If We Could Bottle that Energy

How many times have you been in the presence of others and considered, “If I could just bottle that energy.” Raising two wild and crazy boys, the thought crosses my mind quite frequently.  When chatting with a friend about this post today, she mentioned Monsters Inc. and how they were able to bottle the screams….what if we could do that with energy?  Maybe Disney was onto something.

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Other than a somewhat addiction to to coffee, I do not have a way to “bottle” energy, but there are a few things that I try to do and keep in mind when running the educator marathon.

 

BE HONEST: If you are feeling drained, there is a good chance your students are too.  Vibes are contagious……good and bad.  Talk to your students about your feelings and brainstorm a list of how to infuse more energetic learning into your classroom.  Students are our own personal interest experts.  Getting them on your side can make tough days much easier to muster.  Remember, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS…….

FIND A MENTOR :  A mentor is good to have, but I have gathered what is considered a dream team……these folks whether in my twitter world or professional and personal friendships are the ones that I look up to, learn from, and use as a true north challenge.  Having someone to bounce ideas off of and give your constructive criticism is humbling and important.  These conversations bring ideas and ideas bring excitement and energy.  Your mentor doesn’t have to be your boss, it can be someone you aspire to be like one day.  Encouragement works with students and adults.  We all need it.

DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY:  I read once, “The moment you think you have arrived, think again.”  Find time to be silly and fun.   Let your students see you let loose a little.  One of my favorite jobs this school year was monitoring the gigantic inflatable slide during a school wide fun day.  To greet kids at the top or encourage kids to overcome their fears to slide down was nice…..but taking a turn myself to free fall down the slide was so relieving.  I’m not a yeller.  I’m also not a Broadway singer……..but when I notice that I want to yell……I sing directions to students……making up the word as I go. It takes me down a notch, grabs their attention…….and brings out a few smiles.  No one is perfect.  Don’t expect perfection out of you or your students.  High expectations are okay, but you will just disappoint yourself time and time again if you require perfection.

BUBBLE OF GREATNESS:  Just like mentors, a bubble of friends that will love you no matter what is good to have.  A friend that has seen you at your best as well as a good ugly cry is a treasure.  I can call my grandmother in the mountains and within a minute or two……she has wiped all of my worries away.  My husband knows when to bring home a few extra carbs.  My kids combined with a board game, puzzle, or Lego time really clears the mind.

GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT:  Just like food……you are what you eat.  We are what we consume.  If you are consuming all of the ingredients for greatness, something good is going to come of it.  Let positive people, positive thoughts, and good reading into your mind.  Do not let negative people and thoughts set up real estate into your mind.  By doing this, your habits will change for the good.  You will become the person that searches for the silver lining rather than the Eeyore expecting the rain.

SELF CARE IS JUST AS IMPORTANT AS TAKING CARE OF OTHERS:  Now, read that last all caps sentence again…..one more time.  Exhaustion is part of being passionate about your profession. I get it. You can only work on fumes for so long.  You can’t water plants with an empty pitcher.  Self care looks different for everyone.  For me, it is finding quiet time every few days.  It also looks like a dinner out once a week with my family.   During nice weather, it is a five minute session sitting in my front porch swing.  If you find yourself unhappy more than not, you may need to reach out to someone for help.  There is no shame.  Sometimes a hard look in the mirror and career change up may be in order.  Everything has a season.  One more thing……put the soda down and grab a bottle of water.  It will help provide more oxygen to your brain to have more clarity.

There is nothing revolutionary in this post……just a few reminders of what it takes to make it.  Adulting is tough, teaching is tough…..but it is not meant to suck the life out of you.  Life is just too short folks.

What can you change in your life to have more energy? 

What do you do to be more child like? 

 

 

 

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Cultivating a Sense of Ownership

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I’ve been marinating on this topic for quite some time.  Over the summer, my family and I were working on our yard.  We pulled weeds, trimmed bushes, planted new flowers and cleaned things up quite a bit.  Growing up on a farm, I always wanted a nice garden and big yard.  When house shopping, we looked for trees for our boys to climb and a space that is just as beautiful on the outside as inside.  Living in a tourist area, this took quite a bit of time and what might be more affordable in some areas were more expensive in ours.  My husband and I worked very hard to save and prepare for purchasing our home.   Fast forward six years and here we are, working in the yard that we worked so hard to purchase.  This came to mind:  Our lives get so busy that maintaining and showing appreciation for what we have takes a back seat. Some of my best thoughts come while digging in the dirt. How are we teaching students to take ownership of what they have worked so hard to attain? Are we cultivating a sense of ownership? My grandparents and the post depression era comes to mind.  Their generation is known for really appreciating and taking care of what they have.

