December 17

Chapter 13- Don’t Let Fear Drive the Bus

Or the Pigeon! Just kidding!

For real though, fear can be a debilitating emotion. It causes many people to miss out on many amazing experiences. It also causes people to shelter others from potentially disastrous experiences as well. But there is always the question, what if nothing bad happens? Everything has a risk involved with it to a degree. If children, or adults for that matter, never take a risk, they never learn to deal with stress or develop the tools to help manage the adventure we call life. How can a child learn creativity or gain self-confidence if they are not left to take risks? Will they become critical thinkers? Will they have opportunities to problem solve? All of these are crucial skills to help us through life but without taking the risks associated with these tasks, we will never gain these important skills.

I would not classify myself as much of a risk taker, but when I look back on the last few years of my life, I can see all of the risks I have taken. They all came with a degree of fear- joining TIE-BC (I don’t really know anyone, I will have to public speak and put on professional development for people-am I qualified for this?), driving our boat on the ocean (What do I do when there are other boats around? How do I know I am going in the right direction? What do I do if I see a whale, or a rock, or a big wave, or a log?), going for surgery on my jaw (What am I going to look like afterwards? Is it going to hurt? How long am I going to have to be off of work?) and even going out on the lake or the ocean in a kayak (What if it tips? What if a whale surfaces right near us? What happens if the weather turns bad and we get stuck in huge waves/the tide?). If I had given in to these fears, I would not be where I am today,sitting in the airport in Vancouver, writing this blog post. I would not have gotten to play hide and seek in the marshy area of our favourite lake while kayaking with my family. I would not met all the wonderful people on the TIE-BC Executive. I would probably have sleep apnea and need a c-pap machine to sleep with. I would not be able to drive our boat back to the marina in the event of an emergency.

It is important to look at what is the driving force behind our behaviours. When we are frustrated with someone, what is behind it? Fear? Perfectionism? Stress? Once we can identify the driving factors, it is important to separate out the facts involved as well. Asking ourselves questions to help us determine an appropriate course of action rather than responding using our driving source will help us through the situation. These questions help us to widen our peripheral vision so we can maneuver through the situation in a way that is respectful of all involved.

 

Think about a situation in which you allowed fear, or some other factor, drive your behaviour. What was the driving factor? Now that you can look back, how would you change your behaviour? What could you do next time that would allow the situation to be resolved in a more positive fashion?

December 10

Chapter 12- It’s OK to Be Not-OK

Everyone comes with baggage of one sort or another and that is absolutely ok. In our society, however, we are made to hide our feelings and pretend that everything is perfect, unless we are grieving over the loss of a loved one-and even at that we are expected to get over it quickly and move on. In reality though, not everything is perfect all the time. I think of my Mom and the sudden loss of her second husband, my step-father. It has been six years and the pain is still there, lingering underneath the surface. Some days are wonderful, spent enjoying life, while other days she just wants to hide under the blankets and hope that when she wakes up she finds that the past 6 years were all a dream and Duncan is still with us. And my sister and I just need to remember that it is ok for her to be like this. It is ok to be not-ok. Her pain is as real today as it was on September 30th of 2011 when we were informed of his sudden passing. The only difference is that the pain has lessened through time and I am sure that it will continue to do so. As her daughter I need to be there to support her thought that pain.

Our students require that same support and understanding. We need to realize that, every day wen they step through the doors of the school, they might not be ok, and that is ok. They will need our love, care and attention more that day to help support the through their difficult time and that’s ok too. They might not be ready to learn everything we have to offer them at that time, and that is also ok. However, we must strive to support them through their difficult days so that they do not remain entrenched in their feelings. We need to help them learn to balance life and life’s troubles so that they can continue to move forward.

In order to continue to move forward, it is crucial for us to have a “person.” Someone who is there for us in our time of need, to help support us through the difficult times and to encourage us to move forward. For some, this might be a family member, for others, it is a close friend and others still it might be someone they just met, but the need for that “person” is there. For my Mom, I believe it is me. Her and I have spent countless hours on the phone and on Facetime, talking about life, what is new, what is going on in our worlds, encouraging each other to move forward through the hard times. She also has my sister, who lives in the same city, who makes her join different classes like crocheting class and quilting class. They even do paint nights and other small activities together. For me, my friend Jamie is my person. She helps me through my dark days, takes me out and reminds me that I am special and important to many people. Without these “safe people” I am sure that many people feel alone and possibly end up with mental health struggles like depression and suicidal thoughts and actions.

