Category: Episodes List

Fail Better – Episode 042

Fail Better – Episode 042

I have a hard time using the word fail. It’s not my favorite word to use and I am convinced that the way you speak affects the way you think and your actions.

Therefore it’s a word that I avoid using in my classroom and in my personal life.  Unfortunately, everyone I know loves to use the word fail.

In my classroom my students constantly talk about failing classes, epic fails; fail, fail.  The word itself has taken a life of its own. There’s not a day that goes by in my classroom, where we are either in the middle of an interactive laboratory or are reviewing content, where a student risks embarrassment, goes out on a limb and with nervous anticipation says what they believe is the right answer; only to get it wrong.

My natural instinct is to look them straight in the eye, smile, and tell them how that’s a really good answer, and how it was very close to the real answer and please let me explain what the real answer is.  No matter how big my smile can be, no matter how wonderful I can project the tone of my voice, inevitably, somebody says fail. It may not be the word itself; at some point the sense of failure lingers inside the room.

I feel that my attempts at combating failure, has failed. I have failed to stop failure from occurring in my classroom. It is without a doubt a blemish in my career and in my heart.

As a child, my mother always believed in me. My mother, with her 40-year-old child, continues to tell me how much she believes in me. She is without a doubt one of my biggest supporters.  Whether it was dressing up as Frosty the Snowman in fourth grade trying to remember my steps and lines, or as the president of my HOSA club who forgot to order the pizzas for our Friday school fundraiser (and had to apologize to every single person in our school for not having any pizza), she continues to hold her ground, and continues to believe in me

That believe in me has carried me over in some very dark times, both professionally and personally. I value her words more and more each day as they continue to fuel me and inspired me to become a better version of myself today than I was yesterday.

Which is why as much as I hate to accept failure, I must accept it.  As much as I despise the word and how it feels when those consonants and vowels come out of my mouth, I must except the fact that we live in a society the points out highlights and emphasizes failure.

I must sadly accept the fact, that I failed to remove failure from the language of my classroom.

Here’s what I can do…

I can fail better

You see, there is a sycophantic morose obsession in our society when it comes to failure.  People are almost excited when someone that seems at the top of their game, fails. It’s been said that when we hold people up to a pedestal, like the way we hold our heroes, we hold them to a much higher standard than we hold ourselves.

And we love to see them fall…

It means they were human…

After all…

The classroom is no different; there is always going to be the “smart kids”, “the dumb kids”, “the poor kids”, “the rich kids”, etc…

Whatever category you, our students, or anybody else can fit them into, these categories were not designed by children, rather they are absorbed by children because of the adults around them.  Prejudice, stereotypes, and pre-conceived notions of people are all learned by children and taught by adults

And if failure is the great equalizer in the classroom; if failure somehow helps wipe the slate clean in the minds of our studnets, helping see everybody in the classroom as equals…

 

And if failure helps bring down those who we feel are above us, as our tabloids filled with scandal seem to point out, then let us try a new approach to failure

Let’s fail better

Let’s shoot for failure on a different level. Let us embrace failure as being epic; true epic failure. Failure so grand, so magnificent, so wonderful, because you went all in and tried your damnedest…

Failure on a level not seen before; the biggest and best failure you could possibly imagined. Failure that did not exist before, because you have taken a risk…

I’m not talking about your students; I’m talking about you…

You are the model of failure in your classroom; and when you are comfortable, you risk nothin.

And when you risk nothing, over time, you become risk averse.  You do not nurture the fail better mentality. Failing better means going all in; it means to try something new, change things, and become uncomfortable in order to see what works and what doesn’t.

And when you model that in the classroom and when your students see you trying and failing; failing better today than you did yesterday. That becomes a recipe; a nurturing environment. A place where your students, your seedlings, are planted in healthy fertilized ground with the emotional and psychological nutrition to grow into the people they are to become.

Your response and approach to your trials and tribulations; your smiles and positivity when you try something new; your willingness to take risks and go all in, makes for an incredible classroom experience, for your students, and for you.

It creates an experience where students can take risks and learn… not just the lesson… but about themselves.

