Taking Time To Say YOU MATTER

This past week we had about as much fun as you can have as a family – end of season basketball games & start of season soccer games (on the same day), practices, birthday slumber party at Great Wolf Lodge, falling face first onto metal bars on playground that caused some pretty big injuries and scrapes, getting strep throat, returning to school only to fall under again with pure exhaustion and had to stay home….you get it.  We were running on empty.

I don’t know about you, but when we are running on empty and exhausted, tears flow – making for a very dramatic week to be a child and a hard week to be a parent in our household! Even though Sofie was just starting to recover and still not feeling her best, she was NOT going to miss her soccer game. Her passion kicked in, friends!

Sofie gave all she had to give and scored her VERY FIRST GOAL since she joined this team 2 years ago!  While this was so exciting, and I may have almost thrown my phone off the bleachers while recording, the thing that really sticks with me here is her perseverance and dedication to the team as a whole.  Not only does she have an amazing coach, but she is part of an amazing team of girls and parents.  This team knows they are better because of the whole.

The best part was when Sofie scored, her team all went running to hug her! They all celebrated in her moment because it was their moment.  With intentional coaching about being in position, importance of playing the game for the team and as a team, and knowing when to execute….it shows that these girls play to win as a team. That is so important to remember in any situation where you are part of a team.

We were able to capture this on video and a few blurry pictures!  Her running to hug her coach, her teammate jumping up and down for her, and those girls running to hug her!  So precious! A true representation of what these girls are like. I heart this team so much and all it is teaching my baby girl that will help her in so many areas of life!

As as incredible as the team love is, here is where I realized my learning moment.  Her coach sends weekly emails to recap things about the game.  I love this because I am not as knowledgeable on soccer (yet!) as other sports, so it helps me understand why things happened. Every single week we read these aloud to Sofie.  She has always loved storytelling, so she loves hearing these emails and reliving the experiences.  This one was extra special. Here is part of Coach Doug’s email.

On a great note…Sofie Visser’s goal today was the crowning achievement of The Rockets.  When she scored, and every girl went up to hug her…well, I was right there with Christiaan and Bridget with tears in my eyes.  Sofie has made almost every practice, come off the bench on most games, and never ever complained about playing time or position.  She has been the perennially team player.  Not only that, but she has played UP for 4 seasons (2 years).  SUPER PROUD OF THIS MOMENT FOR THE ENTIRE TEAM.  To see all of the girls hug her, put into perspective why our girls are so special.  We have a team full of great kids, and GREAT PARENTS.  Let’s all be thankful for the memories they have provided us.  🙂

This meant the world to Sofie. Her little face lit up!  Quite honestly, it melted our hearts too! 🙂  I think about this and how this relates to us each day as we make a difference in the lives of children.  As we know, coaches are some of the best teachers our children have.  Taking the time to notice and write special notes to children sometimes is all that is needed to reach that hard to reach child.  It can push that one child to reach their goals. It can provide a sense of comfort, love, and feeling of YOU MATTER to anyone! Isn’t that what we all want to feel – kids and adults!?

My challenge is that this week we will all take time to write a special note to someone to let them know how much that little thing they do matters! Show them that THEY MATTER and what they are doing is appreciated!  Make their face light up!

Leadership – It Takes A Village

When you hear the word LEADERSHIP, what comes to mind?

          Superintendent? Principal? Curriculum Directors?

Lately, I have been participating in many Twitter chats where leadership has been the topic. My normal ones are #txeduchat, #IAedchat, #PISDbkclub, and #edslowchat.  I’m not a principal, but the topic of leadership is of high interest to me and here is why. For awhile now I have felt that leadership does not just come from the principal alone.  It can come from coaches, teachers, paras, custodians, parents, and most importantly, from the students!  You’ve heard it said, it takes a village to do this thing called life.  The same goes for education.

Many thoughts have been swirling around my head on this topic because even though we already know this, when we are truly honest about it, how many of us shy away from stepping up? There are so many reasons to fear shared leadership, especially if you are an introvert. Believe it or not, I lean more to that side. 🙂

  • It’s scary to be pushed out of your comfort zone.  
  • It’s scary to not know the “why” behind the changes happening.
  • It’s scary to admit you might not know an answer. (And to be okay with that.)
  • It’s scary to put yourself out there and think you are being judged or evaluated.
  • It’s scary speaking in front of peers. Need I say more?!
It’s scary, but we know that when we all contribute…. real transformation happens!!

This year my role changed from years as a classroom teacher to a literacy intervention specialist.  After the first week without a classroom of kids I could hug and laugh with, I thought, “What on earth did I just do?!” (Whew! I said it. The first step is admitting it, right!?)

Fortunately for me, that quickly changed!   I consider myself the luckiest Literacy Intervention Specialist because my principal understands and encourages my passion for learning and sharing new ideas, teaching and being around kids, and taking risks to try innovative things.  I have the luxury of not only providing intervention services for students, but I get to go into the classrooms to support teachers in great literacy instruction by co-teaching/modeling lessons!  This is truly the BEST of both worlds!

How did I get so lucky you ask?

My principal recognizes the value of shared leadership.  He seeks out strengths in all teachers and gives the gentle push to have them lead some area of our campus in some way. We have amazing teachers.  Too many times classroom teachers never have a chance to get “out” to see the awesomeness of each other.

