Exit Celebrations

As the year comes to a close it’s a time to celebrate the growth and success of our students and their learning.  I’ve seen absolutely amazing things from our students this year, they (and you) are clearly proud of the work they’ve done.  Throughout the year we do a lot of work to reflect and document with our students, I’d like to consider what we do at the end of the year to tie everything together.

Earlier in the year we had our Student Led Conferences, a beautiful way to celebrate growth and achievement for our students.  They sat with their parents and shared goals, work, and results.  There were hugs, high fives, and lots and lots of kinds words shared between students, parents, and teachers.  But that was so long ago already!  

Vicky Davis (@coolcatteacher) recently shared a great piece titled Exit Celebrating: 8 Epic Ideas for Ending the School Year.  Please take a couple minutes to look at this piece and think about how you can end the year in an epic way!  I know that time is tight right now but some of these ideas can be implemented with little to no time or effort.  

Just as we have brought our year to a close with end of the year conversations about professional goals, this is a great opportunity for our kids to do the same.  

Finally, I would like to celebrate all of the amazing colleagues I’ve been lucky enough to work with this school year.  Transitioning to a new school is never an easy thing.  However, coming to AC we couldn’t have walked into a more welcoming and open group of colleagues.  We were greeted with open arms and that hasn’t changed one bit.  From day one until now the amazing people who work at AC have been helpful, supportive, and positive influences in our lives.  What a tremendous group of people we have here leading the educational drive for success, it’s inspiring!

Thank you!!

How You’re Changing the World

Why do we put ourselves through it all?  The long hours, the stress, the students who “don’t listen”, and all the thankless effort.  Our students are with us for a year, maybe two, and then they move on to some other teacher – sometimes at a completely different school on the other side of the world.  We invest our blood, sweat, and tears and see very little in the way of immediate returns.  Of course, we see them grow, we see the progress as they become better writers, mathematicians, artists, scientists – and for many of us that is enough, we can sit back at night with a glass of wine and know that we’ve made a difference in the world and improved our students’ lives.  

A common story in my hometown was that kids went to college and came back to the area with a comfortable job and happy life.  You’d bump into your fifth grade teacher at the grocery store and explain to YOUR kids that, “this was daddy’s teacher when he was in fifth grade.”  I’m sure that still happens in good old Waukesha, Wisconsin but in the world of international teaching it’s pretty rare to just bump into your former students.

So thank goodness for the internet, it allows us to stay connected to friends, family, and former colleagues and students all over the world.  We’re able to “bump into” our former students as they do amazing things.  In 10+ years I’ve met, taught, and coached an awful lot of students from all parts of the world, literally – Texas, Italy, China and now Ecuador.  Every once in awhile, seemingly when I need it the most, the world sends me a message.  I want to share a couple with you to give you a taste of some of the things YOUR former students are doing out in the world.  These two young adults are certainly special but they aren’t unique, they represent their peers.

I taught Xien during my first year as a teacher in Houston, Texas while I was there through Teach For America.  For almost 10 years he and I had been out of contact, until Facebook recommended us to be “friends”.  As soon as we connected, Xien shared an article with me.  He has become a successful programmer while studying at Texas Southern University.  Some of the work he’s done while working in a summer internship has helped NASA, incredible stuff.  Xien is literally changing the world.

This morning as I was still half asleep I was scrolling through Twitter and the #Learning2 hashtag when I saw this video.  The Learning2 conference (coming to Quito in October) is happening right now at the American School of Milan, where I formerly taught 5th grade.  As I was scrolling down I saw the name of one of my former students mentioned in a Tweet, turns out she presented a TED-style talk at the opening of the conference.  It was AMAZING.  She stood up at an educational conference and told everyone what was wrong with the current educational model of stressing students out and “unbalancing” them during their high school years.  Brilliant.  

These are just two small examples of some of the amazing things our students get themselves into after they leave our classrooms.  Whether you teach Pre-K, fifth grade, or high school your students are going on to do amazing things.  What you’re doing right now might just be the driver for their success.  What you’re doing with these kids today may, literally, help them change the world in the future!  

Today could be the day you change someone’s life forever…are you ready?

The Importance of Celebration in the Classroom

During our Learning Walks a few weeks ago we focused on the idea of celebration and kept a specific eye out for all the amazing things happening in classrooms.  In quick visits to the classroom it’s not realistic for us to see all of the ways that people are celebrating their students and the learning that is happening.  However, we are able to see so many wonderful things happening that we decided we wanted to celebrate you and all of your hard work!  

The importance of celebration in the classroom is something that is often overlooked in the planning process.  With so many other pieces to coordinate and account for, there is a lot to do to get ready for a successful class.  However, celebration can not and should not be overlooked if you want to create a truly positive culture and community in your classroom.  Take the Marzano Teacher Toolkit as an example of the importance of celebration.  There is no doubt about the amount of research that Robert Marzano has put into his work and he includes the reflective question “What do I typically do to celebrate success?” as Element 3.  So, today I challenge you to ask that question of yourself…

As the first quarter has come to a close and reports have just gone home, we have a lot to celebrate (starting with a much deserved 4 day weekend!)  Our students have made it through the start of another school year and they’ve done it (for the most part) with grace.  Some of our students have learned the importance of grit and how to fail.  Others still need to perfect the art of failing and the resilience that goes along with it.  If you’re not one of the 7 million plus people who has watched Angela Duckworth’s Ted Talk about the importance of Grit I urge you to do so soon, it’s fantastic!  However, I digress…celebration is the agenda item today – Our students are worth a lot of celebrations and so are you!

In the High School meeting on Wednesday we started out with the “Shout-Outs” protocol and it went very well, so well that I’m worried there were still more celebrations to share…we’ll continue this practice next time we meet and MS teachers we’ll implement it soon 🙂  This is a powerful tool for celebrating in your classes as well, teach your students and get them celebrating each other (especially after group work or other situations where their classmates were involved in their learning.)  Another great tool is one that I came across while searching for student support resources but it totally applies to everyone, it’s called “The Fridge”.  A great way for students to be recognized and recognize their own hard work at the same time, the best part is that it’s voluntary!  

I love the idea of student self-reflection and even more so when it focuses on the positive.  Have a look at this video (it’s only 1 minute 20 seconds!) to see another great way of recognizing students’ “shining moments”.  How could you implement something like this in your classroom?  At the bottom of a rubric like this teacher?  As an exit ticket at the end of class?  As a blog post?  Maybe a comment on Edmodo.  Self-reflection is an incredibly powerful tool and a discussion for another time; today focus on how you can implement more celebration into your classroom.

Here’s to all of you and the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing 4 day weekend!!