Fresh Starts

It’s finally here, day one, the first day of school.  It’s a feeling of clean hallways, new notebooks, bright smiles, youthful exuberance and…freshness.

Luckily, for those of us in education, we get to have a fresh start every year.  With the end of summer holidays comes the beginning of a new year.  Our friends and family, who don’t work in the most amazing field in the world like we do, can’t possibly understand what it means to be able to start fresh each year.  New school uniforms, clean whiteboards, refreshed colleagues, and eager students.  It’s one of the best times of the year to be an educator, the energy is high and the possibilities are endless.

A fresh start, however, doesn’t mean that we’re starting from nothing.  Having a clean slate and being able to start fresh allows us to build and grow upon lessons learned in the past.  We can think back to previous school years and draw on experiences, both good and bad, to develop our plan.  So often in life we only get one shot at something and it’s over, no matter if it went well or not.  As educators we get to look back, recall lessons and activities, and know that we get another shot to make them even better this time around.  After all, growing and improving is what it’s all about, right?  Just as we work hard to help our students grow throughout their time in our classes, we are working on growing and improving as educators as well.

With students streaming through the doors, eager to see their class lists and schedules, the opportunity to start our students off on the right foot is ours for the taking.  Helping them find their classes, welcoming them with a smile and handshake, and setting a positive tone will leave them with the excitement and ambition for success right from the start.  Being mindful of the way we start each class, each day, and each week is just as important as how we start the school year.  We’re fortunate to have a very positive and supportive school community, keeping the momentum rolling won’t be hard after such a strong start.

Everyone appreciates a fresh start, students and teachers alike.  We had a great first week together as a staff and I’m more confident than ever that the coming weeks with students will be even better!  Enjoy the fresh start and take it all in.

A couple interesting reads about fresh starts:

The Fresh Start Effect

The 10 Best Pieces of Advice for Making a Fresh Start

Embracing Summer

It seems like a long time ago that I started writing this blog, five years and 146 posts ago.  Thinking about that makes me start thinking back to all that has happened over those five years.  Two different schools, traveling to all sorts of countries, lots of professional and personal experiences that have changed me (mostly for the better), and throughout all of that a constant reflective process that I’ve learned and practiced through the writing of this blog.  I’ve written before about why this blog is important to me and why I think others should try, if I haven’t convinced you yet…maybe now is the time!  Perhaps over the summer you’ll sit down and give it a shot.

Hopefully everyone managed to stay alive (literally and figuratively) and we’re now about to embark on a wonderful summer!  For each of us that will look a little differently.  Normally my summers are a time for me to reflect, read, write, and attend a PD or two but this summer will be different.  For Amy and I it will be a short and busy time.  After leaving Ecuador we’ve got just three weeks until our wedding (YAY!) and then only four more days until we head off toward Indonesia!  There’ll be lots of planning, visiting with family, and racing around getting everything ready for a wedding and relocation.  Then it’ll be the new school year before we know it!  

Even though my summer will be crazy (and I’m sure many of yours will be too), I want to offer a few summer time options for those who haven’t already ironed out every single minute of their holiday.  I’m not advocating for any one idea over another but I think any successful summer will include at least one of these five things.

My recommendations for the summer:

1. Hit the beach, mountains, trails, parks, ocean, lake, or whatever you can find outdoors!

Get outside and enjoy the fresh air (I’m hoping you can get away from a polluted city for this one).  Spend a few days camping next to a river with no wifi or mobile phone access, unplug and enjoy Mother Nature at her finest.  Give yourself some time to just enjoy all that nature has to offer without the hustle and bustle of the ‘outside world’.  If camping isn’t your thing then take a walk, go for a bike ride, or just sit and enjoy a park…but do it often.  Take a road trip, see a new place, and get out of the city-life for a while.  All of these things will help rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit!

2.  Establish a PLN: If you haven’t done this already, now is your time.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  Right around the same time I started this blog, about 5 years ago, I started on Twitter and slowly began to see the value of building an online/digital Professional Learning Network.  Some of you have experienced my PLN first hand, connecting across the globe to celebrate awesome activities, meet new colleagues, or even just find a new idea.  Start out by having a look at a past blog post I wrote about building a PLN (it’s short) and then create a Twitter account.  Once you have one (or if you already do) send me a tweet (@The1sWhoDo) and ask who you should follow…I’m happy to start recommending people immediately.  From there…follow along and get a feel for Twitter, summer is a perfect time to do so!  

