Thank You

THANK YOU!!

How do you thank someone or a group of people who have given you their best every single day?   A group of people who have taught you, guided you, picked you up, settled you down, made you feel every single emotion there is. A group of people you have been in the trenches with. When you have been ready to chuck it all and then brought you back to (semi) sanity? I don’t know how to thank a 1,000 people, the colleagues, friends, co-workers past and present, that have allowed me to be a part of their lives and a profession that has allowed me to do exactly what I dreamed about doing as a first grader. My former teachers and so so so so many former students who have provided me with so many memories, how do you show your gratitude and acknowledge their impact?

I have been looking forward to these last days for so long yet dreading them at the same time. June 2018 will be a life changer, and as a “change resister,” I welcome this change. No 5:00 am alarms, jumping at bells, scheduling pee calls or waiting for BCPS to make weather related announcements.

Maybe Winnie the Pooh said it best . . . . “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” Or Charlie Brown . . . . “Goodbye always makes my throat hurt.” I prefer “it’s not good-bye, but see you later.”

I have gained so much more than I’ve given. A ginormous “YOU ROCK!” to all of you!!

Lisa Meyer

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Consistency is Key

I know we’re all waiting for the weather to turn, and while we’ve had brief glimpses of spring, it hasn’t quite stamped out winter yet.  That doesn’t mean students aren’t feeling spring in their step.  Fourth Quarter can bring the slope to senior slide and even underclassmen can become entranced by the delights of spring so much so that they become distracted and even exhibit some unwanted behaviors.  No fear, however, this is nothing that patience and quality lesson planning can’t combat.

Your consistency in planning for quality instruction, maintaining expectations, and following through with rewards and consequences are key to our collective success as we wind down the year.  With PARCC, MISA, and HSA testing around the corner, it can be easy for students to lose sight of routines and expectations so its important for each of us to maintain high expectations for academic focus and behavior.

Check out this insight from Education Week about keeping students engaged and motivated:

It’s Not Enough to Praise Hard Work – Especially with Teenagers

“Teachers have long been told to praise students’ effort, rather than simply saying they are ‘smart,’ as a way to encourage students to think of their intelligence as something that can grow over time,” says Sarah Sparks in this Education Week article. “But teenagers can be a prickly, contrary bunch with a finely tuned skepticism for adults…” A new study by Jaime Amemiya and Ming-Te Wang (University of Pittsburgh) suggests that with adolescents, praising only effort to foster a growth mindset can backfire.

Why? Because in middle and high schools, schools often have academically tracked classes, publicized class rankings, academic “stars,” and stratified social cliques. “There’s a shift in the environment at this time,” says Amemiya. ”Effort isn’t seen in such a positive light as we get older, especially in American culture. We really admire people who are effortless achievers; they just ‘get math’ or ‘get science’ without having to work too hard.” When adolescents are told to work harder, they may wonder why they’re being told that when some of their classmates put in less work and still do well. Maybe the person being told to work harder isn’t smart!

Much more effective is teachers and parents praising the other process strategies that run parallel to effort, including persistence in the face of difficulty and tapping into the wisdom and example of classmates and mentors. Mary Murphy (Indiana University) says that students of all ages can lose trust in adults who praise them for effort without specifying what specifically was effective about their effort. Murphy believes educators can give students a better foundation for a growth mindset by:

  • Providing assessment results that allow students to reflect on their own learning;
  • Highlighting mistakes and emphasizing that it’s wrestling with more difficult material (versus the easy stuff) that will produce the most learning.
  • Having groups of students discuss what each person struggled with and exploring individual strategies.

“For Teenagers, Praising ‘Effort’ May not Promote a Growth Mindset” by Sarah Sparks in Education Week, March 27, 2018, https://bit.ly/2GUhzwv; the authors of the study can be reached at jaa141@pitt.edu and mtwang@pitt.edu.

 

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Congrats and Thank You!

Instructional ExpectationsThis week marked the end of our BCPS Lighthouse Visits for the school year and while the time and effort that goes into coordinating each can be daunting, it is all well worth it.  Each visit illustrated for our BCPS colleagues the rewards of all the work that each of you has put into our instructional shifts.  Each visit was a colorful success as teachers from around the county shared their reverence of our teachers, students, and classrooms.  The “Aha moments” your BCPS colleagues shared speak volumes of your efforts and successes in implementing responsive instruction and our Culture of Excellence – kudos!

Manny and I are still fielding questions from around the county and likely will be for some time just as many of you will as well.  Your success with this work is its own advocacy and makes me proud to work here.  Thank you for all you do!

In our next hosting endeavor, we will welcome staff from New York City Public Schools who are specifically interested in our International Newcomer Center, our approach to instruction for English Language Learners and the integration of technology.  Since every teacher is an ESOL teacher, be prepared for visitors on Thursday, April 12th!

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Change the World With Kindness

I know we are all affected by the most recent school shooting in Florida and those events have prompted anger, outrage, debate and discussion throughout the world.  If you haven’t already had a discussion with your students, don’t be afraid to allow the conversation to work itself into your class or even set class aside to hear your students.  It is vitally important that you truly hear them – and that students know you’re listening and that you care.

