Wednesday, September 30, 2015

25 Thoughts on Self Care for Transformational Teachers

This was my 30+ minutes of writing today.  I think it is really hard to do these things with consistency, but I hope something will spark for you!

How many ways can I think of for transformational teachers to care for themselves?  {These are things that I’m applying so much more now that I’m out of the classroom for this year.}

  1.  Know your limits and stick to them--know how much time you will commit in a day/a week/ a month/ a year to the tasks you need to do--planning/grading/cleaning/set up/ extra stuff.  
  2. Be realistic and stick to it.  For example:  I have 30 minutes to grade, and that is all today.
  3. Close out distractions from your personal work time--no internet, friends, kids, coworkers, etc.  The time moves fast, and you know what you have to do.  Carve out that quiet work time and keep it sacred.
  4. Say NO! politely but firmly.  Some ways to say it are:  “I wish I could, but I’m not able to add anything extra right now.”  “That sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t line up with my goals right now.”  “I wish you well, but I am not able to participate at this time.”
  5. Do something that brings you joy every single day--cook, walk around your block, knit, play with your kids, clean your house, listen to music, whatever it is for you.  It might be very simple like smile as you walk down the street.  You are only able to give from the overflow of your joy, so keep your joy well filled and overflowing!
  6. Honor your humanity.  You are not a teaching machine or robot.  You are a human being.  When you recognize and accept this in your self it will be much easier to recognize and accept in other people--especially your students.
  7. Practice being present.  Stop and look at people when they are speaking to you.  Don’t let your mind wander.  Really be there.  In the long run it saves time and resources.
  8. Keep guilt and shame at bay--they will steal your joy and deflate your effectiveness.
  9. Move your body every day--and I don’t mean around your classroom--unless your dancing around before or after school!  Preferable move outside. 
  10. Fuel your body with the best nutrition you can.  Be intentional about the ways you fuel your body.  The better the nutrition you put in the more effectiveness you will be able to put out.  {On days when you eat a bag of M&Ms, accept it, let it go and move on.  Refer to number 8}
  11.   Spend as much time in nature that you can.  Vitamin D from the sun is a big deal.  Moving outside is a big deal.  Time in nature is proven to improve mood and overall outlook. 
  12.   Get enough rest.  This is more than just sleep, and sleep is very important.  Plan down time for yourself and your family.
  13. Learn something new.  This can be for your job or just for fun.  Take a pottery class.  Learn to salsa.  Whatever is going to keep you moving forward in your life.
  14.   Don’t get sidetracked by other people’s ideas.  There will always be other people who are doing amazing things that are different than you.  Don’t let yourself be filled with doubt because you aren’t doing what someone else is doing.  You bring your A game, and don’t worry about someone else’s A game.
  15. Ask for help.  When you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help.  It doesn’t mean you will get it, but keep asking different people.  Eventually the person who was meant to come along side you will be there.
  16. Have a place and way to vent.  It might be a long run on Saturday morning or a glass of wine with a good friend.
  17.   Don’t worry that you’re not doing things the way everyone else is.  Some people will always be ahead of you, and some people will always be behind you.  The important thing is that you know where you are going.
  18. Have a good support network.  For me the best support community turned out to be online and outside of education circles.
  19.   Accept people as they are, and know that we can only change about 10% of ourself.  People have set personalities.  Accept this.  Your only able to change one person, and that is you!  Accept this.
  20.   Make a gratitude list.  It might be something you write down or it might be an informal and mental part of your bedtime ritual before you fall asleep.
  21.   Accept the fact that not all people are trustworthy.  Decide what part of your life you want to be public {it might be big or small} and then fiercely guard the part that you want to keep private.  
  22.   Social media is rarely your friend--see #21
  23.   Remember when people are mean they are usually broken and hurting.  Their behavior says much more about them than you--especially if they make it public.  You do NOT need to engage with them EVER
  24.   Behave with integrity.  Keep your word.  Respect other people.  This is a lost are, but many years ago my dad said, “You will sleep better every night if you do the right thing.”
  25. Choose kindness whenever possible.  It’s always possible.  {I’ve seen those words credited to the Dali Lama and Mother Theresa.}  Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is walk away or stay quiet.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

