Thursday, April 30, 2015

Advanced Placement or Advanced Pressure?

Not only does the month of May signify the home stretch for those of us in education, it signifies the most stress filled time for our high school students. The SAT exam is coming up followed closely by the ever demanding Advanced Placement (AP) exams and final exams. More than ever our high school students are expected to be completing college level and AP courses prior to leaving high school and for some, the burden may become Advanced Pressure more so than Advanced Placement.

During this time of testing for our students who we generally may classify as strong, bright, mature, and yes, advanced; we may forget that they are still kids just like everyone else. They may be a tad more intelligent than the average student on a bell curve, but they are only 17 or so and have all of the worries and stresses that come with being a teenager. As educators and leaders, we need to keep this in mind through the coming weeks and help our students not only prepare, but manage the stresses of their lives.

In the next few weeks, let's remember to encourage our students that while the test may be demanding, it's nothing that they can't master. That the test produces a number of their intelligence on a given day at a given moment in time but is not a measure of the complete individual. Talk to your students and ask them about what concerns and stresses they have and be willing to share your own stories of sacrifice, struggle, and hurt when you went through similar processes in life. Our students look up to us for advice and support and when they hear our stories of struggle and can see that we aren't super human academic robots, it increase their self esteem and reduces their anxiety. So, during this coming month, make sure AP doesn't stand for Advanced Pressure but becomes a true measure of our students' knowledge.

Worth the Read...

West Genesee Community Movie Night is Coming...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

As we come to the end of the school year, take a moment to ask yourself, "What made my favorite teacher, my favorite teacher?" and "What made my least favorite teacher, my least favorite teacher?" Hopefully you will not possess any of the qualities that you disliked in your least favorite teacher. However, no worries because if you do, there is always time and room to grow!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

'Tis the Season!!

'Tis the season where students and staff alike enjoy a nice night out, maybe a nice dinner, and an evening of sharing laughs and smiles dancing. This is also the season where our traditional model of schooling has forever promoted the "cool" and "not cool" groups in our schools. Recently, our school had the opportunity to listen to former NFL and Syracuse University quarterback Don McPherson speak of this topic. The concept that our schools have a box of popularity and that if we don't fit into that box, or that perception, then we are an outcast.

I would like to take this opportunity to promote the concept of togetherness and support for all members of our communities. Each of us has a story to tell, none of us have anyone that knows 100% of our story. Too often we make judgments of others based on their appearance, maybe past history, or worse yet a rumor. While we have made great strides in public schools to reduce bullying, it still occurs and it still hurts our students and communities. As the leaders of our schools, all adults need to step up and remember that all of our students and co-workers have their own stories and stresses impacting their lives. We need to take time to UNDERSTAND each other, not infer meaning based on partial or bias information. We all deserve the opportunity to enjoy our school environments, whether we choose to be there for our job or if we have to be there for our education.

So, during this prom season, I ask all adults in schools to step up and applaud the students that are making strides to bring your school community together. Recognize the students whose names you may not know but say "hi" to you every day. Encourage students to break down those barriers of hierarchy that have long been established in our schools. Finally, support your students. Get out and chaperone their events and visit them on their memorable nights. Be a part of their positive memories of high school, be the influence that we all desire to be in our students and who knows, you may even enjoy the night out yourself!!

Worth the Read...

West Genesee Community Movie Night is Coming...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

Have you ever worked in a small school or small community where everyone knew everyone's name? Can you name all of your co-workers? If so, can you introduce them to someone new and offer some information about that person? In many cases we can not, the hustle and bustle of the work week is too much for socialization as well. Take a moment to get to know a co-worker that you may say "hi" to every day but never took the time to stop and have a conversation. We are one in the same, adults caring about kids... Let's do it together!!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Is Failure Final?

 I often wonder why it is that people are afraid of failure? Beyond that, educators in general seem to be so afraid of failure. Almost every educator recognizes when something doesn't make sense and needs to be changed, but are reluctant to try something different because what if it doesn't work? That would make us failures!! In conjunction with that, every educated and worldly adult knows that we have learned life's lessons through failure. By making mistakes and not giving up. So I ask the question, is failure final?

Well, I would argue that clearly in life it is not. We are able to make mistakes and are provided opportunities to correct our mistakes, learn from them, and move on with life. Often times, the feeling of success that accompanies our learning experiences and/or corrected mistakes is a rejuvenation of life in general. In education, failure has long meant that we are not good enough. Most educators never struggled with school and may not realize what it means to be that student who wasn't successful on the first try. Do we know how that changes the motivation/psyche of a kid? I know I don't, because failure motivates me. However, for many it does not. So how do we reach them?

First, we must not be afraid to fail ourselves. Michael Jordan said, "I've failed over and over. That is why I succeed." Thomas Edison said, "I haven't failed. I just found 10,000 ways that don't work." This attitude is what we need to embrace in education, both as educators searching for change and as facilitators in learning. We have been trained to celebrate success and condemn failure. What would happen if we embraced learning? I bet the world of public education would be a different world if we accepted the failures of our students not as a reflection of our own abilities as a teacher, but as an attempt to receive our admiration and support. Once a failure does not need to equal always a failure. We know this, so let's stop promoting it.

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

We can all admit that the profession is different than when we entered as a first year teacher. What is 1 thing that you used to do as a novice teacher that you know worked, that for one reason or another over the years you've given up on? Why and can you bring back that fire?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why Are We Afraid of Why?

Welcome to this first blog post as I venture out into a new world of social media! Needless to say, this is somewhat stressful as it is a new experience. Ironically, as I put the page together I found myself asking, "WHY has it taken me so long to make this leap?" Then I thought, WHY are human beings, and more specifically those of us in education, afraid of asking WHY?

As teachers, we ask our students WHY all the time. It's second nature to ask a student to explain their thoughts and push their thinking to go deeper. However as colleagues, we often view the word WHY as an attempt to weaken our sense of being. When we question WHY certain practices exist, WHY policies are enacted the way they are enacted, and WHY decisions were made, the word has almost universally a negative connotation. If it is okay for us to question our students in this manner for the pure sake of understanding the students' thought better, why as colleagues can we not do the same. After all, a school or community is a sense of family and should be there to support each other and share ideas. Asking WHY should be a compliment as it is a gesture of curiosity, understanding, and growth.

In this time of turbulence within educational institutions, we need to ask WHY a lot. WHY do we do what we do on a daily basis? And do we need to continue doing those things, or make some changes. As we ask WHY of ourselves, students, colleagues, and communities, we also need to listen. Listen to each other to understand WHY and learn how to move our profession forward. We are doing many many good things in the field of public education, and have been for a long time. Perhaps it is time to question those good practices and learn how to make them great!! I wonder WHY we don't do that more often?

Worth the Read...

Take a Moment to Self Reflect and Grow...

Find 1 new initiative that you have implemented this year that you feel is working and ask yourself WHY? Can you apply these reasons for success to others areas of your room/building to improve those aspects?