Monday, November 26, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 12 - Gratitude

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In this 12th week of the 15-week series on characteristics of compelled educators, I'm excited to share one of my favorite authors and bloggers with you. Ann Voskamp was one of the first bloggers I followed. It's from her that I learned more about grace and gratitude. Her first book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, shows us the power of gratitude, reflection, and pause. (Her book is much like her blog style... poetic and flowing... almost like free writing at times, and choppy in other places. It's not an "easy" read, but it's well worth the effort and pause and space it forces us to create when reading it.)

What if... you kept a running list of the things for which you are grateful? Would you have 1,000 by the end of the school year?

What if... we asked our students to collaborate each day and record things for which they are grateful. How many gifts would there be on the list by the end of the year? One thousand? More?


“Gratitude for the seemingly insignificant—a seed—this plants the giant miracle.” 
― Ann Voskamp

As educators, we not only understand the importance of practicing gratitude ourselves, but we also understand the importance of cultivating gratitude in our students. 

How can we cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" in ourselves and with our community of students?

Text    Ask students to send a Thank You Text to someone for whom they are grateful. (Educators: Get out those cell phones and model a positive use for digital devices!) 
#Gratefulstreak    For ____ number of days in a row, have students to answer the journal prompt, "What are you grateful for today?" Ask students to see how many days in a row they can keep their streak!  (Educators: When kids write, you write. Model persistence as well as gratitude.)
"Three Good Things"    Create a bulletin board titled "Three Good Things." Have students to write 3 things for which they are grateful on a sticky note and post on the bulletin board. (Educators: Be sure to include your 3 things on a sticky note right in the center so that students can find it easily!)
Write a Letter of Gratitude    Ask students to use letter writing skills to write a letter to someone for whom they have never adequately thanked. (Educators: Do this, too, and model gratitude for your students.)
Gratitude Walk   I recently read about Jon Gordon's Thank You Walks. This could be used in PE classes, during recess, or even encouraging older students to think of 3 things for which they are grateful during class change while they walk to their next classes. (Educators: Take a Gratitude Walk during your planning period, do a lap around the hallways before or after school, or try it at home.)

Gratitude-quote


Want to make gratitude a habit the easy way? 

Connect expressing your gratitude with another daily task, such as brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or cooking/eating dinner. 

If it's hard for you to carve out quiet time for yourself during the day, start expressing gratitude OUT LOUD while you are doing something that you already do during your day. 

Say 3 things you're grateful for out loud while you're doing your daily sit-ups, while you're driving to work, or while you're making your bed (or any other daily task.) 

Do this for 21 days in a row, then let me know how it's going. (If you miss a day, start back over at Day 1.) 


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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Classroom Hack: Conversation Starters {Free Printables}



I love classroom hacks, especially when they have to do with building community in the classroom. 

Probably because I was so shy when I was a kid, I really love "Conversation Starters" because they provide prompts to students and give them something concrete to talk about. Making small talk was something that I struggled with as a kid. I would have SO appreciated if a teacher had used something like these to create community in our classrooms. 

The questions are also appropriate to be used at home. Dinnertime can be transformed into quality family time by building conversations around the prompts on the Conversation Starters. 

I originally created New Year's Conversation Starters, then a last week I shared the Gratitude Conversation Starters on Twitter. Chaunte Garett was excited about them, and she asked if I knew of any for Integrity. Since I wasn't aware of any, I decided to create some. 

Thinking ahead to upcoming holidays and seasons, I also created some "Joy Conversation Starters." 




If you are a classroom teacher, I highly recommend that you don't ask the questions on the slips of paper to the class as a whole and ask for students to respond to you.

Here are several ways I encourage you to use them: 

     -Have them in a basket and ask a student to draw a question for the class.  Then have students to turn and share their answer with a neighbor.

     -You, the teacher, draw a question from the basket and share the prompt with the class. Ask students to share their answers with two people near them. 

