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Fake It Until You Make It

I've been in education for 18 years and the one phrase that always comes up again and again is "Fake It Until You Make It"...

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fake It Until You Make It

I've been in education for 18 years and the one phrase that always comes up again and again is "Fake It Until You Make It". Whether you are new to education or you're not an educator at all, you may be wondering what I am talking about, so let me explain. 

It's Monday morning. You woke up late, your dog got out of the house and ran off. You spent 10 minutes circling the neighborhood at 6:30 a.m. screaming "SCOUT" as loud as you could, only to find him squatting and peeing in your front yard when you arrive home. You then have to get to school where you know you will walk in late with a pile of things you left for Monday morning out on your desk. The bell is about to ring and students are waiting outside to come in and start their day. What do you do? You "Fake It Until You make It"! You take a giant drink of coffee, turn on some calming music, put a smile on your face, and greet those cherubs outside of your door just like you would any other day. You lift up your shoulders and make those kids think you had the best darn morning ever, so they can have the best darn day ever. 

It's Wednesday and you are exhausted, wondering how it can only be Wednesday. It is 2:00 and your students have been trying your patience ALL DAY LONG. You are in the middle of a math lesson and notice they are talking and off task. Inside your head, you are thinking of every other job you could be doing instead of this one, BUT, on the outside you are smiling and energetic. You have everyone get up for a quick movement brain break. You let those kids know that you need a brain break- not them- and do something silly. You "Fake It Until You Make It" because it not only helps your students, but it helps you break out of the negative thought process. They smile, maybe laugh or giggle. You are now ready to switch gears and either teach the content in a different, more engaging way, or continue on from where you left off because that little break was enough for both of you. 

It's Friday and all week you have been heading home immediately after work to more stress and chaos. Exhausted doesn't even begin to describe how tired you are. Maybe you are going through a rough spot in your marriage? Maybe your kids are in every sport imaginable and you are balancing being a working mom by grading papers or planning while watching a softball  or baseball game? Maybe you have a loved one who has been sick and you are balancing being there for that person and teaching 30 students on a daily basis? Whatever your situation is, by Friday we really have to put on our acting shoes and you've guessed it, "Fake It Until You Make It"! This is the day that you will get that Emmy nomination.

Today is the day that your students need you the most, and you are the most worn out. You will fake smile SO HARD today that your cheeks will hurt. You will be energetic and enthusiastic while repeating the same direction for the umpteenth time today. Today is the day of all days that you need to be the STAR of the show and let those cherubs know that you are there for them through the end. They will see this and will try harder for you today. The students that have challenged you all week will challenge you more today than other days because they are tired too. Try to remember they haven't had practice with "Faking It Until They Make It" and be as patient as you can. 

No one told me that I would have to be an actress when I became a teacher. I have learned over the years that my students see right through me. When I am frustrated or stressed, they can sense that. If I cannot pretend like learning about rocks is the best thing that ever happened to me in this world, then why would my students see the importance of that skill? Putting a smile on your face when you are most stressed out, may seem silly, but it does change the thought process in your head.
 So, if you have been struggling at the start of the school year with feeling stressed, frustrated, or not really interested in what you are teaching, just put a smile on your face and
"Fake It Until You Make It"!

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A New Year... A Fresh Start

The back to school nightmares started a few weeks ago for most of us. 

We went from being able to do whatever we wanted with a focus on our family and friends to setting up our classrooms and spaces and envisioning all of the new faces we will see for the next nine months. It went so fast! Some of us are ready to go back and have some routine, while others are digging in their heals holding on to the last few days of summer. 

Wherever you are, the one thing that is the same for all of us is: We get a fresh start!

You are not the only one who get's a fresh start this year. Your students are coming to you with lots of hopes and dreams also. 

There might be a student who was super quiet last year, and wants to open up more and make more friends. You may have the little girl who always talked, and has set a goal to be a better listener this year. Maybe you had a student who misbehaved ALL the time to show off for another classmate, and this is the year they want to turn that around. 

You have your own goals for this year too. 

You want to make sure you are connecting with students more and put a schedule in place to make sure you have one on one time with students. Maybe you realized that your writer's workshop wasn't exactly how you pictured it last year, so you are tweaking it to make it more successful with this classroom. It's possible that you had a very stressful year with many kids who came trauma to school, and you are ready and prepared for that this year with new tools and strategies to try. 