3.  Take care of yourself.

Remember that New Year’s Resolution…yeah, I know the feeling…I was too stressed and too cold in the rainy season to really get anything productive going.  It’s too cold and wet to get out of the house and do anything!  I wanted a nice warm meal full of comfort food and some wine on the couch at the end of those days, not an exercise class and salad!!  However, now the sun is shining and we can sleep past 6AM!  So track down your trainers and get moving…10,000 steps (the standard FitBit goal) a day is a lot easier to manage in the summer when there are no papers to grade or meetings to attend.  Cook some homemade meals for your friends and family who still have to work through the summer, enjoy a nice dinner together and help them relieve some stress too.  The summer is your time to take care of yourself and feel great!

4. Read, read, read!

If you’re like me you might feel like summer is the perfect time to squeeze in some of that professional reading you’ve promised yourself you’d do.  That’s fine but don’t skip the reading for pleasure too!!  (I’ve got five books on my Kindle just waiting for me)  Whether you’ve got a book waiting or not, you might also consider reading some of the books that are hot with our kids right now.  This article is a great one and lists five young adult books that adults would also enjoy.  I’ve read a few on this list (Book Thief is awesome!) and agree that knowing what our kids are into is a great way to connect and relate to our school age kids.  If you’re thinking that professional reading might be in the works for the beach then have a look at this article, some great tips there too.  The old saying of “don’t mix work with pleasure” goes out the door here…when it comes to summer reading, mix away!

5. Reconnect at your own risk!

It goes without saying that living overseas requires a long time away from friends and family who are back ‘home’ or elsewhere.  However, if you’re like me it only takes a week or so at ‘home’ before you feel like it’s time for a break!  There are a lot of family and friends who want to spend as much time with you as possible and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the attention.  In a sense it’s almost like teaching…there’s only one of you but there’s a seemingly endless number of people who want/need your time and energy.  Be sure to take some “Me Time” this summer and don’t let yourself get run down while trying to connect with everyone.  I often joke at the end of summer that “I need to get back to work so I can relax!”  It’s easy to feel that way, especially if you’re bouncing from couch to guest room all summer.  Enjoy the time with family and friends but be sure to enjoy some time alone as well.

 

Enjoy the last week with our kids, it’s going to be a wildly emotional ride for many of them (and us!!)  Hang in there and enjoy the laughs and memories and embrace the inevitable tears.  Everyone has made a lot of strong connections here in the AC community and it will be tough to part ways, no matter how long you’ve been here.  Say what you need to say to those you’ve grown close with, trade contact info, and be confident that you’ll connect again soon!

 

Seeing the Invisible

Sometimes we can’t see diversity.

Often times we consider diversity to be something that we see or hear on the outside…skin color, languages spoken, or other “physical” traits.  

During our Senior Roll Call, as each of our seniors was welcomed by the song of their choosing, what I’m calling “invisible diversity” was on display.  From Metallica, to David Bowie, to Drake, to Elvis and everything in between.  We had K-Pop, traditional Chinese songs, and Ecuadorean ballads.  Our students were each able to choose their own song which goes to show the wide range of interests that our students hold.  This example of “invisible diversity” is, perhaps, the number one reason that we need to get to know our students on a personal level!  

As educators it’s easy to group our students and place them into a category.  The “artists”, the “athletes”, the “academics”, the “musicians”…but who are these people beyond what we think we see?  Many of our students (or people in general) don’t fit neatly into any one group in particular.  Some of our best athletes are also strong musicians, artists, academics, and much more.  On the other hand, some of the kids who aren’t our top academics have talents and interests outside of school.  But how would we know if we don’t take the chance to get to know our kids on a personal level?  

I’ve mentioned this before, don’t be afraid to take some class time to set the content aside and learn (and share) some personal information about these young people that you work with 210 minutes (sometimes more) each week. Teaching is more than disseminating content, it’s about knowing our students and building connections.  

