Cami Anderson: The Left-Right School Discipline Debate Misses the Point. We Need a Third Way

Cami Anderson shares her thoughts on improving school culture by systematically rethinking how teachers are trained and supported to how we report and learn from classroom and school-based incidents. This article first appeared in The 74, a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America. Chat with Teachers has been given permission by the author to feature this article as a guest blog entry. 

The Left-Right School Discipline Debate Misses the Point. We Need a Third Way
by Cami Anderson

Imagine a small math classroom filled with exuberant 12-year-olds. They are loud and engaged. One group is working on algebra and comparing notes to solve a problem. Another group is using a self-paced computer program to practice foundational math skills that an assessment indicated to their teacher they needed. A third is being guided by the teacher through a problem requiring complex equations.

CamisGuestBlogOccasionally, one of the groups erupts in laughter; you might hear someone blurt out, “I am never going to get this” — only to go right back to work. A chime signals the time to change activities; student captains keep the transition smooth. There’s a little horseplay and poking, but within minutes, students are at their stations enthusiastically tackling a new task.

The scene could be an elite private school, but it’s actually a crowded sixth-grade classroom in one of the country’s poorest ZIP codes. When you visit, you don’t wonder if the teacher can “control” the class or question if poor kids can succeed at high academic levels.

Instead, you meet a teacher who visits students’ homes and gets to know what makes each child tick. She can vividly describe their dreams, what motivates and triggers each one, how she helps them identify those patterns for themselves. She can talk about the systems and rituals she constructs with students and how she puts them in charge of their learning and behavior.

She’d invite you to observe class meetings and restorative circles, where students repair relationships and personal damage when the students challenge authority and show disrespect, as they inevitably will, even in this carefully built community. For her and the mission-driven school team she is part of, student discipline means coaching children to develop the habit of persisting to master a skill, however hard.

Others in her school, from the principal to teachers and school safety agents, will tell you discipline doesn’t mean punishing young people who fail to comply.

Much has been written lately about whether schools should be called to task for how they discipline kids. Civil rights groups say punitive discipline is racially biased and disproportionately pushes kids of color into an even more racist judicial system that severely limits their life options. They’re right: 10 percent of all high schoolers are suspended; among male African Americans, the figure is about one-third.

Nearly half of school-based arrests are of African-American students (though they are nowhere near 50 percent of students). Being suspended makes you three times as likely to drop out and three times as likely to become incarcerated.

Some conservative publications and think tanks, such as the Manhattan Institute, which recently published a study about school discipline, argue that limiting punitive discipline leads to lower teacher morale. To some extent, they are right. Teacher surveys in New York show that some teachers and students report that their schools feel less safe since central administrators have made it much harder for teachers to remove kids from their class.

But the debate about discipline among adults, as it’s being argued, mistakes the response for the cure. Simply decrying the injustice of disproportionate suspensions doesn’t help kids, but suggesting schools will descend into chaos if we stop suspending “bad kids” is worse. We need a third way that integrates a school’s approach to discipline with high-quality, culturally competent school cultures, teaching and learning practices, and student supports, and that builds the capacity of schools to make good on this approach.

Here’s an analogy. For much of my childhood, I was a competitive swimmer. I didn’t win a lot, though, because my flip-turn was too slow. My coach saw that I took an extra stroke, and though we tried to fix it, my times stagnated. He blamed himself: He’d been too technical, faulted me publicly, didn’t study enough tape. Or maybe he needed to motivate me to work harder.

In the end, it was all of these. We kept at it and I became much faster. I never heard him say, “Too bad Cami didn’t get the flip-turn gene” or “I’ll bench her if she doesn’t improve that flip-turn.”

My swim coach and the math teacher I observed have a lot in common. They believe habits can be changed and that it’s their job to figure out how for children who can’t do it alone. They constantly think about adaptations that may help students achieve peak performance. They both have high expectations, but they’re able to seed them by putting kids at the helm.

We would never say of a child that “he just can’t learn how to read”; similarly we shouldn’t wonder whether young people can learn self-control, how to de-escalate anger, resolve conflict, and focus. We need instead to think of how to effectuate that growth, as if we were coaches of the academic, social, and emotional skills of our kids, even when they challenge us.

Having taught young people who were suspended, run suspension centers, overseen the schools on Rikers Island, and been in many school lockdowns, I know this is a difficult shift. It takes more than a pious call to “decrease suspensions” or a reliance on individual acts by heroic teachers.

Improving school culture is much more demanding as well as inseparable from the rest of school life. We need to systematically rethink everything we do — from how teachers are trained and supported to how we report and learn from classroom and school-based incidents. We need to take a hard look at whether we are building school cultures that empower all students to perform hard work that is meaningful to them. We need systems that ensure that students who challenge authority or hurt others are coached, not pathologized.

Most of all, regardless of how difficult it is to reach every student, including those who make bad choices, we have to stop weighing whether or not the status quo is acceptable. When the United States of America has more African Americans incarcerated than were enslaved in 1850, everyone who contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline is either part of the problem or part of the solution.

7 Ways Politics Has Affected My Teaching

If there is one thing the most recent Presidential election has done for society, that no one can deny, it’s that it made talking politics cool and relevant again. Sure, Former President Barack Obama has gone down in many people’s eyes as the coolest and most casual president in history, but no doubt about it – even back during the primary elections PoliticsinEdof 2016, people who were never much into politics starting talking about it, living it, breathing it in ways that hasn’t happened in many years…. even in classrooms among students as young as in first grade.

During a recent morning circle with my students, my 1st-3rd grade class was asked the question, “What are some things you would like to see improve in our classroom?” instead of naming things like, “more books in our library,” or “longer recess!” they began listing things like, “immigrants should be treated fairly!” and, “we need to stop a wall from being built!”

