Innovation

Secure Your Own Mask First

 

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Image Credit

I was speaking with a friend who was helping me out with a project I am working on. After we were finished talking, she asked me how I was doing: staying at home with my two sweet babies. She had seen the bomb site that is our upstairs living room (laundry EVERYWHERE) and the dog hair, the toys, the laundry, the dishes…did I mention the laundry?

She said that the best advice she had been given when she became a mom 22 years ago, was to “secure her own oxygen mask first before helping others”. She likened me to the captain and reminded me that if the captain goes down, everyone goes down.

I have been pondering this and she is right on many levels and the analogy is very apt for busy parents staying at home and raising a family. But it is also true for pretty much everyone. If you are well taken care of, well rested, well fed, well nourished by the books/people/things/spaces that make you feel good, you are in a much better position to share of yourself for others.

Many teachers are notoriously bad at this (no scientific research, just observation). We want to help our colleagues, our principals, our team, our students, our parents and so often we put all of these people above our own needs.

What do you want in the kids that you teach?

Here are some possible ideas:

  • Kids that will prioritize their health: drinking water, using the bathroom, eating a healthy lunch, getting outside and breathing fresh air.
  • Kids that are mindful of themselves, seek to be mindful in their intentions, take time to reflect on their learning and where they are going.
  • Kids that come to school well rested with a good breakfast in their belly.
  • Kids that listen to each other and ask questions, lots of them. And then listen some more.
  • Kids who are open to new ways of doing and new ways of showing what they know.

These things are not going to happen without some seriously mindful teachers, modeling this behavior for their students. Mindfulness is not a new concept but it is one that is taking off in education and for good reason. Having clarity about your intentions puts you one (giant) step closer to achieving your goals.

One of the most mindful practitioners I have had the pleasure of knowing is Neila Steele. She is the very definition of a mindful educator – and parent, wife, friend, all round great person. Her husband, Andy Vasily, hosted a session with her on his Run Your Life podcast with her on this topic. In the podcast, they cover the following:

What is mindfulness?

Specific mindfulness strategies

The power of visualization

Teacher and student well being

The importance of breath awareness

Mindfulness resources

Meditation

 

Take a listen to the podcast. And think about your own life. What one change could you make today that would better equip you in serving others tomorrow?  How can you take a more mindful approach to your own well being in order to be the best teacher/colleague/friend/parent/spouse possible?

 

 

Innovation

Get Into The Groove

OK…I know you are already humming along with Madonna after reading that post title so here is the song in all its glory – turn it up and belt it out! You know you want to!

It has been a while since I was in the blogging groove and it will be a while still before I am back in the teaching groove. Lots of reasons for the hiatus but this is the biggest one:

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We welcomed a sweet baby boy (Harrison Jaap terBorg) into our family on May 2. I am on maternity leave (and loving it) but I am still working on my masters (I use the word ‘working’ VERY loosely at present!) and keeping an eye on what is going at school when I am not up to my armpits in art projects, trips to the sandpit, coffee with other mama’s, and cuddles and snuggles galore.

One of my last posts was about what we believe in and how this impacts our classroom practice. A first grade colleague, Teri Lynn Biedenbach, was looking for new insights into creating Essential Agreements with her team this year and I shared this post with her. I had lunch with Betsy Riley, the third grade team leader, and shared the same concept with her. I was curious to see how both women would use these ideas within their own teams.

Grade One

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Teri Lynn expedited the process by starting with a number of words on post-it notes: Cooperation, Trust, Innovation, Inquiry, Play, Respect, Creativity. She goes on to explain the steps she and her team went through:

We brainstormed based beliefs connected to the words I listed. Everyone wrote their own ideas on sticky notes and stuck them around the connected word. We then looked for commonalities and created two simple yet meaningful belief statements.

Because we believe cooperation, trust and respect are important within a team environment, we will listen actively, and be open-minded to the ideas of others. Whenever possible we will plan collaboratively.

Because we believe innovation, inquiry and creativity are important when planning and teaching, we will create hands-on experiences, guide students to draw their own conclusions, use visible thinking strategies, and be open to trying something new.

We focused more on us as a team working together. Not sure if I approached it right, but my team seemed to enjoy the activity and feel that what we came up with is meaningful so I guess it’s a good start.

Grade Three

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Grade three began with a group brainstorm of ideas. Everything kept revolving around the idea that in all things, the team would model the same behaviors expected of their students. Betsy asked for my help in turning their ideas into “something pretty” to refer back to over the coming weeks. I created the following visual which not only documented “what” they believe in, but left room for each teacher to articulate how this would look, specifically, in their own classrooms. I chose to do it this way in order to acknowledge the collaborative component of their team thinking AND allow each teacher to reflect on this and their own practice.

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Both teachers have gone on to use a similar process with their students in creating shared beliefs about learning for their classrooms.

Here’s what I love:
  1. Both teachers were seeking ways to change how things had been done in the past, not for the sake of change, but in order to build a better learning environment within their teams and for their students.
  2. Both teachers thought about their team members and the time allocated to this process and modified it in ways that were meaningful to their teams.
  3. Reflection occurred throughout the whole process including scrapping ideas, seeking new ideas, building on input from other team members and continuing to think about how they would do this again differently next time.
  4. The process was different but each team came up with strongly worded beliefs about their teaching and co-teaching.

This is what we should be building room for in our classrooms. The ball got rolling in Bangkok with Nicky and Beth. Let’s consider them our ‘experts’. Information was shared about their teaching practice and modified by other teachers to suit their needs. Hopefully someone will read about their work and be challenged to re-address their own beliefs about teaching. ┬áNicky and Beth established their co-teaching beliefs after much reflection and work together. I am interested to see how the beliefs of these teams will change over time and be revisited throughout the year.

What are your beliefs about teaching?

How do you articulate your co-teaching goals at the beginning of the year?