A Priceless Gift

Well, I’m halfway through winter break. It’s days after Christmas and soon, the New Year will be rung in. I’ve been thinking a lot about myself as a teacher and the many scholars I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. Have you ever wondered if you have really made a difference? How often do your scholars tell you, “You’ve really touched my life. I get it now! Thank you!” I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a scholar tell me this during the year they were on my roster. In fact, I may have received a few side eyes and under the breath name calling instead and well, that’s okay. I’ve always been passionate about all of them, regardless of how they may have received my presentation. Oh, yes. Of course I received cute little letters and nice pictures telling me how wonderful I was, but nothing that revealed a life changing epiphany for any of my scholars. Something amazing happened during this break which seems to be happening more and more frequently. I was with my family making some Christmas gift exchanges, when I heard my name, “Mrs. Daugherty! Mrs. Daugherty!” I turned around to find a handsome young man walking up to me. I tried to distinguish his face, but man… our scholars change so dramatically as they mature, it becomes difficult to distinguish their matured look. He forgave my puzzled expression and politely greeted me with his name, “It’s me. Justin.” (Justin is a pseudonym provided for confidentiality purposes). My eyes grew big and my heart filled with such joy! I’d taught Justin in the fourth grade. He shared that he is now a senior at an out of state prep school, but he’d recognized me walking through the store. We talked for a moment and my heart inflated with so much pride in that moment listening to all he has accomplished. He was always a bright young man and I knew he was destined for greatness, even in the fourth grade. I must admit, I wouldn’t have recognized him if he hadn’t said anything to me first. I’ve taught hundreds of young people, in three different systems. Names and faces tend to run together for me after so many years. But young Justin, I remembered. He’s excelling just as I knew he would 8 years ago if he remained focused. He is a scholar athlete being looked at by local colleges for entry next year. Another one that made it and was compelled enough to share his successes with me. Needless to say, after we went our separate ways, I couldn’t stop smiling! Later in the evening, I began to think to myself “Who the heck was MY fourth grade teacher?” For the life of me, I cannot remember! In fact, there are only a handful of teachers that I do remember. I remember them because they either said something that made me think or they did something that caught my full attention! These teachers helped mold my life. They helped me think about whom I was and who I wanted to become. They had fully invested in me and my future. Here’s my point. As educators, we work hard, day in and day out, to make a difference in the lives of children. We make plans, we grade papers, and we work long, hard hours, for little to no pay or respect for any of it. We demonstrate, encourage, motivate, and mediate. We watch over and protect, wipe tears and reassure. We realize that some have never received a caring touch or a kind word before we entered their lives. We do all of this because most of us are in this for the outcome, not the income, knowing that more often than not, our scholars will leave us never disclosing the impact we’ve made on their lives. It dawned on me in that very moment that I was one of the teachers Justin remembered. I had said something or done something to make him remember me. It is, in my opinion, the highest praise a teacher can possibly receive. To be acknowledged by a young person you’ve taught and to hear of the wonderful things that are happening in their lives is very fulfilling. To hear that they made it, against all odds and despite their circumstances because I said it was possible all those years ago is the most priceless gift this teacher, or any teacher, could receive.

The saying goes, to whom much is given, much is required. Our purpose is to help our scholars see beyond their current circumstances. We are tasked with leading them away from poor choices and the path of destruction towards better choices that lead them to the path of their desired destiny. I’m here to tell you that this is not an easy task by any means and yes, we will, unfortunately, lose a few along the way, but not for lack of trying. We simply need to remember that there are many more “Justin’s” in our classrooms than not, waiting and wanting to learn how they too can make it. They may or may not tell you that you have had an effect on their lives. Well, at least not at that moment and really, that is okay. But, when that day comes, when you’re walking along in the store, and you hear your name being called by that one scholar you reached years before, you too will receive the same gift that Justin afforded me just the other day. And that gift, I assure you, is… priceless.