I was floored and impressed with their thoughts, and their insightful knowledge of the current political climate around them.  The impact of political decisions and processes on children has since been on my mind and a deep area of interest I have been exploring on several chats I’ve had with teachers. Check out some ways that politics has affected our teaching:

  1. We have to be activists!
    “We have to be activists,” reflects Phil S. Quinlan, 7th grade social studies teacher in Scottville, MI, as he chats about what he believes is the role of educators when discussing the current state of politics with students. “How did all of a sudden our profession become demonized?” he continued. “I have an opinion on it, but I have to be careful as far as, if I want to encourage my students to have voice and choice, I have to model that. I don’t want the students to know my perspective. Because what am I doing? I am not really enabling them to have a thought of their own. So, when it comes to students, I want them to ask driving questions, essential questions of the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s and try to make connections… of how politics, and today’s world, plays into their future.
  2. We have to plant seeds
    “Anybody in power can come and take away your life, they can take your wealth, they can take your freedom, but they can never take your education,” shares Bill Price, upper elementary teacher in Oakland, CA, as he recalls the lasting impact his grandmother’s words has had on his teaching life. “…that really stuck with me and I thought, ‘Yeah, she’s right.’ They can stick me in a prison cell, they can keep me away from the people that I love, they can take all of my material wealth, but they can’t take what I’ve learned. And if I can’t play rock and roll guitar […] then I want to plant seeds, I want to grow gardens on these young impressionable minds and have them be the next change makers.”
  3. We must seek inspiration from our students
    “I am inspired by my students at the high school I teach at in Denver, Colorado.  My students are primarily Latino/Hispanic, and a large percentage are children of undocumented parents, or are undocumented themselves.  I see these young people defeat the odds every single day,” shares Edwina Lucero a teacher in the Denver metro area for the last 13 years.

    “I see them survive through the inherit grit that they bring every day with them to the classroom – a skill I don’t need to teach them,” Edwina continues. “I see them dream and hope and love and create.  I also see them fear and wonder what the future brings.  These young people inspire me to be an active citizen – as the saying goes, we will never be truly free until we all share the same rights as you and me.

    “The arts are the avenue I travel with these young people. It is on that road that we are able to intersect with things like human spirit, empathy, empowerment, and knowledge of self.  This country is full of free-thinking, critical-thinking, and forward-thinking people. Regardless of your politics, the arts are an integral part of our existence. Whether you are celebrating triumphantly or marching in resistance, you are doing so to the beat of some drum – the music, the art, the expression of self – they are part of who you are.

    “We cannot allow the tyranny of fear to overtake our culture. Now is the time to write, sing, play, dance, sculpt, and create our destiny.”

  4. We have to design curriculum based on citizen engagement and helping students see themselves as change makers.
    What began as one teacher’s “crazy idea” has now become an annual tradition at Urban Montessori Charter School (UMCS) — where I have the pleasure of teaching in Oakland, CA —  “TARDIS Time Travel Change Makers Day” has become an annual tradition at UMCS. Students get to explore change makers: people who make peaceful, positive change in the world and focusing their energy on creating research projects and costumes to match the change maker of their choice. This project engages children to explore how ancestors have shaped the larger story of where we come from and how we have changed the world and helps them envision themselves as confident change makers. Teachers get to act as Time Lords and invoke the TARDIS (from Doctor Who) to bring together all the researched change makers to share about themselves. Children are invited to wear costumes they’ve made ahead of time as a classroom art project and dress up as a peaceful
    representation of what they envision their change maker to have looked like.“One crazy idea, to a spirit week activity, is now a School Wide Community Celebration,” says Gilbert Parada, Lead Teacher at UMCS. “I am very grateful and excited to have seen my ridiculous idea become something real, and, something that inspired many children to see change makers in our past to present timeline, with the inspiration to think of their future change making potential.”
  5. We have to share and relate to our students so they know they are not alone.
    “I just think all the women in my family are pretty amazing. They really inspired me, because growing up there was no fathers around. It was kind of an interesting situation. You know of course, I had to go through my traumatic experiences as a young person, but I got out of it,” shares Jackie Rodriguez-Vega on relating and connecting to her students. “But I think that’s one thing that really connects me with my youth, I am just so open about how I grew up. I was raised by a single mom and a lot of kids connect with that, because they’re raised by single moms, or they’re raised by their grandma, or they’re raised by their tia, their aunt. My father left my mother when I was five, and she was two months pregnant with my sister … my mom, she’s just a hard worker. She raised three kids on her own, and she just completely inspired me.”
  6. We must validate one another in this amazing teaching profession that we are in together.
    “Find ways everyday to avoid the isolation,” reflects Estella Owoimaha-Church, a top 50 finalist for the 2017 Global Teacher Prize as she discussed the heartfelt validation she felt among colleagues at the recent ceremony in Dubai. “The isolation I think is what leads to the depression and teachers leaving the field in […] hoards, it’s the isolation – we’ve got to figure out how to avoid that. So connecting with like-minded teachers and working with like-minded teachers, and doing everything we can to uplift the entire profession. I know that’s hard and we maybe didn’t sign up for that, but I think it’s kind of on us now and I appreciate Varkey, Mr. Sonny Varkey and the Varkey Foundation, for what they’re doing to do that around the world. We’ve got to avoid the isolation.”
  7. traininggroundQuoteWe  have to truly have zero tolerance for bullying and take the time to stop class and have discussions about things we hear our students are feeling.
    At no point during my teacher training program was it mentioned that teaching was actually 90% relationships and 10% academics. At least that’s what it feels like, and what many teachers I have had the pleasure of chatting with  have expressed too. During my first year of teaching I was so focused on making sure I delivered the best lesson plans possible, that in hindsight, I realize that my students, and myself, would have benefited immensely from strong relationship building first. Now, as the political climate has permeated the classroom – empathy and creating a classroom culture of inclusiveness through things like restorative justice circles are what matter most.
    Sure, bullying should never be tolerated – but it shouldn’t just be something discussed with the students or families involved in the situation either. The restorative process of mediation and conferencing in a circle that includes the entire classroom community provides a space where everyone can have a voice about how they are feeling about things going on around them. Whether a specific instance of bullying, or a general consensus of feeling like a change needs to happen for the betterment of our classroom community, students are able to speak out around the circle. The entire process is value driven and designed to bring healing and understanding to the community.

    Students are empowered to “design think” around solving a problem together. It’s not about me telling them what the rules are, it’s about them noticing and caring about a problem, brainstorming a solution, prototyping that solution and coming back together to reflect and start the whole process again if need be. If that means we spend a chunk of time together in this process, then that’s what needs to happen. Rushing to the content, if something is truly affecting the classroom community, will only lead to students who are not ready to learn and a teacher burnt out and frustrated that a well-thought out lesson plan has gone down the drain.

As I reflect on all the ways that politics has affected my teaching, a pattern presents itself: Our classrooms are a training ground for the real life our students will undoubtedly step into one day. We are there to teach content, but we are also there to help build values of respect, honesty, listening, truth, sharing, and growth.

