Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Real. Responsive. Relationships.

We've all seen the inspirational, pinterest-y signs with sayings like this...

What's not mentioned is that we don't get to choose when these students cross our path. We don't get to wait for that moment when we are fresh and filled with inspiration and then hit them with full force Pinterest-like responses.

No, it's likely to be in a moment where you are near empty that this chid crosses your path. Your stomach is empty, your brain is empty, and your energy tank is empty. (Your bladder will likely be the only full thing when you cross paths with this little bundle of opportunity.)

Where's the inspiration in that? 
The inspiration is in what could be.

Be real. Be present. A sincere hello. 
Calling someone by name is still the number one way to make a person feel valued.

When you get the chance to respond -- be ready. 
The window of building trust with these students can be so limited.

As soon as trust has been established, the social gaps will be starting us down. We will see what  is lacking -- causing relationship to be so important. We then take on the most important role we play. That of a role model in a relationship. We don't have to be a perfect role model. We have to be a real one. One that recognizes our weaknesses and shares our hopes and strategies for improvement.

I'm working on some plans for teaching social skills with students in many different grade levels. Being responsive means responding with goals. Starting small but knowing where to go next.

The need is obvious to start with greetings and introductions, but then we need to move to asserting feelings and initiating interactions. I want to help a student form real interactions that can someday lead to rich and meaningful relationships.

I'm going to need a plan and I'm working on that.

How about you? Do you have plans that have worked? Do you need a plan?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Brunch with teachers

According to "Teachers Who Pray" there are over 600,000 school teachers in America who believe in Jesus and his power to save! 

I wish I had a way to reach all of those teachers, but um...well let's just say I'm glad for the 60-ish people reading this blog post right now. So, I had it in my heart to want to bring some of these teachers together to encourage one another. With some eager help of ladies ready to say "thank you" to some of our local teachers, an idea was born for a "Teachers Encouragement Brunch."

Each table was decorated with book pages and a "subject." To keep it from being too "teacher-y" I added some trend with burlap and floating spider mums.

Teachers give so much to students that sometimes we too often bring home leftovers to our own sweet children. It takes effort to not look like this bear at the end of some days....

Summer is our chance to sort of "make-up" for that and so this brunch was a chance to re-charge before pouring ourselves into our homes.

Glassware added a touch of elegance but bright colors reminded us of the kick off of summer and the fun that awaits us with our own children and families!!

Ah...Dick and Jane and the school bus...

So how do teachers recharge??

At the feet of Jesus ---

That's right -- we saw how the Master Teacher taught us more than the Two Sisters, DeFour, Hattie, Mattos, Knight and any other educator combined! 

In Romans 12 we read...
"Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Jesus knew that the mind is required for transformation. 

In verse one he calls us to present ourselves as living sacrifices. (Ha -- Teachers obviously took that literally). When we present ourselves we are surrendering our heart. But, we also have to put our minds to it; and then we can test it. That's right! The Master Teacher knew about assessment from the beginning. He knows that it's ongoing. He knows about re-testing. He knows that the test is the evidence of a transformation of the mind.

Then we go on...
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  

Imagine your collaboration time if we used these principles to guide us. Too often in our distraught education system we look for all the right strategies and it's too easy to forget WHO the strategist is we should be turning to. 

In the gospels Jesus is referred to 90 times by different titles. Of those, 60 times he is called Teacher.

Look for more lessons for teachers from The Teacher coming soon at R7 Teaching

Monday, February 16, 2015

Process vs. Production

This week I spent some time analyzing student data on standardized tests and thinking about how we recognize and respond to talent. (Ahem...Reflection -- one of the R7 principles). I was looking at some students who are in the very highest percentile ranks on assessments, but teachers aren't all that impressed worth their work in class. Now, we can say they are bored or unmotivated or unorganized...but that doesn't leave us in a place to RESPOND.

I started thinking about the skills it takes to do well on a standardized test and the skills it takes to perform well in an advanced level course. Here's what I came up with. The tests check to see if you can recall and process information. High level courses ask you to produce. Aha moment? How about the workplace? Yes you have to process information, but it's always for the purpose of improving production in some way. So, what do we do about it?

Differentiate. Now, I've annoyed you. Differentiation. The catch-all cure.

Stay with me -- if the student already knows how to process whatever content you're presenting...give them time to work through that process and produce something meaningful.