As a teacher, the thrill of the chase of attaining and trying something new is exciting.  Our excitement for the new transfers to our students.  What do we do once the shine wears off?  “The Next Big Thing,” happens to be the theme of our society.  If we are always seeking the next big thing, then are we truly appreciating and cultivating a sense of ownership for what we once worked so hard for? I’m all for trying new and seeking information while riding the wave of change.  It is equally important to learn to take care of what we have once the novelty wears off.

This doesn’t just apply to things, but to relationships, initiatives, our planet, programs…..I could go on.  Learning to perform maintenance is a life skill.  Not everything in life is created to be disposable.  In this season of Thanksgiving, how can we rethink what being thankful looks like?

Take a chance on that old new thing and dig a little deeper with it.  Till the soil and see the beauty.

The Process is All Around Us #IMMOOC Reflection

girl-sea-binoculars-vacation-160514.jpegLearning is not a spectator sport.  When I first entered the field, I considered myself as the teacher that teaches the students.  Quickly I realized that I had just as much to learn as my students.  Not that I have reached perfection, but I am so thankful my students do not receive my year one teaching today.

“The product we are trying to create in education is the process.” – George Couros

I’ve found that one of the most inspiring things I have to offer my students is my own learning journey as well as a shared journey with them.  We recently took a hard look at our room together and designed a dream classroom together.  Our redesign began three years ago before we even began planning.  I’m gathering pictures from over time to show the transition. Tom Murray mentioned in #IMMOOC this week how design impacts learning in the classroom. I’ve found that by involving them in the process, they have a true ownership of their learning space.

“Mrs. Sirkin, I saw you chasing tennis balls at the park yesterday…..” – Not much gets by my students.  Middle school was my first real exposure to team sports.  Not realizing others played before, I tried out for the tennis team.  After a week of tryouts, the team was posted.  A complete list of everyone was posted on the locker room door.  All of the names highlighted made the team….with one name remaining…..Marsha Moore.  I was crushed and didn’t really “try out” for anything until years later.   This year, I decided to revisit the middle school failure and truly learn how to play by taking lessons.  When I shared this, my students showed true empathy followed by encouragement to keep trying.   A simple name not highlighted has probably driven decades worth of trying to prove myself.   There was a lesson for myself to learn and to teach.

I’ve learned to not always jump to the answer of the “I wonders.”  The act of wondering and considering is so powerful, and at times I feel it slips away from adults.  These are the very skills that future ready students will need.

I’ve had friends and colleagues ask where I find the time to read, research, and connect with so many others…….my first answer is always that I neglect laundry.   The main answer is that I want to model a passion for learning that I want my children and students to have.  There is always room for growth, and forming positive relationships is what helps us keep a vision in what sometimes seems a sea of chaos.

Next time you find yourself spectating…….put the binoculars down…..join in.  Dive in to learning with your students.  Learn together and the growth will be far more fun and meaningful than you ever imagined.

What is a simple shift you can make in your classroom/school to focus on the process?

How can you shift your instruction to better connect with students? 

How have your included voice and choice in your learning community? 

 

“We are ALL a LITTLE WEIRD”

You may have read the poem, All I really need to know, I learned in KINDERGARTEN. A poster of simple yet profound skills that we really do learn in Kindergarten.  I used to keep a copy of this poster in my bathroom in hopes that my littles would read it during their bathroom breaks……they couldn’t read yet……but they did spend quite a bit of time in there.  I later realized that the poster was placed for myself just as much as anyone else.  I needed that little reminder of why I was in the profession.  Theodor Geisel has proven to be that same muse for me.  He has offered wisdom for teacher life and humanity.

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Photo Credit: http://www.drseussart.com/bioartofseuss/

You Never Know Where Your Interests Will Take You
Theodor was a doodler.  His mother encouraged him to draw on the walls of their home.  I’m not sure about you, but I am not sure that I would be as supportive.  My son, Oliver, LOVES Sports Illustrated for Kids.  Every month, he insists picking out the poster and THUMB-TACKING it to the wall.  Now, like every good teacher’s kid, he has a bulletin board…..sometimes a those tacks get stuck in the wall.  I need to keep Dr. Seuss in mind next time I nearly lose my mind over my children’s harmless passions.  How can we apply to this to teaching and learning?  Check out Genius Hour projects.  Consider the design and culture of your classroom.  We all know that if students are interested in what they are learning, they with grow much farther than in dictatorship circumstances.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again
I can hear my mother saying this.  It is the truth.  Theodor was on the way to burn his book when he came across a friend who put him on the path to being published.  Rejection was just about to get the best of Geisel.  He had been rejected 27 times for his first manuscript.  Rejection may be one of the scariest and worst feelings humans can face.  The more we put ourselves out there, the higher the risk of rejection.  There are others in the world that may be one “try” away from a break through.  Our students will be no strangers to rejection.  Let’s work together to help them learn to cope with these feelings and use them as fuel for success.

