Tag: #Resurces

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

Students “Don’t Care,” Do they?

Have you heard this, thought this, or said this? As you glance in a classroom, talk to students or staff, you get an idea of this statement.

Sometimes we are quick to place a label on something without further examining the roots to discover a solution. Engagement is our go-to word. Students are not engaged in learning, so they do not care. Whoa, stop! This is a snap judgment call without really diving in to look at solutions.

I have included a link below to a great article from EL Magazine. It is a quick read packed with great insight on how to look at barriers students may have as they face learning.

Standing in front of the class and giving information in hopes students will receive it with learning, as a result, is not a reasonable expectation. Then to think they can take this information and apply it. Well…

Students are not always interested in what we want them to do in the classroom or to learn. This does not mean they do not care. We have not uncovered how to motivate them with their interests, ways of learning, removed barriers or found the right strategies.

Students need clear feedback, a success that is important to them and to know peers are not judging them. Helping students reach their full potential can be accomplished.

http://bit.ly/2WbJ2pK

What Matters Most?

As a leader, especially during this time, the importance of “what we do,” “how we do it,” and “why we do it” are critical questions to ask. We have asked them before, but how does it help us to answer the biggest question of all? What matters most?

“Mother Norman, I am so sorry for the loss of your husband.”

“Oh daughter, I know, let me introduce you to my son.”

Going to the visitation of one of my co-workers from my early years was just like going to a family reunion to see relatives you haven’t seen in a while, even though you may not live that far from each other. “Mother Norman, ” as I have called her for years, was the teacher who I looked up to as I learned to be a teacher. She was one of many who helped prepare me for my journey through education. Her brother would become our Superintendent. He hired me for my first teaching position and then in my first administrator position. So many great learning opportunities and training. Thank you Mr. Tate.

I left the comforts of my hometown to travel a short distance to a larger school district up the road. My first year as principal was terrific. The staff, students, families and everything felt just right for me.

“Mr. Denman wants to see you in his office.”

I can remember hearing those words coming from the phone and the echoes of the voices telling me all day of the sudden leaving of the middle school principal. My heart sunk to my stomach. I could not let anyone see my feelings.

As I arrived to the office, it was true; I needed to move to be the principal of the middle school. I left the building headed back to my school processing all that needed to be done, when a call came asking me if I could return to talk to the Superintendent.

I entered Mrs. Mellen’s office, and she said, “ I am so sorry; I know I told you I would not move you, but I had no idea something like this would happen.”

I understand. Leaders have to make decisions based on what they believe is best. As part of this team and organization, I have to choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. A great deal of work has to be done. One thing I ask is to have permission to talk with my current staff first before they hear it from the news.

“I don’t think you can get that accomplished before the board meeting tonight.”

I can and I will, if I have permission. “I will check with board president and a few others to get this approved.”

Thank you! Trust, my word and helping to guide them through this transition is essential to me. It will provide a better transition for all of us.

Telling news you do not want to give

  • Practicing solution-focused leadership provides a systematic approach to communicating any form of news you need to deliver.
  • First, identify the problem the organization faced. Point out the importance of the time of the year and the needs of all involved.
  • Then provide the possible solutions the organization could have selected from and weigh against outcomes. (In this situation, I was able to pull from the information I thought could be used. I had four years of positive middle school experience previously. Our team worked to secure a grant successfully to change the school to a middle school concept and turned it from failing to succeeding.)
  • Decision made and moving forward. Clear communication of the decision made and how you support being part of the solution is stated. We all must do this to continue the great work we are doing. Provide the connection between them and the decision and the overall mission. (In this case, the school was a feeder school to the middle school I was moving to.)
  • One last thing to remember!
  • We do all of our work together in all of these buildings as one. Students and sometimes staff move around from time to time, but one thing remains the most important. What matters the most? We love what we do for those we do it for and those we do it with because, in the end, what matters the most is the relationships we build along the journey.

Take-Aways

  • Practice solution-focused leadership
  • Relationships matter
  • Clear communication
  • Remember the what, how, who and why to understand What matters most!

Input vs. Output

I have questions about the title of this post. Do you have more input or output in your day? In other words, are you receiving (input) information more than you are producing (output)? What are the sources of the information you receive?

Accountability has leaders focused on the source of output and making sure there is a high volume daily. Depending on the field of work, I question the quality of the volume of output measured by the input. Should leaders focus more on the input their staff is receiving?

I spend 60% of my day reading. What are the sources of this reading? I select books based on recommendations from other leaders, also from the organization I work with to help authors with book launches, blogs, podcasts, webinars, articles from professional organizations I belong to, emails, and my daily devotionals/bible. This input is valuable to me, but most importantly, it influences my thoughts.

