Monday, September 3, 2018

Be YOU!

Blog Written by Alana Stanton for Nexus Education  http://www.nexus-education.com/
Original Post: http://www.nexus-education.com/be-you/


Be YOU
Being an educator is one of the most rewarding and challenging careers. It is often what teachers call a calling or a mission. I often refer to educators as soul pourers because they are constantly giving it their all every day. It is definitely not for the faint of heart, especially if you want to be exceptional and do what is best for kids every year.

It is a career where you find yourself surrounded by others including your coworkers, students, and parents, yet it can also be one of the loneliest jobs, especially for educators who challenge the status quo, try new things, and make it their motto to be what is best for kids every single day.

Today I want to encourage you, I want to encourage you as an educator to Be YOU. Often as educators we find ourselves needing encouragement to do something as simple as being ourselves. It is when we are true to ourselves in the classroom that we can do amazing things for our students.
 If you are finding it hard to Be YOU this school year, I hope something here can inspire you to see YOU is who we all need you to be, right now.

When you allow yourself to take a risk and Be YOU, great things will happen in the classroom and amazing things will take place in your life.

Find a Champion, Be a Champion
It is important to find a champion to help support you through your adventures and your tough times in the school year. This can be another staff member, a teacher leader, counselor, parent, or person on social media.

No matter who your champion is, it needs be someone you can be real with. This person will help remind you of who you are and your purpose.

Make sure you take time to share with them your ups and downs. Tell them about that amazing lesson that rocked your students socks off, share with them the student who said, “I love school because you make it fun!”, tell your champion about the disappointment you felt when that amazing lesson took place, where you dressed up, but someone tried to knock it down, or the meeting that was tough as nails and when you walked out of it you went to the restroom to cry your heart out, but quickly wiped the tears to greet your students at the door.

You need a champion, we all do, who not only cheers you on, but also coaches you on being your best. This will keep you encouraged, inspired, and continuing to be on a mission for kids.

While you have that champion, you also need to find someone who needs You to be their champion. This is key in giving back to education, but also encouraging you to keep focused on staying positive.
It will take bravery and courage to be what is best for kids, but keeping a champion in your corner and being one for someone else will help sustain you through the good times and bad because I assure you they BOTH will come. When you have someone to support you through these times it will keep you grounded, helping you to never waver in what matters most.

Know Your Why
Knowing your why will help remind you why you became an educator in the first place. For me my why is showing students they matter. They matter to me, their community, and the world. I want my students or any child to know they are fully capable of anything they set their mind to with hard work and perseverance. I want them to leave my classroom more confident, independent, kind, and creative than when they first entered our door. I have to constantly ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I ask this question with my weekly lessons, the classroom set up, the way I talk to my students, and the professional developments I participate in.

Your why is one of the most important words in your life. Your why will help you be the bravest person you can be, allowing the real YOU to shine out.

If you continually know your why, it is easier to Be YOU and be the teacher you desire to be. It is much easier to do those adventurous lessons you have dreamed about, turn your classroom into a magical place, or invite parents into your classroom, as at times you will be questioned by others as to your reasoning. You need to know your why, so when the day comes that someone questions your ideas or practices, you can be confident to know that what you are doing is best for kids.
Education can be tough at times, so remember that when you do something new or creative even if it is best for kids or your school there may be someone who pushes back or puts a negative spin on it. You may have some put you down, but when you know your why, you can confidently Be YOU without fear.

Speak and Hear Positive Truths
Being an educator, no matter what grade or subject takes courage and bravery every single day. In order to be your best and be YOU, you must speak positive truths daily. This can be done by speaking out loud using I am statements such as:

I am courageous, I am kind, I am positive, I have passion, I am strong

When you speak these positive words, over time you will start to believe them and then you will start to live them. When the going gets tough you will be able to remember these truths over your life. If others speak to you negatively, you will have these truths to remind yourself that you are being YOU and doing what is best for children each day.

It is also helpful to pick a quote or verse to speak daily and to have written somewhere where you can see. One of my favorite quotes I love to repeat is from the movie, A League of Their Own. During this movie Tom Hanks tells one of the team players wanting to quit, “If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” This quote always reminds me that it is difficult to live out your beliefs, but they are only beliefs if you don’t live them.

“It is difficult to live out your beliefs, but they are only beliefs if you don’t live them.”

There is so much power in keeping your mind and heart filled with encouragement. Find books, picture books, podcasts, Ted Talks, songs, and videos to encourage you before, during, and after your school day. There are days you will need to reset, so find something that makes you feel uplifted. Once you find what works for you, you will have something available at all times to keep your spirits lifted, so you can do the same for others.

