Category: Latest Episodes

Lessons Learned From Coaching U4 Soccer – Episode 032

Lessons Learned From Coaching U4 Soccer – Episode 032

 

 

This past Saturday officially concluded my first season coaching U4 soccer. Well, it was actually the first time I coached anything really. It was a great experience and the take aways and lessons learned were tremendous.

I felt that not only did I grow as a person, but I am also confident that the lessons learned can be translated to my classroom.

lesson 1: children are led by attention and their needs

Whatever a child feels that they “need” is what captures their attention. We may even argue if it indeed is a real need, but if they feel they need it, it is what they will hold onto. Their attention will be focused on just this. Getting children to pay attention to you, means paying more attention to them.

 

lesson 2: practice, practice, practice

Kids need consistency; it is vital and essential. This consistency is across the board! The most consistent their lives, the safer they feel, the better they will perform and understand the world around them. Creating a consistent environment will create trust in you and personal growth. The key to this consistency is expecting more of myself 1st, before I expect anything from them.  The messages I send them have to be consistent, otherwise I can derail what they expect of me, and throw off my kids as well.

Adults are very sensitive to distrust and inconsistency, kids are too!

 

lesson 3: its all about me, making it all about them

As a coach, I have to be 100% present and accountable. I have to make sure that I’m on time, have a plan of action, and make sure that my players are using their time wisely and practicing in a way that will make them better. In order for me to do this, I have to be hard on myself and hold myself accountable to the things that I say and do.

And when I do this, something magical happens.

All that energy translates into my players. They then start to focus on themselves and try to be the best version of themselves that they can be.  For those players who are not as focused, I don’t take their lack of attention or effort personally. As long as I know that I am giving them my all, the responsibility for stepping up to the plate is on them.

When you know yourself, you can give of yourself.

Cash Out Kids – Episode 031

Cash Out Kids – Episode 031

As we approach the end of the school year, as the state tests are distributed, and as we slowly wind down to the end of school, it is very easy for all of us (teachers included) to loose sight of the fact that… school isn’t over!
 
Yet, around this time, we start to see the clues and signs that yes, the clock is winding down. The biggest clue; behavior. Around this time we begin to see complacency, apathy towards grades, and a rise in misbehavior. And life, like education, has a wide range of influences. To narrow down the list of the things that affect behavior to “one thing” means to ignore the collective influence of society (I write this on 4/20 the anniversary of the columbine massacre), age, socioeconomic trends, etc.
 
And what do we call the students who choose to display this type of behavior? The Cash Out Kids.
 
You have either seen or heard of these kids before; the kids who refuse to do anything. Who seem to have no regard for others, who become more and more rebellious as the days pass. Why? Because at some point, they have made the decision to take their losses and cash out.
Let me first explain that I teach a Forensic Science course for Seniors at a STEM Magnet high school. This means that I have a wide range of students in my classroom. Which means that on a daily basis, much like you, I teach to and reach kids that are all over the bell curve in abilities. I understand that this might seem “dramatic”, but the reality is that, there will be a small percentage of your population that will refuse to try. It might be more evident in at the High School level, but based on my conversations and experiences with kids and adults who interact with kids, I feel pretty confident with my statement
The big question; why? Why do we have kids that refuse? And why is it that towards the end of the year, they all seem to agree to act up at the same time?
 
I cannot offer any data to support my next unscientific observation. What I can say for certain is that the end of the year is a difficult time for students. For those who put in the work all year long, the end of the school year is a time to reap the rewards. They have put in the time and energy required to succeed and can now relax some, coasting on their earlier efforts.
 
For those that are in the middle, the idea of crossing the finish line is the only thing that matters. They don’t care what the official grade is so long as it is a passing grade. For the majority of our students, understanding that they have passed and can move on to the next grade is a reward. They are not so preoccupied with status as they are in making sure they are not downgraded or held back.
 
