This is not a post to self-reflect on my year. Reflecting for me is generally personal and meant to organize thoughts, not always actions, or create a following. I do choose blogging over journaling though, just because I know the openness of it helps me stay honest.
I also don't really set new year's resolutions as I think if you are goal oriented and have personal systems in place, then any resolution, just takes you off your already charted course. So I will not be writing about that.
This is also not a post about meeting up with your PLN at a conference and taking a pic with someone you call "your friend". This is also not about your #oneword although mine was the word of the year by Oxford in in 2013 Article Here.
This is also not about following your passions and drive to be an educator unless that drive is "our kids". If it is simply to be an app miner, pay-check collector, summer off educator, benefits hoarder, coaster through life, PLN builder, or story teller, go find another line of work.
So I have told you what this is not about. I am going to try and get my point across by talking about selfies and looking in the mirror, maybe that is reflection, but hopefully a slight plan of action, talking out of both sides of my mouth again...
This is about those moments when "our kids" take selfie's and look in the mirror. How do we discuss this in schools and help "our kids" tell themselves the right story. How can we help them control the thoughts that enter their heads at those moments.
I would argue that the thoughts that creep in your head when you take a selfie or look in the mirror, are one of the single most important thoughts you ever have. They drive your feelings about yourself, your confidence, your attitude, and everything in between. Without having a positive self-image and confidence, can you really succeed the way you want as a student, teacher, or admin? So maybe this is a reflective piece about how I and they should feel about their face... But clear your face up first, make sure you are ready to deal with them before you try. Every day, be ready.
After taking a selfie or looking in the mirror you do one of the following, not saying this is an all inclusive list:
- If you immediately don't like that person, you have a problem.
- If you immediately like that person too much other people will have a problem with you.
- If you form no opinion and have no thoughts, you have a problem.
- If you sort of smile at that person wishing positive thoughts, you may have a problem.
- If you look at that person and immediately are happy, but also realize there are imperfections and you can acknowledge them in the moment and be okay with them, then you are getting somewhere
I also know after working in a school that promotes BYOD and has chromebooks, I have seen "our kids" taking picture after picture and video after video of themselves. Sometimes these are in the form of screencasts, sometimes just for fun, or other reasons that I can not totally understand.
I also know that just like me, every time they take a picture or video of themselves they begin to have feelings about the image(s) and a story starts to form in their heads. I would consider myself a pretty confident individual, who often makes fun of himself, and is hard to rattle. All that being said I still tell stories in my head about my self portraits or moments with mirrors. There is that working out at YMCA mirror moment, that getting out of shower mirror moment, the checking yourself out in the rear view mirror moment, and then the selfies you take with your phone and friends. And after 5-8 of those you are happy, and you send it out to whomever.
Let me take a little deeper look into myself in the eyes, in rear view mirror moment. I know that anyone who has driven a car has had this moment, if not every time you drive. Here is the mirror story I tell myself and how this might be able to help "our kids". I find myself thinking in the car a lot as I listen to music. Thoughts sometimes go negative or I have a "what was I thinking" sort of moment. I inevitably catch myself peering up to myself and reminding myself that although things may not be great for that memory or moment in time, or what I am remembering was embarrassing, wrong, shameful, whatever; mistakes were made, bottom line. I am not a bad person and I need to have a positive self image. Having a negative self image is not okay, it is not going to work for me, it will not control who I am, period, I can not accept that. Here is that look.
I then check for boogers and go back to paying attention to driving. Those moments are really helpful. They are self-checks, to make sure I am not just swimming in my head with negative thoughts for too long. For some reason for me, these occur mostly in the car, maybe not for everyone, but bare with me as I go on to how we can help "our students."
Much of the talk on Social Media lately has been about our resolutions, and our #oneword, and what we can do to help ourselves grow, be better, etc. I agree that to better yourself will hopefully translate to others around you. I would also argue that unless you explicitly, purposefully, and are calculated in making an effort to translate these feelings to your classroom or school, then all of your self growth is nothing as an educator.
I would argue that having confidence as a student in your ability is one of the strongest backbones to being successful and that starts with your image of yourself at that selfie/mirror moment. That moment when it is just, you and you, telling yourself "yes" or "no", "good" or "bad", "smart" or "dumb" and yes I know those are not growth mindset words. As much as I try to use growth mindset language with my staff, students, etc. Rarely do I talk to myself with growth mindset words in my head. It is all about extremes. I always seem to revert to fixed mindset when talking to myself in my head in front of a mirror. Maybe I am old and wretched! See there is that voice again, I am not old and wretched, I feel good about my age and I do have wonderful thoughts about life... HAHA that was a joke!
I have seen over and over again how negative self images can affect students in ways that are really scary. So what do we do? First of all, pay attention, be there in the moment and recognize it. Then do something about it.
I think we ask students to take selfies, we talk to them in front of mirrors in front of themselves, and we ask them what they think. Tell them to do it and live it with them when possible. We ask them to write papers called "All about me" to start the year, we tell them every day we see them. All we want from them is their best effort (there is that growth mindset!). We ask them what makes them happy about what they accomplished? We give them constant feedback that promotes growth. Bring your #onewords back to class and have the students identify them, but don't allow it to be #oneword. They are better than that, they have many positive words that describe them. MAKE them use them, and MAKE them repeat them. Don't do this as a class, do it as individuals, and take some time repeating these activities from time to time. MAKE them tell themselves they are majestic or whatever word(s) they choose. It works for me, in my car, and I don't need anyone to tell me... But I have been doing this a lot longer than "our kids" so they need that practice for a while.
I have a chorus line of students that I meet with daily or at least regularly that I go over some of these things with. They see me, they know what I want! I am coming for the positive, the self-image work, the positive promotion of them, not me. They know I got their back when they need to scream and cry. Not that they did not do wrong, but let's get that image back first before we talk about consequences.
They don't care about my #oneword, they don't care, I and they care about their #oneword. I care about them, they need to know that, they need to care about them too. We need to do this work on purpose with lots of repetition.
Stop worrying about you, because you know on a day when you are feeling bad, they will show you what feeling bad really means. They will win every time if they so chose to take you on. Take care of you, that is important, but don't worry so much about who you think you are or what you represent, "our kids" don't care. Look in the mirror with them, take selfies with them, and show them they are important enough, strong enough, work hard enough, and MAKE them say it!!! Over and Over and Over and Over!!! Their #oneword is so much more important than yours, just remember that.