     -Make several copies of the prompts and have a couple of questions on each desk. If your students' desks are in pods or groups, have a few questions per group. Ask students to choose one conversation starter to answer with a group member. 

     -Use one starter per day as a journal writing prompt. At the end of the week, ask students to choose one from the week to share with a friend in the class.
     

What other ways would you use them? Please leave a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter. 


All of the Conversation Starters can be downloaded below 
by clicking on each picture.










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Monday, November 19, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 11 - Empathy



Having empathy is an extremely important people skill. Empathy drives design thinking and helps build positive relationships and connections. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is not always easy, but it’s valuable as an educator because of the diverse backgrounds in which our students are being raised. Kids don't care how much we know until they know we care. Empathy is the driver of building relationships where we show we care. 

In an article by MindTools, they suggest several ways to use empathy effectively, and most importantly, how to do it through listening. When students want to talk, or when we ask a question of a student, it’s important that we stop what we’re doing and really listen. 
  • Listen with your ears – what is being said, and what tone is being used?
  • Listen with your eyes – what is the person doing with his or her body while speaking?
  • Listen with your instincts – do you sense that the person is not communicating something important?
  • Listen with your heart – what do you think the other person feels?

If you can't play the video above on your device, click HERE.

Four qualities of empathy as shared by Brene Brown, about Theresa Wiseman’s work:

   1. To see the world as others see it
   2. Stay out of judgment
   3. Understand another person’s feelings
   4. Communicate others’ feelings and validate them

Helping kids to feel heard and truly connected takes empathy. Empathy is skill that improves with practice, so let’s share a listening, caring ear and get to practicing!



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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Change is one of our greatest teachers


As I've grown older, I've come to own my insecurities as well as my strengths. I also take ownership of my own happiness. My personal growth is something that I work on every single day, and through that I have learned the powerful effects of 2 things: controlling the messages that play in my head and practicing gratitude

Each day I practice quiet time and reflection, and I think of at least 3 things I'm grateful for. As the year is winding down, my thoughts have taken a wider scope as I reflect on goals, dreams, and actions for the year and those to come in the new one. I ask myself, "Because of my 3 words for 2018, what has come into - or gone out of - my life, for which I am grateful?"
Image result for www.thecompellededucator.com gratitude
I've journaled, blogged, reflected in quiet thought, and talked with trusted friends about my fears, dreams, goals, and pitfalls throughout this year. As I step back even further for that "balcony view" of my life, there's a couple of pivot moves that have happened in my life that have brought me to where I am now and for which I'm deeply grateful. 

While in high school, my family moved to Birmingham, Alabama. I was able to experience junior high while I lived in Chattanooga, since we moved the summer before my junior year of high school. The schools in Birmingham were 9-12 high schools, so I was able to have two different high school experiences as a student. At the time of the move, I thought it was the most horrible thing in the world. Looking back, it was one of the most beneficial changes in my life. 

As an educator, I am grateful to have worked in four different schools throughout my long career. The first four years I served as a teacher and coach before I got out of education for two years. I then worked in a school for nine years, six of which were as a classroom teacher and three as an assistant principal. My next stop was a two-year stint as a high school principal, and then I went to my fourth school where I currently serve as assistant principal in my tenth year at the school.



These changes in schools have been on my mind and heart lately, as I have been talking with a new assistant principal in a neighboring school. The growth that happens when encountering new routines, people, and ideas is tremendous. As I mentor her, I am able to draw from the lessons learned at each of those experiences to help lift her up in her new role. Had I stayed in one place for my entire career, I don't know that I would have had as much growth as I have had over all these years. Each of the right turns that I made throughout my career (and life) have helped me to grow personally and professionally. For that I am grateful.


Monday, November 12, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 10 - Excellence


Growing up and playing sports, pursuing excellence was something that was always emphasized throughout a season as well as off-season. Chasing excellence was something that we (athletes, and for me, later as a coach) were never ashamed of. Perfecting our craft and demanding from each other that we all get better than average was a norm. It's something that my husband grew up with as well, and something that we've stressed with our daughters. 

