"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Resolutions fill me with excitement. I love to set them, dream them up and accomplish those things that a year ago I wasn't sure I could do. Each year I spend the last couple of weeks in December reflecting on the year that has passed and looking forward to the year coming. This year, I gave myself some extra time to do those things, but have finally focused in on my goals for 2018.
I wanted to share with you my resolutions I have set for this year. They are both simple and complex, attainable and unattainable. Each year (typically) I set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound) goals, but this year I wanted to try something new. I wanted to set goals for myself that wouldn't be time-bound to this year, but would set me in a direction that would enrich my life, and the life of those around me (I will keep you posted on my goal preference at the end of the year). I have kept it to three ideas, but these ideas will (hopefully) keep me driven, focused and refreshed throughout the entirety of the year. Without further ado...
Every year I think there is no way that we could be busier than the year before, and every year it happens. With this constant barrage of things happening and going on around us, I often find myself not present in what I am doing. I find that my mind is on something entirely different than where I am and what's going on, and I lose out on that moment that I am in. This year, I am focusing on being present wherever I am. Often this is going to mean setting down (or turning off) my phone to resist the temptation to be somewhere else. This one idea alone will help me be focused more intently on what I am doing and will help me learn how to set healthy boundaries for myself with work, family, friendship and any other thing that competes for my time and attention. It will help me be fully devoted to whatever I am doing at the time, wherever that may be. This year I am resolved to be more PRESENT.
As I mentioned under presence, each year turns out to be immensely busier than the year before. Between work, travel, family, various other commitments and this year, beginning grad school, discipline is needed now more than ever. There are many areas in my life I want to focus on discipline, some being my time management, living a healthy, balanced lifestyle and reaching financial goals my husband and I have set. I have found throughout my life that those times I am disciplined in what I am doing, I am able to be more present where I am and the best version of myself possible. This goal is made up of many smaller, actionable steps that will ultimately help me reach the goals I have set, in all areas. This year I am resolved to be more DISCIPLINED.
The last area I want to focus on this year is taking time to give thanks. I want to remember gratitude more in my life. I think this will help me keep the positive, hopeful outlook that I begin each year with as well help me notice all of the wonderful people and things happening around me. One way I am doing this is a thankfulness jar. My husband I have started a 2018 thankfulness jar. Each week we will insert things we are thankful for and on December 31st, 2018, we will pull them out and remember all that has happened in 2018. It is a small but simple way to be immersed in gratitude throughout the year. This year I am resolved to show more GRATITUDE.
Presence, discipline and gratitude are three areas of my life I want to spend my year focusing on. These things are as personal as they are professional goals for myself. I am looking forward to 2018 and all the things that lie ahead. Whether you set resolutions or not, I hope you take time now and throughout the year to reflect on those things that you are working towards. Happy 2018, and welcome to a new year :)
If we want students to be problem solvers, we have to give them chances to solve problems.
Hello blog world! This post has been in process for a month and a half now, and this evening I finally felt I had the right words to write. You see-empowering my students to problem solve is something I am very passionate about. I believe it helps build their self-confidence, allows them to take risks in a safe environment and helps them build skills that their future employers are looking for. I think problem solving is a skill that teachers, parents and society as a whole wants our kids to have. With that in mind, I am going to give you some ideas of how I empower my students to develop their problem solving skills in my classroom, and I hope that it may inspire you to think about how you are empowering your students as well.
One of the very first ways that I help my students develop their problem solving skills is by creating routines and procedures in my classroom that help them learn how to problem solve. This begins at the beginning of the year and continues throughout. Routines and procedures give students something to reference back to when they aren't sure what to do. These routines also include-what do I do if I am not sure what to do? This is a very subtle way of empowering students. If you aren't sure what to do if your pencil broke, ask your friend. As adults, if I am not sure how to do something I seek out a colleague, family member or trusted advisor that can help, and I figure it out from there. Students also need this flexibility. This doesn't mean that they are not responsible for themselves, because they are, but it gives them a way to figure out routine tasks in the classroom.
