Within the 21st Century, every institution is experiencing a shift within it’s framework: Change is EVERYWHERE. Often, it’s messy, not a pretty picture, and it’s not always easy. Though change is natural to the intentional order of life, however, it’s not always welcome within the human condition. Some of us embrace change for it seems so “normal”. On the other hand, for most people, especially teachers, educators, and schools and its underlying culture, change is not familiar, nor comfortable, . Most often, the “Why reinvent the wheel” mentality plays a major role within the school system and a majority of it’s members are simply comfortable with status quo. But then again, there is a reason for this:
When I started teaching in 1980, as I saw it, there were two sides to the education coin: On one side, there were a number of educators who were simply guiding young people toward enculturation, socialization, and skill building; working with the basic “norms” and standards of that day. And that’s where I first heard the term, “Why rock the boat?”. On the flip side, I worked with a smaller number of teachers, who may have easily been described as “hippies” / counter-cultural, whose purpose was to turn the boat in a much different direction. My Student Teaching Master Teachers were working from this side of the system. As a result, I tended to gravitate toward the second group of teachers. And ever since, I have been somewhat known as a sh*t stirrer; always thinking outside of the box.
The comment about “hippies” and non-conformists is important: As we move deep into a new transitional period, transforming socially, our education teaching force looks radically different than it did back in the hey-day of the 70’s; for there are very few non-conformists and outside the box educators working within today’s schools. In fact, many of these people end up quitting within the first five years of their developing career. Check it out for yourself: Look at reasons why teachers leave in droves by their fifth year. [http://neatoday.org/2017/10/25/why-i-quit-teaching/]. As a result, many of today’s teacher’s, conformists by nature, have settled on a system which constantly changes it’s focus, but rarely sees fundamental changes at the core. For example, over the last 39 years, I have seen more assessments, tests, curriculum changes, reading philosophies, math philosophies, social initiatives introduced year after year, with few of these actually implemented with fidelity, consistency, and sustainability; it’s as if the public school teacher has been on a never-ending treadmill featuring one new fad after another and going faster and faster with each new initiative. So the creative types, innovators, outside the box thinkers, and those who are open to something different, often said, “F*** this”, and left. I know it sounds harsh and is a broad generalization; however, it gets the point. My current colleagues, teachers in the classroom, are some of the hardest working people I know, And they generally accept each demand, and every new initiative without an argument. However, over 93% of today’s teachers feel over-whelmed and have a strong sense of stress and it’s impact when it comes to teaching today. (Check out the NEA survey from 2018 related to the statement above). And the stress associated with a never-ending set of initiatives and high stakes testing not only impacts the employees but it trickles down to the students; who are often impacted by trauma and stress themselves.
Simply, the system needs an overhaul. And I am not talking about “Charter Schools”, “Vouchers”, or any other politically guided model. I am really talking about getting back to the core basics: Try this on for size:
As a Behavior Specialist, working directly within classrooms every day, I see what works best for today’s children. And I also see what fails. Simply, teachers who embrace the New Four Rs [Relationship, Reliability, Relevance, & Resilience], experience significantly less disreguation within their classrooms and students, in contrast to teachers who are still holding on to the Old Three Rs alone [Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmatic: Core Curriculum] as their guiding light. Don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting we throw out our curriculum guides and turn our classrooms into non-instructional settings. Far from the truth. However, for every observation and classroom visit where I see teachers successfully navigate the complexity of today’s students through the Relationship, Reliability, Relevance, and Resilience lens, I also see teachers struggle, at their wit’s end, and ready to quit, for they are tightly holding on to beliefs and values of the past [The Old Three Rs]. Many of those who struggle often cry out: “Our job is to teach our students, we cannot let these kids just do what they want”.
Many of today’s teachers feel that they are torn: Caught between having to demonstrate higher test scores, keep up the pace with a developmentally inappropriate curriculum, and stay the course no matter what. And at the same time, most see their students crashing and burning due to the intensity of the curriculum pacing, impact of trauma living in the 21st century, and a pervasive need to belong. However, there are few teachers within today’s schools who are willing to take a stand and say, “enough is enough” and STAY in the classroom and do so as non-conformists.
So I am writing this piece for you; those who are sick and tired of the direction of public education guided by a political agenda much greater than anything we ever imagined back in the 80’s. Today’s education system is driven by large publishing houses, testing corporations, and the business community at large. Similar to what happened years ago in medicine, when “healing” and “wellness” got lost within the context of the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, and simplified DSM criteria.
