Why My Suits Hang in the Back of My Closet

I have suits, and lots of them. I used to wear one serveral times a week when I first entered administration. Before that, I was an elementary teacher with recess duty, after school car duty, and reading groups on the carpet. My kids would find comfy places around the room to read and write, and I would go sit next to them (usually on the floor) and confer with them. Thankfully I have always worked for administration who did not have a “No Jeans Policy”, or who didn’t allow tennis shoes. Teachers were expected to look and act professional, but nice jeans, a nice shirt, and comfortables were considered professional.

Entering the administration world, I immediately had to consider a shopping trip! My jeans, casual pants, various sneakers/loafers, and school shirts completed my wardrobe day in and day out! By the time I entered my new role as an assistant principal, the casual and comfortable clothing and shoes had made its way to the back of my closet. Taking their place were dresses, blouses, suits, skirts, and heels.

img_7522Over the last two years, I have changed my thinking on “the suit look” for myself. Many feel most comfortable in business attire, and that is wonderful! Upon entering a new role in a new school, I found myself feeling more comfortable when I dressed for comfort and mobility. I am not sure what happened to cause the shift, but it slowly shifted! As a lead learner, I go out to recess, I do afternoon car duty, and I visit with kids in classrooms about what they are reading, writing, and working on (often on the floor!). Days when I have deadlines to meet or emails to check, I enjoy going into a classroom and finding a corner to work on my laptop, just so I can be where the kids and teachers are. Normally the best place to be a wallflower in a classroom is…you guessed it…on the floor somewhere!

I like to go into prek classrooms and play in centers. Sometimes when we are shorthanded I help with custodial duties. I have done all of these things dressed in business attire, as have countless numbers of administrators all over the world. It can be done and it does happen! But…is it how I can be most comforatble and feel at my best? Is it best for me as I strive to be the best version of myself each day?

img_7608Not so much. I struggled with this…fear of being judged for wearing jeans, or having Converse on several days in a row. What might families think? What does my school family think? School board? Community? Will they see me as unprofessional? That would devastate me. Do they think I am setting a bad example by dressing casual? I worried, and still do. People can judge very easily. The fact is…some people will judge us no matter what we do! Those people are few and far between, so why do we sometimes make decisions based on this small population?

img_8498-1If you come visit Central Elementary in Cabot, Arkansas on any given day, there is a big chance you will see myself and other staff in blue jeans or casual pants, comfortable shoes, and some type of school shirt. Some days I may have business attire, and some teachers may as well. We have some set days for dress, such as our school shirt day each Monday, and Kids Deserve it shirt day on Wednesday. I dress according to what my plans are that day, and if I plan to be at school all day and around kids, my most comfortable self is necessary for me.

img_5196My suits are in the back of my closet, and I still wear them! I do not wear them most days, because I want to be in the floor with kids, or on the go and in a hurry down the halls. To the ladies who can make that happen in heels, I ENVY YOU! I cannot, and would most likely find myself with a broken limb if I tried. To the gentleman who can wear comfortable shoes, pants, and shirt with a tie, I ENVY YOU! you can look ready for a presentation and also be comfortable!

img_8500-1When I am spending a day with adults in interviews, at a conference, presenting information to an audience, etc., I will pull my business attire from the back of the closet. Every once in a while I may wear a dress to school! I may even pull out the wedge shoes. For me, there is a time for business, and a time for busyness!

We are doing all we can to ensure kids to be themselves and to never deny who they are. They learn to develop their own unique personality, style, and character! Sometimes I think we forget we need room in our world for adults to express their own unique qualities. We don’t always have to fit a mold, and being professional means much more than someone’s appearance.

img_2958So, my lead learner friends…can we be casual and still be professional? I think we can. Should we reconsider things like a jeans day, or free jeans passes? Perhaps, or perhaps not. Every school is so different, and has different needs. Every lead learner is different, and has different needs. Does it matter if sometimes people can’t find the principal because she isn’t “dressed up”? It might to some! Is there a fine line between what looks professional and what doesn’t? ABSOLUTELY there is!

No judgement here…be true to who you are, and head to school each day knowing you are comfortable in your own skin (and attire)! Take care of the kids, whether you’re in a business suit, or a school shirt, casual pants, and Chucks. That’s what we do, and that’s what matters most!