I know it’s the end of the year, this may be more relevant at the beginning of the school, but it’s worth considering at any time.  Since it was the Senior Roll Call music that inspired my thinking about “invisible diversity” I thought I would share the songs from the whole playlist…enjoy 🙂

* A word of caution…while our students selected a 1 minute and 15 section of these songs with all “clean” words, some of the full songs include “explicit lyrics”.

In order of appearance…

Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations

Let’s Go – Khalid

마에스트로 (Maestro) – 창모 (Changmo)

Strange Charm:  A Song About Quarks – Hank Green

The Fratellis – Chelsea Dagger

Anillos De Saturno – Danny Fornaris Feat. Jani Sanchez

Daddy – Psy

Modern Love – David Bowie

Me Llamas – Piso 21

Jump in the Fire – Metallica

Headlines – Drake

All My Love – Led Zeppelin

Empire Ants – Gorillaz Feat. Little Dragon

Everyday Superhero – Smash Mouth

‘에라 모르겠다(FXXK IT)’ M/V – BIGBANG

Walking on a Dream – Empire of the Sun

Yo Naci Aqui – Juan Fernando Velasco

1901 – Phoenix

Come On Eileen – Dexy’s Midnight Runners & Kevin Rowland

醉赤壁 Zui Chi Bi – 林俊杰 JJ Lin Jun Jie

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Fire – Gavin DeGraw

La Dueña De Tu Amor – Marala Feat. Zion & Lennox

Il Mio Cammino – Phil Collins

Tu Mejor Error – AU-D

La Isla Del Amor – Demarco Flamenco

Eres Mi Sueño – Fonseca

Mi Testimonio aka El Edificio – Bacilos

Burning Love – Elvis Presley

Someday – The Strokes

Sugar – Maroon 5

Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tu – Ricky Martin Feat. Natalia Jimenez

Oh My God – A Tribe Called Quest

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell

We’re All Counselors: Helping Our Students Navigate Their Way in a Wild World

Our kids/students need us (adults) more than ever right now.  I don’t just mean right now, as in this instant, but rather right now as in “this day and age”.  I’m not here to be a Chicken Little and tell you that the sky is falling but, because the digital age is well upon us, our kids are exposed to any and everything that becomes popular…anywhere!  While that can be a good thing, it is often scary and potentially dangerous.  Our kids need us, they need adults they can trust, talk to, and learn from…we have to be available for them, to listen and to provide guidance.

This isn’t new, it’s been going forever but the realities of what our kids see/hear/experience online each and every day are frightening, it’s not what we grew up with!  A few years back a frightening story came out of my hometown about two middle school age girls who tried to stab their best friend to death because they had been following an online character called Slenderman, it was crazy!  Guess what – HBO optioned it for a documentary.  This happened, literally, blocks away from where I grew up.  Where I ran, rode my bike, and stayed out until the street lights came on…then went back out after dinner for more fun!  The closest we came to this sort of thing was sneaking bootlegged scary movies (which were hard to come by!) into the basement at sleepovers.  Now this sort of thing is everywhere and our kids are gobbling it up!  

Recently I have seen a few more examples of the realities of what our students are facing on social media and on TV/Netflix.  Most popular right now, the television show “Th1rteen R3asons Why”  (based on the 2007 book of the same name by Jay Asher) has taken the young-adult world by storm, it is being watched by most of our high school students and a large amount of middle schoolers.  I haven’t seen this myself but Amy is watching it and has engaged me in some pretty deep conversations about the realities of what our kids are facing each day as teens.  According to Wikipedia, “the show revolve(s) around a student who kills herself after a series of culminating failures, brought on by select individuals within their school.”  There has been a lot written recently about this show.  Headspace (the same Australian group who produced the wonderful Mindfulness app I’ve used) has shown concern that people who have been exposed to the show may be at an increased risk or danger level because of it.  Like I said before, I’m not here to be Chicken Little but we most certainly need to work hard to understand all of the risk factors our students are being exposed to on a regular basis.  13 Reasons Why is just one example of what’s out there for our kids, it’s TV and fictional but no doubt gives our students ideas or reasons to further consider thoughts they’ve already had.  If they have no one to turn to for answers, conversations, or help then we’re not doing our job – we teach more than the content in the textbook!