For the few that don’t “care” enough about anything, much less their grades and their school standing, this is as good as time as any for them to decide to stop putting in effort towards their education. The “attitude” on their part is not apathy but rather a signal that something has gone wrong. The “I don’t care attitude” is more than just youthful hubris; its a signal. 
Without hope and without reaping the rewards (yes, passing is a reward) of others these students decide to throw caution to the wind, and cash out. They make the decision that letting go and walking away with whatever they have is in their best interest. As a teacher, nothing is more heartbreaking.
So what do you do?
The first thing to do is understand that when a student decides to cash out; its because he or she feels that’s in his best interest. He or she sees that as being their best option. Which means that the adults in the lives have failed them. No child should feel that abandoning their education is in their best interest. What they are lacking is someone who can show them that its never too late to turn things around.
Which is true! Every year on the first of the month, adults around the world make promises and resolve to make “this” year, the year they . . .
If we, as adults, live with a carrot of hope dangling before us; children deserve nothing less.
Every child deserves to have an adult in their lives that is crazy about them. Every. Child.
Regardless of their behavior, as the adults in their lives, it is our responsibility to show them that it is never too late to turn things around.
So what do you do with a cash out kid? Everything you can. Because it’s not just about the child; it’s about everyone else who’s watching.
For every one cash out kid, you have a classroom full of kids who are watching to see what you do. The behavior you model for those students, the respect you show that one child, is what your other students will learn. They way you treat that child is a lesson to the other children on how they should treat each other. And in the worst case scenario, should that child decide to cash out completely, you have taught everyone a valuable lesson; you, as a teacher, will not give up on your students. You will have given them all hope, solidified trust in you, and have sent that cash out kid a message of hope. If not a hope in themselves, a hope in you.
Emotional Fitness: Why I make friends with the roughest kid in class – Episode 030

Emotional Fitness: Why I make friends with the roughest kid in class – Episode 030

There is no doubt that the hardest part of teaching is the emotional labor we perform, day in and day out. That is, the lifting of our students spirits, keeping a straight face when they do something bad, even though it was really really funny. Doing our best to not get visibly angry and frustrated when our students misbehave. Understanding that everyone has a bad day, and doing our best to not punish our kids for pushing our buttons, knowing full well, that we may be the only person in their life who will hold their ground, and give them a safe boundary to live in.

This emotional labor will usually compliment the culture and mindset of our school and of our immediate peers. I teach at a Magnet Math, Science, and Technology high school with a population that runs very near 3,000 students. Even though we are a magnet school and we have various STEM related programs, we also teach students who are not in these programs and are taking on-level coursework. Often times I pick up clues from various teachers and students that these on-level students are not “worth their time” to invest energy in. The main reason being that these students will not go above and beyond what others expect from them. This is by no means the culture of our school.

The majority of our teachers make it their priority to see every child, no matter what their background or story, as their own; and to build affirming relationships with every student.

This is the meat of our profession.

The relationships that we build with out students, and with each other, makes this thing we call education, flow and function. And if we are to perform emotional labor, we must be aware of our emotional fitness. For teachers, we can define emotional fitness as:

The ability to understand our emotions in our classroom and engage our students with the most appropriate emotion at the moment.

I want to emphasize this very important point: Emotional fitness is not a reaction.

To respond to a negative situation is a reflex; which is not thoughtful and more instinctual. It is also not intuitive, nor is it evaluated thoroughly to make sure the negative situation is given the appropriate response. Reactions and reflexes work like that.

However, just like a muscle, our emotional fitness must be worked out consistently. And just like a muscle, our gains and strength come from resistance.

There are too many adults (teachers included) who easily dismiss children and students for a variety of reasons. Children are not always easy to understand, they do not listen, and many adults do not have the patience or the emotional fitness to understand them. The resistance to ignore and dismiss is a sign of your emotional fitness. Are you fit enough to put your own negative feelings and frustrations aside in order to help a student?

Sarcasm is used quite a bit in the classroom, but deploying sarcasm effectively also requires an affirming relationship. Mainly because the safety net of knowing that a sarcastic teacher really does care about his/her students makes the sarcastic hit seem not so rough. Without really knowing the receiver or thrower of a sarcastic comment, those comments can be difficult to catch and deal with.