Bethany

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From the Mouths of Babes Comes Perspective

Over the 18 years I have served in education, I have collected pieces of conversations that grounded me in my beliefs and values in the profession. I have written hundreds of kid quotes down in journals, on sticky notes, in electronic documents, and in my phone. Kids say the darndest things! Some are hilarious, some are sad. Some are inspirational, some are painfully honest! There are those moments when kids tell you in their own words exactly what your purpose is. Those are the moments I treasure more than any of the others. The following list is a collection of kid quotes–excerpts from conversations I have accumulated over the years. I hope they warm your heart at least half as much as they have mine.

“Mrs. Hill, do you live at school? I want to know where your bed is.”

“When I grow up I am going to find you and give you some money from my job, since teachers don’t make much.”

“Is your name Mrs. Hill (with long, drawn southern accent) because you wear high heels?”

“If you wasn’t so tall, I wouldn’t have to hug your leg. I could at least hug your belly.”

“Why is your hair like that? It looks weird. Tomorrow will you put it back the way it’s ‘posed to be?”

“Nana, this is Mrs. Hill. She is the police of our school, but she doesn’t arrest us because she loves us too much.”

“Mrs. Hill, I just want you to know that you were one of my favorite teachers, and a big reason why I am studying to become a teacher myself. Thank you for inspiring me.”

“If I had a mom, I would want her to smell just like you.”

“Mrs. Hill, can I come stay with you? I promise I will not eat all your food or fight with your sons. I will be quiet and help you clean.”

“My dad said if he had a principal like I do when he was little, that he would have been in trouble every day. I don’t get him sometimes.”

Kinder Kid: How old are you? Me: How old do you think I am? Kinder Kid: Ummm probably like 28 or 32 or something like that. Me: Well, I am a little older than that. “Kinder Kid: It’s okay. If your  knees or back hurts, some days you can stay in your office and rest.”

“I love this school because people hug a lot, especially you and I never knew principals hugged before.”

“Can I call you Mom?”

“Sometimes when I am at home, I wish I could just live at school.”

“You smile more than anybody I know, and it makes me happy.”

“Thank you for making me feel important.”

“Sometimes I wish I wasn’t alive anymore because I stay sad all the time.”

“Mrs. Hill, I just really miss my mom and I was wondering if you could find out where she is.”

“When I grow up, I am going to be a teacher, and then I can come here and teach so you can quit and go camping or something.”

“I don’t understand why nobody will love my mom for very long, or wants to be my dad. They all leave, and she is always so sad.”

“Thanks for making me fall in love with reading. Until third grade I hated it.”

“Can you move to middle school and be our principal, or bring some 5th grade teachers here to teach us?”

“I will always remember you because you smiled and hugged me every single day.”

Perspective. Some cute, some funny, some heart wrenching, some inspiring. I cherish them all and so many more that I have tucked away in journals. Kids remind us each and every school day of our purpose. We are here to serve them at every level, no matter how much they need. All kids deserve adults in their lives who listen, empathize, celebrate, cry, mourn, and learn right along with them. It is humbling and empowering all at once to hear some of the powerful things they say, no matter what emotion they may evoke. From the mouths of babes…

Bethany

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Connecting for Kids

Kids Social Media

What do you do when you are trying to do what’s best for kids?  We CONNECT. We connect with kids. We connect with parents and families.  We connect as teachers.  We connect as leaders.  We find any way possible to connect, so we can do what is best for our kids. Education was once considered a lonely profession. Consider the one room schoolhouse, where one teacher served an entire rural community and everyone knew she was not to be seen after dark! Through the years a culture of connection and collaboration has slowly unfolded. Today, with social media at our fingertips, we have endless opportunities to establish connections with anyone and everyone. We have the ability to invite the community in via pictures and videos. We have networks with amazing educators to help us grow stronger in our profession.  There simply is no reason why we shouldn’t be connected educators…we have every reason to be connecting for kids.