Share with Others
It can be challenging to Be YOU and share yourself with others, especially when you may feel or think differently than other educators in your school community. Many of times we feel when we try new things they are not received by others as we would like them to be received. This can be difficult as our instinct is not to share anymore, but to keep quiet and only share our ideas with our students or friends, but we can’t do that if we practice being ourselves. We must find a way to share what we do, even when it is difficult. The things you share may not be picked up by everyone, but someone will notice what you’re doing and try something inspired by your courage. They may finally take that risk they have wanted to take for years because you simply shared something that worked in your classroom.

Never underestimate the power of sharing. There are so many ways to share such as simply hanging work outside your classroom, or in an empty hallway somewhere in your school, or with your grade level casually at lunch/recess, or in your grade level meetings. You can also share on social media, in a blog, or with parents through email, or apps such as Seesaw, Remind, or ClassDojo. When you share your ideas and actions with others you become a wave that moves the waters even if you are a quiet wave you still make great change, I encourage you to find a way to share yourself and your classroom. We need your voice and your students need you to help them find theirs.

Be YOU, Do It Well
You were set apart to do a great work and you can only do that if you are YOU. So remember Be YOU and do it well. Being different is challenging, feeling different is even more challenging at times, but remember to be our best and make school what is best for kids we need to be who we are and help our students be who they were meant to be.

In being our best we can bring out our students best. When you take a risk to Be YOU, everything changes. It is a risk I challenge you to take!

How can you take a risk this year to Be YOU and make your students shine out?
I know it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

Picture Image From- https://www.desicomments.com/

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Power of Building Parent Relationships

The Power of Building Parent Relationships

"Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first." -Matthew Jacobson
I keep this quote at the heart of my classroom. Each day when the first bell rings and my students skip down the hallway into my classroom, I am reminded that their parents are always their first champions. It is this thought that keeps me knowing that every interaction I have with my students, is also an interaction I have with their parents.
I believe that we must not only build relationships with our students, whether they be in the classroom or in a tutoring setting, but we also must build relationships with our parents as well.
It is important we think of our parents of our students as a part of the larger learning picture. These are the people who have raised our students, loved our students first, and who are their first champions. It is our parents who are our students’ first teachers. We are always the second. This knowledge pushes me to embrace my student’s parents, welcome them always, and to love them as if they were a student in my own classroom.
We as educators can actively bring parents in as partners in the learning experience in several ways.

Make Parents Feel Welcome

As a new school year begins, parents are excited to meet their child’s teachers, but they are also anxious about the upcoming year. Parents want to know if their child’s needs will be met, if the teachers will like their child, and if their child will be seen.
For tutors, these are some of the same criteria that parents will consider when deciding whether to hire a candidate or not.
To start with, it is important that we learn the parents first and last names, knowing that the mother’s last name might be different from the father’s last name.  Using the parents’ names at each meeting shows they are important to you.
Another way we, as educators, can help make parents comfortable is by simply smiling at parents when we meet them. Then making sure we shake their hands or hug them. While speaking to parents by name establishes a relationship centered on respect, how we choose to physically greet them validates the sincerity of that relationship.
Taking things a step further, I always make sure that during the first few weeks of school I place pictures of each individual student in frames on the main wall of my classroom. Then, around that wall, I add the pictures of the families as I see them on registration, orientation, or special events. I call this our class family wall and tell parents that they are a part of this class family too. They love finding themselves next to their own child’s pictures. This simple classroom wall makes parents feel they are important in our classroom.
You can also make parents feel welcomed when you see them in public places. Instead of having parents approach me, I always go up to my parents using their names with a warm handshake or hug. I then tell them something I have enjoyed about working with their child.
More often than not, their reaction is to reply with a story of their own. I love listening to any story they are willing to tell me that might help me better understand their family or their child! I make it a point to remember these stories for future use in the classroom. For instance, if a parent tells me their child has been loving painting in class, I make sure we paint more often and tell the child that their parent reminded me of their love for the arts.
These types of relationships help students see that there is a real connection between their parents and their teacher. It establishes a sense that there is a team of adults in their lives actively caring for them and their growth as people.
This year one parent said to me, “I know one thing that helps me is when the teacher is genuinely interested in our family as a whole. I think it is easier to understand the child when you take time to understand the family.” When families see that we are actively welcoming them into the learning relationship, they can’t help but feel more involved in their child’s education.