The solution to today’s public education system is fairly simple: THE NEW FOUR Rs. Within a brief synopsis, the following recommendations DO MAKE A DIFFERENCE and if implemented across the board in ALL CLASSES; we would see major changes in our students, our children, and our lives.
RESILIENCE 1.0: Simply, teachers today are “first responders” as their students come to school every day; many students are leaving fractured homes and maintain a level of ACES (adverse childhood experiences) through trauma which impacts their lives. As a result, today’s teachers need to be resilient at the highest levels to assure they are prepared to meet the needs of their complex, intense, and often highly agitated students. These agitations may look like acts of violence. As a Behavior Specialist, I have seen more thrown chairs than I ever imagined. And I have spoken to Behavior Specialists across the country and they all tell me they see the same in their districts. But it’s not that today’s children are “bad to the bone”; it’s a matter of trauma, stress, and gaps within significant fundamental skills associated with self-regulation, social – emotional learning, and impulse control.
RELATIONSHIP: At the core of the classroom, student to teacher relationship serves as the foundation for learning. Think back upon your own experience, likely your favorite teacher was the one who “got you” and demonstrated empathy and understanding. Within today’s trauma sensitive classrooms, relationship building is essential. For further information, review any research highlighting “Social Emotional Learning” and the impact on learning. As a result, today’s children, across all social – demographic lines, struggle with belonging at the core as well as self-regulation. This is where relationship serves as the bridge toward connection; the human connection first and foremost.
REGULATION: Within today’s world, guided at lightening speed by technology, cell phones, and impulsive reactions to over-bearing stimuli, most of our students are lacking the core Executive Function skills such as Working Memory, Initiation, Organization / Planning, and Impulse Control. As a result, our classrooms need to reflect structure, predictability, consistency, stability, calm, and security. Instead of speeding things up, our students are most successful when their classrooms are slower, quieter, and guided by a “less is more” value system. For more ideas on this, check out “Accommodations of ADD/ADHD” for the recommendations here are often going to make a great difference for ALL students.
RELEVANCE: And this is where ADD/ADHD and even Autism really shine; our most volatile students, are often those who are disengaged when there is NO MEANING associated with learning. However, when you present activities which resonate with their interests and passions, “hyper-focus” tends to unfold. It’s often feast or famine in today’s classroom. Nevertheless, due to the over-sensory lifestyle guided by technology, most of our students are seeking novelty, high interest, and relevant learning opportunities. This is where the most creative and innovative teachers shine: Art, movement, projects, collaborative activities, and “universal design” are essential for today’s students. Take notice: worksheets, canned lessons, and pen / paper guided activities basically kill the love of learning. And by doing so, this is where behavior escalations present themselves the most.
RESILIENCE 2.0: Finally, if the classroom is founded upon the elements above, then our students’ personal sense of resilience will evolve. For there’s nothing as powerful as taping into the resources within one self, leading toward success by over-coming obstacles, and finding a personal light within, in the learning process. Maslow addresses this within the Hierarchy of Needs. He was quoted as stating: “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” So true. And if you believe this, then, immediately, we all need to assure our classrooms are laboratories leading toward our very best selves, where human potential is the guiding light and our actions are self evident. I know this sounds lofty and like a huge under-taking but …
It’s quiet simple when you think about it:
Believe in the infinite possibilities within each one of our students; as if each presents an essential part of a much larger quilt unfolding. Imagine what school would be like from the beginning, at Kindergarten, if every child was perceived as a gift waiting to be discovered in contrast to an empty vessel waiting to be filled up, as we see within the current values and belief system. Fundamentally, today’s schools function from the top-down; where we imagine “college for all” or “competitive jobs” and work backwards from there. We miss so much of the extraordinary nature of children by thinking this way.
Know that THE NEW FOUR Rs serve as the platform of all learning. Build your program based upon these four essential principles within each school day no matter that grade level, content area, or instructional method you work with. These four principles are grounded in neuro-science as well as developmental theory.
