Seeing Ourselves as Models

It’s hard to believe that we’re already in the second week of the second term, this year is flying by at a breakneck pace.  However, before it gets too far ahead of us I wanted to slow down and come back to something that I really believe to be the most important thing we can do as educators…model.

I’ve written about modeling our life as ‘learners’ for our students before but this goes beyond that, this is bigger, and is easier to forget.  At the beginning of the year, before we hit full stride, it’s easier to keep the small things in mind.  Modeling for our students, as important as it is, often seems like one of those small things.  It’s something that is easily overlooked as the year goes on.  We see our students’ true colors and they get to see ours…what are they seeing?

Recently I discovered Jennifer Gonzalez and her amazing website, The Cult of Pedagogy.  If you have some time it’s most definitely worth a look, she’s got great stuff to share about education.  I also began following her on Twitter, and over the weekend she shared one of her past blog posts.  As I read it, I realized that it was perfect timing for this piece at our school.  It came as a wonderful reminder to me and I believe you’ll find it as a great reminder as well.  

The post is titled, Lessons in Personhood: 10 Ways to Truly Lead in Your Classroom, and it is outstanding.  In fact, you should stop right now and read that post.

Jennifer’s 10 lessons are as follows but you’ll have to read the post to get the details…if you haven’t already read it, you should really do it now…

  1. Lead with imperfection.
  2. Lead with assertiveness.
  3. Lead with relationships.
  4. Lead with language.
  5. Lead with self-control.
  6. Lead with manners.
  7. Lead with quality.
  8. Lead with humor.
  9. Lead with enthusiasm.
  10. Lead with humility.

Over the last 12 weeks I’d like to think that I’ve done my best to lead in this way but I will continue being mindful of these 10 “Lessons in Personhood”.  Similarly, I hope that you take these lessons to heart and stop to think for a minute about what it is that you’re modeling for our students.  These lessons go beyond education, management, or business.  These truly are lessons for how to be a better person.

Week 12, hard to believe…enjoy it 🙂

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Finishing the Year on a Strong Note

As the year quickly comes to a close we’ve begun to see some of our students falling into a “senior slump” of sorts; more students than usual are not completing homework, usually strong students are slipping, and they are showing signs of overall decreased motivation for school. So what can be done? I think the first, and most important thing, is to talk about this situation with kids, let them into the conversation. Then you need to model good strategies and share your experiences with your students. There’s a great quote by James A. Baldwin, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

Try these strategies to finish out YOUR school year on a solid note and share your efforts and results with your kids, set a positive example for them to follow!

1. Plan and Budget Time: Our kids are terrible at this and, for many of us, this time of year and all that comes with it makes it hard for us to balance our time as well. Show your kids how you budget your time. Do you use a calendar? Something on the fridge at home?

2. Focus on successes/Stay positive: Celebrate successes with your students and let them know that school is still important by emphasizing positive moments. Focusing on the negatives will only serve to drive kids further into the “Isn’t it summer yet?!?” attitude. Remember to stay positive yourself; counting down days until summer sends the message to your students that you can’t wait to get rid of them.

3. Prioritize: There are lots of things that happen at the end of the school year. Focus first on the most important tasks and then enjoy the celebrations and nice weather! Make a “to do” list and celebrate as you cross things off; a completed daily list is a great reason to feel good at the end of a long day 🙂

4. Avoid procrastination tools: Facebook, that TV show you never really watch unless there is something important to do, etc. They’re all used as tools to distract us from completing the important work that we know we have to do. Banish those things from your life (temporarily) to create an optimal working environment.

5. Take care of yourself: Exercise, eat well, and find ways to de-stress. Go get a massage over the weekend, go for a walk, and enjoy your free time so that you can be your best self for your kids.

Teachers as Role Models

Middle School is perhaps the most stressful time of a person’s life (at least until high school, ha!)…they are growing, changing, and trying to figure out who they are as people all while they are under constant pressure from their peers to “fit in”. How can they fit in when not one of them even knows who they are themselves?!? It blows my mind to think back to my middle school years and think that I even made it out alive, let alone somewhat normal 🙂 Which brings me to us, the teachers, the leaders at school, where do we fit into this messy and chaotic existence? I would suggest that it’s part of our responsibility to be role models and positive examples for these kids. They watch our every move, they mimic our language, they critique us, and they take countless unspoken lessons away from each and every interaction. Whether you know it or not our kids are paying attention, even if it seems like they’re not, they are! I’ll never forget the day (during my first year as a teacher) that I set my kids to the task of creating an acting scene to show their knowledge of vocabulary words…One brave group included a character called Mr. Olson…and boy was I surprised by the way they viewed me, some flattering, some indifferent, and plenty of humbling impersonations!! My point is that the kids have eyes and they’re always watching…what are we showing them, both intentionally and unintentionally? Are we reading during SSR and modeling? Do we have typos or grammatical errors on handouts or assignments? Do we speak with respect to students and/or other teachers? Overall, it goes without saying, we are amazing people and we are extremely good role models for our children but I also think that sometimes we let our guard down and we let the cracks show…and our kids don’t miss a beat!! What do you think I’d love to hear your thoughts? Enjoy my two cents and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

A couple takes: Teachers as role models blog and an awesome tip for parents that is worth reading for everyone!!