Why (Bethany)

One of my favorite authors, John Maxwell, wrote a book entitled, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently. I read this book many years ago when I first entered the world of administration, and it opened my eyes to the importance of how we communicate, and the real purpose of it. My superintendent assigned the book for our team to read, and it was a game changer for me. If our communication isn’t reaching others, we are defeating our purpose. Authentic connections will not happen without authentic and purposeful communication. When we connect with others, we are validated, challenged, inspired, and our emotions are brought to the surface. This is what helps people become better versions of themselves. When we as educators connect, we become better educators. Our kids deserve nothing less than our best. Flying solo as an educator is no longer an option. When we struggle, we connect for support. When we succeed, we share to support others. When our beliefs are challenged, we share to ignite passion. There is power in connection, and connecting for kids is something we must ALL do. After all, it is about them, isn’t it?

So…remember the WHY behind connecting for kids!

  • To seek support and advice

  • To be validated for innovative thinking

  • To gather resources (blogs, images, podcasts, etc.)

  • To share our successes and thoughts

  • To strengthen our core beliefs

  • To inspire and be inspired

  • To celebrate the AWESOME we witness each school day

This list could continue, because the WHY behind connecting for kids is immeasurable. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our kids…they are ALL OURS.

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How (Lindsey)

If you want to make the best connections, you must be visible.  Visibility should be at the top of our “To Do List.”  As lead learners, our lists are full of emails, phone calls, meetings, and paperwork, but we must have visibility (in permanent marker) at the top of the list.  We should intentionally (put it on the calendar) be in classrooms, at recess, in the hallways, and out front during morning/afternoon dismissal to see first hand what is happening in our school.  When you are visible to all, relationships begin to bloom because you learn to know the people with whom you work with…your Kids, your Teachers, your Staff, your Families, and your Community.  What a positive feeling it is for parents to see you in the mornings greeting the kids with high fives and hugs.  What a rewarding feeling to enter a classroom of fully engaged kids and leave a handwritten note in appreciation to the teacher.  Through each of our actions as leaders, we begin to make connections through our interactions with kids, teachers, and families.  

You may ask…How do you do this?

    • Morning Greetings/Afternoon “See You Tomorrow”

    • Mobile Office to be in the classrooms

    • Eat Lunch with the Kids

    • Spread the news of what’s happening at your school

    • Give Kids a Voice on what happens at their school

    • Share with Kids are Awesome they are can day!

    • Go Beyond the School Walls

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When (Karen)

When do we connect with/for kids. When do you not? We should be making connections and building relationships with and for kids constantly throughout each and every day.  Kid connections should be the unwavering compass needle pointing us to and keeping us aligned with our why. So often, lead learners get inundated with infraction forms, system issues and trivial problems that weigh us down and make us feel as though we are trapped in our offices.  Don’t let your office become a trap…get out and connect with and for kids. It must be a conscious, culture changing mindset to become a lead learner who values and insists on building relationships with students. The BIG question often becomes… when do we do this?

  • Through Celebrations!
  • Academic Milestones
  • Behavior Milestones
  • Character Milestones
  • Attendance Milestones
  • Positive phone calls home
  • Through Collaboration with Adults AND students about concerns
  • RTI (academic and behavioral) – Social/emotional concerns through formal/informal conversations during lunch, recess, bus duty, hallways…the list goes on and on.
  • Through Communication – Share, Share, Share
  • Face to Face with students (find their passion…their why), parents, ALL stakeholders…bring them into the school and put yourself out there.
  • Via social media – sharing our story and our why
  • Newsletters

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Us…

Are we connecting everyday for our kids?  Is our story being heard around the state?  These are the questions that got us to thinking we need a movement to connect educators across the state of Arkansas for our kids!  And why not connect for our kids?  After all, it is about them, isn’t it? Kids deserve us to be the best version of ourselves, so what if we had a place where we could go for continual conversation, resources, great ideas from our schools, and…yes…a Twitter chat? This is the WHY behind #EduAr…to connect FOR kids! We need to learn together, from each other. Learning goes beyond the 6 hour professional development session, beyond the talks in your hallways and in team meetings, and beyond your district. Arkansas kids (and the rest of the nation’s kids) need us to learn from a larger source. We owe that to them. Let’s do this!

Information coming soon on a set time for the #EduAr weekly Twitter chat! Look for slow chat questions or images with a post for the day. Please begin sharing by using #EduAr in your tweets. Let’s get connected within our state, and reach out to other states as a unified group of educators. Ready?

Lindsey, Bethany, and Karen

Recharging Conversation: The Power of the Hashtag

We want you to harness the power of culture and the power of people so that you can develop teachers and schools that are better than ever before.

~Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker

Imagine gathering at a local coffee shop with colleagues and friends. You have all decided to set aside time for positive, intentional conversation. The time to meet is open, informal and not bound to typical meeting norms or protocols. We are gathered around tables with hot cups of coffee, sticky notes embedded in journals and currents books we are reading. This meet-up may be enhancing the kernel of an idea shared during a faculty meeting sidebar. Perhaps, it’s an opportunity for a deeper dive from a blog or tweet you quickly shared. Regardless, the conversation is positive, inviting and rooted in harnessing dreams and thoughts into action. These are the conversations that can ignite inspiring things in service and support of kids, educators and school communities.  

This is the premise for the #JoyfulLeaders Slow Chat, an ongoing, positive conversation where everyone is invited to share, dream, and connect.

The power of the hashtag is simply immeasurable. It has become a tool for connections and conversations. Many hashtags are established to promote something, so spread an idea or concept, and as an outlet for expressing thoughts around something particular. I (Bethany) had a dream of creating a hashtag where people could go to seek inspiration, be surrounded by positivity, and use their voice to impact others. I hesitated for many months, mainly because I was afraid it would not spread. One morning, I opened up my blog site and began writing. That is when #JoyfulLeaders was born (read the post here).My hope for this hashtag is for it to be an ongoing conversation filled with depth, celebrations, perspective, and reminders of our purpose as educators. I want it to be even more than a conversation…I want it to be a movement. Some days there is a slow chat question or a challenge of something specific to share, but each day is open for all things positive.

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The opportunity of adding value to the #JoyfulLeaders conversation came about through a conversation with my friend and eduhero, Sean Gaillard. He is the brilliant mind behind #CelebrateMonday, a hashtag that is now a movement in education. We discovered the power behind both conversations, and each Monday these hashtags collide. It has been incredible to see the sharing and the great things educators are doing for kids.

F9B195B4-0B9A-47D2-BF95-E4B0EF83E328-8179-00000878B09CFC94_tmp (1)We (Sean and Bethany) want to take this a step further by collaborating to form a book study slow chat through #JoyfulLeaders. We are thrilled to facilitate this ongoing conversation on the newly released book, School Culture Recharged, by Steven Gruenert and Todd Whitaker. We feel this book is a game changer in our profession, and want to learn along with other educators through Twitter. The fantastic thing about a slow chat is that there are no specific times to be online. Respond when you can, and follow the conversation through the hashtag. Our hope is that people will share their thoughts regarding each question we push out, but also interact with others by retweeting, quoting tweets to add thoughts, sharing images, replying, etc. Daily reflection is huge when learning, and school culture is our biggest priority. We are better together, and through #JoyfulLeaders we can connect for kids.

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Be a Miracle Helper

Miracles come in moments. Be ready and willing. ~Wayne Dyer

Miracles happen every day, I am convinced of it. I am not always a witness, or involved in them. It occurred to me recently that I don’t see or experience them often because I do not have a habit of expecting and searching for them. Even more importantly, I have developed a habit of dismissing my responsibility of being prepared with an open mind and heart for the miracles in the moments of every day. I forget some days about the power I have as an educator to be intentional in serving others.

Will I be ready to help a miracle when an opportunity opens up? How can my gifts help manifest little miracles in the moments? I know God uses people to perform His miracles,. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to be a

MIRACLE HELPER! 

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Education is a profession where we expect the unexpected every day! No day is EVER the same, because kids are very unpredictable variables! This is one of the reasons I love the profession so much, because each day brings new learning, memories, and experiences. There is no assembly line in our schools, and if there were, the belt would wear out quickly!

We make a difference each and every day (positive or negative). Some days the impact is very evident, or is shared with you. Other days we never know what kind of difference we made. Little miracles happen in our schools that we take advantage of, and reflection can help us appreciate the miracles themselves and the role we play in them. A child with special needs recognizing his name for the first time…miracle. A teacher who discovered a student’s home life included physical abuse…miracle. A mom who accepts help from the school for clothing and food…miracle.

Whether it becomes clear to us or not, I believe there are a few simple things we can do each day to be a better miracle helper.

  • Be more intentional with your connections.
  • Observe and listen more.
  • Expect miracles every day.
  • Consider yourself as a gateway of service for miracles.
  • Remember that miracles can happen TO us, too!
  • Wake up each morning determined to see opportunities in every situation.
  • Pray and reflect.

