Reflection on “Holding on to our Kids in a Peer Culture”

Mate, Gabor. (2010). Holding onto our kids in a peer culture. Education Canada 50(1),

61-63.

 

Relationships, relationships, relationships! Is this what is missing in our students lives? Are the students too peer oriented to develop their own independence and maturity? Teaching middle school, I see more and more students who are behaving in ways that, at first, one may think it is to be the bad kid, the class clown. I have always been a believer in the ones that need our love and care the most go about it in all the wrong ways.

I am often connecting with the kids that act out, who are disrespectful and rude. I see that they are craving the connection with a safe adult who can provide them with a sense of belonging. They are looking to be seen and heard. Going back to The Circle of Courage, is this what has caused the broken circles? The loss of the parent/elder and child relationship?

I can see how peer connections begin to take over a child’s life. Everything is so connected through social media and instant gratification and the adults of this generation are still learning the ways of social media. We are unable to stay on top the digital world, we have no idea what are children are doing or who they are interacting with online. The adults are getting left behind and the connections to the children are getting lost.

How can we help foster the importance of healthy adult attachments? As educators we have an opportunity to model and create healthy relationships with our students.  We have the ability to connect with the students to help guide them creating and maintaining healthy relationships. We have the ability to create lessons and activities to model healthy and caring adult/child relationships. “Our children want to belong to us, even if they don’t know it or feel it, and even if their words or actions seem to signal the opposite. We can reclaim our proper role as their nurturers and mentors.” (Mate 2010)

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Reflection on The Circle of Courage

Reflection on  

Brendtro, Larry K., Brokenleg, Martin, & Van Bockern, Steve. (2005).  The Circle of Courage and positive psychology. Reclaiming children and youth: The Journal of Strength Based Interventions 14(3), 130-136. 

 

Looking back over the students I work with, I can understand Dr. Brokenleg’s metaphor about students who are missing parts of The Circle of Courage.  I began to think and wonder how many kids today live and survive in broken circles (Brendtro, Brokenleg,  & Van Bockern 2005). The term broken circles resonated with me, I was able to take a step back and look into my students lives to maybe gain a better outlook into where they are coming from. 

Many of the students I work with struggle with independence. Some are coddled and not given an opportunity to struggle and gain confidence in themselves, while others are given too much independence and are parentified. Some of our families, expect the eleven and twelve years old to pick up their younger siblings and to care for them as their guardian is working long into the evening. When I try to encourage independence with my students many feel helpless and unsure of themselves. I see it is a struggle for many of the students to trust themselves. I believe that is where they will gain motivation within themselves to persevere.  

The sense of belonging is at the core of where I teach. My goal  as a teacher has always been to create a safe environment, a sense of community and family, and place to feel safe to take risks to learn and understand. I see how the sense of belonging is getting lost amongst our schools. I see it in the length of our school hallways, adults and children passing each other without a look. I love to greet and speak to the students in the halls. When I see and speak their names, it is like a light bulb goes on for them. Our students need to feel seen, heard, appreciated, and cared for.  

Mastery, this one I feel is a difficult to obtain in many schools.  Educators need to let go of the expectations of grade levels, and focus on the strengths of each individual child. We need to focus on changing the mindsets of the students, to show them that the goal to any lesson isn’t the letter grade but it is the journey of understanding. More importantly, we need to change the mindset of the teachers, maybe we need to change how we teach teachers in order to teach our students.  

Kindness and Generosity is the key to building a safe and caring classroom and school.  Kind for kindness sake is something that I see in my classroom daily.  I believe as a class community you help foster kindness and generosity. We spend a lot of time on gratitude in our room. I see how deep the lessons go for some of my students. They now look for the reaction in each others faces and they understand how it feels to give. 

Programs like, Second Step and Kids in the Know build on The Circle of Courage. These programs help to guide educators into how we can foster, embrace, teach, live in The Circle of Courage. I believe the students and educators need to see and feel the importance of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. If we do not experience how will we understand what the students are missing, wanting, needing? 

Reflection and refining keep coming into my head as I read this article. As educators we need to gain perspective around our students’ lives.  Schools have the capacities to teach, recognize, believe in The Circle of Courage, and we have far too many students living within a broken circle. Students need; belonging where they feel safe and have a trusted adult in their lives. Mastery, to understand who they are and see their own strengths. Independence, trusting themselves and having choice. Generosity, a community  and an opportunity to give back.       

Where Am I Going?

I have been doing a lot of reading over the past few days around innovation and inclusion. I am struggling with where I want to take my studies, where do I want to dig into my practice as a teacher and a mentor. I was feeling like I wanted to focus on how I encourage others to take part in professional development. Now I feel that has changed.

Today I feel I would like to do what I have always done for my students. I want to empower, I want to be innovative, I want to inspire. I think my biggest obstacle is knowing that I am good at what I do. My heart and mind has always been in the right place, and yes I know it has been questioned and sometimes convinced I was wrong…not going with my gut. In the end I know what I stand for and I know why I teach.

