Tag: Choice

Flexibility and Engagement

It is May, and the end of the school year is fast approaching. As the weather begins to warm up, so do the temperatures of everyone. We see a wide variety of changes happening as the end of school closes in on all of us.

Many teachers face life changes as some are retiring, some are taking on leadership roles, and others are moving to different locations. These are life changes that spark genuine emotions even if we do not feel like they impact us in any way.

Our students are feeling the stress of the timeline as well. Many will be heading off to start a new life journey with college or careers. Some will be facing issues of what they feel like is a safe place for them being removed, or ending a structured time with friends, a regular time of receiving meals, and knowing they will not have others to be with each day they can trust and count on daily.

These emotions still do not distract us from our purpose of teaching and learning. We have until the last bell rings to engage in and be flexible in our teaching and learning. It takes some out-of-the-box thinking, but the creativity we all have can capture the moments we have with amazing things.

Helping our students to engage in learning is essential to reaching the academic goals we establish and meeting the needs for their learning. Our expectations can offer significant benefits to the learning environment but not eliminate the high expectations. I am referring to the need for choices, providing students with a clear understanding of the “how” and “why” the expectations relate to them and “what” they can do.

Reflecting on my own teaching experiences, I can recall being transferred to another building with a principal who did not know my teaching style. The first time he walked into my classroom, the look on his face was priceless. He did not find the desks in a row with students all sitting quietly with me at the front of the room giving an instructional lesson. Instead, he found: A group of students in the back of the room with one of my volunteers reading, three students at computers, a student with me at my desk, and students with books and folders at their desks. Some students took papers to trays to turn in, and others selected new books.

I excused the student I was working with and told him he was ready to move forward. I walked over to speak to the principal. “Good Morning!”

“This classroom looks very busy, and everyone looks like they know what they are doing. I have never seen anything like this before.”

“Oh, I am sorry. This is how I teach and work. I can provide you with a more detailed plan for organizing our time. Each student has a mailbox. Inside their mailbox, they have folders for their subject areas color-coded. Right now, we are working on Language Arts and our Reading Logs. Students are working through the stations. We have a reading station with our volunteer today, Mr. Lucas; three students come back to take a test on their book and record it on their log, others are working through their assignments, and I individually call up students to do a progress check. The clothespins on the daily assignments bag indicate to everyone what station they are at. When a task is completed, the students change their clothespin to the station they will be in so others can see the openings.”

“I can see they know what they are doing. It seems like it is working.”

“Please feel free to check in on any of them to ask them about what they are doing and the goals they are working on.”

My teaching was many years ago, but I knew the choice formstudents was a big part of allowing students to take ownership. I need to mention at this time in the ’90s, grouping by abilities was a “thing.” I was the “new teacher” on the block, so my students were at risk primarily, but my Homeroom students were a mixture of students. It did not influence how I approached teaching and learning. I had high standards, and we worked the same way and accomplished goals.

Movie Making

At the end of the year, we still had lots to cover in our social studies books. I decided to let the kids take control. I put the subjects/topics on the board. Students wrote down what they were interested in learning or teaching to give to me. Then we talked about a unique group project to end our year.

I divided the students up into teams based on their interest levels. Then they worked together on the chapters to develop the vocabulary list, discussion questions, answers, vital information to know, and a short assessment.

Finally, we would turn this information into a History Rocks at RidgeFarm Elementary Radio Show. We would watch a couple of episodes of the Schoolhouse Rocks videos to get an idea of how the format could be and how to make a design set.

The kids were engaged, we were flexible, and we could show it to our grade level. Then we even showed it to the 4th graders to prepare them for 5th grade.

We took the assessments that the students made, we learned the vocabulary and everyone learned so much at the end of the year!

Emerging Stronger!

When we face challenges, we can find the leadership, skills, discipline, and resilience needed to overcome them. As we glance back at the past, we can see the many issues tugging at our hearts. Then we can feel the pains in our bodies from the battles we have endured. Finally, a light shines through as smiles begin to show through from the masks once hidden from view.

It has been a tough time. It continues to be a struggle, especially for our children. Each day brings us one day closer to solutions.

There is one thing I am optimistic about today. We can emerge stronger if we are wise in our planning. Many people count on your leadership! What we need to remember is not everyone is ready to move full steam ahead. In our plans, we have to make room for the social and emotional part.