Here are a few tips from your coach for a successful school year:

  • Form relationships with your students by having morning meeting and closing circles. 
  • Spend the first 6 weeks getting to know as much as you can about your class with conversations and interest inventories. Instead of working while they are having playtime or quiet time, try to sit with a few students and just talk! 2 minutes is enough to find out what they are into. Find out what they like to read, do at home, and what makes them nervous. Then, plan your lessons around those interests!
  • Reach out to parents with surveys and involve them in your classroom. Communicate regularly with them through emails, Remind, or SeeSaw. When they come in and see how well you herd "kittens," they have a new appreciation for you and what you do every day. The other benefit is your students will have more adult attention and help. 
  • Expectations, Expectations, Expectations!! Think of everything you have to teach and practice in the classroom and do interactive modeling of those steps over and over again until they have it down pat!
  • Don't be afraid to stop and re-do said expectations. If the expectation is we transition from carpet to seats quietly in less than a minute and we have talking. STOP! Go back and practice it again. I promise it is annoying to you and those students that are following directions, but the rest of your year will be 100% better!
  • Plan ahead. The more and better planned you are, the less opportunities for students to be off task and get chatty. 
  • Look into energizers and brain breaks and have a list of them with directions ready. If your kids are getting chatty or moving around a lot, they need a break! They haven't had to sit and listen all summer. Just like they build up stamina for reading, writing, and math fluency, they will also need to build up stamina for listening and sitting for longer lengths of time. 

I cannot think of another career that gives you a chance to start over every year. In fact, each day is a fresh start. If today doesn't go the way you planned, reflect on what happened, and make changes for a new start the following day! Although the beginning of the year is stressful for both you and your students, it's important to think of it as a fresh start. You have or will have a new group, new smiling faces, new ideas, and because of that new strategies will have to be used. What you did last year that worked, may not work with this group and that's ok! Flexibility is the key to a successful new school year. 

I hope you have the best year ever!

Monday, April 23, 2018

End of the Year Anxieties...Everybody Has Them!

They start creeping in just before Spring Break but you are so busy with PARCC testing, parent teacher conferences, and planning those last field trips that you push them to the side. When you FINALLY get your Spring Break you enjoy it. You REALLYREALLY enjoy it. You needed this! You have busted your butt day in and day out, working 80+ hours a week to meet the needs of your students. Even if you don't go anywhere, you are just so happy that for one week you get to drink water whenever you want and go to the bathroom when you need to.  But then it happens...that Sunday comes. You know the one I am talking about: The Sunday right AFTER Spring Break! Suddenly they hit you hard. "The End of the Year Anxieties" have crept in and cannot be pushed away. You know what I am talking about. These are the thoughts that keep you up at night from that Sunday after Spring Break until the very last day of the school year. You wonder if you did everything you could for your students. You ponder over how you taught reading and math. You question if you have prepared them for the next year. Even worse, you wonder what your colleague will think when they see that Maddie cannot tell him or her the plot of the story she just read or when Mikey cannot tell him or her what an "interval" is. To top it all off, you have all of the end of year testing to see if students have met the standards for the year. There is no denying that the pressure is on... but I have a few reminders/tips for you at this time of the year that may help you get through the last few months of the school year.

  1. YOU need an outlet for yourself after work. Pick a vice and use it to help you relive some of that stress. For me it is a good workout. For you it may be a glass of your favorite wine. 
  2. LOOK back at Fall data. As teachers we want ALL of our students to succeed and be ready for that next grade level. But, the truth is, that many kids started so far behind and they may just not make it to grade level readiness. Looking back at Fall data and comparing it to where students are now will show you the LEAPS and BOUNDS these kiddos have made. They may not be where you wanted them to be at this point, but they have grown and improved over time!
  3. LOOK at how independent the students are now. This is because of all of YOUR hard work! YOU set the expectations and practiced routines and got them to this place. 
  4. LOOK at how students hug you and want to tell you their personal stories. They ONLY do this because YOU have created relationships with them and they trust you. 
  5. LOOK at how your students are talking about their math and reading strategies and how they can persevere through problems they encounter. This is only possible because YOU set the tone for your classroom and encouraged and modeled this with them. 
  6. LOOK at how your students can get on a Chromebook and create and share projects with one another, you, and their parents. They can only do this because YOU taught them how to, and by the way... they LOVE YOU for it!
There is so much to see if you open your eyes to the growth and changes that have occurred right before your eyes this year. Sometimes, it just takes a little reflection to see your impact. YOU DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE to your students; EVERY SINGLE DAY