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.

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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?

Social Emotional learning ideas

Social emotional learning or SEL has become a huge topic of discussion among educators over the past several years and it’s a necessity in any classroom. I get the time aspect to a degree but it’s not excuse to not teach them in your setting.  I have an opportunity to make an impact every day. Social emotional learning is much more than just social skills and sets the tone for managing emotions, setting goals, and building relationships daily.

Social Emotional Learning & ways to incorporate them in your classroomCASEL is a great resource that breaks down SEL competencies and gives ideas and resources you can use in your setting. Edutopia has some great SEL topics and ideas as well. Education Week‘s How Teacher’s can build Social Emotional Learning is a great wealth of knowledge too. If you look, there are lots of ways to incorporate SEL in any setting.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate SEL is to have a circle up or morning meeting with classes. Checking in with student’s to check their emotional pulse will speak volumes about a student before the day gets too far in. It doesn’t have to be a long, drawn out process but it’s vital for teachers to check that pulse and it tells a lot. You can tie in a social skill or two during this time. It is imperative for students to learn how to listen to one another, to take turns, and to be able to listen intently. Sure it takes time but why not start now?The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more things you learn, The more places you'll go.Read alouds are a huge part of my classroom and students love them. My students love being read to and, when they can relate to a lesson and activity, they can grasp skills that are talked about in books. Julia Cook’s books tackle issues kids deal with daily and make it meaningful for kids. There are even books read aloud online if you don’t have a particular book. From lying to the sound of no, there’s something for everyone.

Lately, my students have loved these books and will bring up the theme or what we discussed. When students can relate to a book and talk about it after, they’re hooked.
+ The Color Monster
+ In my Heart: a book about feelings
+ The Bad Seed
+ I am Human: a book about Empathy
+ My Magic Breath
+ Seeds and Trees
There are many more. However, these are the few my students ask for by name and are great review for any age. If you’re a middle or high school teacher, students still love to be read to. It’s a great hook and conversation starter for any age.

Recognizing feelings and being able to identify them as well as note how students feel is imperative in the early years. In my social emotional classroom, I use My Feelings workbook that I found and from young to older, students can identify their feelings and how it makes them feel. It’s a free resource and is so powerful.

Encouraging kindness at any time can be powerful and meaningful. Students need to know how to be kind and how to show kindness to others. Random acts of kindness can be powerful as well as Thankful Thursday. Incorporate kindness in your read alouds, morning meeting, or in a different activity. Encouraging and promoting kindness can change the tone in your classroom today.

Incorporating Social Emotional Learning in your classroom takes planning and follow through. However, it truly makes a difference and the ideas are endless.

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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

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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!

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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.