A Special Thanks from Transitions

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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.

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

 

Transitions

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Nothing Changes If Nothing Changes

morning. What a surprise.

November 4, 2013…the day I published my introductory blog. It’s been 7 months since I decided this blog would be the way I would impact social change in education. Eight months after I successfully defended my doctoral study and 6 months after I was conferred my degree in Teacher Leadership, I wrote that very first blog. Contrary to what some may believe, a principal or superintendent is not the dream I pursue. Instead, I would rather find a position working in curriculum/professional development in which I could work with teachers in and out of the classroom or in a higher education setting teaching pre-service teachers. However, that is currently a dream deferred and I am okay with that because I have since been led in another direction. I have prayed for direction. I have prayed for God to order my steps.

Allow me to take you back to the months preceding the inception of this blog. At the beginning of the school year, I was very much out of sorts. After finishing my degree, I was confident that I would receive the position I desired whether it be in my current district or an outside district. I had applied and interviewed for many positions. Rejection is ALWAYS difficult to deal with, but the one that was most upsetting for me was the one I received from the very district that helped me complete my doctoral degree. When I received the news that someone else had received the position, I was crushed! Not because of who was chosen, but because of who wasn’t! What in the world?! I knew there must be something else for me to accomplish in the classroom, but I certainly didn’t like this fate set before me. As a result, I started the year filled with anger and resentment. I wanted no parts of anyone or anything! Everyone felt the disdain expelling from the air around me. My grade level team especially. Very unfair, I know, but I didn’t know how else to deal at the time. Somehow, I had to find a way to release and regroup. So, in an effort to keep myself immersed in leadership roles, I chose to fill my plate with leadership opportunities. I thought it was a good idea at the time. Yeah…it didn’t quite play out the way I envisioned. Not at all.

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It probably took me until early October to end my itty-bitty pity party. I was helping my sister in law develop a blog for her early education class when it hit me like a ton of bricks! That’s it!! It was at that moment that I decided I could do what made me happy whether I was in a desirable position or not. It was at that very moment that my blog was created. Shortly after that, in December, I made the decision to work towards starting my own business and in January, 2014 with the support and encouragement of my husband, my family, and some great friends, the foundation was laid to establish Transitions Educational Consulting, LLC, dedicated to providing professional development for all educators by focusing on current issues in education and school improvement. Maybe this was what I was intended to do. The problem would lie in the fact that developing the business would be especially difficult while working in a classroom. None the less, there had to be a reason that I was still in the classroom and developing a business at the same time. God has a plan, right? So, I continued with my plans and took on several leadership roles in an effort to continue obtaining as much leadership experience as I could. In return, I would share my many experiences (highs and lows), my lessons, and my reflections with other educators across the nation! At the risk of exposing my imperfections, flaws, successes, and/or celebrations, I became transparent in that moment, in every conceivable way, in order to help other educators, like myself, grow. I have to say, this blog has been the major high point of my school year. I enjoy sharing with you all, learning from and engaging with so many of you about our profession. It is what has kept me going.

In an effort to further grow my leadership skills (probably more so to sooth my aching ego), I volunteered to sit on the Building Leadership Team, the District Leadership Team, to lead the Climate Committee and to be a Resident Educator Mentor for two first year teachers! Yeah, I pretty much took the plunge! In hindsight, I’m not sure what I was trying to prove or better yet, whom I was trying to prove it to, but this is the road I chose to travel. With my plate filled to capacity, it ultimately became more than I could handle. As with any full plate, some things receive more time and attention than others do and some things simply get left behind. But, I chose to do all of this, so I had to continue to try to manage it all. The one thing that I claim as my passion, educating and developing effective teachers, became my greatest let down of the year! Of course I am my biggest critic, but it is what it is. I found that, while working with teachers is exactly what I intend to do with my future, it turned out that it was not my current focus. It’s difficult to explain or even understand how that could be. I just knew that I had to release something, and soon! Next school year, something has to change in order for me to continue to reach other educators.

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The year has been filled with vicissitudes, as is every year. I’ve made great strides and I’ve endured some intense disappointments. I’ve been told I was unsupportive on the low end and awe inspiring on the high end. I’ve heard that I take things personally and am sensitive, but also have been acknowledged for my strength, courage, and reflective insight. I have even been told that the completion of my doctoral degree would elicit appreciation from some while others would do their best to depreciate it! I have let a few down, but have lifted and motivated SO MANY more! This year, there have been a whirlwind of emotions and changes! All of which, I might add, have made me MUCH stronger and wiser.

