I’m Just Not That Into You

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“Mommy, I’m bored.”

I’ve been hearing this phrase most days from my youngest, Sarah. Summer seems to have taken on a steady, predictable routine. Sarah is a bright and vivacious child. She enjoys reading and can make a mean stromboli. Her passions, like most seven year olds, are Minecraft and Roblox. For a few years now, she has been playing these online games religiously. I was quite shocked to see that she was losing interest in them and reciting the “bored” phrase.

I am not the mom that sets up all sorts of activities for her children. I think boredom is an important skill to maneuver in life. So, I usually respond to her with this question, “What are you going to do about your boredom?” She then finds something to occupy her time and challenge her thinking.

We’re On a Break

A year ago, I felt the same way. I am a life long learner and I’m passionate about learning. I often read the latest educational books, blogs, and articles to quench my thirst. But they quickly became a mirrored reflection of each other.

My favorite educational blog was becoming dull and platitudinous. I faithfully read and reread posts. I commented on them, shared them, even wrote blog posts about their blog post. I learned and agreed with much of what was written. But, as time went on, I felt that the posts were redundant. The same stories, same ideas, and quotes seemed to carry through to the next post. The magic that I felt initially wasn’t there.

So, I stopped reading my favorite blog. Not only did I stop reading it, but I stopped following the author’s pages elsewhere too.

I also stopped reading many educational books and participating in Twitter chats. Student autonomy, personalized education, and project based learning were the recurring themes, swirling around each book, article, and chat. Even the educational conferences I went to focused on the “big three”. It seemed to me that there was nothing new, nothing fresh. I’m just not that into you, I thought. I wondered why and what brought this on? How could I lose interest in learning? Most importantly, what am I going to do about my boredom?

I took a hiatus from it all. I took a step back.

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Thinking Differently vs Knowledge Gained

When I worked in the Chester School District, in Chester, NJ, I had a student that would take a break during group projects. He was an exceptional student, gifted in his own right. If he felt the solution to a problem on which his group was working was typical or easy, he would get up, leave the group for a bit, and stand at the opposite end of the room. One day, I asked him why he did that. His profound response has stayed with me all these years,

“Well, Mrs Howard, sometimes I don’t see things well up close. Everybody is doing stuff and it just looks all the same to me. Everyone’s ideas are the same and they’re all saying the same stuff. I just wanna think about it. I understand it and know what we have to do. I have an idea, but I need to think about how that would look and work out. I can’t with all the buzz over there”.

Many use the phrase, “Great minds think alike”. But is that a good thing? Is it good when we all are thinking alike? And doing like things?

Sometimes we need to step away to think about what we’ve learned, what to do with this learning, and how it applies to us. I certainly do not feel in any way that I have “learned it all” and I hope my post does not come across as such. But, I feel that the knowledge I have gained from my favorite blog, from Twitter and educational materials, is second to the ideas and thinking that it has sparked.

“The ability to perceive or think differently is more important than the knowledge gained.”  ~ David Bohm

Coming Around Again

Our relationship with the things we are passionate about will be on a continuous cyclical, peak and valley journey. If you find yourself losing interest in your passion, try to reconnect with why you actually fell in love with it. What was it that attracted you to your craft? If you want to fall back in love with your work, you need to show up to your relationship differently and with different expectations. Here are a few ideas:

  • Approach your work from a beginner’s mind. Focus on experiencing it with a state of curiosity and exploration. Help create something new; new units, lessons, projects, a new committee or even a book club among your staff. Try incorporating something new into your units of study, tech tools or a different platform that you have been interested in learning.
  • Mentor others.  Learning is a social activity. Connect with a complete novice in your field. Offer to mentor them and soak up some of their enthusiasm and excitement. Also, get to know your resources. Become familiar with colleagues and their areas of expertise.
  • Ask how you can nurture your passion, rather than expecting the flame to be automatically lit. Discuss you’re lack of interest with an administrator, or colleague. Maybe they too had a similar situation and can offer assistance. How are you going to nurture your passion?

Remember that the fastest way to kill your passion is by comparing yourself to the accomplishments of others. Instead, focus on your vision. Everyone’s starting point, journey, and end point will be different. There’s no reason to compare or compete.

Ironically today, Sarah began playing Minecraft again. Strangely enough, I saw the latest post from my favorite blog. I didn’t understand how it could appear on my news feed as I no longer follow it.  But, I guess God works in mysterious ways.

 

 

 

 

 

Lets Agree to Disagree

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I recently read a blog post that discussed an author’s disapproval of reading logs as homework. It was a well written blog, that gave alternative assignments to these meaningless reading journals. Throughout the post, there was a recurring phrase written by the author, “I don’t mean to offend anyone.”, “Please do not take this into offense.”, and “My intention is not to offend teachers, reading specialist, lit coaches.” I counted many of these “offend” sentences in his post. Why did he feel the need to say this phrase over and over again? Why couldn’t he just write his viewpoint? Why did he feel that he was going to offend others?

I truly believe that we are the most sensitive society in our world today. Nobody has mastered the art of offending people as we have. For Americans, it’s the one thing we seem to do better than anyone else on the planet. We get offended faster and quicker than anyone. It’s not just our speed in offending others; it’s our endurance. We can go the miles when it comes to offending. As I log into social media, it seems that we, in some strange way, enjoy being offended. Some may even consider it a part of the modern American way of life. I cant help but wonder, why are we taking things so personally? Why can’t we state our opinion without being afraid of potentially offending someone?

My students are really enjoying blogging this year. Many of their blog posts revolve around their opinions and views of the world. As I was checking in on their work one Saturday during NFL playoff season, I realized they too were using that phrase “no offense”.

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I was surprised to see the “no offense” statement had trickled down to my 3rd grade learners early in the school year. Are students even using the phrase correctly?

I always thought that the phrase “no offense” meant you were about to say something so powerful and strong, with no holding back, or sugar coating. I thought “no offense” meant your opinions and views were raw and unfiltered. But clearly, the blog post I read, and the title in my students writing suggest something else. In both examples, the message isn’t necessarily powerful. It’s just a simple opinion. One stating that he doesn’t agree with reading logs, and the other simply stating he doesn’t like the NY Giants or the Eagles. Is the “no offense” phrase automatically instigating an angry response from those receiving it? Should we use it when stating our opinion? Are we extra sensitive to one another’s opinions because we have conditioned ourselves to say “no offense”?

“The fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it.” ~ Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist

One of the most important lessons I teach my learners is how not to be offended by another’s opinion. I usually teach this during our opinion writing unit late in the year. However, I felt the need to tackle this earlier this year. Disagreeing respectfully with others, especially on issues we are passionate about, is not easy. It requires time, creativity, and maturity. It requires looking inward, not just outward. Just by devoting time to this lesson, it sends learners the clear message that they can disagree, question, or only partially agree with others, but still respect and get along with them. I feel this is a powerful lesson for all.

Here are some tips on teaching students how to disagree respectfully.

Interactive Modeling

I start by having learners discuss various topics. It could be a favorite sport, a favorite book from the Harry Potter series or favorite toppings on pizza. I model with my students how to disagree by using important phrases. “While I don’t support your view that basketball is the best sport, I prefer hockey. I’d like to hear more about why you think it is the best sport.” I also encourage my learners to ask questions to better understand another’s viewpoint.

“I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with that because on this page, the author said…”

“I disagree, but would like to know more about your point of view.”

“I want to ask _____ a question about what he said because I’m not sure I agree.”

Listen to the other point of view.

Being a good listener is a way of showing that you respect and are trying to understand the other person’s perspective. That makes it more likely he or she will do the same for you. When the other person is talking, try to stop yourself from thinking about why you disagree or what you’ll say next. Instead, focus on what’s being said. When it’s your turn to talk, repeat any key points the other person made to show you listened and heard what was said. “You like black olives on your pizza because you feel it adds additional saltiness and sourness to it.” Then calmly present your case and why you disagree.

Teach empathy

There is always a reason for why people feel the way they feel about something. Tap into those feelings; get to the heart of the matter. That’s where empathy plays a huge part in understanding another’s view point.When we teach students that there is always common ground between them and those with whom they disagree, we may be teaching them the most important lesson of their lives.

Here are some additional ideas for teaching the art of disagreeing.

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As I reflect, I realize that I don’t struggle with differing opinions. It may be because I was raised in a Greek household. In my family, if we had something to say, we didn’t hold back. If we had something to say, we said it; without a “no offense” phrase. And along the same lines, I don’t struggle with feeling as though I can’t be friends with people whose opinions differ from mine. For I understand the importance of disagreeing. Most importantly, I understand the need to explain and model to our own children, and learners, the importance of respectfully disagreeing .

Over the years, I have learned that using appropriate language, word choices, and tone is the key to maintaining relationships with others. Even though speaking truthfully may be difficult for many, it’s the approach that we take that allows us to earn the respect of others. This also creates a healthy environment and opportunity for growth. It’s important to recognize that opinions actually matter and have the right to be heard. Because, it’s not so much what you say to others; but it’s the manner in which it is said.

Celebrate Everyday Moments

 

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As I prepare for our New Years Eve festivities, I cant help but reflect on 2016.  My “one word” last year was …more. I was hoping for “more” in different aspects of my life; more travels, more learning,  more advancement, more family time. This year, once again, I am reading my PLN’s fabulous blog posts about their one word. I’m hoping for a word that I can blog about and embrace throughout the year. I don’t want a “one and done” type of post. I want something that I can write about and revisit time and time again. I want to live it, breathe it, be inspired….every day.

This holiday break, I find myself thinking about my learners a lot. I miss them tremendously. I miss hearing Maia’s stories, Aidyn’s silly jokes, Sarah’s thorough explanation of concepts and I miss talking Eagles football with Nye.  I think about the learning that happens in our live lesson room. Everyday my learners bring it. Some learners come to me excited, happy to absorb new discoveries. Some learners come to me in the most extreme circumstances. They may be homeless, hungry,and in troubled times. And yet, these learners come, try and give it their all. I like to think of learning as a wonderful celebration. My learners and I celebrate our writing and blog posts each month by dancing to Celebrate by Kool and the Gang.  Shout outs are given for their math fact accomplishments on Reflex math, we give props and kudos for their JGB projects, and I send them reading certificates for their achievements. But, as I write, I realize that we’re only celebrating their successes.  Would my learners accept their failures better if we acknowledge and, in a way, celebrate them too?

I also miss the team of teachers and colleagues I work with. There are many wonderful and talented professionals I come in contact with everyday. They push and challenge me to do and be my best. I often think about the challenges they work through and the risks they are hesitant to take, but do. When I close my laptop for the day, I still see them…logged on and working into the night. I’m sad to say, I’ve missed opportunities to celebrate them and their hard work. Often times we acknowledge their work and success after the fact. Why don’t we celebrate our colleagues and acknowledge their work more often?

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”

-Dr. Seuss

Our lives are filled with millions of simple moments, everyday occurrences that we won’t remember tomorrow. We get through each day while looking forward to and focusing on the big moments: family vacations, friends’ weddings, the arrival of children and promotions. These milestone celebrations are indeed fabulous, but then we turn back to our normal, everyday lives.We all have celebrated moments that are unforgettable.  We freeze special times and make sure we will never forget a treasured experience.

Administrators may hold off until the end of the year to praise teachers on a job well done. Most teachers will celebrate big moments in their classroom from time to time.  Who says that celebrations should only be limited to one day? Who says celebrations should be limited to certain milestones or successes? What if we celebrated a small speck of magic in those everyday moments?

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There are opportunities to celebrate the wonderful little things in our life and in our classrooms, all the time. Sometimes the big things wouldn’t have happened without the accumulation of smaller events along the way. Taking time to celebrate the little things is an opportunity to create strong bonds and relationships; not to mention lasting memories. Acknowledging and celebrating the good, the bad and even the ugly (yes, celebrate the ugly!) helps to make others feel valued, accepted and loved. It may also provide a great model for turning a negative event, an error or mistake, into a positive learning experience. Years into the future, you may not remember the exact reasons for all your small celebrations, but others will remember the joy and ease of being a member of your class or learning network.

 

Don’t wait for a special moment or milestone; celebrate the magic you see in everyday moments. My one word for 2017 is Celebrate.

How will you celebrate everyday moments with your learners and colleagues?