A simple, yet focused list of “to dos” can make the difference in how we serve others, and how often the impossible happens in our lives. Be a miracle helper…the world needs them.

Bethany

What if Your Glitch is Your Niche?

 

Before I begin, let me apologize for the wordsmiths out there who know that ‘glitch’ and ‘niche’ rhyme, but look different. It sounds good though!

Glitch: a minor problem that causes a temporary setback 

Niche: a place, status, activity, or employment where someone is best fitted


Famous Failures

The above video is an example of several successful people who, at one time, had a glitch. Maybe their glitch was lack of confidence, or the need for more practice. Maybe it was lack of emotional support or a physical impairment. Some of the glitches are obvious to us, and most likely there were some that were never made known to anyone. These famous failures have a major connection…they all had setbacks. The great thing about a glitch is that it is temporary. We can find ways to compensate, correct, or cope with glitches. They are major when they are happening, and many times, life changing. Once we discover our niche within them, we can press on and be stronger becasue of the struggle.

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I am a very reflective person by nature. Those who know  me, know that I am continually thinking on experiences and how to improve in the future. Reflection always connects to change and the future in my world. I have glitches…many of them! We all have strengths and, yes, weaknesses. When we can begin to separate weaker areas of our life from the glitches, we can discover our niche. Our weaknesses can be seen as glitches, and our strengths are where we find our niche. That is the sweet spot where we have the most influence.

Here is how it happens for me…I turn my glitches into niches! (Or at least I am working on it)

                             Glitch                                Niche
Overwhelmed!  

office “stuff”… emails, paperwork, etc.

Visibility!

Take it with me and work in classrooms where the action is

Negativity!

Naysayers, attack on public ed, energy vampires

#JoyfulLeaders!

Surrounding myself with positive people, seeking opportunities

Mandates!

Emphasis on testing, competition, grading, etc.

Core Values!

Expressing beliefs even if alone, passion for the WHY

Fatigue!

Not enough time in the day

Procaffeinating!

Coffee, coffee, coffee!

Okay, last one was for fun, but happens to be true in Beth’s world. 🙂

Overwhelmed

We all get this way, both professionally and personally. Many times it is when these two worlds collide that we feel the most overwhelmed and ultimately, inadequate. In many ways I create this glitch in my world because I tend to put off the medial tasks that do not directly tie to connections with people. My solution for this is transferring my location in order to be productive, yet involved in the culture and climate of my school. Sometimes I engage more than others, depending on deadlines. For the most part I can perfom the medial task while still being engaged with what is around me in classrooms, hallways, the cafeteria, or playground. Do I still become overwhelmed? Absolutely! I have found that when a day goes by and I have had minimal connections with kids, staff, and families, I feel the most overwhelemed and unproductive.

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Negativity

Isn’t it incredible how powerful negativity is? One comment, one person out of many, one word can suck the energy from a room. Negative people are simply toxic. There is no other way to describe them. My “glitch” is that I try to save the naysayers, the pessimists, and the “gloom and doom” that oozes from them. The truth is, the choice lies within each person on how they choose to view the world. We can influence by providing consistent support and be a light in their world, but we cannot allow them to steal our joy. The time comes where we must continue our influence, but from a distance in order to preserve our own dispositions. #JoyfulLeaders has become my mantra, my filter, my tool for positivity in leadership. What started as a hashtag in my journal two years ago has grown into a movement. That is my niche.

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Mandates in Education

This one is TOUGH…one that I am struggling with on a daily basis. I have a major glitch…the tenacious and determined kind. My passion often gets the best of me, and I am sometimes unable to withhold my emotions based on what I believe. There is a fine line between becoming negative about the mandates that have woven themselves into our profession, and seizing every opportunity to make a difference with kids, teachers, and in education itself. When I “cross over” to the desolate side, my core beliefs pull me back out. The laws, mandates, and red tape in our profession does not have to define us. We can find positive ways to use them to our advantage in effort to improve learning in schools. I am learning to turn this glitch into a niche in my current reality. As I learn, my core beliefs strengthen. My voice strengthens. My passion grows. That can only add value to what we do.