Since I haven’t seen 13 Reasons Why myself I can hardly pass judgement on the show (or the book) but I am most certainly concerned that lines that have previously been respected are now being crossed.  In this show, the moment when the main character takes her own life has been shown and narrated in detail.  This sort of thing has previously been (unofficially) recognized as off limits for TV or movies but no longer does that seem to be the case.  What is yet to come is anyone’s guess but it will most surely be further away from this previously uncrossed line.  Even scarier than the prospects of what highly publicized media companies will produce next is the reality of what is spreading around the internet unsanctioned and unchecked, this is the part of the internet where our students live.

As I was planning and beginning to write this post it came to my attention that the newest topic of discussion for many of our middle schoolers is the “Blue Whale Challenge”.  I’ve done a little research (granted not all of the websites are the most reliable) but they all say the same thing, the Blue Whale Challenge (it goes by other names as well) is a “suicide game”.  Talk about scary!  It has taken hold in Russia and parts of Europe where people are extremely worried about the potential effects for teens and others who may be looking for an outlet or even a chance to “fit in”.  The fact that this conversation has spread to our community is extremely concerning but, as you can tell from my previous tone, not entirely surprising.  It’s out there, it’s on the internet and it’s popular with their age group – it’s going to find a way into their world one way or another.  Eeek.

So what do we do?  What is our role?  It’s a scary proposition for sure, especially for those of us who aren’t trained counselors, psychologists, or mental health advisors.  However, we still have a role.  We have to be good for our students, we need to build positive relationships with them so they know they have people to talk to.  School should be the safest (physically and mentally) place for our students.  They should know who they can turn to and feel comfortable approaching anyone.  It’s not our role to initiate discussions with them about 13 Reasons Why or the Blue Whale Challenge but it is our job to watch and listen for signs.  Kids cry out for help in many ways to many different people.  If you see these cries, or even suspect that you’ve seen one, then share it with someone.  Our counselors are amazing and we’re very lucky to have a school psychologist.  They are resources for us just as much as they are for the kids, don’t be afraid to approach them.  We’re on the front lines, we know these kids better than anyone (sometimes even better than their parents) and more than anything we care about these kids and would be devastated to see anything happen to them!

This is my cry for help, it’s me asking you to be the best for kids every single day in every possible way.  I know it’s not easy and it may not be realistic for us to be our best all the time but whatever we can give to these kids without sapping ourselves of our own physical and emotional health, that’s what we should be giving…please.

The Power of Positive Relationships

We had a lot of conversations at the beginning of the year about the importance of relationships, especially in our school community.  I’ve been having a lot more of these conversations recently, both here at AC and on my visit to Indonesia, and then I came across a fantastic blog post this week…I’m not sure I could’ve stressed the importance of relationships any more than Joe Robinson, a Middle School teacher in Alaska.  Here are a few highlights of the blog post and then a link to the actual post, go have a look, it’s outstanding!

“While most educators would acknowledge the importance of relationships, I think there is often  a lack of understanding as to the power relationship creates.”

 

“As a teacher, the environment you create for students within your classroom is the single greatest tool you have for engagement, empowerment, and growth.”

 

“It is imperative that teachers leverage this truth and use it to create environments that students WANT to be in.”

 

“The teacher who still views their role as “delivering content” because they are the “professional educator” is in danger of fracturing relationships with students that cannot afford to be fractured.”

 

“At the end of the day, students don’t learn from teachers they don’t like.”
Go read this post…it’s wonderful!!!

A Week of Tweets from my View of Academia Cotopaxi

Usually I write about something I’ve seen or heard around school over the course of the last week…or at least something inspires an idea that I end up writing about.  This week I wanted to share some of the things I’ve seen and heard around school in a different way.  I realize that many of you don’t get the chance to go around and see all the different things happening in our school each day.  So, here are a collection of my Tweets from this week that share some of the awesome stuff happening at Academia Cotopaxi this week, starting with snow-capped Pichincha on Monday morning – enjoy!

PS – It may take a minute for all these Tweets to load here…be patient 🙂

Wow, that all happened in one week around here!  I certainly enjoyed visiting classrooms and seeing all of the awesome stuff that is happening at AC, it’s a wonderful place for our kids!  Thank you all for everything that you do to make it a great educational experience for everyone 🙂

Fine Arts Rock!

