The Leaning Tower of…Progress: Three Steps to Moving Forward Through Challenge

The Leaning Tower of…Progress.

You have seen it all over the news and internet—even in the New York Times and other national news. It is Dallas, Texas’ own Leaning Tower. An old building where they simply were carrying out a typical demolition in a big city but the building still stands. People have taken the liberty of posting humorous photos in front it. People have joked about it. I joked about it. You see, there was a plan. A plan to demolish it, but it would not go down without a fight. I even laughed and said “I see my kindergarten niece and her classmates formulated the process to bring the building down.” But…there was a plan. It just did not go as anyone thought. They are still trying to bring that bad boy down—one chunk at time. Inevitably, somehow, it will come down (the designers/engineers of the building are somewhere laughing hysterically–because they had a solid, effective design).

You may or may not agree with the demolition company’s approach, however, whether in education or in life, plans are established, but it does not mean the outcome will be pristine and without obstacles. Like the Leaning Tower, what can we do to move forward with and in progress? “Lean in” and let’s talk.

  1. Recognize the issue for what it is—sometimes a complex web of challenges.

It is easy to blame a challenge on poor planning, the execution, the executor, or lack thereof. Yes, we are always to examine ourselves first and foremost. Let’s also stay humble—it could be us (laugh). However, when the problem is long, complex, and deep, there are a myriad of factors. I am in no way a demolition expert nor have I done extensive research on the topic, but jokes aside, I presume the company who was hired to complete the demolition examined the structure, planned, set up everything, and did what they were supposed to do. That building just did not come down. Sources say the elevator shaft is one factor of hinderance. There are other variables at play as well.

Regardless, what is the company doing? Taking the structure down as much as they can while also keeping in mind public safety and compliance. Panicking will not help. Blaming will not help. Being negative and pointing out every little “perceived” flaw will not help. It does not mean the company has not had legitimate demolition victories in the past. It certainly doesn’t mean they won’t have significant victories throughout the company’s future. They have simply stumbled into a unique challenge for this period in time. Yes, there is urgency but stay calm, and just get the job done ethically for the benefit of all.

2. Get it—a piece at a time.

Rome was not built in a day. Neither is a successful outcome. Have you heard the phrase “you see my glory but have you seen the pain and long road that got me here?” Success is rarely a perfect line or an astonishing upward trend. Success is a process of learning, growing, and overcoming a piece at a time. As an educator, your students are not going to pass every assessment overnight. I have literally seen great teachers/colleagues struggle with students all school year and on the last assessment of the year, ROCK it. It took piece by piece, planning by planning, implementing programs, building intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, constant restructures, sincere support, home support (above all) and more to get these students where they were supposed to be. A piece.at.a.time. while observing many factors. Numbers don’t lie but success is rarely only quantitative—it’s qualitative as well. I like to call it the Power Blend.

For example, on the show My 600 lb Life, a mother was fighting for her life. Not only was this amazing soul trapped in her bedroom with her beautiful daughters serving her night and day, it bothered her. She sought help. As my sister in law and I watched the show, we were awestruck at the negligence the medical staff and support team exhibited. The doctors were so focused on the scale number, they did not see her as a whole person nor address the root of her weight issues—years prior, her 5 year old child was tragically killed while she was away in Haiti seeing family. This woman was grieving out of her mind and the way she soothed herself was through eating. Even the counselor they appointed to her could not see what was really going on. Needless to say, they neglectfully approved her, and she had the weight loss surgery. Due to her not being able to control her overeating due to the underlying emotional issues including grieving, and while disobeying commands to not overeat with her new, reduced stomach pouch, she literally ate herself to death. She left behind several courageous daughters. What should have been a victorious ending to the show turned out to be footage of her funeral. The Power Blend was not executed for this precious woman to any extent. As the ending credits for the show rolled, my sister in law and I looked at each other speechless.