But wait, this also happens with students! Classroom teachers know the strengths of their students more than anyone else!  It is our duty to guide our students to recognize their own strengths and the strengths in each other.  It is our duty to teach them how to use these to benefit everyone. Along those same lines, teaching our students to know their weaknesses and when to ask for help is just as important. There is nothing I love more than seeing kids step up as leaders!

My reflections on shared leadership:

  • Trust, Trust, and Trust each other.  Know that we are all teaching every child in our building. 
  • When everyone in the building steps up and leads, everyone in the building grows.
  • When teachers feel they are part of the HOW and WHY decisions of their classroom they are willing to do anything!
  • When students feel they have a voice and are part of the decisions in their education trust and ownership happen.
  • When parents feel they have a voice in their child’s education, trust in the school increases.  They are happy because their kids are happy. This empowers them to speak about the good things happening in schools.
Do you see the spiral of transformation that can happen if we practice shared leadership? 
This quote sums up WHY we need to involve EVERYONE in the process.  Imagine the great things that can happen!

Important Lessons From A Coach

Are we raising our kids to win at all costs?  Or are we teaching them to value the importance of teamwork? Do we realize how our words and actions influence our kids way beyond right now?

Photos courtesy of Tony DeBellis.

As I watched my daughter play her first soccer game of the season on Saturday, I was able to see this clearly.  As always, my mind connects it to education. 
To give you a brief background, my daughter decided one day she was going to play soccer.  Please know, I have played every single sport growing up, except soccer!  Not my thing.  She began playing a year ago, and we soon fell in love.  Not so much with the sport, but I realized it was the coach and team.  My not-so-fond-of soccer attitude stemmed from a few things.  For one, I didn’t have a clue about the rules. The bigger issue I had with soccer was that I completely disagreed with the offsides rule! In my opinion, as a basketball player, you need to hustle back to protect your goal. I know, I could be missing the point completely, but my daughter loved this game so I needed to get past that.   
My sweet girl running to me after the game so happy. You see, she LOVES the game!
Her coach, Coach Doug, is one of those incredible people who values teaching kids the important things in life.  The importance of sportsmanship, respect, fun, compassion, confidence in trying things, and how hard work will pay off.  After watching the first practice, I told my husband, “This guy is a great teacher!”  
He is patient.  He pushes them to be their best.  He values their input.  He asks the kids to tell him when they feel like they have a strength in a position and want to give it a try.  He instills his energy and passion into these young girls.  Most importantly, I have seen him intentionally put them in positions to see their hard work pay off.  Even if it meant they ended up losing the game.  Don’t get me wrong, he never intended or wanted to lose.  (No one wants that!)  He made this intentional decision knowing it was important that they saw their hard work from practice pay off!  This is what would drive them forward as a team.  Why?  Trust.  They trusted Coach Doug.  
You can guarantee it paid off.  Maybe not by winning that game, but as they continued on they took those opportunities to have faith in what they knew was right.  I can promise you, THIS is what keeps my daughter coming back each season!  He is a man of admirable character and it is influencing these young girls more than they know!  Someday they will, and they will go back to thank him.  
This is our group of happy girls before the game.  Can you see how much they love each other and playing?
On Saturday, we were amazed at how much the girls had grown since last season. We were amazed at how awesome their new uniform colors looked.  I mean, come on, fashion still matters. 🙂  However, the most amazing thing we saw was something that took looking a little deeper to see.  It was the way these girls performed on the field like a team that knew the importance of teamwork.  No one wanted to be “the star.”  They wanted to pass to their teammates when it made sense.  They celebrated each other’s successes.  They had FUN! They showed compassion for the other team.  They were allowed to try different positions on the field, as Coach doesn’t want to run up the score on any team.  This team wanted to win, but, win together as a TEAM. And they did.
Celebrating each other!
The “teacher” watching the “students” drive their own learning. 🙂
So, as I sat there once again thinking, Wow, what a great coach!  He is such an incredible teacher of many things for these girls – my mind connected this to education.
Isn’t this what we desire in our classrooms?  
  • Kids that collaborate and work together so all kids are successful.  
  • Kids that sacrifice being the star, so that as a group they all contribute to the win.  
  • Kids that encourage and build each other up.  
  • Kids that have input in the learning.  
  • Kids that have a voice and can tell you their strengths and can also identify their weaknesses
  • Kids that understand how to use their weaknesses and are able to work with others to set goals to develop them.  
  • Mindsets from both kids and teachers that allow for success and positivity in the classroom!

You better believe it is! Coach Doug shows this as the Teacher to his soccer students in every way that I strive to show as the Teacher in my classroom with my Students.
My mother repeatedly tells me that teachers and coaches have an incredible impact on the lives of every child they encounter.  She is right.  Children look up to their teachers and coaches.  Every word that is spoken to a child will forever be etched in their hearts.  I feel so blessed that my daughter has Coach Doug as the coach in her life etching positive words into her heart and building up her self-confidence.  
One of my favorite pictures from the day!  Read the caption to see why. 🙂
This mama wearing the “Soccer Mom” hat her daughter picked out for her!
Guess this shows that I am starting to love the game. 🙂