Resistance then becomes the standard. But not a resistance TO someone else or their need, but rather a resistance to OUR OWN shortcomings and misgivings. You see, the truest test of your emotional fitness in the classroom is to continue to support the unsupportable student. To show kindness to the least kind. To not display anger to the angriest in your group. To show compassion and appropriate attention to those who would prefer to be hidden in plain sight. And to display unconditional love to those who for many, have already been deemed unlovable.

My emotional fitness is why I make friends with the roughest kids in my classroom; why I place an extra emphasis on making sure that these kids get the appropriate attention and affirmation that they deserve. Because resisting the urge to throw in the towel, to judge, and to prosecute a child who (more then likely) already has a difficult time is to be compassionate and kind is to say to the unloveable; you are worthy.

And it sends the message to the rest of my students. If I put this much energy into the “difficult” kid, then that means he will put that much energy into my own relationship with him (you). Which leads to feelings of safety, agency, and care. Which leads to a nurturing classroom environment.

We should never, ever, dismiss or ignore any of our students. We must always resist the impulse to throw in the towel. Even if it does mean we have to repeat ourselves 11 times, or bring extra pencils to give away to “those” kids, or tell that child for the 4th time to put away his phone, or stay that much longer after school to listen to what “that” child wanted to tell you. It is the emotional labor you put into your classroom, to make sure every single one knows they can, they will, and that they can and will do for themselves, that makes one emotionally fit.

Growth comes from resistance.

Model resistance for your students, and watch them grow.

And at the end of every lesson, every classroom, every experience…

Seal It With YOUR Smile

🙂

Why All Teachers Should Make at Least 90k/year: Emotional Labor – Episode 029

Why All Teachers Should Make at Least 90k/year: Emotional Labor – Episode 029

Emotional labor is an invisible but powerful force that is felt but unseen to the inexperienced eye. It’s why moms are so good at making you feel better without applying medicine, and why it doesn’t bother you that you scraped your knee with dad, because you had such a great time (which mom cleaned and put a bandaid on, and dad just rinsed with water)

More often that not, emotional labor at home and at work is done by women.

That is, the labor that most men do not think about; keeping the peace at home, making sure the kids don’t get upset because there’s no more ice cream, calling to get multiple quotes, planning the office holiday party, baby shower, and remembering everyone’s birthdays, anniversaries, food allergies, previous report card grades, resolving conflict, and why you shouldn’t talk about dogs in front of your neighbor, who just lost his puppy.

But when it comes to the classroom… Teachers, Coaches, Admin, Support Staff, Male and Female… We all perform Emotional Labor

As a Teacher, Emotional Labor is the majority of the work we actually perform in the classroom. It’s the silent lifting of spirits, when our students feel down. It is the pushing of pencils, when the little hands wrapped around them do not move.

Its the exhausting last minute push,

the pat on the back that you don’t want to give but you can’t not give,

and you know you need to give,

because that one child has not had enough pats, to motivate him or herself, forward.

This is not to negate, or ignore, that our students, our kids, emotionally labor intensive work, because they do! However, if we are to look at our students as Emotional Labor-ers… as in, those who are ready to perform this type of work; we have a serious staffing problem.

Uninspired, unmotivated, depressed, hungry, tired and afraid is what sometimes walks into our classrooms and sits down in our prearranged chairs. This happens daily, to many of our students. Not because of what happens at home or in their personal life, but because of the Labor that a teacher did NOT perform, in preparation for their students.

The Emotional Labor we put into our classrooms begins before the first bell has rung; it is our motivation for teaching, our emotional and psychological fitness that we walk into with every morning. It is a fitness that we need to maintain consistently, especially when our students become emotionally “heavy”.

This is the framework required for student success; the one that the teacher works at, every minute, of every day.