As with everything, I have learned a few things along the way. I cannot even begin to share the number of applications I have submitted, the number of interviews, and the number of rejections I’ve received. I know there have been many, MANY jobs. JOBS! Let me pin this here for clarification purposes. A job is a noun, a thing. In particular, a job is defined by the qualifications someone else determines and is subject to change based on someone else’s needs at that time. Let me be clear in saying that this is my perception, my personal reflection, my personal experience with…jobs. A job may or may not align with one’s long-term goals or passion, especially on paper, but because other people determine what “the job” is, there seems no certainty that one will ever truly be a good fit for “the job”. What a profound realization that is.

I have learned that even though I have made mistakes, I am not lacking in knowledge, value, or worth. It amazes me that once you receive a doctoral degree, some expect you to be omniscient in knowledge. When, in actuality, it is my opinion that this degree has made me more willing and open to learning even more than ever before. A doctoral degree is not the cake topper of education. On the contrary, it uncovers an unyielding need to explore the depths of all there is still to learn. Knowing this, I will not allow anyone or anything devalue my worth or my degree another day! No way!

Lastly, I acknowledge that change is ALWAYS occurring and I know that change is difficult. It seems that this year has been filled to the brim with change! I have learned so much about myself as a person and as a professional. I know that I will no longer allow “jobs” to define my future. I have committed to continuing to create my own opportunities through Transitions! It may take longer than I anticipated, but I am pressing on. I AM the creator of my future! I will make adjustments where necessary and changes when needed as I continue on the path that God has set for me. I have come to realize with each new understanding, each opportunity, and every new day…nothing changes, if nothing changes.

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Be Attentive, Be Supportive

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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.

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How Do You REALLY Feel?

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“These kids…they just don’t get it! They have no respect and they just don’t want to learn! I don’t get paid enough for this!” I would venture to say that we all, at one time or another, have heard, spoken, or had similar thoughts. I’ll be honest…after this last week of school, I may have been liable for walking away from all of it at a moment’s notice. Spring fever has set in and these babies are rambunctious as ever! Is THIS what my life has come to? Several days during the past month, I have reflected on my practice and my approach with my scholars. At this moment, they appear cold and uncaring of their behavior, level of effort, and will to learn. I’ve lost them. They no longer care. “Well, then…if they don’t care…I don’t care.” I think to myself. Then, I question myself. Is this how I’m really feeling?

You see, for the last few weeks, I have been leaving my school and my scholars exhausted, agitated, frustrated, and discouraged. I admit these feelings hover above many of us as a desolate cloud around this time every year. Winter has been long and cold. The students have had no true release of their pent up energy other than however they release it at home or during their P.E. classes since temperatures have been too unbearably cold outside to take them. I would like to consider myself one who works diligently and desperately to make learning fun, but being confined to a classroom for several hours a day, every day, can unsettle even the most knowledgeable, creative teachers and their students. And right now…for me, I’ve thrown my hands up in accepted defeat, saying aloud to my husband, “I’m done! They’ve given up and I just don’t have the energy.” He shakes his head in disagreement, and says, “No. That’s not the type of person you are. That’s not the type of teacher you are. So, what is really going on? How do you really feel?” I look away to hide my frustration, unable to answer.

https://i1.wp.com/www.simplyoasis.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/BangHeadHere.jpgLike the unconditional love I have for my own three children, I find myself wretched with guilt over my current emotional uncertainties and copiously overwhelmed with the amount of love and care I have for this particular group of scholars. I have love for every one of the students that has crossed my path, but this particular group is different for some reason. Different in ways I can explicitly identify, but also different in so many more ways I cannot. Differences in race and ethnicity are the most obvious the moment you walk in my classroom. Learning styles become apparent with daily instruction, which ultimately draws out the differences in students self esteem and self worth. It’s the unseen and unknown differences that probably make what we do the most challenging and, as I’ve come to realize, is the primary source of my current aggravations. As it goes, I am only in control of that which occurs within the walls of my classroom and the school environment, but, oh, how I wish I could control more.

While they are in my presence, I talk to them about hard work, challenging themselves, settling for nothing, changing their thinking, and believing in themselves. I show them what empathy for others looks like, good manners and respect as well. We are a family, so we practice lifting each other with supportive words and gestures, as well as further strengthening our bond by not only learning, but by having fun in every aspect of our instructional day. I guess this is why seeing them out of sorts, rejecting everything I have worked so hard to instill in them, hurts so very much. You heard me refer to this earlier as “Spring fever”, as most educators do, but my humanness calls it disrespectful and inconsiderate! This past week, they have shown nothing but ungratefulness and I, for one, have had enough! I am done! I have other things I could be doing and focusing on rather than going the extra mile for a group of unappreciative “other people’s children”! This…I don’t need it! And…yet…I can’t get any one of them off my mind, out of my every thought, or the depths of my beating heart. I just cannot shake them.

