Saturday, December 31, 2011

'Tis the Season?!

Giving is one of the most important things we do.....and as educators, we know the spirit of giving without seeing immediate results is ongoing.  So how can we impact others during other times of the year, not just during the holidays?  How can we spread the word and encourage others to 'pay it forward' as we try to do daily?  At a recent holiday party, I was lucky enough to be in a discussion with two very intelligent ladies.  One is a grandmother and the other an educator as well as a mother.  We talked about Random Acts of Kindness and how we want our kids and grandkids to be a part of doing things for others.  A list of suggestions was then shared and from there......

We will see what 2012 brings!  My daughter is so excited as we read through the list of suggestions.  She likes the thought of a family renting a movie and finding microwave popcorn taped to the machine.  And what will that librarian say when our books are returned with a surprise $1 bill inside?  I am even more excited about our future works than I was on Christmas morning!  Our plan is to do at least one random act of kindness each week--that makes 52 in the upcoming year.  Doable?  You bet! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What are you making? What are you giving?

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Each Christmas season, our school nurse takes on the burdens of others and sends out letters to needy families, inquiring if they need help with gifts.  Many of our school staff members choose to participate in helping others as well as our local churches and community members.  It always amazes me how people 'step up' and want so much to make sure that all kids have a merry holiday season.

This year, I sought out one student that I knew would need an outfit for the upcoming winter concert.  So, along with another teacher, we found a typical outfit that we would purchase for our own kids.  The shoes, tights, even the little hair bows and shoes that make an outfit complete.  We gave it to her teacher and at the end of the school day, the student happened to stop by the office on the way out the door.  If I hadn't been in the doorway, I'm not sure I would have experienced such a wonderful opportunity.

"Mrs Nelson," she sternly directed towards me, "Did you let Santa Claus into the building this morning?!"  I looked at her with wide eyes and assured her that I had not seen anyone in the building.  She went on, "Well he brought me a special outfit for the concert and it is so pretty!"  I told her I could not wait to see her all dressed up for the concert and encouraged her to go home and try it on for her mom to see.  She had a HUGE smile on her face and bounded down the steps, on a mission to get home.

Wow.  How cool is that?  Sometimes we give and do not get to see the reaction.  Other times we give and get a negative reaction.  How can we help our students and kids understand that giving is one of the most important things we do as humans?  How can we help students understand that as adults sometimes our way of giving is in the form of discipline or structure?  And most importantly, what kind of life are you making?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What you DO speaks so loudly......

I can still hear his voice, ringing loud and clear in the dank locker room as we sat nervously, ready to begin one of our games.  He was famous for sharing quotations during practices and before games to get us motivated.  This was one of his favorites.  We heard it often.  Coach Madson was passionate--about basketball, about education, about every word he chose so carefully.  A sophomore girls basketball coach has little glory in this world; however, I contend it is coaching that has more influence and impact on teen kids than parents at times.  Fortunately, we were lucky enough to be coached by some of the most caring, supportive people ever.  I lived for basketball!  I lived for the games, the smell of the leather basketball, the stinginess of our uniforms, and the feeling of running up and down that wooden floor in which we knew every dead spot and creak.

So how does that quote, that feeling of sitting in that locker room, ready and anxious for a new game affect me now?  It affects me daily.  I know every beat of our building, I know every inch of the hallways and can predict how the traffic flow will be in the hallways depending on the mood and atmosphere of the kids that fill them.  I know that teachers are watching, cuing in on common behaviors and those that seem out of the ordinary.  I also know the kids that might need a hug or thumbs-up, and those that have enough confidence to make it to Hollywood.  As educators, we pick up on things others might not even notice.....we also can send messages we do not intend.  We are human and we continue to learn.

As adults, our actions are what kids see and what impacts them the most.  I can talk the talk, but if I don't walk it, they won't respect it.  To them, trust can be a deal maker or breaker.  How can we help our kids and educators keep in mind that it's not about what we say or do, it's what we choose to do and show others?  How can we encourage those that continue to make positive choices and encourage those that are not to improve?  Because until we show them that what we DO speaks loudly, they cannot hear what we say.  Keep doing......keep improving.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

If You Don't Ask......

you don't know, right?  Communications are key in working as a team.  I was a little leery when I started a Facebook page for our building.  Would it become a place for complaints to be posted?  Would parents even notice the announcements and messages?  And would kids steer clear of joining the page?

Amazingly, it has become one of the best things I have ever done for communications in our building!  Parents are asking questions, kids are joining the group and wanting to tag their photos even.  And as for reading the announcements, parents are hitting the 'like' button for simple reminders like the potential for an early out due to heat.  Wow! 

So why, as educators, do we shy away from the new technology that is available to us?  Why do we immediately think the worst-case scenario?  For our school, it is working great--I am not alone in this new adventure as several teachers have Facebook pages as well.  From reminders of math assignments to communications on how well students are doing, it is amazing to see how parents respond in such a positive light.  Facebook, who knew?!

Monday, June 20, 2011

What do you see?

"It's not what you look at that matters it's what you see." - Henry David Thoreau
As a school administrator in an elementary building, it often crosses my mind what these kids will someday offer our community and our world.  Do we have a future doctor and beautician?  Maybe some educators or someone that will work at our local newspaper?  Whatever path they choose, it is our job to see to it that they have the skills and abilities to be successful.  How do we accomplish this overwhelming task with the time we have?  
Our district has chosen AIW (Authentic Intellectual Work) as our professional development focus.  Our staff is tuning into higher order thinking, rigor/relevance, and disciplined inquiry.  Through our collaborative efforts, our goal is to challenge students to think 'outside the box' not just rote memorization of facts.  Are we giving kids the opportunities to excel?  Or are we limiting them by saying knowing the facts is 'good enough.'  As a parent of a 6 year old and 2 year, that's not good enough for me or my kids.  I want them to be problem solvers, collaborate with others to contribute to something bigger than themselves.
When you look at students and you challenge them to think on a higher level, what do you see?  What is the potential you are giving kids by allowing them to exceed expectations?