During this time, many lost loved ones, dealt with illness themselves, or faced fears at levels we may not understand. What we do understand is the process through which individuals effectively apply knowledge, skills, attitudes, emotions, and empathy is through social-emotional learning. Along with this is maintaining positive relationships and decisions. We can begin with setting positive goals to achieve.

Keep in mind staff can experience secondary traumatic stress (STS). Depending on the type of organization or business you have, staff members can receive daily stress. Staff in school settings are definitely at risk of experiencing STS as children share in many different ways when they have stories to tell.

Solution Steps

  • Provide staff with opportunities to discuss
  • Have outlets for stress relief
  • Have fun
  • Talk about ways to manage emotions and stress
  • Provide opportunities for training on social-emotional, trauma, mental health, and overall self-care
  • Model how to support each other
  • Set up checkups with staff. Check in on them as much as you can

Thank you for being part of the solution daily.

Fundamental Friday

In our lives we have fundamental things, activities and principles that are important to us. We can believe strongly in some as an essential part of who we are or part of our purpose of being.

People seeking meaning beyond themselves seem to be happier, healthier, and live longer. I have no data to confirm that statement, only my observations. I like to think of myself in the category of seeking meaning beyond myself and in service to others. I am happy; I have had some health issues, but I am in remission, which has been a big positive. I have also had some near misses to death resulting in living longer. According to my formula, it works!

The fundamental definition is – serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function. Looking at the four pillars of the fundamental parts to our life is : Happiness, Self-Care, Relationships and Health

Take out a calculator and do this quick math calculation. This is “life math.” -Guide to Unlocking the Power of Purpose by Richard Leider

  • Multiply your age x365__________.
  • Then, subtract that number from 30,000, an average life expectancy.
  • Divide that number by 365_______
  • Now you are clear that you have _____more years to live. What will you do?

I know you have heard me say before, but I will repeat it: “Every day is a gift full of opportunities to unwrap.” I repeat phrases and words a great deal. I believe it is important in order to help reinforce the ideas to those you are serving, coaching and modeling for each day. My staff called them “Yohoisims.”

  • “Make it a great day or not the choice is yours to make”
  • “It is what it is, so it will be”
  • “We don’t know what we don’t know, do we”
  • “You have one foot on the outside and mine on your backside if you do not make some positive changes.”
  • “Do you know why you are tired? You bark all day.”
  • Many others to share but enough of the Yoho for today.

Look at your four fundamental areas and decide what improvements you can make. The following years of your life should fundamentally be full of “FUN” “DAily”/ “MENTAL” “Learning”/ “Yourself”-focusing on happiness, self-care, relationships, and health.

The Choice is Always Yours to make

As I was talking with my friend last night, I discovered something about choice. In my career over the past decades, I have been saying the choice is yours to make may not be the entire picture.

We were catching up on lots of things when I said, “I had an off day today; I just could not get into writing.” She said, “I have days I don’t feel like going to work, but I don’t have a choice.” Now, this puts a spin on things!

My husband and her husband join us in the kitchen area later. As we enjoy dinner and conversation, they bring up more ideas about choice and work. Zeke says, “My sister told me that many times new nurses would call-off work because they need a day to go get nails done or something. They have no regard for the level of need for the care of others.” Our friend said, “Yes, workers do not have the work ethic that is needed.”

Reflecting on all of the conversations and thinking about my statement, I still stand by it. It is our choice in what we do. We have freedom of choice. We decide how we react to situations. It is our morals and values that determine our choices.

In our society, right now, we are faced with unusual circumstances. We have a global pandemic we have been going through, raising our fear levels, sparking anger from decisions being made, dealing with isolation, depression, and other mental health issues. The violence, riots, killings, stealing, and the list can go on—all choices in response to other choices, a chain reaction.

The choices we make always affect others. They affect us, but others as well. We have to and must learn from the past. History is so vital because of choice. We learn from it as we study the choices made by those in the past, leading us to what we have today. Our world is changing daily.

Another blogger Steve Keating wrote a piece on five choices that change everything I have included for you also to check out. I believe it is essential to surround yourself with others who can lift you, help you question, support you, and encourage you. I may not have many friends in my little circle, but they keep me focused on my values, morals, and what is important to me. Thank you for being part of the solution daily.