First Six Weeks of Sabbatical

It's hard to believe, but I have official been on sabbatical for almost six weeks.  The objective of my sabbatical is to gain more insight into holistic education and living then sharing what I am learning.  I have been able to spend hours reading about topics like current research that says physical education and free play improve math scores in 9-10 year olds.  I have also read extensively about what was going on in education and society about one hundred years ago that lead to people like Maria Montessori and Rudolph Steiner creating such holistic applications of education that are still thriving around the world today.  I have researched mindful practices for myself and children in a classroom.  I have prepared healthy meals and moved my body more.  I have volunteered every Tuesday for painting time in my son's classroom.  I have invested hours in meetings with teachers, administrators, artists, insurance marketplace consultants, and business people.  I have felt constant fear and anxiousness juxtaposed with incredible peace and contentment.  I can feel a constant nudge forward in all areas of my life.

I have thought.  I have researched.  I have planned.  I have created.  Boy, have I created!

Here is a list of what I can remember that I have created during this sabbatical so far:

  • Promotional emails for Brave Teachers Personalized Professional Development for elementary school administrators in 5 counties of Ohio and some out of state schools
  • Created syllabi and calendars of Personalized Professional Development modules
  • Created and emailed an 18 page PDF "Administrators Guide to Personalized Professional Development"
  • Added over 6,000 words to the first draft of my book, The Transformational Classroom.
  • Taught yoga every Tuesday and Saturday morning
  • Created a Brave Yoga website
  • Started yoga for a healthy women's group on Wednesday evening
  • Did yoga on Sept. 1, with over 30 Norton Girl Scouts
  • Developing a Yoga/Art curriculum for elementary age girls, Just4Girls, that will run 9/29-11/2
  • Started writing Yoga Story Scripts and selling them on Teachers Pay Teachers
  • Created Will U Learning--simple one page printables that turn into eight page booklets and a Lesson Plan/Extension Guide to teach a wide range of social/emotional skills to elementary age children {Will U even has his own FB page!}
  • Created a workshop titled "Creativity in the Common Core Classroom" that will run live at ACoT the evening of October 6
  • Created Book Art workshops for children and adults {Kids are on Oct. 10 and adult version is the evening of Oct. 22}
  • Currently showing art at Nine Muses Gallery, ACoT First Floor Gallery, ACoT sidewalk windows, online, and in my studio
  • Created, printed, and promoting a 54 card inspiration deck from the Summer of Inspiration Watercolor Posters
  • Painted a rain barrel for a silent auction at Barberton Municipal Building, Oct. 1 - 30 for water conservation education
  • Selling Summer of Inspiration originals in my studio and online
  • Finished several pieces of art including:  Nature v Civilization, Joy is my superpower, Hope is my superpower, Fearless and a variety of small cubes
  • Working on art for an upcoming show
  • Created a Christmas Card from an original piece of art that will be formally unleashed next week
  • Invited people to start hosting Art Parties
  • Collaborated with artists to host a large Open House at ACoT and gallery sit on a regular basis
  • Wrote 32 blog posts and innumerable Facebook posts
I'm looking forward to the next six weeks, and all that they will hold!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Welcome Fall With a Secret Simple Self Care

Lemon print on handmade paper prayer flag

I LOVE Fall in Ohio.  Yesterday was a gorgeous first breath of autumnal air.  It was cool sleeping in the 50s and warm and sunny during the day in the 80s.  All of the plants are rendering the last bits of life.  Where I live there are mums everywhere.  It's simply gorgeous.

For teachers this point in the school year seems to pile on stress, fatigue starts to set in, and the first signs of illness and compromised immune systems start to raise their ugly heads.  I'm going to recommend one super simple self care tip that has made a big difference for me in the past year.  

