Little moments make a difference. Simply put, it doesn't have to be the grand gestures that make people feel valued but rather the ongoing small positive actions that cultivate a culture of care.
Say Thank You
Educators put themselves fully into their roles. Whether it's spending long hours making lesson plans or preparing meetings, events and interviews, it is important to stop and acknowledge their great work. A quick thank you shows others you care and appreciate their efforts and the things they do to make your life easier or better. Hearing a thank you from someone helps you feel valued within the school community and you are more likely to offer your assitance again. Say thank you to those who hold the door for you or take on an extra yard duty when someone is sick or share a great idea or book with you. Expressing gratitude shows appreciation towards others and returns their kindness back to them.
Send a Card
One of the things I have done this year is ensure I send a birthday card to each staff member. I add all birthdays into my calendar at the start of each year to ensure I don't miss anyone and then each week spend a few minutes hand-writing a note wishing my colleagues a wonderful year ahead on their birthday. It is something I picked up from a previous principal who used to message staff on their birthdays. It always meant a lot to me that he had taken the time to send a greeting.
We've also distributed cards (and a little treat) to wish our teaching staff good luck at the start of the year. By starting the year on with a positive note (literally and figuratively), it can help to shape the direction of the culture of care.
Get Personal, Ask & Listen
Communities are built on relationships. The stronger the rapport, the strong the relationships. In our professional lives, we need to make time for the 'personal' and remember the human element within our roles. Spend time asking colleagues about their weekends, their children and their interests. Remember to stop and truly engage in the converations by listening rather than feeling obliged to return with an answer. Rather, just listen and appreciate your colleague sharing with you.
Acknowledge a Job Well Done
Whether it's telling someone they've presented an amazing assembly to congratulating someone on completing a c,ourse, telling someone their accomplishments are visible and recognised provides them with the acknowledgement and reassurance of their work. An authentic and honest compliment can go a long way to build rapport and community.
"Use your smile to change the world. Don't let the world change your smile"
A smile is contagious. When others see you smile, it is hard to resist smiling back. The more you smile, the more others around you smile. A smile and a positive attitude can leave a lasting impact on others. It also positively impacts your own life by boosting your mood and reducing stress levels.
Make Things Fun
Just because it's called 'work' doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself while doing it. Find little moments in the day to excite youself amongst the marking and paperwork. Stop and chat to children on the playground and hear about the world through their eyes, visit the early year classes and get down to their levels or find a way to express yourself creatively through an artistic medium.
Explore ways to make certain parts of your job more enjoyable. One way we've done this with our staff meetings is by beginning with five minutes of fun - some kind of simple, yet fun activity to bring laughter and smiles across the room before getting ibto the operational components of the meeting.
Find the Good
Above all, find the positive in every situation. Explore ways to learn and grow. Laugh at your mistakes. Challenge your thinking and celebrate the small wins along the way. Being positive can have a profound impact on those around you. Not every day is going to be perfect, but it positivity can be present.
This summer I climbed Mount Rinjani in Lombok with a close friend of mine. To put it bluntly, we both are not much of the exercising type and we showed up with our running shoes and a few items in our backpack ready to take a stroll up the mountain. Little did we know what we had signed up for. We didn't know what lay ahead, the challenges, the mental game and of course, sore muscles. The 3 day trek that seemed almost impossible at times almost got the best of me and I thought I wouldn't be able to keep going a few times.
The physical exhaustion kicked in at 3am as I was literally taking baby steps up the gravelled trail where I would take a step forward and slide a bit back down. Without proper shoes, it was a struggle to move forward as I felt the world pushing back at me. It felt like I was doing all this work and yet getting know where. So what was the point of even trying?
At about 5am, I could see the top in the distance but the vertical climb was not something I mentally ready for yet. I almost just stopped to say this was a good enough view. But then a layer of sun started to rise at the horizon and the fire inside began to illuminate as well. The only thought in my mind was that I was going to make it to the top and that there was nothing anyone could do to stop me. The only one who could stop me was myself, and I wouldn't let that happen. I had set out on this journey to make it to the top, and that is where I planned to end up.
And so I pushed on with my brain cheering my physical self on with my head down, looking only where I needed to go next, focusing on the now. Every once and I while I looked up from where I was and could still see my goal in the distance. So again, I forged on.
Finally, as I pulled myself up, there I was at the top looking out at what I had accomplished. I could look back and see the hard work and dedication, the tenacity and drive and the mental willpower to achieve my goals. I could see ahead the volcano surrounded by a lake that was surrounded by mountains and just stood there enjoying the beauty that was there.
To me, this is my educational journey. I'm a long, long way to the top, a long way from where I want to be as a teacher and future career aspirations but nevertheless, I'm still moving forward. Some days you travel farther then others and some days your feet are just sliding in gravel.
As a teacher, there are so many other components to your job than just being a teacher - communicating with parents, staying current on best practice, collaborating with peers, meetings, paperwork, report writing - the list goes on and on. You can have days where your class just drives you a little crazy or you're dealing with girl drama or students using technology inappropriately. You can have the wind and the rain pushing against you as a teacher - but yet you keep moving forward.