I wrote a book about school improvement; it’s not good enough. My opinion! I took time to learn more about how to have a quality book, what the steps are, what do you need to do, know, and so many other things. I was gaining lots of input! During this seeking input time, I had opportunities to meet, listen to and gain wisdom. It is a blessing to have taken the time to do this and to write a new book.

Time is a non-renewable gift! I always say, “Unwrap today as a gift. It can not be returned, exchanged, or saved. Use the hours wisely.” The time I have spent on writing has provided me with healing, sharing, ways to serve a purpose, and opportunities to provide support to others.

Take aways

  • The quality of the work we do depends on the inputs of information we allow to influence us.
  • Output accountability should be measured on quality and not quantity.
  • Leaders can support individuals by providing quality resources for input.
  • Time is non-renewable!

Review your calendar, agenda, or schedule. How much time is allowed for input? As a leader, what are you providing to staff to enhance the quality of the input others are receiving? Remember, time is non-renewable! Make all communications quality and not just quantity!

Be the solution daily! Others count on the quality of your output to influence the input they receive!

Pop’in back, Getting to know you!

Relationship building is a priority for every organization during this time. Our world has experienced a great deal of stress, and we continue to have changes made to our daily lives. Bringing fun into the work environment and getting to know those we share time with are helpful in many ways.

Building relationships build trust, loyalty, and dedication. The stronger our relationships become, the more the work becomes not a what we do but a why we do! Bring fun, trust, validation, and dedication to each other. We need all of this!

I have a couple of games I have used to help with getting to know others. Both are fun ways to bring people back together after a long break like summer, spring, Christmas, or even short holidays and during a conference. These are also fun to do in social settings, in classrooms, or where you need to break the ice to start conversations.

I have provided some brief explanations and listed the materials you need to play the games. The questions to ask yourself are:

  • How many people will be in this group?
  • Which game fits this group setting?
  • How much time do I have with this group?
  • Is this something we can continue over several days?

Once you have answered these questions, you can determine how to set up the game and needed materials. Individuals will write and label their answers on three small pieces of paper. Then insert them into the balloon and blow the balloon up slightly. They place the balloon in the designated spot and when all are completed the game begins. (When I have done the Pop’in back game with balloons, I use a giant garbage bag to put balloons in, or you can utilize a designated area.) Then I can get one out to pop.

*If you are at a conference, make sure to announce only to do a balloon if they will be staying for all of the sessions. You don’t want to pop a balloon and never find out who dated Blake Shelton or is a secret millionaire.

Guidance for games

Questions to use for statements

  • What state are we in?
  • What company or school district do you work for?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you have grandchildren?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Do you have siblings?
  • What is your favorite season?
  • Have you been to Disney World?
  • Which would you rather have ice cream or cake?
  • Have traveled by plane?
  • Have traveled by train?
  • Have more than five friends?
  • Many questions can be asked but be aware of what you ask and how you ask? What is the purpose? This is to be uplifting, chances to connect and laugh. Stay away from topics that could cause trauma indirectly.

Please share if you have additional ideas or suggestions. Let us know if you try it out and how it went. I have done this activity with a large group (entire school district opening meeting, my hometown rural school). So much fun with everyone engaged, even those who never want to participate.

Tuesday Talks and Topics

Topic today: Trauma

As you work with others, it is always helpful to have an organized approach for positive results. While being a leader in a school, I knew every minute was valuable. Having a focused plan, a weekly or daily announcement to staff needed to be structured to support our goals and having conversations they needed/wanted to hear. How do you do that?

Be alert and aware of what is needed to be placed in written form and what is required to be verbalized. Staff does not need to come to a meeting to have you read from a paper; they can do this themselves. You have things you need to say, and they need to hear you say, especially as we return face to face.

No matter what level you are, working with others or being part of a group, it is essential to understand how to support, deal with and monitor the signs of trauma. Trauma, we can clearly state, is something every child and adult has experienced at some level due to Covid-19.

Trauma

  • We are living lives impacted by trauma that others could not have predicted.
  • Some are living in situations where family members are part of the circumstances of the trauma.
  • Some have lost a loved one (grandparent, parent, sibling, child).
  • We are living in uncertain and constantly changing circumstances.
  • Some are living in areas of daily violence and fear.
  • There are many more things we can list to add for traumatic events contributing to trauma in the lives of those around us.

What can we do in regards to trauma? Prevention is always the first step in the solution process but never the only step. If prevention is not something we can do, there are several things to do to help trauma victims.

