Cultivate Collaboration

cultivated communication (1)

Collaboration: discussing ideas to further create something. Every day, educators create lessons and prepare materials for students. Having the opportunity to see new ideas and implement them in your classroom and area takes trust and, sometimes, a leap of faith. Sharing is caring in the education world.

This past weekend, I attended Edcamp Cyfair. Edcamp has upcoming events on their website. It’s a fabulous event that is not a sit and get event. It’s topics that are relevant to the attendees, what we really are wanting to share and learn more about, and a schedule is created based on participant interest. Edcamps, by far, have been my favorite professional development. Not only do you learn about topics of interest, you get peer-to-peer support by talking out issues or difficulties and can take new ideas to your classroom the next week.

Something that really speaks to me as an educator and as an Edcamp participant is the fact that we learn together. We give suggestions, we offer new ideas, and we support one another with suggestions. Something that really hits home for me is the ability to relate to other educators and to, ultimately, support students in the process. Our students BENEFIT from Edcamps due to the ideas flowing and suggestions brought forward.

Most Edcamps offer notes online to share and refer back to often. Edcamp Cyfair was no different and I love being able to refer back to the notes as there is so much goodness shared in a short amount of time. Here are the notes from Edcamp Cyfair and the ideas shared. Something I’ve noticed in education since graduating as an educator is the power of collaboration and the GOOD it does for educators. Not only do you gain valuable insight, you find new ways to serve your students.

Just this weekend, I found out new ideas to support my students in writing such as using comics from make belief comics and a brain dump (with templates) to support students’ ideas and allow them to be hooked in writing. I also learned about a confetti high five tool that shoots confetti when someone high fives you. I ordered it on amazon Saturday and it came in today. I plan to use this on Friday and can’t wait!

confetti high five

Edcamps, professional development, and PLCs aren’t just about learning about new ideas. It’s about cultivating collaboration as a person & educator and to use later. Think of it as a file of goodness. Cultivate the information, share with others, and collaborate to make your students’ hanging on the edge of their seats waiting for more.

The power of “I’m sorry”

Recently Aaron Hogan, writer and moderator of #Teachermyth, challenged participants to write about something you recognize you are learning this week. It could have been simple or profound. I recognized how an apology and owning up to my mistakes made my students see how human I really am!

Last Thursday, I discovered that I had made a mistake with my students after school while reviewing their daily point sheets. It was something that could be fixed and apologized for. However, I realized I needed to tell them “I’m sorry” and admitted to my six to eleven year olds that I was human. Their responses amazed me and I noticed that their words really impacted me.

I’m sorry…two words that can turn a conversation in a different direction. Admitting any mistake can be tough. However, when you apologize to students, they realize your heart is in the right place. They connect with you in a way you didn’t realize they could and they see the raw, real you of wanting them to know you care.

the power of _i'm sorry_
Every day, educators have students in front of them and hope to make a difference in their lives. Their words, your words, your heart, their hearts, and emotions are all at play. We all make mistakes. We’re human. However, having the heart to apologize to your students really makes an impact. Something I noticed when I apologize to my students is the connective piece. I get the “it’s okay” or “you made a mistake?” However, I want my students to see the side of me that’s not always right. The side that I make mistakes just like them. Owning up to my mistake wasn’t just powerful, it was REAL. They accepted my words, my apology, and my plan to move forward with them.

If we want our students to stand by their actions, apologize for mistakes, and live up to the challenge of life, we must do the same. We are human. We make mistakes & we must own up to them just like we expect our students to own up.

Think about a time you made an error or mistake with your students. Did you apologize? If not, I challenge you to the next time. Perhaps you can see the REALness of YOU being human in front of them. If we can’t own up to our mistakes, why should our students?

5 ways to ease back to school

5 ways to ease your students back into the structure of school.png

The New Year is over and students are heading back to school across the United States and beyond this week. The anxiety will be high students who have had their entire routine and structure deviated for the past two weeks. Re-entry into the structured, school setting is fabulous for so many but not without push back from some. Teachers ready to dive back into school as they know it and students ready to reorient to the school setting. For some, school is a safe place where they know they are loved and seen. As educators, we must be mindful that we can’t just dive back into the land of school without some review and refreshers. Coming back from any break means review and refresh for expectations, guidelines, and rules.