3. Look forward and onward.

If the demolition company looked at every criticism of their approach (which I don’t necessarily agree with but hey, I do admire their tenacity, and what do I know about demolition?), they would never get the job done. They just keep hitting at it day by day keeping their sights and eyes on the end goal, working to knock that tower DOWN. You may have a goal for your students to knock a test out of the water, to become a stronger class by April or May or a personal goal for you (teaching is what we do, it is not the whole of our identity). Keep your eyes focused on your students and/or your goal. Note: not all criticism is bad. People who are trustworthy and truly care are simply trying to help.

Looking at the complexity of challenges, attacking the challenge a piece at a time, and looking forward and working towards the end result are lessons we can all learn from the Leaning Tower of Progress—oops, I mean Dallas. Some say the endurance and determination of this entire ordeal really reveals the spirit of Dallas. I truly hope so. And I hope it reveals those characteristics in your spirit too.

Kia 😉

Copyright 2020 The Educator’s Light

Have Courage: A Quick Tip Guide on Teaching Through Society’s Challenges.

NBA player Kobe Bryant his daughter and several other people passed away in a helicopter crash. Coronavirus infecting more people in China each day. Screenings at up to 20 airports. Violence rising in cities. Teens missing. Elderly grandmother drove off and has not been located. Now, imagine seeing all of this in one weekend on television and social media and then standing in front of a class of students in just as much shock as you. Forget the lesson, they want answers and comfort. Welcome to teaching today. But here is the good news–have courage, there is hope.

This particular blog post is geared more towards 6th grade and up however, no matter the grade there can be bits and pieces you can certainly take with you. Be advised, younger children are sensitive to news and most things disturbing. Always consult with your campus counselors or leadership if needed on how to communicate if you need to communicate anything at all no matter what grade. Here are 3 quick tips to help you consistently navigate your students through tough societal situations.

1. It is okay to talk about it.

When the news of Kobe Bryant broke on this past Sunday, it was absolutely shocking. To add more grief, we all found out his precious daughter perished in the crash with him along with several other amazing people. Our hearts ached for his wife as we could not imagine the pain she and their family are going though at this time. Monday came. It was a bit somber to be honest.When I walked into the auditorium at school on Monday morning the day after he passed, the counselors set up a brief but heartfelt presentation about him. It was a video of Kobe talking and encouraging youth in a video. The counselors then acknowledged he was no longer with us and was honest but focused on his lasting words and legacy to others as a NBA legend.

When we got to advisory back in our classroom, my homeroom and I spent a bit more time discussing him and his daughter and the other great people on the helicopter. I moderated the discussion to keep it appropriate and focused (we all have that precious student who goes WAY off on class discussons–no boo, come off the tangent and rejoin us haha). My students knew just as much as I did. They simply wanted to talk about it. Mind you, I teach middle school. In one of my classes later that day, one of my students speaks an encouraging word for the class (I’ll share about my class structure in another post:) each day. She decided to share a fact or lasting quote about Bryant each day for the remainder of the week. The class really enjoyed it. It is also helping them grow in empathy. I am proud to see them step up as leaders and see hope in tragedy. There are many positive ways to express feelings but I have found that just talking and being together is one of the most soothing remedies for challenging times.

2. Provide a Sense of Normalcy.

Students need a normal environment especially in difficult situations. Do not spend days on end discussing the tragedy. Some students have already been traumatized through personal situations and though they want to briefly talk about it or hear their classmates discuss it, they need as much “normal” structure as possible. As a teacher, stay upbeat, encouraging, and continue with the lessons as planned. As odd as it sounds, there can be healing in routine. Many times, you are all the encouragement a student may ever have due to their home life. They look to YOU for courage and cues on how to react. So act accordingly and provide a sense of normalcy–it can even help you too.

3. Provide a positive, uplifting environment.

This is not always perfection. With state assessments, curriculum requirements, parent contacts, and more, some teachers say “that’s cute, but I need to finish the data wall.” Honey, I COMPLETELY GET IT. Not to mention you may have a class that is not having a good day because they got in big trouble earlier in the day in another class (and rightfully so) and by the time they get to you, they’re almost done. True story. The joys of education.

