Friday, November 29, 2013

Good, Better, Best...In Work and Relationships, the Similarities

I like you are most likely involved in some type of observation plan. I like you find it tedious and hard work. I like you get hung up on jargon and I like you initially wondered why we really all have to do this in the first place, I confess.

It takes time for the pieces of the puzzle to fit and I look desperately around me for how they are supposed to by making connections to what I already know and tag this to it. So, as I was sitting in a great and helpful meeting about iObservation (based on the Marazano Framework) the most interesting thoughts came to mind which made me smile. Working hard at our job, especially as an education professional is VERY similar to working hard on being married.

If you are reading this, you are most likely married. My guess is that if you have been married more than 7 years...or more than 14 years or if you are like my parents and inching to the 50 year mark, you intentionally spend time cultivating habits that create a strong, healthy and thriving marriage. Without doing so your marriage will die. Also, it is important that two people are together working on themselves individually as well as working on the combination of themselves that make a marriage. A strong healthy self will bring the best of themselves to the marriage. One person cannot carry a marriage to make it strong. When that is done, a great divide happens and the ramifications of that divide create a survival mode..not a thriving mode..and sometimes, surviving only lasts for a little bit.

If you are reading this, you are most likely in the same field as I am, education. I find that this process of iObservation or using a framework of some kind for teacher evaluations important. It is vital to reflect on, or take a pulse of yourself in your profession. I ask the students to do it in the classroom and it is only fair that I do so myself. When I stop and think about how am I doing and try to be honest, I am setting myself up for greater successes long term. I am able to create new goals and make a plan to achieve them. A goal with no plan is just a wish and that won't get you far. Why should I not critique myself? Why should I not be critiqued by others as well as my boss?

So I looked up some lists and organized them below...of what makes a successful marriage and what makes a successful teacher. You will smile at the similarities and hopefully find yourself in them.

But be honest. Okay, I will. I am NOT perfect nor do I pretend to be..or want to be..because that is not a growth mindset. I know where I fail...and it is okay with me when others in kindness to help me grow as a teacher do too. So I can approach this list and think..where do I need to grow?

Mark Goulston, M.D. Ten Habits of Happy Couples. 

25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently by the  Teach Thought Staff.

So briefly, here are some similarities between the two articles that can make your work as a professional educator OR as a person in a marriage or significant relationships moving forward reach the ROCK STAR level, and remember, it is a JOURNEY not a DESTINATION! 

  • Keep it all interesting in your profession / relationship.
  • Walk side by side..not in front of not behind...stay together! Leave no one behind!
  • Make trust and forgiveness focus on the positive.

  • Greet each other in kindness as well as bring positive closure to conversation.
  • Take a pulse of your you need to tune things up? Don't be a zombie!!! 
  • Honor and respect one another.

  • Have clear objectives...what are your goals for your professional situation / relationship?
  • Have a sense of purpose. Post a mission statement for yourself / relationship. 
  • Learning, relationships, and education are a messy... much like planting. It takes time, and some dirt, to grow. (This is why my blog has the title it does.)

  • Have a positive attitude! That changes everything every where you go and with each life you touch. 
  • Expect success!
  • Have fun together and laughter is so good for work / relationships!!! 
  • Be a risk taker. Do you need to step out of the box in your profession /relationship? Do it. Be Brave! Break out of the box! 
  • Reflect on your profession / relationship...adjust the sails. 
  • Seek out mentors for your profession on your own as well as mentors for your relationship. Spend time gleaning information and help along the way. It is important! Never stop learning! 

  • Adapt and welcome change in your profession / relationship and explore new avenues to take together!
  • Be a student of your students as well as a student of your spouse or significant other. There is always something to learn! Always.

In closing, status quo does not work. It won't get you anywhere you want to be not in your profession and not in your relationships. So, that is why I don't fret or balk at the process that we are now doing at fact, with a growth mindset, it is rather interesting and fun and I am learning a great deal about myself!!! 

Relationships/ MarriageRelationships/ Work
Mark Goulston, M.D. ~Ten Habits of Happy Couples.  Teach Thought Staff ~25 Things Successful Teachers Do Differently 
1. Go to bed at the same time1. Successful teachers have clear objectives21. Successful teachers bring fun into the classroom
11. Successful teachers are reflective
2. Cultivate common interests2. Successful teachers have a sense of purpose22. Successful teachers teach holistically
12. Successful teachers seek out mentors of their own
3. Walk hand in hand or side by side3. Successful teachers are able to live without immediate feedback23. Successful teachers never stop learning
13. Successful teachers communicate with parents
4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode4. Successful teachers know when to listen to students and when to ignore them24. Successful teachers break out of the box
14. Successful teachers enjoy their work
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong5. Successful teachers have a positive attitude25. Successful teachers are masters of their subject
15. Successful teachers adapt to student needs
6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work6. Successful teachers expect their students to succeed
16. Successful teachers welcome change in the classroom
7. Say "I love you" and "Have a good day" every morning7. Successful teachers have a sense of humor
17. Successful teachers take time to explore new tools
8. Say "Good night" every night, regardless of how you feel8. Successful teachers use praise smartly
18. Successful teachers give their students emotional support
9. Do a "weather" check during the day9. Successful teachers know how to take risks
19. Successful teachers are comfortable with the unknown
10. Be proud to be seen with your partner10. Successful teachers are consistent
20. Successful teachers are not threatened by parent advocacy

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

One Way I Can Use Doodlecast Pro For Formative Assessment

I Am Thankful #edustyle
I am thankful for my job, for my students and the families that they represent in all the areas that I work in. It is a honor. I am thankful for some top notch mentors and friends like Pat and Irene. I am thankful for my boss, Mark. 

