People need others who can help them find passions and motivation to achieve goals.
Passion and Motivation. Guess what, these two characteristics go together. Teaching children how to be passionate about something is not as easy as it sounds. I think of my own two children -- if they are not into “it” they will not put forth the effort needed to be successful. However, on this blustery Sunday afternoon, I pulled out my ukulele and played with my daughter. I am no expert, in fact I am a novice at best. But strumming, laughing, and watching a couple YouTube tutorials together and the next thing I know, she is playing cords, singing songs, and her heart BEAMS -- she’s teaching ME! The joy, energy, and motivation that has been captured today is incredible.
By tapping into her passion, I have seen an increase in her motivation to become more than a novice in mere hours. Guess what, I have known my own kid for thirteen years. I have given her opportunities to try art, musical theater, science, and more through formal and informal moments together. Throughout all of this, there are two things that stand true -- we have to invest in time and opportunities. If we are not willing to do this with any human with whom we interact, then we have missed the boat.
My heart truly beams with joy. It overflows because my daughter is sending positive vibes into this world that are beyond her understanding. I have always told my children, students, and adults that I coach that in life there is input and output. You cannot go through life only taking, you have to also be willing to give.
While the cords are strummed, her sweet voice makes its way down the stairs, and joy radiates throughout my home, I know that I have done my part today. Today there has been an even exchange of input and output. So I tell both of my kids and I’ll tell you the same: Do your part. Make sure if you take, you give in return. Keep the balance of input and output. Tap into passion and motivation for yourself and for those with whom you work. We all deserve to live in a place where we are fulfilled and striving to make the world a better place.
The sun rises, casting a purple shadow on the mountains. The cool air reminds teachers and students fall is in full swing. Crisp leaves crunch under students’ feet as they walk past the community garden that is ready for harvesting. Rows of pumpkins, squash, and other veggies wait to be picked and prepared for fresh daily lunches and snacks.
Friendly faces greet those who cross through the threshold of the school grounds. Outside of the classrooms, there lies fresh green grass, lingering flowers, and tall shady trees where frequent outdoor lesson convene. Teachers stand outside in the fresh morning air, waiting to high-five, hug, and tell each child, “I am glad you’re here today. We are going to have an amazing day.” All are welcome.
Learning is a must. Kindness is key. Innovation -- you bet. Technology to enhance instruction. Community is essential. Flexibility in our schedule -- for SURE! Teachers, students, administrators, and all support staff take moment at the beginning and end of the day to reflect, set goals, and express gratitude for the opportunity to become better humans.
“You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not only one. I hope some day you'll join us. And the world will be as one.” - John Lennon
It is a place where learning, creating, and becoming world-changers is expected. All have an opportunity to learn in a different way. Students work in groups that interest them, not bound by grade-levels. There is student choice, a personalized learning experience, and an old “one-room schoolhouse” feel that allows a student to move fluidly throughout the building and classrooms. It is a place where “old” and “new” collide, where getting our hands dirty is the name of the game, and thinking outside of the box is expected and encouraged.
Maybe I’m a little “hippie-dippie” and maybe this would never work, but wouldn’t it be nice?
This summer, my family and I have been watching a nightly movie. We take a moment to write our choices down, put them in a bowl, and… drum roll! We pick! Our movies have ranged from Red Dawn and Descendants to Get Smart and Gladiator to name a few. Most recently, we watched The Breakfast Club. Yes, you can bet that was my choice! This iconic movie really rocked my world as a kid. I loved how all of the characters began as acquaintances and eight hours later, we find they have bonded so deeply that nothing can break it. This was my parental duty to give my kids a move-i-facation.
While watching, I could not help but look at all of the kids in the story and think about our modern-day students and how they are still dealing with the SAME old stuff as the characters from the 1980s hit. All of the characters have problems. They feel downtrodden because of a variety of circumstances. They need to be heard but never want to break their social constructs. They are all committed to the roles that they are playing because it's all they know. They hide behind … you name it.
One of the most poignant quotations comes from a gal in the film. She says, "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it."
How might you be able to reach ALL students in your classroom? Even those who are good at hiding?