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Ok. Fine! You want to know how I really feel? Alright then, I’ll tell you.

I am in complete and total awe of the growing potential I see in each of my scholars, not only as individuals, but also as an entire group. I believe that every child has a gift and that every child can learn. I take full responsibility for making certain that each one of those babies, my scholars, believes the same before they leave me at the end of the year. I have tough love for them, but also a gentle love that some of them may feel only when I give it to them. Reprimanding or strong correction, strong encouragement, fist pumps, pats on the shoulder, or even a hug are just some of the ways I show just how much I love and care for my scholars. State and local policies strongly discourage physical contact between teachers and students for reasons I am aware and do understand. However, when mine may be the only source of love and nurturing my scholars receive; there is no question about whether or not to relinquish the gestures. Quite frankly, the thought never persisted very long. Simply put, I will not be an added source of rejection for my scholars.

How do I feel? When my students are upset, it makes me upset, especially when I am unable to determine the root of the problem. When they are crying or someone hurts their feelings, I respond very much like a mother bear with every intention of protecting them from all hurt and harm, in and out of school. I feel strongly that my scholars’ circumstances, whatever they may currently be, do not have to be the determining factors of the future they wish for themselves. My passion for my scholars runs deeper than it has any year prior. So, even on the days I want to throw up my hands and give it all up, I know that my inability to get them off my mind tells me that I need them as much as they need me. It is confirmation that for this particular moment in my life, at this particular moment in time, on this particular day, I am right where I am supposed to be, and really…I would not change a thing. And that, my friends, is how I really feel.

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Food for Thought. Have a great day!

As I reflect on the last couple of days, I am compelled to share a message with my fellow educators.

You may have read my blog entitled “Check Your Approach” discussing OUR approach with STUDENTS. Well,today, during your busy work day, I ask you to be attentive to your approach with your colleagues as well. I recently spoke with a gentleman on Twitter about the power of words and its affect on our fellow teachers. It matters as much to US as it does to our students. So, if you’re wondering why your colleagues are reluctant to speak to you or help you in some way, you may want to stop for a moment and check your approach.

If, in fact, we all bear the same passion and purpose for educating, then we should realize that what we do isn’t about us at all. Check your approach today and everyday, because the power of words can change a working relationship in an instant. #foodforthought

#Transitions #ExpectGreatness

Chalkboard Reflection vs. Smart Board Reflection

Happy New Year . . . to you!

Happy New Year! Out with the old, in with the new! Right? I imagine many of you have made some sort of resolution(s) or set some goal(s) for the year 2014 whether it is to increase your physical, mental, or spiritual health, or some other personal/professional goal. I, too, have identified a couple of areas of focus for the New Year.  I am hesitant to refer to these as resolutions due to the typical inability to sustain them.  I’ve found, in my mature age, that my goals haven’t changed much, so I just need some simple modifications, a new approach, or a change in my instructional processes/strategies perhaps. Whatever the case, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on 2013 and all that I have accomplished, all that has disappointed me, and all that is still yet to be done in order to determine my next step(s).

It has been an interesting year to say the least. As I scrolled through the many resolutions of friends, family, and associates on one social media site, I came across a post that really spoke to my spirit.  A wise friend of mine wrote encouragingly and metaphorically, of a focus on spiritual growth moving into the New Year.  My interpretation of his writing suggested, learning from decisions and choices made over the last year, then releasing them while making conscious decisions not to repeat anything that had a negative impact on ones spirit or prevented one from moving forward in any aspect of their life. I found this statement to be profound, to say the least, and it has resonated with me since the conversation occurred.  My response was that I agreed with his prolific statement and committed to reflect, release, and renew going into the New Year.

At that moment, another friend of ours, whom I have grown to respect a great deal over the last few years, chimed in with a question that read in part reflect? For what?”  My initial thought was, depending on the focus of your reflection, it could potentially yield beneficial rewards.  As we continued in our gentle opposition with one another, he wrote something that really stuck with me.  While I described myself as a self professed “analytical reflecter”, he described himself as a “chalkboard”, erasing  things of insignificance and moving forward with that which brought him not only growth and development, but also peace and joy. Wow! A chalkboard, huh? This really struck a chord. I began to think about “reflection” differently (You do realize I am reflecting about this thought provoking conversation concerning reflection, right? I really can’t help it.).