We are More Alike than Different
The Butter Battle Book is one of my favorites.  It highlights the absurdness of our societies along with the dangers.  I especially love reading it to my students and watching their faces as they quickly note how crazy the Yooks and Zooks are acting.  He does the same with his Star Belly Sneetches. The next time you reach a hard place in a friendship with a parent, colleague, or student……just picture them as a Sneetch, Yook, or Zook…..this can be a quick reminder that we are all in this together.

No One is Perfect and We are All a Little Weird
After reading more about the life of Dr. Seuss, it is much less than rainbows and unicorns.  Yet, he made a huge impact on our society and continues to impact the world.  His books and illustrations will be shared with generation upon generation.  We must remember that everyone  has a little weird, that is okay.  What is most important, that we do our best to bring out the positive and serve our purpose for good in the world.  That “weird” human in your life may be the Dr. Seuss of another time.  Do what you can to ignite that spark of wonder in them.

Read more about Dr. Seuss from these sources I found helpful. 🙂
http://www.drseussart.com/biopublishing/
http://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-dr-seuss

 

 

 

Half-Present to ALL IN

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Have you ever been in a meeting where you were there in body but not in mind?  Think about what you were doing at that moment.  What was going on?  Who was doing the talking? What was it about?  How did you feel about it?  We’ve all been there…..half-present.  Whether you are in the education world or corporate, it is human nature to let your mind wander when you are less interested, unmotivated, or exhausted.    Now tune into a meeting where you were ALL IN.  What did that look like?  What did it feel like?  What sold you in the meeting?  Who was doing the talking? During these moments we see time speed by us, and before we know it…..it is over….. leaving us to wonder further on our own.

Everyone’s motivation for presence is different, and I could say that it changes daily for each of us.  Consider how this applies to our classrooms with students. They are with us every day.  Do you have half-present students? When you are working with small groups, are you ever concerned of their true presence?  With 1:1 technology, there comes a valid concern over, “What is happening on their screen?”  When marinating over this digital age problem, I’ve resorted to the basics of analog classrooms.  Earlier, how did we know that students were really reading when they were looking at a book? We didn’t. I brought out the shelf of my old standbys prior to Twitter and Pinterest for ideas:

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The copy write of these spanned from 1992-2002 and the message was the same. Students must be provided opportunities to be creative and connect content to their real world.  The road from old school to new school may be a little more bumpy than you imagined, but the basics remain the same.

Favorable Learning Climate – Classroom climate, is very important.  Is it established as a place to learn, not just regurgitate information.  If your students feel happy to be there, they are more likely do their best.  Just as in the work force scenario, we all work harder when we feel valued and appreciated.  In the past, I have found more success when goals are set together.  Goals matter more to students when they have a voice in them.  Achieving personal goals does wonders for intrinsic motivation and can move mountains in your classroom.  Voice and Choicewrite it down and post it somewhere as a reminder to ourselves to include it throughout our day.  

Consider the 4Cs.  I know, I say it quite a bit.  By encouraging a culture of collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity…..not only are you to have more buy in, but you are also going to help prepare your students for their unknown future.  I hate to break it to you, but hours on end of math fluency practice, does not incorporate these.  Math fluency is important, but should not be taking up most of your students’ independent work time.  On the same note, the bulk of their time shouldn’t be reading passages and answering questions.  Extend knowledge gained  in literature by rich conversation among students and real world applications.

“Marsha, that is all well and good….but I am only one person, and I am tired.”  – you
Although it is really easy to lean on those level 1 DOK activities and programs, there are so many more resources out there that can help your work flow and encourage the 4Cs.  Let me help you.  

Seesaw – Look at how this student sorted his spelling words for Daily Five.  He sorted them and recorded himself reading them aloud.  This gives his teacher immediate evidence that he understands how to sort and read his spelling words for the week. Now is classmates can go in and comment with him about how they sorted their words.

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Nearpod – I love the essential questions and immediate feedback of these lessons.  I also love that it has multiple modes of gathering understanding. They also have a really nice VR component.  How about allowing students to independently experience the world while you are meeting with small groups?  Nearpod is a great “safe space” to do so.  

Brainpop – I can’t say enough about Brainpop.  If you are only using it for video access, your students are missing out.  Now, students can create their own Brainpop styled videos to demonstrating understanding of concepts.  Image result for brainpop make a movie

Their concept mapping component is AWESOME!  I love how both give an image bank on each topic.

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I’m sure there are many more ideas and opportunities out there.  Ask your students. I encourage you to sit and have a conversation with your class about their “presence.”  Remember you are stronger together and will go farther if everyone is ALL IN.

I’d love to hear about great experiences in your classroom!

What motivates you?  

How does motivation relate to learning? 

How can we connect classroom content to the real world? 

How valuable is student buy-in? 

Would you want to be a student in your classroom?