For many students staying in the comfort zone is easier than putting themselves out there for further judgment. It is far easier to be miserable; at least being miserable is familiar. What really caught my attention was that each student represented a different social demographic. When forced to interact, they all could relate to problems and pressures from parents, friends, etc. The main thing that got to me was they are all yearning for new experiences and acceptance, to not be ignored; to be seen and heard.
What will you do to ensure that all students will be seen AND heard in your classroom this year?
So in a good Breakfast Club ending I will leave you with one last quotation, “It just happens... when you grow up, your heart dies.”
Why does it have to? What can we do as EDU-leaders to ensure that kids DO turn into adults with thriving and passionate hearts?
What’s up with reality talent shows? I know I like them. In fact, I will watch pretty frequently. Now, I love theatre and the arts so I have to ask myself, what’s the draw? Just recently, I was watching America’s Got Talent. I like watching the amazing talent, hearing the heartwarming stories, and feeling and seeing the unexpected - being wowed! A grown man doing the splits, yes, please. Kids on ukuleles, um, YEAH! Magic acts that make my head say, “OMtotheG!” sign me up! I love waiting for the unimaginable.
What motivates others to get up, lay it all out there, and share their talent?
I wonder is it the validation from strangers? Is money or fifteen minutes of fame the motivation? Maybe it’s hope for the unexpected and the chance to inspire others. Heck, no! It’s all about being willing to be the risk-takers! When watching those shows we’ve got a front row seat to watch these risk-takers do something amazing or completely crash and burn. No matter the results, one thing sticks with me, the fact that they tried. Good, bad, or otherwise all of these people are willing to get up, put themselves out there, and try while we stand by waiting for something epic.
Either way, after watching I feel motivated and reevaluate my goals asking myself what I really want to try, what I want to experience, and what I want to share with the world. So wouldn’t it do us right by our students to set the stage and give them that front row opportunity to see something amazing? If you could teach anything in the world, one lesson to change your life and the lives of students, what would that be?
Taking the biggest risk you can think of, what is your “Golden Buzzer” lesson or moment be that will change the EDU-world?
When you model risk-taking for your students, they will be more likely to create those "Golden Buzzer" moments on their own. And guess what, we get a front row seat to that show too.
My husband and some of his colleagues thought it would be fun to attempt a breakout room one Friday night. I have to tell you, I have looked at many people posting on social media and talking about the great fun they all had, so I figured, “Why not?” I must tell you, that the events that unfolded that night were ones that have skewed my perspective for future breakout events.
I hate to admit it, but I am super competitive. I love to play games, but ask my family and friends how a friendly game could quickly take a turn for the worse. I am also what some would call a “Nervous Nelly.” I often like to ask a lot of questions regarding new situations in order to prepare myself and ready my mindset to accomplish any task. In this case, the six of us attempting the Y2K breakout room had never gone before. So with no one available to share some insights, all I could pull upon was my own gumption and sassy nature to solve the clues in the room. Not to mention that the breakout soundtrack included many of my favorite high school jams; don’t judge me for my love of NSYNC. But even the music could not ease the uncertainty of it all.
Approach new situations with a positive attitude.
Clearly, an attitude or mindset helps when facing unknown situations. Often it can make or break the experience for the participant. Whether you are teaching, learning, running, etc. your attitude will influence your outcome.
Our situation started looked bleak. Here we have a six people, all with advanced degrees, clearly, we are book smart. The question was, are we “street smart?” We entered into the room where there were a ton of combination locks all hiding future clues behind a variety of cabinet doors. Immediately, our alpha leader took the bull by the horns and started delegating tasks to the rest of us. To be honest, it was one of those situations where I did not know where to begin, where to look, and even how I was going to contribute to solving the puzzle in our small, tiny breakout space.
Assess the situation and find your role on the team.
Sometimes finding your role on the team may take time. It might even change depending on the team, scenario, or your personal goals. Remember, you don’t have to stay in that role. You have choice and voice over your contribution to the team, classroom, school, and community.
The clues started to come, but honestly, I did not see anything beyond what was right in front of me. My breakout-mates were making connections, using inference, and, quite honestly, rockin’ it. We were on our path toward getting the final code to break on out. At one point a secret passage opened up for us. This is great but then we were seriously stuck. We had the option to ask for three clues, but no one really wanted to use them up in case we needed them later and honestly, we all wanted to solve this bad boy on our own (thanks, pride). Frustration started to set in. I could sense that the team was starting to lose communication. We were now functioning in pairs of two at best.
