Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Missing my Kids

I suppose this title could be confusing: Which kids is she missing? Her real kids (ages 22 and 23) or her 180 days a year kids? I didn't realize that I would be referring to both when I set out to write this, but I am.
My own kids are with me in spirit every day, and often through texting, facebook and phone! though both are way too far away for my liking. I just saw Nick last week and enjoyed spending time with him, Melissa ( his girlfriend) and their two dogs. Stef will be coming in a couple weeks on her way to Southern California and I will be so happy to see her. I recall one time telling her that when I have her and Nick with me I feel like I have all of my limbs attached.  I love my kids and have always promoted their autonomy, but I miss them so much. My own life is full of many important meaningful relationships with kids and families, and is made even better with a wonderful loving husband who shares many of my passions and soapboxes.
But this week, on top of that, I am missing my class. It's my intern's solo week and I am out of the classroom. Before you get the wrong idea, this does not mean I am strolling around, drinking coffee and wasting time! I am cleaning out my office, running off things for my Kindergarten team, finishing report cards, attending a day long equity training and presenting on it to staff.. yes, I am busy!
Busy, but missing something. Missing the hugs and stories from my students. Missing the inspiration to write, as their comments and learning "ahas" often inspire me to make connections and reflect on good teaching practice.
I know that they are in wonderful hands. I am confident that they are learning and thriving in my class this week. But selfishly, I miss them.  I suppose if I didn't, then, I would worry.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Looking in the Mirror: The Power of Self-Reflection

Last November I wrote a post about building self efficacy through daily self-reflection. I was on a mission to build independence and teach kids how to reflect on their behavior and learning at school.  Yesterday, as my husband and I enjoyed a nice conversation over dinner ( yes, yet again a discussion that came back to kids and school!) we began discussing how these daily self-evaluations are contributing to kids' growth. It struck me that the value of this practice is even greater than I intended.
Here are a few of the "aha's" and reasons why I will continue to have kids think about their respect, responsibility and safety at school and communicate their reflections to their parents each day.
  • One of the huge benefits of this practice is that each child is reflecting on his day and not looking to the teacher to "report" if he has had a "good" day or "bad" day. I have heard teachers tell parents that "Johnny" had a "bad" day. When I train kids to use this form, we don't use the words "good" and "bad". We talk about how some of the choices they made might have been wise choices or "not the best" choices where they "didn't think" before acting. We talk a lot about how sometimes a decision to act seems like a good choice but on further reflection, it's not such a great idea. Each day is a fresh start, where we know more about ourselves than the day before!
  •  As my students fill out their forms, I welcome them to solicit my input only after they have already thought about how they will rate themselves. Often kids are tougher on themselves than I would be, but their perceptions give me lots of information. It's a great opportunity to point out positive choices they may have overlooked. Sometimes they get stuck on one challenging moment and generalize it to the entire day. 
  • The report is a daily communication with parents and usually bears good news! I have seen the tendency for some teachers to only send reports home that focus on when a child has had difficulties that day.
  • The kids can fill out the form and know what the icons mean even if they can't yet read the words. The training period was probably about a week and after that, the kids were able to fill them out on their own.
  • The evaluation generates a conversation between the teacher and the student about how "we" can work together to have success in the classroom. When a child has had some tough times focusing and getting work done, and the evidence is in the unfinished pile of work, we can brainstorm together with the parents about possible strategies to help him/her solve the problem. When kids begin to realize that they need fewer distractions, or that when they are tired they don't work as well, they can begin to take responsibility in the classroom and ask the teacher for a "quiet area" to work in or an earlier bedtime from parents. Believe it or not, I have had kids go home and tell their parents that they need more sleep!  
          These are just a few of the reasons why I will continue to have my kids reflect. Most importantly, so far, is that happy, engaged and independent learners come to school excited and "ready for a challenge" each day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

They Want to Know..About us

A few days ago I was reminded of an important lesson about working with kids. As I closed down a presentation featuring pictures of my students during recent lessons, a voice cried out from the crowd of 5 year old fans. "Show us that picture! " "That Picture" was a family picture of my visit to my Dad's house at Christmas. I hadn't planned on taking a 5 minute diversion into  "my life story" because that wasn't on my lesson plan. But what happened next was indeed, a vivid example of the "teachable moment" and the importance of relationship.
As they giggled at the silver haired man I called, "my dad", questions flew. "Who's that next to him?" "Is that your mom?" Oh great, I thought. Now I have to explain that my mom died 10 years ago and that the woman next to my dad is my stepmom. There was a moment of silence and then more questions. " Do you miss her?" "How did she die?" Then came the spontaneous sharing of empathetic little souls," My grandma died too, and I miss her too." I heard and saw students comforting each other with hugs and kind comments.
 The scene reminded me of those moments in the car when my children were small and they asked much braver questions than when we sat face to face, eye to eye. In the dark room, illuminated by the light of the projector, I took the time to ease the curious minds and share with them just a little more about me. I think we all grew a step closer to understanding each other that day. And, of course, I learned more about the nature of relationship: we want to know about each other and we yearn to care.