It is the smile our students see in the morning, and the smile they see when they leave our presence; the smile that seals the positive experience we shared together.

It is the repetitive “lifting” of our students spirits when they seem lost and confused. Of psychologically holding their hand through a dangerous equation or a fear inducing stanza. Removing the fog of confusion as to why a word is spelled that way, and clearing the cluttered mess in the minds of those, who’s past experiences have such a tight grip on their psyche, that is prevents them from moving forward.

It is the understanding that instead of being another stumbling block, another barrier; you are there to serve your students; serve their mind and help them grow into the people that they wish to become.

Which leads to expectations of our students.

We want from our students…

We see compliance and “listening” as an expectation. We want them to listen to us! We want them to comply, to remember… to give us our own form or version of a “reward”

We feel that it is sometimes a reflection upon us! When in reality, their response to us is just that; their response. They are human beings, creatures with a heart and a mind and a unique soul. There is no nine month assembly line that people pop out of and are “wired” to perform or act in a specific way. If humans are not created like that, then our expectations of our students should be the same. As a teacher, the only expectation we should have of our students, is to learn, and to grow.

Teaching is a selfless act; it is one of the truest acts of love one can ever bestow. It is selfless because you leave the other person better than when you have left them. It is purposeful, and it does not require the other person to give back to you, not right then, not now, not in the future, not ever.

There should not be an expectation from our students. The only expectation from our students is that they learn, that they grow, and that during that valuable time in which we spend with each other, that we both walk away better, more enlightened, more enriched, because we added value to each others lives. That the experience was meaningful, joyful, and fulfilling.

The person we should have the highest expectations of; ourselves.

The person we should consistently check, recheck, and evaluate; ourselves.

The person who is (literally) creating neural pathways of cognitive, emotional, and psychological growth in our children, through a safe and nurturing framework (classroom experience), where the brains of the next generation are being built; us

We, the Teachers, are Brain Builders

And in building these brains, we are creating the emotional, psychological, and cognitive framework of our society, and of our world.

This is not work that should be left to the idle hand, to the uninspired, or to the uncaring. This is not the work of someone who “likes summer off”. This is a labor of love. A selfless love.

And that is why Teachers should make 90,000 a year; because you wouldn’t let your child’s leg be operated on, by someone who has not devoted their life to serving others and was compensated adequately for their labor.

Someone who was able to live free of economic hardship, unburdened, and was thus able to provide the best care possible.

Why should your child’s heart, mind, and soul, be any cheaper?

Ep 28: The Conversation – PART III

Ep 28: The Conversation – PART III

In this 3rd part of The Conversation Series, I wrap up what I believe is the conversation we should be having right now regarding education. Recent tragedies have shed a new light upon the fact that the educational system is failing our students. We can no longer sit back and wait for lawmakers, researchers, or other stakeholders to address these issues.

In Part I, I talk about the classroom itself and the new role of the classroom, in a world where information is freely available and easily accessible. 

In Part II, I talk about our students and how they are facing serious life altering stressors, to which they have very little control over. No matter what the difficulty, every child should be seen as an opportunity for growth.

Part III is about the Teachers.

WE, The Teachers, are THE most powerful agents of change in the educational system, in the building, and in our classrooms. Yes, our calling is to help our students succeed, advance, learn, and grow. However, as the teacher in the classroom, that spends an significant amount of time with them, face to face; any improvements in their learning and growth happens through us.

THIS is the hardest lesson to understand and accept because learning involves defeat.

Learning is a process.

Learning involves screwing up and getting things wrong. Some of the greatest lessons we will learn in our lives will come from agonizing and painful failures. As a teacher and the adult in the room, we are judge and jury to the beautiful little humans before us. Everyday we find another example in which there are no set guidelines and no manual in which we can reliably depend on.

At a cost of $2.2 BILLION dollars a year in the US teachers are leaving the profession due to high stress, poor working conditions, “bad kids”, poor support, low wages, etc. 40 – 50% of new teachers leave after five years. In other words; defeat.

