Show. Everyone. Love.

I haven’t been an educator very long but one of the things that is beginning to look like something i need to get used to is coming into a year with a new buzz word or technique or system or strategies that will quickly become ubiquitous throughout the classrooms, conference rooms, PD days, and hallways. Sometimes they fizzle quick and sometimes they do so to varying degrees based on the individual buy in. For us last year it was Growth Mindset. I love it and still use it at work and as it pertains to the real world and I think it stuck with lots of people in my building as well. The point is that the constant barrage of talking points in the vernacular coming from high upon the mount is basically void of the terminology this year when it was a constant last year. I get it. A theme or themes are decided upon in order to keep things fresh and they last for the year. Rinse, switch, repeat.

One of the big ones this year is a more tenacious focus on SEL. This is social-emotional learning for those not in the know. I did a 2 year stint teaching summer school to 2nd and 3rd graders before getting the job I’ve had the 2 previous years and stumbled upon lots of great resources preparing for that so I have believed, and immersed my philosophy, in SEL for a while now. And it isn’t like SEL was new to the building this year either, it has just been center stage. To wit, our outstanding academic coach came up with this SEL calendar last month and we have just started the new one for March as well.

Screenshot 2018-03-09 at 3.30.18 PM

The challenge is to do as many of the activities and hashtag them on twitter and stuff. As any newish employee worth his salt would, I bought in and tried. I wound up doing every single activity and twittered all the things and everything. I plan on doing so in March as well. I am watching a room full of fifth graders work together to create a class handshake. It’s brilliant.

As I was working on lesson plans last night with this month’s SEL challenge calendar next to me, trying to find precious minutes to squeeze activities into I reflected on why. Why make planning “harder” by adding more. Echoing through the halls I hear, from time to time, grumbling about things being constantly added – meetings, assemblies, tests that suddenly need proctoring, curriculum supplements, technology, etc – I have been guilty from time to time of adding to such laments.

I’m in this thing for the fame, yo. For real. I don’t remember the teacher that finally taught me algebra (or if such a person or feat exists in my academic history) or how to conjugate a verb or what the capital of Louisiana is. Someone did and they are or were underpaid, beautiful souls in a noble profession. I don’t mean in any way to disparage anyone who teaches those things. I have. The teacher I pedestal the highest or remember with the most retrospective fondness, I very much disliked on the onset. But they are those who taught me perseverance and grit and thought I was capable of so much more than I ever saw or was willing to strive for.

We moved to Florida the summer before my senior year in high school. English was always by far my best subject. I had that famous mean teacher and failed and was in shock. I had to take night school in order to graduate. I hated that woman. The first day of school she told us seniors that after graduation she always had a big graduation party with food and stuff and by day three I was like – don’t order too much food lady because everyone hates you and no one is coming. And then she failed me, (ha “she” failed me, silly senior me) and I had to spend warm florida senior year nights at school of all places. I passed second semester. I had a carload of buddies drive down to attend my graduation and subsequent party. Downers North, where I should have graduated from, had their ceremony a week before and it was a perfect celebration party for the boys to come get crazy for a week after high school was officially over. I missed those guys so much during that pivotal year. My parents scheduled my graduation party the day of that mean old English teacher’s party. Guess who spent most of the day away from his own friends and party in order to honor the woman who he spent most of the year loathing?

I teach SEL challenge activities from that callendar because I am in control of how these kids will remember me. I know the road to visits from high school seniors on off days and invites to college graduation parties for former fifth grade students is paved not by teaching by the book or by being the pushover teacher all year. We etch ourselves into memories and schema our time into their brains and hearts and histories by being memorable for going above and beyond in what you expect them to give of themselves to you and by exceeding their expectations of what you will give of you to them. The activities on this calendar are memorable and infuse all the everything with nothing but goodness. Empathy, kindness, passion, teamwork, friendship – all attributes and qualities that DEFINITELY translate to their futures whereas quantum physics or past participle recognition may never be remembered again.

I got into this business not to make money (hahahahahahahahahahaahahahaha, right? sigh) but I am not Mr Altruism. I want that fame. I want to be immortal. To be remembered forever by every kid I am charged with instructing. Every one. I am tough and make it a point to tell them that I am expecting them all to change the world and that nothing less than the transcendence of anyone’s idea of their potential, and mine is usually the highest, will cut it. But I also dance and sing and make them laugh and smile and feel special and loved. I believe in this year’s buzzword, in SEL, and so I teach it and make sure to work in everything on this calendar because it teaches them what it means to succeed as a human on this planet regardless of their recall of math facts or thematic elements of chapter books. But mostly? I want to experience doing the class handshake we worked on today with one of these kids in ten or twenty years and have them tell me that I was “that teacher”. That will be the pinnacle of my professional life. My gold watch. My sidewalk star. My corner office with a view. Thing is, I know I’m going to get there.

7 thoughts on “Show. Everyone. Love.

  1. Our school is putting a huge emphasis on SEL curriculum this year. We are in the process of choosing one for the school. You put SO much work into your calendar. I love that you put in the book “Each Kindness” by Woodson. Love that. Do you use a curriculum? If so, do you mind me asking which one?

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    1. We haven’t adopted one exactly but the one I’ve been most familiar with has been Second Step. I don’t exactly teach it with enough fidelity to speak to its finer points or deficits though. I mostly just read the temp of the kids and piecemeal search for books\activities that fit. If that makes sense.

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  2. It sounds like you’ve got a good thing going! When I started teaching 12 years ago, I was amazed at the steady stream of buzz words, strategies, techniques, and programs that never seemed to stop. I was also surprised by just how easy it was to get burned out. Like you said, stuff was always being added. As you’ve said, though, relationships are where it’s at–everything else is just stuff. Important, but just stuff. Thanks for your post!

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  3. I love this! I agree- you’ll get there. For sure. You have high expectations but you support them every step of the way. And you care. So much. And I think every teacher wants to be “that teacher” for their kids- I know I do. That’s why we do what we do. Awesome, awesome post. You inspire me daily.

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  4. You have to be selective and think integration… the proverbial get two birds with one stone. I can see some of the activities integrating into writing, some into reading. Some, like the one for Feb 26, might take a couple days– a few students each day –and work on public speaking skills during the presentation. One thing is for sure, we can’t just keep adding “stuff.”

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