At times, students (and even teachers) come to the office after they have a conflict with a peer and most of the time someone’s feelings have been hurt and kids don’t know how to deal with the hurt feelings themselves and/or the guilt and responsibility of having hurt someone else’s feelings so they continue this cycle of one-upping someone until they’ve spun the conflict out of control and it’s too much even for them to understand.  As an adult looking in at the conflict, it seems complete nonsense, hardly comprehensible.  To the adolescent, however, the conflict is an all-consuming distraction that disrupts personal security, confidence, and rational thinking (not to mention learning).

Most recently, I worked with two young ladies who had hardly ever spoken to one another, despite having shared a class for half the school year.  Yet, here they were, enraptured by an all-consuming conflict, each dragging along friends and parents to witness and encourage or diffuse the conflict.  (Note that if any of those parties was effective at diffusing the conflict, it wouldn’t have come to me.)  It is hard to understand then, how two girls who had never spoken, not even on social media, could become embroiled in a hateful conflict.  It is hard to understand until you dig into the peer perpetuation of nonsensical drama (it is still really hard to understand) whereupon you begin to understand the power of peers and gossip and how easy (and fun for some) it is to spread lies.  The saddest part of this is that two young ladies, who are both charismatic and friendly, who share common interests, will miss out on friendship or even a good acquaintance, because other people, seemingly friends, spew ugliness and rumors about the other which are completely unfounded and petty.

Really, who can blame them?  This nonsensical conflict is just a reflection of life in today’s society.  One can look at our recent political climate and our President’s tweets, the social media popularity of a Kardashian who is famous only for drama, or look at television and the latest Housewives of Pick-a-City where women feud over the most ridiculous first world problems…or the Bachelor where the cattiest woman often wins what we know to be the temporary affections of some pretty, yet morally vile, young man.  There really are few celebrated examples of women, or anyone for that matter, supporting one another.

I go through all this to share the simplest message in working with these students:  Listen and be kind.  Listen – we have to listen, even if the story is long and can’t be followed.  Try to make sense of their story – and their feelings.  They need help understanding their own feelings and that it’s okay to feel more than one feeling about the same person, event, or idea.  Don’t just be kind, but teach kindness.  Kindness can be as simple – and EASY – as a smile.  Just smile.  It makes you feel better and makes everyone around you feel better.  Start with you – spread it to your family…your classes…to our school…to our community…   Kindness is the best way to immediately and positively impact the world around you.

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Tips for Keeping Your Cool

As we wind our way into the third quarter, snow days and delays can wreak havoc on your plans…and students’ behavior.  With no lengthy Spring Break to look forward to, it’s important to build community in your classroom, to have everyone working together to learn, get along – and stay sane.

This month, I was inspired by Education Update’s article, “Stay Calm and Teach On” which outlined some classroom management tips to help you keep your cool.  The major take-aways for me were as follows:

  1. If you have a management plan that’s working for you and your students, stick with it and don’t let up!  Consistency is key – when everyone knows what to expect, stick to the plan.
  2. When you issue a consequence or redirect behavior, don’t wait for a student’s reaction.  Give the consequence or state the expectation and move on.  The student will choose to meet the expectation or not.  If you stand and wait for a reaction, this can create a stand-off where you and the student will publicly struggle for power.  No one wins in a stand-off.  If you walk away and the student makes the right choice – win, win!  If you walk away and the student doesn’t comply – this if often a sign you need to get to know each other better…in private.  This can also be a win-win.
  3. Don’t be afraid to reset classroom rules and expectations, especially if your plan isn’t working as you’d hoped.  Provide a rationale for the reset:  “We’ve been on break…”  “Too many snow days…”  or “This just isn’t working for us anymore…”  Connect your reset to classroom goals:  “We need to nail down classroom routines and expectations so we can meet our learning goals.  We’re only 14 days from our unit test and we need to crush it!”

For more management techniques to keep your cool, check out the article here:  Stay Calm and Teach On

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Slow and Steady – Stay Consistent

Happy Hanukkah to all those celebrating tonight and in the coming days!  We’re cruising right through December!  I know for me, preparing for the most wonderful time of the year is just about the most stressful time of the year!  Work doesn’t slow down – lessons still need to be prepared, papers graded, phone calls made…kids’ activities are still going, homework still happens, laundry still happens, the family still needs to eat – never mind decorating, shopping, wrapping, and baking!  A good snow storm that puts a hold on all the craziness is just what is needed to settle the family by the fire to prepare for holiday cheer.

As we prepare for holiday traditions, keep in mind that our students may be facing a first holiday away from “home” and away from friends and loved ones.  Students and families may be facing hardships that prevent them from celebrating with decorations, baking, gift-giving, or large family meals.  As much wonder and celebration some students feel this time of year, others find this time of year extremely difficult and these feelings can show up in students’ poor choices and unwanted behavior – love them anyway.