The best part of my day is just standing where I am, no matter where I am on the mountain and enjoying the view. I see how far my students have come from the day they first come to my door, and I know they have a long way to go until I can help get them to their own mountain top in June. I love the smiles I see on my students faces when we spend the last five minutes dancing or when a student helps another one down the stairs who is on crutches. I love watching the students laugh as they play tag in the playground or succeed at a challenging task. Their resilience to the obstacles sets an example for us all. Their caring nature shows us how to support each other along the way. Their ability to take risks sets an example of how we should be in our own lives. They are the reason that you keep pushing yourself forward to be better each day.
The bumps in the road as a teacher are always going to be there. The one thing I've learned is that you may never make it to the top of the mountain any day soon but it is possible if you keep moving in the upward direction. But most importantly, you don't have to be at the top of the mountain to enjoy the view - your students are right in front of you.
We tell our students it's okay to fail. We tell them it's okay to make mistakes as long as you grow from them. We tell them not to worry and that it'll all work out. We tell them you learn more from doing something wrong than doing something right. We smile at our students and tell them to persevere, bounce back and to work through it. We tell them We tell them this when they get a bad grade, don't make the school team, or don't get into the college they want. But what about us as teachers? What about when you go after something just like our students do and you do quite reach what you want?
I make mistakes on a daily basis. There is no surprise there and it's something I really do embrace, usually with a good laugh at that. But sometimes you give something your all and you have those 'oh I really want this' moments and still it is just out of your reach.
This is exactly what happened to me this week. I had applied to Google Teacher Academy in Southeast Asia and, of course, was waiting patiently for a response on the status of my application. I had made a video, answered the questions, shared my resume and was pretty happy with my application overall. Was it perfect? No, there were things I wished I had fixed or changed or added in the end but that's always the case when it comes to the learning process. Then I got the email that informed me this time wasn't my time to be accepted into the programme.
Of course, I was a bit bummed at first. I had that sinking feeling that takes me back to my Grade 7 year when I didn't make the co-ed baseball team at school. It was an opportunity I really wanted to be a part of and felt I could learn a lot from. But I believe everything happens for a reason and it just wasn't meant to be right now.
Sometimes when you want something, you seem to forget about what you already have. If I stop for a second, I see how much I have accomplished already. When I look back over my teaching career, it's amazing to see where I am already and I am so thankful for each opportunity that I've been given. As I begin only my third year of teaching, I've had the pleasure of living in 2 countries, developed my technology skills tremendously and been guided and inspired by fantastic international educators. I've had the opportunity to take PYP workshops, present at a conference, lead training within my school and recently moved into a Year Group Coordinator position. I get to work with students who inspire me each and every day and who bring so much laughter and joy into my life. Never did I think I would have a career that lets me create digital products, foster leadership in others, share my own love of learning and also get to play dodgeball and dance all in the few hours of a workday.
I've really only been using GAFE in my 1 to 1 classroom for a year now and I can't believe the transformation I've had as an educator because of it. Just like I tell my students to do, I'll try again next round. Each time I'll have more experience under my belt, more knowledge of GAFE, and in general, will hopefully be better a teacher than I was before. I am presented with the challenge of using GAFE in my classroom and trying to become more knowledgeable with the tools I use on a daily basis. I will continue to develop innovative ways to learn with my students. I do hope in my professional future that I do have the opportunity to be a part of the Google Teacher Academy and other professional opportunities that lie ahead. An obstacle only lights the determination within more as I continue to focus on making my classroom a positive and engaging learning environment for my students.
No one is ever going to be told yes every time. No one is going to get 100% every single time. No one is truly perfect. Mistakes matter. Mistakes make people develop character, resiliency and a different outlook on life. So failure isn't really anything but finding a new approach to the same problem, a new way of looking at things and just one of many ways that don't work. Failure is just a way of saying a you've still got a challenge to overcome.
I absolutely love using technology within my classroom with my students. It is part of our daily routines and practice and a wonderful way to engage students. There are so many different ways to use technology and so many I still am yet to explore.
There are times when technology fails you. It can make using technology frustrating, difficult and quite frankly at times want to give it up all together.
This week we had a few hiccups with our technology. The first was our interactive whiteboard that decided to act up periodically. For whatever reason, it stopped being interactive at random times. It can make a lesson that was headed for greatness to fall smack down face first. Luckily, the lesson we were doing was about what hinders communication. So there we go great way to lead us into the discussion about how technology can make communication break down and how it can be frustrating at times.
Then there was the issue of my students collaborating on a Prezi. First of all, there have been some changes to signing up for Prezis for education since last year when I did it which was a bigger process than expected. Then we had the issue of all of us trying to collaborate on a single Prezi. Trying to have 16 students on one Prezi at once slowed down the entire process as it began to lag. Eventually we had to rethink our idea and only had 3 students on the Prezi at one time. This seemed to work but took longer than I had wanted it to.
Being able to roll with the punches is so important because in the classroom full of students, your going to have a few days like that. Technology can enhance teaching and learning in so many ways. But it is important that as teachers we remember it is only one of many available tools.