THAT… is an education…

 

A Sense Of Gratitude (Volume II) – Episode 041

A Sense Of Gratitude (Volume II) – Episode 041

What does gratitude mean in education?

It starts with something that happened to my during my second year of teaching. If you survived the cut throat, desperation and hopelessness that is the first year of teaching (which is all about survival); then the second year is MAGIC! You are more engaged with who you are, what you are capable of doing, what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and how to best serve your students.

Relationships, for me, were something that I wanted to work on. I was comfortable in my classroom, I was comfortable walking the halls of my building and with others in my department. And it’s not to say that I had a major issue building relationships with my students, but rather, I knew there was a deeper more meaningful way to build my relationships with my students.

Depending on who you talk to, this is not common talk in the teachers lounge. Many teachers are out the door at 3:15pm along WITH the students. Many teachers can’t stand kids, and I’m embarrassed to admit that on several occasions, when teachers would talk badly about students, I didn’t speak up when I should have. You would be surprised by how many teachers don’t like kids, much less helping them, and even less wanting to build meaningful relationships with them. For many, the time we spend in the classroom is more than they bargained for.

I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, but I knew there was something else I could be doing. Something that involved more than superficial talk.

I felt stuck.

And then there was Joel.

My afternoons usually consisted of sweaty stinky football players and failing students coming after school to make up grades.  My afternoon tutorials were afternoons that smelled of desperation. Having one on one time with any student is fun, especially when I get to dive into molecular shapes, calculating grams per mol, or any other fun chemistry/science themes.  When Joel would come after school (because he needed to make up work, due to his family problems), it was different.

Joel and I would sit and talk about the cars his uncle and him were rebuilding and fixing up. After all the stinky kids went off, we would talk about his alcoholic father’s issues. About how grateful he felt for his uncle stepping in and playing a fatherly role, and for teaching him about auto body repairs; which he loved. It was great to see his eyes open wide and glisten whenever he talked about popping out doors, or mastering bondo. It was fun for me to just listen to him and to hear him get excited and passionate about doing something he saw himself doing for the rest of his life. His future was very clear to him.

One afternoon, Joel waited until the room cleared out to tell me some interesting news; he made $16,000 selling three cars he fixed. And he wanted my opinion as to what he should do with the money.

I was floored. Not only because of the fact that he saw me as someone who could counsel him in this regard, but because I understood that my relationship with him and my role was not defined by the title on my contract. I suggested that he open up a Roth IRA.

A week later, he thanked me, and told me how the bank manger wanted to shake his hand for making such a wise investment at such a young age.

Joel now has two shops and is doing fantastic.

 

The Friday before my very first day of school teaching, my principal spoke to the entire staff during a very hectic last Friday before the first day. With all of the teachers filling in the cramped cafeteria, legs nervously twitching, and after a monotonous and boring explanation of testing results from the year before, which being a new teacher, made no sense to me, my principal said some words that have haunted me ever since.

He thanked all of us for what we do, for what we will do during the school year. And he thanked us for breaking poverty cycles.

Whenever you find yourself this year, caught in a difficult situation with a student, remember something; you were chosen. You were chosen for that situation. You were chosen to rise above yourself and to transform and to express your fullest potential.

I could have easily told Joel to ask someone else, or to not have bothered with him at all, given him some work, and moved on. Instead, I was given the opportunity to impact someone’s life in a positive way, and I did. And his life will forever be impacted by the time and the energy invested.

And I will be forever transformed by the experience I was chosen for.

I am grateful for the opportunity, everyday, to make an impact.

I am humbled by the opportunity, everyday, to serve.

I carry with me, a sense of gratitude, that transforms me whenever I get the opportunity to express my fullest potential. And I do this by helping others express their fullest potential.

#oneword2019 = Gratitude

REST – Episode 040

REST – Episode 040

With the holiday season upon us, we finish one thing to only pick up another.

We go though everything that we need to in order to finish the year/semester off right, only to pick up all of the responsibilities required to complete during this holiday “break”.

In the melee of everything, what we should be focusing on, is rest.

We need to rest.