I look around and I become frustrated with our school system, I see what it can be and I want change. I believe I have been going at it in a very wrong way. I have realized I need to go back to where my heart lies, the students. I have many students who have stayed in my heart for years, and it is those kids that inspire me to make a difference. I hold on to those moments I had with them, when nothing was said but it was known that something great was happening.

Reading, Sokal and Katz article,”Oh Canada: Bridges and Barriers to Inclusion in Canadian Schools” made me go back in my teaching career and it reminded me of the role of the teacher. They started speaking of pre-service teachers and the lack of programs and training, and in my head I was screaming, NO! We are the role models not only for the teachers but more importantly the students. It is our responsibility to model what inclusion is.

Sokal and Katz talk about how we in Canada seem to be missing the social inclusion piece, and that that is where my heart is. The students observe and take note of how we work with each student and staff  member in our rooms and hallways. They see our daily interactions and they copy us. I do not need to explain why one student is allowed to have a calculator or why one student is allowed to take a break, or why some of us would rather talk about the lessons than write about it. I value each of my students for who they each are, and that is what I want I inspire in my students, to see each other as who they are.

Sokal and Katz discuss the third need of attention in Canadian schools, mental health. For me, this is my struggle right now.  I realize that because I am who I am, I am given the students who need to be seen and heard and in all the ways they demand it. I can not say no, and I don’t think I would ever turn a child away. This year and last year have been a bumpy journey. I feel that I am missing some understanding of mental health, and I seek out people and readings to help me find ways to better understand my students.Yes, it takes time but in the long run that is what we do as learners.

This winter I hit a wall. I am feeling I am spread too thin,I am tired, I am worried, I am overwhelmed, and I am afraid for some of my students. I feel that there is not enough of me to give the attention my students need me to give.  Another thing I am this year, is disappointed. I am disappointed of the lack of support we have, I am disappointed with the lack of leadership around inclusion we have, I am disappointed seeing my students in a new grade shoved to side and excluded after being a part of a community for two years, I am disappointed with how tired we are, and how many of us are just getting through the day. I am disappointed in myself for not staying positive.

For me, to stay positive, I know what I need to do. I am going back to my SEL roots, and I am going to focus on the students. That is why I do what I do, to inspire to comfort, to hold up, to encourage, and to see and hear my students.  If by chance I am able to inspire others around me to do the same, then I am okay with that too. I need to remind myself that my positivity and outlook can be reflected into my students, just like when they see how I treat each individual that comes into our school.

 

Am I in the Same Place?

 

Have things changed for me? Am I still hoping for the same thing? Here is an excerpt from a blog I wrote during our last strike.

“The biggest reason why I became a teacher is the kids. My hope is to encourage students to want to learn, to ignite their learning passion, to understand themselves as learners. Listening to the students discuss their thoughts and feelings encourages me to stand up for what I believe in. I look at each of my students and I see them, I understand them, and I hear them. I only hope that I can continue to make those connections, build those relationships, and hear each student.” June 2014

I believe I will always be here, however now I am thinking bigger. I have been reading “The Innovator’s Mindset,” by George Couros and I have to say I am feeling inspired and excited about my new journey into my own practice. One thing that stuck out for me in what Couros says is the difference between the classroom teacher and the school teacher.

A classroom teacher is the the teacher who does all they can to be there to inspire the students. To empower them to do well, to connect with the students. The teacher that has a community within their classroom, where the kids feel safe to take risks and try things out. To find their passion.

A school teacher does all of the above, but sees and recognizes all students of the school community. They help to define and develop a school culture throughout the building. They see and hear all students. This is what I strive for, I want to find ways where I can become an “innovator leader” in the school. To help empower all learners.

Where Am I Now?

I have not blogged since 2014, and that is a long time ago! Since then I know I have grown as a teacher, and especially as a learner. I feel that the craving for new understandings of teaching and learning have brought me back to school, myself. I am found myself going to Twitter to re-connect and connect with educators from around the world to deepen my learning.

I felt myself becoming disengaged from what teaching means to me. It is easy to get caught up in the negativity, and the frustrations around implementations of re-designed curriculum, new reporting templates, and the needs of each individual student. However, the negative feelings I was having was not around any of those, in fact I found that was what was inspiring me to get back to myself.  I soon began reflecting on what was dragging me down and causing me to second guess my career.

I am not one to shy away from change or a challenge. I believe that diving into the re-deigned curriculum and CSL (communicating student learning AKA the report card) was a downfall for me. Yes, it was invigorating and exciting to tackle the new challenges, and yes I loved the “new curriculum’ very much. I loved it so much I was put into a role to promote it and help others with it, and that is where I felt myself getting dragged down.

I was no longer a proponent for the re-designed curriculum but more of a defender. I found when I did workshops or Pro D in services for my staff I was on the defense, a place that I am not overly comfortable with.  I try to make myself available to others whenever I can to help, however I was getting pulled into rooms and being told, I have a question about the new curriculum and then BOOM! Within seconds I was being attacked for believing in it.