All of our students need us all – teachers and staff – to remain consistent in preparing quality lesson plans, sticking to classroom and school procedures, and addressing students’ inconsistencies.  A little extra kindness can’t hurt either.  Don’t forget to be kind to yourselves also – you can’t be good to your family and your students if you’re not good to yourself!  For some tips on being kind to yourself this holiday season, check out this article from NEA:

It’s almost the holidays. A break is so close you can practically feel it. Right?  Sure, it’s considered a break, but let’s be real—the holidays are hectic! They’re stressful, sometimes complicated and wonderful … all at the same time. Which is why we decided to put together the ten best tips for surviving the holidays, with the help of NEA Member Benefits. Teachers need to get more out of their much-deserved time off. We hope these tips will get you started!

STAY HEALTHY

  1. Say no to diets. If there’s any time to indulge, it’s during the holidays. You can finally enjoy the delicious hot cider and lattes your heart desires, without worrying about non-existent bathroom breaks. And the pies! Let’s not forget about the pies. You don’t have to give up any of these sweet treats with this easy-to-follow game plan to keep holiday weight gain at bay.
  2. Plan your indoor workouts. Winter is coming! If you’re an outdoor walker or jogger, it may be time for you to move your workout indoors. Try one of these fitness ideas that require little space and no equipment.
  3. Don’t sabotage your health with holiday buffets. Here’s a tip to make sure you don’t overeat when you’re face-to-face with a buffet: Tour the table first, and choose wisely. Also, contribute your own healthy holiday recipes like this quick white bean dip or quinoa confetti.

BEAT THE WINTER BLUES

  1. Avoid seasonal sickness. Viruses like the common cold and flu thrive during the winter months. Don’t spend your long-awaited break cooped up inside with the sniffles. Here’s what you need to know about the most common seasonal threats and how to prevent them.
  2. Stay positive when it’s dark and gloomy. Long, dark, dreary days can certainly put you into a funk (we know firsthand). Don’t let it happen! Boost your mood with laughter—try watching a comedy or simply getting together with friends. Anything that elicits a good laugh is time well spent.

SAVE MONEY WHERE YOU CAN

  1. Verify a charity’s legitimacy before donating. ‘Tis the season of giving, and many of you are probably considering donating to a charity or family in need this holiday season. Just make sure you do your research to avoid scams and losing your hard-earned money. Here are the things you need to know before you write a check for charity.
  2. Save big. If you’re an NEA member, there are tons of savings and giveaways available just for you this holiday season—get your hands on them here.
  3. Get rewarded for holiday shopping. It’s the happiest time of the year, but the holidays are expensive! These 10 tips for finding rewards programs will help you wrap up your holiday shopping for less.

SAY IT WITH ME: WORK-LIFE BALANCE

  1. Ditch the guilt. Listen closely: You don’t have to choose between being a good teacher and being a good parent. You can be both. Use your holiday break to look ahead at busy times of the school year, like when report cards are due, and make plans ahead of time. Line up babysitters to help relieve stress, and do your best to not feel guilty about it. Also try any of these helpful tips to find balance.
  2. Pamper, pamper, pamper. This will be your favorite, and arguably the most important, tip we can share. Use winter break for “me time” with these fun ideas. You’ve worked hard and need a break to recharge your batteries—it will benefit your family and your students. Try taking a nap (because you can!) or skip your morning java for an herbal pick-me-up by adding 1 or 2 drops of essential oil of peppermint to a cup of peppermint tea.

Here’s to a relaxed and stress-free holiday season, teachers. Take care of yourselves! You deserve it.

https://www.weareteachers.com/10-teacher-tips-surviving-holidays/

 

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Gratitude – A Way of Life

I hope you’ve all had a restful Thanksgiving and found time to spend with family and friends.   While good health, family, and friends are high on the list of that for which I’m thankful, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my work family as well.  I’m truly grateful to work with professionals who are so caring and dedicated to their students.  I’m grateful for our students and the resilience and energy they bring to life and education.  It is such an opportunity to touch young people’s lives in the ways we do – thank you for all you do to teach, support, console, and counsel our students!

This time of year, it’s easy to reflect and consider all that we’re thankful for, but there is plenty of research that positively correlates gratitude with health and happiness.  Gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that we all have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn’t cost any money and it certainly doesn’t take much time, but the benefits are enormous.  In Forbes magazine, Amy Morin reveals these seven benefits of living a life of gratitude:

1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. Not only does saying “thank you” constitute good manners, but showing appreciation can help you win new friends, according to a 2014 study published in Emotion. The study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. So whether you thank a stranger for holding the door or you send a quick thank-you note to that co-worker who helped you with a project, acknowledging other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities.

2. Gratitude improves physical healthGrateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, even when others behave less kind, according to a 2012 study by the University of Kentucky. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were less likely to retaliate against others, even when given negative feedback. They experienced more sensitivity and empathy toward other people and a decreased desire to seek revenge.

5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.

6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology found that gratitude increased athlete’s self-esteem, which is an essential component to optimal performance. Other studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. Rather than becoming resentful toward people who have more money or better jobs – which is a major factor in reduced self-esteem- grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.

7. Gratitude increases mental strength. For years, research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.  A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.  Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have – rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve. Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#745d4e73183c

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