Tag: #CTK

Want To Save Education? Stop Making It All About The Kids – Episode 039

Want To Save Education? Stop Making It All About The Kids – Episode 039

It took me a few years of teaching in the classroom to discover EXACTLY how to save our educational system. One day, I had an epiphany; an Ah-HA moment that changed my life.

Stop making it all about the kids.

As a parent, the best thing I can do for my children is to take care of myself and bring the best version of myself to them on a daily basis. Unconditional love and acceptance flow from a person who knows how to love themselves first.
That’s not what we bring to our classroom daily.
The classroom is filled instead with fearful adults who are afraid of their own students.
Nothing can grow properly planted in fear.
It’s time to flip education from the inside out.
It’s time for a seismic shift in our beliefs as to what is acceptable and what is possible.
Its time for our focus to shift toward the adults in the room; teachers.
Teachers are the most important person in the classroom; not the students.
It’s time to stop treating teachers as teachers. It’s time to acknowledge who they really are and what they really do.
Teachers are brain builders; they build the brains of every human being in our society. They, literally, make connections within
the minds of children, that shape and form future humans.
Teachers are neural architects; they help shape the minds that will inhabit our society.
Teachers have an ENORMOUS responsibility and charge. When successful they brain build with love in their hearts; because they have love within themselves. A successful teacher takes care of themselves and brings to the classroom the BEST version of themselves everyday.
Successful teachers are Queen Bees
Successful teachers MODEL self care, unconditional love, and acceptance.
Successful teachers are successful adults; they know they are enough
We need Queen Bees
That is my mission.
Episode 034 – Special Guest Jake Widmann (Author and Coach)

Episode 034 – Special Guest Jake Widmann (Author and Coach)

Great teachers are not JUST found in a classroom…

I am extremely excited about my interview with Jake Widmann… Author of the book (SEPT 2018) Up: Lessons of Adversity, Hitting Bottom, and Choosing A Life That Matters

Some of our main topics:

  • how he was “that kid” in our classroom… the one that drives you nuts! Jakes gives us some amazing insight into why “that kid” likes to push buttons…
  • the ifonlys and how they are actually a form of interference, or static, that gets in the way of us seeing our true selves and how we put ourselves in the difficult positions we find ourselves…
  • Jake defines self awareness in a way that is not only understandable, but extremely practical…
  • what self care means and why its so important that we, who serve others, take care of ourselves…
  • his favorite quote and how that applies to creating the teaching environment that best supports us and nurtures us!

Great teachers are not JUST found in a classroom…

Enjoy this awesome interview!

WANT MORE JAKE?

IG: sologood.co   AND    jakewidmann

FB: Jake Widmann

www.sologood.co

 

Challenge Yourself – Episode 033

Challenge Yourself – Episode 033

Summer Is HERE!

(for most of us anyways)

While it’s a great time to relax, sleep in, walk around in your pajamas all day, and go full slob… it is an opportunity for two things which we should not take lightly and we should appreciate.

Opportunity To Recharge

Without question; teachers need the summer off. Above our contractual obligations, we put in an enormous amount of emotional labor into our daily practice of teaching. From being able to keep a straight face when something funny yet horrible has happened in the classroom (funny burps and passing gas anyone?) to the hard conversations we have to sometimes have with our fellow teachers AND students. Without question we need to recharge ourselves because we give so much of ourselves for those 9 months. It is necessary.

Opportunity To Challenge Ourselves 

When you are a teacher, you are also a disruptor. A disruptor of the greatest kind because you are causing dissonance. You are responsible for purposefully causing a specific mental conflict in the minds of your students! This is what you do! You create a conflict that causes uncertainty, confusion, frustration, and utterly madness!

When you teach someone 1+1 = 2 or a new skill, you are purposefully disrupting their knowledge of the world around them. And while your intentions might be good and well meaning, it doesn’t stop them from being a disruption.

It’s very similar to building a muscle.

Building a muscle does require activity!

When you do a push up or lift a weight, that in itself causes you to T-E-A-R the muscle you just worked out. It’s the soreness that you feel after any intense workout. But that T-E-A-R in the muscle isn’t just for the sake of pain…

It’s an opportunity.

Because of this now existing tear… you can now B-U-I-L-D muscle. That pain and that tear created an opportunity that didn’t exist. It is NOW the opportunity to create and to build what did not exist before.

Its when you put down the weights, when you stop running, or when you are done with you routine… that is when you are actually building muscle!

The recovery phase is when your body begins to focus on rebuilding what is torn… on filling in this newly created opportunity with new growth and new muscle.

This is why proper nutrition and rest is so important when starting a fitness program.

Without the proper nutrition and rest, all of the work and effort put into a workout will be for nothing because you are not maximizing the opportunity you created in the workout! Rest and eating right is essential to any fitness program. Its where true growth can occur.

So what does this mean for us teachers enjoying our time off?

It means we need to challenge ourselves.

Teaching is an exciting and forgiving profession (for most) because if you do with your heart in the right place, you not only get to come out of it stronger and more experienced… but you also become a better person because of it. But this can only happen if you challenge yourself!

It means that while we tear our collective emotional and psychological muscles for the sake of our kids… We also need to do this for ourselves!