Coming on the heels of an awesome Fine Arts Festival I couldn’t help but writing about all the amazing benefits of including the Arts in a curriculum.  Over the years Arts programs have ebbed and flowed as budgets and priorities have shifted.  I’m very happy and proud to be part of a school that gives the Arts equal footing with all the other subjects we offer.  We require our students to take music up through 8th grade and for middle school and high school students we offer Drama, Visual Arts, Graphic Design, and coming next year, Dance.  The range of opportunities in the Arts for a school of our size is beyond impressive and it couldn’t be better for our students!

There is a lot of research that supports the fact that we’re not only giving our students chances to explore their interests in the Arts but we’re also giving them a leg up in other academic classes.  One meta-analysis of more than 60 different studies shows that students who work in the Arts “do a better job of mastering reading, writing and math than those who focus solely on academics.”  While the Arts are not a panacea, the connections and benefits of being exposed to the Arts shouldn’t be doubted.  Improved social-emotional skills from Drama, cognitive improvements from music, improved communication and creativity from Dance, and organization and reasoning skills from Visual Arts are just a few of the many benefits of an Arts curriculum.  While I’m confident that our students would be successful without the Arts, there is no doubt in my mind that because of our robust Arts program our students are even more well prepared for the rigors of life beyond our walls!  

Our Middle School teachers, along with a number of Elementary, High School, and community members have stepped up to ensure that the Fine Arts Festival was a HUGE success.  Our Middle School students will, no doubt, benefit from the Arts program at Academia Cotopaxi but this Fine Arts Festival did a brilliant job of bringing the entire community together around the Arts.  Splitting my time between the High School and Middle School I often notice the fact that our students lose touch with the Arts as they continue into High School.  Considering that it’s been found that “Arts students” consistently outscore “non-Arts students” on the SAT in study after study, perhaps reconsidering how we make the Arts available to our High School students is worth some time and effort.  While the correlation is undeniable and we can’t be sure of causation, the facts should make us stop and think!  Making sure that all of our students enjoy the benefits of such an amazing program for as long as possible will be crucial to their continued success.

Beyond the classroom, the benefits of an Arts program continue to be seen.  Decreased rates of disciplinary action, higher attendance rates, and increased graduation rates were recorded in this extensive study done in the United States.  Walking around during our Fine Arts Festival and enjoying all of the amazing workshops and practice sessions, it is clear that our students are gaining even more from this experience than could have been imagined.  From “The Science of Art” to “Tapestry” and “Mosaic” workshops, our students have taken pride in the work they’ve accomplished during their exploratory sessions.  Capturing the curiosity that lies within all of our students is essential to their success, there is no doubt in my mind that the Fine Arts Festival has done exactly that!  

A HUGE thank you goes to the Arts department for organizing such a tremendous Fine Arts Festival.  I’ve been involved in similar events over the last six years and I can say, without a doubt, that this has easily been the most well coordinated, engaging, and successful Fine Arts Festival that I’ve ever seen!

Thank you again to the Arts Team!!!!

26 Things You Forgot You Knew

We’ve had a busy last week and it took until the end of it to finally start feeling some continuity and flow around here.  Student Goals Conferences on Wednesday aided to the feeling of disjointedness but I hope they were as valuable for you as they were for me.  On Wednesday and I had a lot of great conversations with students, parents, and teachers.  Many of those discussions came back around to things we’ve talked about before.  If it wasn’t me saying it, then is was usually the other person in the conversation, something to the effect of “this is a good reminder of what we need to be doing.”   

How easy it is for us to lose sight of things that we’ve previously viewed as priorities.  At the beginning of the year we talked a lot about building positive relationships with our students, we’ve come back to this at various times throughout the year but it seems to be one of those things that we overlook or assume has already happened and therefore can be forgotten.  However, those relationships don’t end…ever…especially when we are talking about teenagers!!  In fact, it is probably even more crucial to focus on relationships when you consider the culture our students come from, one that is very social and relationship focused.

