“Be Stubborn About Your Goals and Flexible About Your Method.”

Earlier this week, I happened to see my new favorite quote on the walls of one of our fourth-grade classrooms:

“Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your method.”

-Author Unknown

This quote really got me thinking because it made me realize that while the way that we achieve our objectives may not be the way we thought we would get to our goal, that is part of the journey.

As we work on report cards and reflect on our year to date, in my mind, I am going to try to keep this idea fresh: our goals may not have been achieved how we thought they would be or within the timeline we expected, but how has our method evolved? How have we created more opportunities for ourselves along the way to meeting our goals? How has our mindset shifted? Have our priorities changed? Have we maybe gained new skills and knowledge that has helped us in other aspects of our lives? These are all questions that we can ask ourselves as we reflect on our progress and the progress of our learners.

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Website: Because I Said I Would

As I have connected with staff members, especially the staff members who are holding tryouts for theater and sports, a common thought was: “How will I get everyone to follow through on their commitment?” I was reminded about something that was shared at the end of last year…a website that made a brief appearance in one of our weekly update emails but I have yet to follow up on with our teachers. This website is called Because I Said I Would and it works to help “bridge the gap between intention and action.”

The premise is simple – this is a social movement meant to better our relationships and communities.  The quote below summarizes exactly what the Because I Said I Would movement is meant to do:

With a focus on core values like honesty, accountability and compassion, our aim is to help build stronger citizens through sharing stories of promises made and kept. We wrap the themes around students in schools by sending letters home with parents and providing resources like promise walls, coaches kits, and promise planners.

Because I Said I Would: https://becauseisaidiwould.com/

On the website, you will also see examples of different promise stories, some of which you may even choose to share with your students, character education lesson plans and a link to start your own chapter. Some of the stories that were shared made me tear up, other stories simply made me feel inspired to make a promise and be sure that I follow through on it. I have screen captured two of the promises that made me realize how effective and effortless this activity can be…

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The image above reminded me of a promise that I made just a few hours before writing to have lunch with someone and because I said I would, I will! 
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This image made me pause because there is a 7-year-old out there just excited to share her promises with the world

I wonder how starting this conversation in a trust circle would impact our school community. I am not saying that a majority of us do not already do what we say we will, I am saying that it is nice to be reminded of the power that our word and our commitment has on our community and our relationships. I am looking forward to keeping my promise cards in mind and asking myself…How I help others be more impeccable with their words and how will I help “bridge the gap between intention and action?”

Kicking Off 2019/2020

We returned from break this past week and it was so refreshing to see everyone! As I connected with teachers here and there, I noticed that so many people just took time to focus on what they needed to focus on. I heard from teachers who told me they turned off work for the summer; good for you! I heard from teachers who told me they continued their education over summer; good for you! I heard from other teachers who told me they got some classroom and school projects finished; good for you! The point is, whatever you did, great, as long as your summer was spent focusing on exactly what you needed at that moment! These reflections and connections are part of building relationships, just like our mission statement and our core values are meant to help keep us on track, they are also meant to help us build relationships with our community as a whole – with other teachers, students, families, community members…

Missing Statement

Our mission statement was created to help us remember current and future goals. The statement below works to set ongoing goals and helps us reflect on the decisions we make every day.

Mission Statement

At Feaster Charter School, students are at the center of all decision making. We prepare our students to become 21st century learners in a multicultural society by infusing Visual & Performing Arts as well as Science, Technology, Social Studies, Engineering & Mathematics into our daily curriculum and literacy instruction. This integration challenges our students to communicate and think critically, creatively and collaboratively. By introducing the Arts and Sciences we are fostering leadership and reasoning skills, as well as increasing self-esteem at a young age to make a life changing impact. The students who leave Feaster Charter School will be lifelong learners who are on their way to being college and career ready.

Core Values

Our core values act almost like a checklist to help keep us on track. These are reminders for us that will help us refocus when we seem to lose that focus, they are Feaster’s guiding principles that we can go to when we are questioning a decision or an opportunity.

Core Values

  • We have a Growth Mindset
  • We keep all staff and every student in mind
  • We commit and follow through

Relationships

Our Mission Statement and Core Values work together to guide our school towards lofty goals and opportunities for our learners. The work we do in our classrooms is important and when we can build strong relationships with our students, community, and teams, we create opportunities beyond what was previously achievable. The first week especially is about building those strong relationships. Below are a few things to think about as you get to know your students and as we work with our school community:

  • What makes someone feel valued?
  • How can we recognize and apply the strengths of our students, team members, and our community?
  • How do we make someone feel empowered?

Some of the most basic answers to these questions are…ask them! Hold a trust circle, make these the points you discuss, spend the energy it takes to focus on little things that are said and shared that may give you hints about what the people around you feel and what they need to feel empowered.


Further Reading from our Blog:

 

Book Review – A Letter to My Teacher

At the Feaster Book Fair, I picked up an adorable book that helped me keep perspective on a tough day and  helped me remember to be empathetic even when I am feeling overwhelmed and stressed. The book, A Letter to My Teacher by Deborah Hopkinson, is a great reminder about why we have patience and positivity even when we are exhausted. Throughout the book, an active and curious student seems to test her teacher’s patience with every chance she gets. With the best of intentions, this young learner causes what could be chaos, except the teacher uses such positivity and care every time that she responds to the misbehaviors of this young learner.

Building Relationships

“When I slipped away to look for hidden treasure in the root cellar, you and the whole class had to trudge down the old stone steps to find me. I think even you lost your patience that time.  ‘Exasperating’ was the word you used. I remember because that night my mom helped me look it up in the dictionary.’

