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Back to School Morale

Making Your Team a Family

March 27, 2018

The end of the school year is quickly approaching! Hopefully you’re feeling a sense of excitement about ending the school year strong! I’m breaking from math topics today to talk about building a community on your grade level. Teachers work so hard to get their students to form a community of learners- shouldn’t we be doing the same thing with the adults on our team?

This summer, a colleague and I hosted a PD on building community with your team. We focused on identifying your personality type, learning how to work with different personalities, making each person feel valued, and how to deal with difficult scenarios that may arise within your team. I am attaching the PowerPoint from our session. It includes a copy of the personality test, as well as some great tips that will help your team become a family!

Building Community PPT

Major Takeaways

  • Take time to be with each other without talking about work (this is really hard for teachers!)
  • Respect any and all cultural differences
  • Celebrate with your team! Birthdays, personal and professional accomplishments, major life events…
  • Be reflective!
  • Acknowledge each person’s contributions
  • Address tension within your team and try to handle all conflict on the team- no negativity or gossip about your teammates!

I truly believe that it’s the people we work with who make our jobs wonderful or less than. I hope you are able to establish a great working relationship with your team this year!

Morale Motivation

You’re a Human – The Importance of Self-Care

November 23, 2017

Yes, you’re a professional who has a job with responsibilities, but you’re also a human. Sometimes things that go along with being a human, like getting sick or having a family emergency, don’t go so well with your professional responsibilities. It’s hard to find balance because our personal and professional lives are both important, but sometimes one takes priority.

I am blessed to work with great people in an understanding and supportive district. I have a wonderful work family who completely gets that I’m a human first. Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept this and not feel guilty when I need to take a sick day or deal with an urgent family matter. So I’m writing this post to remind you guys that you’re a human first, and you shouldn’t feel guilt about that. I also want to let you know if you don’t feel like you work with understanding people or don’t have support from your district there are others out there that will understand and support you.

But you have to do your part too. You need to be professional and put time into growing in your career. You can’t abuse the system and slack off and expect a lot of support and understanding when you need extra help because of an unexpected life circumstance.

Sometimes taking a sick day is a difficult call. You might be able to push through, but you might get others sick and struggling through the day might make tomorrow even worse. Also, mental health days are a thing. Unfortunately, there can be a stigma about this, but the only way to decrease this stigma is to be more open and honest about the need for them. You might need to take a sick day for your mental health if you’re so distracted by something that you’re overcome with anxiety. Taking a day to address the issue could be best. If you’ve been neglecting taking care of yourself you might need some time to recharge and regenerate to your full self. If you need to go see your doctor or therapist it’s appropriate to take a sick day. If you had the flu no one would think twice about you staying home, so if you are battling depression, anxiety, etc. no one should think twice about you getting help from professionals.

Part of being human is sometimes we are selfish. Please remember we all need each other, and one day you will need to lean on others. Don’t be afraid to lean on them or ask for help, but when times are good for you take time to seek out others who need your help. Do what you can and sometimes just being willing to listen does more than you think. Also, sometimes people need financial support and while our personal finances are important please donate what you can when you can. If everyone gives a little it can add up to a lot for someone less fortunate. You can also donate time by helping around their house, watching their kids for free, or helping them with various tasks at work.

This post is also a gentle reminder that you don’t know what someone is experiencing in their mind or when they go home after work. So next time when someone seems to snap at you or forgets to do something important try to be more understanding and kind. It might be an inconvenience to you or it might seem like they didn’t care or poorly planned, but they might be dealing with a loved one passing away or going through a divorce, etc.

Don’t forget yourself either! Self-care is vital and not selfish- it’s smart and proactive. If you struggle in this area you might need to make a self-care goal or plan it in your schedule. It can be as simple as taking a walk in your neighborhood, finally calling your friend for a long chat, or taking a bubble bath.