You need to rest.

I need to rest.

I respect you enough to not give you explicit instructions on HOW to rest, or what that rest must entail. Fact is, we all rest in various ways, and it’s up to you to figure out what brings you peace, what refills your empty cup, and what helps keep you in harmony.

It is a common misconception from those outside the educational sphere to think that the amount of time we have off more than compensates for our time.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

We don’t have jobs; we have a calling. A mission.

We do NOT exhange time for money; we GIVE time, energy, blood, sweat, tears, emotions, money, etc and we pour it into the lives of others. We GIVE far more than we receive. Which is what high performers do; we share in the spoils of that investment with the rest of society. And more importantly, our return on investment will always be unknown and beyond the walls of our classroom. And it will touch countless lives beyond the souls in our rooms.

This is why you need to rest.

Rest within yourself.

You cannot give from an empty cup; you cannot replenish that which cannot be renewed.

Renew yourself, refill your cup during your time off. Practice and model the self care that so many students do not practice, but desperately need.

I give you full permission to rest in the knowledge that you do not only deserve this time, you have earned it, and you need it, not only so that you can continue to give to others…

Most important of all; because you are you.

There’s no one else like you.

You are worthy.

You are enough.

rest.

Want To Save Education? Stop Making It All About The Kids – Episode 039

Want To Save Education? Stop Making It All About The Kids – Episode 039

It took me a few years of teaching in the classroom to discover EXACTLY how to save our educational system. One day, I had an epiphany; an Ah-HA moment that changed my life.

Stop making it all about the kids.

As a parent, the best thing I can do for my children is to take care of myself and bring the best version of myself to them on a daily basis. Unconditional love and acceptance flow from a person who knows how to love themselves first.
That’s not what we bring to our classroom daily.
The classroom is filled instead with fearful adults who are afraid of their own students.
Nothing can grow properly planted in fear.
It’s time to flip education from the inside out.
It’s time for a seismic shift in our beliefs as to what is acceptable and what is possible.
Its time for our focus to shift toward the adults in the room; teachers.
Teachers are the most important person in the classroom; not the students.
It’s time to stop treating teachers as teachers. It’s time to acknowledge who they really are and what they really do.
Teachers are brain builders; they build the brains of every human being in our society. They, literally, make connections within
the minds of children, that shape and form future humans.
Teachers are neural architects; they help shape the minds that will inhabit our society.
Teachers have an ENORMOUS responsibility and charge. When successful they brain build with love in their hearts; because they have love within themselves. A successful teacher takes care of themselves and brings to the classroom the BEST version of themselves everyday.
Successful teachers are Queen Bees
Successful teachers MODEL self care, unconditional love, and acceptance.
Successful teachers are successful adults; they know they are enough
We need Queen Bees
That is my mission.
Interview with Hannah from Syllabiblog.com – Episode 038

Interview with Hannah from Syllabiblog.com – Episode 038

I had an AMAZING interview with Hannah from Syllabiblog

In addition to her full time position as a teacher who teachers future teachers on HOW to teach; she maintains her blog and a highly active Instagram Account where she posts about a modern day educators life.

This interview is a breath of fresh air, as Hannah openly discusses the personal and professional issues she dealt with as a first year teacher (trust me, its not what you think). She dives into what motivates her to lead others into our profession, and why self care is so important.

No matter where you are in your teaching career, this interview is a MUST! There are so many take aways to unpack, I highly encourage you to take a listen! Listed below are some great quotes:

“I think a big part of my job is setting an example of what I hope our future teachers should be like”

On what are some important things to tell your students…

“Tell your kids, Yeah I made a Mistake! Its fine.”

When it comes to how she started out teaching… she didn’t (at first) want to be a teacher!

“Oh God No! I didn’t want to do that at all, but that’s ok!”

On her teaching now…

“I just sit there and I think, “I get to do this everyday”. What a blessing!”

 

Make sure to follow her on Instagram and keep up with her posts on her website and blog!

 

 

Why school doesn’t matter – Episode 037

Why school doesn’t matter – Episode 037

Let me tell you a story about Matthew;

Matthew is what you would probably imagine as a “trouble maker”; whatever that person is in your mind, he is that kid.