Invite Parents In

Inviting parents in our classrooms is key! Parents don’t automatically know when they can come into the classroom or if they are welcome in the learning space. One way we can change this is by making it a point to invite them in for visits or small class events.
Each year I invite my parents in for two or three authors’ celebrations. The students each look over their writing from the current unit and decide on a favorite writing piece they want to publish. The students then present to their parents at a celebration.
I have held celebrations where the parents come in for cookies and listen to the students read. Other times parents are free to travel around the room and listen to many different authors read.
I have also held bigger events like “Camp Tell A Story” where the classroom is turned into a camp ground. The students share their writing over a campfire while eating s’mores and listening to the crickets chirp (thanks to YouTube and our class projection system).
You can hold an event like this in your classroom by making it as simple or as elaborate as you want.
Parents can be invited for any sharing event including PBL projectsdebates, mother or father’s day celebrations, and even class awards ceremonies. When parents are invited into your room it makes them see that the classroom is an open place where everyone is welcome. It also gives them an important glimpse into both their child’s day and into their child’s life.
This type of classroom invitation is truly a gift we can give our parents each year; it can build a lifetime of memories for both parents and students while also establishing a powerful opportunity for student growth.

Use Open Communication

I have found over the years that the more open I am with communication, the better the year goes for my students and me. There are many wonderful tools that now exist for parent communication such as SeesawRemindClass Dojo, and Bloomz. All of these apps allow a teacher or tutor to communicate with parents by sending messages, pictures, videos, and texts securely through email or straight to apps on parents’ phones.
Allowing parents to view pictures and videos of their child in action gives parents a crucial window to the classroom; it allows parents to feel connected to both you and the learning experience.
The more transparent we are with parents about what is going on in the classroom or during a tutoring session, the better prepared they can be to support our efforts. When parents understand what their children’s pathways to educational growth look like, it becomes that much easier for everyone involved to use that understanding to promote student growth.

Admit When You Make a Mistake

One thing I have learned from my years of teaching is the importance of admitting when you make a mistake. Many of times as educators we want to show the people around us that we know what to do in every situation; we have everything under control at all times.
There are times, however, when we do make mistakes. It could be at school, in the classroom, or with a parent. One of the best things we can do when making a mistake with a parent is admitting that mistake and apologizing as soon as possible. We can then tell the parent how we plan on fixing the mistake or ask them how they would like us to handle it.
When situations have arisen where I have made a mistake with and humbled myself to admit it to parents, I have found that it ultimately led to a stronger relationship with those parents. The mistakes seemed to add a humanness to myself as an educator and show the parent that I was humble enough to admit when I did something wrong and both willing and able to apologize.
If we continue to remember mistakes help us learn and that failure is feedback, we can show our parents that we will be just as understanding when they make mistakes. In turn, this humble honesty will make the parent/educator connection stronger over time. Similarly, for tutors, it may be the very thing that prevents a client from becoming a former client.

Talk about Their Child’s Talents

One simple goal I have during any planned or unplanned parent conference is to make reference to a student’s talents and strengths (be they known or hidden). I always let the parent know something I have noticed that may have gone unnoticed.
During these same conferences, I make sure not to overwhelm the parents with a ton of things the child needs to work on, but instead, I give one academic and/or one behavior that can be improved upon over time. This helps the parents see that their child is seen in class, that I know their child, and that I love their child. It also helps the parent focus on the one most important thing the child needs to work on.
We can always improve upon our talents, so it is vital we tell parents the talents we see. These talents don’t have to be academic; they might be building, running, coding, creating, dancing, music, or singing. By making it a point to emphasize a student’s strengths, whatever they may be, parents hear something positive about their child that may have gone unnoticed. This positive affirmation helps make a positive connection between the parent and the educator.
I have used all of these practices over the years and have found that my parents feel welcomed in my classroom. They know that their child is loved, but they have also shared with me that they feel loved. To make the greatest impact we can with each child, we must welcome the parents and create long lasting relationships. Each child needs a champion, but our students’ parents often need one, too.
Always remember that your students’ first teachers and champions are and always will be their parents. By embracing parents and bringing them into the learning process, whether it be sharing in person, on social media, or in the classroom, we are doing our students a great service. We owe our students more than a relationship with them, we owe them the gift of a relationship with their parent.

Blog piece by Alana Stanton first featured on Knowledge Roundtable site below:
Alana Stanton is a kindergarten and technology specials teacher at Mulberry Elementary in Gwinnett County, Georgia. She has taught several grades over her 14 year career including K-3 literacy special, first grade, second grade, and kindergarten. Alana believes that relationships always come first in the classroom and the classroom should be a place where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. She currently writes for her blog, More Than A Lesson where she shares the stories of her classroom and her heart.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Barriers

Guest Blogger-Written by Mike Stanton

As a kid and into my teenage years I always wanted a 1965 Mustang. I would play
with Hotwheels and Mattel cars speeding them across the carpet in my bedroom.
During the summer my Dad and I would sip milkshakes from a local dinner in my
hometown that would have monthly car shows and I would always lead him back to
whatever 60’s Mustangs were there before I could even eat enough of those shakes
for the brain freeze to set in. I had a bad case of muscle car fever and it lasted
into my adult years.