Utilizing technology can help you take care of yourself. I recently downloaded a few apps that might help you. For meditation try downloading the Calm or Simple Habit apps. If you want to incorporate some exercise into your routine look into the Sworkit, YogaTime, or a couch to 5k app. To make healthier food choices try apps like LoseIt, Mealtime, or MyFitnessPal. There are even apps like, Thought Diary or Stigma, to help you track and manage your feelings and thoughts. For your financial self-care apps including GoodBudget and Mint can help you plan.

So yes, you’re a human, and we all are. We need to remember that more for ourselves and for others.

Back to School Classroom Community Language Morale Reading Technology Writing

Cornett’s Book Corner

November 1, 2017

“Wonder”ful New Book Recommendation  

Welcome to November! Fall is in full swing and it is an awesome time of year to curl up with a good book! I hope you are modeling great reading practices for your students and perhaps even your own children. Keeping up the classroom reading is important, too. Here is this month’s review.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

     I have seen this novel utilized in so many fantastic ways with upper elementary and middle school students, and now there is a younger student version, too. In today’s day and age of selfie photo perfection and judging all that is “different” as wrong or bad, this book is a needed read for discussion of these issues with your students. The main character Auggie Pullman is about to begin 5th grade in a public school after being homeschooled for years. He has a significant facial deformity that causes others to look away in fear. Even though he looks different on the outside, he feels the same as everyone else on the inside. As one book reviewer from Kirkus Reviews put it, “Auggie may be finding his place in the world, but that world must find a way to make room for him, too. A memorable story of kindness, courage and wonder.” For instructional purposes, I love that it is written from various viewpoints! There are many digital resources available to accompany your study of this novel with your students. Check out the publisher’s website to see all of the related texts. This website has many downloadable Wonder teaching resources, too. The author’s page shares some helpful classroom discussion questions, too. There is even a Wonder app! Many teachers use this book at the beginning of the year to foster a classroom as a community environment and have their students take the #choosekind pledge. This month, on November 17, there is even a movie of the book coming out starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. It will be all the buzz, I’m sure, so get a head start and read this novel with your students. If I were you and you were me- remember to keep the tissues nearby when reading this book aloud to your class. Just so you know, this book is based on a child with an actual rare genetic condition called treacher collins syndrome. I leave you with this quote: “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” I’m not crying- you’re crying! 

 

 

Creativity Culture Morale Uncategorized

Making Positives Outweigh Negatives

September 4, 2017

If you’re like me you can be hard on yourself and not always have the most optimistic or healthy outlook.  I hate this about myself- there we go another negative.  I wonder why I have the tendency to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.

For example, I recently cleaned my bathroom mirror and instead of looking at all the fresh clear reflections I stared at the one tiny spot I missed.  I was upset with myself for not being more thorough and missing it.  Then I thought why am I not proud of myself for making the effort and making 99% of the mirror sparkling clean?

At work, sometimes I think I judge my entire performance on my mistakes or oversights rather than the successes or new helpful ideas.  Late one night I realized I had forgotten to prepare for a meeting I had the next day.  I felt upset with myself for the next few days.  Why couldn’t I have been more kind to myself and focused on all of the meetings I have prepared for in a timely manner?

It is so easy to negatively judge yourself by one silly little error or oversight instead of celebrating your hard work.  So now when I think of a negative or something I want but don’t have I make myself stop and think of 3 positives in my life.

Part two of this post is for you to use this thought process at school with your students.  Of course when children get in trouble and break school rules parents are informed.  However, we need to make even more of an effort to inform parents when children follow the rules or go above and beyond expectations.

We need to show ourselves love and compassion but also everyone around us.  Sometimes this might be easier said than done.  It’s easier for me to be compassionate to myself when I miss a spot on the mirror, but it might be harder when I realize I forgot to prepare for an important meeting. Just like it might be easier to recognize the good behavior of your kind student who is always on the honor roll versus the student who is always going to the office for bad behavior.