A third grade student quickly catches on to making an array.

So -- now we have them make an array and that's production, right?
Not quite -- that's simply showing the process. They have to dig deeper. 
Maybe instead...they look at an image such as this...

Then, ask them to identify arrays in several other images.
Now, they are taking a REAL role as designer or architect. 

Give them unifix cubes or legos or Megablocks and ask them to build a design that uses arrays.
Management nightmare...I know -- I've lost you again, but stick with me.

A student cognitively, emotionally, and behaviorally engaged is rarely a management problem.
You can give the student a contract of the job -- to help with any issues.

While designing, students use graph paper to show the various arrays that are used in the design.
Then, you ask for them to reflect by giving them key questions --
How would it be different if...?? What would make the design stronger or weaker?
There's that Reflective principle.

The extensions could go on -- interview an architect, try a design software online, etc.
The idea is that you have to ask them to produce something authentic and professional.
That's Real. That's Respectful. That's Responsive.

Differentiation is a camouflage word for Responsive. 

Think over a concept you are teaching right now. Are there students in the room that will process the concept quickly? How can they move on to production?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Connecting parents to Testing Week

I love to take tests. Always have. I think of it as a game against myself. However, as a teacher I know that many if not most people don't feel that way.

Our youngest son's school is gearing up to take their standardized test. While I might engage into a full deliberation on standardized tests -- the only thing that will come from that is me spending valuable time and you using up data to read it.

I want to share what I found in his folder, and I'm excited about it not because the school will get better results; but because I -- the mama me -- get to be a part of it!

Of course it didn't take me long at all to know just what I wanted him to know. I love you -- this doesn't matter nearly as much as your  LOVE of learning.

To me it's really more of a test of tenacity and concentration. Then I reflect on my own practice. I often ask students to set data goals in middle school, but what if they had to make a poster like this for themselves. What would it say?

Right now, My little guy believes in himself and the positive message. Will that still be the same in five years. If not, why not? Hmmmm...much to ponder...

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Student Engagement

I'm busy this weekend making final adjustments to workshops I'm presenting for Teacher Quality day.
I'm not aware of any other career field that actually calls it "quality" day, but at any rate -- one of the things I like most about teaching is that you can constantly reflect, adjust and try again.  In business when you reflect, adjust and try again it's usually a pretty expensive move (different marketing, different product, different location and such). For teachers though it's usually free and easy to make an adjustment and try again.

The focus of one of the workshops is engagement. The experience is to drive home the idea that engagement is three part: Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral.

I'm a firm believer that all three parts are necessary to make a learning-centered classroom where kids wake-up and use those beautiful minds! From time to time I'll be sharing tips and tricks. But, I'm curious -- do you agree that it takes all 3? Do you think one is more important than another?

What engagement strategies do you use in your classroom?

10 Tips for Understanding Kids in 2015

Ford published an article "10 Trends You Better Pay Attention to for 2015." Their purpose to understanding Gen Z is to understand their consumer or soon to be consumer -- so they can target marketing to elicit a response and make $$$.

That's easy to see, but this article made me a bit reflective...

As parents, mentors and teachers, our intent should be the same -- understand them so we can present what it's important in a way that elicits a response. Jesus' parables and miracles were much the same way. His first act was to turn water to wine -- enough said. I'm guilty of spending so much time and effort trying to get "young-ins" to understand instead of first understanding them and preparing to hit my target with a message that resounds with them.

1. " 'Good things come to those who act.' Their dream is to make an impact on the world, and they aren't going to let anything stop them from doing just that."

Calling out directions from the sidelines won't work. They must see us actively involved in loving and serving others before they will even glance our way. The fastest way to seem a hypocrite to today's young people is to be caught doing nothing. Put down our cell phones and look up. Grab a shovel, grab a map, grab a serving spoon...just do it. Even we old folks know that phrase.

2.  "Members of Gen Z reject the status quo and conventional wisdom, and they enjoy going against the grain." 

Previous generations would treasure it based on heritage. Not so much. Social media and globalization have instilled the need to feel like they are paving their own way. The good news is they aren't so concerned about doing what everyone else is doing. This courage can prove to be so valuable when it comes to choosing to do the right thing. Do what pleases Jesus. We have to introduce them to the freedom of that. 

