Perspective through a different lens

Today I had the opportunity to attend attend two sessions about trauma responsiveness and behavior by Juliana Nichols-Hazlett. Hazlett is a doctoral student, former administrator and special education teacher, and consultant who is focusing on ensuring that teachers are equipped and empowered to meet the social-emotional needs of their students. I could honestly listen to her all day and got so much out of the her two sessions. Reflecting on what impacted me the most and will make its way into my classroom on Monday morning.

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Ross Greene believes kids do well if they can and that reigns true for people too. People do well if they can and Hazlett notes when people know better, they do better. It’s basic brain architecture really.  Basic brain architecture prove that experiences shape the brain and interactions with adults and through experiences build the brain’s foundation. Something I found very interesting is that the part of the brain that isn’t being used prunes and makes room for new learning and experiences over time.

Educators are seeing trauma in students today. In fact, two out of three students are impacted by trauma. Trauma in our lives changes our body and brain architecture. Educators must remember that it is vital to focus on what happened with/to them versus what’s wrong with them. Every single person manages trauma differently. As educators, it is our job to respond through a relationship that is rooted in regulated and reflective practices.

Many depend on us to be the constant. Until we (adults) recognize the social emotional learning ourselves, we can’t just focus on our students. Hazlett notes a disregulated adult is toxic. If we can’t be rooted in relationships, we aren’t able to meet the deeper needs of the student. Our role as responsive educators isn’t about our title, it’s about the relationship. The way we respond to either reinforces the trauma or repairs the trauma. Building the relationship and truly moving from trauma informed to trauma responsiveness stems to what are we doing and how we are responding to those with trauma.

The way that educators respond to trauma matters. We are wired for connections as humans. It’s how our brain works. Moving from trauma informed to trauma responsiveness takes time and equates to having the knowledge and utilizing it with intent to make a change. It’s a slow process, of course. However, it is my responsibility as an adult and educator, to calm the chaos and not join in. We have an opportunity each day to make an impact and build up a relationship over time. Trauma looks different in everyone but the way you respond and build a relationship with someone truly makes a difference. Be willing to try a new lens, way, approach, or response to make an impact. It matters. Text placeholder.png

 

 

An emotional impact

In the past two weeks, I have been hit, kicked, bitten (too many times to count on just one hand), smacked, had items thrown at my head, charged at, and spit on. It’s been tough to say the least. Behaviors have always been an interest to me and these past two weeks have been very emotional for me.

In my world, there are no BAD kids, just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions & impulses, trying to communicate their feelings & needs the only way they know how.
My students have behavioral difficulties that have landed them with me. A self contained, Social Emotional Teacher who is doing the best I can every day. In any given day, I can have students be compliant and civil while others may flip their lids and struggle to regulate. While there have been weeks where I’ve had a rough day or two, the past two weeks almost did me in.

Emotionally, I was a wreck for a few days after the fact. Knowing that young students have severe behaviors and can hurt adults can be really difficult to swallow. After being emotional, I felt guilt of wondering “am I doing the right thing?” as well as “can I really do this?” Waves of emotions after secondary trauma are typical and this was no different.

I stood in a doorway, one afternoon last week, and was reminded that I have the “hardest job in the whole school” by a colleague who gave me a pep talk and hug. That day was dark and I was bruised visibly and emotionally. Her words went to my heart and got me through the afternoon and into Friday. Having had others tell me “I don’t know how you do it” or “I would’ve quit by now” gives me strength to keep going.

This period of time has changed me for the better. I am learning how to support students with severe behaviors, going through the emotions, and realizing that their actions are making a big impact on me to do more to support them. Life as a special educator is never dull, always adventurous, and leaves an emotional impact on my heart for years to come.

The impact we make

difference

As educators, we support students and staff every day. We pour of hearts into our people and we hope we make a difference in their lives too. It’s the work of the heart every day. Planning, organizing, and caring about the people we work to make the world for. The moments come alive when we share with our populations on a daily basis.

Every day, we make a difference. Not just in the classroom or with students and staff; with the people that see our work of heart and difference on a daily basis. The activities, the smiles, the relationships we build, and the care in our heart. We make decisions for many and see the results in front of us and live. Does it always work? Ha! But we work to do better next time.

One of my favorite hats as a teacher is listening to my students’ stories and seeing their GRACE for me. In turn, they are difference makers in my life. Seeing their reactions, their excitement, and their love makes all the difference. Our students have the biggest hearts and, while they may not always show it, they care. They make an impact in our lives by the memories they etch into our hearts and minds.

Somewhere around you, others see, read, or hear about your difference and impact you make. They notice your excitement, your heart, and your impact, sometimes before you. They notice the passion that overflows when you light up and take matters into your heart. They notice the difference and often give sayings like “you are awesome” or “thank you for your work as a teacher.” Those sentiments matter in the lives of educators. They fill your cup and are stops along your journey.

Every day, we are making a difference in the the lives of our students and their path to education. The difference we share matters. The difference we give matters. We are making an impact every day. Every day, however, others impact us too. I challenge you to take into heart how others impact you every day and hold that tight. Making a difference is serious and awesome business. Make your impact today!

make your impact matter

Cultivate Collaboration

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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

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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