 

Who are the “safe people” in your lives? What has made them safe? How do they support you in times of need?

 

Are you a “safe person” for any of your students? How do you support them in their times of need? How do you know that you are their “person?”

December 1

Part 4- Belief Chapter 11-Forever Changed, Not Forever Damaged

It is very true that trauma changes a person. Those changes are forever with us. The whole point of this chapter is to show the reader that although a person is forever changed, they are not forever damaged or broken. A person can choose to move past the traumatic event and not allow it to damage them forever, or they can choose to remain in the grasp of the trauma, thus remaining damaged. If we as teachers pity students who have endured a traumatic experience and allow them to have lower expectations, then we are allowing them to remain in their damaged state. They need to be supported, challenged and given high expectations that will help them to move past their traumatic experience. They will be changed, but the do not need to remain damaged.

Once again, our relationship with the student is integral in helping them through their experience. Knowing their strengths, passions and potential will help us remind them or show them how to succeed and live up to the high expectations. Traumatic experiences have a profound impact on a student’s self-esteem, ability to self-regulate and overall belief in themselves. It is up to the adults in their lives to help them move away from these thoughts and behaviours.

 

Think about a student in your school that you know has experienced trauma. How do you approach this student? Do you use a strength-based approach or a deficit-based approach?

 

In thinking of my student, a little girl in Grade 4 who had a difficult¬† beginning full of neglect, I believe that I have had lower expectations for her. She struggles academically as she displays many signs of a developmental delay and is awaiting further assessments through the Vancouver Island Children’s Assessment Network. I have been working with her since she was in Kindergarten and have always felt sorry for her, as she struggles in so many ways. This year however, I have decided to change my thinking. She is capable of learning far more than I give her credit for, I just need to find the right way to teach her. She is a delightful student who loves to learn. She gets so frustrated when she thinks she is not able to do so, going so far as to call herself a “dull pencil” and wishing she was a “sharp pencil.” Her perseverance should be a lesson for all of us and instead of pitying her, I should be looking up to her and all that she has overcome. She deserves a strength-based approach.

December 1

December: We Love a Challenge!

This month we read about equity vs. equality, challenging students and setting high expectations for students. I found it to be a very jam-packed chapter with so many ideas to consider!

Equity vs. equality is something many of us deal with on a daily basis. How do you teach the young students in early primary the difference? I loved the visual they included in this chapter- the boxes for looking over the fence. I think that this would be a great visual for kids to really understand the difference.

 

The next section of the chapter discusses ways in which you can challenge students appropriately through differentiation. There is a quote on page 104 that really stood out for me- “When students aren’t sufficiently challenged, they become frustrated.” I would like to further that thought in that they also often become behaviour concerns due to boredom. The students who are struggling also benefit from differentiation in that they are receiving materials at their level and learning that suits their needs. They also need to be sufficiently challenged, but it would look different from their peers. A great way to differentiate, motivate and challenge students is through personalizing their learning. There are some ideas on pages 107 and 108 that lend themselves nicely to personalized learning. One thing I have learned, however, is that you cannot forgo the basics and the building blocks of learning for a fully personalized program.

 

Ensuring that you are setting high expectations for your students is very important as well. Children, and adults, strive to show you their best, but if your expectations are low, then their effort and work will reflect that. At the beginning of last school year, our staff was introduced to Rita Pierson through a TEDTalk- https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion#t-439357 and I really took what she said to heart. As I was teaching in a Grade 5 class, I decided to try out her idea of building up the students.Throughtout the year, I would tell my class that they were the best class in the school and that they needed to prove that every time we were in the hallways or at an assembly. My students lived up to that challenge in every way and soon other teachers were also commenting on how well behaved and what amazing learners the Grade 5s were. My students were very proud of themselves for their behaviours and their hard work in class and they all improved immensely in all areas.

 

How do you teach your students about the difference between equality and equity?

What are someways in which you challenge your students-those that are struggling and those that are at or above level?

What are your thoughts on Rita Pierson’s TEDTalk on Everyone Needs a Champion? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?