I was once again reminded of the importance of these relationships when I came across a great piece called “26 Research-Based Tips You Can Use in the Classroom Tomorrow”.  I’m a huge fan of “ready to use” tools and these 26 tips are just that!  Some of them may be more relevant to you than others but there are a few that I think everyone would really benefit from thinking about and prioritizing (for more information on these select examples, click the link above):

Tip #1:   Focusing on building positive relationships by greeting students at the door and starting off with a positive comment, research indicates that it can improve student engagement by as much as 27%!!  

Tip #3:  We’ve talked before about the value of trying new classroom arrangements and making seating a priority for learning.  The study referenced in “tip #3” discusses the benefits and disadvantages of different types of seating arrangements.  However, most importantly, it points out that no matter the arrangement, when moving kids from the “back” to the “front” of the classroom their academic achievement increases.  Obviously you can’t sit everyone in “front” all the time but consciously changing seating arrangements and groupings to rotate kids for their benefit can have a very positive impact.

Tip #12:  The classic “turn and talk” strategy strikes again.  In this ready to use tip we’re reminded that recalling and using information we’ve just learned can help us retain it.  Have your kids briefly discuss new information shortly after learning it to help imprint it more solidly in their minds.  Ever learned someone’s name and repeated it to yourself a few times…yup, you’re doing the same thing!

Tip #16:  Do you ever have the feeling that your students think they understand something better than they actually do?  Well, it’s true…most people actually experience this phenomenon.  For more complex topics (research doesn’t show positive results for more basic concepts) have students think or write about their understanding of the topic, this could be a good “exit ticket” prompt.  This will help them (and, in the case of the exit ticket, it will help you too) realize their gaps in the understanding…now the trick is getting them to fill in those gaps!!

Tip #20:  I found this tip especially interesting.  While many of these things felt like good reminders, this tip was new for me.  Don’t put text on your PowerPoint Slides!  The double input of reading and hearing the information creates something called “cognitive overload” and can prevent people from actually retaining the information.  This article is very interesting and definitely worth exploring a bit more, especially if you’re a frequent PowerPoint presenter!  

Tip #22:  Lastly, and again something new for me, comes this tip that seems a bit like plain, old common sense.  The use of multiple choice assessments may actually be causing your students to learn the wrong information.  By presenting them with wrong answers to consider they may be internalizing those wrong answers as correct.  Better to go with fill in the blank or short answer.  While more time consuming to create and assess these will help your students better learn and recall important information.  

Okay, my intention was to only share five tips but I got a little carried away (what’s new?!?)  This article is definitely worth a look as the other 20 tips are also very helpful and applicable to many of your contexts.

I wrote recently about re-prioritizing and focusing our efforts on what is most important.  This article is a helpful reminder about some of those things that may need to be prioritized in our classrooms.  Take a look and see what will work for you.  Just like the title of the article suggests, these are things you can start using tomorrow 🙂

 

Seeking Perspective and Finding It

I’ve had a lot of conversations this past week that have really given me reason to step back and try to appreciate other perspectives.  As part of the mindfulness work I’ve been doing I’ve learned more about the importance of being able to step back and give myself perspective about my own thoughts.  This combination of considering my own thoughts from a different perspective as well as trying to approach conversations with other people the same way has really begun to spin things for me.  

It often times gets very difficult to stop and consider other people’s perspectives when you are in the midst of a (heated?) conversation.  I mean, really, when you’re right why consider other perspectives?!?  Well, the thing is, a lot of times when we think we’re right (and we are) so is the other person!  It’s true, it’s possible, people can disagree but both be right!!  It’s all about perspective…

Last week I had a conversation with a student, I approached it from a closed perspective but luckily caught myself mid-way through.  See, I was right, had to be.  He was disrespectful to a bus monitor, arriving to the bus late and then screaming foul language at her.  Not okay, anywhere, anytime.  BUT, he was ‘right’ too…only I wasn’t allowing myself to see this because his behavior was so intolerable that it needed to be addressed, now!  He wasn’t too keen to agree with me, in fact he felt like there was a great injustice being exacted upon him.  This is when it hit me…perspective.  I stopped talking, I listened and asked questions to begin to understand his perspective.  He had felt wronged and unfairly treated…so to him, he was the one who was right.  At the end of the conversation we realized, together, that his understanding of the situation had actually been skewed and he acknowledged that his behavior was unacceptable.  Perspective allowed this conversation to resolve successfully.  I realized I needed to see his and he came around to seeing mine after I gave him the courtesy of listening and understanding his perspective.  