Why “Subject to Change?”

In early December I had the great privilege to have an intimate chat with Vanessa Donino about her experience teaching incarcerated youth. She recently started a blog of her own where she is sharing more about her commitment to the education and rehabilitation of the young people at Oneida County Jail in Central New York. Thank you Vanessa for sharing your voice as a guest blogger here on Chat with Teachers:

Why “Subject to Change?”
by Vanessa Donino

incaceratedyouthI had a bit of difficulty finding the right title for this blog; how can I find the perfect name that encapsulates the essence of my very unique student population? I teach incarcerated youth at Oneida County Jail in Central New York, and when thinking of a title for this blog, I thought of what my students have taught me—and the answer may surprise you.

quoteMy students have taught me many valuable lessons. I’ll take it a step further—my students have inspired me. Their perseverance and seemingly never ending supply of optimism is a testament to their commitment to improving their lives—a task which is not an easy one.

They do not have to be reminded that having a criminal record will dramatically hinder their chances of progress upon release. Former prisoners are routinely denied employment, housing, education, and other benefits that would help ease their integration into life on the outside. Gainful employment will be difficult to procure, even for non-violent convictions. Public and private colleges and universities include questions about criminal history on their applications—a practice that is being challenged right now by the state of Maryland, and by movements such as Ban the Box.

However, with these many hurdles that they will have to face, many of my students are driven to complete their high school equivalency diploma, and for a very proud few, to go on to college to pursue their professional ambitions.

Their drive to create positive change within their lives in spite of the many challenges they will have to endure has created a personal challenge for myself: I want my perseverance, willingness and adaptability mirror theirs. I want to be able to meet my life challenges with the same humble strength they carry with them through their own challenges. I want to be the educator they deserve, and the exemplar global citizen from whom they can (hopefully) get inspiration.

In this way, as a learning community, we are all subject to change.

Subject to Change {an alternative education blog}

Q&A With My Teacher Mentor: Understanding Executive Functioning

At the beginning of my teaching journey I taught in a standard self-contained classroom. Over the past two years, I have had the fortune to join an amazing group of educators in a charter school that is taking Montessori public and offering access to this unique type of learning to a diverse community of students in a typically undeserved and underprivileged community, for FREE!

Along with Montessori’s concept that the classroom environment can be designed to facilitate maximum independent learning and exploration by the child, our school also ef_pullquoteintegrates Design Thinking, the Arts and is an Ashoka Changemaker school. What a mouthful, huh? Well, it is!

With so much to integrate into a day’s curriculum, differentiated small group learning is at the core of running a classroom that also teaches children how to independently go about their day picking and choosing the follow up work that they are most drawn to. That’s right folks, in a classroom of approximately 33 students, while a small group of them are receiving a lesson, all the rest are freely exploring the materials in the classroom and completing work independently.

How is this possible? Well, I will admit it is very useful that each classroom has the benefit of two teachers — but also, one of the central components of running a classroom structured around small group instruction and freedom (within limits) is building a community of trust and being hyper-aware of the need for your students to build self-regulation skills. Or something I have come to learn called, “executive functioning.”

In one of my recent sit downs with my own teacher mentor, Jennifer Heeter, Director of Instruction for the Upper Elementary and Middle School Programs at Urban Montessori Charter School, she answered some of my questions about executive functioning and how understanding it can help me become a better teacher. Here’s a peek at our Q&A, and some insight into how being aware of this developmental function can help any teacher, even if you are in a standard classroom, build trust and teach self-regulation:

Jennifer K.: What is executive functioning?

Jennifer H.: From my perspective, executive functioning is the body’s ability to regulate and control itself. Many Montessorians also call it self-regulation. Essentially it’s about noticing and then bouncing back from a trigger, focusing on a task, understanding and regulating emotions, being kinesthetically aware, recognizing social signs and cues, and setting and following through with goals. From what I’ve learned, the brain at birth is about 70% programmed for emotional reactions, but not regulation. We learn how to regulate (or not) as we develop, based on modeling after the adults and other children in our environment and explicitly taught tools and strategies.

Jennifer K: Why is it important to understand executive functioning, and how can it help me be a better teacher?

Jennifer H: It’s important to understand what it is so that as a teacher, you can focus on the whole child and not isolated traits. Watching a child work, interact, and communicate within the classroom can tell you a lot about where they are in the process of developing these skills. It requires a whole new perspective in how we look at children and what they need to progress. It is easy (for me at least) to look at a child who has been struggling with math and recognize that they have underdeveloped skills in that area, and then find the patience and creativity to come up with new ways to show them the same ideas. It’s trickier to notice their interpersonal challenges and recognize them as “underdeveloped skills” because they show up as negative attention-seeking behaviors. The process a child takes to normalize is very individualized, depending on their background, upbringing, genetic makeup, and exposure to tools and strategies for emotional regulation. Modern neuroscience tells us that children need to attach in order to maximize their learning potential. We need to look at each child to see whether their basic needs are being met and do our best to fill in those gaps and support them where we can.

Jennifer K.:How are some ways I can help teach this skills to my students who have trouble with it?

prezicoverimageJennifer H: If it’s helpful, check out my Teaching to Every Child’s Potential slideshow. Begin with connection. Children can’t take in information unless they feel safe and trust their environment. Then we need to look at their actions and determine the root cause. Children only act out when a need is not being met. What are they looking for? The mistaken belief chart is uber helpful here. Then we explicitly teach skills for problem solving when the child is calm. And practice them. And practice them. And practice them to strengthen those neural pathways so they can easily access those responses when stressed. Mindfulness, brain gym exercises, and community problem solving are whole group tools that help strengthen the whole classroom’s skills. Connecting with the family to share the strategies and build rapport and trust is the last piece so that the child recognizes the importance and experiences the tools in both home and school. Here’s a great article on  thinking outside the box for engagement.

 

Getting to the “Why” of Teaching!

blog-9I recently had a heartfelt conversation with a colleague about how hard teaching can be. We talked about the current state of political affairs regarding education and how, as public school teachers, we wonder what lies ahead in the future. Part way through our conversation, I paused and had a moment of gratitude — gratitude for the work we do as educators and gratitude for the constant collaboration and growth mindset this profession forces us to have.