And most importantly, continue to serve each student through a common curriculum but don’t see it as the “purpose” of learning; self-discovery and self-actualization will serve our students much greater in a constantly changing society. According to many sociologists, due to the changes to unfold, a high percentage of our current Kindergartners will walk into a work force where many of the jobs do not exist today. The soft-skills within the Social Emotional Learning platform will serve as the hard-skills of tomorrow. See your room as a laboratory leading toward the unfolding of the human potential. Nothing less.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Buehler
In the wisdom of the great philosopher Ferris Buehler, “You could miss it”. It’s time to stop and look around. Change is happening before our very eyes. And our ability to bring a higher level of consciousness to the classroom is within our control: THE FOUR Rs are doable! It’s time to be a part of the solution rather than reinforce the problem. Imagine: Be a hippie teacher and seek out a counter-cultural perspective in lieu of the prevailing model where the purpose of teaching is measured by testing. For we all know, it’s so much more …
Kids today are wired differently: Ask any veteran teacher who has been around for over twenty years, they will all say the same. “Teaching today is much more demanding than ever; kids today present a challenge like we have never seen before”. This change could present stress within the classroom. In fact, according to the NEA, the largest teacher union in America, “93 percent of elementary school teachers report that they are experiencing a high stress level” due to the demands associated with teaching. The study was recently published in the Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions [NEA, May 2018]. Yes, children are much different today. So is the world we live in.As a result, today’s classroom needs to also reflect something much different as well.
As a Behavior Specialist, working in K-8th grade classrooms within a medium sized district, I do see a pattern related to the challenges and demands our teachers face every day. It’s intense. On one hand, I see “what works” within classrooms, where students present higher levels of self-regulation, engagement, and achievement, and lower disciplinary referrals compared to other classrooms. It’s quite simple: The New Four Rs: Relationship, Regulation, Relevance, and Resilience. Specifically:
Relationship: Due to the nature of the human condition, the need to belong is hard-wired within each one of us. However, within the context of trauma, emotional instability, drug use, stress across all social demographic groups, and a wide range of other factors creating intensive “fight, flight, or freeze” responses among our youth, many of our 21st century students present social-emotional needs at the core where the need to feel connected takes precedent over learning first and foremost. From my perspective, classrooms which every day reflect relationship as the number one component of the student-teacher experience, also demonstrate the highest levels of task engagement, work completion, and collaborative behaviors. Activities such as daily “Check & Connect”, warm greetings at the door, class meetings, and the act of being present, by prioritizing relationship over task, are examples of relationship-building which make a huge difference.
Regulation: In addition to the relationship platform, 21st century students respond well to regulation, structure, and thrive within the context of predictability and order. Sometimes people misinterpret this need. It’s not about “control” or “managing” our students through classroom routines and organization. It’s more about creating a calming learning environment based upon well understood rules, consequences, organization, and structures which allow our students to know where they stand within our classrooms. Due to the speed by which life accelerates, many children have no sense of a regulated lifestyle, especially, when bedtimes, dinner times, and family structures in general are in a constant state of disarray with a constant rotation of the moving parts. Imagine how impossible it may be for our students to develop self-regulation skills when life resembles a three-ring circus. So the most effective classrooms I visit are those where I see consistently enforced rules, clear consequences, mindfully cared for organization, and a general sense of calm due to order.
Relevance: Furthermore, as the classroom presents self-regulation, the most engaging classrooms offer their students novelty within the tasks, interest-based activities, and project-based learning. Relevance rules the roost when it comes to maximizing student participation. Since students today have technology at their fingertips and have been re-wired toward high interest activities, our classrooms need to shift from a compliance format of yesteryear to a meaning-centered approach to learning. If there is no connection to the task-at-hand, then, a high percentage of students will demonstrate disengagement. The most engaging classrooms today are founded upon creative lessons, innovative ideas, and project a sense that learning is fun and should be meaningful. This is not easy for all teachers for some are still working with the notion that our role is not to “entertain the students but we are here to teach”. I am not proposing turning our classrooms into Disneyland; however, I do believe our society is seeing a transformation toward a purpose-centered approach in all areas of learning including the importance of capturing the audience through their interests, passions, social connections, and project-based approaches. We see this through marketing strategies in advertising, within the employment sector, and throughout higher education career-oriented programming.
Resilience: Finally, our intention is to teach students through the resilience model. Ideally, as life continues to reflect change and transformation at lightening speed, those who are most resilient toward the ups and downs of their experience, will be most successful later on along this path. For the ability to handle adversity, as it presents itself in the modern world, will likely serve as the foundation for strength and perseverance. As a result, our classrooms need to reflect two critical components within this context:
MODELING: Our students watch us carefully. And respond to our emotions. So it’s critical that our teachers work from the perspective of “response” rather than “reaction” for the responsive self presents a much better version of ourselves in contrast to the reactive self. As a result, since our students are influenced by our behaviors, actions, and emotional responses, its in everyone’s best interest for our teachers to work from a resilience – mindfulness model. Most notably, as our students bring to the classroom the struggles and challenges associated with modern living in the 21st century, our ability to respond with compassion, kindness, love, and understanding will yield the best results in all situations. For these critical attributes will serve as the by-product of our own personal resilience.
