Friday, March 22, 2019

"Advocate for Yourself"

One of the most common statements I hear these days in education is that a child needs to advocate for himself/herself.  As an educator, it sounds great.  Having students speak up for themselves - sure, why not?  

So I looked it up.  Here is what Google tells me:  Being your own advocate means that you ask for what you need while respecting the needs of others. For example, if you are at a store and a clerk ignores you, ask in a polite way to be served. Self-advocacy is asking for what you need in a direct, respectful manner.

As an educator and parent, this is absolutely what I want my children to do; self-advocate.  And as an educator and parent, I'd like to speak for these children.  Please, please understand that self-advocacy will look differently for each child.  Just as with everything in education, self-advocacy will be personalized to the child. 

Extroverted children may walk right up to you, say or ask for what they want, and be just fine doing it.  Face-to-face conversations may be easy for them.  Raising their hand in class and answering questions comes natural.  Group work, yes please!  Presentations in front of the class, why not?

Now, let's take a look at introverted or shy children.  What would self-advocacy look like for them?  Have you ever thought about this?  What about those students with anxiety disorders?  Does this idea of self-advocacy go against every part of this child's being?  Does it physically make them ill to have this conversation?  

I'm a mom of a child with an anxiety disorder.  One day, after discussing my child's anxiety disorder, shyness, and introverted manner; I was told that he just needed to advocate for himself during class and with his teachers.  My first thoughts were, "What?  Did you just hear what we discussed during this meeting?".  Then, I stopped and thought. Yes, he can self-advocate, but it will look differently.  

So, as educators, let's talk about what self-advocacy might look like for those "shy" kids:

  • emailing you about a missing assignment, misunderstanding, or need
  • writing a quick note on an assignment or next to a test question
  • asking/emailing to meet after school or before school with you
  • asking/emailing for copies of notes or slide shows

I'm not saying that we shouldn't teach our children to self-advocate.  I'm only wanting to remind all educators that self-advocacy, like everything in education, must be personalized to students.  Please keep this in mind when working with our precious children.  YOU mean so much to them!

I'd love to hear how you have seen or empowered students to self-advocate.  Leave me a comment!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

State Testing and Students

State Testing.  Just hearing those words probably brings up some type of emotion from every educator I know.  I've taught PreK through 3rd grade, and I can say I truly love every grade level.  In Texas, the state assessments begin in 3rd grade (formally).  It's called the 🌟STAAR🌟 test:  State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness.  In three weeks, our fifth and fourth graders will take their first round of STAAR testing for this year.

When I was in the classroom as a teacher, I asked all of my students to bring in a 5x7 or smaller photo of their family that was framed the Monday before the test.  For students that didn't bring one in, I used my staff photos (we always get some free) and framed them.

I would get the kids into a circle, and we would each take turns sharing who was in our picture and shared a bit about our families.  We talked about worrying and that it was something that didn't help the situation, but being brave enough to face our worries helped prepare us for our future.  We either had or would encounter something that creates anxiety or worries 😟 in our lives.  I typically told a story from my life - a time I was worried and it turned out okay.  (Make something up if you have to.)

Then, (and here comes the mushy), we would put our pictures to our hearts πŸ’œ.  We would think πŸ€” of all the things we might worry about with regards to the test.  We thought about how hard we've worked all year long.  We thought about how much our family loves us πŸ’‘ and believes in us.  I told them how proud of them I was, and how much I knew they had truly learned all year.  Then, I told them that this picture would be placed on or near their desk during the test, and every time they came upon a question that they thought was hard, (or wanted to give up on) I wanted them to look at their family picture.  I wanted them to remember how much their family believes πŸ‘in them and knows they can do their best.  Then, we place the photos by the front door so we can see them every time we enter or leave the room for that week.  The day before the test, I set those photos near where the child would be sitting so the child can see the photo during the test.

I typically left the photos up the rest of the year because I loved having them in the classroom.  I hope your students enjoy this idea as much as mine have over the past years.  Enjoy!

Click here for a download-able letter home about the photos!

Have other ideas to calm students during testing time?  Hit me up with a reply!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Observe Me - Come & See

Observe Me - Come & See

Classroom observations - oh, man.  These can elicit fear in educators all over the world.  From scheduled to unscheduled observations, teachers feel the stress of other's evaluating them.  No doubt, when anyone feels someone is evaluating or judging them, it causes emotions of frustration, worried, and possibly anxiety.  But, why do we, as educators, feel this way?  Why do we look at getting feedback as a bad thing?  Getting feedback and using it to reflect upon our practice are the extremely important keys to professional growth.  

If you are wanting to try something new in the way of getting feedback on your professional practice or craft, try reading about the #observeme movement.  The #observeme movement involves inviting professional feedback on specific items that you want to grow in - identifying your areas of work, working on it, and asking other for feedback on it.  

I LOVED getting feedback on specific parts of my classroom and knowing what other's wanted feedback on.  Not only can other teachers give feedback, but parents, admin, counselors...anyone can offer feedback.  


Get that feedback....Get better....Give your best everyday in your classroom!  Kids deserve it!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Core Beliefs

Welcome to a New Year!

Welcome back to a fresh start!  I’ve found that as this time of the year, teachers often want to take a good look at their procedures, routines, lesson planning, and classroom development since the beginning of the year.  If I’m speaking to your heart, then keep on reading!  I’ve got an idea for you!

You might be thinking:
What do I need to do to get my students more engaged in the learning process?
What will get my students excited about learning?
How will I make sure my classroom runs smoothly?
What key learnings do I need to focus on this semester?
How can I circle back to my procedures and routines?
How has my class developed over the last semester?

One area I have found that can help me focus and find answers to the above questions is looking long and hard at my core beliefs.  Core beliefs are how people see themselves, others, the world, and the future. 

Identifying your core beliefs can help you refocus your classroom.  This is because every decision you make, you can ask yourself, “Does this align with my core beliefs?”.  Aligning your procedures, lesson plans, and routines to your core beliefs will help you stay focused on your students and your ideal learning environment. 

What are some ideas for core beliefs?  Let’s look at one large company and it’s core beliefs.  As we do, ask yourself, “Does this align with what I think of about this company?”.
Google Beliefs:
1.    Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2.    It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
3.    Fast is better than slow.
4.    Democracy on the web works.
5.    You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6.    You can make money without doing evil
7.    There’s always more information out there.
8.    The need for information crosses all borders.
9.    You can be serious without a suit.
10.Great just isn’t good enough.
As I read through Google’s core beliefs, I found myself thinking that some of those could be my beliefs as a teacher!  I mean, all I needed to do what change “user” to “student” and I had my belief summed up…focus on the student and all else will follow.  Isn’t that what we should be doing each day?  All of your decision should be focus on the student…not us as teachers/leaders/administrators.  It’s likes someone asking you, “What do you teach?”.  If your first response is “writing”, “math”, it doesn’t present with a student-first answer.  My thought is “I teach students”…individuals.  I need to look at each child individually, independently, and authentically. 
If you’ve never looked at or thought about your core beliefs, now is a great time to do so.  It’s a new year…a new outlook.  Think about it.  Write down your beliefs.  Hang them up somewhere where you will read them every day.  Heck, make a classroom “core beliefs” poster with your students.  Identify what your class believes in each other!  What a great morning meeting lesson!

Here are my core beliefs:
·      Decisions and actions should be focused on the student
·      Everyone can embrace & drive change
·      Every action should build open, honest, & trustworthy relationships
     Collaboration is collective genius