Not only that, Matthew is smart. It has been my experience that for the most part, on average, most of my trouble makers are usually of high intelligence. These are kids rub many people the wrong way for a number of reasons. Most adults would rather not deal with these kids, so they get shuffled along. They are not challenged to be better; they are forced to conform. And for a highly intelligent kid like Matthew; this doesn’t make sense.  Why should I have to “pretend” to like going to school, pretend to be interested in any of these subjects, when Matthew already has a plan for the rest of his life; a plan which doesn’t involve school.  When other kids are seeing their education as a vehicle that will propel them to the life they hope to have, there are many kids like Matthew who for them, the educational system has been a burden that has been more interested in their hair style, their clothing choices, and shut the door on them when it wasn’t their fault they were late.  This is the conversation I had with Matthew which lead to this one question; why should school matter to me, when I never mattered to anyone at school?

 

He’s right.

 

School doesn’t matter to many kids. It’s not a valuable institution to them for a number of reasons. We could generalize these kids and go through the blame game; socioeconomic conditions, bad parenting, poverty, culture, drugs, gangs, cell phones, etc. We could also blame them directly; a generation of disrespect, lack of humility, lack of hard work and labor, unapologetic and spoiled rotten. But that doesn’t remedy an important point in the argument that Matthew makes; why did he not matter to anyone at school? Why did this child spend 13 years in an educational system, and not once, not ONCE, did he feel he mattered to someone?

One of the seven truths that you will learn when you take the Seal It With A Smile course is that the emotional reality of a person IS their reality. When you wake up in a good mood, that good mood lasts. When your in a bad mood, typically that bad mood will ALSO have staying power. If your in a positive feeling, you see opportunity. If you’re in a negative feeling, the walls feel like they are falling down over you. And when your a kid; you lack the cognitive functioning and maturity and experience to understand what’s going on. And when your a kid, not feeling loved or important or even thought of, has a huge impact.

If adults have a hard time dealing with their own emotions, can you imagine how our kids must feel?

OR the better question is; do you feel like they are YOUR kids?

Everyone needs love.

Everyone needs to feel loved. It is part of our development; we are wired to receive it and give it. We are wired to comprehend what that is, and we know when we are sometimes more aware of when we DON’T have it, than when we do. For that reason, Matthew is correct; why should he care when no one cared about him? That is his reality, after 13 years of being in the educational system. No one cared.

School doesn’t matter to Matthew. But he matters to me. And since we started this year, I have made it of high importance to me that he knows he matters to me. How do I do that? I listen to him. I do not judge him or his opinions or thoughts. I accept him exactly as he is. I follow all of the systems I created in the Seal It With A Smile course, and most important of all; I care enough to do this.

The other day Matthew told me he was really trying hard this year; his last year of high school. He’s felt more motivated than ever to not skip school, to not fall asleep in class, and to actually do his work.

Why?

Because he wants to join the military. He sees the benefits of serving and he sees himself being in the Marines for life. Everything about that life excites him, and his recruiter has been rallying him to sign. He’s signing up when he turns 18 in a few months.

How do I know this? Because I listened to him. And I feel honored that the kid that no one would pay attention to and felt like he didn’t matter, wants to serve and protect you and me. The kid that everyone ignored, wants to do something he’s proud of.

Matthew is right; school doesn’t matter to him.

 

But Matthew matters to me.

A 5 Year Pin – Episode 036

A 5 Year Pin – Episode 036

Before I realized it… I received my 5 year pin working for my school district.

I have only taught at this school district; and I have only taught at one school in this school district. Two different subjects and now that I’m starting my 6th year, a little over 1,000 kids.

I took a few seconds pause when my name was called; slightly stunned and in disbelief.  Unsure if my name was actually said through the feedback heavy microphone.

As I sat back down, in a state of shock, the number continued to roll around in my mind, unable to garner any traction.

5 years.

In five years I have moved twice and bought a house, welcomed the birth of my youngest son who is now 4, and have been doing something that I love to do, something that I have found to be my passion.