Action Steps

  • Prevention steps always step one in solving problems before they happen and preventing them from reoccurring.
  • Deal with immediate needs, fears and concerns.
  • Restore the sense of normalcy with structure, routines and predictable schedules.
  • Montior behaviors and emotional responses. (Trauma can linger in individuals for a long time and reoccur with outbursts, depression and other unusual behaviors.)
  • Talk with individuals about what they are feeling.
  • Refer to professionals if there is no improvement. (Do not overreact, it does take a little time to deal with Traumatic events)

I am not a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist, but a survivor of a traumatic event and traumatic brain injury. The injuries are life-long but not something you cannot deal with each day. The step about daily routines and structure, this one was critical for me. I needed this to help me in my healing. When things were changed, it threw me off completely. So think about those changes for your students with special needs; they really can not help the behavior. It is a response that is natural to them. Routines are safe for them/us. When we do not have the routine, schedule or sense, or normal, it brings the trauma back to us.

Talking Trauma is not a one-time talk. We need to talk more! There are many things we need to put into practice, take time to have discussions and understand we have all experienced Trauma. Practicing self-care is so important. Letting others know mental health needs are okay, we need to talk to professionals and be treated. Mental health issues does not mean a thing. Let’s stop labeling things please.

Thanks for talking Tuesday! Please add your comments so we can gain more insight to this topic. #Bethesolutiondaily

Back to School 🍎

Fall is my favorite season! It is the time of year where you begin to harvest the fruits of your labor as a farmer. Pumpkins, corn, apples, marshmallows and chocolate, scarecrows, and school supplies are the best! The sounds of the shoppers looking for just the right color of a folder, the best bookbag, and don’t forget picking out the first day of school outfit.

My school year in 2010 changed forever for me. I barely escaped losing my life and was left with lifelong deficits to remind me of the gift of life daily. Children felt impacts to their lives as schools shut down, mask mandates, isolation from others, and a change no one was prepared to handle in their school year 2020.

Now 2021-2022 school year is upon us, and the memories of the previous shutdowns with mask mandates are looming. Illinois has just passed on information that all K-12 students and staff will wear masks as they return to school, even those who have been vaccinated.

Safety is always the priority of all school leaders. Safety means many things when we discuss children—the safety of body, mind, and spirit. Science directs us in our decision-making regarding health and wellness. Children are fragile and essential to all of us. As a mother, grandmother, educator, and loving human, what we do to them concerns me always. They are not able to make decisions for their overall safety for themselves, and that task is left to us.

There seems to be a great debate regarding vaccinations, masks, and everything related to Covid-19. Why? It is no longer about science but politics. I am not taking a political side, but the children who can not decide on their own.

Would you please push the political views aside? Doctors, scientists, pediatric specialists, and psychologists need to be heard to provide the guidelines for children. What are the best ways to protect the body, mind, and spirit?

I have included an article about the importance of connecting. My previous post about the Artifact Bag also talks about the importance of connection. Let’s not let 2021-2022 be a repeat for our children. We can find creative ways to embrace things we cannot control with stuff we can by connecting better.

Would you please focus on the magical joy of teaching and learning by connecting at the levels we need after all we have been through with Covid-19? “Education is something we do with children, not to them.”-Brenda Yoho

https://www.edutopia.org/article/rekindling-sense-connection-new-school-year?utm_content=linkpos1&utm_campaign=weekly-2021-07-28-A&utm_source=edu-newsletter&utm_medium=email

The Artifact Bag

The Artifact Bag is a great activity to do as you introduce yourself to new staff, reconnect with the team or a fun way to get to know each other a little better.

Each table receives a bag with items and a clue sheet. They have an allotted amount of time to go through the articles and discuss what each item represents about the individual.

Then one group at a time will give their results to one item at a time. After the groups disclose their responses to one item, you provide the correct response to the item in question.

I have recorded my short version of the Artifact Bag. Before you watch it, if you want to try, take your guesses now. I will provide a little descriptions on a few items because you do not have them to look at.

  • States with ❤️ (Illinois, New York, Virginia)=
  • Fishing Pole=
  • #3 Green Fish=
  • Cheese=
  • Tomato =
  • Ice cream cone =
  • Ship=

I have created presentation slides with the directions for the Artifact game and then revealed the correct answers. I can send it to you if you email me yohobren@gmail.com

Turning Gears into Action

One of my first posts was about gears. I made this reference as it was part of the original writing in my book. I did not know everything I needed to know about publishing a book. So even though my gears were turning, I did not have all of the ones I needed to move forward successfully. A rewrite was done, and it will be coming out soon I hope.

