Don’t Take It Personal

We have been in full swing of crazy here.  Anyone else feel like that?  These are the months that are full of activities, long days, early mornings, and busy weekends.  However, somehow we make it through.  I think the exciting holiday talk, decorations, days off with family and friends, and overall spirit takes over and gives us the strength.

This isn’t a lengthy blog, but me simply getting my feelings out about something on my mind right now.  There is one thing I always try to keep in mind when these months arrive each year, but I will admit that it is much easier said than done. Especially when we are extra tired and sensitive.

This quote right here:

In a recent tweet by an inspiring educator, David Geurin, he said “Reminder: A student’s behavior usually says far more about what they are going through than what they are trying to put you through.”

 I appreciated this little tweet more than he knew that day.  I believe this to my very core and I’m grateful for quotes to remind me to check in with myself.  Sometimes I take a behavior personally before pausing and asking myself if I am calming them or joining their chaos.  We are all human, right?Chances are, this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with what is going on in their little world – and in most teenager’s worlds at the moment the littlest thing is HUGE!  I get it. We were all there.
During these next few weeks (and every week) I plan to pause and check in with the things they are NOT saying that speak loudly.  Check in with the behaviors that are crying out in the not so obvious way.  I hope to do this not only with my students but with my family as well.  I hope to bring calm and not join in the chaos.

Checking In With Feelings Using Emojis

You hear teachers say all the time that they think of things spur of the moment or their best reflections and lesson ideas come while in the shower or driving in the car.  It’s true!  One morning I was sitting at the breakfast table thinking about how to integrate lessons about character and the social-emotional aspect into my lessons. This is when the comment a student made echoed in my head.

He asked, “Can we talk about our feelings again?”

I guess I was unintentionally checking in with their feelings before we started each lesson.  I know that if children come in hungry, sad, nervous, tired… not much learning will happen.  This is not much different with teenage children!  They want to share their feelings of heartbreak, feeling sick, frustration, who they are crushing on (you would be surprised!), nervous about a test, how tired they are, and so much more.  It made me think about what we had been doing. So like I try to do with everything, I asked them if they liked that. Overwhelmingly, the response was YES!

This is how the Emoji Check In was born in room 217.

It is nothing fancy, but they love it!  They sign in the attendance folder and then check in, using an expo marker, with how they are feeling at that moment.  While I pull up Skyward to log in and take the attendance we have a quick class discussion about how we are feeling.

They appreciate that I want to know if they are nervous or if they are not feeling well.  I told them that if I know these things then I can have a better understanding why they are not acting like they normally do.  I understand life is hard sometimes and I want to empathize, as well as celebrate when great things happen!  The kids LOVE celebrating each other’s celebrations in life, school, or just fun things that happen.  Not only does this model empathy, but it has built class community and trust amongst each other where each week more and more kids are comfortable sharing.  I continue to ask them if we need to change things, but so far this is not one of those things!  I have discovered they want to share all the happy, scary, and funny things that go on.  Getting these off our chests before we begin learning has made a big difference in our classroom.  They want to share.  We just need to ask and listen.

Student Voice: A series focused on Social Emotional needs in the classroom

There is something about Saturday mornings that gets me so giddy.  I think it is the opportunity to sit down with my coffee, refreshed on sleep so that I have the ability to think clearly and reflect.

I have been engaged in a sort of “passion project” of my own these days.  It started as just doing what I do in my classroom, and that is getting to know my students.  As a huge advocate of Student Voice, I ask input on a consistent basis regarding lessons, methods, efficiency in workflow, choice of lesson design, seating choices, music for background, etc.  As I began doing this with my seventh-graders this year, I noticed that much of what I was needing to know was centered on the social and emotional wellbeing of the child.  The Whole Child.  The Adolescent Whole Child, which is another whole ballgame.

I thought, hmmm…I might look into this further.  The reason is simple.  Academics are important.  We know students learn more and best when they feel like they have a relationship with the teacher.  We know relationships are built intentionally and take time and effort. We also know that even if you spend the time and effort, building relationships will not happen if we are not super aware of the social and emotional needs of our children that directly affect behavior.  So, in my opinion, this is where it all starts.

If I am going to reflect and go through this journey of really digging into the behavioral aspect of Student Voice in the classroom, I want to reflect about it through writing a series of posts. Hopefully, this will spark conversations about the social and emotional behaviors and how important they are to teaching and modeling these for our children.  If we all share what we know is best, we learn more and we all benefit!  Hope you will share your thoughts with me.