Advertisements

A Special Thanks from Transitions

https://i2.wp.com/blog.iajgs2014.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Thank-You-300x228.jpg

A year ago TODAY, I launched this educational blog. Twenty-eight posts later (24 of which were written exclusively by me), I continue to transparently share my educational experiences and life lessons. It remains my incessant hope that through my sharing, I will incite other educators to reflect upon their own instructional practices and, in turn, result in a change or modification of those current practices as well.

I have grown a great deal through writing this blog. Opening myself has not been easy, however, it has helped me to learn more about myself as an educator and as a person. It has helped me to look at my instructional practices differently. It’s helped me become a stronger educator without a doubt.

So, today, on this one year anniversary, I want to say thank you on behalf of Transitions Educational Consulting. Thank you for engaging with me through my blog. Thank you for following and offering comments of support and encouragement. Thank you for sharing my experiences with others. Thank you for helping me grow and opening yourselves to new opportunities for growth as well.

https://drkellybullockdaugherty.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/deed6-blogaversarysign.jpg

Your support is very much appreciated! Keep reading, keep following, keep sharing. Thank you again.
#Transitions #ExpectGreatness

 

Transitions

Failure is Not an Option!

https://i0.wp.com/sosleadership.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/failure.gif

Well, I’m through my third week of school. Things are going well for the most part. Probably one of the best starts to a school year that I can recall. I have 20 WONDERFUL scholars who, in these first few weeks, have reminded me why I remain in the classroom.

Initially, I had 18 scholars on my roster. I had looked over my roster prior to the first day of school and was excited to see that I was apparently receiving a break this year from some of the customary behavior challenges I’d been used to. After working with some very challenging children in the recent past, including a visually impaired child with a sharp tongue and a tenacious attitude, I welcomed the break. Educators working on the front line will be able to relate to my exaggerated exaltation. However, as expected in the world of education, things change ever so quickly and as such; I received my nineteenth scholar on Meet the Teacher night. He is a returning student who is extremely excited to be back with us! He shares his love of school and especially reading with me on that evening! This is too good to be true!! I have to be the luckiest teacher of the year!

My twentieth scholar arrived bright and early Monday morning just after I began my introductory instruction. He is also a transfer from another school in the district. I have not received his permanent records as of yet, which is not uncommon with transfers, but in conversation, he shares with me, in a rather boisterous voice, that he is not good at math and he is very shy! This statement left me looking confused since he is far from shy and has displayed some mathematical problem solving skills. Yet, these observations, coupled with his over activeness and frequent off task behavior had now become an all too familiar scene to say the least. A prologue to the main event if you will. As the saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. This scholar requires a lot of time and attention and I slowly realize, HE is my purpose this year.

On the first day of school, I read a book to my scholars, entitled “Hooray for Diffendoofer Day” by Dr. Seuss for our first morning meeting. I used to read this book to my own children when they were younger. I found it appropriate for my fifth graders because every year, a handful of scholars enter my class claiming they don’t know anything, much like my twentieth scholar. The story is about creative teaching and thinking. The tale celebrates originality, differences, and uniqueness, but also reassures that each of the scholars in the story has everything they need not only to be successful when taking high stakes assessments, but also to be successful in life. What an amazing way to begin the school year! We acknowledged each other’s differences but I also assured all of them that they too are bright, intelligent scholars that can and will be successful, but they had to trust me, trust each other, and most importantly, trust themselves.

http://historyrhetstudies.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/img_0012.jpg

In the days to follow, we would talk a lot about our school “PRIDE” (that is, Perseverance, Respect, Integrity, Determination, and Empathy) and our Scholar Statement. We would discuss in great length each attribute of PRIDE and each line of the Scholar Statement. This is my second year using the statement and I have found it to be a great guiding principle in my classroom. The statement reads as follows:

I AM A SCHOLAR!
I can DO anything, LEARN anything, BE anything.
I CANNOT fail and WILL NOT fail,
because failure is not an option.
I am in control of my future and my destiny.
I AM A SCHOLAR!
I AM THE FUTURE!

https://i2.wp.com/pics.minglebox.com/079a20711343720573836.29b346d8.m_scholarship-books.jpg

