Getting off to a Positive Start

www.pixabay.com
http://www.pixabay.com

We are almost a month into the new school year and I am feeling motivated by many things.  I love the fresh start of the new year when everyone is rested and full of energy.  We can forget about our mistakes of last year, re-celebrate the successes and plan for a fantastic year ahead.

The first day of school when the students come back fresh faced and loaded down with new school supplies.  Smiles and hugs are shared.  Even our middle-year’s students have to admit they are at least a little bit glad to be back with their classmates and friends.  The fresh start allows so many to shine, while welcoming new students and adjusting to new teachers.  One of the favorite things I do at the beginning of each year is read to every group of students in the school.  I try to share my love of reading and choose my books to leave them with the message of working hard, not giving up and learning from our mistakes.

Grade 2
Grade 2

I have been lucky enough to spend the two days this month with our school division admin team listening and learning from Tom Hierck.  His message is clear- do as many positive things as possible to build up every student in our schools to reach their potential.  We do not give up on kids!

During these two days of learning and discussion we were able to think and share about all the ways we are being positive in our schools.  I think our staff does a great job of trying to meet the needs of all of our students and look for ways of celebrating their individual talents and abilities.  As I walk from classroom to classroom, I am amazed by the things I see happening on a daily basis. I know I am lucky to have such a dedicated, hardworking staff and our students benefit from that hard work.  I am proud of each and every one of them and wonder if I can ask them to do even more than they already are.

Another part of  Tom Hierck’s message was about  the need for collective buy in to what we feel is important in our schools.  It takes hard work to create and maintain  positive attitude and culture every day.  Are we doing everything we can to model those behaviors we would like to see in our students?  Are we taking the time to build relationships that create safe and engaging environments?  Are we reaching out to our parents in a positive way so they feel like they are an important and integral part of our learning team?

Last summer as I was reading and reflecting on the new school year I came across a post written about positive office referrals. I wish I had taken a better record of where the idea came from because I would like to thank the author of that post.

The principal who wrote the post was describing how much he enjoyed doing positive office referrals and how it had helped forge a positive relationship with students and parents.  Basically the idea was simple, teachers and support staff refer any student down to the office for any positive reason.  It might be academic, social, like being a good friend, helping out in the lunch room or in some cases something as simple as just getting to school on time.

Meeting students where they are, setting the bar high, but not too high and remembering one thing:  building positive relationships are the most important thing we do to make a difference in a students emotional, social and academic growth.

Once the school year starts, it seems to move along at lightening speed.  I hope we can slow down to catch those small moments where we can all make a positive difference in a students life, even those students who test us the most.

 

Staying the Course

 

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http://magicalmarketingmakeover.com/

Everywhere we turn in the media are interviews and information about job stress.  I have seen multiple articles, posts and studies lately about the teaching profession and how many young teachers we are losing due to job stress and other reasons.  The statistics show that our young teachers are only staying in the profession for 4 or 5 years and then moving on to something else. This morning I came across an article about stress in the teaching profession and I was shocked by the negative and misguided comments written in response.

 

 

 

Teacher well-being is a timely topic for many of us. I have always considered myself to be a high energy and tackle anything coming my way, sort of person, but at the end of last year I was definitely suffering from some serious stress related health problems.

Over the summer I realized 2 things:

1.  I can’t make everyone happy no matter how hard I try to no matter how many extra hours I put in.

2.  I can’t solve everyone’s problems no matter how hard I try to and no matter how many extra hours I put in.

I think there might be a few different reasons that young teachers are moving on from our profession at what some might consider an alarming rate.  I have noticed a change in the respect given to teachers over the course of my teaching career.

I didn’t always want to be a teacher, but once I decided that was the direction I was going, I was always proud to be able to say I am a teacher.  It didn’t matter what school I was in or what position I had.  Over the course of my career, I have taught every grade kindergarten through grade 12 in some capacity or another and have enjoyed them all.

Some of the lack of respect I notice seems to come from government, who do not always treat us like professionals in the manner we might like, some comes from the public perception that seems to be driven through media,  and yes, I think we need to take responsibility for some of it as well.

http://timetothrivecoaching.com
http://timetothrivecoaching.com

I sometimes look back and wonder if I was starting all over again, if I would still choose to be a teacher.  I look around me and see many other professionals which appear to have equal job satisfaction, making much more money than me with much less educational investment.

