Reflections from Empower 19

Leave a comment

2C1826C3-F720-4065-8DED-0442EC3A77DA

 

I was excited to attend my first education conference, ASCD Empower 19 a few weeks ago in Chicago.  It worked perfectly being in my backyard of Chicago and was able to go with a few other educators from the school I teach at.  This reflection is delayed because I got sick after the conference and then it was spring break!  Thinking about the speakers and presentations I was able to attend, here are 5 themes I came up with from the conference:

1. Build Relationships

It’s important to build relationships with both colleagues and students.  As a special education teacher, I need to work with a variety of teachers and therapists to support all the students.  It’s important to get to know colleagues on a personal level (say hi in the hallways, learn about their lives outside of school) as well as professional.  One of my goals for the upcoming year is to co-teach more.  It’s hard not being a “visitor” in someone else’s classroom.  But if I’m only in there for a limited time each day supporting students, it’s important to use that time wisely.  When we build relationships as colleagues, we can plan together and use our strengths to benefit all students.  It’s also important to get to know students.  They love when you show an interest in their lives outside of school.  At an elementary level, they often want to please their teachers, but it’s still important to have them trust you.  Also, we should be their cheerleaders.  We should celebrate their successes but also continue to cheer them on when struggles happen. Brian Mendler described that as kids are learning to walk, we cheer and get excited when they fall.  They stand up and try again.  We need to continue doing that in education.

2. Take Risks

In Ron Clark’s keynote, he described how most people act like “bread”-they go with the status quo and aren’t willing to try something new.  The world is changing and we should be “like pizza” and be engaging and innovative!  He also described how there is a slide in the middle of his school.  Can you imagine?  We should all slide into new ideas, be willing to take risks, and be passionate rather than run the other way.  I’ve followed the #tlap movement the past few years and try to participate in chats and read inspirational books when I have a moment!  It’s amazing what teachers across the country are doing in their classrooms.  And if we have fun teaching, students will have fun learning!

3. Make Connections

Similar to building relationships, we have to make sure students are connected with their learning and understand the why.  Hands on learning increases engagement.  I remember lessons from elementary school that would be considered inquiry learning now.  I incorporate videos, technology, visuals, and manipulatives as often as possible.  If students can connect with their learning, they will better understand and remember it.  Making learning visual allows visual learners to “see” what’s happening.  Using real-life and relevant examples excites students to learn.  Isn’t that the goal??

4. Use Purposeful Language

Often, educators are quick to be negative.  Maybe it’s because of outside pressure in the system currently, but we have to be positive for our students.  We have to see the best in others.  Even the frustrating students have positive qualities and moments throughout the day or week.  We should be inclusive, rather than exclusive.  We should inspire others, rather than categorize or limit them.  We need to adapt or differentiate material so everyone can participate.  This is part of our job.  While it’s time consuming, isn’t it worth it when your students are excited they learned something new?!  We also may need to explicitly teach expectations.  Students come from different backgrounds and experiences so they may not know the rules or specific vocabulary.  Spending time to explicitly teach and practice will help them learn social norms and be successful in the long term.

5. Be Flexible

I’ve learned to always expect the unexpected.  That doesn’t mean it’s less frustrating, but it helps you go with the flow and continue moving forward.  After a great day 1, I woke up sick after catching a bug and had to miss day 2 of the conference.  I had planned my day with what sessions I wanted to attend and some of the speakers I was really excited to see.  Unfortunately, my bed was the only place I went.  As frustrating as it was (and I thought about going late) I knew I needed to regain my energy in order to be successful at work later in the week.  Things don’t always go as expected during a lesson, a student’s behavior, or some other surprise thrown our way, but how we react makes such a difference.  We can take a minute to be personally upset, frustrated, angry, whatever but how we react towards students and colleagues makes such a difference.  I’ve learned as a special education teacher that being flexible is one of the keys to daily success!

I’m sure I could add more to this list (and could have if I attended Day 2!) but I feel these themes are important to remember and reflect upon.  I’m looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with others!

 

Thoughts from Winnie the Pooh

Leave a comment

SOCIAL Winnie 1

Winnie the Pooh and his friends were a childhood classic favorite of mine, and I love that they are still popular and relevant today! I was excited for the new Christopher Robin movie to come out, and some of the reviews reminded me of some of the best qualities of Pooh. After seeing the movie (which I recommend!), I came up with a list of lessons or reminders that are qualities Pooh and his friends exhibit. These are useful to remember, especially as we’re heading to the start of a new school year. (I promise-no spoilers!)

  • Find Students’ Motivation

While walking around London, Pooh got very excited when he saw balloons and had Christopher Robin buy him one. He held onto it the entire train ride and when returning to the 100 Acre Woods. He said the balloon made him happy. He also asked Christopher Robin if his work briefcase made him as happy as a balloon.

It’s important that we learn about our students-what are their personal interests and what motivates them. Then, it’s our job as educators to find ways to incorporate these into the classroom-whether it be during discussions (how was your weekend?) or examples during lessons. We want students to learn, so we should find ways to engage and motivate them!

  • Incorporate Play

Christopher Robin’s life is consumed by work, so he doesn’t have time to play anymore. Until others show him, he doesn’t realize he misses being silly, role-playing, or running around with his friends. He also doesn’t realize that his daughter just wants to play and have fun with him. Pooh and his friends want to spend all their time playing in the 100 Acre Woods.

School should be fun. If it’s all work, students will find it boring and tune out (even adults will). Find time to take brain breaks between activities, incorporate games into classes, have down time or recess. If you incorporate games or play into learning activities, students may not even know they are learning!!

  • Be Flexible

Pooh and his friends are creative and willing to try new things at time (well, maybe Piglet and Eeyore need some encouragement). Christopher Robin’s focus is to find a solution for his work dilemma. He is focused on the outcome but gets stuck on his path getting there.

A day at school is never as expected-that’s one of my favorite parts! Something always happens to make it exciting, adventurous, even frustrating at times. But if you stay focused on the positives and your goals, you’ll be able to find a solution. If you’re willing to be flexible-maybe a lesson goes too long or short, maybe you get off topic for whatever reason, maybe you need to play a game or incorporate some team building, that is okay. As long as you make baby steps towards the ultimate goals, you can see progress and know that you will get there, just maybe on a different path (or as Pooh would say “I get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been”

  • Stay in the Moment

At one point Pooh asks Christopher Robin what day it is, which he responds, “Today”. Pooh then says, “My favorite day. Yesterday, when it was tomorrow, it was too much day for me”.

Pooh definitely embodies a character who lives in the moment. Every day is a new beginning, and we need to treat it that way. Whatever frustrations (or successes) happened yesterday, give each student a fresh chance at the beginning of the day. If you’re feeling frustrated or stressed from something, leave it in the car or at the door, so your focus at school is school. I know when I’m constantly looking ahead to everything I need to do or things coming up, I miss what’s happening in the moment and don’t enjoy it!

So let’s appreciate the “Todays” and act more like Winnie the Pooh!