It’s All In Your Attitude

Last week, I flew to the Netherlands for a meeting.  I travelled with United.  Somewhat notoriously known for poor or lack of service, I had very low expectations for my flights.  Both there and back, my expectations were wildly exceeded.  I wasn’t upgraded, the food was no better, the seats no wider or delivering more legroom – everything was ‘standard’ for the class of service I was flying.  The thing that was different, was the attitude of the flight attendants. Friendly, chatty, attentive, thoughtful, humorous, kind, inquisitive, helpful.  They were all fantastic.  So much so that I told them personally and sent a little shout-out to the group via the United contact page – I hope they were recognized by their supervisors!

It is amazing what a difference an attitude can make.  I think this is part of the reason why the attitudes are a part of a PYP Curriculum.

 

As teachers, we see a lot of attitude in our classrooms – some great, some less than stellar, but all interesting and pointing us toward a better understanding of our children.  Today, my kids explored Lego Education Simple and Motorized Mechanisms  set. For some, this was like entering the promised land.  It was Christmas, Easter, Birthdays – all rolled into one.  I saw kids bursting with appreciation that they had been given this fabulous opportunity to explore and create.  They were committed to pitching in and challenging themselves to succeed.  There was courage, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empath, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect and tolerance all sandwiched in between a Lego-Palooza!

In addition to the curriculum skills in math, science and technology, I was loving seeing the development of the social skills and attitudes that went along with successful Lego construction.  Some kids struggled.  Some kids flourished.  Some wandered in between the two.  For some kids, this was their moment.  A chance for them to become the expert, the teacher, the go-to-genius, the one who only needed to look at the Lego and have it jump into formation!  For some kids, this was their nemesis.  The pieces wouldn’t fit, the instructions didn’t work, the whole thing was a hot mess.

So what did I do?  I observed.  I guided.  I looked for ways to invite students to help students. And I loved seeing the kids who find their challenges elsewhere, have a chance to shine and showcase their talents. This is what I love about my job.  I spend a lot of time researching the best “this” or the lastest “that” and I know some people might consider it all too much, not worthwhile.  To me, finding a balance in my classroom and opening up avenues of success to all students so that everyone gets a chance to be the superhero, is my job.  I know I haven’t done that for all of my kids yet – but I’m working on it!

 

How do you encourage an attitude of enthusiasm within your classroom?  How do you look for ways to serve the needs of all students?

Children At Play!

On my drive home today, I noticed a sign like the one above as I approached an intersection.  I have some bulletin board boarders in my classroom that say “Caution! Kids at Work”.  I got them because I thought they were cute.  I am now thinking of replacing them with a big sign like this on my door.  Why? As a reminder to myself as I begin the new year to make room for play.

I have posted on enabling creativity, the power of play,  and the idea that there is no purpose without play. I believe that play is positive, play promotes creativity, play unleashes ideas, curiosity, wonder and excitement – and isn’t that what school is for? So the sign will more than likely go up in some form or another.  But a sign in itself is not enough. I want my actions to reflect my beliefs.

We have had two days of school so far.  Teacher days.  No kids. But they are always on my mind.  The actual logistics are still in the making but here are some of the things I want to do in the first day/week of school:

SPOILER ALERT!  *If you are a parent of a child in my class and can promise you won’t share the following with your kids, you may keep reading – but don’t share! 🙂

The Marshmallow Challenge

The Marshmallow Challenge.  This is cool.  It is a TED talk, a challenge, a blog and just a fun, dynamic way to kick things off.  It has been done by CEO’s to Kindergartener’s and soon, by my fifth graders.  Why do it?  In the words of its creator, Tom Wujec:

The marshmallow challenge provides teams with a shared felt experience, a common language and a solid stance to find the right prototypes to build their real projects successfully, to avoid the oh-oh moments and have real ta-dah moments.

Exactly what I want this year: sharing, commonalities, inquiry, and aha moments.  I don’t actually mind if there are oh-oh moments.  They work for me too.  But honestly, what better way to kick off the year than with some spagetti and marshmallows?

Introductions via Voki

I was that kid who sat there, petrified that I was going to have to speak in front of the class.  I loathed it. I don’t know if any of my new kids dislike speaking in front of the class.  I do know that there are some options for getting around that – at least on the first day.  Cue Voki.  This is a fun, online tool that allows you to make an avatar and record a voice for it – your own, or a text-to-speech voice from the US, UK or Australia.  The challenge will be for kids to choose to either recreate themselves as closely as possible (with their own voice) or to create an alter ego avatar and have us guess who they are.  Here is my Voki that took me about six minutes to make:

Click to open Voki page

Voki has a classroom account for a fee.  I am going to start my free trial of the educator account and see after the two weeks if the kids and I think this is a useful tool to add to our belts.

Choose ???

The one assignment that I gave my incoming group of fifth graders was to read Wonder by RJ Palacio.  This book has launched the “Choose Kind” movement.  I want to ask my kids what they are going to choose for themselves this year.  If they have a choice between right and popular, hard and easy, challenge and status quo – what would they choose? These words will become our targets: the things we aim for throughout the year.  I want to incorporate these words into a large piece of group art: something beautiful and meaningful for the children to collaborate on together and make their mark as fifth graders.

I want to share this quote with my class to help them think about the word they will choose.

I am looking forward to combining their words with their images to make something magnificent for our wall.  I am toying with the idea of also sharing one of my favorite poems, “Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.  I love it. Love it. I think that also will have to be shared – it’s themes of bravery, dreams, hope, strength and courage are all traits I want to build in my kids this year.

Lego!

I don’t even know if we have any lego at school – but we should! I just read a really cool article about a 23 year old from Illinois who has become the fourth Lego Master Model Builder in the United States.  He now works at LegoLand. Here is the video application he sent out to Legoland in order to be considered for the job.  In the video, listen to him describe all the ways lego can be used to foster and strengthen imagination, creativity, passion, innovation and ideas:

I love it! I have done a quick look and in some places, universities and colleges will loan out kits of lego for schools for a 3 to 4 week time period with a refundable security deposit.  I don’t know if we have something like that in Boise, but I want to find out!

Ultimately, my goal is to start the first day and first week off the way I mean to continue: with challenge, collaboration, technology, innovation, thinking, creating, connecting and playing.  Lots and lots of playing.

How will you start the new school year?