I have the pleasure of having five first year teachers in my building. I’ve posted a few times this school year about how these new teachers are causing me to reflect on my own growth since my fateful first year (and not to mention they make me feel very old). This week, I’ve been reflecting on the roller coaster of emotions that occur during that first year. It’s a fact that first year teachers feel extremely overwhelmed in November or December. Check out the graphic below and take comfort in the fact that rejuvenation is coming soon and the fact that you are not alone, there are first year teachers all over country feeling just like you!
So as we wait for that feeling of rejuvenation, let’s all take a deep breath and consider some words of wisdom from an educator who's been there:
You can do this! You are making a difference. And, you’re right, this job is serious. It’s not a casual thing! But, you have permission to make mistakes. You have permission to fail. Whatever you do, don't throw in the towel now. Work through the hard parts, persevere and know that when you get through this year (and you will) you will have so much to celebrate.
Brittany, Jeff, Sarah, Stacey and Tasha-Hang in there! It's going to be alright.
Need some more advice? Check out my post for January 2014-Advice for the Stressed Out Teacher.
Here is your staff update for October 30th.
__It’s October. Can you believe it? Not only is it October, but it’s the end of October. The school year is in full swing. Initial assessments are complete, the honeymoon period has ended and we have already completed 40 days of school.
If your school is like mine, you have sat in more data team meetings this year than ever before, grade level data teams, ELL data teams, title reading data teams and I’m even trying to figure out how to start data team meetings to focus on our special education students. In all of these meetings with all of these different groups of amazing teachers, my literacy coach, Tonya Buelow and intervention teacher, Eric Gulley, have been with me as we facilitate targeted conversations with teachers around student data. With every group of teachers we have tried hard to deliver one specific message-
Yep, that’s right, we said it…PANIC, it’s okay, we want you to AND we want you to do it NOW. Not later, NOW. What we mean by this is: teach with a sense of urgency.
Regie Routman says it best in Reading Essentials:
When I suggest that we need to “teach with a sense of urgency” I’m not talking about teaching prompted by anxiety but rather about making every moment in the classroom count, about ensuring that our instruction engages students and moves them ahead, about using daily evaluation and reflection to make wise teaching decisions. Complacency will not get our students where they need to be. I am relaxed and happy when I am working with students, but I am also mindful of where I need to get them and how little time I have in which to do it. I teach each day with a sense of urgency. Specifically, that means that I am very aware of the students in front of me, the opportunities for teaching and evaluation on the spot, the skills and strategies I need to be teaching, the materials I need, the amount of time available, and the optimal contexts and curriculum.
We need to get down to the essence of what we believe and what we do to ensure our students become excellent readers who choose to read. If we don’t know how to teach reading and move students forward, we must take responsibility for learning how. We must jumpstart our own professional development.
If you aren’t panicking then you might need to ask yourself why? And remember, we don’t mean panic driven by anxiety but instead panic driven by urgency.
Are you okay with the status quo?
Are you missing something?
Are your standards too low?
This is not a drill.
Every moment counts. Let’s use them because if you don’t you’ll lose them.
(Thanks to Eric Gulley for the inspiration for this post!)
Here is your Staff Update for October 23rd.
I’m in awe of the things that happen at my school every day. This week I’ve sat in on many meetings with parents and teachers as we have reviewed IEP goals and objectives; touched base about interim reports; answered parents’ questions, celebrated successes; calmed fears; and shared how much we love the kids we learn with every day.
I was in awe of the way my teachers made parents feel so welcome and supported.
I was in awe of the fact that some meetings consisted not only of the child’s teacher from this year, but also the teacher from last year!
What a concept!
Last year’s teacher and this year’s teacher sit down with a parent and discuss progress. It’s GENIUS!
I was also in awe of the words of wisdom I heard from my teachers as they spoke with parents about their children. My favorite statement came from Mrs. Callif to a parent, she said:
We want to push your child out of his comfort zone and we know that can be scary but we need to do it here at school because this is a safe place.
As a parent and an educator those words were music to my ears. I had chills after the power of those words sunk in for me. The best part was how smoothly those words rolled right off of Mrs. Callif’s tongue. The reason that she could so effortlessly provide these words of wisdom to the parent was because she meant them, she lives them, every day. Those words are part of who she is for kids.
