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Why relationships first

Imagine a new classroom full of students you don’t know and you’re given a guide to teach with, lessons to utilize, and given the green light to start your new year. Now imagine a classroom full of students that don’t know you and struggle with learning. This was me in late elementary and early middle school. A struggling learner too shy to speak up and too afraid to mess up over and over again. A learner who craved to learn but didn’t want anyone else to see me struggle. I had teachers that didn’t catch my learning difficulties and I struggled to trust the next teacher.

The classroom environment can bring anxiety and stress to so many students. Students that struggle with someone new knowing their story and understanding how to teach them. Students that have had bad experiences and are cautious to let someone new in. New teachers understanding that their lessons may not fit students who are struggling academically, emotionally, socially, physically, or within a few of these. When students are given something to do and are already uneasy about the situation, escalation of emotions can occur. It’s not personal; it’s a reaction to what the student is given. It’s a response to the situation. While it may not be appropriate, it happens.

When educating the minds of our youth, we must not forget to educate their hearts. (1).png

As teachers, we are told to get to know our students. We are told to character build and include all students. Inadvertently though, we can cause a fire storm right in front of our eyes. Providing activities that we feel will strengthen the classroom environment can cause students to doubt if they can succeed in this classroom. The struggle is real for so many of our students and we have to remember relationships over content first. We are in the heart business and must educate the hearts of our students to educate with content second.

What does that look like? It starts with investing in our students through love. Love to be included in their classrooms, love to feel safe, and love to trust you. Can it be a long road? Absolutely! However, your students will know you love them as your actions and words bring them back to your room day after day. If you pour out love to your students, it will make a difference and build your relationship with them.

There is nothing in this world more powerful than love. (1).png

We’ve all heard the phrase “relationships first” and go with the flow. However, relationships are the foundation for having students learn the content in your area. If there’s no relationship, no trust with your student, the content won’t be grasped to the capacity needed to obtain mastery. You will be spinning in many directions without the relationship first. You and the student will endear many frustrations that could have been avoided if the relationship was build upon first.

You can’t speak into someone’s life until you build a relationship with them.

Looking back, I had a few superhero teachers who did it right and some that didn’t. Being a struggling learner who had a multitude of learning challenges, the teacher that made the most difference on me built the relationship first. They talked to me and listened, they noticed when I struggled, they encouraged me to keep going, and they cared.

Build upon the relationship from day one, listen, and be apart of the student’s journey as a learner and not just the teacher of record.

 

 

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You are their constant

Over my years in education, I’ve noticed something. Students come to us for love, education, support, and (some) consistency. Our students’ emotional well being depends on us being their constant day in and out. Every year, the last sentiment holds true whether students are in my classroom or in another class.

As educators, we can’t control what our students see outside the four school walls but we can try to keep the constant when they are in school. We can support THEM, encourage THEM, and celebrate THEM every single day. Are there days it is harder than others, of course! However your every action, word, and notion is noted in your student’s world. Some come to us for education and that’s fabulous. However, you have many that come to us for some much more and the time is now to clinch that responsibility. Love your students, support THEM, and be their constant.

Rita Pierson hits the nail on the head as she advocated for ever kid to need a champion. YOU can be someone’s champion today as they learn to figure out their lives in and out of schools. I truly believe our students come to us for a reason and that makes them champions in our hearts. Seeing their struggles, their triumphs, and their grace is amazing.

My students love must. It’s encouragement for them and a song they will replay. Our students get the music, they listen to it on their off time, and look up to so many artists just because of what they say. Why not find a medium for them to be encouraged through and with every day. Our students are CHAMPIONS every day. They overcome so much and, this year, we’ve found encouragement through this video.

Our students rely on US to be their constant every day. To love, to listen, to encourage, and to support THEM every day. Why not clinch this honor, rise up, and be their constant every day. THEY depend on it for their time with you. Be their constant every day!

Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be

 

 

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Beacon of gratitude

Several months ago, Chris and I were in discussion about a gratitude chat to highlight the good we spread, cultivate, and relish around us. A time to reflect upon the topic of gratitude in the form of a twitter chat. Something I really glean information from is twitter chats.

Therefore, #gratefuledu was born and is a bi-monthly chat that highlights gratitude through the good, the tough, and how we can still see gratitude in the midst of any point in our lives. Something that blesses me is the power of this chat and how I am encouraged by others every other week. It’s real talk, building up others as we go, reflecting on our current practices, and is something that I hope to continue.

Something that hits home is kindness through gratitude. It doesn’t have to be much. Just a simple gesture or kind word can make someone’s day. When you are intentional with your actions and words, people notice. It can be a simple gesture or a little thing to you that can make someone’s day better. The beacon of gratitude shines.

Kindness matters. A smile, a laugh, holding a door for someone whose hands are full, a bottle of water, a piece of chocolate, and simple words of encouragement all go a long way

People notice the gratitude and kindness when you make an effort. You can make someone’s day by your one action. That’s pretty powerful.

This past Sunday, many of the members that joined the #gratefuledu chat really touched by heart and made me smile as we shared ways to refill the gratitude cup. Y’all, May is tough for so many. With deadlines, paperwork, spring fever brewing, and more, it’s a good time to reflect on the beacon of gratitude. Gratitude, in itself, is the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude is a CHOICE and we CHOOSE to show appreciation for all. It’s something that can make the world go around and can make the stress of everything diminish.

No act of kindess, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

For me, random acts of kindness through gratitude is my jam. Noticing what others do and appreciating what they give forth matters. Having someone’s day change by one handwritten note or kind comment matters. Putting forth intention to make someone’s day matters. Giving someone a pat on the back and spreading gratitude through kindness matters.

Whatever your gift may be in gratitude, I challenge you to be a beacon of gratitude and go forth to spread kindness through intentional acts to support one another each and every day. Your one act matters!

Gratitude
Photo used with permission by Akilah Ellison

 

 

 

 

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Even on the toughest of days

It’s May! Teachers and students are feeling the warmer weather, the sunshine outside, and know the year is winding down. The testing season is among so many states, anxiety is through the roof for students and staff, and the end stretch is near. Changes in schedules and routines can throw the most regimented and scheduled student off. It’s that time of the year.Wherever you go, leave footprints of love, for those who have lost their way.

Even on the toughest of days, I try to remember that I am a constant for so many. I may be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed but my students depend on me! I have to remain level headed even when they can’t. It’s easier said than done, I get it. However, think of entering a classroom or arena and having all eyes on you. It happens every day. Our students notice our every move and feed off our energy. What you can control will impact your students.

YOU are the constant for so many of your students. YOU make a difference every single day! Even on thee toughest of days, YOUR students depend on you and your ability to have their back and have them rise to the occasion every day! I know you are tired and stressed. But now is the time to be the constant for your students.

The final race is on! You are their constant. Own it and show it day in and out!

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Facing the challenge

Facing the challenge & overcoming circumstances

Imagine, for a minute, you are a ten year old student who doesn’t read well, is in fifth grade, and is struggling with academics, emotions, and fear of the unknown for eight hours a day at school. Imagine being given assignment after assignment, being told to read material, and feeling the angst of not knowing how day after day. Imagine, for a second, how the struggle of defeat day in and out felt for a student in your classroom or school now.

I was that student in fifth grade. I remember that gut wrenching feeling of failure and shame of not really knowing how to read well day in and out. I was tested in elementary school but didn’t really fit the mold of the ranges to be a person with a specific learning disability at first. Through the tears, the worries, the fears, and the trials, my parents didn’t give up. I, on the other hand of ten, wanted to badly.