Just like we want ourselves to focus more on the positives in us and our life the students we work with and their parents want that too.  If you can try to send more positive notes home and make more happy phone calls home, it can lead to a more positive day for you, your students, and your families.

You might have to be more creative with finding the positives on some days and with some children, but if you look hard enough it will be there.  Personally, even on the worst day, you can find something positive about yourself and your life.

Changing thought patterns takes time and practice.  So be gentle with yourself when you are being negative and change it to a positive as quickly as you can without beating yourself up for being negative!

I’ll start right now.  Normally, I procrastinate on writing my posts, but today I am writing this at the beginning of the month instead of the end of the month.  I am proud of myself for being more positive and proactive in my life! Now I think I’ll go tackle that smudge on the mirror!

Back to School Morale

Teacher Self-Care

August 17, 2017

Well. You can’t fight it much longer friends. You’ve seen the school supplies all summer. You’ve tried to ignore the classroom posts on social media. But Back-to-School is here. Whether you’re dreading going back to school or are eager to get your keys, I’ve got a few tips for making this school year a little smoother from the very beginning!

1. Find Your Tribe

There’s nothing more deflating than spilling your frustrations or teaching joys to someone who just doesn’t get it. And we can’t blame them. Education is a world of its own. That’s why we need others who are in the trenches with us! Make a point to get to know your teammates, hallmates, anyone on campus that you can visit with when you need to share. If that isn’t quite enough or you want a view outside of your school, social media makes it so easy for you to connect with other educators! My personal favorite has been Instagram! To me it’s like browsing Pinterest with the ability to chat with the “pinners” and see more about their lives! (Did you know Tenspire is on Instagram? Click here to visit and follow!)

2. Set Boundaries

It is always so much harder to set boundaries after you’ve already established what you are and aren’t willing to do. Before the school year even starts, decide what time you’re going to plan on going home in the evenings. Set a limit on how many extracurricular activities you’ll be a part of. Know that it’s always okay to say “no” when you’re plate is too full, but it’s easier to say it sooner than later.

 3. Treat Yourself

Find something you truly enjoy, big or small, and treat yourself to it regularly! My treat was taking a giant thermos of hot coffee with my favorite creamer to school every morning. I’d sip it on the way to school and then as we got settled into our morning routine. There was something about bringing a little bit of home with me that made me feel more comfortable. Not a coffee drinker? Bring your soda or tea! Grade papers with your favorite new pens! Need something more exciting to look forward to at the end of the week? Get a mani/pedi! Pick up your favorite restaurant meal on the way home Friday! Give yourself something to look forward to and reward yourself for all your hard work throughout the week.

 

Do you find that having a treat regularly keeps your morale up? What do you treat yourself to? I can’t wait to read from you guys and (hopefully) get some new ideas for myself!

Culture Morale School Psychology

Gratitude

July 17, 2017

Everyone wants to be happy!  We are always looking for new ways to increase our well-being and happiness.  Some things we don’t have control over, but one thing we always have in our control is our outlook.  We can spend our time being jealous or negative or we can be grateful for the positives in our lives. This will not only change how we feel emotionally but can have physical benefits, like a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure.

Just like anything else it takes practice to incorporate regular gratitude exercises into your life.  Start simple- every morning write or say 5 things for which you are grateful.  You could keep a gratitude journal by your bed or favorite chair.  There are apps on your smart phone made for tracking gratitude.

Remember you can start with simple things like being grateful for a home to live in, a bed to sleep in, family, your job, the shoes on your feet, etc.  You can create affirmations where you repeat a phrase(s) a few times a day related to something you’re grateful for.  For example, I like to say “I am thankful for the opportunity to impact lives of children.” You can extend your positive gratitude outlook with others by making sure to thank others and let them know you appreciate their efforts.  It can be as simple as letting the barista know how good your coffee was or letting someone know how kind they were to open the door for you.  It’s really just putting a little more detail into your normal “thank you.”