3. "Failure is considered among the members of Gen Z to be a badge of honor--it shows that you're willing to push the envelope and take risks"

Google "epic fail" if you don't understand. This generation has been raised to exploit and laugh at failures that in the past would cause one to turn red and consider hiding in their locker. While we tend see the audacity of this, imagine the good we could do if we weren't held back by fear.

4. "Gen Z doesn't like to haul purses or wallets or messenger bags to carry their essentials along with them"

One word -- although the teacher in me says it's technically two words - Smartphone. Get where they are. Learn to use it. Teach them to use it responsibly. Show them how a smartphone can make them dumb. Recognize how a smartphone can enhance their life. Download the Bible, a science App, a budgeting app, an exercise tracker.... 

5. "They have everything they need to access in the palm of their hand." 

How do you make a presence in the digital world that gets the Word to them? Second to that, there's a premonition in the more mature Gen Z that says they know how to put it down when maybe some previous generations don't. Now in our defense --- it just takes us longer to figure out to pay a bill or send or tweet or post or whatever else you can do on there. However, I think we are seeing a shift. For 2015 when a young person is talking to me, my commitment is to drop the phone or close the laptop like a hot potato. Could just change the culture of a home, school, or a generation. One kid at a time.

6. "The 1950s ideal of the nuclear family--a husband, a wife, and two kids--has evaporated"

I feel the heaviness and concern that you feel. I feel the sense of panic to want to preserve the family. I want to put them in front of the TV and watch everything from The Cosby Show to Leave it to Beaver and Dennis the Menace and even Little House on the Prairie. But, hang on here for a moment....

How about King David's family? Abraham's family? Our country's founding counted on the blending of families when illness and hardship took spouses out too often. Then there's those like Babe Ruth, Cher, Steve Jobs, and my own Cowboy -- they grew up in foster homes. What made the ideal family of the 50's ideal? It wasn't the number of people in the family. It was the role they played and the way they interacted. They laughed together. The kids were ornery and the parents disciplined with grace and logic and wit. They ate meals together and they taught each other how to do things. They helped out around the house. Uh-oh...

I sense I've been rambling so just go to some of my other posts like this...

7. "According to the report, 26 percent of teen social media users say that they post fake information on their profiles to protect their privacy."

I hear of this all the time. Teens feel the need to have fake birthdays and locations in lieu of privacy. What if we could inspire them to share just what is safe with the people it's safe to share. Again, don't be a social media dummy. Get where they are and pay attention. (Unless of course according to #5 they are trying to talk to you and then in that case drop it) Yikes. This is going to be tricky.

8. "Despite the fact that there are millions of articles available on the topic of health and well being, people are sicker, fatter, and less healthy than ever."

Well this makes #1 easy. When is the last time you asked a kid to go for a walk with you because you wanted to spend time with them. Shoot hoops, walk a balance beam, swim, whatever it takes. Especially with boys you have to use the "walk and talk" method. That's hard to remember. After all, I'm a girl.

One last thought. Kids are eating the food available in our fridges and cabinets. Hmmm.

9.   "They are formalizing escapism around taking sabbaticals from the world, scheduling "mindfulness" classes, and participating in particularly daring (and sometimes outrageous) activities."

Wrap your mind around that. Escapism. Our dads watched football. Moms took bubble baths. Grandma's "counted chickens." They see a need for taking a break. Look around the house and decide what you can live without - (a lot) and take a trip, go camping in the backyard, learn something new. Yes -- if you haven't done this before --- it's going to be awkward and they are going to growl. Oh well -- do it anyway.

10. "Gen Z is more mobile, and less tied to place, than any previous generation. While 80 percent of Millennials expect to work abroad during the course of their careers, chances are high that the percentage is even greater for the members of Gen Z."

Let that sink in -- more than 80% will travel abroad. I look at my classroom and think....hmmm. I look at my kids and get teary. We live in a very rural area. I run into people each week that have someone in their family traveling abroad. It's real. The world is out there. We need to teach kids how to learn about it reliably, how to understand how each country and culture evolves. We need to teach them how our country has developed and the challenges it faces. There's an old school of thought -- "why would I need to go anywhere else -- I live in the best place on earth." While I agree with the attitude of gratitude  -- see #2. They have to see for themselves. And, guess what? They just might make our country a better place by the knowledge and experience they bring back. 

What trend do you see for Gen Z in 2015?

If the marketing gurus are going to spend time and money targeting our future -- shouldn't we?