The goal I have is to help other leaders in their journeys of success. I will share all of my information, ideas, practices, actions, and everything I have with those who want to continue to be the solution daily for those they serve. Today I want to revisit the thought of gears as you begin to develop an action plan to address your planned improvements.

I utilized my conversations with my husband to talk about the motors he worked on for companies and local farmers, as they compare to the work in education. The importance of these motors for the work being done is critical to the whole process. If one gear is not working, damage can happen, and work is stopped. A farmers’ work depends on the weather conditions; it is critical to get back to work when the weather is good. In education, we weather all of the storms that come our way.

In our educational system, we have gears as well that are critical to the work we do. I divided the gears into the following:

  • Leadership
  • Instruction
  • Curriculum
  • Assessments
  • Professional Learning/Collaboration
  • Culture/Climate
  • Communication
  • Community/Partnerships
  • Systems/Program Evaluation

Gears are connected to a shaft. This cylinder shaped piece of rotating machine element, is used to transmit power from one part to another, or from a machine which produces power to a machine which absorbs power. Compare this to your organization.

Gears are the identified areas of focus. Our focused areas are those in need of attention to produce the successful energy we need. Often my husband has spent time completing a rewind of motors because they have burnt up and need an overhaul. Sometimes they are beyond repair and are scrapped out. New motors are purchased if it is cheaper to do this than to fix the motor.

In education, it seems at times we have situations or things that are beyond repair. However, we cannot scrap them out and purchase new things. We have to make adjustments to try to make it work. I can think of textbooks, programs and curriculum. We spend a great deal of money, time, and energy in the selection of these materials. Our budgets do not allow us to throw things out. However, when new shiny things are the buzz, we through out and turn our attention to the new. Examples could be: Whole Language, Touch Math, Cursive Writing, Phonics, Sight Words and more.

We intend that we will produce enough energy our students will absorb the learning. However, it is not the energy from the materials and tools but those teaching our students producing the energy. It is when our students are engaged and have ownership in their learning the energy sparks.

The shaft is our mission as a foundation. It is what we are doing defined by our vision. Our vision is inspirational and connects emotionally with what we do. A well-oiled, lubricated, or greased machine keeps it turning. This is our values and beliefs. Working together and turning in the right direction is fueled by families, communities, and stakeholders. We have focused leaders, collaborating staff, engaged families, supportive community, and stakeholders, producing achieving students as outcomes are the results.

As you begin your work, identify your focus areas. Which gears do you have in your plan? What do you think at first glance needs your attention first? Be careful not to burn out all of your bags and destroy your shaft. Some things are not repairable, and we do not have enough time to repair them all. We cannot afford to throw anything out.

Counting on you to be the solution for those you serve today as they will serve tomorrow!

My way, Your way, Our way….

I grew up really as an only child. My brother and sister are 16 and 17 years older than me, respectively. I have always said I was a gift from God to make sure someone could help this family.

My siblings, especially my sister, did lots of things with me. I think I was like a doll. The best adventure I can recall was going to see Elvis Presley in concert. I loved his music, but I was more fascinated by the way grown women were acting. So exciting to watch! He did it his way!

Watching my grandchildren play, I learned a great lesson. They span in age from three years, six years, and 13 years old. The two younger boys play together and are not always easy to handle. Their sister is quick to help settle disputes and monitor the playtime.

While vacationing at the beach, everyone found their place. Each one has a special interest in what they wanted to do. There were enough adults that each child had one to help them in whatever they wanted to do.

When they decided to play together after having their time, the conversations were so interesting.

“Hey, look, I found a purple-colored shell. Would you want it?”

“Yes, thanks!”

“Do you want me to help you find more shells?”

Fantastic how they were working together to collect shells. Now it lasted a short time as you know, attention spans do not last long and brothers, well are boys.

We took the shells back to the house to sort, identify and talk about them. We like to do art projects and make things; this is what they do with me. They each had a container to place their shells in, and all was good.

How does your team work together on projects? As a leader, do you begin with your way of approaching the task or situation? Are there opportunities to identify and sort out target points? Can individuals discuss freely and offer ideas?

In dealing with finding solutions, it is essential to have all voices heard and illustrate possible solutions. People need to see, hear, talk, and sometimes “touch”(move items) to understand the process.

If the solution is “my way,” the problem will stay. It stays because, most likely, I am the only one who believes in the solution. The same is true if the solution is “your way,” which most likely comes from the loudest one. It should be “our way,” providing ownership from all.

Think about the structures of your problem-solving teams. How do you handle issues that come up? Do you have a process to follow? Who is involved in making decisions and finding solutions?

Thank you for being the solution daily! It takes each of us working together focused on solutions.