SOCIAL EMOTIONAL LEARNING CURRICULUM: Due to the complexity of life, many of our students have been impacted by stress in all of its forms; frequently, we call these events traumatic. Some of our children have lived every day of their life on the “amygdala hijack”, where every moment is a matter of “flight, flight, or freeze”. So it’s imperative that our classrooms not only reflect calm and peace, but we also would serve our students best by teaching Social Emotional skills so important in today’s world. By almost every leading source reflecting a vision of tomorrow and future employment, each says the same thing: “The soft skills of today [social emotional learning] will be the hard skills of tomorrow”.
On the other hand …
I also observe higher levels of disreguation among students overall and it is not specific to certain schools, social – demographics, or regions; it’s everywhere! As stress levels increase throughout our society, we see this impact within our schools. However, classrooms which are guided by outdated 20th century teaching models, are prone to experience this impact at a much higher level of discourse. In these settings, we often see higher numbers of disciplinary referrals as well as lower levels of engagement and achievement. Often these classrooms are founded upon traditional set of values and beliefs including: a curriculum-first priority (“We are here to teach the standards”), a punitive approach toward discipline (cause and effect)), and a compliance based approach toward learning and class management.
So the work I do as a Behavior Specialist highlights guiding teachers toward the Four Rs mindset through training, observation, reinforcement, and affirmation. This is relatively easy, working with teachers who are already on this path. Even though our students are never easy. Then again, I spend countless hours assuring those who are working from the 20th century model, that their jobs would be so much easier when they make the shift to the “Four Rs”; founded upon Relationship, Regulation, Relevance, and Resilience. However, change is a complex process. And within the context of the human condition, sometimes, the notion of change is one’s greatest hurdle. So we need to be understanding.
The intent of this writing is to help. That’ s why I see this as a “must read” for we are all in this together. For teachers and parents need to work in partnership for we all are faced with the same challenge: Supporting our children through this transition as society shifts from outdated 20th century models to new approaches of the 21st century: Life is moving fast. So by calling out “what works”, I don’t see the point in watching schools struggle with a lack of clarity and focus moving forward when things are moving so quickly. Honestly, I envision this partnership unfolding as we all transform our lives toward better relationships and more meaningful connections. I can assure you: The Four Rs make a difference!
Best to you all on this path. And if this resonates, please feel to stay in touch!
Another new school year, another new slogan: This year we will all be hearing about “Social Emotional Learning [SEL]” and “Trauma Sensitive Schools”. Which is a huge step in the right direction. For both address relationships and heart-centered approaches at the core. This presents a major shift in contrast to the typical mantras we have heard through the years highighting, “Standards Based”, “Research Based”, “Evidence Based”, and “Common Core”. So from my perspective, SEL and ACES [Trauma Sensitive] bring a sense of balance to the educational playing field.
“Matter is Energy … Energy is Light … We are all Light Beings.” – Albert Einstein
However, when we cut to the chase, and delve deeper into the realm of learning, behavior, and human potential, Einstein has it right: What really matters is ENERGY.
Simply, when the human condition is guided by an internal force or spirit within, when you FEEL you have to follow the passion, purpose, or the “calling” within, the truth which unfolds often leads to the understanding: “This is exactly what I am here to do”. Whether it be a career, a job, artistic expression, a relationship, …. whatever is guided by the energy – spririt within, typically presents itself as an expression of “meant to be”. How often have you sensed something in the flow of life, intuitively, and you later pronounced, “I knew it would work out”?
“If you want to know the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla
From the perspective of teaching and parenting, this same sense of energy, and the exchange between us, holds the same set of understanding and truth. As a Behavior Specialist within a medium sized school district, I have visited many classrooms and observed students in all types of settings. Certainly, there are a number of variables all in play within the context of “behavior” which need to be taken in account: Class Management, Seatting Arrangement, Lesson Design and related activities, Other Students … and the list goes on. However, one of the most profound variables at play is discovered within the context of relationship and the exchange of energy between students and teachers. We all transmit an energetic signal, often described as an internal intention, between ourselves and others. If the human condition is guided by fear, worry, and negative emotions, the energetic exchange takes on a similar frequency. And today’s children are extraordinary at reading other’s energy. This may be due to the level of stress, trauma, or sensitivity many of our children face each day and the ability to read others is part of a protective safety net system to assure that each is moving forward into safe waters. I see this everyday: Our most successful classrooms are often guided by adults who are projecting an energy safe, positive based, and heart-centered vibration emotionally. On the other hand, some of the most challenging classrooms, where students appear to be “acting out”, often the room is guided or influenced by adults who are scared, worried, frustrated, or exhausted. The students read this. And act accordingly.
