Doing the Heavy Lifting

Our blog post, due to the senstive nature, is submitted by an anonymous writer this week.  Our thoughts go to this teacher and any other educator ever put in her situation.

My daughter is a third-generation teacher—following in the footsteps of her paternal grandfather, maternal grandmother and father. By all accounts, she is a special teacher respected by her students and fellow teachers alike. When I phoned her this weekend, I asked the usual…how was your week? I expected her to say… these early weeks of the school year are exhausting, I already have a number of IEP’s to work on, or the homecoming activities have been fun, but I would not have expected to hear her say…I received a death threat from one of my students. Thirty-six years of teaching experience provided inadequate preparation for me to respond.

Courageously, she described what happened and how the school principal and others responded. I wondered if they had done enough to protect my little girl turned accomplished young woman. I know she went to a fine college and had good teacher preparation, but nothing could prepare her or me for this situation.

She has demonstrated the courage I see in most teachers on a daily basis. Each and every day, teachers across this nation look into the eyes of their students and see the sacred souls of individuals with unknown potentials, hopes and dreams, and innate yearnings for knowing their world. It is a humbling responsibility and vulnerable act to make a positive future possible with your students. I don’t know the student who made the death threat…nor would my professional daughter divulge such information, but I can’t help but wonder what this individual’s future holds. Will the student reach his/her full-potential? Will my daughter be able to, with her kind heart and strong teaching skills, make a difference with this student?

One of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer, writes of how great teachers are involved in an exercise of daily vulnerability. He suggests teaching is situated at the edge or intersection of the private and the public.

“But a good teacher must stand where personal and public meet, dealing with the thundering flow of traffic at an intersection where “weaving a web of connectedness” feels more like crossing a freeway on foot. As we try to connect ourselves and our subjects with our students, we make ourselves, as well as our subjects, vulnerable to indifference, judgment, ridicule.” I would now add…death threats to the list.

While I still have few words to say to my daughter about her recent experience, I say to her and all teachers doing the heavy lifting in the classroom…be courageous. Continue to see the potential in your students, continue weaving your web, and always be true to self and to the public life of being a teacher.

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Living and Dying by Lists

The following post is from one of our favorite bloggers, Teacher Mom.

Most people think I’m very organized. I think I am organized at work and at home, but deep down in my heart, sometimes I don’t feel organized. Sometimes I feel like the list is leading me right over the cliff! It is quite the quandary.

Organization is a life skill that I have acquired over 50-some years of living. A few people have guided me. My parents, for example, were both list-makers. I remember seeing lists on the kitchen table in both their handwriting, and noted the items crossed-off as almost a mark of pride for them in daily life. For me, the lists became essential when I entered the realm of parenting, because it was then I truly had to juggle two worlds – home and work. The lists of “must-do” and “gotta-get-done” were endless. I have used a range of tools to make and keep my lists handy – from scrap paper on the counter, to a special notebook, a calendar page, and now to my I-phone notes application. I, too, take great pride in the accomplishment of tasks on my list, and crossing off items provides a simple “high” for me on any day.

Sounds like a successful and productive habit, right? Yes…..and no! Here’s the catch: my lists, once created, tend to float, dance, or race around my brain. I always keep a list of things to do – never lived a day in my adulthood without one. And sometimes the ominous list haunts me; it makes me feel like I’m never caught up, always struggling to get more done in one day. It has been wisely suggested to me that I check my lists, add to them, subtract from them, only a couple times a day. And in between, I should go about my life and work without checking in on them. Leave the lists alone with the tasks. They will be there with all the important ideas whenever I need to check in on my productivity status, or be reminded of what I should do next. Balance…..here comes that flashing lightbulb again. Make the list, check in with it, but don’t hyperventilate and let it overwhelm me. There is always tomorrow to get more done.

Today I need to be both productive and peaceful. It always begins with a deep breath.