Sometimes I like to take an alternative look on gratitude.  One of my favorite sayings is there are always pros and cons.  For those cons in your life, if you’re creative enough, you can find an alternative way to be grateful for them.  For example, I’m a very anxious person which I hate.  However, my anxiety has also caused me to be very hard working and a good planner.  For those reasons I am grateful that my anxiety has been part of my journey.  Maybe you hate how quiet you are, but that makes you a good listener.  Maybe you don’t like something about your appearance but that’s lead to you using humor to make friends easier.  Maybe you get angry too easily but that makes you passionate and an advocate for others.  Whatever your cons are try to view them in a more grateful manner.

If you’d like to help your students gain this valuable life skill, check out the Gratitude Works Program through the National Association of School Psychologists:  https://www.nasponline.org/research-and-policy/advocacy-tools-and-resources/school-psychology-awareness-week-2016/gratitude-works-program

You can start by simply having your students write letters or draw a picture for someone for which they are grateful.  Students can verbally share with a partner each day something they are grateful for.  For older students consider gratitude journals.  You can even start a gratitude club or have a whole assembly to celebrate gratitude!

I am grateful you took time out of your busy and important life to read this.  I hope it helps you in your daily life, and if it does please pass on your gratitude to others!

 

Culture Morale School Psychology

R Word and ID

July 3, 2017

A person who has an intellectual disability has significantly below average intelligence and difficulty with basic life skills.

The majority of people have an IQ score of 85-115, falling within the average range where 100 is perfectly average.  A person who has an intellectual disability will have an IQ that is 70 or less falling in the extremely low range.  Another way to say basic life skills is adaptive behavior which will also fall at 70 or less.  These behaviors help us take care of ourselves and function independently in different environments.  It includes skills like being able to feed yourself, dress yourself, communicate your needs, complete household chores, complete a job application, etc.

It is important to remember that just because a person has an intellectual disability does not mean they cannot do any of these things or that they cannot learn. 

People who have intellectual disabilities are still people, like us, who have their own strengths and weaknesses.  However, these students will likely need more supports and more time to learn.  Their progress will likely be much slower than their peers, and at some point, they may reach a level of understanding and have difficulty increasing knowledge or skill in particular areas.

While their IQ and adaptive behavior scores are below 70, there is still a continuum of abilities below this range.  For example, you may have met someone who has an intellectual disability who has a job, is able to live at home with minimal support, and can communicate well verbally.  You may have also met someone with an intellectual disability who is nonverbal, cannot read and needs help with basic skills like eating and using the restroom.  This is why it is so important to get to know the individual!

An intellectual disability can be co-morbid, meaning it can go along with another condition more frequently than by chance.

A person with Autism may also have an intellectual disability or someone with Down Syndrome may have an intellectual disability.  However, someone with an intellectual disability may not have another condition just like someone with Autism may not have an intellectual disability.  This is another great example of why you have to get to know the individual.

Sometimes the term intellectual disability causes confusion because Mental Retardation is the older out dated term.  The word “retardation” was, unfortunately, used in a derogatory manner causing the need for a more representative term to be used.  If you learn nothing else from this post, please please please do not use the r-word anymore.  Even if you are making what you think is a lighthearted joke to someone – don’t use the r-word.  It can cause pain, anger, and other negative feelings.  There is a wonderful campaign to help end this use.  If you would like more information on “Spread the Word to End the Word,” please visit: http://www.r-word.org/

People who are intellectually disabled play a vital role in our society and within their own families. 

They are still capable of learning and making a positive difference in the world.  They can achieve great things when people believe in them and give them appropriate support and tools to maximize their strengths!


*Disclaimer- if anything in this post has offended you and caused you emotional discomfort, please know that was not my intention.  My goal in writing this post is to raise awareness and acceptance to help educators better understand disability categories included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Please feel free to comment if you have any recommendations on how to better accomplish this task.