For many of you reading this, you can relate to the athletic piece and you are most likely nodding your head in agreement. For some of you, maybe you weren't an athlete, but the expectations to be above average came from other areas - the arts, academic endeavors, home life, or other areas. 

I've noticed in many education circles, though, chasing excellence can be a taboo subject. Maybe it's because we strive to be humble, servant leaders and educators. Perhaps it's because we aim to be collaborative and not competitive. 

I love when I get to hear my friend Jimmy Casas - a truly compelled educator - speak because he reminds us that, "No one got into education to be average." 

"Strive to be a leader who.... 
Doesn’t wait for others to change: You change. Take responsibility for your own behavior. You cannot paralyze yourself because others are not doing the things that need to be done.   Take initiative and be the change, not the same."




Whatever the reason we choose to make our desire to be excellent a private matter, we need to remember that the best educators don't compete with others. They compete with themselves. Let's continue to strive to give our very best each and every minute of every day. Let's chase excellence, not average. 


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Saturday, November 10, 2018

When teachers lead their own learning


Professional learning is something I'm very passionate about. As a curious person, I engage in learning for my own personal reasons, but I also try to spark curiosity in others as it relates to professional learning. 

Even though "PD" rolls easily off of the tongue, I really hate the connotations that the term "professional development" (PD) conjures up. 



When I lead professional learning for our teachers, I always try to make it interactive, engaging, and worthwhile. I never want it to feel like a "sit and get," and I model instructional strategies that teachers can use in their classrooms. Even with the intentional actions on my part, it wasn't until recently that I felt like I was able to be a facilitator of teacher learning rather than a content delivery person. 

For our teachers' Professional Learning Plans, they are asked to choose at least one school-wide goal for their plan. We have three school goals this year: Diversity, Assessment, and Technology. A different assistant principal is leading the learning for each goal, and I'm leading the learning for technology goal. This is what the goal states:
"I will explore, identify, and integrate technology enhanced activities into my classroom that will allow me and my students to think creatively and communicate effectively while extending learning opportunities beyond the classroom."

Teachers who chose the technology goal have met three times over this semester over the first semester as part of the action plan, and I want to share how the meetings were structured so that you may find inspiration or ideas that you could use in your school. 
For our first meeting, I shared what the goal is NOT. It was not about checking a box or just using technology tools for the sake of using them. (In our 1:1 school, there are still a lot of people in the Substitution phase, and this goal was going to be the impetus to have teachers move beyond it.)



Our school's awesome technology coach, Keith Fulmer, has been helping me and the teachers with the learning all semester. Keith and I also emphasized to teachers that even though we are asking them to step outside of their comfort zone and take risks, we will support them all along their journey. 

Along with asking teachers to trust us and themselves as they venture into possibly unknown territory, we asked them to reflect on their "why." 
  • Why do I want to learn about this?
  • Why choose this goal that requires risk-taking? 
  • Why do I want my students to have this experience?
Additionally, we asked teachers to look through the "consumers vs creators" lens as they were designing the experiences for their students. So often we ask students to simply consume (and there is a place and time for that). We emphasized that we wanted to move the needle towards creation. Information is everywhere, and we want students to be able to do something with the information, such as think critically, evaluate, and problem solve. 

Near the end of our first meeting, teachers were given a hard copy of ideas (tweeting with an expert, Skyping with another class, using virtual reality to take students on virtual field trips, blogging, etc.) where they were asked to literally put "pen to paper" and jot down their own ideas for connecting their students outside their classrooms walls. While the suggestions on the list were not inclusive nor required, they served as a jumping off point for our teachers. Teachers shared ideas with others at their tables and gave ideas to those in and outside their content areas. They were also asked to brainstorm as many ideas as possible until our next meeting, which would be about a month later. 

At our next meeting, the slide above was on the screen as teachers entered the room, and they were asked to again get clear about their "why." 

After everyone completed the top of the planning template, we used a protocol to share ideas at the table. 




