It was the end of lunchtime. I finished up in the teacher’s lounge and was just about to head up to my classroom when I suddenly had to run to the bathroom.
After a long journey of trying to conceive, multiple rounds of fertility treatments, and finally a positive pregnancy test — I felt sure I was losing that baby.
The details of all that followed are a bit of a blur. I managed to get someone to cover my class as my kids returned from lunch, managed to get down to the office to explain why I had to leave.
But what will forever remain clear in my memory was the compassion of my principal, Kathy Watson. She listened as I sobbed. She held my hands, hugged me, reassured me that I could take all the time I needed.
Equally precious was what she did not do. She didn’t bring up sub plans, she didn’t hint at a meeting she was probably late for, she didn’t remind me of leave policies, and she didn’t try to minimize my pain in any way. I knew that in that moment of crisis, nothing was more important than her being there for me.
In short, she valued my humanity as a teacher and as a human being.
I wish valuing teachers’ humanity is something we could all take for granted. But somehow, as we wave our banners for what’s best for students, sometimes what’s best for teachers gets forgotten. A sad recent example (with many more in the thread):
When I was a class-teacher my son was rushed into hospital. It was touch and go.
My headteacher’s response was “Why aren’t you coming into school his mum is with him?”
This defined how I treat staff at my school…essentially I do the opposite.
As in many instances when I’m writing about something vulnerable, I’m reminded of something author Brene Brown wrote:
What I’ve also learned from Brene’s work is that it’s impossible to be selective about our empathy. We cannot profess to have empathy for our students and then deny it for our teachers. We need to find ways to let all those around us with whom we would like to make meaningful connections that they are not alone, that we are with them in the arena, too.
I am grateful to report that after a couple of dark weeks, we found that the baby’s heart was still beating. My son is a thriving 4 year-old today. I am also grateful to have had the chance to experience such empathy from my principal. Both are precious moments I will carry with me for a lifetime.
What are ways we can show teachers we value their humanity even when especially if it throws a wrench into plans? How does modeling this kind of empathy impact our students and their learning?
But as another typical day progressed with my 3 small students, I kept thinking of Edna’s post. I realized I could definitely benefit from inventorying my culture of agency at home, not least because of how I’ve learned that more agency leads to less classroom management — and we could really use less “classroom management” in our home right now!
The questions in bold below are her overarching questions, to which she also attached sub-questions for more in-depth reflection (be sure to check out her post to read those)!
“What sort of language will you use?”
Overall, we have good metacognitive dialogue happening, including naming learning skills (“Wow, you are making an interesting connection right there!”) and referring to my students as authors, scientists, etc.
Two questions that stood out to me most as opportunities for growth were, “Do you talk about learning, rather than tasks and work” and “Do you ask the learners’ opinions and really listen to what they say?”
It’s so easy to get swept away by all the tasks that must be accomplished each day, and it becomes a temptation for me to focus on the work, as well as to multi-task everything. But I have noticed that when I do make time for undivided attention, it goes a long way in the culture of agency at home.
“How is the environment organised to foster agency?”
This one is always a work in progress, but overall, I feel like we’re moving in the right direction for agency.
As I reflect on opportunities for my two- & four-year olds, my thoughts turn to games, blocks, Lego’s, play dough, and other creative experiences we could engage in together with more regularity. I think that especially as my daughter starts school again, I could renew the self-selected magnet schedule below for my 4 year-old to consider the possibilities for his time.
“How is time managed?
Self management of time has often been encouraged, and our approach is constantly shifting (especially to make sure my kids aren’t wasting their time “waiting for the teacher”). In addition to the magnet schedule above, we have tried…
…the week wheel:
…general week/month planning:
…planning hours to scale (½ inch = 1 hour)
…digitally shared to-do lists:
“What dispositions do you model?”
All three sub-questions Edna asks here regarding openness and vulnerability fluctuate with my emotional state. I notice that when I’m feeling stressed and behind-schedule, I am less likely to discuss my process with my kids.
However, my kids are merciful; when I share how I’m feeling, they tend to be patient. All the same, I would like to do more to explain my strategies for getting back on track so they better comprehend self-regulation.
“What routines are in place to encourage agency?”
I actually just recently added a visual prompt for our morning and bedtime routines. Secured to the bathroom mirror with packaging tape, these little pictures help my kids get on with their daily routines independently.
“What kind of expectations are clearly set?”
We’re always having conversations about the importance of intrinsic motivation. But there’s definitely still a major learning curve for initiative over compliance. Part of this may be that initiative still looks pretty destructive for my 2- and 4 year old boys. But I am working to adjust my expectations and our environment to meet their needs.
Here’s a recent example: from time to time, we check out what’s called a “Discovery Kit” at the library, a themed box including new toys, books, puzzles, etc. We love playing with them, but it’s difficult for me to keep track of everything, and the fines for missing pieces/late dues add up fast.
One day I was telling my 4 year-old that I didn’t know if we could get another discovery kit because he had misplaced one of the pieces. Later, I expressed my concerns to my husband, and he thoughtfully said, “Well, he is 4. Maybe it’s just that the discovery kits require us to supervise them.”
Another option would be to stop borrowing the kits for now, but I see now that I would want to make sure my 4 year-old knew that it wouldn’t be his fault.
We have high expectations for responsibility, but developmental readiness must factor into those expectations.
“How do interactions foster agency?
I really like the question, “Can they tell that you trust them to learn?” It’s clear through his expression that even my 2 year-old can tell a lot about what I’m feeling about him and his choices. When I work to reassure him, especially when he’s trying new things, he grows in his confidence to act independently.
“What small action will you take to shift the culture in your class?”