My wife later became part of that dream and caught a bit of the bug as well. She too
liked the idea of cruising in an old Mustang on the weekends. I can’t remember the
exact year now, but a few years before she turned 30 I bought her a 1965 Arcadian
Blue Ford Mustang with a 289 V8 engine as a birthday gift. Like all men I had
gotten her exactly what she wanted. At the time we both had perfectly fine cars,
and her gift became my toy and over time my daily driver. I ditched the car I had and
drove that car everywhere with a bit of a pompous smile on my face. I did burnouts,
enjoyed the comments people shared about my car, and got a sense of
accomplishment for owning it.



Now, to be honest, I bought the car in an attempt to heal a deep wound in our
marriage. The previous birthday was marked by our 3rd miscarriage and our hardest
one to go through. As a couple we had prayed for years for a child, we had seen
images on the ultrasound screen and printouts turn into dreams for parenthood and
a family slip away time after time. That 3rd miscarriage, on my wife’s birthday, of all
days, was devastating. In some way, I thought this car, this thing, this object, would
heal us, our anger, our heart break.


I prayed for 5 years. I prayed on my hands and knees. I begged God for a child.
Any child. I pleaded for my wife to be a mother. I held my wife’s hand during
devastating news of another lost baby and lost dreams by doctors acting as if you
just came in for a band aid and moving on. For a time though, our life didn’t move on.
Time was simply counted, from miscarriage, to miscarriage. Is was a dark, lonely,
and painful part of my life. At times, I thought it would be the end of our marriage. I
prayed for 5 years to make the pain stop, and to be a father, and hold a child. To see
my wife be a mother.


Eventually God blessed us with Claire Elise. Elise, meaning gift from God. She is my
smart and kind daughter that loves to read and do science. So, our little family, all
smiles, would cruise around in a little blue old mustang.



18 months later, God blessed us with Audrey Grace. Grace, meaning favored by
God. She is my shy and sweet daughter, that loves math and gymnastics.



God answered all of my prayers! I had this amazing little family. What a gift!


My life was great. I had a beautiful wife, two healthy daughters, had won awards
in my career,a home, and of course that 65 Mustang sitting in the driveway. So…. I
was in my driveway. I was waxing, cleaning, polishing, vacuuming, and tweaking the
engine to that car all of the time. My right arm was twice as big as my left I spent so
much time and energy trying to wax that car until you could literally see your
reflection in it. So, like I said. I could go do burnouts, enjoy the comments people
shared about my car, and get a sense of accomplishment for owning it.


I wasn’t with my wife. I wasn’t with my daughters. No, I was with my car. I was
putting my time, energy, money, and care into that car.


Now remember this, Where you put your time tells others your priorities. Let me
repeat that for you so you can write it down. Where you put your time tells others
your priorities.


I was prioritizing that car more than my family. I prayed for the opportunity and
blessing of fatherhood for five years and simply let it slip away into the cracks of
those seats like loose change. I would spend hours cleaning the most minute details
and worried about the rain getting it wet and where to park my car. I was not with in
my home seeing my daughters learn about the world. I was not seeing them laugh
together. I was not seeing them try new foods for the first time. I was not reading
them books. I was not sitting beside them or holding them as I prayed for them to
seek out God in their life. No, I was spending my free time with a car.


I didn’t realize any of this at first though. My wife sitting next to me one summer day
with an infant and toddler in the back seat had to say to me, “Mike, hunny, I know
you love your car, but I don’t think we should we riding in it for the rest of the
summer. I don’t think it is good for me or the girls.” I looked up in the rear view
mirror, seeing these two little ones. A baby, and a toddler, pale faced, and sweating.
No, I didn’t realize I had my wife and daughters nestled into my little world. I drove
home with these words echoing in my ears. “Mike I know you love your car.” Just
playing over and over again, “Mike I know you love your car.” That is what I had told
her, when I put all my time into that car. I had shown my wife and daughters that my
car was my priority. Where you put your time tells others your priorities.