The emotional and psychological work that is performed by teachers on a daily basis is hardly talked about, much less recognized. Yet it is the most important in the classroom, and creates the most positive impact for our students. There isn’t a state assessment, or an ipad, or a worksheet, or a powerpoint that will significantly impact the lives of our students. It is, and will always be, the teacher.

So if teachers want less stress, better working conditions, “better kids” more support, higher wages, and not look for other work after 5 years, what needs to change isn’t a system; its us.

Teachers, yup, you. Don’t look away, i’m talking to you!

If we want this to change, we have to change. The first thing we need to change; our mindset.

Everyday, I need you… Wait.

Everyday, the world needs you to say or read the following:

“Today I will build the emotional, psychological, and educational foundation of our society. I will learn and grow with my students and fellow teachers and create the human infrastructure in which we all live and thrive in.”

Everyday.

Everyday, I need you to believe this. Not because its BS, but because its true. And if you don’t walk into your classroom, and own it, no one else will.

You are important

You are valuable

You are needed

You are critical to the success of our society and our species.

And if you walk into your classroom, everyday, and believe this with all of your heart and mind, your language and actions will follow

And when your thoughts, language, and actions are congruent (as in, they are in line with each other)

You are unstoppable.

You are a force to be reckoned with.

And when your fellow teachers are all congruent with each other, and your building is congruent with each other, and our society is congruent with each other… that’s a tidal wave of change.

The hardest lesson to learn and accept is the one we need the most. Recite this mantra, believe it, and watch the magic of the human sprit contaminate your students, as you become the rockstar I know you can be, and your students want you to be:

“Today I will build the emotional, psychological, and educational foundation of our society. I will learn and grow with my students and fellow teachers and create the human infrastructure in which we all live and thrive in, sealing every interaction with my students, with my smile”

Ep 27: The Conversation – PART TWO

Ep 27: The Conversation – PART TWO

In part two of the conversation, we discuss our students and take a macroscopic snapshot of where they are and what they are going through.

They are facing different pressures than before, and because of that, our students have different needs

There is no sense in trying to judge the merits of these needs; it is more important to identify, adjust, and meet their needs as much as we can

At the end of the day, it is most important that we see each child, every student, as an opportunity.

An opportunity for growth.

 

 

 

Ep 26: The Conversation – Part 1

Ep 26: The Conversation – Part 1

The role of the classroom, and school, has changed dramatically in our society.

What is the NEW role of the classroom, and the school, in our NEW reality, and in the future?

Before information was so freely accessible, the school house was one of the very few places one could have access to information (someone had to teach you to read before you could access the knowledge in books!). Information was power; and access to information was limited.

Those days are gone.

With the swipe of a finger, our students have access to every single piece of information that we teach in the classroom. The knowledge we wish to share with them is free and accessible.

The school and the classroom as places of learning are irrelevant. Those days are over.

Safety is of the utmost importance when it comes to students. And the political debate over what constitutes safety continues… But has anyone cared to ask what makes our students safe? What does a “safe” school mean for them?

A safe school, for them, means that they are receiving messages of AGENCY, SAFETY, AND CARE

AGENCY – “I WILL DO”  When your students feel supported, they can achieve anything.

SAFETY – “I CAN DO” This isn’t just shutting the door and armored guards. Do our students feel safe to be themselves? Do our students feel safe to raise their hands in class?

CARE – “I CAN DO AND WILL DO FOR MYSELF” Do our students feel loved? Do they feel cared for and looked after? Every child deserves to be loved.

THIS is the NEW role of the classroom, of school as a system. School no longer is a place of learning, it is now a place of GROWING. A place where teachers and administrators focus on the person FIRST and all of the students receive messages of AGENCY, SAFETY, AND CARE.

Our schools are more important than ever, and their importance will continue to rise. WE must ensure that our students are loved, supported, and feel safe to be the best version of themselves that they can be. 50 million children go through the public education system every year; students of diverse backgrounds who come together to grow.