This happens all the time at school, especially in interactions between students and teachers/administrators.  We’re the adults and therefore, obviously, can see everything clearly.  In fact we often operate without all the information and still believe that we have to be right…which, sorry to say, might not be fair.  Now, I will concede that it is often the case as I shared above; the students have a different version of reality than us.  When this happens, even if we believe that we are seeing things clearly, we still need to stop to understand their perspective.  If we don’t, when they (inevitably) tuck their tail between their legs and ‘agree’, they will still hold animosity because they feel wronged.  However, by taking the time to understand their perspective and giving it the respect they feel it deserves we can better resolve any situation without (or at least with less) lingering animosity.

The lesson I’ve learned through my mindfulness work is, during meditation, to allow our mind to have thoughts but instead of chasing them to sit back and acknowledge them without any judgement.  By doing this you take a perspective on your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that you previously may not have had.  I’ve realized that we must approach more of our conversations, especially the difficult conversations, with a non-judgmental perspective.  By doing this we will begin to see how other perspectives might actually make sense, even if we don’t particularly agree.  Rising to this level of understanding can lead to calmer, less stressful conversations, interactions, and lives.

So, give it a shot.  Try to release judgment from yours and other people’s perspectives, step back and watch the cars go by instead of chasing traffic!  I bet you’ll appreciate the results!!

 

CAISSA for the Win

This week/end we’ve been busy hosting the CAISSA regional sports tournament.  With visiting schools from Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Trinidad & Tobago, and Cayman Islands it’s been a great experience for everyone involved.  

As the days rolled on I took a few moments to sit back and reflect on everything that I’ve seen and heard during CAISSA, it’s been interesting.  I want to share some of the observations I’ve made and how they are a positive for not only our community but all of those who’ve been involved.

  1. School isn’t exclusively about textbooks and exams!  The lessons that have been learned during this event have been incredible.  There have been lessons on sportsmanship (with examples of the good as well as, unfortunately, the bad).  We’ve seen our AC students come out and support their classmates (or older role models) and cheer positively for the efforts of all the athletes, the positive experience of enjoying a sporting event is not to be under-appreciated!  While all of this excitement has been happening we’ve also seen the discipline of many of our students to attend classes and, in some cases, take tests despite the energy of these athletic contests happening just steps away.  
  2. Bonds created by hosting students from other schools last for a long time!  As the week progressed I saw more and more of our students walking around, chatting, and just hanging out with kids from the other schools.  Many times the connections between these students were formed when one student-athlete played the role of host to the other.  Initially, hosting guest student-athletes was a cost saving measure but now it’s grown to so much more than that.  Living under the same roof, if only for a couple days, creates a bond between these young adults that is stronger than the competition.  It’s a unique experience, one that helps these kids realize that it’s not all about the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the game.  
  3. Hard work prevailing isn’t just something from Hollywood, it actually happens!  Watching some of the games over the course of the tournament, it became very obvious as to who “should” win particular matchups.  However, in a number of cases, the “underdog” showed that hard work and perseverance can win out over a more “talented” opponent.  Teamwork, effort, and fundamentals became more than buzz-words, they became rallying cries and motivation!   As educators, how can we transfer that attitude into the classroom?
  4. Attitude is everything!  The last time we hosted CAISSA I was blown away by the effort and dedication of our JV girls Volleyball team as they battled against all the varsity squads.  Once again, the JV teams have impressed beyond my imagination. The girls soccer team has been competitive and fought hard against every opponent they’ve faced, never hanging their heads or giving up despite facing tough varsity level competition.  Our JV boys on the basketball court have faced, whether fairly or not, the best that each of the varsity teams have had to offer.  Whether a tough opponent, a bad shooting day, or injured teammates, our JV athletes have fought through and left every ounce of energy on the court/field.

CAISSA has been a nice interlude for our community.  The positive atmosphere of support and hard work from our athletes and community has been wonderful to see.  It’s not all about academics when it comes to school, CAISSA  was a nice reminder of that fact.  We’re helping transform young adults into adults, that extends well beyond the books!!