This summer I had the pleasure of reading Shift This by Joy Kirr. The message I truly gained from this book is shifting from a teacher-centered classroom to a student-centered classroom (and if you haven't read it-go get it NOW!). One of the ideas I took from her book was creating a student station-an area where students have supplies readily available to them to use whenever needed. In all honesty, this frightened me. I thought my students would make a mess of the stapler, tape, etc., however, that could not be farther from the truth. The students have taken better care of this area than almost any other area of my classroom. Why? Because it is THEIRS! They don't have to ask me if they can use my stapler, get a piece of tape, sharpen their pencil, etc. This makes our classroom run more efficiently and it gives power to students to problem solve on their own behalf. If they need a staple, they get it. If their paper rips and they need to tape it back together, they quietly go do that. I am always impressed with how my students exceed my expectations in such situations.
Now this leads me to another way we can empower students to be problem solvers...the way we respond to students can help them develop that skill. If a student is to come up to me and tell me they broke their pencil, I have several different ways to respond. One thing I try to always do is put the problem solving back on them. Instead of saying, "Get a new one" or "Go sharpen it", I try to respond by saying things like, "So what can you do?", or "How can you solve that problem?". This creates a moment for the student to stop and think about it and then empowers them because most of the time they already know what to do. If I am constantly telling them how to fix something or solve a problem, they don't get the opportunity to do it by themselves. I don't need to micro mange their every move in class. I create the routines and procedures and then allow them to work. This gives them a safe environment to take risks and figure out how to solve problems.
I like to integrate into every day ways for students to develop and practice their problem solving skills. After all, if we want students to be problem solvers we have to give them the opportunity to practice solving problems. But I also like to integrate it into my curriculum, which brings us to our last point-BreakoutEDU. I first discovered BreakoutEDU at a conference this summer and have since developed a deep love. BreakoutEDU equates to a breakout room in a box. This allows students to practice their problem solving skills while also demonstrating their knowledge of curriculum. Two for one, RIGHT! Not only does it develop problem solving, but it develops communication skills, collaboration, and persistence-just to name a few.
As you can see, I am a big fan of creating a classroom where students are empowered to be problem solvers. I don't consider myself an expert by any means, but wanted to share a few ways that I have found to be effective in my teaching. Do you have some ideas or ways you do this in your classroom? Share below because as teachers we are definitely better together!
I really wish I could start this post by telling you how I thought of this amazing idea, pursued it and gave birth to this amazingly life changing teaching practice. I wish so bad...but that's not the case. This classroom practice blossomed out of inspiration from a FaceBook friend, and became something that I began to do every year. I hope you enjoy this post, find it inspirational and begin to consider how to develop more positive relationships with your students.
When I know I have something coming in the mail, I can hardly wait to get home. Regardless of the significance of what is waiting on me, having something come the "old-fashioned" way in the mail sends a certain amount of excitement through me. Maybe it is the delayed gratification, but waiting for something to arrive makes the arrival all that more exciting. That is one of the reasons I have incorporated writing postcards to my students in my classroom practice. I wish I had mine to show you, but they are in the mail, working their way towards me as we speak so I can began my writing (I will update with a photo when they are here!)
Every year, I get online and design a postcard for the year. Throughout the year I will write postcards to my students. There are many reasons I do this, but the most important one is building a relationship with each and every student. When students know you care about them, they are way more willing to work hard than when they think you are aloof or uncaring. I try to strategically write postcards to my students when I see they may be struggling and down, or when they have had huge success and growth in the classroom. Regardless of the reason, every student gets one!
I typically will send one on in the fall and one in the spring. I wish I could tell you how excited the kiddos are when their postcard arrives. What's even more exciting is that it is a TOTAL surprise to them! All of a sudden they come home to a postcard from their teacher telling them how proud they are or how they can see their growth. KIDS LOVE IT! Another great importance of this is that not every contact with home should be regarding negative behavior. This creates a positive contact with the student and parents and develops those relationships even further.
