I believe that God is in control and that He has a unique and special purpose appointed to each and every human being on Earth.
I believe that kids need love, crave independence, must have safety and security, possess unique gifts and talents, thrive on routine, grow with challenges, deserve equal opportunity, and aim to please the adults in their lives.
I believe that thoughtful planning with strategic feedback will produce meaningful instruction.
This past week I heard the phrase, “teaching with integrity.” I’ve let those words settle in with me over the last several days. I thought about my teachers growing up that I could say “taught with integrity.” What makes those teachers stand out? Well, I think it boils down to the way they made me feel about me. I had full trust in them and their opinions, so much so that I trusted their opinions regarding my abilities, which were all certainly better than the opinions I held about those abilities. Mrs. Carter, Mr. Gordon, Dr. Hatch, Mrs. Higginbotham, Mrs. Reynolds…they all made me feel like I was capable of doing whatever they asked of me. They expected me to do what they asked, and they set a high standard of performance and behavior. They never made me feel like I was “less than,” in fact, they made me believe in myself in ways that surprised me. They were all interested in my life, what I liked/disliked, and how I felt about their class. They were curious about what my dreams and aspirations were-they asked me about what I wanted to be when I grew up. They invested their time in building a relationship with me. They were positive. They pushed me. They made me better. They didn’t have to, but they did.
in·teg·ri·ty: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.
Do you ever just look around and think, “What’s going on?” What is REALLY going on? Are the things you are choosing to engage in making an impact? Are the conversations you are having with students and colleagues building capacity or diminishing it? Are the activities you are engaging in have an eternal impact or are they simply temporal?
This week I have had the joy of being in the moment with my students, witnessing their precious personalities shine right before my eyes. I’ve had some crucial conversations that will have a lasting impact. I’m grateful that God has allowed me to live this week with my eyes wide open to the beauty of all that is going on in my classroom. It feels like magic getting to spend this precious time in my students’ lives with them. It is an honor and a privilege to see what’s really going on in their incredible minds and hearts as they learn and grow.
Plan and prepare, prepare and plan. Plan your work, work your plan, right? Teachers know that planning is crucial to success. It’s great to have a plan, but it’s really important to be prepared for an unexpected result.
I enjoy planning and preparing for a lesson. It excites me to consider the amazing outcomes that will happen due to careful and deliberate plans. BUT…what happens when my plans don’t roll out as I dreamed? How do I prepare my heart and mind for that? How do I respond? What do my students see when this happens?
Do they see someone who has grit, that perseveres to problem-solve through the unexpected outcome to the plan? Do they see joy that comes in working hard through a difficult situation?
Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results. -Dennis Waitly
That quote came to me from the interior of my new glasses case last December. After a lifetime of 20/20 vision, glasses were a new addition to my life last year. I can’t say with certainty exactly when I realized that I needed a tool to help me gain clarity for the loss of focus in the distance space of my vision, but the improvement I experienced was immediate and remarkable.
It’s true that what we focus on grows. So, what are you focusing on? In the scope of our daily work in educating students, I hope your answer begins and ends with students. They need us. They need us to be focused. They need us to be focused on what is most impactful. They need us to be focused on what is most impactful during the time we spend with them. In a world of distractions, what we focus on grows.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristotle
Sometimes we develop habits intentionally, and sometimes they are developed due to necessity or unexpected circumstances. I wish I could say this habit was developed intentionally, however, an unexpected life-changing diagnosis gets all the credit. What is the habit? Intentional reflection. About what? Well, about everything.
Development of this habit began with these reflective questions about my performance as a person on this planet: 1. What have I been trying to accomplish? 2. Have I made a meaningful, positive difference in my sphere of influence?
Finding the answers to those questions led to these: 3. What do I believe-in my soul, about life? 4. What must I focus on to make a meaningful, positive difference within my sphere of influence?
Finally, these questions became the driving force of my day to day actions: 5. Is what I’m choosing to do in line with my core beliefs? 6. What should I do to make the greatest impact on others within my sphere of influence?
Intentional reflection each day is powerfully simple. In my opinion, thoughtful daily reflection is one of the most impactful things a person, especially a teacher that so directly influences his/her students, can do to develop and improve personally and professionally. So how do you do it? Intentionally plan a time to do this in your school day and in your personal time. I reflect professionally as soon as I can after the students leave, making notes with a note-taker app or handwritten notes in my calendar/planner.
Reflection is a valuable habit to coach our students to develop. At the close of each lesson, we reflect as a class. What does that look like? Simply asking students, “Why is this learning important? In school? In my real life?” This intentional habit is a game-changer. When students understand the “why” to their learning, they can better engage in the “how” of their learning.
Here are a few more examples of reflective questions for teachers:
• What are my beliefs about how students learn? • Are my strategies in line with my beliefs about how students learn? • What am I trying to accomplish with my students? • Is what I’m doing the most effective/efficient way to accomplish my goals? • What are the high and low points of my day? The term? The school year? • What was one (or more) success of the day? Why was it a success? • How are my relationships? With my students? Colleagues? • How will I modify instruction/procedures/other based on today’s challenges/successes?