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Psst…I’m a New Teacher

Some experiences fade after a while: childbirth, a well-cooked meal, first love…but nothing sits so prominently in the mind of most teachers as his or her First Year of Teaching:
• The kids
• The curriculum
• The feelings of elation and exhaustion
• The colleagues
• The constant motion of LEARNING.

Not unlike the timeless “uphill and both ways” scenarios we’ve all heard, upon reflection of their First Year, teachers often remember the general state of “lost.”

Some First Year Teachers are given a strong mentor, a walk-in-and-teach-it curriculum, and space to really establish their space and their practice; however sometimes, the bright, energetic and thoughtful people who dream of making a difference through teaching are faced with lists of unknowns, and are often at a loss when it comes to who to ask, what to ask, and how to manage. It’s a tough spot, to be sure.  But never fear, we are here for you!

Learner’s Edge teachers vividly remember our First Year, and want to make sure that First Year Teachers can experience all the great and powerful learning opportunities that organically happen in the First Year.

So, we have established a few pieces that will help: our new teacher community (NTC):  Pssst….I’m a New Teacher,  a free tutorial on the NTC based on the text, The New Teacher Book, and a free Toolkit o’ Fun.

Psst….I’m a New Teacher is especially for First Year Teachers: a place to interact with peer and mentor teachers, and to learn about new and exciting resources that can be used NOW.
• The Toolkit o’ Fun is to thank First Year Teachers for joining one of the most important professions in the world, and to give you some free goodies! Included is The New Teacher Book which will appeal to every New Teacher – from kindergarten to high school, and is a resource for our free online tutorial. You’ll find the toolkit and many other resources on the Psst….I’m a New Teacher site!

The blessing and the curse of teaching is that it is one of the most personal investments one can make: it tugs at the heart, pushes the brain, and challenges the self in a multitude of ways. We are elated about all that we are able to offer the First Year Teachers so that they feel supported, affirmed, and ready to dive in.

Please check out the site and invite your First Year Teacher colleagues to join!

Posted in Connecting With Students, General Education, Inspiration, Interesting, Just for Fun, Teacher Performance, Tools We Love, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Power of Mentorship

men·tor

/ˈmɛntɔr, -tər/ Show Spelled [men-tawr, -ter] noun

1. a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.
2. an influential senior sponsor or supporter.

Mentoring is beneficial for the mentor and mentee is so many ways.  Some benefits may not be realized until  the mentee is an adult and may no longer be in touch with the mentor.

Guest blogger Don MacPherson is the President and Co-founder of Modern Survey and a mentor. His areas of expertise include understanding employee and customer motivations, development of effective leadership, and creating processes for gathering feedback from transitioning employees.

He writes about his experience as a youth mentor and the long term benefits of mentoring.
Check it out at: http://www.modernsurvey.com/blog/a-very-special-anniversary

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What are you reading?

Forget Oprah’s book list, check out what the Edge staff is reading!

The curriculum staff at the Edge reads all the texts used in our courses and many more that don’t make the cut.  We believe strongly in professional development which is why we create fantastic courses for educators;  we also want to continue our own professional development and one way we do this is through all staff and small group book studies. 

The following titles are some of our favorites.

The Truth About LeadershipThe Truth about Leadership, the no-fads, heart of the matter facts you need to know by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z Posner.
This book breaks down leadership into ten time tested truths. It gives the reader a knowledge base for building a foundation for leadership and explores characteristics leaders need to possess to be successful; including having and listening to your heart.  A quick, yet thought provoking read!

mindsetMindset by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
Do you have a fixed or growth mindset? Want to increase your feelings of success?  Dweck explores the power of our mindset through the areas of leadership, love and parenting. Get to know yourself and your frame of mind by reading this text. 

Start With WhyStart with Why, how great leaders inspire everyone to take action by Simon Sinek.
Can you and your organization explain WHY you do what you do? Most can explain the HOW and WHAT but according to Sinek the WHY is the inspiration behind it all. This book explores Apple, Southwest and others to show how they became so successful starting with WHY. Check it out!