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Fatigue

One word. Procaffeinate! I am a master of dominating this glitch and turning it into a niche! Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

Seriously…do more of what gives you energy, whether that is sleep, excercise, eating healthy, or a devotional…DO MORE OF IT! If you do not have an outlet…find one. NOW. Don’t wait. Make it your goal to retire healthy one day.

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Find a glitch today, and then find your niche. #JoyfulLeaders do this almost without thinking, but we need to pause and reflect now and then to make sure we are on the right track. A strong personal learning network helps me do just that.

Thank you to all of the #JoyfulLeaders who fill my bucket every day, accept my glitches, and help me find my niche.

Bethany img_7564-1

Moving from a Classroom of Kids to a Community of Learners


Discipline and classroom management are two major components of school culture. Within each classroom is a community that runs differently from the next room down the hall. All communities together make up one large community, each contributing to the school’s overall culture. Neither can be taken lightly, and when one isn’t in place, the environment for leanring is simply not effective.
Every educator and parent/guardian has their own take on discipline. Some equate it to punishment, others see it as teaching. Some see it as a combination of the two. Discipline is most successful in our schools when strong relationships exist within an environment where clear expecations are set and procedures are in place. Most importantly, the child’s voice must play a role in classroom community. When these four concepts are woven into each day, a classroom of of kids becomes a community of learners.
When relationships are authentic and trusting, procedures are in place that kids understand and value, and they play an active role in decisions about classroom structure, will misbehavior be prominent? Will we need to “discipline” kids continually if these things are part of the classroom and school culture?

Strong Relationships

img_5409-1 Relationships, relationships, relationships. We all hear on a daily basis how important they are. We all know that if we do not love kids first, they are almost impossible to teach…but…are we intentional enough about personal relationships with individual kids in a classroom and school? Are there times when we go through the motions and do business, rather than authentically connecting with all kids? The answer to both questions is no doubt a big YES, because we all have days where we are not at our best. We have all made the mistake of missing out on an opportunity to connect and make a difference because of our current focus or mood. I look back on times where I have done this, and I am ashamed. I am remorseful and have deep regret. We are human and all mistakes, but I never want to have regret regarding relationships with others. Kids need us to be on our game and at our best every single day. A bad day will happen now and then, but what if some classrooms have mulitple bad days? Consider the damage that is done and the missed opportuities within those classrooms. THIS keeps me up at night.

Building strong relationships is a nonnegotiable. We simply cannot have teachers in classrooms who refuse to connect and choose to stay business like. It is no longer acceptable. Every educator needs to continually reflect and ask themselves,

“Am I THAT educator? Am I the ONE people wouldn’t want their child to have? Am I less preferred over other teachers because of my interaction with kids?” 

Question your own intentions by reflecting on them regularly. Keep yourself in check when it comes to strong and lasting relationships with children in your classroom and school. Don’t be THAT educator!


Clear Expectations

ad0b6-img_5675Setting clear and high expectations is nothing new to what is required by teachers. There are general “rule” posters available for purchase that list expectations, and some make their own to post before a new school year begins. Safety procedures/expectations are important and exist no matter what a class is like, or who a child is. Other expectations such as how we treat each other, how we ask for help, how we best learn, etc. are discussions that need to happen with all involved. Expectations that are preset will ultimately fail because of lack of clarity and lack of ownership.  Consider the following common expectation in classrooms and schools:

Treat each other with respect.

How vague is that? How many interpretations or understandings of that phrase can you think of? Kids may see it in one or more of the following ways:

  • Don’t be mean. (will that look different to each child?)
  • Be nice. (see above!)
  • Use your manners. (Do all kids know the same manners, or any?)
  • Don’t touch.
  • Be quiet. (How many kids are told this at home… a lot?)

As stated above regarding expectations, unless it is modeled for kids and consistent throughout a school, it will never become part of the culture. Kids will unintentially receive mixed signals. We must be clear by modeling appropriate responses when kids are not treating each other respect so they can learn how to resolve conflicts without misbehaving in return.

Empathy is the golden key to the mansion of respect!

Clear expectations and empathy go hand in hand. When kids and the teacher are seeking to understand where another person is coming from, patience takes over. Patient kids are less likely to lash out at others. Respect becomes more defined, and kids begin to understand that it is so much more than “being nice”. Expectations regarding tone of voice, body language, nonverbal cues, reciprocal discourse, collaboration, and honoring someone’s space are all areas which cause misbehavior and conflict among kids. Dicussing these by attaching them to situations or scenarios will support kids’ comprehension of the learning community. When the majority of kids are knowledgable about these aspects of respect, a classroom begins to transform into a family.