As teachers, we are often told that to engage our students and increase their “buy-in,” it helps to explain why they are learning something. In math we might tackle the question, “why does math matter?” We help our students understand the personal satisfaction of being able to solve a problem, or the practical importance of knowing how to figure out real life mathematical problems like, “You have a beginning balance of $150.00 in your checking account. You purchase groceries for $115 on Wednesday. How much money do you have left until your next check gets deposited on Friday?”

It is with this sense of common purpose, especially during this very politically charged time for educators and policy makers across the country, that we take a moment to reflect on why teaching matters. Here are some reasons some amazing educators I have had the pleasure of chatting with have given for the question, “why teach?”:

  1. “To bring equity and quality to education in our Los Angeles schools!” – Andrea Burke, teacher of 14 years in Los Angeles, CA.
  2. “I am an educator because I am passionate about educating all children, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, or any other mitigating factors, because all children deserve a high quality school experience.” – Dana Graham, educator of 10 years in Oakland, CA.
  3. “I teach because I know it makes a difference.” – Melissa Ascencio, teacher of 16 years in Portsmouth, VA.
  4. “I teach because I want to help fight educational injustice and policies.” – Vanessa Donino, educator of 3 years in several cities including: Bronx, NY, Clark County, NV and currently in Oriskany, NY.
  5. “Every day is different, a triumph, a challenge, an accomplishment, and a chance to change the lives of children and their families.” – Elizabeth Isralowitz, special education teacher of 10+ years in Los Angeles and Riverside, CA.
  6. “Because I want to help enable our future to make better decisions than those from our past.” – Danielle David, teacher for 11 years currently in Fairfield, CA.
  7. “For the children!” – Connie Lam, teacher of 3 years in Oakland, CA.
  8. “I see them survive through the inherit grit that they bring every day with them to the classroom – a skill I don’t need to teach them. I see them dream and hope and love and create. I also see them fear and wonder what the future brings. These young people inspire me to be an active citizen – as the saying goes, we will never be truly free until we all share the same rights as you and me.” – Edwina Lucero, Music teacher for 13 years in the Denver Metro area.
  9. “It feeds your soul and grows others around you.” – Meredith Jacobs, teacher of the arts for 12 years in Plattsburgh, NY.
  10. “If we don’t, who will?” – Iain Lampert, High School speech and debate teacher for 7 years in Van Nuys, CA.
  11. “I always hope to inspire other children to teach – mainly other African American children.” – Barry Turner, teacher for 17 years in North Carolina and currently in Oakland, CA.

Why do you teach?

By Jennifer Khadir

5 Ways To Increase Parent Engagement In Your Classroom

2085ed47-2efa-48cd-b792-521c4aa42e5dStudies show how important parent engagement is in a student’s academic success. But truthfully… parent engagement is also extremely beneficial to you as a teacher too. With a background in communications, and as a parent myself, I love collaborating with peers about the best ways to communicate to parents to increase home and school connection.

That said, it can vary widely by district and community, and depend greatly on things like socioeconomic status and language barriers. However, by making the best effort up front, you can set yourself, and your students, up for success. Here are five ways I use my parent hat to help me to communicate with my teacher hat:

  1. Understand Why Parent Communication is Essential
    Don’t let it be an item on the checklist; make it a strategy for achieving your larger classroom goals. Like I mentioned earlier, parent engagement is not only important for a student’s academic success, it can also make a teacher’s life easier! From engaging parents to help with making copies, bringing in snacks, helping to organize classroom events, or increase your student’s buy-in, your parents are your best “assistants.” No matter the economic disparity, potential language barriers, or the academic levels of your parents — they all generally have one thing in common: they love their children and want them to succeed in school.
  2. Determine Your Parents Needs
    Sure, all parents want their children to succeed, but truth be told, not all parents know what exactly what that means and how they can contribute to the classroom. While it might take some extra work in the beginning to determine and establish your parents needs, it will help in the long run when you’ve been able to come up with a system where you have a basket of homework assignments that need to be checked off in your grade book, or a pile of paperwork that needs to be filed, papers that need to be copied or a classroom library that needs some love. One of the things I work on every summer is a letter to parents introducing myself and offering my contact information. I also include a list of ways parents can help. I like to not only email this letter, but put them in the snail mail too. If you’re not able to get home addresses early enough, send a copy home with their child on the first day of school.

    Back to school night’s can also be a great way to engage parents and have sign-up sheets. Find out if there are parents who speak different languages, learn about them, ask them to introduce themselves and their hobbies — I had a parent who loved to bake, guess what? She was my go-to for bake sales and even came into the classroom and taught kids how to follow a recipe for yummy fruit tarts! I worked at a school where the majority of parents only spoke Spanish, one parent who was fluent in both English and Spanish helped to translate any communications I’d send throughout the year. This not only made her feel useful, it made the Spanish speaking families feel more included.

    If your parents do not show up to back to school night, as they didn’t at a very underprivileged school I have worked in, it will be more challenging, but not impossible. As a parent, I know how much it means to me for my child’s teacher to have an open ear to me. When you have a chance, ask them how they are, really listen with your eyes, ears and heart. The more you open yourself up, the more they will want to engage. Posting paper notices and sign-up sheets outside your classroom door can help too!

