I am going to take this opportunity to answer some questions that have been sent my way. Some colleagues have asked if I have started cross content collaboration. I have and I am absolutely loving it. I took this habit into consideration when starting to lesson plan. I was starting to plan a cross content and cross grade level lesson combining the students' English class with their Health class. In addition to this, we also included a professional development focus of taping into student voice. When Ms. North, our health teacher, and I sat down to plan this, we first had to think about what middle school team was hoping to get out of this lesson. After reviewing our team focus and desired outcome, we then took turns explaining what each of us wanted to incorporate from our content. By truly listening to one another, we were able to find texts and activities that covered it all! What was wonderful about this is the engagement and excitement that came not only from us teachers, but from the students as well. It is all about the students, but they can tell if we are excited and they will feed off of that. What we found is that we were able to cover more content in one day by combining our classes. Something that would have taken two days and may not have been as exciting and memorable took one day and allowed for amazing collaboration and wonderful student feedback on how we can make it better for them.The phrase that comes to mind is "work smarter not harder". I am now talking with the other content teachers and looking to do this again!
I can make some connections to this habit and share how I am trying to teach this habit in my English class. This is a habit that takes much time to put into effect. Sadly enough, there are too many adults who do not think about this concept of active and engaged listening. I use the example of "waiting for your turn to talk" as a non-example in my classroom. We have a social purpose for every lesson and many times, this purpose mentions demonstrating the behaviors of an active and engaged listen. I review with my students every day to discuss what this looks like as well as what this sounds like. We talk about truly hearing the student and either agreeing and adding on, or respectfully disagreeing and explaining yourself. We have language frames around the room and on their desks to help remind them of these.
I can't help but want to share my conversation with my middle schoolers today regarding this very topic. While trying to be more open to student voice, the health teacher and I decided to collaborate and combine our classes and lessons into a gallery walk activity. We loved every minute of it. The students raved about how they wanted to do it again to us and to other teachers. Well, we appreciated hearing this, but knew that it could have gone even better. So, today in English, we had a class conversation (where of course I sneak in the lesson/purpose of public speaking and listening skills) discussing the idea that we are excited to have found something that they are so engaged in yet want to hear their voice even more. I asked them to share their ideas on what they think went well, what they really want to see again, but also what they did not appreciate as much or suggestions to make certain areas better. I realized that our school practices this often when they replied so respectfully to this by saying, "Although I appreciate...., I feel that ..... could have been better if....." One of the first things that I mentioned is how we, as a school, should never settle what we think was "good", but how we can move to "great".
Personally and professionally, I have found that this is how I choose to live my life. I do my best to never settle, but reasonably push myself to be better in all that I do. This can be seen with training my three 95 lb dogs, my communication skills with my husband, and how I continue to find a new conference to attend, or some reason to go back to school. I have gone from my. Here is a summary of my educational path.
BA Liberal Studies> Multiple Subject Credential> MA in Education> Reading Specialist Credential> Leading Edge Certification> English Credential> MA in Leadership with an Emphasis in Technology> ?????
When I think about win win situations, I think about how many areas of one's life that this should be taken into consideration yet might not be. For me personally, I believe that my husband and I do not compromise as Dr. Pumpian discusses, because that would mean that one, or both, of us are not being fully respected or heard. Instead, we find the win win solution that ends with us both very happy. This communication and partnership in my personal life has often helped me in professional situations. As a teacher, I have recently found a greater partnership with my students after reading "Student Voice" within a professional development setting as well as small optional book clubs. Although I am looking for more ways of providing a win win situation for my students, I have recently expressed to the class that I would like to collaborate with them in reconfiguring our classroom layout. I expressed the areas that were most important to me and then offered them opportunity to discuss and explain what is important to them. After this, they had the opportunity to draw out floor plans with any explanations necessary as to why they would prefer their changes. After looking through the feedback, I made the changes over the weekend and the ongoing feedback and appreciation from the students is incredible. I believe that I offer as much assistance as possible to my fellow teachers, but should start paying more attention to how I am modeling this. I do believe that we also have more room to grow in this area as a team. I believe that next steps for us in making sure that we are pushing for more win win scenarios would be for us to meet as a middle school staff more often so that all of our needs and ideas can be heard. This is something that is hard to find time to do, but it seems clear that all are in agreement that it is where we want to be.
