Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Is saying "It is what is best for kids" a shield?

I constantly hear the phrase, " I do what is best for kids."  I then often hear nothing more...

I agree wholeheartedly that doing what is best for kids is how we should all be thinking as educators, this is sort of a no brainer.  Do we need to state it? and better yet, are you really doing that or just saying it?

I equate saying, "I do what is best for kids" as an educator to saying it is cold outside when it is negative 7 degrees fahrenheit.  You feel it, does not really need to be stated.  You would laugh at someone that said, "I wear a coat when it is cold outside!"  It is expected you wear a coat in the cold and if you don't, then you are questioned.  You are not patted on the back for doing it. "Great job remembering that coat!" just sounds silly.

"I do what is best for kids" should be a feeling not necessarily repeated as affirmation to your work.

So I challenge you to feel "I do what is best for kids" and state what you are doing that is best for them.  Maybe you think that what you are doing is... but until you state it and get reaction, feedback, or brainstorm with others, YOUR "what is best for kids" may not actually be what is best for THEM.

Stop with the affirmations and start with the doing, detailed sharing, actionable steps, plans, programs, writing, modeling, risk taking, whatever, just stop putting up the shield.  The shield of "I do what is best for kids".  That is a conversation stopper, not a conversation starter.  That statement says to me, "don't question me, because I know".  If you challenge that you are challenging someone's passion, which never gets you anywhere.  Don't allow yourself to have that shield, prevent yourself from stopping a conversation before it ever starts.

Think: (all the time) 

"I do what is best for kids"

Question: (these are just a few examples) 

"What are you doing that is going to promote their growth?"
"What are you going to do that supports them in all areas social, emotional, health, and academics?"
"What are you going to do when they struggle and when they things seem to be too easy?"

State: (these are just a few examples)  
"We or I do the following that has shown this result...."
"When my students did this they....."
"Our kids are successful when...."
"I need to empower students and staff by....."

"I do what is best for kids" is what we ALL should be thinking, although should be kept as thought.  I do not think it promotes growth, it is a fixed mindset.  "I do what is best for kids" or other versions of that, in my opinion are shield statements, meant to use to protect your opinions and thoughts from being challenged and improved.  Think it all day, and if needed have your secret affirmation clubs, but don't repeat it over and over like a tag line.  Get past that, and begin with what you are doing and what questions you are asking.  Not all thoughts need to be repeated, some should be felt, expected, and assumed.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Shifting Thought

All thoughts come to you with preconceived notions and past experiences, which then create your current reality.  What happens when in a second that paradigm is shifted to something different, and you immediately realize that your original thought is not only wrong, but you are ashamed of how you thought.

For example, you think a student that does not come to school is just "lazy", but you later realize that they live in a house with 12+ people, the noise keeps them up at night, and when the bus comes to pick them up, they finally got to sleep.  They miss the bus and you then you find out they have no way of getting to school, because no one has a car.


You are looking at someone and immediately judge them for who you "think" they are and also immediately assume they will react a certain way, only to find out they react differently.


You are thinking one way about a potential problem and you think you have a solution and then through conversation a new possibility presents itself, and you totally scrap your original plan, and go in a different direction because it just makes more sense.


You have forever thought the way you did something was the right way to handle a situation and then after talking through similar situations with someone more knowledgable than you, a new path is presented that makes so much more sense.

In all of these instances you have to rumble with the idea that you have to change and modify yourself in order to grow.  I have had these instances quite a bit over the last week or so.  Here are some examples of how change has affected me in the past week or so.

1.  I have decided to not use email to deliver my "weekly update" to staff.  I will use our update section of our LMS (Schoology) to deliver the message.  This will allow for more transparent questioning and discussion.  It is more static, so you can go back without searching hard to find the information, and is not diluted with 100+ other messages on a daily basis.

2.  I talked to a professional BCBA about behaviors and the importance of analysis of behavior beyond the usual "he does it for attention" or "task avoidance".  There are more reasons why kids act a certain way beyond this.  So why do we as educators always seem to go there to come up with interventions.  Kids issues are deeper than that, we need to figure out the root cause, or our interventions are destine to fail and are probably not even ethical.

3.  I listened to a podcast from Seth Godin that explained that in order to make advancement in areas where you appear to be stuck you need to change the conversation.  You can not keep asking the same questions that you always ask.  Ask them from a different perspective, put them in a different medium, choose a different audience, do whatever, but change the conversation to think beyond that same path you were on.

These are all examples of my growth and could be your examples if you just free yourself up to do a few things:

  1. Get more information, because the more information you have can only lead to better decisions and less stress in making them. 
  2. Seek a new way to do something where you have always been uncomfortable with.  New path creates a new result.  
  3. Find someone with more knowledge than you in an area and really listen to them and get their perspective.
  4. Change the conversation, don't go down that same path with the same cliches and modes of thinking, that will not help you solve the current problem you are in.  If you keep coming up with the same answers you have had for so long, then you probably aren't solving a problem but passing it on for later.  
Bottom line, move, grow, challenge, talk, listen, think, stop, and repeat until you are satisfied for now.  Knowing full well that even this enlightened way of thinking is only temporary until you need to go through the process again.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Parent Engagement Vs. Parent Partnerships

Having some thoughts lately and reading, listening to podcasts and so forth on parent engagement.  I want parent engagement.  PTA meetings, school events, volunteering, lunches with kids, etc. are all important.  They build a sense of community, which is beyond important for any school.

What if though we enabled and partnered with parents as advocates of "our message" with "our kids"?  What if beyond just getting them in and talking to them, they also spoke our language.  I don't mean the sea of acronyms, for parents the message to me is simple and easy.

Let me tell you first what it is not:
  1. You do not need to learn the "new" math to teach your children at home.
  2. You do not need to fight with your children over homework every night.
  3. You do not need to tell them they are not good enough or smart enough.  That is a fixed mindset.
The message that I want my school to send to parents is simple:
  1. Have an expectation for learning and trying.  Tell them things like; "you are worthy, because you are going to try".  "You are important, because your thoughts matter and they need to be heard."  "You are going to do your best today, because I will not except anything less."
  2. Read and then read some more.  Ask them questions about their reading.
  3. Love them, and love them some more.  
Our job as a school is to teach your children.  Your job as a parent is to love them.  It is that simple, let's not make it more complicated than that.  Sure there are many levels to that, but let's strip all the other stuff off for a minute and just except that.  

So let's talk about the "why" and "how".  Why do parents need to have an expectation of growth.  It is simple, if kids don't feel supported and trusted that they will do their best from home, then where is their motivation?

How are they going to learn, is then entrusted with us, as the school.  As a school we are pledging to educate your children.  Your job as a parent is equally important and probably more.  If we work together in this partnership and understand our roles, then we can coexist in an environment that we are working off each other as partners.  

If parents never show up to an event, but read this and understand their job is behind the scenes to promote their own children and encourage them in effort, love of learning, and growth, then that is all we need as a school.  We will then take it from there and make the connections.  

That is all I am asking for... Bottom line, trust us, that we care as much as you for your children.  We have their best interest in mind, but we need to partner in this way in order for this to happen. 

I love my #cddolphins parents, they are supportive, but we can all improve.  So my message is simple. 

Love your kids first, tell them school is important for learning and growth, not perfect scores.  They need to try their best every day, that is all we need.