I had no idea what a powerful impact this would have on my scholars. I mean, last year, we (my colleagues and I) always spoke of the attributes of our PRIDE principles, however, most of us assumed our scholars inherently knew them, especially by fifth grade. We were very wrong in our thinking. This year, our PRIDE principles are more visible around the school and in each classroom. The attributes are discussed and modeled frequently throughout the day and school year. I have noticed this year that the school wide PRIDE attributes, coupled with my statement, had begun to do something amazing to my scholars. Something I didn’t see or hear last year and something I hadn’t seen coming this year at all. They instantly began holding each other accountable for displaying PRIDE and never giving up. I was in absolute awe the first time I heard it. Let me frame this for you by offering just one example.

Every afternoon, we do a spiral math review. This review is a culmination of skills previously learned and some newly introduced skills as well. Because math is so intimidating to most of my scholars, their initial reaction to any questioning of their knowledge results in a shrug of their shoulders and the response “Um, I don’t know.” Oh no. Here we go again! I think to myself, “I just wish these children would believe in themselves the way that I believe in them.” I proceeded to respond encouragingly when from the back of the room, I heard, “Don’t give up! Failure is not an option. Persevere!” I stopped in shock as I slowly looked to see who was speaking. Someone heard me! Someone understood me! It felt like for the first time, my scholars got it because they all chimed in to encourage their peer! Since that moment, when anyone gets stuck, including me, and we feel like giving up, we support each other by saying out loud…”failure is not an option”! This has become our daily reminder to keep trying.

This was a powerful moment for me. There are so many times I become discouraged concerning whether I am making a difference in the lives of my scholars. I wonder whether my expectations are too ambitious for them and whether I am doing everything I can do to help them succeed. How many times a year do you do the same thing? We do this all the time because we are passionate about what we do and we believe in the capabilities of our scholars. We don’t wake up in the morning thinking about who’s life we can screw up today. That is not the case at all. But on this day, at this moment, it was that voice. It was that very moment when that young scholar’s voice in the back of the room reminded me why I am still in this classroom. I actually knew exactly why that Monday morning, when that twentieth scholar entered my room. I still have some lives to change. We ALL have some lives to change! Our scholars believe in us and they depend on us. No matter what the obstacle, we need to remember not to EVER give up on them because their failure…our failure… Nope! Failure is just not an option!

https://i0.wp.com/craigtuttlefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Success-Comes-To-Those.png

Time Flies

image

I absolutely cannot believe summer has gone by so quickly! The last time I shared something was the end of June! My intentions were good people. They really were! But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t feel that bad about it. In fact, I think you will probably understand once I share with you my ever lingering “problem”.

As many of you know, I completed my doctoral degree in April 2013. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year and a half since I earned that accomplishment!

imageThat’s me on graduation day!

I think back to all the late nights, the long hours of studying and writing, and the summers spent at little league football or baseball games with books and homework in tow. Summer vacations during those six years always included long periods set aside to research, write, and hardly ever time to rest my brain. I was always thinking, always worried, always on a deadline. My laptop and study materials were always among the first items packed if we found time to travel at all. I’d stopped participating in many things I enjoyed doing and replaced them with hours upon hours spent in the library or locked in my room instead. Since my children were young when I entered the doctoral program, my studying was a normal fixture in their minds. It’s what they were used to.

imageYep. That’s me! This is what taking a break from reading, searching resources online, & studying looked like during my doctoral studies!

Last summer was the first summer in six years that I was truly FREE to do anything I wanted. I took a vacation with my husband, traveled with the entire family, sat at little league baseball games and actually WATCHED every inning of every game! I enjoyed myself tremendously! It was all so exhilarating…and awkward at the same time. But guess who enjoyed it even more. My babies. Yes, my husband was pleased as well, but my children made it very clear that all they wanted was their mommy back! I wouldn’t dare disappoint.