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Procedures, Procedures, Procedures

The beginning of every school year is spent going over “the rules”. Kids are continually told what to do and when to do it. There are many procedures that must be in place in order to keep people safe, and those procedures are the nonnegotiables of school! The important thing to remember is to discuss with students WHY these nonnegotiables are in place. Telling kids to do something and not explaining the purpose behind it can cause lack of trust and unwillingness to follow procedures that will keep everyone safe. Furthermore, explaining the purpose helps kids understand their role in having a safe community–that it isn’t just about them individually , but about the collective group. Kids need to understand, “When I follow procedures, I am making a contribution to my environment. I am adding value to it.”

We often assume that kids know specific procedures and what they look like. We must never assume this! For example, let’s consider the following expectation:

We always walk quietly in the hallway.

Consider how many ways this statement may be interpreted!

  • My feet need to be quietly walking, but I can still talk.
  • I am always quiet, even when I am giggling with a friend!
  • Quiet doesn’t mean silent so I can still talk in line.
  • I know quietly means NO talking and having quiet feet!
  • I see grown ups talking loudly in the hallway, so I guess I can talk as well.

So many interpretations or understandings of that phrase exist. Unless it is modeled for kids, and consistent throughout a school, this procedure will never be a clear one for anyone, including teachers. There will always be question on what walking queitly in hallway looks and sounds like. We must be clear by modeling appropriate actions, how to use materials, transitions, voice level, collaboration,  etc. Kids do not automatically know or remember to “act appropriately” in these areas. It takes discussion and demonstration for them to learn the appropriate behaviors.

When I was teaching kids in a classroom, I had a procedure for everything, from how to put a cap back on a dry erase marker (if you don’t hear the pop, it isn’t closed and will dry out!), to sharpening pencils, to visiting the restroom, etc. Much time was invested in modeling and practicing these procedures, as well as reteaching them after weekends and long breaks. The time spent came back to me tenfold because we didn’t waste time during transitions. Kids knew what and how to do routine things in the classrooms, and helped remind each other if someone forgot. The best teachers I know have very clear expectations for kids, but also communicate with kids in a manner that says (in kid friendly terms, of course!),

“I respect you. I care for you. I want you to be safe, and I want our classroom to be an awesome place. You are a contributor. You matter in our class family. Here is how you add value, and why.”

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Student Voice

When we silence ourselves for a given time, and intentionally listen to kids…WOW. They can tell us so much about what they need in order to be successful. They can also teach us about ourselves and what we need for our own growth as educators. We are here for them…if there were no students, there would be no need for us! Getting caught up in “managing” a classroom can happen quickly, sometimes before we even realize it. Managing is easier than leading. It is much more safe, comfortable, and likely less time consuming.

Managers of classrooms will have a class of students. The kids will be compliant, safe, and orderly. There will be clearly defined expectations and procedures, but not all kids will understand why they are in place. What they do know is that it will be considered a bad choice if a rule is broken, and there will be a consequence. Classrooms led by managers generate lots of kids who do what they are told, and a few who rebel against most rules (probably because they do not understand why they are important). Do you know teachers who are managers? We all do. They run their classroom like a business, and it can appear to be effective at a glance. Beware of the MANAGER TRAP!

img_0617Leaders of classrooms have a very different perspective…they see their classroom as a community of learners, people who add value to the class family as a whole. They are listened to, and more importantly, they are heard. Many decisions regarding how the classroom works are made as a collective group, with the lead learner and the children problem solving and being proactive together. When kids have a voice and an opinion that is valued, it is simply amazing what they can do! Their disposition on learning and school in general will shift to a very positive outlook. Student voice allows kids to build confidence, take risks in a safe environment, choose how they best learn, and what they need in place in order to be their very best.

Are we listening enough? Are our kids being heard? I ask myself that continually. Managers run a tight ship, but leaders empower and produce captains! Which would you rather be a member of?

Classroom to Community…I would want my own kids to be involved in a community…a family who contributes to the community within the classroom and the entire school. All kids deserve that.

Bethany

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