5 ways to ease your students back to school

Let students talk..
Some of our students have been at home or without multiple activities over the break. They’re ready to have their friends back and you too. Allow for students to discuss their break. Perhaps ask “who did you spend your break with?” instead of “what did you do over break?” to guide students if needed. Give them a chance to connect again as well as observe the body language and students’ reactions over the regroup time. Some students have been entertained from start to finish while others aren’t. Be mindful and enjoy their stories.

Review expectations and procedures
We have all slept over the past few weeks and have had excitement and stress in our lives. Review expectations with students, make a new anchor chart, and get student input into what makes your classroom work well. From preschool to high school, students like having input and teaching others. Why not step aside and have students review expectations and procedures? Provide feedback as needed.

Practice expectations, procedures & practice again
It’s been a while. After reviewing expectations and procedures, have students practice how they are supposed to be in the classrooms and around the school. Take time to refine your procedures as you are laying the foundation for the second semester or winter term. It may take five tries and that is a-okay. However, reentry and review supports students having a routine they follow and that is vital for so many of our students. Set the foundation and allow students to feel success after a break.

Provide positive feedback & excitement for students
I will admit, I missed my students over the holiday break. Their sayings, appreciation, and just them. However, it was a much needed break. To welcome students back into the classroom, be excited to see them, celebrate who they are, and provide positive feedback. I can bet students missed you or, at least, their structure/schedule over the break. Be intentional about providing specific feedback to students as the day/week progresses. Sometimes we see our students more than they see their parents throughout the work week. Take the initiative and celebrate the students in your class who create the tone and culture of your classroom.

Be visible & upbeat
So many times, our students don’t have positive interactions on the way to school. Something may have happened at home, on the bus, or their basic needs haven’t been met well over the break. Be visible in the morning with your students. I LOVE morning duty to see the first pulse of my students. Offer a greeting, high five/hug/fist bump, and give them attention. The first interaction can make or break a student’s day. Invest time and awareness to students and be upbeat about students coming back to school. Your presence is huge for so many students.

Ease back into school knowing your schedule may flux a little, there may be an occasional frustration or two, and some may be so exhausted the first day. However, know YOU MATTER to your students every day. Sometimes, YOU are their constant and they depend on you as much as they etch their story into your heart. After a long break can be challenging. However, keep the expectations consistent, review & practice expectations, keep the structure present, and the bar high for your students.

Have a wonderful winter/second semester term!

BE: one word in 2019

2019: a new year full of new beginnings, hope, and a slate that is not full of what has happened in the past. An opportunity to start fresh and create new goals, new opportunities, and new words to commit to.

Recently I stumbled upon #oneword2019 and it really got me thinking of how I could explore new avenues as well as owning what I can bring to the table and provide for others. I will admit, I struggled at first, since I was stuck between two words. Two words that encompassed two true avenues of hope moving forward. I decided on BE for my one word in 2019. The definition of Be has many. However, two in particular, resonated with me. The definitions “to equal in meaning” as well as “to identify with” resonate as I move forward in this new year.

I will BE a teacher as well as a mentor and family member. I can also BE a person who has ideas and thoughts. Moving forward, I want to BE someone who can be heard as well as someone who inspires and empowers others daily. I am charging myself with a goal to not only identify the good I bring as well as the inspiration I can bring to others every day.

Being a special educator, I already have a playing field. I really need to OWN what I can BE for others and for myself. It’s not an easy task. That negative voice can creep up and self-doubt can cycle in. However, I can’t wait to see what I can BE to myself and others this year. I am committing to be vulnerable, to take a leap of faith, and the BE this year. I can’t wait to go along this journey.

Be one word

Empathy as a superpower

Every day, educators are faced with situations that involve emotions. No matter the ages of students, educators must think quick on their feet at times. We manage the good times and the difficult trials with our students every day. It is difficult to face but it’s our reality. As educators our reality isn’t just to educate but to build a relationship to support the student during their good and tough moments.

When we get right down to it, educators are in the heart business. Every day we provide positive feedback, model how to work through difficult situations, and provide a safety net for our students. We adjust our practices and strategies to meet the diverse needs of every student whether it’s an behavioral, emotional, or academic need.