This summer, I’d planned to connect with all of you at least every 3-4 weeks in some capacity just to let you all know I was still around. Transitions Educational Consulting, LLC continues to grow and education reform continues to define and shape our practice. I had a clear, definitive plan for growing and developing Transitions this summer. However, what happened instead was I chose to be present for my children entirely because there was a moment this summer that I connected with each of them, and I could see the time flying right before my eyes! You see, for six years my husband and children could say, “Mommy, let’s watch a movie.” and I would have to respond, “Okay. Right after I’m done studying.” I suppose I still feel some guilt about that, but I know that they are the reason I pushed so hard in the first place.

At the same time, amazing things were happening and I was missing it! At some point during those six years, my oldest son grew taller than me! How in the world did I miss that?! My middle son…he had started wearing men’s size shoes! He was on his way to the fourth grade then! Oh, and my daughter? She’s the baby of the three. She was reading picture books the last time I had noticed and then…all of a sudden, she was reading chapter books and having high-level conversations with me that left me in awe! I mean, it feels like only months ago, although it’s been 7 years passed now. No way! Not another second will I lose.

imageMy children and I at their district track meet over the summer. I coached them!

I have missed my Transitions blog a great deal, but I’ve enjoyed the time with my family this summer so much more. Every time I prepared to write or visit my blog site, send a Tweet, or post on my Transitions Facebook page, one of my children would require some attention. I admit, I put every task on my “to do” list aside right at that moment, just to watch a movie, to take a walk, play a game, or just to cuddle with them. I loved every single second of it, too. Now that’s a lingering “problem” I’ll endure any day!

imageFamily night at a baseball game.

My fellow educators, we have a very tough job. Tougher than many others. Yes, we get time off in the summer to recuperate, but realistically, many of us spend it preparing for the following year, attending professional developments, or collaborating with coworkers. I implore you…take a break when time permits. Laugh with friends, reminisce with family, or do nothing at all! It’s really okay. In the end, you cannot go back and get that time you lost.

So I respectfully ask that you please accept my apology for being absent for the summer. Transitions has great things in store for this year, so be on the lookout! But, for these last days of summer, time continues to fly by…and I choose to catch every last second while I have them.

image

Know That You’re AMAZING!!

http://www.polyvore.com/cgi/img-thing?.out=jpg&size=l&tid=1432251

Some months ago, I wrote a blog entitled, “The Matrix”. In it, I share the struggles my oldest has experienced with reading fluency and comprehension. I know I’ve spoken of him a great deal, but I am in absolute awe at the progress he’s made! I just can’t help it! All of my children are making great gains academically, but he truly exemplifies perseverance and hard work! He’s the one that has to work harder and longer, but he does it and he has proven to himself that it pays off!

He is now in the 6th grade and even though it takes him a little longer to do some things, he has demonstrated to himself that he does have the ability to achieve. He has made the Honor Roll all this year! Even with that, he has remained in disbelief about his Honor Roll status.  He didn’t believe it because he has doubted his capability for so many years! So much that he has stated, out loud, “I can’t get good grades. I’m not smart.” My husband and I looked at each other with astonishment and then came my response, “WHAT?!! Not only are you smart…you’re amazing!!”

A couple of days ago, he made a profound statement after taking his Reading OAA. He had been quite anxious about it to say the least and understandably so considering the difficulty he’s experienced with standardized testing thus far. In a concerted effort to boost students confidence, the school asks that parents write their students a note of encouragement for test days. I wrote him the attached note, not realizing the true impact it would have!

image

When he called me after school, the first thing he said to me was he thought he did really well this time! He has NEVER sounded more confident and sure of himself!! It was a profound revelation from he who thought it to be impossible. I was filled with so much joy! I told him that was AWESOME! He continued by saying, “Yeah, I did slack a couple of times, but then I read your note and it helped me get focused!” I said, “Well, you DO know you’re amazing, right?”

I’ve said it before, there is power in words.  We all want our children to reach higher and go farther.  You know the saying, “if you can believe it, you can achieve it”. It is vital that we continue to instill in our students the importance of hard work and the diligent commitment it takes to succeed.  Come on, really. You do know they are amazing, right? So, no matter what it takes, we need to keep telling our children that they have a gift to share with the world, that they are capable of anything,  and just how absolutely amazing they truly are.