So while you spend your summer in recovery mode getting your much needed break, make sure to do something for yourself, that challenges you, pushes you, creates some healthy dissonance, and helps you see the world in a new light.

Start a hobby that you might have put off, work in your garden, learn to paint furniture, learn beekeeping (these are all things I like to do :), or perhaps expand your circle of relationships and start to build new ones! Whatever you decide to, do something that challenges YOU!

If we want our kids, our students, to overcome the dissonance that we create for them in the classroom, then it is important that WE, the teachers, model this behavior for them. That our thoughts, language, and actions in the classroom are infused with this knowledge, so that we can respond appropriately when they struggle or when they face a difficult challenge.

It is easy for those of us in the classroom to forget that we are a disruptive force in the classroom. We are directly involved in changing the brain chemistry of our students. We purposefully disrupt their perception of the world. Even if they are the beneficiaries of this disruption, it is a disruption none the less.

And when we help our students make sense of the world, we call it learning.

And when we hold their hand through this disruption, we call it kindness.

And when we hold their hand through this disruption, drawing from our own challenging experiences to use in helping our students… we call this teaching.

Plan in your seat

Teach on your feet

And with every interaction that you have with your students.

Every talk, lesson, activity, challenge…

make sure you seal it…

… with your smile

🙂

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

🙂

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.

 

 

 

Learning Is An Organic Experience – Episode 022

Learning Is An Organic Experience – Episode 022

When you travel to a new place, it always “feels” as if your voyage, your travel, takes a very long time.  Why?

Since you are traveling to a new destination, one that you have never been before, you are observing everything around you. Your senses are hightened, and because of your awareness of this new place, your brain is trying to retain as much information as possible.

Your brain is now working overtime; it is absorbing massive amounts of new information

This new information has to be reorganized in a way that makes sense to us, and this takes time

So our feeling, our PERCEPTION of time is thrown off, not because time has changed, but because of our EXPERIENCE of our new surroundings causes our brains to process new information SLOWER… which causes us to experience our newness in a SLOWER, more detailed, way.

This is why when you travel to a new destination, it feels like it is taking LONGER

This is why you remember so much about the first time you met someone of significance and importance to you

This is why accidents and traumatic events leave such vivid memories; because your sense and your brain are ACTIVELY recording and retaining as much information as possible.

 

And this is also why, the return drive or flight home seems so quick; because your brain remembers everything going back. It doesn’t spend as much time trying to observe because it has already seen, so in order to be more efficient, it ignores or allows the familiar to not be retained

This is why, people whom you see on a regular basis, you might tend to overlook.

But what does this mean for the classroom

 

It means that learning, is an organic experience.

 

It means that learning, happens.

 

It is a part of being a human being, it is part of the human experience. We are wired to learn, to observe, or retain information, to process our surroundings and to process new experiences fully.

 

So is learning truly is an organic experience; then why do so many of our students have so many problems learning? Why is it that you have to repeat yourself sometimes over and over again, or why is it that some subjects seem completley out of reach.

 

Barring medical conditions, or a diagnosis that specifically states that one of your students will have some difficulty, if the learning is not happening, it is because the conditions, the ENVIRONMENT is not condusive towards allowing the learning to happen.

 

What could affect this learning environment?

 

  • Biology: maslow hierarcy, safety, food, shelter, love
  • External forces: societal pressures (peer pressure, friends) and parental stressors.

 

As the teacher in the classroom, it is up to us to create an environemnt in which the organic learning experience HAPPENS as it should.

 

If we believe that learnign happens naturally, organically, then that means that we need to provide the appropriate conditions for this natrual even to happen.

 

In our classrooms we need to provide: Agency, Safety, Care

      • agency
        • “I will do…”
      • safety
        • “I can do…”
      • care
        • “I can and will do for myself”
          • This comes from an emotionally and psychologically supportive teacher
          • This is not BS; but rather engrained and deeply rooted in collaborating with your students.
        • And if very effective
        • “I can and will do for myself and others…”

If YOU can create this environment through KINDNESS… then your students will develop the courage to be the best version of themselves… because someone important in their lives, gave them a gift of a special and sacred place, where they could be the best version of themselves.

Courage Through Kindness

Go Off On A Tangent! – Episode 021

Go Off On A Tangent! – Episode 021

I was able to connect with my students in a way that was outside of what was norm

I was able to educate them on something that may not have been the normal topic, but it added value to their lives. They saw it as valuable, and because of that, we had a very engaging conversation where they were asking good questions, and they were learning

I was able to develop trust. And if they were trusting me in this particular area, then they would trust me in other areas, like chemistry.

What we were actually doing was having fun and playing with a concept!

It was learning, maybe not what was prescribed for that particular day, but It was learning none the less.

Learning is organic; it happens because human being are constantly learning about the world around them, and we are inquisitive creatures. Sometimes, it’s nice to go off on tangents, to follow a path that has not been traveled before in your classroom

 

Make time for these mental adventures; you will learn a lot about yourself, but also about your students.

 

  1. Keep it professional
  2. Keep it as topic related as possible
  3. Try to tie it into things they are already learning or have learned in your classroom.

 

These tangents reinvigorate your classroom. And more importantly, they allow your students to gain trust.

If they trust you on a tangent, they will trust you in your classroom.

🙂