I started drinking a mug of lemon, ginger, honey tea first thing in the morning.  You can read some of the benefits of warm lemon water HERE.  I make the mixture ahead of time in a pint mason jar.  I use the jar in about a month.  I slice up lemons and ginger root to fill the jar {2-4 lemons and a small ginger root}.  Then I fill the jar with the best honey I can afford.  I recommend including as many of these words in the honey as you can--organic, local, and raw.  For the first time at the end of August I got all three words in thanks to the Akron Honey Company.  Screw the lid on, and store in the refrigerator.

In the morning heat water, add 1 - 2 spoons of mixture to your mug, and add water.  {Sometimes I add cinnamon, too.}  I like to take a few deep breaths over the lemon infused steam.  It makes me stop for just a few moments and soak in the essence of life.  {It's easy for me to forget this in the morning rush!}

Also, when I come home and my throat is sore or my nose is stuffy I drink another mug full and breathe the steam.  I think it has made a big difference in keeping me healthier and more in touch with reality.

Let me know how it works for you!

What are you doing to take care of yourself this Fall?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Five Minutes A Day To Change Classroom Culture

If you're feeling especially challenged or overwhelmed by your new school year, then this post is really for you!  If you would like to build stronger relationships with your students, then this blog is for you.  If your a curious teacher who like to think about new things, then this blog is for you.

What I'm about to share is not new.  In fact it's probably as old as education itself.  It's just one of those things we've lost sight of.  One of those things that seems way too easy to lead to any sort of real change.

This is a game change!

At the beginning of the day as your students arrive, have only one job.  And hold the time sacred so nothing like last minute tasks can interfere.

Greet each and every one of your students at the door.  
Shake their hand.  
Let your eyes meet. 
Greet them by name.

Unless this is already part of your class or school culture, it's going to make an amazing difference.

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT.  Some days you will be the only person who says that child's name in a kind and loving way.  You may be the only person who looks directly into a child's eyes and silently expresses, "I see you.  I really see you."  You will be training your students to behave is socially appropriate ways for their future job interviews.

At first it will be a challenge.  It may feel awkward.  Do it anyway.  For students who I have hard time meeting your eyes, ask them to look at your nose.

Do not let the greeting become superficial--ie Don't you look pretty today.  I try to avoid physical appearance comments unless something really changed--glasses, braces, etc.

Good morning, William. That's all it needs to be.  If you want to make it more:  How are you today?  {Listening to response, too.}  You look like you're ready to learn.  I know we're going to have a great day together.

Overtime you are instilling the belief that you care about that student.  This makes a huge difference when discipline issues arise.

If something happens and I'm not at my door then I walk around the classroom greeting students at their seats.  If you do coteaching or have a student teacher you can both do this. Or take turns while one is prepping and fielding questions.

As the teacher you will also be able to gauge so much about your students' morning.  I found it especially useful with students who had mental/emotional health concerns.

Best wishes to you.  Let me know how it works for you.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Reflective practices to change your teaching

I've been very fortunate over the course of my teaching career to have several seasons in which I was challenged to be reflective about my teaching practices.  The most notable one was the year long process toward national board certification.

When I started teaching I thought reflection was a part of all educators.  I spent hours wondering what tool was going to reach different students and improve their performance.

Here's the thing.  It never left me.  I actually internalized the fact that teachers are supposed to reflect on what we do and how it impacts individuals and the collective.  This reflection is part of what has really honed me in the last few years as a master educator.

I also understand why many teachers don't participate in it.  Just like looking in the mirror, our personal and professional flaws seem to have a spotlight beamed directly on them.  It's hard.  It's work.  It takes time.  And it is sometimes painful.

But it's so worth it!  If you want to incorporate a personal practice that yields huge benefits to your students, make it reflection.  