Be Attentive, Be Supportive

https://drkellybullockdaugherty.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/2e8d0-no-support-480.gif

In the now 14 years I’ve been teaching, I’ve never been told I was unsupportive and unavailable…that is…until this week. OUCH!!! It hurt me to the core! But, being the reflective person that I am, I had to take what I was given and respond to it. I had already been thinking that I’d dropped the ball; that I didn’t do everything I could have or SHOULD have, but I still found comfort in the fact that I had NEVER heard those words spoken to describe ME…until this week.

I am a leader in my school and in my district, I serve on several committees (all voluntarily), I am the identified grade level chair for my team, and I am a resident educator mentor. Quite a bit to handle in a year, but I thought I could handle it all. In fact, I needed every single one of those things to continue to build my leadership skills and in doing so; I probably neglected the most important responsibility of the year, the development of another educator. The exact place that holds my inner most passion at this particular moment in my life, I have fallen short. I came to the sudden realization that I may have taken on too much. I bit off more than I could chew. My plate is full. My cup runneth over! Well, you get the point. Nonetheless, I’ve been given this bit of information and now I need to do something with it!

I am not sure really, where this suddenly came from, but it didn’t matter at this point. All I knew was that I had to respond to it. It’s apparent that none of us is perfect. We wouldn’t be human if we were, right? But, I honestly believe that a sign of a great educator is to acknowledge his or her shortcomings when presented with them and then doing whatever is necessary to change them. When someone else points out a flaw in your leadership and/or your practice, if education is your true passion, it behooves you to correct that flaw. Assess yourself. What have you done well? What needs personal and/or professional attention? Did you contribute enough? Did you contribute too much? Did you ask enough questions? Did you ask questions at all? What will you do differently next time? In answering these many questions, maybe you will find that it means looking at your list of responsibilities and re-prioritizing them. Maybe it means clearing your plate. Maybe it means searching out professional development opportunities. Or, maybe it simply means being attentive and supportive…for someone else other than yourself.

https://i0.wp.com/meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Sheri-L-Dew-leadership-service-Meetville-Quotes-264138.jpg

Keep It Movin!!!

https://i1.wp.com/b.vimeocdn.com/ts/404/013/404013966_640.jpg

Conferences never cease to amaze me.  Typically, we spend two nights a year meeting with parents to discuss plans for the year, student behavior, and student progress.  The conversation generally starts with a highlight of the student’s grades and their academic performance.  I work hard to keep things as positive as possible, unless there is an imperative need to discuss the negative in more detail.  Most of the time, parents whose student requires a greater focus on negative behavior never show up anyway, which I still struggle to understand.  The only thing I can determine is that these parents just don’t want to hear one more negative thing about their child. As a parent, I guess I understand that. As an educator, I want to work with parents to make positive changes in their child’s life.

As I contemplate on that, I think about my Victor. You may remember Victor from a previous blog post. I spoke to him about changing his behavior to demonstrate the greatness inside of him rather than the behavior his friends and even some adults expected of him.  I talked with him about being confident with regard to his academic ability as well as his leadership ability.  I assured him that it was okay to be a positive role model rather than a negative one and that in doing so; he could be just as popular.  Well, Victor has made great strides since that conversation in December.  Don’t get me wrong, he still has some work to do, but what is certain is that he needs someone to continuously remind him of his greatness and to keep it movin after every accomplishment he makes, otherwise, he will lose sight of his objective. Therefore, when Victor is off task or pulled in the opposite direction of his greater ability, all I have to do is say, “Greatness”, and he responds appropriately.  Since our conversation prior to winter break, Victor remains on task during instruction most of the time.  I rarely see any pouting when he is working in class and he even completed his winter break homework.  He has not been sent to the office for disruptive behavior and has even joined the school’s Safety Patrol program.  His potential is more than apparent but my hope for him is to just remember that he has to keep pushing.  He has to…keep it movin!

http://male2man.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/greatness-intro2-e1375122918208.png