Morale Motivation

Teaching the Unteachable Students

May 5, 2017

“You are too stupid to learn this.”

“You are not college material.”

“You will never amount to anything in life.”

These comments were commonplace for me as a student.  I failed most tests and had to attend special education classes.  As typical with low achieving students, my behavior was less than stellar.  My desk was always beside the teacher’s desk. I was the student all teachers cringed when my name appeared on their class list.  I struggled all through school.

Years later, my mother saw my fifth-grade teacher out shopping.  After exchanging niceties, Mrs. Long asked about me (I am sure she thought I would be in jail or working a menial job.).  My mother said, “She is actually a fifth-grade teacher.”  The look of complete and utter shock and disbelief appeared on her face.  She, like others, wondered how did I make it this far.

My struggles were actually the catalyst for becoming a teacher and shaped my educator pedagogy.

One thing I did have going for me was a stubborn personality.  I was determined to become a teacher to help students like me.  Of course, in order to do that, I had to find a way to pass college.  I began trying to teach myself various ways to remember information.  I turned information into songs, stories, hand motions, acronyms, drawing pictures, and any other way of remembering the needed information.  Not only did those methods work, but also for the first time in my life, I was successful. I graduated with honors, and I went on to get my masters and doctorate degrees both with a 4.0 GPA.

As a teacher, I utilized the same strategies that worked for me and observed student achievement soar. After attending trainings and completing research on whole brain teaching, I realized that many of the strategies I used to achieve success for myself and my students were strikingly similar.  Whether you are an ahem “seasoned” teacher like myself or a novice teacher, these multisensory, multidiscipline, and whole brain teaching strategies work.  There are too many to describe in one blog post, so here are a few.  Stay tuned next month to receive more helpful tips.

  1. Utilize MULTIPLE Senses: Garner’s outdated practice of Multiple Intelligence has been refuted in the past few years. A person is not simply one type of learner.  For example, I am not merely a visual learner, but also a kinesthetic, spatial, musical, and verbal learner.  If teachers instruct students in only one modality, they have stifled other valuable pathways for learning to occur.  Instead, utilize multiple sensory activities and a variety of multiple intelligences.  Neurologist and middle school teacher, Judy Willis conducted numerous studies on the brain and the retrieval process.  Her research concluded when educators teach a subject through multiple experiences, it will activate numerous dendritic pathways for retrieval (Willis, 2007).  For example, when teaching students fractions, have them physically hop on a masking tape number line in your room, draw it, act it out—The denominator (in your best terminator voice) says I will break “YOU” up or “I ate the WHOLE thing”, the numerator says, I REPRESENT (like a rapper) the number of parts, raps, songs, hand motions, real-world applications, and the list goes on and on.  When I encounter a standard, one of the first things I do is write M.O.V.E.

M-Music-make up silly songs or jingles

O-Out of their Seats-simply using hand motions or acting it out

V-Verbals-synthesize the information in their own words-peer teach

E-Envision-Picture it to Remember it

Plan your lessons with those in mind to reach more students.

  1. Repeat to Remember– Brain research indicates that reviewing the same information sequentially for several days in a row will transfer information from short-term to long-term memory. Spiral or cumulative reviews daily is another way to retain information long-term.  Ask students to repeat directions or key information to you.  Chunk information into short five-minute intervals.  Then have students repeat or teach a partner the information as well.  This will serve two purposes.  One, it will have students repeating information and synthesizing it in their own words.  Second, it will provide a structured brain break that will better prepare their brains for the next interval of information.

Subscribe to Tenspire to make sure you do not miss Part 2 of “Whole Brain Teaching: Ten Strategies I Can Incorporate into my Teaching Today”.