Same goes for parenting. When we are at our best, the most resilient self, our children tend to respond accordingly. Sure, kids can be difficult and present a challenge; it’s part of the growing up / maturation process. Then again, our energetic field, whether it be grounded in fear or love and understanding, may present the platform for further escalation or lead toward de-escalation. Kids read us. So it’s critical that we take in account our own “state of emotions” before we intervene and engage with our children.
“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.” – Brian Tracy
There are numerous behavior programs, many are highly successful. And I recommend them to the teachers and parents I work with. However, the most powerful in my opinion, are those which honor the energy exchange process between us all. Here are a few to consider for your teaching or your parenting tool kit:
HEARTMATH.ORG: One of the leading research institutions world-wide, addressing personnel resilence, calm bodies-minds-spirits, and strategies leading to coherence and wellness. I am currently a trainer with Heartmath and offer these tools through workshops and training.
The Heart's Intuitive Intelligence: A path to personal, social and global coherence - YouTube
NURTURED HEART APPROACH: Here again, the foundation of this extraordinary program highlight the energetic exchange between children and adult. Specifically, the NHA program, developed by Howard Glasser, features specific strategies and steps toward increading greatness, success, and peace between parents, teachers, and our kids. Recently, I joined the NHA community as a trainer.
Igniting greatness - the Nurtured Heart Approach: Sarah How at TEDxFargo - YouTube
COLLABORATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING: Finally, this is a powerful set of tools and resources, founded upon the notion of “teaching skills to be successful”. Dr Ross Greene’s work, through the Lives In The Balance program, are well respected throughout schools and centers across the globe. Check it out:
Kids Do Well if They Can Ross Greene #1 - YouTube
Best to you all. For it’s all about intention; so of course, I wish you all well!
With summer vacation upon us, it’s so important that we all take time to refresh, rejuvenate, and rejoice in preparation for 2018-2019 during the upcoming weeks. By doing so, especially, celebrating success and thoroughly embracing the wonderful moments from this past year, we set ourselves up for a remarkable year ahead.
The power of belief, specifically, highlighting perception from a positive – gratitude lens, is not just another Fortune Cookie wish, or something your Grandma may have said over and over; it’s science-based, research-guided, but proven everyday by ordinary people doing remarkable things. Positive thinking, through appreciation, makes a difference:
Moving forward, when you are at a place where you are ready to begin a vision for next year, consider the Three Legged Stool: Relationship, Relevance, and Resilience.
Within all SEL [Social Emotional Learning] programs, texts, and curriculum guides, the notion of “relationship” rings truth as the golden principle of teaching. Its something we all are capable of doing, for most of us entered this profession due to the relationships we experienced through our own school experience. Or we believed in the idea that we can make a difference through connecting with our students. It’s within our wheelhouse to do so. And we really don’t need a text book to tell us how to do this. However, it helps to add new tools to an already established toolkit.
Further more, relevance directly relates to the most current neuro-science for meaning is at the core of learning; we cannot rely on “because I told you so” or “this will be on the test” as the means to create connection. Learning truly has to be at an authentic level of relevance – meaning for our students. The Twentieth Century tool kit, highlighting “compliance”, “fear”, and the social pressure to “be good” doesn’t apply anymore. So we are called upon once again, to draw upon the core reasons why we got into this business as the foundation for our instructional decision making: create meaning. For anything else is an expression of wasted time; and that’s not how we see ourselves as teachers: We make a difference; we don’t make time. Check this out for inspiration: We all have moments where we are Mr Wright …
Finally, as change moves at lightening speed, so does life: The intentions behind the SEL movement is to provide our students with core resilience skills to assure each is able to deal with the ups and downs of life; and discover the true nature of themselves in this process. Self-awareness and self actualization provide the foundation for us all to move forward. As a result, we are called upon to draw upon our own resilience resources for learning is most profound not by what we say, but what we do. Our students are watching every move we make for they so deeply want to connect with us; for belonging is wired within the human condition. And within our own framework, most of us are inspired by the opportunity to make a difference.
