Cherish It

Cherish It

If ever you need proof that creating engaging experiences is worth it, just listen to your kids.  Today my class started the day with the daily discussion question, “What have you loved most about fifth grade?”  The kids answer the question, give evidence for their answers and then conclude with a, “So what?” inference which addresses the bigger picture.

One student stood proudly on her chair as she expressed how much she loved the, “special types of lessons we do.”  She gave two examples of hard concepts that she felt she learned because of the game and the song, respectively, that went along with each lesson.  Then came her, “So what?” inference.

“So, if you get the chance to have special lessons, cherish it!

In one sentence, goosebumps covered my arms and every late night of planning, every trip to the dollar store, every summer brainstorming session with my Teach like a Pirate hook chart and every alien look I ever received was instantly worth it.

We, as educators, have the chance to positively impact the lives of children.  We have been given the opportunity to create experiences our students will never forget.  Cherish it!

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I Appreciate You

As I connect to an increasing number of educators around the country and world, I can’t help but realize how many amazing people work in our profession.  I mean, truly, I am in awe.  The things you see on social media are nothing short of incredible.  People pour their hearts out for kids moment after moment, day after day and it is a beautiful thing.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I’d like to recognize five educators who inspire me.  It’s easy for leaders to rise to the top of the field and stick exclusively to other leading educators.  The people that I respect the most make everyone around them feel noticed and appreciated, no matter what kind of status those people have.  All five of my 2017 Education Heroes stand out because they notice all people.

Hero

RYAN MCLANE (@McLane_Ryan)

When I first started out on Twitter, many of my tweets fell on deaf ears.  But I always noticed one thing.  Ryan McLane was listening. He’d retweet, like and respond to my thoughts when no one else did.  Then, about a year ago, I decided to start this blog.  I wanted to become a connected blogger but didn’t really know where to start.  I threw something out there on Twitter and Ryan connected me to the Compelled Tribe.  His response opened countless doors for me.  What I love most about Ryan is that even though we have never met, he has never seen me teach and he has no reason to support me, he does.  Thank you for hearing my voice, Ryan.  I appreciate you.

PAUL SOLARZ (@PaulSolarz)

I love that Paul is a phenomenal teacher and he hasn’t left the classroom for the world of administration.  It gives me hope that I might be brave enough to do the same.  He is a true expert when it comes to turning things over to the kids and giving them ownership.  Although we’ve never met, I have always felt like his classroom is a “brother” classroom to mine because of our similar teaching styles.  He pushes me to turn as much as I can over to my students.  His knowledge of best practices is immeasurable and it is obvious that he is passionate about sharing his ideas.  Paul doesn’t brag or boast and is always available to answer a question or share a resource.  Thank you for pushing me to dig deeper, Paul.  I appreciate you.

ADAM WELCOME (@awelcome)

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Adam is an innovator.  He’s honest and shares what our profession needs to hear.  He’s a fearless leader who dares to ask the question, “Why not?”  More than anything, Adam is a good person.  He’s active on our KDI Voxer group.  And get this!  Earlier this week he flew from California to a speaking engagement in New York, where I live.  Most people would have gone straight to the speaking engagement and then flown home.  Not Adam!  Instead of stopping at his hotel to rest after taking the red eye to New York, he found out where I teach and drove an hour each way to hang out.  It was a visit I’ll never forget.  Thank you for making me feel seen, Adam.  I appreciate you.

DAN TRICARICO (@thezenteacher)

Dan shares an important message in his book.  You can be an educator and live a balanced life.  Do you feel like you just read that sentence wrong?  Well, you didn’t.  It’s true!  Dan reminds us that we are better for our students when we take care of ourselves first.  If I had to give only one book to every educator, The Zen Teacher would be it.  When I first started teaching, I noticed that everyone I admired in the field of education worked 24/7 which left me wondering if that was the only recipe for success.  I’ve since learned that you can pour your heart into what you do, get kids to thrive in the classroom and, wait for it… have a life!  Thank you for giving educators permission to take care of themselves, Dan.  I appreciate you.

DAVE BURGESS (@burgessdave)

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That’s right!  Only a pirate can make this list two years in a row.  But honestly, after reflecting on the last year, Dave had to stay on the list.  Look at the previous four people who have inspired me… all DBC writers.  Dave gives a voice to seemingly ordinary people and shines a spotlight on all of the extraordinary things they do.  Have a question? He’ll respond.  Share an idea?  He’ll retweet it.  Hosting a chat?  He’ll be there to participate in it.  He doesn’t have to but these things are, hands down, what separate him from the rest of the pack.  As I learn more and more about leaders in education, I am more and more impressed by Dave.  Few go out of their way to remember the “small educators” once they’ve found their own success.  Not only does Dave remember the small people but he makes them feel big.  Thank you for steering the education ship, Dave.  I appreciate you.

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Capping Off the Year with Compliments

Soon enough all of our staff will be lined up on the sidewalk of our school.  It will be a steamy day in late June.   We’ll be watching the buses drive off one last time.  The smell of diesel will fill the air.  Bus drivers will be blaring their horns.  Kids will be waving from the bus windows, some with summer smiles adorning their faces, others with tears streaming down their faces.  I’ll be choking back tears as memories of a school year that has, once again, disappeared all too soon flood my mind.  It’s a tear-jerking, beautiful tradition that marks the end of our school year.

In the days leading up to this moment, my students won’t be signing yearbooks.  In fact, it is rare for anyone in my class to purchase one.  Instead, in years past, the kids would grab a piece of paper and have all of their classmates sign it.  They wanted something to hold onto, some sort of physical reminder of their classmates, as they left for summer vacation.  Knowing this paper would quickly become lost, I wanted to send my students home with something to treasure but I struggled to find something meaningful.  Fortunately, thanks to social media, I came across an idea that my students really enjoy.

Compliment Cap Supplies

In the last few days of school, we take time to reflect on the strengths of each member of our classroom family.  The students brainstorm independently and then write out their compliments.  They make sure the compliments are very specific and unique to each recipient.  I purchase blank hats and fabric markers.  Every student gets a hat.  Then, the students write one compliment for each child on his/her hat.  In the end, the kids have colorful hats full of compliments from their classmates.  It’s a phenomenal way for students to cap off the end of the year!

Compliment Caps

*The photo of the hats has been blurred to protect the confidentiality of students.  The hats are usually much brighter.*