Well, the book has come to an end, but the learning continues. I have taken many things out of this book, and as I sit here and reflect on my journey through it, I look at some of the key ideas that I have taken out of it.
The idea of self-care- I know that this one seems to be a no-brainer, but I struggle with this on a regular basis. One of my goals for 2018 is to take care of myself in all facets of my life- working on my work-family-self balance.
Not to make the story a child comes with an excuse for their behaviours or allow that to let me lower my expectations for them- remembering that with love and expectations, everyone can rise to the challenge, even those with the biggest disadvantage.
Relationship, relationship, relationship! This is something I have always worked towards with every child, although I know that this is not possible with every child, I need to ensure that I am a safe person, someone that they can go to when they are in need.
I know that there are areas I need to work on and I believe that this book has given me some excellent strategies to help me better myself for the better of my students.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey! I am better for having worked with you through this book! Thank you!
We will be having a book chat at Cross Currents, if you are interested in joining us. It is one of the Bonus Sessions on the Friday morning. Please do grab your breakfast from the foyer and meet us in the session to continue the engaging conversations. We will also be talking about the Growth Mindset Coach as well 🙂
Self-care- that is a foreign concept for some of us, including me. As educators, we tend to endlessly give of ourselves, delivering our regular program, organizing extracurricular activities such as sports and drama clubs, volunteering for union positions, volunteering within our communities and the list goes on, usually leaving very little time for ourselves. This leaves us all very tired, physically, emotionally and even spiritually drained at times. So tired in fact that we cannot even fathom getting in that workout or even that bubble bath we have been longing for.
In order to be there for our students and families, we need to be a bit selfish. If all we do is burn ourselves out with all of the little extras we are doing, we are not giving the people in our lives our best selves. Being our best selves means taking the time to care for ourselves. Making time for that work out or that bubble bath or the trip to the spa. If we are too tired to do this, then we need to cut back on something. Let go of an extra curricular activity. Give up that volunteer position. I know it is not easy, but we need time for ourselves too. I we are burnt out, we cannot help anyone!
Kristin Souers gives us four main areas in her version of the self-care challenge to take care of: health, love, competence and gratitude. On page 199, she has a chart that can help you organize your self-care. There are many different self-care challenges that can be found online too. Here are a couple that I found that might be of interest to you if the one from the book does not float your boat 🙂
Feedback and praise are huge parts of our lives. We all rely on it to help boost our feelings of self-worth. From a quick “I love your outfit today!” to “The goals in your IEP are very clear and follow the SMART goals standards for goal setting! Keep up the hard work!” we rely on these comments to tell us how we are doing. Students who have had trauma in their lives are not as able to acknowledge their self-worth. The struggle to see that their actions of effort are valued unless they are expressly told. They rely more on these external cues to give them a sense of self.
Praise is huge in a student’s life. It has an impact on their self-worth and their self-identity. Some praise, however, is not as helpful as others, as has been noted by Carol Dweck, Growth Mindset extraodinaire! According to her, praising the process rather than the individual is important in allowing their self-worth to always remain intact, especially when giving critiques. In praising or critiquing the process, it separates the individual from the work that is being done. It allows them to move away from thinking “I’m so smart!” of “I’m so stupid” in the event of feedback or critique to thinking of the effort they put in”I put a lot of effort into this project and it has really paid off!” or “I should have worked harder on this project. I will remember that for next time.”
Everyone loves to receive compliments or praise for things we have done. These kinds words or gestures fill up our buckets. Kristin Souers describe them as being “cookies.” These “cookies” help us, and especially children, to form relationships with each other. Some of these cookies come in the form of a thank you note, or a letter. Other times they might come in the form of a kind word. If is always a wonderful idea to keep these “cookies” to help us when we are felling blue. A great resource by a friend of mine, Kristin Wiens, really sums this up in her book “My Gratitude Jar.” I have uploaded a copy of this book for you, read by Kristin, from her blog http://northstarpaths.com/long-story-shortz/
It is so important that we do not rely on others to give us our “cookies”. We need to be able to give them to ourselves as well. Acknowledging out own strengths and accomplishments is very important. There will be times in our lives where someone is not there to give us a cookie, like today for example, when I took the sky train by myself for the very first time. No one was there to pat me on the back for my bravery and overcoming my anxiety. I had to do that myself. We need to give ourselves permission to be proud of our own accomplishments, toot our own horns and give ourselves that positive feedback. We need to boost our own self-worth because we are special and important and there are many reasons to celebrate us and our accomplishments, just as we do for our students and the many other people in our lives.
Do you know any students who rely on others for their self-worth? How can you help them to self-acknowledge?
Think of a time when you gave a student “cookies”. How did they receive this kindness? Did their relationship with you change because of it?
How can you use the notion of the “Gratitude Jar” in your life? Do you have a way of looking back on the gratitudes given to you when you need them? How can we give this to our students so that they, too, have something to look back on when they are in need of some building up?
Grace is something in which we all need at different times in our lives. If we have fallen behind in writing our IEPs due to circumstances beyond our control, we might ask grace of our administrators. If we make a mistake in our actions, we might ask for some grace of the person/people impacted by those actions. Sometimes, we need to ask grace of ourselves as well, for those days when we just can’t go to the gym, or plan for the big project we want our students to get started on.
Grace is not easy for us to give, especially to ourselves.We need to be able to show empathy, understanding and kindness in those times when grace could be given. It is very important for us to model grace to our students, so that they can give grace to others when it is needed.
The quote from this chapter that hits me the most, something I need to remember both in school, but more so at home is that “they are little people…who are still developing into bright and amazing human beings.” I need to practice more grace with my children.
Has anyone showed your grace? How did it make you feel? Do you feel you deserved this grace?
Think of a time when you could have shown grace but did not. What was the outcome of the situation? How do you think the outcome would have changed if grace was shown?
Praise and feedback are areas in which I struggle- man I seem to have a lot of struggles! Good thing I am reading this book-turn my struggles into areas of growth! Anyways, back to it. I am usually one who gives a lot of person praise or vague praise. Since beginning my journey with the Growth Mindset, I have been really working on this. I find it a lot easier to give process praise and specific praise when dealing with my students, but I am conscious of it as well when I am with my boys. I have noticed a big difference in my older son’s willingness to read with me at night. When I am calm and give him process praise like “I really like hearing you use your strategies while you are reading! Which strategy are you going to try for this tricky word?” I can see him relax and enjoy trying to figure out the tricky word. When I have even a hint of frustration in my voice, I notice him tense up and give up a lot faster on those tricky words. It is insane how much he feeds off of my own emotions.
Feedback given to students is huge as intermediate teachers, primary teachers as well, but I do not have any experience with this as a classroom teacher. I have only taught Grade 5 🙂 When I was in the classroom, I worked very hard to give students appropriate, helpful feedback. The bigger struggle came when the students had to use that feedback for improvement, or when they were giving each other feedback. Looking back, I can see that I really needed to work on them giving each other feedback. It was also very plain to see, based on the responses to the feedback, which of my students had a growth mindset and which had a fixed mindset. One student in particular has such a fixed mindset that when he got any constructive feedback, he took it as a personal attack on him and he would shut down to the point of not attending school and not handing in his homework. It is a very delicate process and we as teachers have to be very careful of our students’ self-esteem-especially those with a fixed mindset.
Here are some examples of praise and feedback better suited to a growth mindset: