Archive for October, 2013

Sharing Your Story

In school, story is a strong part of daily work. Students read stories. Teachers read stories. We teach students how to write stories. Students share stories from their home life with us. Stories fill our days.

I find even when we talk as adults with one another, we connect with our stories. As I sit with teachers, we talk about powerful moments in our teaching that taught us things. We also share funny stories that make us laugh. We share heartfelt stories that sometimes make us cry. We use stories to illustrate a point.

Have you noticed though how glued your child becomes when you share a story from your childhood? I read an article about legacies. It was a story of a man hearing the news of his father having a terminal illness. He realized the stories he wanted to hear from his father that he had never known. What was his dad’s life like before he was born? The father found healing and life in sharing his legacy with his son. His son felt even more connected with his father in the passing days.

I realize how powerful my stories from my childhood help my own children connect with me. As they grow, those stories help them to navigate life. They share their stories every day when they come home. But turning it around, having them listen is a lesson as well. My daughter listens in earnest about times when I handled tough friend moments or how I managed learning my division. She loves to know her mom made mistakes and got in trouble sometimes. And she sees her mom and her grandma through a different lens in our stories. We connect with each other in a new way.

I encourage parents to consider using story with their child. There is magic in sharing what you felt like to walk into school for the first time. To share how you handled that tough lesson. To share the funny moments that make you even more human.

Our children learn from us. And sharing story builds our relationships and brings us closer.

A story about Discipline

Every so often when I sit down in a meeting with a parent, they openly admit their strange emotion about sitting in the principal’s office. That place in their lives as a child they never wanted to go. I usually chuckle and we share a funny story from our childhood. But there is an element to being an administrator which means that I maintain the safety and security of our school including working with students who make poor choices.

In an event that I have these opportunities, I see it as that… an opportunity. Children are children. I believe they live in the moment and try to be the best they can be. And I believe that children make mistakes. Many times, these mistakes happen because they do not know how to respond in a situation. So when these mistakes occur, it is our job to talk with the child. Seek to understand and then teach.

This year, our staff is spending time building our understanding of Conscious Discipline. This is a program that provides skills to teachers and students based on brain research, child development and developmentally appropriate strategies. We foster emotional intelligence for all. And it has been an interesting year to work as a team to support and talk about this learning.

I am encouraged as I listen to the language teachers use with each other and with students. Seeking to understand our students and the behaviors that may arise helps us to teach our children better strategies for life.

I hope it isn’t fear that students feel when they come to talk with me but rather a place where they can be heard. Of course, I see nervous wiggles and understand the child is having to talk about their mistake. But I believe that when a child leaves my office, they feel they have some better ideas of what to do differently. They understand the impact their actions had on others. And hopefully, our community of learning is stronger.

Pathways to Learning

Last Friday afternoon, I observed a moment in a classroom that I STILL have talked about this week. Walking into Ms. Doran’s room, students immediately grabbed my attention and took me to a bright visual on the floor. The students were asked if they wanted to paint their feet to match their individual style. The students then walked across the black sheet of paper from one end to the other. Afterward the group analyzed the different paths they took from one end to the other. The students shared how some meandered, some walked on the edge while others stomped down the middle.

Ms. Doran shared the discussion that the group had about the experience. Ms. Doran reminded the students that everyone may get to the learning differently, but they all ended up at the same point at the end in what they now know.

What a beautiful visual experience for the class! I celebrated it with a tweet out with a picture. But I also walked around the rest of the afternoon sharing the pictures with different people. I talked about how the lesson moved me. I have continued this week.

I see this example even in the classrooms that I visit. Our grade levels teams meet as Professional Learning Teams. The teams meet weekly to discuss the content and curriculum they are teaching. They share strategies with each other. They talk about the different avenues they will teach to the individual learners in their classrooms. I have the pleasure as I walk through the building to see the same content come to life in so many different ways. Each teacher adds their personality and passion. And our students come to life in many different ways as they learn.

I celebrate the many pathways we all take to learning. Even as adults, we journey in learning as well. We come to understand ourselves better as we grow and experience life. We learn what works for us and what doesn’t. I am proud that our teachers model this for our students. And through the process, our students begin to learn about themselves as well.

Settling into Fall

October is here! What? I could not believe that I changed my calendar this week to a new month. The pumpkin fields are opening for business. And my kids are starting to talk costumes for Halloween. I suppose I can say that we are settled into the groove of this year.

We have had a lot going on to start our year. By now, all that new is starting to go away. The school year is moving. Interims went home last week. Conferences are happening throughout the building. I noticed this week that we had a few more sleepy eyes on Monday morning as students entered the building. The reality of school is here.

You might notice how your child is changing. A new year brings new expectations and those expectations are kicking up. Homework might be more complicated. Books might start to be more difficult. Math is no longer a review.

This is that time to be aware of how well your child has settled into the year. Take the time to come in and have those conferences with your child’s teacher. Listen to the expectations and be sure to ask what you can do as a parent to support in the learning.

I look forward to this month of learning and encourage all families to continue to discover those ways to support in that as well!