Now, this happened many times, and I did persevere and slowly I had others coming to me for collaboration.  Over time, I felt myself becoming disengaged with professional development, which I love. I realized I had to focus on my own professional development and let go of what others were doing or not doing with the new curriculum.

My journey back into Twitter came to me because I realized I needed to be engaged again. I wanted to get back to why I do what I do, and love it! It was a few weeks when I started looking into going back to school, to complete my masters. I am so fortunate to have friends and colleagues who  pushed me to do this for me.  I feel inspired again, and on days that I am feeling dragged down I know that Tuesday nights will always be there to lift me up again.

This journey I am on is an exciting one for me. I see that I am wanting change on a bigger scale than my classroom, like during my TLTC journey.  I need to think of how am I going to inspire change, to promote change and empowerment to all learners, note I said learners, which means all of us not just the students.

 

Why am I here, today?

I have been feeling broken these past few days with everything that has been going on, and this morning I woke up with an urge to get my feelings out and to be heard.  Over the past three days I have had many discussions with colleagues, parents, friends, and families. I have been struggling with the sense of disconnect with what is happening to the public education system, a system for which I have been proud to be a part of. Over the past three days two things happened that made me realize what it is I am hoping for our students.

The first happened on Wednesday.  I was walking in front of my school, with my colleagues, when we were approached by a fellow teacher who now works for the BCTF. She was gathering information about the strike and wanted to hear from us, the teachers. She asked me a simple question, “Why are you here, today?” A million reasons ran through my head, but she encouraged me to just speak from my heart.

I am holding a sign and walking with my colleagues because I am very worried about the classroom environment. I am a teacher, like many others, who strongly believe that school is about community and relationships. School is built on relationships with parents, teachers, support staff, and the most important our students. I go home every day thinking of the students I did not get to chat with during the day, and I am left wondering how their day went, what struggles did they have,what successes did they have, how their dance competition went, what was the score of last nights soccer game etc…

The second thing that happened yesterday, with “my kids” during our weekly circle. I asked them what it is that they need to be the best of who they are. We discussed the difference between needs and wants, and the kids filled the board with things from shelter, love, support, food, sports, the need to have feeling of love towards something, and many more. Next I asked them what do they feel when those needs are not met, what are their feelings when they are not getting what they need. Again, the students filled the board with amazing thoughts; sad, depressed, tired, anxious, frustrated. Some feelings were said more often than any other; they feel lonely and unheard, invisible, and someone without a voice.

I sat in awe of my students as they discussed how they feel when their needs are not met. I could not stop thinking of all the times I just could not get to the students to simply ask them about their day, their weekend, or just how are you today. I have always made it my goal to reach every child in my class at least two times a day, not including the teaching time, just two times to connect with the students, to hear them, to understand and know what their lives are all about. I believe if I know my students, if I get my students, if I know what makes them tick, I will be able to create lessons that engage them, encourage them, and ignite them.

One of the biggest reasons I became a teacher is because I had teachers that connected with me. I was lucky enough to have teachers that made me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to, that made me feel heard. Thank you to Mr. Carson, Mr. Hogan, Mr. Wilkenson, Ms. Davies, Mr. Berry, and so many more for making me the teacher I am today. Thank you for making me see what it is to be a teacher, and thank you for  reminding me why I am out standing with my fellow colleagues.

The biggest reason why I became a teacher is the kids. My hope is to encourage students to want to learn, to ignite their learning passion, to understand themselves as learners.  Listening to the students discuss their thoughts and feelings encourages me to stand up for what I believe in. I look at each of my students and I see them, I understand them, and I hear them. I only hope that I can continue to make those connections, build those relationships, and hear each student.

 

Heading Back Tomorrow…

    School starts tomorrow, and I have to say I am more excited than I have been in a long while! This has been my first summer completely off in a very long time! Between teaching summer school and finishing up my post baccalaureate, summers have been busy! I am so eager to start this year off with an amazing class!

    This year I am going to try to implement a lot of changes to myself, not the classroom but to me. I am hoping my changes will then bring a more open classroom environment to the community of learners in the class. One of my biggest aims will to not sweat the small stuff. I want to be able to just let things go that really, in the grand scheme of things, are not all that important.

      Another goal I have for myself is to be mindful and positive in all areas of the workplace. I want to be more mindful of what people are saying to me and ask myself where they are coming from. At the same time I want to encourage a shift at our school level community, to practice what we want to teach, social emotional learning. We can not teach it if we are not practicing it ourselves.

       I am feeling excited and a little nervous about the upcoming school year. I am hoping to encourage a change at our school, in regards to how we develop relationships with the students, the parents, and each other. I want the school to feel like a community of learners, not each class hidden from the rest.

        Most of all, I am excited to meet the students that will I have the privilege to learn with this year. I am looking forward to seeing what the year will bring us and what we have in store for the year!