But, you CAN create a positive, uplifting environment–especially if you want them to receive learning in the clearest, most receptive way. You can do this by once or twice a week showing student-friendly motivational videos and have them write about it in their journals (aha writing!) and share with a partner or group. You can also have them watch student-appropriate TED talks. In The Educator’s Light bookstore, you will find a free, downloadable, TED talk/motivational talk/video handout to help you out.

Also, you can have them write what they are grateful for each week, write an encouraging note to the person next to them, clap for each other and the list goes on.

**Last, make sure YOU stay uplifted on a consistent basis. YOU can’t pour from an empty vessel.**

Courage is not the absence of fear but moving forward in spite of it. New teacher, you got this. I cannot tell you whether or not society will get better anytime soon. What I can tell you is in spite of it all, when the waves are colliding all around, you stay focused on what is important–these youth who are growing in courage themselves and who will someday help others. Keep the faith and keep pressing forward.

Teach in the Light,

Kia ‘)

© 2020 The Educator’s Light

What are other ways you are creating an uplifting classroom? Share in the comments!

2 Advantages Of The Novice Teacher

Being a new teacher isn’t easy. Sometimes, it downright scary, intimidating, and exhausting. Other times, it’s downright wonderful, rewarding, joyful, hilarious and nuturing. Welcome to education.

 

Beautiful advantages await those teachers who have insight and refuse to give up the work it takes for not only their students to grow but them to grow as well.

 

  1. Being a new teacher allows you to stay open and stay teachable.

NEVER lose this characteristic. I still find all sorts of ideas and new things I can apply to education and my own personal life. Much of the reason why I have made it as long as I have in education and still have the audacity to  still care about it is because I listened. I didn’t come in blazing and acting like I knew everything. The teachers who taught with me who were novices and acted like they knew everything ended up miserable, deeply humbled or got angry and eventually left the profession.

Those of us who accepted respectful correction with the right intentions and support in our first few years made it and survived. A number went on to be administrators, etc. Whether you want to be administrator or enjoy the beauty and adventure of the classroom is entirely up to you. Neither is better than the other.

I do personally recommend you teach at least 4 -5 years (4 years only if you are strong teacher) before you consider being a school administrator or leadership position on a campus etc. I know many district and other entities say 2 years, but I honestly believe that is NO where near enough experience to lead a campus, district or any other educational organization or department. You may have “potential” but there are certain things you just don’t get until you have taught at least 4 or more years.  Stay teachable until then.

 

2. You tend to value students more and truly treasure their growth.

When I first taught, I marveled at everything they did that was kind, adorable and giving. Their answers made me laugh. When they cried to me about something that hurt them, it almost wanted to make me cry too. Don’t lose this either. As with anything, time can make anything redundant and almost irritating.

Also find new ways to refresh the rapport with your students. You are not their friend, make that clear in the beginning, but they always need to know you care and are proud of every success and growth. As a former, passionate colleague once told me– EVERY.child.has.value. Never forget it.

 

You, my friend, are at an advantage. Remember, the same fire within you when you taught on the first day of school your first year? Stoke the embers and keep the fire blazing.  It will truly inspire you and your students for years to come.

 

Stay in the Light–

Kia

 

© The Educator’s Light 2019

 

 

What are ways you are “stoking the embers” of your teaching experience? Comment below!

 

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Teacher During Holiday Breaks!

Not the biggest fan of winter except for the apparel. So the beach it is!

First…Happy New Year!! I hope this will be your best year yet. 2019 is here!

Now, back to teacher reality. During holiday breaks, some teachers tend to significantly overwhelm themselves in preparation to go back to school. On the other hand, other teachers have the most well-meaning intentions to plan the best semester EVER upon their return– but end up distracted by life itself–thus the tote bag stays in the trunk.