Processing my thoughts through this inventory has been a great step for me today. As parents and teachers, we need to be honest but kind with ourselves in this process. Working with kids is messy, but as we work toward a stronger culture of agency, they will astonish us with what they are capable of!
Given the choice between an overt moral story vs silly humor for teaching friendship, I’ll pick the latter every time. Michael Rex’s Eat Pete! certainly fit the bill there!
The monster faces a major dilemma. While he does think playing with cars and blocks looks fun, he would also really like to just go ahead and eat Pete. Which he actually does, only to find that those games just aren’t the same.
Young readers will appreciate how much story is told in the pictures, especially the hilarious illustrations of the monster daydreaming about just going ahead and eating Pete already. I felt like Rex nailed the pacing of this story, maximizing the anticipation that readers will experience.
Eat Pete’s book birthday is tomorrow, and I’m pleased to have been invited on its book tour! To celebrate, I’d like to share a few more funny reads featuring friendships that get off to a bit of a rocky start.
#1: Sophie’s Squash Go to School by Pat Zietlow Miller & Anne Wilsdorf
#2: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
#3: My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown
#4: A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker & Kady MacDonald Denton
#5: School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex
As you’ve probably noticed, these books also make for great read-alouds at the start of the school year! What are others you enjoy with your students?
This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.
This is the last post in this series! However, I hope it will continue to grow via comments as readers add their own ideas.
Most students go straight to honesty and moral uprightness when it comes to defining integrity. But I also really like the secondary definition,
“the state of being whole and undivided.”
So much to unpack and explore with this concept, especially for those teachers working to set the stage for a new school year.
Resource #1: Alike by Pepe School
Resource #2: Bill Watterson: A Cartoonist’s Advice (comic by Zen Pencils featuring a speech by Bill Watterson)
Resource #3: Buster Keaton: Art of the Gag via The Kid Should See This (if you’re short on time, just watch 6:30-end)
Resource #4: Dove Real Beauty Sketches (at first I debated including this one, but the more I ponder, the more I think this kind of integrity to self is an essential part of the discussion).
Resource #5: Picture Books! (at first I thought about only including strong “moral of the story” books–and Strega Nona is one example of that–but then I thought about the many options that explore the concept of integrity with a bit more exploration, including with that idea of “being whole & undivided” (Extra Yarn) or even when honesty is a question up for debate (True Story of the 3 Little Pigs & This is Not My Hat).
How does having integrity impact the lives of people around you?
How does having integrity impact your own life?
What are the different perspectives on what integrity means?
What responsibility to have integrity do we have for our communities? For ourselves?
Bryan Banuelos’ second iteration of his Warrior Dream Project is underway.
From his mission statement to details of leadership within the club, we are confident that his project will be a great support to students at Taylorsville High (and possibly elsewhere) for years to come!
We are impressed with his sensitivity to the unique needs to undocumented students and their families as they participate in the program. Especially encouraging is the way his project meets an unmet need: mainly, the gap between high school and college, particularly for students who feel that funding college is out-of-reach. Check out his project presentation he shared with our office below!
I decided to sign up to help with our local school’s PTA this year as secretary. Especially because I only have a few years left before I return to the classroom, I am excited to dig deeper into the parent side of school.
I’m hoping that because it’s an entirely new board, my continual question-asking will be seen as constructive rather than just annoying. But even as I have started to consider my role, I felt that writing a post might help me synthesize my thinking, as well as to share ideas for others.
What makes your school unique? What challenges does the community face, and what are some advantages it possesses? How can you find out more first-hand?
What are ways the school already fosters relationships between teachers, parents, and students? What are ways the PTA can facilitate even stronger connections?
How might inventorying past and potential events/programs benefit your school?
What are the ways parents prefer communication? How might you find out?
In what ways can you convey to parents that all their voices matter, even if they can’t attend meetings?
In what ways might you be responsive to the needs of parents, teachers, admin, and students as a PTA?
How might the PTA collaborate with the administration?
I am hopeful that we can find opportunities to strengthen connections among parents, teachers, and students!
I have not forgotten my one word goal for 2018. But I’ve noticed that I don’t talk about it with other people the way I’ve talked about other one word goals I’ve made. Because even though it has proven a fascinating and wonderfully challenging goal, the statement I shared at the beginning of the year is still true:
“The word power itself is sort of this dirty word. We don’t like to talk about it, we don’t like to name it–it seems unseemly. And yet, if you don’t understand how power works–what it is, how it flows, who has access to it, who does not–you are essentially being acted upon.”
In this brief mid-year reflection, I realize that I need to talk about this goal, too. Not only because my growth thus far is in no way less valuable than other goals, but because I believe it’s important to have more productive conversations about power. Conversations that are entwined with agency and citizenship.
Here are some of the places this goal has taken me so far this year:
Joining our local bicycle committee
Creating a 10-page local bike parking guide including education, a discount I’ve secured with a bike rack company, and recommendations/specs
Leading an active transportation tour with elected officials
Reading our city’s General Plan, & otherwise learning more about the direction our city is headed (or hoping to head)
Submitting digital feedback on local policy issues for the first time
Attending city meetings for the first time
Speaking before the City Council and Planning Commission
Joining the PTA board for our local school
Starting weekly bike ride for moms
Creating and sharing graphics across city social media pages (examples below)
Some of these have had more community impact than others, but that’s not the important part of my goal. What’s important is that all of them have made a profound impact on me and on my family. I am learning so much about a community I love dearly, and have started to see how I can better be of service. My kids are learning more about how our city works and how we can get to know our neighbors.
I hope that as I continue to learn and grow this year, I will continue to gain lessons that I can also carry with me into the classroom to help my students to better understand their own power within our community (agency), and to take meaningful, relevant action (citizenship).