  3. Make It Easy For Yourself!
    Along with knowing your school policy when it comes to communicating to parents, see what kinds of apps are available to make communicating to parents easy. I have used Google+ Community as a supplement to the monthly emails my school requires teachers send from our school messenger account. I’m able to instantly send updates, photos, reminders and glimpses of what we are doing in the classroom frequently. It’s as easy as snapping a picture and posting it on your Facebook or other social media app. Through Google+ I am able to make the community for my classroom private to only the individuals I invite. Parents can opt in or opt out… they pretty much always opt in! I get frequent feedback about how fun it is to see posts. Parents and students have also reported that it’s a great tool to spark conversation at the dinner table. Instead of, “How was school today?” Parents whip out their phones, open their apps and say something like, “I saw you exploring maps today, tell me more about what you learned?” Of course, not all parents will have the access to these kinds of apps, again, I encourage keeping a parent bulletin outside your classroom as well. My parent coordinator helps to update a dry erase calendar outside the door and and prints and posts the latest messages and some photos as well.
    Note: After the school year already started I learned about an app called, Bloomz. I already started using Google+ Community with my families this year, but I plan to give Bloomz a try next year!
  4. Value One-On-One Communication Too!
    In today’s technology driven world, it is easy to hide behind emails and apps to communicate, but do not underestimate the value of one-on-one communication. Seeing my son’s teacher give him an encouraging look at the end of the day and a quick smile really makes my day when I pick him up from school. The more you make the slightest effort, the better chance you will have in roping in your parents to consider things like being a chaperone on a field trip, or finally downloading that app, or even trusting that you, like them, have their child’s best interest at heart. At dismissal, my student’s get picked up at the classroom door. This is one of the opportunities I take to touch base with parents one-on-one. During dismissal, my students engage in what is called, “D.E.A.R.” time, Drop Everything And Read. For the last 15 minutes of the day, students read silently to themselves, and with a “dismissal helper in tow,” I stand at the door to greet parents and have at least a second’s worth of face time with them. This may also be when I say things like, “Did you check out the updated bulletin board?” “Be sure to check your email, I sent an update!” or, “Don’t forget to sign up for a parent-teacher conference!”
  5. If Your Student’s Invite You To a Game or Birthday Party On The Weekend: GO!
    So, this is where my parent hat totally gives me a HUGE advantage. I often find myself spending time with not only my students, but students from other classes in my school on the weekends. Whether a play date with my son and his friend’s from school, or playing in a local park or museum, I often find myself running into kids from school. As a matter of fact, just last weekend I was at a local science museum with my 3 and 8 year old boys and ran into a family from school. While my older son was off playing with a friend, my toddler found a playmate with the family kids we met up with.

    But I digress, I cannot begin to express how extending yourself to your students and their families beyond the school day can help build a strong relationship and accountability. When I worked at a school in East Oakland, with students who often did not have many adults who took an interest in their activities, seeing me show up at their ball game was the highlight of their week! Of course, this may not be possible with all the birthdays and events on weekends and wanting to well, have a life of your own… but there are always creative ways to allow your students to see you outside of the classroom setting. Last year I had yard sale and invited parents and students to come and join. Some families brought things to add to the sale, and the kids loved squeezing lemons and running a lemonade stand — they decided all proceeds should go to a local charity!

Whatever the effort you make, just remember, that by opening your communications efforts to your student’s families will be beneficial to their success and to yours!

Why Arts Education Should Not Be Ignored!

“California College of the Arts educates students to shape culture and society through the practice and critical study of art, architecture, design, and writing … the college prepares students for lifelong creative work by cultivating innovation, community engagement, and social and environmental responsibility.” – California College of the Arts Mission Statement

Recent plans to defund two federal agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for Humanities (NEH), has left me inspired to feature both Edwina Lucero, vocal arts teacher in the greater Denver area, and Meredith Jacobs, arts teacher to children with special needs in upstate New York, on recent Chat with Teachers podcasts. With many left unsure about the future of the arts (including literature, film, dance, music and more) I wanted to chat with these arts teachers about their experiences, passions and tips for keeping the arts alive in schools. Here are some highlights they shed on the importance for keeping the arts alive in public schools:

The Arts Lead to Everything!

pullquote_art“Don’t you realize art is the most important in the building?” shared Meredith when recounting an exchange she had with colleagues. “Arts back up all of the other academic areas… the arts does back up your ELA [English Language Arts], the arts does back up your math, the arts does back up your gym.” Meredith went on to say that she and her students recently studied the Northern Lights through art, and how it sparked scientific conversations in her classroom. She and her students are currently working on an art show focusing on Egypt, opening her students eyes to the social studies component of Egypt’s history and culture. It is no new concept that art is more than just googly eyes and glitter (although those materials absolutely have a place in the classroom as well!)…but that the arts play a pivotal role in kids lives to help develop many fundamental skills and interests that support an array of other content areas in a child’s academic life as well.

The Arts Offer Hands On Learning

image.jpgWith so many studies that show the benefits of concrete learning, most notably the teachings of Maria Montessori who says that to learn how to count, a child must count actual objects, to feel and see the difference between 1 and 10. Arbitrarily pointing to pictures on a card doesn’t help a child truly internalize the concept.

Meredith shares this sentiment and believes that “students must have that hands on experience. That tactile sensory – feel it, touch it, do it [experience].” She says, “we need to let them sit down and figure out things.” With today’s focus on the common core state standards, which highlights the need to be fostering problem solvers in the classroom, Meredith went on to share how a group of her middle schoolers with extreme behavior issues, were tasked to recreate King Tut’s Death Mask together.

“Here’s the materials,” she said, “I want to watch you problem solve. I want to see you figure this out. How can we solve the problem of building this. And those kids always tell me, even my high schoolers, ‘thank you letting me figure this out, I figured it out a way that was different than what you showed us.’ And that to me is the win. Because we need to have kids that can figure things out and with all the testing that is being done, they are learning to the test, they are not putting their hands on things, it’s not that concrete development that’s happening,” and that’s why teachers of the arts, like Meredith, will always be huge advocates of the arts.

The Arts Give Students a Stage, a Voice, Confidence and a Sense of Community

“Right away I started taking my kids into the public to perform,” says Edwina, a vocal arts teacher in a predominantly Latino/Hispanic community, a large percentage of which are children of undocumented parents, or are undocumented themselves. Edwina says that there’s a cool thing that happens with choir kids, especially students new to choir and who when they are exposed to performing in public for the first time are able to see right away the purpose of all that went into the practice they’ve put into leading up to the event. Edwina shared anecdotes of how she was witness to several students who grew into confident leaders in their school due to being given a stage and voice to build confidence on.

Most notably was an account of a student who joined Edwina’s class with an already established history of being a troublemaker that past teachers had problems with. Edwina shared that through his time in choir, he was able to channel the “class clown” within himself and find a place to perform and build self-confidence. He grew in maturity and became a leader in his class.

Being able to perform is also an easy way to extend student’s learning beyond the walls of the school building. Edwina says that “music and arts programs are really easy to build community around.” She says arts programs are the backbone and heart beat of the school and the place where “pockets of community can happen.”

Higher Learning Institutes Care, So Should We!

img_20170129_152453With arts programs essentially at the cusp of extinction – most notably in under-served schools in underprivileged communities – I can’t help but ask, “Are we doing our kids a disservice by not providing more arts funding?”

