Genetics, Circumstances and Intentional Actions

I started a book study (The Burnout Cure by Chase Mielke) this week with 30 other educators around the region and our focus was on how much of our happiness is based on (1) Genetics; (2) Circumstances; and (3) Intentional actions – with percentages provided for the categories.  This is how it looks for me:

Genetics (50%): Pretty positive there – until my brothers and I broke the trend, everyone was a farmer on both sides of my family.  Easy-going bunch of hard-working people. Genetics for happiness (and height) are in my favor.

Circumstances(10%): Life, especially now, is super hard. I was in tears two weeks ago because I was overwhelmed with work duties. It happens. The key is to reflect and jump back in.

Intentional Actions (40%): I can’t do too much about my circumstances with the pandemic.  So, it is all in how I react.  Easier said than done.

What should the focus be for change? Intentional Actions – the 40%.  Our book would agree with this.  Is this superficial “fluff”? No.  It is reality.  If I focus only on current circumstances, I will be in a rough place.  I need to be intentional about how I react and carry myself.  Chapter 22 in Jon Gordan’s Energy Bus is titled “Better Today Than Yesterday”.  It is that hope that drives happiness.

Think about how you will focus your 40% – what does that look like each day?

Never stop learning

The search for the perfect lesson is one of the most exciting things in education, in my opinion.  Whether your students are 4 or 94, the art of teaching is very much still alive in our current climate of high-stakes testing and standards.  How we teach is still up to us – and that should spark joy in all of us.

How we learned (____ years ago) is not how we should teach today.  The phrase “traditional methods” makes me think of chalkboards, worksheets, and homework.  Today’s students need to learn how to utilize the tools available.  We need to teach so students understand, not force kids to learn the way we teach.

While searching for that perfect lesson (17 years in, I have not found one), we need to be current in teaching methods and strategies.  This year is tough.  I have never been so incredibly tired every day.  But, the kids (or adults) in front of us deserve cutting-edge teaching.  We only have one shot, and it needs to be right.

As we are headed to 2022, what goal will you set for teaching? I challenge myself to continually look for new methods.  Will you join me? I promise it will be a great journey!


Moving forward

The stress level of students, families, teachers, staff, and administrators this year seems to be at epic levels.  The combination of students back in the classroom full time who need to be reacclimated to learning after 18 months and a pandemic on round two create a challenging environment.  What can we do? Move forward.  Kids need to see us as leading the way.  Rather than focusing on months ahead, focus on the day.  Make this specific day the best ever with actions and words.

The internet is full of doom and gloom statements for the future of our profession.  Only we control that.  By moving on.  By focusing on the issues of the day and walking away knowing you did the best possible.  We can’t continue focusing on the negative.  It is out of our control.

I can focus on making sure every person I connect with daily knows I am positive and doing my best.  Everything else will fall into place over time.  The kids are worth it and we are up to the challenge.


Give kids grace

I recently read a school started a new policy: kids who arrived late spent much of the day sitting in the auditorium as a punishment for the tardiness. My reaction to the article was one of sadness.

The past four Summers I have had the joy of being an administrator for our Summer School 9-12 program.  When students arrive late, they are greeted with a warm smile, breakfast, a general check-in, and sometimes even walked to class.  Why? I am glad they showed up.  I want to know everything is alright.  Sometimes (later in the day) there is the need to follow through with a more specific chat and perhaps involve parents.  But for that crucial first moment, I am so happy the student arrived safely.  I never want a child to fear arriving late.  Otherwise, in their eyes, it would be better not to show up at all.  That gets us nowhere.

Treat kids with respect.  Listen. Problem Solve.  Show you are willing to step up and help, no matter what.

Time to start something new

March 2019 seems like it was one hundred years ago and all the changes our lives went through since then are unfathomable.  Now we are back in the classrooms working harder than ever to regain the school spirit and sense of community we had previously to COVID.  What can we do differently this time? This is a perfect opportunity to start from ground zero with our instructional practices.

Take one unit -or even one lesson- and refresh it.  Anything created in the past needs a new look to it.  We are not the same people.  Kids are not the same.  Take a challenge! Research a new idea.  Read a blog post. Take a workshop (so many are virtual and FREE).  Learn, apply and reflect.  One of the new ideas could be exactly what connects with kids!

The search for new ideas in the classroom is one that should never fall to the side.  We owe it to our current and future kids to be constantly looking for better ways.

What will you do differently today in your classroom?


Formative assessments are key to learning

I recently facilitated a workshop focused on formative assessments and was reminded how crucial these tools are in the classroom.  Every lesson needs this gauge for teachers and students to measure the level of learning occurring.  Summative, unit exams, are after the fact.  It is time to move on at that point. 

Once you build a unit, formative assessment checkpoints need to be created along the way – this will lead to the summative assessment (or, the summit!) Formative assessments should be creative and built on choice.  This allows students to showcase learning in their own way.  At the end of the lesson, the teacher has immediate evidence on how the material was received and understood.  Are the students ready to move forward to the next step? What needs to be re-taught? 

Another benefit of formative assessments are kids feel a sense of accomplishment on daily tasks.  This builds up their morale and willingness to try even harder tasks.  The pride in a kid’s face when this realization has occurred is wonderful – look for it!

The bottom line is this: a unit with no formative assessments is like driving a car blind.  Kids need to know what the goal is for the lesson!