What are you reading?  Tell us about it!

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Noncognitve Learning Measures

What are noncognitive learning measures and how do they affect student achievement?

Read guest blogger, Alan Boyle’s piece and see how this information can take you beyond social skills to increased test scores and overall knowledge.

http://www.onlineeducation.net/2013/02/04/noncognitive-measures-the-academic-trend-that-could-change-everything

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Keeping the Flame Lit

Guest blogger, Stevie Ray is a nationally recognized speaker concerning communication skills, customer service, leadership, and team management. He can be reached at stevie@stevierays.org 

www.stevierays.org 
Keeping the Flame Lit without Burning Out

There is an old axiom I learned from a marketing expert, People trust the familiar, yet desire the novel. In marketing this is used as a reminder to infuse tried-and-trusted products with a little flair. That way the consumer won’t get bored, but also won’t be asked to make too big a stretch when presented with something new. This is also a good reminder for us all when it comes to avoiding burn-out.
Burn-out comes to everyone differently because we are all engaged in work that either feels like work or feels like play. For those lucky enough to be able to work at what they truly love, burn-out is an unfamiliar feeling because their work is their play. For everyone else, it is vital to know how to bring novelty to the familiar routine.
A friend once asked me how many days a week I spend running my business. After some thought I replied that I don’t know of very many days that I don’t do something related to my company. She scowled and said, “You work too hard.” I replied, “Any yet I never feel like I need a vacation. Other people need to get away at least a few times a year; sometimes for big, exciting trips. I like to travel and vacation, but I never feel the need to.” I can feel this way, not just because I love my work, but because of how I manage my brain’s need for novelty.
Simple neurology dictates that the brain achieves a state of calm by engaging in familiar behaviors on a regular basis. Familiarity leads to productivity, which leads to a feeling of positive self-worth. This is, in a nutshell, our Comfort Zone. The Comfort Zone theory was created by two psychologists in the early 1900s.
Robert Yerkes and J.D. Dodson were studying the effects of stress on the brain, and the resulting ability for the brain to learn and grow. The Comfort Zone is marked by certain qualities: high familiarity with your surroundings and daily tasks, and high productivity. The downside of the Comfort Zone is that very little learning occurs. You are comfortable because of the familiar, but not necessarily challenged. Every now and then you must step in to the next zone, the Risk Zone. The Risk Zone is characterized by low familiarity, which causes a drop in productivity and a slight raise in stress. However, learning spikes to extremely high levels in the Risk Zone (this is called the Yerkes-Dodson Learning Curve). A brief foray into the Risk Zone allows you to return to the Comfort Zone refreshed and able to approach your work with a fresh perspective.
The slight stress of the Risk Zone is not a problem. A moderate amount of stress is actually healthy for us; it improves focus and provides needed excitement. Too much stress, of course, is another matter. Bad stress is a product of the third zone, the Panic Zone. If you go too far past Risk and into Panic, you’re in trouble. The Panic Zone is characterized by the immanent risk of a loss of something of value.
What human beings value the most, besides food and shelter, is our self-image. If our self-image is threatened we immediately retreat to the Comfort Zone. We re-establish our self-worth by doing things with which we are familiar. However, because we experienced Panic, we are far less likely to venture away from the Comfort Zone again. The resulting loss of learning will cause a slow decline in the brain; we lose the vital excitement of the Risk Zone and eventually burn out.
What all this means is that, to avoid burn-out, we must seek out ways to infuse risk into our work every now and then. The risk should be manageable, not career-threatening. We should do an old task in a new way. Not because there was anything wrong with the old way, but because the brain needs a shot of novelty and excitement every now and then in order to learn, grow, and be happy. If you do step too far and experience a little panic, recognize what is happening so you can consciously avoid the trap of staying in the Comfort Zone too long.
You don’t have to do wild and crazy things to infuse excitement and avoid burn-out, just make it a priority to change your routine and take a risk. The reward is a refreshed and learning brain, and less of an urge to get away from it all.

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