Yes I can think about all of the lives I have impacted, although to what degree is questionable. I have been fortunate to have several of my students come back and visit me, which is always a joy.

More importantly, teaching has changed me.

(for the better I believe)

It has changed me in a variety of ways. It has exposed me to so many different students that it has allowed me to understand my own teenager in a way that I could not have understood him before. His behavior on the surface appears alien to me so often, when in reality, the things he says and does is within the spectrum of teenagerdom.

My patience has increased over time as I have come to the realization that so much of the extreme behaviors that I see in the classroom and in my own children has more to do with unmet needs, fear, and anxiety, than anything else;

Maslow Before Blooms

My understanding of my own life has increased. Hindsight is always 20/20, but having been around my students has shown me that the anxiety and stress of being a teenager is something that most if not all teenagers experience. The still growing frontal lobe (the part of the brain that is linked to good decision making) is no where near being fully formed (not until 25ish). Which means that the risky behavior that teens exhibit, on some level, can be explained by this underdevelopment. At what other time would it be more fun to push boundaries and take crazy risks? I won’t go into too much detail, but I am very grateful and thankful that I survived my teenage years. And when I think about what my students past, present, and future, are going through right now, it makes my struggles seem more of an annoyance.

My appreciation for my life has increased tenfold.

Knowing what so many of my students suffer and go through on a daily basis has only made me value the time I have with them more and more.  It is so important to me to add as much value as I can to their lives, both in knowledge and in creating experiences with them.  For so many of them, school is an escape from the struggles they must face, alone, at home. So I want to make sure that when they are with me, they know they are safe, I have their back, and I will do what I can for them… so that they can learn to do for themselves.

Which is why the most important lesson of all that I have learned in my 5 years, the lesson that has impacted me the most:

Do not waste time.

Time is valuable.

There is no way we can put a price on the time we have with our students. We cannot recreate or capture the time we have with them, because they will never be the same once they leave our presence. Their growth is exponential and constant; it is critical that we take advantage of this time and go all in with our craft.

Make them smile, make the laugh, build relationships with your kids. Every single one of your students has an amazing story to tell and a story they are in the middle of writing. As their teacher, you will forever be a part of their story, a 189 day long thread woven into the tapestry of who they are and who they will become as a person. Make sure that you bring the best version of yourself everyday; be present and be all in with them and for them.

Be patient and kind to them, so they will know what that feels like.

Be understanding and listen to their needs, so they will know what that looks like

Be willing to adjust and be flexible, so they will know what that is

If you do all of these things daily, you will not only give them experiences that will shape their brains, but you will have also given them them enough experiences for them to do it for others, and give other people those same experiences.

And when you do this, make sure that at the end of every lesson, every experience, every interaction… you seal it with your smile

 

And if you are lucky, at the end of 5 years, you could have over 1000 amazing threads of pure potential be apart of the tapestry of your story.

 

The U niverse – Episode 035

The U niverse – Episode 035

A new school year is a new beginning; teaching is one of the few professions where you not only get to start a new, but you also get better the longer you practice.

It is a calling that refines you through its process.

This weeks podcast touches on that process; the process that went into creating the moment where you meet your students, and your students meet you.

Episode 034 – Special Guest Jake Widmann (Author and Coach)

Episode 034 – Special Guest Jake Widmann (Author and Coach)

Great teachers are not JUST found in a classroom…

I am extremely excited about my interview with Jake Widmann… Author of the book (SEPT 2018) Up: Lessons of Adversity, Hitting Bottom, and Choosing A Life That Matters

Some of our main topics:

  • how he was “that kid” in our classroom… the one that drives you nuts! Jakes gives us some amazing insight into why “that kid” likes to push buttons…
  • the ifonlys and how they are actually a form of interference, or static, that gets in the way of us seeing our true selves and how we put ourselves in the difficult positions we find ourselves…
  • Jake defines self awareness in a way that is not only understandable, but extremely practical…
  • what self care means and why its so important that we, who serve others, take care of ourselves…
  • his favorite quote and how that applies to creating the teaching environment that best supports us and nurtures us!