I am thankful for ‪#‎edcamps‬ and I dream of edcamps. Its weird but I do. I feel like I am just a seed being watered during edcamps...soaking it all in. 

I am thankful for my very strong PLN network. We started off as people who have a common ground, education..and are ending up to be great friends and growing together. Almost everything I have learned in the past year, has been because of them. Every second I spend on there...has been well worth my time. 

I am thankful for my university that I love, Bethel University full of good memories, good friends, and my favorite way to learn..Christ in Culture as I continue to go there. I have spent my life since 5th grade in 1982 in those halls of Bethel....because of my daddy's job. Not many people can say that they have had one class act university speak so much into their life. It is a great solid foundation for me. 

There will be more learning to do..and since I see learning as a constant journey with ebbs and flows vs a destination...I am happy to declare a heart of thanksgiving for what is to come that I do not yet see.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Trying Too Hard? 
I have always been a girl who has loved Amy Grant ever since singing, "Father's Eyes" or "Old Man's Rubble" with my hair brush jumping on my bed because I was an early 80's rock star when I pretended to be her.

And with the distance in the rear view mirror of life, I am thankful for another song from her lately, "Don't Try So Hard."

It kinda goes at first against everything that I am I keep trying..harder and harder and I push myself to the point sometimes of being just wiped out with a headache coming on.

I feel like I have to. Most of the things that I try is because I love being creative and I like trying out new ways of teaching old things and infusing technology. I can't just abandon my job and my love for it and my love for the students.

It goes against the idea that I always have had for myself and for others which is do not give up!

But I resonate with this song. Even though my life is busy and full and I love it...

I hear the words from my creator saying, "Ah, Kimi, girl, don't try so hard." I love you just the way you are.

"Don't try so hard 
God gives you grace and you can't earn it 
Don't think that you're not worth it 
Because you are 
He gave you His love and He's not leaving 
Gave you His Son so you'd believe it 
You're lovely even with your scars 

Don't try so hard"

I have the grace to make it through. I also need wisdom when to stop and slow down. Grace and mercy are unmerited favors extended to me and I don't deserve it but I am thankful.

I can extend this same grace and mercy to my students. Not that I don't have high expectations for them or their behavior, I do. Not that I don't have high expectations for their journey of learning..because I do. Grace and mercy in the classroom looks like this:

  • Don't try so hard to be someone that you are not. BE YOU! JUST YOU.

It is the journey of learning in education that makes us beautiful as well as the entire journey of life.  

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Insanity Trap, I Need A Silent Night
I am not going to do it. I am not going to fall for it. There is no way in heck it will happen to me. Or so, I say to myself this little mantra year after year.

Then bang, like a sucka punch right hook I am down for the count and I swear to goodness, I didn't wanna be!

But this year...this year I am going to NOT fall for the insanity trap.

What is the insanity trap?

The holiday frenzy and hullabaloo. The one where you gotta top last year and the Johnson's who live next door. Not to mention that, sometimes, I have felt like I had to have the best Christmas decor in the classroom or make the best projects with the students. There are Christmas work parties, classroom parties, get the gifts for the volunteers, for my coworkers, for the students, for my own kids for my own family. Saw the tree down and decorate that and the cookies at the same time and grades. Sometimes grades have been due around the holiday season adding to the "fun" of it all.

That is the Insanity Trap.

  • I don't need it any more.  
  • I am too old for it. 
  • I just want to slow down. 
  • I have to slow down.

But all this has me thinking about the students and the rush rush rush that they have in their lives too, especially at this time and if I feel swamped, I am positive that they might be too.
So my gift to the students this year is to slow down. I don't need to make it to the end of the chapter, if I can't just to say that I got it in. I don't need to make stupid worksheets for "filler" time at school and the class party can be low key.

Students do deserve the best me and so do my own children..and that best me is not the insane woman! So, try this for yourself...slow down the holiday rush..make your classroom a sweet place of peace on Earth. Or if you are like me and run here and there throughout the school, walk instead...breathe in so much peace and serenity that you bring a calming effect where ever you go and you can make other's feel merry and bright. Chapter 5.11 may just wait until January.