More recently during conferences, I met with a father who, first, was not required to conference for his child, and second, had not confirmed a time to conference for his child, so I wasn’t expecting him.  Murray’s father, who speaks limited English, came to see me simply to check on his son’s academic and behavioral progress.  Murray is far from the typical description of a “behavior problem”. In fact, he has made the Merit Roll this quarter and has become very detailed in his work. He does however enjoy socializing quite a bit, which does become a distraction to his learning.  For the most part, though, Murray is right on track. His father expresses how proud he is of his boy, then looks at me and tells me that he always tells his son that he can be whatever he wants to be and that he wants him to do better than he did himself. Of course he does.  It’s what every parent wants for their child, right?

Murray has three other siblings, two older and one younger. They are all performing at or above grade level academically, so father is extremely proud, as he should be.  Murray is listening to his father proudly and intently.  I look at him and confirm that we are all so very proud of his accomplishments this quarter, but explained that he still has work to do.  Even though he has worked hard to earn these grades, I explained, “You have to keep it movin!” It’s at this time I ask Murray to recite a couple of lines from our Scholar Statement. I ask, “With hard work, you can do what?” “Anything.”, he responds. “With hard work, you can be what?” “Anything.”, he responds. “And who is in control of your future?” I ask.  He responds, “I am!”  I add that it is not too early to begin thinking of his future and that he cannot get comfortable with the success he has made this quarter.  I tell him he has to keep it movin. I maintain that he has to continue working hard to make the grade, so, “You have to keep it movin!” I tell him. His dad nodded in agreement and appreciation for the reiteration as our conference ended.

https://i1.wp.com/www.the-record.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/dont-give-up.jpg

What is ironic about this entire conversation is that my pastor had just spoken on the topic of “keeping it movin” in that past Sunday’s sermon. He explained that attaining success in anything does not stop once you reach a set goal.  Once you reach your goal, you keep it movin and set a new goal!  How profound is that? You see, in the past, “keep it movin” meant, go away, get a life, get to steppin’, and leave me alone! But, now, in a more positive connotation, these few words could have powerful implications on us as educators as well as on our students. This phrase has helped me to define perseverance for my students in a different way. In a way they seem to better understand!

As educators, we face many challenges. We are charged with the task of determining the academic needs of anywhere between 20-30 students. We assess each one, individually or as a group, frequently, at their individual level, at many times throughout the year.  We assess and monitor our students in a variety of methods in order to predict their possible success on the state assessment.  Sometimes, the things we do work.  Sometimes they don’t.  The fact of the matter is, however, that regardless of the outcome, it is at that point that we make the conscious decision whether to keep it movin or not, when in reality, there should be no decision to make. As they say, it is what it is. When our students master a skill, keep it movin and challenge them to master the next.  Even when they don’t master the skill, we need not give up on their ability to succeed, nor should we focus on what may appear, at that particular time, to be our inability to reach our students. Instead, we need to keep it movin! Remain focused on our purpose. Remember the commitment we made to children the moment we decided to become educators. Check your approach, change your instruction, and keep it movin! Students inability to master a skill does not indicate an unwillingness to learn, but rather necessitates a different way of teaching in order for them to receive it, process it, and finally, to master it.  It is an opportunity to define our instruction and make it better. So, instead of giving up, keep it movin! When students master skills beyond their ability, it does not mean your job is complete. What it does mean, is that you have more work to do! So, keep it movin! It’s our duty and obligation to push our students beyond their seemingly confined limits. It is our job as educators to determine just how far we can push. Therefore, you have to keep it movin!

Listen, no matter the level of success, no matter how big or small their dream, we have to help our students see that even when they reach one goal, another goal is waiting in the ranks. Once you acquire one accomplishment, keep it movin…on to the next one! In like fashion, we as educators need to model how to set goals and persevere through barriers in order to reach them.  We need to show our students what can happen when they keep it movin.  So, get out there and get busy.  There is no time to waste. There is still much work to be done. So, go ahead! What are you waiting for? Keep it movin!!

https://www.wku.edu/see/images/success.gif