Tag: #K-12

Pieces will fit

Do you have a childhood memory of something you did with your family? One of my memories is opening a box full of different shapes, colors, and a picture to follow as you put the pieces together. Putting jigsaw puzzles together was one of those memories from my childhood. We enjoyed many hours working together to fit the pieces together to finally see the pieces fit together to create the picture on the box.

My daughter was able to enjoy this with her grandparents and with us. Now it is passed down to my grandchildren. When working on fitting the pieces together, you can accomplish so much more!

Building together

In our “connected” world today, we forget how to make the connection with the people in our lives through face-to-face time. Building time together can be valuable, and we must prioritize this as a non-negotiable time. Sitting around a table together thinking, problem-solving, talking, laughing, and engaging in real-time conversations is essential in building trusting relationships.

The puzzle pieces are not just on the table in front of you, but in the makeup of the relationships, you are forming with those sharing the table with you. Inviting those to share a seat at your table is the first step in fitting the pieces into positive relationships.

Two Rule Philosophy

Two Rule Philosophy helps everyone to be safe and good. Two basic needs we all have, want and strive to achieve. It is my passion and purpose to provide everyone with the tools they need to incorporate this into their lives and most importantly into every school setting to ensure every child is safe. There are many tools, resources, steps, and approaches to take to make this happen, but it is as easy as one, two.

My first tool for you to utilize in your school, workplace, home, organization is one I carried with me from my childhood. I hope to work with Shutterfly to incorporate some additional ideas in my book to present to you to utilize, but currently I would like you to try this tool.

We all fit together!

Currently, you can utilize Shutterfly to upload a picture to create a puzzle. This is a fantastic opportunity to work on building relationships with your team, co-workers, and volunteers. In addition, this is a great way to help your family work to have a scheduled family time with purpose as you work together to put your family picture together. You can use this to discuss a family memory you had on a trip, celebration, or special event. I have done this for each of my grandchildren as a way to work on building up each one by talking about the strengths they have and what we enjoy about who they are as individuals.

Two Rules aim is to have everyone working together to help All feel safe and good. When we can build together, we can tear down the walls we have been building up over the many years and look through the many lenses to see solutions instead of problems.

Complete the puzzles in connecting with All in order to build a collaborative environment where everyone is welcomed, and feels safe and good.

Waste not Wednesday

I am not like most people, I believe. My husband tells me often I am not normal. I rarely turn on the television and prefer to read. In my time of reading and in his time of turning on the television, I have heard about potential food shortages as the next fear on the rise in our country.

As an educator for 25 years, I know children do not always eat all the food prepared at school. We often prepare more than we need because, like in restaurants, it is better to be over-prepared than under. So what happens to all of the food in all places food is prepared and not used? It is thrown out is the answer, I believe!

Just a little food for thought! (Corny pun!). What if we could organize within our communities a way to gather the food not used and enjoy having pot lucks at local churches, parks, civic buildings, or other locations for anyone and all to come until the food was gone.

I would hope we would not have scenes of fighting or chaos but opportunities for those who need a little extra help to gain a free meal, engage in community spirit, and enjoy a few moments of being part of neighborly love.

We need each other now. Step up, speak up, show up and be the solution daily in a community that needs you to be part of it!

Your voice is important

Please share a comment, like a post, and share. Everyone creating a message needs a little encouragement to continue to develop, and it is always great to take a step forward by getting your voice heard. Your like, comment or share could be the one that helps another person!

Be Prepared

Quotes by Brenda Yoho

Keeping words of wisdom in your toolbox will help you when you are put on the spot to answer questions, send a response, or make a statement. It has always been my philosophy to be proactive and not reactive in any situation you face.

We never want to think of a time of tragedy, emergency, or traumatic event, but we must be prepared. The people we serve count on us to be ready and not respond to the emotions that take over in these catastrophic, life-changing events. This is when they need an authentic leader to guide, support, and provide at times of great need.

In my training with new school leaders, I have guided in preparing a resource toolbox of readiness for events we do not want to prepare to face. A few examples are:

  • Statement to staff and students (Student death)
  • Statement to the public (Student death)
  • Letter to parents of the deceased student.
  • Announcement of special recognition to remember the deceased student
  • Statement to staff and students (Staff members death)
  • Statement to the public (Staff members death)
  • Letter to the community (Staff members death)

Preparing for Media

Having a media plan is an essential part of your toolbox. Having your leadership team understand how to respond when a crisis or traumatic event occurs helps to reduce the misinformation and confusion if we maintain a strict communication line. When people go off script and begin to put in information, this leads to people inserting statements unrelated to this event.