Deborah Hopkinson

I feel like every teacher who dreads a field trip can relate to this quote! However, from this page, it is clear that the teacher has made a positive impact on this child. Even though they clearly had a conversation about a tough moment, it is evident from the way the student went home and looked up the word that there is a strong relationship. I was left predicting how this positive relationship was built…here are my best predictions:

  • Teacher assumes positive intent when the student is “acting out”
  • Strengths are recognized and applied to learning experiences
  • Student’s interests are understood and connected to learning
  • Patience is used and explanations about expectations are clear
  • The teacher uses creative responses when discussing inappropriate or dangerous  behavior

I see these events happening all the time on our campus – where teachers are focused on making learning applicable to each individual student! Just this past Friday, I was hearing a story about how a teacher makes her kindergarten students so intrigued in everything by sharing exciting stories about the most random things; for example, by telling the students how special the assignment they are working on is because it is their chance to show how their brains are growing. Every teacher has these moments when they know they have made a connection and tapped into the individual child. I encourage you to take the time to reflect on those!

 

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Recognizing and Applying Strengths

“Thanks to the math games we played, measuring our garden boxes was easy.”

Deborah Hopkinson

One of the things that we focus on at Feaster is being able to recognize and apply the strengths of each of our learners. We do this through applying RIASEC, having conversations with our students about what they enjoy, listening to what they share, making connections to their interests in academic ways and just by being available for them when we know they need us. We prepare our students for those moments when we know that they will have to rely on their academic intelligence to apply their learning from years ago. We support them and help them grow to experience every positive opportunity possible. This is what we do when we bring all of the programs to Feaster (ie Mindlabs, VAPA, STEM, STEAM, Feaster Farm with the chicken coop, hydroponic greenhouse and the tilapia pond, our after school clubs, our athletics programs, our band, our dance performances, our engineering lab, our science lab, our technology on site…) because we are focused on the learners and making sure that they grow academically, socially and emotionally.

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I would highly recommend this book to any teacher who wants to read a sweet story that will remind you why you have so much patience. This book is perfect for those days when you are exhausted yet you know that you have done great work and that it will show through in your learners and the community you have built. This is a reminder that when we build relationships with our kids, we are doing more than just getting to know them, we are helping them have a more effective learning experience and we are influencing their view of education and learning in general. I am proud of our Feaster staff for being like the teacher in this book – patient, caring, creative, full of positive intent and focused on what is important. Thank you, Feaster teachers!

 

Side note – if you are interested in reading this book, come see me in room 903! 🙂

Investing in the Community

Would it be possible to support our learners if we do not first build a connection? Our learners are much more likely to be receptive to learning, creating, and communicating if they are part of the classroom and school community. We can start that this community building right away, even before they walk into our classrooms by making sure we have set up a successful and welcoming environment, that we give opportunities to build a classroom community and foster relationships, and that we encourage positive rapport and communication to provide a welcoming atmosphere!

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Classroom & School Environment

To me, this goes beyond what is on your walls and where your students are seated. While these are important, the environment is about the emotion that is felt when our learners walk onto our campus, across the blacktop, and eventually to their classroom. How many positive interactions are held in these moments when we are just walking across campus? Or, worse, are our learners bombarded with “NO” statements and ignored good mornings? We are all part of this school community, so we can all make it a positive one.

How powerful would it be if students saw other teachers outside, welcoming them, saying good morning, waving hello, sharing positive comments, and starting their morning off with a sense of belonging? What difference would that make when our students finally get across campus to our classrooms?

The YouTube Video, Every Opportunity,  shows this exact difference – how does it feel to be ignored and how does it feel to be welcomed. I am thinking that it may even be powerful to let your students see this YouTube video and have them own our school environment and culture as well. They are the biggest part of our community because they are why we are all here together! Bring them in by including them and discussing ways to make every moment on campus safe and positive.

Questions for Class Discussion:

  • How do you feel welcomed?
  • What does it mean to feel valued?
  • What makes you feel valued?

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Community Building & Relationships

How powerful would it be if the students actually saw how much we care and how passionate we are about their education and their character development? This is what the first week is all about, building those relationships. When I say that, I do not mean just building relationships with your students, but I mean building a community relationship. Learners in our classrooms should feel as connected to each other as they do to us. They should feel that we would all do anything to make sure they feel supported and successful as would the students next to them.

In my first years of teaching, I was too focused on building a relationship as the leader of the classroom and I did not effectively focus on building the community within the classroom. This caused an over-reliance on me as the teacher and when conflicts occurred, I was the only who seen as the problem solver. After reflecting on this, I realized that I had created a community where I was at the center. Instead, what we can do is work on building a community relationship where everyone feels as connected with each other as they do with the teacher.

Questions for Class Discussion: 

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Rapport & Atmosphere

When I think of this, I think of the “vibe” that I feel as soon as I enter a classroom. Over the summer, I spent time in a few other classrooms and got to experience that “vibe.” It was that instant feeling of belonging and support and confidence. It was like I knew this was a place I could be successful and empowered. How powerful would it be if our students felt that each time they walked into our classroom? When you step back from your class and just notice what is going on, what do you see? I would recommend taking time the first week to do this. When you are setting up routines and procedures, take a moment to notice and reflect on how the students are interacting, how they are walking during transitions, what does their posture say about their emotions? Taking time to reflect on verbal and non-verbal interactions and behaviors can help us learn how to better support our students.

Questions for Class Discussion:

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This first week back is exciting because it is what influences the rest of your school year! Take time to build those relationships, reflect on what worked, get input from your students, help them OWN your routines and procedures and communicate on what makes them most successful. You can do this by making sure they are part of the process!