Great teachers are not JUST found in a classroom…

Enjoy this awesome interview!

WANT MORE JAKE?

IG: sologood.co   AND    jakewidmann

FB: Jake Widmann

www.sologood.co

 

Challenge Yourself – Episode 033

Challenge Yourself – Episode 033

Summer Is HERE!

(for most of us anyways)

While it’s a great time to relax, sleep in, walk around in your pajamas all day, and go full slob… it is an opportunity for two things which we should not take lightly and we should appreciate.

Opportunity To Recharge

Without question; teachers need the summer off. Above our contractual obligations, we put in an enormous amount of emotional labor into our daily practice of teaching. From being able to keep a straight face when something funny yet horrible has happened in the classroom (funny burps and passing gas anyone?) to the hard conversations we have to sometimes have with our fellow teachers AND students. Without question we need to recharge ourselves because we give so much of ourselves for those 9 months. It is necessary.

Opportunity To Challenge Ourselves 

When you are a teacher, you are also a disruptor. A disruptor of the greatest kind because you are causing dissonance. You are responsible for purposefully causing a specific mental conflict in the minds of your students! This is what you do! You create a conflict that causes uncertainty, confusion, frustration, and utterly madness!

When you teach someone 1+1 = 2 or a new skill, you are purposefully disrupting their knowledge of the world around them. And while your intentions might be good and well meaning, it doesn’t stop them from being a disruption.

It’s very similar to building a muscle.

Building a muscle does require activity!

When you do a push up or lift a weight, that in itself causes you to T-E-A-R the muscle you just worked out. It’s the soreness that you feel after any intense workout. But that T-E-A-R in the muscle isn’t just for the sake of pain…

It’s an opportunity.

Because of this now existing tear… you can now B-U-I-L-D muscle. That pain and that tear created an opportunity that didn’t exist. It is NOW the opportunity to create and to build what did not exist before.

Its when you put down the weights, when you stop running, or when you are done with you routine… that is when you are actually building muscle!

The recovery phase is when your body begins to focus on rebuilding what is torn… on filling in this newly created opportunity with new growth and new muscle.

This is why proper nutrition and rest is so important when starting a fitness program.

Without the proper nutrition and rest, all of the work and effort put into a workout will be for nothing because you are not maximizing the opportunity you created in the workout! Rest and eating right is essential to any fitness program. Its where true growth can occur.

So what does this mean for us teachers enjoying our time off?

It means we need to challenge ourselves.

Teaching is an exciting and forgiving profession (for most) because if you do with your heart in the right place, you not only get to come out of it stronger and more experienced… but you also become a better person because of it. But this can only happen if you challenge yourself!

It means that while we tear our collective emotional and psychological muscles for the sake of our kids… We also need to do this for ourselves!

So while you spend your summer in recovery mode getting your much needed break, make sure to do something for yourself, that challenges you, pushes you, creates some healthy dissonance, and helps you see the world in a new light.

Start a hobby that you might have put off, work in your garden, learn to paint furniture, learn beekeeping (these are all things I like to do :), or perhaps expand your circle of relationships and start to build new ones! Whatever you decide to, do something that challenges YOU!

If we want our kids, our students, to overcome the dissonance that we create for them in the classroom, then it is important that WE, the teachers, model this behavior for them. That our thoughts, language, and actions in the classroom are infused with this knowledge, so that we can respond appropriately when they struggle or when they face a difficult challenge.

It is easy for those of us in the classroom to forget that we are a disruptive force in the classroom. We are directly involved in changing the brain chemistry of our students. We purposefully disrupt their perception of the world. Even if they are the beneficiaries of this disruption, it is a disruption none the less.

And when we help our students make sense of the world, we call it learning.

And when we hold their hand through this disruption, we call it kindness.

And when we hold their hand through this disruption, drawing from our own challenging experiences to use in helping our students… we call this teaching.

Plan in your seat

Teach on your feet

And with every interaction that you have with your students.

Every talk, lesson, activity, challenge…

make sure you seal it…

… with your smile

🙂