What do you do when you hit a roadblock?
When a roadblock pops up, it could be a person, student, parent - you name it, what is your first reaction? Often with each year of experience, we gain new strategies and engage with colleagues who have a myriad of answers or support to help us overcome the roadblock. But what happens when you don’t have time to consult and you have to come up with an immediate, “shoot from the hip” solution? Best said in the movie Speed, “Pop quiz hotshot … What do you do? What do you do?”
Well, I hate to admit it, but we were not successful in our breakout. We were trapped. Once the employee released us from our Y2K prison, my husband and his friends walked out of the room trying to process the hour that had just happened. I, however, walked out feeling like I let my team down. Here this was supposed to be a fun, problem-solving evening, but all I could do was analyze how I did do enough, find clues fast enough, blah, blah blah. Now that I have been removed from the breakout room long enough, I realize that I started that whole night with the wrong approach and mindset. I was not ready to “fail forward.” I was not ready to give it a go. I wanted to win. I was so focused on the winning, I lost sight of the process and definitely lost out on an opportunity for fun.
Stop, drop, and don’t take it all so seriously.
When we encounter new people, teaching dilemmas, personal setbacks, the list keeps going, we have two options. One, we can flip out, internalize the problem, and cause personal strife. Or two, we can step back and look at the big picture. Sometimes a change of perspective and mindset is all that is needed to solve problems and move forward.
So if I ever decide to go into a breakout room again, I have some new goals for myself. But more importantly, I definitely learned some valuable lessons that night that are applicable in my edu-sphere. These lessons are quickly added to my survival kit that I carry with me each day as I enter the breakout room that is education.
What will YOU add to your survival kit?
Last night, I had a very vivid dream. I was down in the basement level of some sort of museum. The museum felt cold, uninviting, and industrial in style. The flooring was some sort of glossed concrete that added to the motif. Only art hung from the walls, the one splash of color in the space. There were a variety of benches scattered here and there for museum-goers to sit upon and carefully admire the art.
In the corner of the room was this tall staircase. The staircase was wide, erected with large slabs of concrete. It wrapped around a corner so that you could not see where it led. About two steps up onto the staircase, an older gentleman stood and faced me. He then said something very profound, “These stairs represent your struggle. Each one of you will climb the stairs, but it may take one person longer or shorter to get to the top of the staircase.”
What challenges have you faced this year?
I am sure you have experienced many challenges this school year. Maybe some of them have been personal. Maybe you have a conflict with a colleague that needs to be resolved. A possible parent with whom you have struggled connecting and communicating with. What about that student who needs your help but refuses to be helped?
The reality is that climb up the staircase can truly depend on every single one of those situations. There can even be a staircase for each one of those scenarios. Sometimes we fly to the top without any problem, without even breaking a sweat. But there are other times when the climb goes on for-ev-er! Often we want to climb to the top, find resolution and results, and live in a space where everything is easy.
The climb may be hard.
Surrounding yourself with people who are willing to climb with you is important. Finding others who will push you up is helpful too. Sometimes you need that pal who is willing to drag you up the stairs when you have nothing left to give.
Do you have those people in your life? If you think you don’t have supports in place, I challenge you to take a look around. You may find that your people, your cheerleaders, are everywhere. Cast a wide net! Your supports may be in your building, on Twitter, in another country, a family member, or even a former teacher.
What will you do if you are still on the stairs?
Twenty-five. That is a very important number. There are only twenty-five days left in the school year, give or take depending on your school calendar. In my world, that equals 200 hours. Just 200 hours. My mind races with my teacher checklist. How much have my students grown? What do they still need to learn? Have they had enough time to explore their own passions and enjoy wonderment? If you are like me, your head is reeling with a little anxiety. Maybe those twenty-five days just cannot go by fast enough. But before you start to panic or create a countdown paper chain, let’s take a moment to just be.
Focus on your student success stories.