Here is a list of what to DO and what NOT DO to make the most of these wonderful, well-deserved, holiday breaks!

DO NOT:

  1. Start planning every facet of your educational life between now and January 7th. 

Don’t do it. Why? Everything is subject to change the moment you step back on campus or start the New Year. One thing I have had to personally learn is to not stress over constantly trying to figure everything out which is due to me being somewhat of a strategist BUT– I am so proud of my growth in this area!

Like life itself, in education there is a balance…with students…there will be times you will have no choice but to fly off the seat of your pants, however, CONSISTENTLY, you always need to have a plan in place.

 

2. Panic while researching every teacher idea known to mankind. 

I cannot stress the adorable ideas out there from classrooms, lesson plans, activities and more! I always love to see the creativity and ideas other teachers share. It inspires me to be the best teacher I can be!

However, hear me out. Understand–their classroom and their experience is not your experience. Don’t let it make you feel inadequate. You do what is needed for your kids. When you peruse social media platforms, apps and websites for various ideas, set a timer and be specific about what you are looking for. Bookmark the ideas and activities you like, please follow the people you admire but remember, no teacher is a perfect teacher even if it looks that way.

People don’t ( and should never) post fights in the hall, a student returning from alternative school…and not happy about it, the team meeting that did not go well, the data packet the principal needs to have done in 2 days, the student who vomited all over the floor and wall, the parent who cussed out the exhausted assistant principal and is upset with the entire grade level team, the week’s lesson that tanked, the student who just got back from a mental hospital, the pressure because your educational entity said the school’s scores are not up to par, the once sweet class has had an attitude for the past 2 weeks and you don’t know why…you get it. Honey…it’s real in education.

Experience tells us this. I am not a perfect teacher. Those with experience continually learn. I am already thinking of a number of workshops I want to go to inspire me and help put more tools in my toolbox!

DO:

  1. REST

You can’t give anything out of an empty wheel barrow. I hope you are making room for fun, movies, catching up with loved ones and dear friends and even a little after Christmas sale shopping. For the “exquisite,” (ha,ha) maybe even a little massage or facial. Don’t just do this during a holiday break but whenever you get the chance!

Teachers are prone to germs, colds etc. not just from being around so many people but due to extreme stress. You are an adult. Take care of yourself. There is only one you. If you really believe kids are that important, take care of yourself. They need you.

2. Plan and Pace Yourself

What you plan to do with your holiday break is up to you. If you, like me, will still try to catch up on planning, work etc., read below!

Pace Yourself: Commit to 4 hours later this week.

Example:

9 am or 1pm–

Reflect–what went well and not so well? How do you want to approach it?

10 am or 2 pm–Work on lessons (jump ahead) or fine tune activities. How will you welcome the kids back? This is vital especially the first day back. See my blog post https://theeducatorslight.com/2018/11/28/4-ways-to-welcome-your-students-back-from-a-holiday-break/.

This blog post has great ideas for welcoming kids back the effective way! This is a NEW beginning for you and your students…especially after Christmas/New Year’s break.

11 am or 3 pm–

Research activities, ideas, etc. Remember what I mentioned earlier in this post. Don’t get overwhelmed. Get inspired, and learn from some great teachers.

12 pm or 4 pm–

Continue wrapping up from any category (grading if you need too). For more simple, step by step information, download my ebook Plan Your First Year available in the resource store for only $7.00! This ebook will help you spend those 4 hours planning wisely and it helps you get on the journey to become the best teacher you can be. Also enjoy the other free resources as well.

Which road will you choose?

Do’s and Don’ts are simply clear boundaries that you need to set for yourself to increase your longevity as a teacher. This is critical.

Happy New Year 2019 and know I am rooting for you all the way!

Stay in the Light–

Kia

©2019

What are other boundaries you are setting for yourself in the New Year for your classroom or teaching environment? Comment below!