Days and nights of frustration filled my soul. The lack of confidence, since I didn’t know how to read, engulfed me. I struggled. I needed support and I had just that when I hit rock bottom. My family chose to go outside of the district to have me diagnosed since the school district didn’t and, at that time, found out that I learned slower than peers my age, had Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Specific Learning disabilities, and a slew of other issues. Finally, an answer to the struggles.

These labels didn’t define me though. They give me a reason to fight back along the way. The labels gave me a reason to understand why I learned differently and struggled. The labels and struggles opened the doors for the support I desperately needed. Looking back, I wish the school district would have intervened earlier or had helped sooner. However, this fuels my fire to continue to face the challenge of learning disabilities and barriers along the way.

It took one person to say what I was going through wasn’t okay. It took a team of professionals one opportunity to recognize that what I was going through needed to be remedied. It took time, lots of patience, tutoring, and more patience to allow me to read and be able to understand what I read.

However, no one gave up on me and, for that, I am truly grateful for this notion. There were long hours, frustrations, tears, and struggles. The struggles didn’t magically go away as I encountered middle and high school as well as college. I just learned strategies and self advocacy along the way. I now serve a Special Education teacher. However, the struggles gave me fuel to help others so no one would have to sit in my fifth grade seat and feel like I did to this day.

Fuel the fire (1)

There is always a reason for a trial. Whether we know it now or have to find it along the way, it’s there. It’s unending, undefined (at the moment), and untamed. However, there is a reason somewhere along the way. I never want any student to ever go through what I did and this empowers me to fuel the fire, kindle the flames, and never give up on any student. They deserve more than I received and that’s why I do what I do every day.

 

 

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Value the spark

Something I value when working with students is seeing their spark and ability to learn moving forward. Their acceptance of people makes me smile. Their tenacity, their will, their desire to know more, and their energy. They make me question what I do, how I teach them, and how I bring education to them. They make me who I am today.

Cherish the moments of light (1)
Educators have the ability to kindle the light of education every day. We see the light bulb moments, the struggle, the breakthroughs, and the victories. We get a front row seat to see amazing things happen and the journey through every journey. Do we value that, though? Do we celebrate and promote the GOOD we see every day just because? Do we value the spark that we cultivate and grow every day? If we do, fabulous!

If not, why not?

On the opposite side of those triumphs and flames are dedicated teachers who cheer on students every day. They kindle the light, give their heart and soul, and matter. You are not unnoticed. You provide guidance and support along the way. You are a vital part of that flame that we call education in the path of greatness. You are not unnoticed and WE, the educational community, SEE you! If you haven’t heard it in a while, thank you for kindling the flame of education and valuing the sparks around you!

Add it all together

Every single one of us have that potential to value the spark within and around us. It’s a choice yet is there for us all to grasp moving forward. It’s raw, real, and overwhelming. However, why not take the challenge? YOU have the potential to notice what’s around you and value the spark leading the way in education.

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Savor the calm

Calm: a state of being or action that one can feel, see, or act upon.

Yesterday, I took a drive to Texas Tulips after an appointment & was taken back by the calm of the field of tulips. The colors, the smells, and the sights. It was a gloomy day and on the cooler side but the flowers were radiant and really made it worth the drive.

The fields of tulips struck a cord with me as I attempted to not slip in the mud. A simple field of flowers can brighten my day. It can make me stop and appreciate the good around us.

Savoring the calm is a choice. A choice I take every day. Life gets crazy, don’t get me wrong, and deadlines and stress can creep in. At first, it can be okay and then you’re overwhelmed quickly. It’s a vicious cycle.

However, savoring the calm is a necessity of life. It’s a way to step back and relish the good around us. The good that keeps you sane. The good you look forward to. The good that surrounds you day in and out. The good that is around us all if we just stop and savor the calm.

Savoring the calm and be more than tulips or flowers for others. However, it’s a necessity of life. If we don’t slow down and savor what’s around us, we will miss it. Something we can help our students and colleagues around us notice. It’s as simple as a conversation. There’s good all around us. Have you stopped to savor the calm lately?