How the protocol worked:
  1. One teacher had 3 minutes to share his/her ideas with the group. No one should interrupt or ask questions during the three minutes. 
  2. When time was up, the "table" had 2 minutes to ask clarifying questions and share additional ideas (What if you...?) with the teacher.
  3. It then rotated to the next teacher until everyone had shared. 
  4. One teacher served as the timekeeper of the table. 
After each person shared with the table, we then asked if anyone had any questions or thoughts to share with the room. 

I then asked teachers to narrow down their ideas to 1-3 activities that they would implement in their classrooms. These items would be entered into the planning template, along with instructional outcomes, and the timeline for the activity. Teachers were asked to be specific in their timelines, including in them any learning they would be doing prior to the activities.

Some of the activities that the teachers have planned are 
  • Skype with a geology professor
  • to have their students to blog (The teacher had never blogged before, so she started one in order to be able to model it for her students and help them once they begin.)
  • Connect a Spanish 3 class with a Spanish 3 class in Arkansas via GridPals and learn together
  • Use VR to take students on virtual college tours
  • Create a digital newsletter with articles and videos written and created by ELL students
  • Use Skype or Instagram Live to talk with a nutritionist about healthy eating
  • Create book trailers as podcasts
and more!

On the planning template, teachers were also asked to answer the question, "What do I need to learn to accomplish my goals?" Each teacher shared a copy of their template with me, which I dropped into a Google folder for Keith and I to access. We can read through the plans to make sure that we provide support as needed. 



At our final and third meeting of the semester, I asked the teachers to bring a hard copy of their plans to the meeting. The plans were taped to the walls and teachers did a Gallery Walk around the room. They wrote feedback, ideas, and suggestions on sticky notes. After all of the plans had been read, teachers were then able to ask clarifying questions to the group. 


In past "PD sessions," the learning took place in the room with limited collaboration time. With the way in which I structured the sessions for this goal, the learning takes place outside of the room and our time together is to collaborate and help each other. 


"The smartest person in the room is the room."


The 40 teachers who are participating in this goal are from different content areas and levels, and Keith and I are simply facilitators and encouragers of their learning. We ensure that they have the resources they need to make their plans come to life, and I'm excited to hear about their experiences next semester. 



For the full presentation, click HERE.









Monday, November 5, 2018

COMPELLED: Week 9 - Grit



When you see or hear the word grit, what synonyms come to mind? Tenacity, fortitude, perseverance, persistence? Why would grit be a characteristic of a compelled educator? It's because being an educator is the HARDEST and BEST job there is, and having and teaching grit is important.

Edutopia wrote a great article on teacher Amy Lyon and the GRIT curriculum she created based on the work of Angela Duckworth. You can watch a video below. 




If you can't see the embedded video above, click HERE


Educators try new things all the time in their classrooms. Trying something new and failing is part of the equation for developing grit. Having a coach for support in those times can maximize the positive impact of trying, failing, recovering, and trying again. All of this is part of the process when trying to achieve the long-term goal of being an effective educator. 



"Adversity gives us power ~ the power to change our lives and to give ourselves the gift of transformation. Our problems and challenges are change agents. Without the grain of adversity, there are no pearls." 
- @MelissaRathmann


In an article by Patrik Edblad, he shares 5 ways to "grow your grit." 

  1. Pursue your interests. Find something that fascinates you.
  2. Practice, practice, practice. Get a little bit better every day.
  3. Connect to a higher purpose. Ask yourself how you are helping other people.
  4. Cultivate hope. Remove your inaccurate, limiting beliefs. 
  5. Surround yourself with gritty people. Create positive peer pressure. Do you work in a "culture of grit?" Are the 5 people you spend the most time with considered gritty people?

You can gauge your grit on Duckworth's website by answering questions on her "Grit Scale." Click HERE to go to the site. 

Bonus:
Here's a great resource for you if you have teen children or work with teens:




How do you teach and/or model grit?


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