-on learning with ways to be able to express themselves.

Take away thoughts

  • No matter what organization you are in, try this activity to create an “Art-full-heart” to support you, me, us!

Give each staff member or student a piece of paper. (Before you give out the papers decide where this big heart will be displayed. You will have an outline of the heart. Inside the heart will be what the individuals design. You will then place them inside the heart.) at the top of the display will be your title or message. You can use my suggestion above or one you prefer.

Shape your paper to fit inside your heart to equal the number of people making one. The instructions for making the design can be this:

As we begin to work together, we still have Covid-19 and the variant causing health issues. The paper you have provides you with an opportunity to send a message to others on how to__________during this time. Use any prompt you want to help share a message you want and to help others in need.

This becomes more than an art lesson. It is so much more. It is about the history of the pandemic, social and climate changes, power struggles, and dealing with mental health needs.

We have used art (painting, drawing, poems, and other forms) as ways students can open up about mental health suicide, drugs, alcohol, and more. It is therapeutic for all involved.

There are many ways to support others through the use of art! I hope you try out this and other ways to boost support, understanding, and encouragement. Helping to make mental health needs a priority and not something to hide helps everyone.

Because I am Happy

Pharrell Williams’s song Happy is great! Tap your foot, clap your hands, smile, and sing along. However, are people happy? Did we forget what it is that makes us happy?

How do you define happiness? The dictionary simply defines it as “the state of being happy.” Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good, and you can’t help but smile. It’s the opposite of sadness.

Do you relate to any of these definitions of happiness?

  • Making six figures before I am forty years old.
  • Knowing I made a difference in the lives of others.
  • Living a good healthy life.
  • Enjoying family.
  • Having a home, food to eat, clothes to wear, and family to share it with.
  • Hearing my children laugh.
  • Watching the birds, smelling the flowers, and the warmth of the sun.

How do you define happiness? We live in a world where people perceive happiness in terms of wealth, status, or title. People tend to look at material things for happiness. What is the longevity of happiness? Can happiness be defined in one sentence, or do you need many components to your happiness?

“Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. It studies positive subjective experience, positive individual traits, and positive institutions…it aims to improve quality of life. It is a field of study that has been growing steadily throughout the years as individuals and researchers look for common ground on better well-being. Positive psychology began as a new domain of psychology in 1998 when Martin Seligman chose it as the theme for his term as president of the American Psychological Association.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can we teach happiness? “People are only as happy as they make themselves be.”-Abraham Lincoln. I believe we can help provide the teaching and experience of the components to lead to sustainable happiness. We can do this by teaching gratitude.

Gratitude is defined in many ways, but let’s focus on gratitude—the act of giving back to acknowledge what we have received. When we can connect gratitude with action, it becomes authentic and benefits us at a deeper level. There is one book our team did with our middle school students called: We Beat the Streets by Sampson Davis (Author), George Jenkins (Author), Rameck Hunt (Author), Sharon Draper (Author). These three boys grow up to become doctors and give back to their neighborhood. We used it to talk about bullying, social issues, hope, and many other aspects.

Today, we face many barriers, challenges, social issues, and darkness of negativity slipping in the cracks of our lighted homes. Can we teach happiness? We seem to be teaching negativity, contempt, dislike, bitterness, and animosity.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can we teach happiness? Smile, let’s give it a try!

Seeds Grow, and we harvest

Each year I can look from my window and see the tractors pull into the fields. They cultivate and prepare, plant the seeds and add fertilizer to help the crops grow. I watch as the corn and beans grow. They reach tall into the sky.

Soon it is time for the buses to make their way by as the students get in line. They pass through the doors as teachers plant the seeds of learning and wisdom. It is the teacher who is the catalyst in causing the seeds of learning to combust to grow.

In science, we learn about chemistry and the reactions that happen. An example is if you light a match in a room with hydrogen gas and oxygen gas, there will be an explosion. Looking at this sentence, we can identify that the match was the catalyst. If we did not have a flame from the match, there would not have been an explosion. In education, the teacher is the catalyst that causes the seeds of learning to combust. Just like farmers are the catalyst for the seeds that combust for plants to harvest.

How are you a catalyst? One of the most critical attributes of a leader or teacher is the belief in those they serve. Just recently, I shared a conversation with a young lady I had as a fifth-grade student. We had the opportunity to share three additional years as we moved together to middle school. Kellen shared this with me: I would like to thank you for believing in me and never giving up on me, especially when you knew my hard times! One thing I can say about Mrs. Brenda Yoho is SHE NEVER GAVE UP ON any OF HER STUDENTS!

Kellen reminded me in her email of three words I also often said I had forgotten: Achieve, Believe, and Succeed. She is a beautiful girl with a smile so bright it always hid the struggles she faced. I can remember taking her shopping for a dress, sitting at her house with her and mom, and then singing for her classmates. She has beautiful memories of all of this, and I am thankful for this time with her.

To be a catalyst in what you do, try these things:

  • Hold yourself to high expectations to become excellent in what you do.
  • Communicate high expectations to meet objectives and goals.
  • Be persistent until everyone is successful in reaching these goals.
  • Provide a foundation for continued learning and growth.

Modeling appreciation for all as we continue to learn, grow, and sometimes fail is the best way to harvest results. Mistakes are going to happen, and we always take them as part of the learning process.

Our limitations are those we place on ourselves. After exchanging messages with Kellen, I was reminded to look at the previous themes I had used. Dream, Believe, Dare and Do! Failure is not an Option! Imagine the Possibilities! Recipe for Success! These are just a few! Constantly reminding staff, students, families, and community it is our mindset that makes a difference and the help of the catalyst to push to harvest the best results!