The most urgent thing is NOT the most important thing. The most important thing is the people around us, our families and the students we are called to serve at work. It is the heart and souls of people that is the most important thing

You too deserve a Silent Night and Holy Night, a Midnight Clear, and a bit of Peace on Earth...end all the crazy with a Silent Night! Blessings....Kimberly

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Measurement in First Grade

I have to move to a new group of learners this coming week. I have known this now for two weeks now, so I worked really hard to move my first graders forward as far as I could with our math unit of measurement. We had such a great time together in this last unit. We measured ourselves and everything under the sun.  I love the little project they created! The black string reflects parts of the body that were measured. 

Wonderwall Wednesday Our Last One For A Bit

I have sat on this picture for over a week. I was afraid to post it, because it means the end of something that the students have enjoyed and I have as well since August, our Wonderwall Wednesday time. It has to be put on pause for at least four months while my time slot that I was doing that in (First Grade Math) is evolving into 3-5 RTI.  I am very sad. Truly I felt posting it would be the very thing that seals the deal and I didn't want to post. I had been on top of the Wonderwall postings with joy and this one, did not bring joy to post. Endings are hard.

All I needed was time. Time to see what the students were telling me. Our wonder for the week two weeks ago was, "How big is the sky?"  We started off by sectioning off a piece of paper to draw our sky.  As you can see, students were kind of making choices based on only the daylight, but as we talked, we realized that the night sky holds another set of beauty. We even looked up nebulas and added them to our section of the sky.  The answer is that the sky is trillions and trillions and trillions of miles wide and high.

Pretty much, that was kind of our Wonderwall. However it extends beyond the Wonderwall for me now. I want to take a moment to comment on #geniushour. If it were not for this time set aside or anytime set aside whatsoever to cultivate curiosity with the students, I don't know how I could go to work every day, every week, every month, every year and emotionally deal with all the directives and mandates and testing. It is really important that we do this in our classrooms. I am not giving up on #geniushour, I just need to find another way to express it that will best suit our new situation...and I am working on it.

The students deserve this time set aside for them to wonder at the world, to pause and to think deeper than a grade level standard would have them to. The students deserve opportunities to own their own learning.

The possibilities for the effectiveness of #geniushour in the classroom has the same answer as, "How big is the sky." And just as each student designed their perspective of the sky below, so #geniushour, when done in a true and pure form (not graded, not driven by a rubric) is a beautiful reflection of each student. Even below, if you see a mess, they see themselves. That is learning.

I love #geniushour because it breathes new life into learning, into the classroom, into the students and into me. I am grieved to see it have to take a back seat...but that is only fuel to a fire within me to find a new way to incorporate it. I love a good challenge.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Decision Making 101
We are all faced in our jobs, in our life in general to make decisions. How do you go about making decisions and how do you know when you have made a good one?

This weekend, many decisions were weighing on my head and I felt the burden of each one to the point of almost collapse from always having to "be on" and think through things from top to bottom.   When so much is coming at me it is important for me to reflect. As a woman of faith, the way that I do that is by listening to music that reflects my faith and by being still. I spend time reflecting on scriptures that point me to God's promises. I take time to worship and thank God for things that I see and for the things that I do not see. I pray for wisdom.

Ironically as I stepped in at church to serve in Sunday School, our lesson was on King Solomon  when God said he would give him all the riches of the world...but Solomon asked for wisdom.

I am thankful for the pressing on my heart that I get to just stop, drop and pray.


Welcome to my Monday.   Due to circumstances that I did not foresee, I discovered that I would have to let go for awhile, a part of my routine this year in first grade and do something else I also love, which is working in the area of interventions. I was given the opportunity to work this out with the other stake holders in involved in this process and then just let my principal know how it will all work out.

Here is how I went about making this specific decision.

As a stakeholder in this situation, I could easily have been a bit upset, I really love what I am doing. Why change? Why upset the fruit basket? I hope that people will see as I live my life, that I don't make life or issues all about me.

In this situation there was one handful. Everyone would have to give up something. That is what happens when decisions get made that affect so many. Be realistic.

After laying the cards down, looking at each one and not just at face value, where can we make choices that though we all have an opportunity cost, we can all walk away with some kind of "win" whether it is big or small.

As I discussed this with three of the major stakeholders, outside of the KEY stakeholder, the students, my goal was to hear their heart on the matter and put our KEY stakeholders, the children front and center and make the best decision for them.  It was clearly evident which direction to go.

I also know that there is no such thing as equality. If we are looking for equality, we won't find it. Fair is NOT equal. It never is in life. So, what would be the best choice keeping that thought in mind?  I think all my interest and study of  standards based grading is really coming into play with this thought, but it works in life!

My church has a motto that I love and believe in: Love God, Love People. Serve the World. It IS about how my talents and gifts can be used in this world to create the best good.

I am thankful for my co-teacher who I was able to hash things through passionately and my co-worker who let me cry as I let go of something I really love, to do something else I really love as well.

So winning. We all won!  It doesn't all look the same but the people that mean the most who this is really about won the most. They get the best possible scenario given to them to continue to build them in their journey of learning.

My heart is steady. It is going to be alright! That is how I know the decision reached was a good one. Peace of mind. Every student. Every day! 
You matter. They matter.