Every day, we hear about their dreams, their interests, and eventually they let us inside their world and whatever good or difficult may be there. The simple truth is our students have baggage, trauma, and negative experiences that make journey through life difficult. Some may keep it all in and never show an explosive response to it while others may meltdown, cry, become violent, and act out. Every student is unique in their journey.We MUST remember that ALL behavior is feedback. It_s what we use to learn more about our students and get better at meeting their needs.Add subheading (1)Behavior tells a story whether it’s good or bad. How we respond or note the behavior truly matters. Educators must use and reuse empathy every day. Empathy gets down to the feelings of the individuals. Empathy puts yourself in their shoes. Think about that. Put yourself in your student’s shoes when responding to their behaviors. How would you want someone to respond if you’re visibly upset or emotional? How would you feel if someone just stared at you when you were having a tough time?

Instead of trying to fix every situation or come up with a fast solution, I challenge you to listen to your students, observe their body language, and hear what they really are saying. Put yourself in their shoes and see the problem face on together. Every educator has a duty to meet the needs of students each day. Why not use empathy as a superpower to connect and understand your students?

Empathy is a super power

A grateful heart

Every so often, I tell people I am a special educator and get the response “it takes a special person to do that.” Other times, I tell people I am a teacher and get the response “oh you’re stronger than me.” Sometimes these responses bring good feelings and other times, I wonder, what else is posed on teachers when others find out their profession.

There’s a simple truth, though, to my teaching and answering my calling and that is with a grateful heart. A grateful heart to teach, to watch students be successful, to see students struggle and succeed, and to keep coming back. My profession as a Social Emotional Teacher has stretched me thin this semester. I never realized how much students dealt with until I started working with students with trauma filled lives and struggles. For my first six weeks of this year, I responded to calls for assistance and, in turn, found out that trauma has so many facets. Primarily, trauma does not discriminate nor is it just in special education. It is real and lives and breathes within so many students. It’s present every day and students react in many different ways.

Trauma does not discriminate. It happens everywhere—across all races, religions, socioeconomic levels, and family systems.

This school year has defined my grateful heart even more than years past. I have the opportunity to show up to a population of students that needs a constant. A population of students that uses my experience and knowledge for power and support. This is not me tooting my own horn; it’s owning what I can give every single day. Whether it’s responding to screams or elopement or being under a table with a student, my grateful heart of supporting students grows.

While I spend most of my days in a self contained unit working with extreme emotional and behavioral needs, I still consider it a gift to help others who need support as I am able. Being able to empower teachers and students daily is a calling that has solidified over the past two years. It’s not just the students that need support; it’s the teachers and staff working with students daily who need support too.

There are so many needs in the classroom setting and while, I can only do so much, I lead with a grateful and willing heart to support others. Whether it’s a teacher at their wits end or needing some new ideas or a student in crisis, my hope is to respond with a grateful and willing heart every single time.

A matter of hours

Cultivating my why with heart

I’ve had the best of both worlds through my years as a substitute, home bound instructor, and a teacher in different capacities. From preschool to high school, I’ve seen so much over the years and I am forever grateful for the experiences that have allowed me to know what I know and do what I do today.

This year I moved districts, positions, and felt the calling to come close to home. I accepted the position of a Social Emotional Teacher and behavior supporter for many. It’s a dream position as I love having a self contained unit to truly focus on the needs of students in a smaller setting. I also have the pleasure of supporting teachers to provide strategies for students to be successful in the general education setting. It is a dream come true. It has been so much new but I am learning how to cultivate my why every single day and this leads me to find JOY each day too.

Thinking of how I support students and staff this year and in years past has led me back to cultivating my WHY and HOW every single day this year. So many times, I get pulled every which way and am in the thick of things all day long. On those long days, I have to look back to my WHY and see those smiles, laughs, and good moments that make the day special. I could get caught up in the little things and negatives but that is just not my style. HOW I choose to cultivate JOY of every day matters. From smiles to laughter, it really makes my day.

Looking ahead, I want to cultivate my why and how every day. How I serve students and staff as well as why I choose what I do daily. I find JOY in supporting others and this leads me to cultivate my passion daily. It’s not always easy but it makes my day to do what I do!

Looking forward, I don’t do my profession for the recognition, I do it for the HEART!

Helping students
Every time
Achieve and
Regulate themselves (with support if needed)
To learn, grow, and acquire new knowledge daily!

Ed quote