Along with the mission statement from the California College of the ArtsMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is grounded in the objective to “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” All those areas include the arts in some capacity. While their official admissions requirements do not require material beyond the application, portfolios and additional materials helps to highlight a student’s application and showcase some of the characteristics that are so important to universities like MIT, such as “creative insight, technical skill, and a ‘hands-on’ approach to learning by doing.” Check out the MIT Admissions Portfolios & Additional Material page and see for yourself how having things like music & theater arts, visual arts and a “maker” portfolio can benefit student’s chances of truly being “college ready.”

Meditation, Enjoyment & Relaxation

According to Stress.org, “Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.” According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness promotes meta cognitive awareness and enhances attention and engagement. According to Mindfulness in Schools, “Many visual art activities require unique focus, and cause the “artist” to set aside all other thoughts and worries.”

Talk about a long winded “If __________. Then ___________,” sentence!

Meredith talks about the special needs of her students and the awareness that most of them will probably not pursue many far-reaching higher learning institutes beyond High School. But despite that, for many of her students who display some of the most aggressive behaviors, art is an avenue they use to practice meditation.

“You can use art to escape,” Meredith tells her students. “Other people use drugs or different stimulations like video games or music, and you can still use those things, but with art you don’t have to quote and quote meditate…” the joy element that naturally comes with engaging in art is naturally meditative, which also explains the recent popularity of adult coloring books.

Never were my students  more spellbound than when they got to experience, some for the first time (some for probably the ONLY time) in their lives, Caroline Lee, a violist with the San Francisco Ballet orchestra, play her instrument in our classroom:

How Can You Commit to Integrating the Arts Into Your Classroom?

With the future of arts education uncertain, all while the importance of creative problem solving Americans becomes all the more necessary in the 21st century, it becomes a lot more clear that as teachers we need to be more creative in finding ways to integrate arts into our classrooms.

If I had to make one actionable commitment to integrating the arts to my classroom, it would be to engage my 1st-3rd grade students in one of my favorite books, One by Kathryn Otoshi, a wonderful picture book about standing up to bullies. I can’t wait to see how my students would bring this book alive through creating costumes and performing this story in front of an audience.

What is one way you think you can commit to bringing art to your classroom? Because after all, as Meredith aptly reminds us, “what a grey, sad place it would be if we didn’t have these open thinking creative minds.”

The Three H’s That Start My Student’s Morning Right!

Before figuring out any math equations, sharing whether or not the character in their book is a protagonist or antagonist the first question my students answer each morning is:

blog6“Handshake, High five, or Hug?”

Something magical happens every morning during our morning greeting – we start a new day on a clean slate. Whatever may have happened the day before, good or bad, today is a new day. A new day to learn, a new day to make better choices, or a new day for a student to meet a goal they set for themselves the day prior.

As I write this, I realize this is a piece of advice I received long before receiving the keys to my first classroom. This wasn’t a new concept to me as a new teacher, and probably isn’t to many other new teachers either. One of my favorite books, THE Classroom Management Book, by Harry and Rosemary Wong, talks in depth about why this crucial part of the day is so important.

My intent with the blogs I write, and the podcasts I host, is not so much to share innovative new ideas or strategies, but to share stories and personal aha moments teachers have had in hopes that it strikes a chord with others trying to find themselves in this profession. More than just learning about why the morning greeting is so important – one of my aha moments as a teacher came when I learned HOW to actually do it successfully!

Here is a breakdown of my love/hate experience with getting my student’s mornings off right:

If At First You Don’t Succeed; Try, Try Again … Errr, Maybe…

“Take the time to greet each child as they enter the door,” one of my teaching professors once said. Well, easier said than done. Remember, I was new at this gig. I worked with only adults in my life before teaching. That first morning as I met my students for the first time on the yard, with a beautifully decorated sign that read, “Room 10!,” in my hand, I eagerly walked them to the classroom and stood at the door ready to shake each child’s hand and say, “Good Morning, welcome to second grade!” What I wasn’t prepared for, or naively thought to consider ahead of time, was what would happen once the students who had received their greeting entered the room with their teacher still at the door greeting everyone else.

While at most schools, and in many classrooms, discipline is not a factor – this wasn’t the case for me, and it wasn’t the case at my school. It was the first day of school after all, and I hadn’t even begun to understand what would need to go into building a safe and productive classroom culture.

The first thing I noticed was how baffled each child seemed to be when they saw me standing at the door, hand outstretched and a big smile on my face. It occurred to me much later on that this was probably one of the first times many of my students of color in a predominantly low socioeconomic community had an adult waiting to greet them.

Second thing I noticed was that about a third of the way through greeting my students, disciplinary problems began to arise both inside the classroom with children who had already been greeted, and in the hall with students still waiting their turn. Looking back, it was all a blur, but I do remember that after that it took me a long time to try to greet my students at the door again. All of what I had read in the Wong & Wong book on classroom management became replaced with the fight or flight instinct to just move forward with my day and try to get through my lessons without allowing the space for lack of supervision to occur again.

I Did Try Again!

Over time, I began to learn new techniques and strategies for how to structure my day with my classroom. I wish I could say it was in that first year, but it wasn’t. That first year was hard – I am sure that I will pepper future posts with anecdotes along the way, but much like Connie Lam, my teaching experience also started with struggle and absolutely being thrown into just chaos.

But I digress…

Into my second year of teaching, I found myself in a new school, with an innovative concept of taking Montessori public and free of charge to a largely urban and diverse community.

I felt renewed and excited to start fresh. I felt defeated from my previous experience, but I also realize how much I learned from that first year as a teacher. With my new school’s concept of putting the child’s emotional needs first, I was ready to figure out a way to implement giving each of my student’s a personal greeting each morning.

Here are some of the strategies used in my class to set up the morning greeting for success:

  • Walk the students to the line, before having them place their items on the hook, face them and give them very specific instructions such as, “Good morning class, please place your items on your hooks and when you enter the room please begin independent reading/check the board for your morning do-now.” The key here is planning ahead what the students will do when they enter so that you are free to give your individual greeting. On the first day of school, before you’ve been able to establish these routines, you may want to leave items on their desks, such as their name tags that they can begin coloring and decorating.
  • Stand strategically at the door where your line of view includes the hall where students are placing their items away, and inside the classroom.
  • Take a knee, meet your students at their level.
  • Offer options students can choose from. Some of them will be cuddly, and will want a hug – others won’t and will feel more comfortable with a handshake or a high five.
  • Don’t just say, “Good morning,” add things like:
    • “I am so happy you’re at school today!”
    • “What did you have for breakfast today?”
    • “You’re eye contact tells me that you are ready to learn today!”
  • Use this opportunity to check in! Ask, “How are you feeling this morning?” “Remember the reading goals we talked about yesterday? I look forward to seeing you work toward them today!”