When our children grow together and are supported and loved; we all win. The education system is a place where the emotional and psychological infrastructure of our society is built.

Let’s grow.

 

Random Acts of Kindness – Episode 025

Random Acts of Kindness – Episode 025

This is Random Acts of Kindness Week!

I hope you take it upon yourself to be kind to yourself FIRST…

But also to be kind to your fellow TEACHERS!

And most important, showing and modeling kindness towards and for your STUDENTS!

 

It is the most important lesson you could ever TEACH!

A Safe Haven – Episode 024

A Safe Haven – Episode 024

There was a picture I recently saw showing a real life cowboy

The Manliest of Men

His physical exterior (I would imagine) matched his mental and emotional interior

No doubt that man was a man or resilience and strength.

We want our kids to be resilient, to be tough, to be “tough enough”

We feel that our experiences made us who we are today, the trials and tribulations, so if our kids go through those same trials and tribulations, then they will build the resilience and inner strength that we want for them and that we wish (and think) we have for ourselves

But the world has changed

The mental and emotional strength that was required came, to a degree, comes from the physical demands of their lifestyles. They developed their inner strength through hard physical work

And those days are gone

The majority of society does not participate in the physical labor that was once required.  However the mental toughness and the emotional inner strength that was needed to live a physically demanding lifestyle is still needed.

So how can we help our youth? How can we help build up a generation of children, who have the mental stamina and emotional inner strength to battle the harsh reality of the world?

Through kindness and acceptance.

We, the adults, must model the inner strength that we want our children to have

WE, the adults, must show the capacity that we have, to absorb the slings and arrows that the youth of today has do deal with, whether its pressures on social media, deal with anxiety and stress.

WE must show them, and model for them, that whatever they throw our way, we can take. And by accepting them, faults and all, we show them kindness

 

That kindness is the nourishing ground from which courage comes from

 

And when our students and our children find adults who model kindness, and who makes them feel accepted, that protects them from the anxiety, the fear, the depression, the constant thoughts, the emotional and mental thunderstorms that comes down on them. Whether it was self imposed or not.

Just like the cowboys of days gone past, who endured all kinds of conditions and environments, to make sure they got their jobs done. So should we, the adults, make sure that not matter what kind of storm our kids bring down upon us, we must model the inner strength to persevere and to thrive, and to rise above.

Because your kids, your students, are always watching you. And they are learning if you accept them, if you validate them, and if you have the inner strength that they are seeking for themselves.

 

They are looking for the hero within themselves, through your eyes… and the safe heaven to find themselves

A Win Is A Win – Episode 023

A Win Is A Win – Episode 023

Courage Through Kindness

How many of us have encountered a student who has been “given” so many chances, that at some point you decide in your mind and in your heart that you have done enough…

So you quit on that student.

I have encountered these students… one in particular. And as I stood at that precipice, looking down at this student because “here we are again”; where others would walk away, I did not quit.

I pressed on.

In pressing on, I showed my student that I would not give up on him, and that I cared about him.

In pressing on, I modeled for my student the perseverance that I wished he would have, to stop his self-defeating behavior.

Turns out; he had more perseverance and grit than I imagined.

He didn’t know it and others didn’t care to uncover it.

A big question today is; how do we make our kids “tougher” and develop and grow kids with “Grit” in order to survive the world?

When the REAL question we should be asking ourselves is; how can adults be less mean, less aggressive, and less crappy?

The secret to raising “tough” kids? The hidden key to raising a generation of resilient children? The cryptic code to unlocking GRIT in our kids?

Kindness

When you provide the emotional and psychological nourishment that your students needs, through kindness… Courage begins to develop within our students.

The courage to face fears, anxieties, real world problems, and themselves.

When their inner courage begins to shine through, and you see them through kind eyes, you will begin to understand who they are.

Who they are is a conglomeration of different experiences; losses and wins.

Not your wins

Theirs

Kindness is a filter, which when used, allows you to see the truth about someone.

When you apply kindness… you can see their wins

And A Win, Is A Win

JC

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