Amazing Kids

Amazing Kids

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Things I Love About School

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This week I (again) realized I have so very much to appreciate about my life. After reading a blog post that was very negative and critical, I realized it left me feeling icky - and a little negative - myself. That's not a feeling I like to hang on to, so I decided a remedy was to focus on and talk about some of the great things going on in education and particularly in our classroom.

As this perspective burrowed its way into my thinking, it occurred to me there are some very important things that happen in our district, our building, and in my classroom I truly love. They are those things I believe, if fostered, will make a significant difference in peoples' lives. There are, of course, endless things I could list, but here's my top-of-the-list things I love about my life at school.

I love it when kids are excited to learn something new.

     I can still hear and picture the students who were totally and completely stoked with a concept we were practicing in math. Some kids have worked on these skills for quite some time, and did not give up. As a result, lights were coming on, kids were finding success through hard work, and it was amazing. These kids were proud, confident and ready - so ready - for their next challenge. I am incredibly proud of my students for hanging in there when sometimes reaching a learning target seemed almost impossible.

I love it when people praise others behind their back.
     This past week I had the opportunity to hear some of my colleagues praising the efforts of several other staff members in our building. These deeds were not necessarily huge (some of them were), but they all added something positive and beneficial to at least one student and/or colleague. When I hear comments like these, I not only admire the person who was given the praise, but also the person who gave it. When we praise someone behind their back the effects can be amazing.

I love it when kids get the love and support they need from their parents.
     Over the past month or so, several parents who have been rather quiet and uninvolved have stepped up and helped their children accomplish an educational goal. Each kiddo was excited about his or her learning and potential, and the parent seemed to have a new breath of life as well. Those parents are seeing some great things happen, and hopefully will have a closer relationship with their child as a result.

I love it when educators work together to help kids rather than complain.
     Most of us are probably aware that we've complained about one thing or another that is totally out of our control. We also know this is a useless (and often draining) endeavor. Yet it happens all too frequently. It is incredibly powerful when educators come together and make a choice to align and speak words that add life and vitality to our students' lives rather than complain about situations that are out of our control.

I love it when kids feel totally accepted and loved.
     There are kids in all of our classrooms who have horrific baggage weighing them down when entering our classrooms every day. Sometimes those kids are easily identified but sometimes they go undetected. It wrenches at my heart to hear some of my kids' stories. It also reinforces how much they need educators who truly accept and love their students. One of my primary goals with my students is that each one will feel known, accepted, and loved by me; that each will know that no matter how old he or she is, each one will always be "my kid."

I love that we have the freedom to be agents of change.
     Change is sometimes very hard. Our world is changing so quickly it's often mind-boggling. Technology natives have a reality far different than the reality I experienced as a youngster. However, as a life-long learner, I've made a commitment to learn - all of my life. That means learning what I need to know in order to foster that same love for learning in my students. That means being okay with being uncomfortable. That means I need others to help me in my journey. When we are committed to being learners that also means being a positive agent of change in the lives of people around us. When we model taking risks in our classroom in order to create a better learning environment, we are showing our kids it is okay to be a risk-taker and that change can be a very good thing.

Our world needs champion encouragers. It needs people who will do far more than badger kids into submission. Our world needs teachers who will seek out the strengths in our students and assist each one in the development of individual interests, even when the interest doesn't match up with our own.

What do you think??

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Best Day Ever

Tonight I took my teen-aged daughter to the mall to pick up some items we had ordered. As we approached the service desk the sales person recognized me, gave us a huge smile, and proceeded to tell me how her daughter came home from school today, proclaiming it to be "the best day ever!" The daughter went on to let her mom know that she now loves social studies!

It just so happens that I have her daughter for social studies.  During our time together, we had a class chat on how they might want to approach our next topic of learning. We've been working diligently on close reading non-fiction text so many can do this effectively and independently. Many, if not most, are ready to dive in and be independent learners, using these close reading skills, with some coaching from me. So today I asked the kids to think hard about how they can best learn this next topic. They were given several ideas and then we brainstormed together. Some wanted to team up with another classmate, some wanted to work independently, and some wanted to work with me. I challenged them to be honest with themselves and told them that truthfully I think some of them still need quite a bit of support from me, but that many could work on their own learning quite effectively. 

To watch their faces as they realized they had a choice in how to learn was priceless. Listening to them brainstorm resources and formats for demonstrating their learning was even cooler. They are thinking of themselves as researchers. They are asking questions and thinking about what is important to learn and know. They are truly embracing their own learning.

Little did I know when we had our chat today that I would hear such positive news about it from a mom the very same day. Nor did I dream that a girl's view of her learning would be so drastically altered. Hearing how enthusiastic and excited she is gives me incredible joy. 

Tonight, I'm thankful I was able to release the reins in my classroom a bit. I'm even more thankful for the life it breathed into my kiddos. I hope today will spark more ideas of ways I can allow my students to have more ownership and flexibility in their approaches to learning and demonstrating their learning. 

I'll wager there are many of you who have found ways to open the floodgates of learning for your kids. What do you do? How do you do it? Would you be willing to share? I would love to hear any ideas you have!