The habit of putting first things first hits pretty close to home for me. I truly believe that we are all creatures of habit and learn these habits at an extremely young age. I know that there are many habits that I learned from watching family members, as I am sure we all do. Something that I remember was really difficult for me was being punctual when it came to after school activities. I know that my mom was super busy, but I feel that since we grew up in a family of six children and many different events it was awesome that my mom even got me to practice or church functions at all, even if I was known for showing up late. Once I reached adolescence, I realized that I had more power than I realized. I realized that I was not doing my part in making sure that I was doing everything I could to keep track of my own priorities and obligations. I will admit that I didn’t truly make as much progress as I could have, but by senior year, I had made some drastic changes in habits. I also noticed that these changes had a large impact on my school efforts and overall work ethic, pulling me into lunch tutoring as such knowing that afterschool I had practice. I now am (usually) a person who shows up early for work and such just to make sure that I am ready for the day and in the right mind-set. I learned this from my dad. In high school, he had told me that when I get a job, it is important for many reasons that you are never planning on showing up when your shift starts, but early. It may sound silly but I like to also sit in my car in silence before walking in.
When watching the video, I was laughing because I have actually come pretty close to running out of gas because I didn’t have to stop. ??? I know. I also understood completely how negatively it can impact your life by putting small unimportant and non-urgent things in front of others that may be more time sensitive or valuable.
So I can admit that there was a time when I found myself in putting time aside for what quadrant IV calls “time wasters” but have learned from my errors. What I find difficult at this time in my life is prioritizing what I want to do first because there are so many areas of my professionalism that I want to build upon. For example, I just realized that I had fallen a bit behind with a few posts due to the fact that my mind has been focused on the Time to Thrive conference that I am attending right now in Portland, Oregon. So this is going to be a focus of mine and I am going to do my best to reflect on this with my students so that they start earlier than I did! My goal is to do an activity that can tie into their character reflection journals that helps them list what they have going on in their day and then try to list them in order of importance. I also think tat a demonstration as shown in the video would be fun! It would also be an easy activity to produce!
When I think about this habit, it makes me think about how we need to consider what we want our students to e successful in before the year starts and even before teaching each lesson. We write the purpose statement on the board (in some cases, we write three purposes). Who do we want our students to be? We may not realize it, but we do ask ourselves this. We ask ourselves what type of writers do we want them to be by the end of the year? What unit do we want them to be on in math?, and so on. It is important to know what you want to see in the end before you create the steps or consider the tools. I know I wouldn’t go to Home Depot to by materials for my kitchen remodel if I had no idea what I wanted the kitchen to look like. When remodeling my garage into a gym, we had to decide what equipment was most important to us and then draw out the blue prints. I will point out the obvious. All of these areas in which I have began with the end in mind are areas that I feel comfortable and confident in. I do wonder though, and would love some feedback, about how we could possibly look at this habit in terms of our 680 course. I think that since that course is a bit more confusing to me, it might be good for me to take these habits and make those connections.
Habit 1: Be Proactive
I am incredibly excited to embark on our second semester with such an amazing cohort and incredible leadership. After attending the face to face, I can’t stop thinking about my previous experience in teaching with 7 Habits for Highly Effective Teens. I feel that this is such an inspirational and eye opening book and guide for not only my students, but myself. I felt that as we would read through and participate in the activities, they were simple, clear, and had you ready to take action. I had held many discussions with a parent who was so appreciative that her son was reading the book because at the same time, she was reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in her class. It is one of those books that I always had intentions of reading, but never followed through with all of the other books that I was checking out! I am so thrilled to be using this in our study.