NOTE:  This has nothing to do with the sort of teacher evaluations that are being mandated and forced on teachers that in reality have nothing to do with authentic and empowering change.  This is the real deal.  It has nothing to do with standardized test scores and everything to do with the real impact you have on your students.  It's the sort of stuff that lets you sleep better at night rather than haunting you.

How to begin a reflective practice to change your teaching:

1.  Begin with the positive.
We are often our own worst critics, so don't let the negative overwhelm you.  Start with these:  What worked well today?  What do I want to do again?  When did I notice my students most engaged? Who was engaged?

2.  Start with just one piece of what you do.
It's easy to take on too much and give up.  Start with just one part of your week--reading groups or math stations or your weekly introductory lesson for reading or just vocabulary.  When choosing ask this:  What is one little area that can make a big difference?

3.  Track your progress over time.
Jot a few notes in a journal or notes on your phone or someplace so that you can see progress over time.  First ask--how will I record this?  What can I do to keep it super simple for me.  Then as you look back on your notes ask this:  Do I notice trends?  Does anything happen repeatedly?  What is working well for me and my students?  Is there anything obvious I can change to make this better?

4.  Find someone to share this.
It doesn't have to be formal or official, but having a trusted colleague or friend who know nothing about education can make a big difference in keeping you going.  Lots of research shows us that this accountability even informally is powerful and important.  Something to ask the other person:  Do you hear me mentioning something repeatedly?  Is there something that seems oddly absent?

5.  Honor your practice with something that brings you joy
Each week or as often as possible do something that brings you joy to honor your reflective practice.  Take a walk in the woods, get coffee with friends, create time for a hobby you enjoy, or whatever it is for you.  Honor your willingness to practice reflection, and you will continue.

I can't wait for you to discover the benefits for you and your students!

Friday, September 4, 2015

A Challenge, A Great Reveal, Updates, and a Giveaway

Today I have a challenge, a great reveal, updates and a give away.  So here we go:

The Friday CHALLENGE:  ASK YOURSELF THE QUESTIONS.  I see the world filled with people who seem to move robotically through life, without questioning much of anything.  Think about how you are impacting people and how you let people impact you.  Are your choices serving you well in your mind, body, and spirit?

I hope your fall will be filled with courageous reflection and intentional action!

The REVEAL:  To encourage and empower you to make these bold moves, I have created a card deck with 54 of my favorite watercolor quotes from this summer.  I LOVE this, and just to brag a bit, so does everyone who has seen it!  You can see it HERE RIGHT NOW!

UPDATES:  Additionally, Save the Date:  September 26, 2015, I will be selling all the original watercolors from Summer of Inspiration at an Open Studio and Online.  

GIVEAWAY:  I am giving away one Brave Inspiration Card Deck Mini Care Package on Labor Day at 9 p.m. EST.  To enter share a reflective question on the BRAVE TEACHERS FB page.

Know that your light diminishes the darkness.  So shine your little light into the world and let it reflect and become brighter as you reflect.

This is the Card Deck Mini Care Package I'm giving away!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Calm, Mindful Kids: Yoga Story Scripts

Yoga Story Scripts by Miriam Daniel

Who wouldn't want calmer, aware, flexible students?

I totally loved doing yoga with 30+ Girl Scouts yesterday evening.  Our evening focused around a story.  Most of my yoga for kids does.  I make up stories that take us through a series of poses.  The response is always fantastic when we do this.

Then I thought it might be great to share these with teachers.  Most of the stories take about 15 - 20 minutes if you move slowly through the breathing {The secret to success!}.  They would be great to wake kids up in the morning or calm kids down after recess.  The teacher tells a bit of the story and then guides the group into yoga poses.

Some of the benefits I have witnessed in using yoga with kids:

  • more body awareness
  • more focus
  • more emotional awareness
  • stronger listening skills
  • less stress, anxiety, and social issues
  • better flexibility (physically and emotionally)
I just put the first script, A Walk In The Meadow, up on my TpT store.  I think it's a great investment!