With this in mind, take care of yourself this summer. Nurture yourself so you can nurture others in the Fall. Consider the following:
Are you ready for the never-ending evolution of life which is quicker, faster, deeper, more complex, engaging, and messy than ever before? You should be … for we are all living in this remarkable period of time. And it won’t simply just go away or return to a memory which is long, lost, and gone. For we live in a time where resilience continues to be the guiding light as we all evolve together. There is no going back. It’s all evolving forward …
“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.” [Psychology Today]
So I reach out to you today and share a few ideas which I believe need to be seriously considered as we refresh ourselves. For parenting and teaching are exhausting. But I am writing this piece specifically to my colleagues who are educators.
First off: TEACHING IS A FIRST RESPONDER PROFESSION. So handle it like one.
Take care of yourself. Every day. And if possible, every hour. Not just on weekends.
Due to the demands of the position, and the intensity of the student profile we are now working with, we MUST see ourselves in this light: When ever you open your school and your classroom, you must be prepared for the human condition to present itself with no reservations.
Simply, as life continues to experience a quickening, where everything is moving at lightening speed, with all of its bells, whistles, and stress: We cannot remove ourselves nor our schools & classrooms from the human condition from which we ALL experience; it presents itself everyday and will continue to do so. So we need to take care of ourselves on this path. And please don’t misrepresent this transformation as something that is unique to schools within the poverty band-width; it’s everywhere.
Sure, our colleagues in higher social demographic locations may not face the exact same symptoms of the Human Condition within their classrooms but they will … give it time. For those who face student profiles highlighted by trauma, abuse, poverty, or other social maladies, you are in a unique position; on the cusp of something everyone will be experiencing soon. So we can see this as an opportunity: It’s like going to the latest Star Wars movie on a Preview Night.
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” [Charles Swindoll]
Secondly, THIS TRANSFORMATION IS SOMETHING WE CANNOT RUN FROM. In fact, it’s happening in all areas of life due to extraordinary technological advancements including political and economic shifts unfolding all around. If you really believe our current political process is an example of the end of the world; I believe you will be surprised over time: For I believe it’s just a part of the transformation taking place.
In the business world, the most successful changes and transformation are often referred as “Disruptors” such as Costco, Amazon, Starbucks, and Amazon … all well known disruptors and all are a part of the Seattle / Puget Sound community; where this article was written.
In our business, we call our reform efforts tried and true “BEST PRACTICES”. However, we are not really changing, nor do we look that different than we did twenty – thirty years ago. Or even fifty,
As society is shifting at the speed of sound, we are also facing the disruptor phenomenon; and it’s in the form of our students. Many of our students ARE the disruptors. And sometime soon, like business, we will need to listen to the disruptors. So I encourage you to go to that cutting edge place, the cusp of true change, and listen to what our students are really telling us. And if we listen deeply, most often they are telling us the following:
RELATIONSHIP is everything; so the Social Emotional Learning initiative is something we will need to look at beyond the first few days of school or beyond the first few minutes of every lesson. The need to belong is fundamentally our society’s greatest learning platform. Just look at Facebook. Or any other form of social media: Where there are no issues associated with focus, attention, engagement, or participation.
RELEVANCE is so valuable; building lessons, learning, and the whole notion of school based upon meaning, interests, and intrinsic expression. There are not enough stickers, charts, or jolly ranchers in the world to really get students to do something they really don’t see meaning in. Think of it this way; picture in your own mind the one class you remember from Middle School. Likely, there was something within the realm of interest or meaning which created the hook. Doing something you love is so much easier than the opposite. So it’s important to consider “what do our students love?” and see where this leads; and how can this be applied to what we are doing in our classrooms.
And in closing, as life transforms, and change is at the core of this process, RESILIENCE is one of the key life skills we all would benefit from for change is never easy; it seems to catch up with us when we are least expecting it. And since our students are watching us closely [relationship], and are seeking out authentic meaning in their own lives [relevance], it would be a valuable investment to establish our own resilience practices as we move forward. As stated, life happens, and how we handle it, is really the task at hand. So I go back to the earlier point, take care of yourself. Enjoy your time away from the classroom. Do something you truly love. Or spend quality time with those who are dear to your heart. Then, on your return, listen to your students a bit more: Then see where RELATIONSHIP and RELEVANCE present opportunities within your lessons and your classrooms. And see what unfolds.