Teachers-remember that our job is to do just what Mrs. Callif said in that meeting. Push kids out of their comfort zones while they are here in this safe place.
Parents, as always, we promise to push your children to that place where they can grow and learn. We want them to mess up, we want them to feel uncomfortable. We won’t solve their problems for them, but we will guide them and cheer for them along the way.
It's not always easy, but it's worth it.
Here is your Staff Update for October 15th.
At the beginning of the school year we took a long, hard look at ourselves, at our actions, and at our interactions with students, parents and colleagues. We made a commitment to staying above the line and being ELITE. We made a commitment to respect one another enough to hold each other accountable for being ELITE.
We analyzed what we do well, what we believe in and determined what else we needed to do to be great…to be ELITE. On Thursday, I participated in R Factor training with Tim Kight. I think I wrote down every word he said, I’ll be sharing my reflections of this training in the weeks to come. As Tim spoke about culture he said that we “build a culture either by default or by what we do on purpose.”
Let’s be purposeful. I don’t want a “default culture” and I know you don’t either.
Remember, back in September we made a purposeful decision to build relationships with children, parents and staff. We made a purposeful decision to work on these relationships because we believe that in doing so our culture will be positively impacted.
Here’s a reminder of what we committed to:
At J.W. Reason we will build positive relationships with:
Learn names of everyone in an attempt to really get to know them
-Safety Partol (new name-Student Ambassadors) will
address kids by name
-when passing children in hall, if you don’t know their name,
-Make a personal connection-ask how their day is going.
Now, it’s October and trust me, I know it’s easy to get caught in the minutia, it’s easy to forget about how excited we were to work on our building’s culture and how excited we were to push ourselves to be ELITE. This is the perfect time to check the pulse.
Tim Kight reminded me that:
WE HAVE TO BEHAVE IN A WAY THAT WILL CREATE THE OUTCOME WE WANT!
Ask yourself these questions in relation to our desired outcome:
What have I done on purpose?
How have I behaved?
Have I put focused energy into building positive relationships?
Each moment we have with kids is a chance to build these relationships.
Let’s not waste our moments.
Here is the link to your Staff Update for October 9th.
I have challenged myself and my staff to be ELITE this year, to question one another’s purpose, to reflect on the choices we make, to push…just a little farther than we might have pushed ourselves in year’s past.
One of the ways I’m pushing myself is by making sure I am having critical conversations with staff members. Critical conversations are the ones that, in the past, I may have talked myself out of having, the ones that I would think about and then decide to wait a while because things might change.
This year I’m not holding back, I’m engaging teachers in conversations about their practice, I’m questioning our decisions and I’m reflecting on the systems we have in place as a school. What I’m also keeping in mind, is that while reflecting is great, it is pointless without action. So, I’m forcing myself into action and in doing so my teachers are taking action, too. These conversations are pushing some of my staff members into an uncomfortable place with me.
Here is what I want my staff to know as we head into this “uncomfortable place”:
As we all experience this discomfort, I ask that we think about how we respond in uncomfortable situations.
Do we STAND UP AND OWN IT or do we BLAME, COMPLAIN and DEFEND?
Take a moment to really think about this question. Let it sink in.
Do you STAND UP AND OWN IT or do you BLAME, COMPLAIN and DEFEND?
This week I had a really hard conversation with a teacher and guess what, she stood right up and owned it, big time. At the end of our conversation she said, “Thank you for this feedback, I want to get better, my students deserve it.”
Your students deserve it too.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, she followed the conversation up with an email explaining all of the changes she’d made and steps she’d taken in her professional growth in less than 24 hours.
Here is an excerpt from the email she sent me:
I did a lot of reflecting last night and changed some things for my lesson today. I looked over my DMA scores, pre-assessment data, and exit slips and regrouped my students for math groups… We took a gallery walk in the middle of the lesson because I saw so many great strategies with the manipulatives! My kids were able to explain their thinking better and I was able to question them based on the strategies I saw them using…I am so excited to make these wonderful changes to impact my students learning and my own professional growth!
This is the definition of STAND UP AND OWN IT.
Critical conversations and tough but they are worth it. I believe my staff can STAND UP AND OWN IT. I’ll be owning it, too. I have a lot of growing to do myself.
We’re in this together, we’re worth it.
_Here is your Staff Update for October 2, 2015.