What I Learned from the “Hand shake, high five or hug?”

The way that students enter the classroom determines almost everything else that happens after. And, it may be the only time of the day that I get to have any one on one interaction with every child in my classroom. With upwards of 30 or more students in your class, these personal one on one greetings really may be the only time all day that you get to look each child in the eyes and tell them how special they are. As I write these words I immediately think of one student in particular who because of his special needs is pulled out often throughout the day for services. If it weren’t for the connection we make every morning, he wouldn’t feel as comfortable when he is in class as I hope he does.

If I were to rewind even more, I can even look back and realize that the reason the very first students I had gave me that look of bewilderment because in their case – it probably was the first time an adult looked at them with a smile on their face happy and eager to enter them into the classroom. If there is any reason at all to implement a morning greeting (not to be confused with or replaced by the whole class morning meeting that takes place inside the classroom), it would be to realize that for many children, especially the most under-served students in the most underprivileged communities, your morning greeting might be the only time in their day they are welcomed into any space they walk into.

12 Ways Teaching Has Affected My Thinking

I thought I knew, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into when I began teaching – I can’t be the only one, right? I hope not.

I mean, how can you really anticipate what will happen when you are left alone in a room with 25 or more children and the door closes behind you, and they’re staring back at you in anticipation? One day you’re playing teacher with all your stuffed toys in the safety of your bedroom as a child. Then the next you have the responsibility of imparting knowledge, safety and wisdom on the young people before you.

Three years in, I am not quite as terrified as I was on that very first day — however, many soon-to-be teachers think teaching will be their avenue for “saving the world,” that all their students will love them, and all their lesson plans will be so incredible and engaging that they will never be “that” teacher with disciplinary problems. Oh, and summers… ahhh, summers! Need I say more about that one?!

While I am fully aware that I still have a long way to go on my path to being a more effective and confident teacher, here are twelve ways teaching has so far affected my thinking:

  1. All my students will love me – but that doesn’t mean that they will do what I want them to do!
    While some may love you more than others, most students do have love for their teachers, whether they admit it or not. They want your love and adoration – but setting clear boundaries as a teacher is as important as parents setting loving boundaries at home with their children. As their teachers, we want them to feel loved and cared for, after all students who know their teacher loves them will also work harder at trying to meet expectations. However, there is a difference between trying to be their “friend,” and setting clear expectations while also inviting your students to get to know you on a somewhat personal level. In my podcast chat with Melissa Ascencio, she talks about how she uses her sense of humor with students to help build relationships and trust.
  2. blog5Teaching is 90% Relationships and 10% academics.
    Much in the same frame as above, I have come to realize that teaching is a lot more than lesson plans and unit writing. Connie Lam talks honestly about her experience of being “thrown into just chaos” when she began teaching. She talks about how she wishes she had more support in building relationships and classroom management strategies with her specific population of students. It wasn’t until I moved from working in a standard classroom, which can be very formative based and numbers driven, to a Montessori school where I finally learned more about looking at the “whole child” and explicitly teaching solid strategies to meet their emotional needs that I began to really feel like I was becoming a teacher.
  3. My day is not done at 3, it’s not done at 5 either…
    A common misconception about becoming a teacher is that our jobs are flexible. Our students are dismissed by 3 (or even earlier at some schools) so, naturally a teacher’s day is now open to doing “whatever,” yeah right. One of the most common things I am hearing among all my podcast chats has been this common struggle among teachers about how to balance one’s personal life and teaching life. Think about it, all the emails that come in during the day, all the paperwork that needs to get done, lessons that need to get planned, meetings that need to take place, professional development and credentialing requirements, parents who need to check in, and so on… all those things cannot even be touched until all your children have been dismissed at the end of the day. I have come to learn that I need to be more efficient with my time to get things done. Something I am still working on.
  4. I cannot fix everything.
    Danielle David talks about not always having to have an answer. She shares how one of her biggest lessons as a teacher has been the realization that “the most valuable tool you can give to someone is your active listening… you’re just listening with your ears and heart.” As teachers, we can be made to feel like we should know everything and that we should know how to fix it all too. However, as a teacher I have learned that the most powerful tool I can give my students is the skill to learn the process of figuring things out. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know,” it’s ok to just teach how to listen with your “eyes, ears and heart.” Those lifelong skills will stay with them far into their future — and also relieves me from feeling like I need to have an answer to every question they may have.
  5. Teaching is not always fun.
    That’s right kids, sometimes your teacher doesn’t want to come to school either! As a career changer, I definitely feel like I spend my days more productively and walk away feeling more fulfilled than I did at previous jobs, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I just want to tear my hair out. Sometimes, teaching is just not fun, but it’s always meaningful, and it’s always challenging and it’s always different every day.
  6. Professional development can sometimes be a drag.
    I am what they call a “introverted extrovert,” which means that while I thrive on social interaction, I also gain energy from time alone. I enjoy sharing strategies, chatting and learning more about how I can be a better teacher – hence the development of these podcasts and blogs. However… there are times that professional development meetings can also feel like a drag. With so many things on a teacher’s plate during the day, it is often hard to concentrate during a PD meeting without also thinking of all the other things that you can be doing during that time.
  7. I’ve become more aware of the importance of self care.
    I feel so grateful to work for an Ashoka Changemaker school where mindfulness practices such as meditation, silence and empathy are embedded in our daily curriculum, as well as at our own staff meetings. With a background that started in corporate America, in the fast-paced city of New York, it has been so wonderful learning how to slow down. That said, just as I am still working on strategies on being more efficient with my time, I am still working on implementing mindfulness and self care into my daily life. However, being a teacher is all about modeling and I often model using strategies such as meditation, and deep breaths with my students and have seen it help them develop coping strategies at such an early age.
  8. I’ve come to appreciate having a growth mindset.
    It can be so easy to get caught up in scores, but being able to sit back and watch a child go from barely putting sounds together in the beginning of the year, to reading close to grade level in just a matter of months is so rewarding. They are growing, we are growing. The process should be just as celebrated as the outcome.
  9. No two teachers do things the same way.
    I mentioned before how much I enjoy collaborating with peers. When I first began teaching, however, I thought that I needed to copy exactly what other experienced teachers were doing in order to be successful. I soon realize that taking bits and pieces of strategies from other teachers and finding my own style would really be what feels natural and in the end lead to positive growth as a teacher.
  10. I absolutely appreciate parents who understand that mistakes are for learning and that it’s OK if there child is not happy ALL of the time.
    As a parent before becoming an educator, I was privy to lots of playground talks with other parents who were overly concerned with their child’s constant state of happiness. While I never really bought into that mindset, as I think teaching resilience and creativity that can, and often, comes out of things like frustration and boredom is actually healthier in the long term – I have come to appreciate so much other parents who also appreciate this kind of growth mindset for their child. It makes teaching their child so much easier because they are able to understand that mistakes are for learning!
  11. I’ve come to learn to let go of parent expectations – especially my own
    Often parents are the first to be blamed if their child falls short of expectations. As a mom of two boys, I have had many times where I felt that my boys behaviors were an absolute reflection of me, and while that may be true in many ways, it is not absolute. I appreciate that being a teacher, who is also a mom, I’ve been able to see each child for who they are without judging their parents. I could teach my son all about how important it is to follow directions in school, but I’ve come to face it, he is a social butterfly. His love of talking, in moments that aren’t always the best during class, does not make me a bad parent.
  12. Summer and holiday breaks fly by!
    That’s right folks… and as a career changer, I totally remember what it was like to only have five vacation days in a year. However, I have learned that teaching is such an enormous job, that when a break comes along, it is greatly needed! Also, to be even more honest, teachers are never really “off.” Whether planning, attending professional development conferences, setting up the classroom, or finding creative ways to raise money for classroom supplies – because well, if I wasn’t so set on wanting to not go over just 12 ways teaching has affected my thinking, I would add a 13th about how underpaid teachers are and how under-served many of the schools we work in can be, especially those of us who work in urban public schools.