As you might have guessed by what I have said so far, I am pretty close to retirement, so I am not changing my focus from teaching at the moment.  As a matter of fact, I am not even negative about my job and I enjoy what I do very much.  If you ask any of my three children if they want to be a teacher, they will answer with a resounding “NO”.  I am not sure if that is a reflection of what they have observed in me or if it is just their destiny to go in another direction.

I have learned over the years that I do not function well without a challenge.  I can become bored with what I am doing and need to add some element of challenge, before I suffer discontent.  It has happened a few times over the years, but I have been able to find enough opportunities within the teaching profession to branch out and try different things.

One piece of advice I would give to others is to keep learning and keep challenging yourself to be better at what you do. I think we do enjoy some autonomy within our profession that we do not always take advantage of.  Yes, our curricular outcomes are mandated to us and many expectations are directed to us, but how we meet those outcomes and live up to the expectations is up to us, so why not have a little fun with it.  I hope that I set this example  for the teachers I work with and they know that thinking outside the box is always welcome and trying new things is what it should be all about.

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I have also learned, maybe recently, as a result of my health problems, that I can step back and let others be leaders.  I do not have to control everything that goes on around me.  I know now that I cannot make everyone happy, so I need to step back and let others take control at times and not feel like I am personally responsible for everything that happens in our school.  I am not very good at this, but getting better and I think that it is a benefit to our students every time I am able to do it.

Most of the teachers I know do not like to brag about the things they do in their classrooms, despite the fact that, in my perception,  many of them are doing wonderful things.   To them it is ordinary and not worth talking about.  I think this may be part of the reason not every teacher wants to jump into using Twitter.  They might judge the educators that share as bragging or feel like they do not have anything worth sharing.

I think the “bragging” is more like sharing, collaborating and branding.  The one thing we all want more of is time and it seems to make sense to me to share the things we are doing so we are not all starting over from the beginning.  The ideas, thoughtful information and support that I receive from my twitter involvement is incredible.

http://www.jenksps.org/
http://www.jenksps.org/

Another reason I think the sharing is so important is because we need to tell our positive story.  If we allow others to tell our story it often comes from media sources that might not portray the positive things that are happening in our classrooms and schools.  If we make an effort to tell our own stories more often maybe we can change the negative attitude that I was reading about this morning, by offering up a different perspective.

Maybe we can engage our parents and communities in what we are doing.

Maybe we can set a positive example for our students as they are portraying their own “brands” in the social media world, if they see us sharing positive and exciting things about our schools.

I agree that things can be discouraging and there are many stressful things that teachers deal with on a daily basis that I did not even touch on in this little rant, such as class size, data tracking, high level behavioral issues.  The list can go on and on really, but I choose to concentrate on the things we can control and try to support the people around me in doing the same.

Thanks #saskedchat for helping me stay the course.

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Designing My Own Life Plan

It is amazing what a break can do for attitude and rejuvenation. It has been a stressful fall term for a number of reasons, but sometimes I think I can get caught up in a circle of negativity that can be difficult to break. Having the opportunity to remove myself from the school over break has allowed me to reflect on the reality of my circumstances.

  • I love my job.
  • I have a fantastic, creative and innovative staff.
  • I have a strong supportive admin team with my vice-principal.
  • I enjoy my students and am glad to be back in the classroom.
  • I have a large group of hard-working and generous parents.
  • I work as part of school division team that challenges me.

I came across an article posted on twitter over the holidays, written by Franchesca Warren, titled “Taking the Bitterness Out of Teaching: Four Ways to Find Your Professional ‘Breath of Fresh Air’.” In the article she describes a similar mind frame to mine before our school break. It is easy to get caught up in the negative things that are going on around us. Most of these things are out of our control and it does not really matter how much we complain about them or to avoid them, the reality is they exist.

In the article Warren includes the following quote:

If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much. Jim Rohn

Five years ago my family made a huge change leaving our family farm and a teaching position I had been in for 20 years and relocating to another province. Our  children were fantastic at making the adjustment to a new school and community and the move has been positive for us all. At the time of our move I was very ready for a professional change and felt I was being overcome by the negative things in my professional life that I could not control. Looking at the move as a fresh start I vowed I would not allow myself to get into that negative frame of mind again.

Taking time to reflect has made me realize the importance of designing our own life plan. We cannot allow things out of our control to proliferate and overwhelm us to the point they are controlling our lives and not us.

As we start a new year, and start back to school after winter break, it is the perfect time to design a new life plan.