  • Designate a spokesperson (For consistency)
  • Maintain an updated folder of talking points for each crisis event until all facts can be gathered for a detailed statement or report.
  • Personal and authentic communication is critical in helping everyone deal with the trauma of each crisis we face. Get in front of the cameras and speak directly to those served. They need your calm voice and approach.
  • Prepare yourself to expect the unexpected. Have a key person or object to look at. Have a folder with important messages you can share: Calm, Care, Consistency, Concern, and Correct information. C’s the moment before it overtakes you.

As a leader, I have had to, unfortunately, deal with more crises, death, and traumatic events than I wish to report. I am thankful for leaders who supported me during some of the most challenging times. We are emotionally connected to those we serve, work alongside, and the communities we live in and love. Gathering your strength and courage to speak to calm others is difficult when you want to bury your head to grieve. Finding your words can be difficult, so preparing them in advance is helpful. If you are reading this and think this would never happen to me, I hope it does not. However, prepare just in case. If it never happens, it was time spent preparing as a reflection of how important each individual is in the world we live in. Every life we serve is essential!

Heartstrings and swings!

“School shooting in Texas” is four words to stop you, frozen at the moment, and your heartstrings are pulled. The number of injuries, loss of life, the individual or individuals involved in the shooting makes no difference. It is the four words no mother, father, grandparent, or educator wants to hear ever.

Then the media storm begins. The violence at Uvalde, Texas, with the school shootings at Robb Elementary, left all of us with more questions and seeking answers. Comments, pointing fingers to blame, a retelling of stories, the first stories were incorrect; these are the correct facts, more finger-pointing and it continues with comparing to other shootings. Then here comes the solutions, the same as the previous shootings. We need gun control, armed guards in the schools, mental health, and the list continues. Please stop and pause for one moment.

All I can hear and see are children laughing in the playground. They are swinging on the swings. The girls have their hair blowing in the wind from the swings, and the boys are busy hitting balls out into the field. I see children being children. School is ending for the summer break, and children are preparing to enjoy all of the summer fun. My heart strings are pulled as I know those who have fallen to this senseless act of violence took the innocence of this sacred time and lives away. It stole the childhood innocence of many who experienced the noise of the gunshots, screams, cries, and the trauma no one can claim to understand.

Real Soultions

Stop all of these political agendas on both sides to find the real solutions to the issues at hand. So let me just go through the list of the things I believe we can review, reinforce and respond to appropriately.