So, how appropriate is it that habit one is to be proactive! I am happy to be focusing on this habit and it is an appropriate habit to start with for many reasons. In our middle school, we talk about this with our students, but I am not sure that we discuss the importance enough, nor am I sure that our students understand just how much this affects their daily life in and out of school. I plan to be reminding and encouraging my students to be more proactive when it comes to life in general, but more specifically in our classroom, their learning. As Dr. Pumpian reminded us, we can control three things.
We can control how we feel.
We can control what we say.
We can control how we behave or react.
Yes, these are just three things. The number is small, but the value is enormous! I am going to be focusing on this habit myself when it comes to my career and personal life. I think about how closely those two are connected. I come home everyday and reflect with my husband on my day, teaching, and overall sense of accomplishment. My husband does an amazing job at reminding me of these three areas of which I can control and takes my mind off of that in which I can’t. I think that this is common as a teacher to personalize things from your day. I think that in some ways this pushes me, but in others causes me to lose focus. I enjoy our conversations when I come home and I reflect on why things went a certain direction.
When I think about controlling how I feel, I think about how my attitude can impact not only my overall performance, but also the performance of my friends, family members, coworkers, students, and soccer players. I am human and I know that there are times when I forget this and I would like to make this habit one that I am checking in with each day. I have been discussing this with my students and I will continue to do so. I am thinking about a specific student who had a rough day today and I think that if I had the right words at the time to remind him about what we can and can’t control, it could have really helped him. I know that this is something that I can check in with him about tomorrow.
When thinking about what we say, I think about our school’s five pillars. One of our pillars is Choice Words. I am going to put an extra focus on another side of this and take it to “how we say it” as well. I think that this may be a little more concrete for my students to understand for some situations. It may seem as though my explanations are too vague and that I plan on covering a lot with my middle school, but I should say that we have been putting a focus on character and the discussions in our classroom often lend themselves to referring back to habit. I have been putting a large emphasis on the word “habits” with them and it truly is something we reflect on daily.
I think that one of the harder areas for people is the behavior or reactions. I know that I am a sensitive person. I always have been. This is something that I work on in terms of not getting defensive or taking things personally. I am proud of myself knowing that I have actually grown tremendously since I first started teaching. I will admit that there are moments that I reflect on afterwards and know that I could/should have reacted differently. I know that I will always continue to grow in all of three of these areas. It is a bit harder for my students to reflect on this, but they too, have blown me away with their growth. The other day I had one of our newer students come up to me to apologize for her behavior in the hallway. She came in without prompting and said that she was sorry for being so noisy in the hall that I had to come out and ask them to lower their volume. I do remember my words that I had control over at the time, “Girls, you probably didn’t even realize it but the 6th graders are working really hard on a quick write and I think that they are getting pretty distracted with what is happening out here. I am also worried that they are seeing leaders of the school make such a disruption.” Both girls were new students and depending on how I approached the situation, this could have been either blown off by them, or they could have just felt as though they were scolded. I was so proud of one of the girls who came up to me after school and said, “I just wanted you to know that I was not trying to be disrespectful and I am sorry for interrupting your class.” I gave her a hug and told her how proud I was of her for how respectful and reflective she was. I told her that it showed great leadership qualities. Later on in her parent conference, I found out that she had terrible relationships with her previous teachers and often went head to head. It just goes to show how these three areas of control and change everything! Hearing this helped me grow as an educator and it is moments like this that help remind me of the power of what we say and how we say it.
I know that I have run on about this, so just let me tie it back to our first habit. Habit number one (Be Proactive) is something that we can all be working on and helping our students to understand. This is something that is going to prepare us, and our students, for any situation that may arise. It may be an encounter with a stranger, a misunderstanding with a friend, or trouble in the classroom. Whatever it is, we need to be proactive.