Sending postcards to students is such a small act that reaps big dividends. I wouldn't change this for the world as I believe I can truly see the benefits in my classroom and in my kids. I find it so fun to design my postcard each year and it has become a classroom practice I deeply enjoy. Every students deserves to hear positive things from their teacher and sending it through "snail mail" is just a unique and fun way of building that relationship. Check back soon for an update with the reveal of what my postcards look like for this year!
The procedures may change, the quotes may change, but the benefits of creating students who think critically, meaningfully and deeply will never change.
As I began teaching, I knew that I wanted what I did to mean more than filling in blanks on a worksheet and checking off a grade. Each year I tried to figure out how to add more meaning into what I was doing. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education." A couple of years ago I saw an idea on Pinterest (obviously-I wasn't on Twitter yet) where students responded to a quote by writing about what they thought it meant and how they could connect the quote to their life. This I thought I can do! And so I set off full force into incorporating a quote of the week into my classroom.
I am not a big fan of a rigid curriculum that doesn't adjust to students needs, so doing a quote of the week where I could pick out the quotes that were relevant and meaningful to my students was something I knew would work. Each week I set out to pick a quote that related to what my student were struggling with at the moment and would prepare the quot for the following week. It was sometimes incredibly easy to pick out a quote, and other times I struggled to find something that fit just right. At the end of the year we, as a class, realized that the quotes really fell into two categories: our character (and how we treat others) and how to handle failure.
Character and how we handle failure are two big things that kids can often struggle with. I found that having these quotes in the back of my student's minds not only helped them see what famous and historical people had to say, but also was something we could discuss together and they understood. Now the understanding part does take time-students don't always walk in thinking deeply about the meaning of things, but they can develop this as a skill. With practice and modeling, all of my students were able to analyze what each quote meant and how they could personally connect to it. I found that often preparing them with a video before discussing our quote was a great way to get their brains in the mindset of what I wanted them to learn. Procedurally, students would come in and grab their "Quote of the Week" journals. I would already have the quote displayed on the board as they began to copy it down. On Mondays, they would write the quote and what they thought it meant, and as a class we would discuss. Discussing is where all the magic happens! Don't skip the discussion! I found that students who didn't think about if very deeply or really didn't understand were the ones who benefitted most from our discussions. I also found that students learned to respect one another and their ideas during discussions. On Tuesdays, student would grab their journals and then write how they could connect this quote to their lives. Seeing students apply what was said to something they experienced is really is powerful for them. It was giving students an action with the idea, and it really helped them reflect.
Using quote of the week, not only are students being critical thinkers and learning respect for one another, they are also practicing writing, analyzing and text to self, text and world connections. This one activity showed so many benefits for my students that the time invested in it really paid off! At the end of the year, we did a culminating presentation where students picked their favorite quotes and created screencast videos and slideshows about them. It was amazing to hear what their favorite ones were, especially when they were ones we hadn't visited about in a LONG time. It showed that the work stuck with the kiddos and that they were actively remembering what they were learning. It was also great for the students to see how their understanding has changed and grown over the year. I heard over and over, "Well this is what I thought then, but I think.....now. Is it ok to change it?" to which I would answer "YES!!!!" This truly was a powerful and impactful classroom practice for my students.
The procedures may change, the quotes may change, but the benefits of creating students who think critically, meaningfully and deeply will never change.
The big question is always this...in a sea of bloggers, why would you blog? That's a great question...one I've often asked myself of other, and yet here I am...blogging. Over the last two summers, I have developed a new sense of appreciation for the art of blogging. I've come to understand that it is not only a way to share ideas, but to reflect and grow as a learner. Thanks in large part to inspiration from workshops I've attended by George Couros and Aaron Hogan, I have decided to take on the task of blogging. This blog is meant to help me self reflect as an educator and learner. It is also meant to help me share ideas of what I've learned and what has been working in my classroom. My last objective with this blog is to be able to connect to other educators out in the world. I hope that you will laugh with me, cry with me, grow with me, adapt and change, and learn more about this crazy wonderful world of teaching with me. In my district, we live by the saying Better Together, and I truly believe that we are far better together than we could ever be apart. Welcome to my world, my inner thoughts and my India Morris Ed blog.