  • Do we have laws in place now to accomplish gun control to meet the standards we need for safety? Can we look at these laws together? State by state and then as a country.
    • Background checks
    • Waiting periods
    • Restrictions
    • Concealed Carry
    • Transport
  • As a country, can we bring all state government leaders together to draft a common gun control law to follow with integrity, accountability, and responsibility? Laws for guns should not be vastly different from state to state, and we should have/do have a monitored system to know who is purchasing firearms. In Illinois, there is a ban on guns in Chicago, but in our state, there are more shootings in this area than in any other place. How?
  • Illegal guns are a significant issue. We must address this issue.
  • Accountability with all laws must be enforced. Crime at any level has to have responsibility. If we do not hold all offenses with the laws we have and establish a society of rule and order, violence will continue to escalate. A community with a relaxed soft view will fall.
  • Are you addressing mental health correctly? In every situation, the words of mental health flow freely from many mouths without knowing how to address the issue appropriately. It is more than throwing money at the problem, building a facility, and saying you will do x, y, and z, but you do not have the time or personnel to accomplish the goals.
    • We need more psychiatric treatment staff to include, but not limited to the following:
      • Psychiatrist
      • Individual Therapist
      • Neuropsychologist
      • Social Workers
      • Intervention counseling
      • Group Therapist
      • Family Liaisons
    • Mental Health facilities and in-house care
      • Facilities for treatment to care for individuals in a 24/7 facility with supports
      • We need to have providers within schools to support staff, families, and students in providing a complete wrap-a-round care plan to facilitate meeting all of the needs of individual children and inclusion in the support systems.
      • We need to provide training to families, staff, and community-based entities with direct interactions with the public.
      • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Is a place to begin your search for understanding mental health issues, needs, and advocacy. This is the first organization I went to as a young leader in education. The need is more significant today for understanding mental health.
    • Two Rules
      • The need for Two Rules is stronger today than when I was principal. I want to share that the children, families, staff, and community you serve want to know more than ever before that these rules are being followed and applied. “Everyone who walks through the doors of (the name of your school) will feel good about being here and feel safe.” How will we all do this together? We can choose to be part of the problem or the solution; the choice is always ours to make. However, if you choose to be part of the problem, the consequences of your choice will be fully applied.
      • Talk with everyone about what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like to be safe and to feel good in a learning environment. It takes all of us working together to create an environment of safety, feeling included and good.
      • Many tools can be used at home, school, and in the community to accomplish these goals. I have been waiting to find the right time to see if the book I have written, Two Rules, would interest others. It feels like the right time now. Too many children are being lost in our world to violence in our schools, streets, and “safe” places.
    • Secure Schools is something we have worked on with crisis plans, training, and drills. It is time to look at what we have done and remember conducting a drill one time a year does not always help when reality comes and fear-panic sets in.
      • Can we look at all of the school buildings we currently have to see if modifications can be made to prevent an intruder from getting inside? Bulletproof?
      • Reinstate school resource officers on campus. Utilize retired police officers, military personnel, or other professionals—someone with a radio to contact the police and organize when a situation occurs.
      • Building relationships in the school to know all of the individuals within the school.
      • Have an organized plan for every situation. Talk and communicate with the onsite leadership team for the crisis.
    • Leadership is critical when seeking solutions. It is not top-down, but side by side when we discover looking through the lenses to see the perspectives of others. It is always to seek to understand and hear what is not said.
      • In my very first professional development workshop as an administrator, I sat down at a table all alone. I did not know anyone, and I was one of the first to arrive. I was not confident, so I sat in the back. An older gentleman sat down at my table. He began to talk to me, and I felt relaxed. He asked, “Do you think your school is safe?” No, sir, I don’t. I do not think you should ever believe that with 100% confidence. “Great answer. The conference began. -Let me introduce you to a brave man who is coming to share his story as a building principal of a school that went through a school shooting-Principal Bill Bond of Heath High School in Paducah, KY. The man sitting next to me got up and went to the front of the room.
      • His words were powerful, and I knew this was what leadership was to me. His story about the day has many important factors to remember when working with students, staff, and the community.
      • Relationship building. We all have said it, heard it, and have it as a goal. Do we know what it truly is, looks like, sounds like, and feels like? During my time at middle school, I wrote personal postcards to all of my staff and students. I mailed it to their homes. There were 75 staff members and 602 students. They were all individualized. Yes, they compared to see if I wrote the same things on the cards. I did it over the Christmas break. We gave everyone something on their birthday, talked to everyone, and watched them in their extra-curricular activities. I did home visits and community activities and embraced everything I could to get to know every aspect of life they had.

I brushed the surface of the solutions for the violence we are seeing transpire across our country and especially targeting our schools. I want to focus on families and communities as well. This is an issue with not one solution to solve the problem. It is not to have stricter gun controls or address mental health. We have a deep system of layers to address this issue more profound than the surface solutions we often try to address quickly, so we can say we did something, move on and place it on our list of accomplishments for the following political add. No thanks. I want to drive the deep solutions to systemically solve issues to save lives, create positive environments, help families and improve communities. I can’t, you can’t, but we can together work to establish better systems, accountability of the laws, offer services, and commit to improvements overall.

Our heartstrings are pulled, and we react. Then the conversations begin to fade as fast as the seasons change. The swings at the playground echo the laughter of children who want to be kids. Can we all work together to solve these issues, so the heartstrings pulled are the ones that bring big smiles.

Word of the Day

I am a big believer in vocabulary! We do not spend enough time exploring, providing, and giving children time to explore “words.”

It could be because I come from a home where my parents did not know how to read. When I would go to school in my early years, I can remember my Kindergarten teacher saying, “I am sure your parents have read this story to you, but I am going to read it today again.” Nope, my parents had not, and I heard it for the first time. We forget many children do not have rich conversations or have exposure to reading materials or opportunities to visit other places. How can we help to improve their vocabulary for them?

You can join word of the day by having it sent to your email daily. It is a great way to provide yourself and those you teach with opportunities to enjoy a new word daily.

Emolument: Compensation, based on time and length of activity, for employment, services, or holding office and is generally used in a legal context. Emolument is derived from the Latin term “emolumentum,” which could mean either effort or labor, or benefit, gain, or profit.

You can decide to choose your own words for each day. Maybe you want to focus on positive words, vocabulary words used in your curriculum or special topic words. It really does not matter the focus of the words as long as students are able to engage, explore and explain the words they are learning.

Encourage students every chance you can to read, write and share!

Brenda Yoho

Fast Forward-Leadership Skills Needed

As we have witnessed in the past three years, leaders have shifted to rapidly respond, react and realign approaches to meet the needs of change. Change is not something new to leaders, but a change at this level of magnitude left leaders scrambling. We have not seen this level of change happen at his rapid domino pace.