You see, I had conformed to the patterns of the world. Loving things…. more than
people. Romans 12: 2 says, Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve
what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


Now, I don’t know about God’s will and Mustangs. I am pretty sure He appreciates
the beauty of Lee Iacocca’s 65 Mustang as much as I do. However, he does call us
not to conform to this world. I am not saying that owning certain type or brand of car
or any car for that matter is conforming to the world. But!  When we place a
priority on material things like cars we are conforming to the world. We should “love
people, and use things, because the opposite never works.” -Joshua Fields
Millburn @JFM


We are not called to assimilate to what others of the world do. We are called to be
closer to Christ. When we conform, we put up a barrier between our ourselves and
the relationships we seek. Relationships with our spouse, family, community, and
God.

What barrier are you putting up between your family, your children, your spouse,
your relationship with God? Are you like me with a car or is it your phone, the
internet, social media likes, TV, work, your classroom, impressing your boss,
food, drink. I’ll say it again, truthfully I showed my family that I loved that car
through my actions more than the actions I shared with my wife and children.
Now, I could care less about a car compared to my family. I know all of you
do as well. None of us would rank possessions, job titles, opportunities above
our loved ones or even ourselves. However, we are not necessarily showing that.


I spent years begging and pleading God for a child. However, I conformed to the
pattern of the world, and failed to seek God…. to test and approve of owning that
particular car was part of God’s will for me. His perfect and pleasing will.


How do you know if it is God’s will though? Going back to Romans 12:2 Do not
conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good,
pleasing and perfect will. Are you and your mind being transformed by the world,
your greed, your drive, or by God? That transformation will guide us to His will.


Remember this,  We are perfectly useless as Christians if we transform to the the
world around us. So we transform our minds through prayer, study, and action to
help align our actions with God’s will.


God’s will is not for us to love things like I did and put your energy into material
things. Now, we all need material possessions and deserve some down time and
enjoyment in our lives. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t own a Mustang or any other
thing of the world. However, you need to put an approval process in your life to see
if your actions are aligning with God’s will for you personally. I did not put in a
approval process when I owned that Mustang. I failed to simply enjoy that car on a
basic level. I turned that need of a car into a necessity of my time and a priority in
my life.


We need to look and pray deeply for that approval process based on God’s will.
Let's look deeper into what God's will is. First, there is the sovereign will of God, that
always comes to pass, without fail. Second, there is the revealed will of God in the
Bible — do not steal, do not lie, do not kill, do not covet — and this will of God often
does not come to pass. And third, there is the path of wisdom and spontaneous
godliness — wisdom where we consciously apply the word of God with our renewed
minds to complex moral circumstances, and spontaneous godliness where we live
most of our lives without conscious reflection on the hundreds of things we say and
do all day.


That is were we often get stuck. This third place, the wisdom piece. Obviously, I
failed to apply wisdom.  Where do you need to apply wisdom in your life? We need
to apply wisdom to our choices before, during, and after we make them. A wiser
version of myself would have asked myself questions like, “Is this a good use of my
time?” “Is this a good use of my money?“Does this action positively impact my
family?” “Does this action negatively impact my morals?” “Would I be willing to share
this purchase/event/ action with others?” Or do I want to keep and hide this all to
myself? We need to look at all of these decisions more deeply and reflect on
whether or not they are putting up barriers between our prayer, study, and actions
with our family or do we need to put up barriers around certain purchases, tv shows,
apps on our phones, hours spent at work, time on social media, sites on the internet,
foods, drinks?


I sold that car, that Mustang, and got a little family car. I rarely wash it, could care
less if it gets stained, and enjoy it now for what it truly is. A car, nothing more,
nothing less. It doesn’t have a hold on me. But, other things from time to time will
grab that hold on me. So-Now, I continuously ask questions about my purchases,
my commitments, my hours at work, my apps on my phone, my internet browsing
history, my stuff from the world that I bring into my life. I pray about my actions each
morning and night. I ask God to let me see where I have been putting my time and
attention. I ask Him to reveal what I am putting too much time and attention in and
not enough. I pray that my actions, my decisions, what I bring into my life from the
world is part of His will for me as His Son.


God has helped me put barriers in place. My alarm goes off at work and I leave.
Right then, right there. I stop work, conversations, and leave. God revealed a lack of
one on one time with my wife. Every Wednesday I take my bag with me and follow
my students out the door and pass the buses to go on a date with my wife. So
successfully that my boss has asked me if it was my “date day” before asking me to
do things. He revealed an addiction I was having to checking emails and looking up
college football scores. So, I deleted GMAIL and CHROME from my phone. What
barriers do you need to put up in your life?

I leave you with this. You see we must stop allowing the world to put up barriers
between the ones we were called to lead and love and start putting up barriers to
the world so we can actually start leading and loving.


Guest Blogger-Written by Mike Stanton