Over the course of the year students have been reading, solving math problems, navigating technology, participating in design thinking projects, etc. They have explored new concepts, failed forward, understood information quickly, and have learned so much academically AND socially. When my students came into my room they were “big fourth graders” who were already so knowledgeable. There has also been so many goals accomplished this year. I am constantly blown away by their maturity, poise, and ability to practice empathy daily. I am also so proud of the great strides they have made in their writing, math, and speaking and listening skills. They are almost, not quite yet, but almost middle school ready.
What has been your favorite moment with your students individually or as a group?
Celebrate your professional growth and success.
Every single school year there are oodles of professional development opportunities. I love being able to choose strategies or ideas that will positively impact my classroom. Learning for teachers can happen by watching other teachers, participating in social media, reading educational books, and through district opportunities. Personally, I started blogging and participating in the edu-Twitter sphere - WOW! What I have gleaned from participating feels like more than a school-year’s worth of ideas and innovation. Not only do I get to personally learn and absorb so much awesomeness, but my students also get to experience new ideas implemented in the classroom.
What impact has your professional growth had on you and your classroom?
Preparing for the next school year.
Having one foot in this year and one in the next can sometimes make it hard to finish strong. Often teachers will start thinking about tweaking lesson plans, making lists of supplies, start searching for new ideas to make the school experience better and more exciting for next year’s lot. Improvement for the classroom and students is necessary. Maybe pick up a book. There are more than a few that may blow your mind. Try joining a Twitter chat; so fun, fast, and rewarding. There are a lot of opportunities at your fingertips, so start exploring.
What goals do you want to accomplish over the summer?
Keep going! You are almost to the finish line.
There is so much that has been accomplished this year. Way to go! Know in your heart-of-hearts that you are doing great things. BUT don’t forget that the next twenty-five days need just as much focus, energy, and passion as the other days in the school year. Do not be weary. Trust me, I am running this race too. Be invigorated at the sight of the finish line and finish strong. Finish strong for yourself and especially for your students.
Words have power. They have power to build up a person and the the power to tear them down. Think of the game Jenga. Each time a piece of the tower is removed the structure becomes weakened, only to eventually crumble. Words also have a similar effect on others. After a while, our internal structures start to crumble.
So be mindful. Make a point to think before you speak.
Speak truth, beauty, and kindness. Speak hope, joy, and encouragement. Speak life.
I adore the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The protagonist is such a gentle dreamer who the audience roots for, all the while hoping he will get enough confidence to follow his dreams. Throughout the film, Walter has these fantasies play out that are rudely interrupted by reality. Finally he has to make a decision to change his mindset and go on his adventure.
I feel using#BookSnaps helps illustrate what I have gained from reading The Innovator’s Mindset and learned throughout this whole #IMMOOC experience as an educator. I have learned a lot, enjoyed the process, and have truly begun my transformation.
Thank goodness, Walter gets up and goes on his journey. He finds his “mojo” and becomes the new and improved version of himself. Walter realizes that he has been the leader, hero all along, but he had to have something push him outside of his comfort zone so that he could find his passion and voice. That is exactly what this whole #IMMOOC experience has done for me.
“Have you ever thought about blogging?” My initial thought was, “What good ideas do I even have to share?” NOT a thing, right? I come from a family of teachers: grandmother, mom, dad, sister, and brother - what can I say we love education. The pressure to be a great educator runs deep within our veins. It’s like the royal bloodline of education.
I have read plenty of some educational blogs up to this point but I was mostly consuming and not contributing to the edu-sphere. But hey, I have ideas. After chatting with my friend and edu-mentor, or my ‘friend-u-mentor’, I took the leap. A literal leap of faith and blogged. Not only did I blog BUT I also launched my thoughts into the world for whomever to consume. Terrifying!
Here’s the thing, I started receiving feedback from my Twitter colleagues. Wait, what? Others read my post? It completely affirmed my thinking and encouraged me to keep on blogging. When writing, I only post on educationally related information from things I’ve read, experienced, or am just thinking about. This filter helps me to stay focused when writing. The biggest take away for me has been the ability to reflect on my practice, my craft. This has made me aware of what I am doing. I am even more intentional as a teacher because I am sharing what my class is doing. Truly, I feel I have become a better educator overall because of blogging.
Why wait to share until tomorrow? Launch your site. Blog your ideas. Who cares who reads them… maybe it’s just one, but that’s the one that matters.
Mena T. Hill
Educator, Wife, Mother, Colorado Native