Funny thing though readers, despite all I’ve listed, teaching has been the most rewarding and enriching career I have ever had the privilege of experiencing. And I guess, if I were to cheat and add a 13th after all, it would really be that one of the most everlasting ways teaching has affected the way I think it would be that I see the future in my children, and so I see the future very brightly!

By Jennifer Khadir

Want to be a Teacher? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

Teaching is something I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I had a chalkboard in my room and would “teach” my younger brother, along with all my stuffed animals and cabbage patch dolls — who I’d line up seated in a horseshoe shaped-U, in front of me as I lectured them on reading and writing.

blog4I was also an avid reader and writer myself and kept a number of composition books and various notebooks filled with short stories that I wish so badly I still had today. My dual passions for teaching and writing were always at odds and for most of my life I thought of as two separate entities pitting themselves against each other. I had to choose — be a writer, or be a teacher.

Writing won out at first as I spent most of my high school and college years dedicated to writing for and acting as editor for my school newspaper, respectively. Although teaching seemed to always be calling to me in the far ends of my mind, studying Journalism and ultimately landing a career in communications seemed more natural — at first.

When my family embarked on our cross-country move to the San Francisco Bay area from New York City back in 2011 I took the opportunity to go back to school and study education. Before committing to any program I spent a year volunteering at my son’s preschool, and visited many elementary classrooms as well. Once in my Masters program, I excelled – A’s all around!

I thought I was prepared, but very quickly realized once in the classroom that there was so much more that I didn’t consider, or think to ask myself ahead of time. One of my most recent chat with teacher podcasts with Danielle David, educator in the East Bay for over 11 years, touched on three questions any person considering a career in education should ask themselves. At about the 48:55 mark, you’ll hear Danielle suggest asking yourself the following:

  1. Do I really like kids?
    Danielle admitted that while this may seem like a no-brainer, that it is very important to consider your feelings about children. Whether you’re considering early elementary, middle school or High School — do you like being around young children, adolescents or teenagers. Your love of math may not be good enough to qualify you for being a math teacher in a room full of around 30 teenage students if you can’t stand being in the room with them in the first place.
  2. How am I going to balance the workload and my life?
    “I know that seems like putting the horse before the cart,” says Danielle, “but at the same time, it’s really important to have a work/life balance. Being a new teacher, it’ll eat you up if you let it.”
    Thinking about how to honor all the parts of your life that are important to you is good  advice in any career you choose, but as Danielle says, as a teacher “there will always be work, there will always be lessons to write, but you’re not always going to have that time to be with your family or that you could go and take an exercise class and you don’t want to lose yourself to try to get ahead.” If you’re not putting your best self forward, you’re not going to be able to forge long lasting relationships, a part of teaching that is extremely important, and often goes overlooked in teaching programs.
  3. How am I going to prepare myself for feedback that maybe isn’t so great?
    During our chat, Danielle shared a personal anecdote from her earlier years in the classroom. She talked about how an administrator once said “I don’t like your voice.” Danielle shared how hurtful that felt at first, but after some thought and reflection was able to figure out that she had been talking loudly over her students. She was able to take, what she referred to as badly worded constructive criticism, and turn it into a teachable moment that taught her to slow her pace and be more aware of her students engagement during lessons.
    “It is a very personal profession. You are out there on stage,” says Danielle, “people are going to come in and they’re going to have things to say about it [your teaching], it’s going to happen.”Danielle went on to say that despite the comments anyone gets, “people are going to get feedback that they don’t want to hear.” She suggests asking yourself, how will you be able to respond to that? She also recommends not being reactionary, and instead consider where the observer is coming from? How truthful are they? And, are they someone you trust?

Teaching has so far proven to be a profession that definitely requires one to have patience with children, and adults! It has also taken more of an effort to balance my life as a mother, wife, teacher and now blogger, than ever before. In a separate podcast with 16 year teaching veteran, Melissa Ascencio, we chatted candidly about what balancing her life as a teacher/mom meant to her — understanding that nothing can be equally balanced at the same time, that sometimes certain parts of your life required more attention than the others at any given time, but that as long as it all evens out in the end you have achieved some sort of balance.

And lastly, one thing I am so grateful to have learned as a teacher so far, has been this idea of tackling everything life throws my way with a growth mindset and willingness to improve for the betterment of myself and for the sake of my children…both my children at home and in my classroom.

by Jennifer Khadir