Classroom Community Creativity Culture Morale Reading

Get Your Groove On

March 29, 2017

Flowing Through Fluency

There is a movement happening in classrooms right now- a music and movement movement. As a dancer and supporter of all things performing arts- I LOVE it! Educators really desire to connect to our students on a personal level and establish good relationships by simply relating to our kiddos. In Tennessee, teachers also have a law that requires students to get at least 90 minutes of physical activity per week. An hour is actually the preferred amount of time that students should be involved in movement per day based on the researched correlations between students’ positive academic performance and exercise.

As a practitioner, you get it. Kids become restless with too much sitting and lecturing. They just do not pay attention to the lessons or get off task. You may have even been guilty of this yourself. Just think about your last faculty meeting. The human body craves movement! Adding kinesthetic aspects to your lessons will further tap into students’ memory and help them better store the information you are trying to convey. You may even reach some of your reluctant learners as well when you begin to get your groove on in the classroom!

 The weather can sometimes make it more difficult to get as much exercise outside with your students. However, there are easy ways to add some movement into you reading routines and transitions. Let’s start with an easy topic for adding music and movement: fluency! Fluency is my favorite aspect of reading and one that rarely gets enough practice in the regular classroom setting.

Make class fluency folders and change out what you are practicing almost weekly or as soon as your students have mastered the passage you are using so they do not get bored. Even my first graders could help with the management of updating the folders by sliding new pages to practice into clear page protectors when needed. Print out students’ favorite songs and sing them while reading the lyrics. Just make certain the songs are school friendly! Or you can always do what the teachers did in the first two videos I linked below: make up your own class song. Add poetry to your fluency folders and have students help create appropriate movements to accompany the poems. Students can even add a mini performance time to the weekly classroom routines. Dr. Timothy Raskinski, the fluency researcher guru, says that kids need authentic reasons to want to practice reading, and a classroom performance time provides just that! In my classroom, I offered performing fluency passages on a volunteer basis as not to force students who may be uncomfortable reading in front of their peers. Once it caught on, even my shy students were wanting to read and perform in front of the class. With fluency folders, struggling readers have had time to practice the passages (I let my students take these folders home nightly) so they are less afraid of messing up in front of their peers. This can really boost their confidence to have their friends cheer them on and support their reading.

Here are my two favorite music and movement videos for introducing the concept of fluency to students:

Give music and movement a moment in your classroom today!

Classroom Community Featured Morale

Our Words Build Their Worlds

March 20, 2017

“I am a leader! I am a champion! I am a world-changer! I am number one! I am so special! I am so loved! I know Mrs. Gardner loves me! And I love her, too!”

My students hold up their “number ones” and say this at the end of every. single. day. I believe this is one of the most important things I do as a teacher.

I got the idea from a pastor at our church who started having the middle and high schoolers say it after service. I knew as soon as I heard it that I had to implement it in my own classroom.

It’s more than just words. Words are never, EVER just words. Words build worlds. These words specifically build my students’ worlds. After just a few weeks, when I say “Number ones up!”, before I even say the first line for them to repeat, they’ve already started. If I accidentally miss a line, they are QUICK to let me know.

That’s exactly what I want.

I don’t just want them to say it; I want it stuck in their brains. Once it’s stuck there, it starts to get stuck in their heart. Once it’s in their heart, they’ll never forget it. Even more- they start to BELIEVE it. No one can convince them that they’re NOT a leader or a champion, a world-changer, or loved in the future.

I was in my principal’s office a few weeks ago and on my way out, I passed a wall in her office where she displays notes and art from students in our school. Right there, front and center of all of those notes, I read the words, “Mrs. Price, you are a leader, a champion, a world changer, so special, and so loved.” It brought tears to my eyes. One of my former students had this planted in their hearts and passed it along to encourage someone else!!

I have the words on my wall in my room so my students can not only say it but read it and see it as a reminder all day long. It’s in my TPT store as a freebie if you’d like it for your own room! Can you imagine what our world would be like if every student in America truly believed this about themselves?!