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!

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

 

 

Courage to be seen

Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. –Maya Angelou

Courage: Something people are born with an innate sense of knowing while others have to build up over time. It seems some have more courage or the ability to be seen without difficulty. Courage looks different on so many people.

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Strength is something that isn’t defined as how much you can lift or withstand. It’s how much you can take, how much you can endure, and how much you can hold and manage without breaking. In education, strength looks so different on so many due to the different capacities we work in.

However, we all face different capacities (or so it seems) each day. Decisions and trials, though, still make us have a unique bond. A bond that is so great that it gives us a community of strength as the days and weeks go on. A bond on strength, camaraderie, endurance, and hope. A bond that gives a net of encouragement on those days when we wonder what we can give when our internal tank is empty. A bond that encourages us to have courage and to be the best we can be to serve our students and our community each and every day.

As educators, we must have the courage to be seen and the moral strength to take on the day to day difficulties. It’s tough! No class or book can prepare you for the trenches you endure and face each day. Some days can be amazing and others can be really, really difficult. Difficult can continue on for days and that makes you appreciate the really good days even more. As people, we must have the courage to endure the trials, overcome the struggles, and continue to lead with the willingness to show up and have the courage to keep going.

Courage may look so different on so many but having the courage to show up is the first step in moving forward. Move forward for the better as well as the ability to keep going and to be seen. Take a breath, have a plan, and have the courage to be present day in and out.

Courage starts with showing up and letting outselves be seen.

Going for gold & striving for the best

Striving for the gold medal.png

With the Olympics in full swing and the need for Educators being on their A-game each and every day, I wanted to put a little pep in your educator step & remind you how fabulous you are today. We strive for the best and go for gold each day.

We step out and make a difference in other’s lives everyday.

We do more than just show up and act. We care. We go for the hearts and minds of others. We strive for the best for others each and every day. We take a stand for our community, students, and staff each day. The people that give us flack may truly not understand our purpose or hearts. However, those who we stand and strive for will remember the good and purposeful motives we give each and every day. It’s not about the recognition; it’s about the difference we make.

We strive to be the difference makers in hearts & minds.

The smiles, support, and encouragement you give daily matter to someone. You may not be told how much it means until later but it matters. People depend on us, the educators, as their supporters. From greeting students every morning to solving problems to making plans, we are making a difference each day. The daily heart to hearts as well as guidance you give matters. We make a difference in others each day & that can be the best memory.

Educators go for the gold and strive for excellence.

The support we give each and every day makes a difference. The presence you give matters. The A-game and all in response when things are tough matters. You giving your all for others matters! Giving excellence each and every day matters.

As educators, you have a choice.

Go for the gold and strive for excellence or just show up to do what you can do in those 8 hours a day. While I wish everyone showed up for excellence, it’s not the case. As educators, we must show up, care, and strive for excellence each & every day. It’s a movement. It’s an action. It’s a stance. To be the best you can for others while being on your A-game to move forward for others.

We are difference makers and, collectively, should choose gold and strive for excellence each & every day!

Our students > a state test

This past week I had students ask me about STAAR (Texas state assessment) and when it was slated to be given. My first response was the month but that didn’t stop my wondering minds standing in front of me. They wanted to know the dates and whom would be testing them (they are in small group and individual testing locations). You see, my students are in special ed and this assessment creates a lot of unknown and fear for them. It changes their normal, changes where they attend for the day, and changes what they see. It creates a lot of anxiety for them and adults alike and these are JUST ten and eleven year olds.

When I was able to look up the dates, my students started to look upset, rock, and get very quiet (very unlike them). The FEAR and anxiety had started in January. JANUARY! As an educator and someone who struggled at their age with learning, this breaks my heart into a million pieces.

As a Special Education Teacher, my job isn’t defined by a state assessment. I meet my students individual needs each and every day! My job is defined and reviewed by an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and meeting the needs of my students each and every day. Do some of my students take the regular STAAR with accommodations, yes. Some of my students also take the STAAR-Alt due to their disabilities. But the STAAR doesn’t define my students or myself each day!

My students are SO MUCH more than just what is on paper and what a snapshot of the test day gives and brings. The STAAR test is a day in their school year. It DOES NOT define who they are and what they have to offer. It’s not individualized or what level they are on. It’s a standardized assessment. Just a test on a given day that is a snapshot of that day not what all a student can and can’t do!

As the STAAR (or a your state assessment) gets closer and closer, I have to stop, take a breath, and tell my students each day that they are SO MUCH more than a state assessment. It DOES NOT define who they are, what they offer, and who they will become. It’s just a TEST. To them, though, it’s a day in the week that throws their who day and schedule off. It has problems that are too difficult compared to the level they are at and it’s tense. To them, it’s a day that is not routine and scheduled like they are used to. To them, it’s so much more than JUST a test.

In a world that assesses our students, we have to remember that our students are still KIDS who have questions, fears, and anxiety just like us but they don’t have the adult attached to them to be able to breathe and process like us.  Our students are SO MUCH more than just a test! 

As state assessments get closer and closer, I challenge educators to have those conversations about when the assessments occur, how STATE assessments do NOT define what students are, and how AMAZING our students are each and every day!

KEEP CALM and TEACH students who are SO much more than a test!

A grateful heart

Something to live for, to seek, and to strive for…a grateful heart. Something you don’t always show (I’ll admit it first) but crave when you see someone give to another. It’s something to live for.

Random acts of kindness, checking in on a colleague or family member, or showing gratitude towards others shows a grateful heart. Being surrounded by a supportive and caring staff, who you call family, and seeing the love they share for you makes my heart grateful.

Coming off of the massive Harvey devastation as well as the heartache so many have felt during a devastating time moves toward a grateful heart. Seeing the kindness surround so many during the difficult and horrifying time provides a grateful heart. The kindness and sincerity so many have shown and continue to show is amazing.

Whatever you choose to drive your grateful heart is independent. However, I challenge you to stop and remember that gratitude, and your grateful heart, are innate and ever growing. It’s a combination of what you’ve done, have received, and strive for.

JFK grateful

Celebrate gratitude daily. Lead and live with a grateful heart!

Seize the moment & shine the light

The arrival and dismissal line, the hallways, the interactions with students, and the moments we have to make a difference. Every opportunity has the potential to be the light in someone’s world.

Every day, students and staff fill the hallways of schools with the baggage of what goes on in their world.  Their experiences, their pain, their struggles, and the moments they wish they could relive again. However each person, that enters the halls of the schools, has the potential to make an impact on someone else’s life.

Think about it this way. You’re having a tough morning and you have a wonderful discussion with a student or colleague, once you get to your campus, which turns your whole day around. You’re confident and ready to seize the day of wonder ahead of you.

What was it that someone said? Who truly knows. Sometimes it’s just the acknowledgment and the interaction that matters. Sometimes people need to be validated and other times people need to be told they’re doing a great job. Sometimes it’s the time someone takes to make you shine in the light. Their intentions, interactions with you matter. Whatever the reason, staff and students need to know they matter to someone each day. 

SHINE into the lives of others

You have the power to shine the light into the lives of others by words and actions. Seizing the moment may just turn someone’s day around for the better. Your move. Will you make someone’s day by a comment or compliment? It will matter in the lives of others. It can be a compliment, smile, or a mixture of a few things.

Every person deserves to have the light shined on them daily.  Every interaction has the power to have an impact in someone’s life.

Seize the moments as they come!