What do we need from leaders based on the experiences from the past three years to prepare for our future? How can we be readily prepared for rapid changes? Can we give this some thought and reflect on what we have learned as we move forward?

Looking at, listening, and reading about companies, schools, and government issues, a great deal of work is needed to develop systems, procedures, and protocols. Many of the links in our chains did not seem to connect to meet the needs of those they served. Gaps were noticed, service was interrupted, and a clear need for improvements.

What skills do leaders need?

  • Emotional and social intelligence: As we have learned, we have to navigate through and out of disruption and change at a rapid pace. Leaders need to be self-aware and be “team” aware regarding building emotional and social intelligence. “Social skills drive human innovation and knowledge.”-Team Emotional Intelligence 2.0, (Greaves, Watkins)
  • Technology savvy: A leader does not need to know all aspects of technology, but they need to be able to utilize technology. Technology is critical in a world growing faster today than yesterday. Being digitally fluent and present in the technological world will be the key to unlocking the doors to communication, innovation, and creativity.
  • Communication: This skill is changing the most as we move forward. Leaders need to be exceptional communicators to cut through the noise of the world to be heard, but at the same time listen to what is not being said. As we work with others, we need to listen more to what is not said, what is said and do more than hear. Communication is an action step to take.
  • Solution-Focused: It is easy to point out problems but not as easy to point out solutions. Having a Solution-Focused mindset allows leaders to look at all possibilities in decision-making. Keeping up with trends, looking at the future, exploring options, and always seeking to find better ways keeps everyone moving forward.
  • Coaching abilities: Leaders need to have the skills to help build up those they work with and to help them continue to grow. We need leaders who know how to appreciate, support, encourage, engage and develop others. One glove does not fit all and we need to approach our leadership with getting to know our staff. What are the needs each individual has, and what are their strengths? Praise them for their efforts and help them with what they want to improve.
  • Authenticity: As we deal with change, we cannot change. What is meant by my statement? As a leader you must have a solid foundation you stand on with core values and beliefs. When the world is yelling louder, you cannot yell too! You have to be the calm in the sea of waves. If you are not consistent in what you are saying, stand for your beliefs and values, then those who follow you will begin to question you. When high waves come crashing in, they want you to be the calm to quiet the sea. Being true to who you are, demonstrates integrity, trust, and consistency.

Solution Weekly May 15-21, 2022

Getting Back to Center

Have you ever felt like you were off-balanced? A change happened in your life, and now things as you knew as “normal” are now the opposite. Oh, yes, the pandemic! The Covid-19 pandemic is one example. Can you think of more? Many things can impact us in positive and negative ways, which cause us to feel off-balanced and not centered; how do we handle it.

Word of the Day

I am a big believer in vocabulary! We do not spend enough time exploring, providing, and giving children time to explore “words.”

It could be because I come from a home where my parents did not know how to read. When I would go to school in my early years, I can remember my Kindergarten teacher saying, “I am sure your parents have read this story to you, but I am going to read it today again.” Nope, my parents had not, and I heard it for the first time. We forget many children do not have rich conversations or have exposure to reading materials or opportunities to visit other places. How can we help to improve their vocabulary for them?

Are you facing “Drainout”?

In our current situations, we have all faced many critical, unpredictable conditions not seen before. We have dealt with in our years of service overcoming what many have referred to as “burnout”, not motivated, exhausted, and leads me to what I believe is replacing all of these words in our workplaces today: “Drainout.”

Think about how you and your co-workers feel right now. How do you feel overall? “Drainout” is not something that happens just at work, it can happen in every aspect of life. We will discuss more this week.

Donuts, Veggies or Ice Cream? Choices

Do you hold meetings? If you do, do you provide a snack? When people walk into your meeting, do they find chocolates or candy on the tables? What do you think about offering food or something for meetings?

I am curious about this idea. I know I have, it seems, always had candy on the tables and offered snacks. During my career, I never used a line budget for my building expenses. I thought doing this was my choice, and I usually paid for it myself. Sometimes I had vendors who would send stuff, but mostly me or sometimes my Assistant Principal would get things.

Fast Forward-Future Skills Needed Today!

As we have witnessed in the past three years, leaders have shifted to rapidly respond, react and realign approaches to meet the needs of change. Change is not something new to leaders, but a change at this level of magnitude left leaders scrambling. We have not seen this level of change happen at his rapid domino pace.

What do we need from leaders based on the experiences from the past three years to prepare for our future? How can we be readily prepared for rapid changes? Can we give this some thought and reflect on what we have learned as we move forward?

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!