Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Making the Most of Our Life Maps

What Do Your "Maps" Say About You?

Dear Readers,

As soon as I started reading this, I made connections to how I might use similar concepts and ideas with my middle school students. 

"How is your current map impacting your actions and outcomes?" (pg. 6)

Being a Language and Literature teacher I have the incredible opportunity of using literature to teach perspective and empathy. Endless resources are at my fingertips and are constantly changing and updating. 

One concept my students often have a difficult time grasping is perspective. For our purpose, perspective is how an individual reacts to a given situation based on his or her past experiences. I love novels like Lost Boy, Lost Girl or A Long Walk to Water that flip flop between perspectives and characters. We have many discussions on how story elements impact one another, including how the main character(s) responds. 

The same can be true for real life. Each of us has our own unique map that has been shaped by our past. Those experiences influence how we react to others. As we learn and grow, new information integrates into what we already know to be true. 

I explain to my students the importance of gathering information, considering various outlooks and putting all that knowledge together to make informed judgments or decisions. Often when we debate, their initial claim changes or is at least reconsidered as they hear counterarguments. 

"Students and colleagues are constantly picking up cues about your beliefs and expectations." (pg. 10)

A mentor once told me, as I was going through my administrative program, that I will always leave an impression on people. It may be good, bad or neutral, but even the person sitting in the farthest back corner of the room will form an opinion of me. That being said, I can control my actions and words, however cannot control how people react to me. My intention is always to be confident, comfortable in my own skin and transparent. 

In the past, there had been times where I would allow myself to react negatively to other people. As I reflected on that, I realized it was also leaving people with an impression of me, that might not be so positive, when I engaged in the conflict circle or rose to the "bait". 

I use those experiences to talk to my students. I am quite open with them about presenting themselves as they want others to see them. We have had many conversations about negative reactions to social media posts, impulsively saying something about someone or making assumptions about others. In fact, we had a class norm "Some Things Are Better Kept in Your Head". I recall having a conversation with a student that although sometimes we want to say something to our best friend about someone who we feel wronged us, doing it while walking in the hall is neither the time nor the place.

"But you can always control your response to change." (pg. 20)

As someone who embraces change, sometimes it is difficult for me to look through the eyes of someone who does not. I thrive when I am challenged or am taking on new roles. Being a related service provider, I have always had a "revolving door" of students coming in and out of my room. Consequently, it also provided me many opportunities to work with various colleagues. I feel extremely lucky to have worked with so many students and educators over the years.

I remember when I worked at the high school, it was exam week in June and a social studies teacher came to me and said, "I heard you are really easy going." What she meant was, I was someone who would adapt as needed and go with the flow. She wanted me to change proctoring assignments and of course I agreed. 

Change in life is inevitable. It will always be there for good or for worse. The key is how we adapt to it. There are numerous times that I have consulted my students about a change that needed to happen whether it be due dates, schedules, etc. By sharing with them what is happening, discussing impact of those changes and showing them it will work out, I am modeling how to effectively deal with adjustments to what we thought was going to be.

As a young person, I experienced some rather traumatic events in my life. Although I would never wish anyone to go through them, they made me who I am today. I firmly believe everything happens for a reason and we are given what we can handle. As I went through different experiences, I knew that I would come out alright. I had shown myself how resilient I was in the past, so this time would be no different. Whether it be life changing events or daily changes, we are healthier when we can accept them.

"When we know what we should do, and choose not to do it, we damage relationships." (pg. 59)

I have posed this thought to others, "We have to accept people for who they are, not who we expect them to be." When someone has a reaction to another's response, I think he/she needs to look in the mirror and reflect. Am I upset because that individual did not respond the way I think he or she should have? Why am I really upset or angry?

Working with middle schoolers, there priority and mental space revolves around their social world. They are learning how to navigate relationships with family, friends, teachers, teammates, etc. As a trusted adult, I find myself giving them skills and strategies to help them function in these social environments. Sometimes they heed my advice, other times they choose not to, which is absolutely fine. However, I tell them the choices they make can impact friendships, positively or negatively. They have to be prepared for the outcome, whichever way it falls. 

In conclusion, I highly recommend this book! Whether you are a teacher, leader or administrator the skills and strategies will help you reflect on your maps. May you all embark on a wonderful journey!