Thursday, February 23, 2017

Do Our Words and Actions Show What We Believe?

Dear Readers,

I recently started reading Start.Right.Now.Teach and Lead for Excellence by Todd Whitaker, Jeffrey Zoul and Jimmy Casas published by Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. There have been several ideas that have resonated with me.

"Truly exceptional teachers and leaders move beyond beliefs, exhibiting specific, observable, and intentional behaviors that turn these beliefs into reality." 
(pg. 3)

It made me pause and reflect: do I turn my beliefs into reality? 

I Believe that All Students Can Learn

It is my responsibility to get to know my students on both a personal and academic level. As I make connections and build relationships with them, I also gain insight into what type of learners they are. I always consider the PLC questions:

  1. What do we want students to know?
  2. How will we know they have learned it?
  3. What will we do if they did not learn it?
  4. What will we do if they did learn it?

These questions guide my instruction, help me reflect and provide what the students need. Do I need to reteach? Do I need to go back further? Do I need to explain it in a different way? Do I need to use visual information? Auditory? Kinesthetic? What can I do to help them learn?

I Believe in Teaching the Whole Child

Before academics can occur, students need to feel safe, cared about and comfortable in their learning environments. Teaching middle school means being patient, understanding and willing to have tough conversations. I must meet the academic, social and emotional needs of my students. Teenagers have so much going on in their young lives, that one area can greatly impact another. 

I Believe We Are All Teachers and Learners

Recently, I allowed students to teach the class. I planned the lesson, however they were responsible for coming to me beforehand and preparing the room and themselves. It was a fantastic opportunity for them to take ownership of their learning, as well as allowing me to interact and engage as a student. 

We are living in a world where students use technology on a daily basis. When they come to me for help, I always direct them to peers. The more they can teach and learn from each other, the more invested they will be.

I Believe in Life-Long Learning as an Adult

One of my favorite quotes so far from the book is:

"One thing that all excellent educators know about themselves is that they will never know it all." (pg. 29)

I could not imagine my life without learning. In fact, I had a conversation with my 7th graders that I consider myself a student before a teacher. They see me in one setting, school, as their teacher. However, I spend more time outside the classroom engaging in professional learning. I feel I would be doing a disservice to my students if I was not constantly learning new skills and strategies for my toolbox.

I Believe in "Knowing My Stuff"

Another favorite quote is:

"Truly outstanding educators begin their journey along the path of excellence by knowing their stuff." (pg. 24)

My journey began as a speech therapist and then I was fortunate to obtain a literacy position. As a specialist, I have always thought more "clinically". If a student is having difficulty, specifically where is the break down? After I figure it out, what strategies can I teach him or her? 

If I expect my students to be readers, writers, thinkers, researchers and learners, then I need to model that behavior. A strength of mine has always been to see the big picture and how all the puzzle pieces fit together. I am able to pull from many different resources to best meet the needs of my students. 

It is an incredible honor when others ask me to share ideas, knowledge or inquire about something they are interested in doing. Dave Burgess reminds us that it is our responsibility to share what we know (Twitter Tip #127). LaVonna Roth also encourages us to "compliment and not compete". When I blog, share pictures or "show" what is happening in my classroom, it is with the hope that others see it as possible. If I can do it, I believe anyone can do it. 

I Believe We Must Teach Empathy

"They excel at the practice of teaching empathy, and they seek to truly understand those with whom they work and what motivates them. (pg. 21)

Empathy needs to be taught. Students traditionally do not just become empathetic on their own without some coaching and instruction. In a world where people are judged and stereotypes run rampant, it is essential we help our students see and feel through other people's perspectives. 

I have started posting scenarios to my students. "How would you feel if........" I see the carry over as we work through our Language and Literature Units. We also discussed character traits versus human emotions. Our students need the language to express themselves. As educators, we need to help them develop that vocabulary.

I Believe Learning Is and Should Be "Messy"

One of my favorite picture books is A perfectly Messed Up Story. The message the author sends to the readers is learning is messy! I always tell them the messier their "drafts" or their annotations in texts, the more thinking is happening. I will never show my students a final draft, I always show them the process and thinking I have done to get from point A to point B. Recently, I was reading a professional resource and was making notes in the margins. One of my students exclaimed, "Are you writing in your book?" I showed them how, if I own the book, I write all over it.

I will end with this quote:

"Learning can be a messy and difficult process, but then again, most things worth doing are not clean and easy." (pg. 45)

Life is not about being easy. It is about facing challenges and obstacles head on. It is about failing and getting back up to try again. It is about the journey.....the adventure......the process.........

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book. I highly recommend it to all educators!