You are probably wondering how this is relevant to us as educators.  The relevance will reveal itself shortly.  Continuing on, I’d like to focus in on this word, “reflection”.  A “reflection” is defined in part as “a fixing of the thoughts on something or [taking] careful consideration”. Now, let’s add this idea of a chalkboard. A chalkboard is a black or green board that is written on with chalk.  All you need to convey information is a piece of chalk and an eraser.  If you write something on the chalkboard that is incorrect, you erase it, change it, and move forward. You may or may not recall what was once written, but there is clear evidence that something was there, as dust is left behind. Sometimes it gets dusty and messy from erasing so much, but a little residual dust does not impede the ability to move forward with conveying further information.  It’s quite basic and simple.  I’m going to call this a chalkboard reflection.  Converse to its partial definition, a chalkboard reflection may require only minimal consideration of some thoughts and/or ideas, as represented by the residual chalk dust (evidence that considerations did exist and were taken), but the fixation on thoughts is not there .  What has been said and done is just that, said and done. Erase it and move forward. There is no time for fixation, or preoccupation with matters that are out of our control. My wise friend’s analogy suddenly begins to make sense.

Now, let me take this further and add the idea of the more sophisticated Smart Board to our reflection.  The Smart Board is an interactive whiteboard, which has capabilities to operate as not only a whiteboard to write on, but also a computer and a projector, which means that files may be saved for later use.  Each component of the Smart Board is connected to the other through wireless connections or via USB/serial cables. There are so many additional components and capabilities that I cannot begin to name them all, nor is elaboration about them necessary amid this interpretation. I can say with confidence, however, that Smart Boards are indeed much more detailed and complicated than chalkboards. Now, we have what I’ll call a Smart Board reflection.  A Smart Board reflection may be described as a fixation on thoughts and a reiteration of considerations (since several files are saved and can be referred to over and over again). While information may be erased in order to create, recreate, upload, and/or retrieve new information, those erasures can be undone, much like a word document, allowing us to go back over our decisions as many times as we feel they should be revisited and reconsidered.  Well now…it appears that Smart Board reflections have the greater potential of becoming frustration, worry, and stress.  Funny, I didn’t feel that way when speaking about his chalkboard reflections earlier.

Here’s the relevance to educators. Research shows us that reflection may have altering effects on our instructional practice.  The degree to which we reflect and the center of our reflection is a choice we make.  Why fixate on something that has happened for which the outcome cannot be changed? Why preoccupy ourselves with circumstances that are out of our control? Yes, we all would like to save the world. We all would like to protect and nurture our students. We all would like each of our students to come from the ideal home, with the ideal parental involvement, with the ideal learning environment. We all would like that however, this is unrealistic.  This fixation and preoccupation, this Smart Board reflection, is what ultimately impedes our ability to instruct our students effectively because of our displaced focus.

Why not get back to the basics.  No, I don’t mean to get rid of the 21st century technology we have longed for all these many years. But what I do mean is, let’s refrain from over thinking our every move. Some things that happen, just happen. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It is what it is. Let’s not read into a colleagues question about why you chose a specific strategy for instruction. It doesn’t mean they discredit you. In fact, maybe it means they are inspired by you. Let’s not over analyze every suggestion our administrators make to mean we’re not cut out for teaching. Consider this instead, if you don’t over think it, what is suggested may just make sense. Yes, reflect on your practice for growth and development. But choose the degree to which you will reflect.  Will you choose to be a Smart Board reflecter, fixated on every single thought you have chosen to save in your mental database?  Think about it. You, yourself, have complicated certain considerations to the point of frustration, worry, and stress, by thinking about it, thinking about it, and thinking about it some more.  I know I have. Or, on the other hand, will you choose to be a chalkboard reflecter, erasing what is irrelevant but allowing yourself to learn from the residual dust left behind?  You see, you can’t fixate on something that is not there. The dust, however, is evidence that there was some sort of lesson to be learned.  Take the dust that is now on your hands and move forward into your next moment…your next lesson…your next venture.   The degree of reflection and the focus of your reflection is a choice…and the choice is all yours.

I wish you all the best, my fellow educators, for the New Year! Reflect, release, renew, recharge.

2014 happy New Year reflection

What Really Matters?

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It feels like school just started.  It feels like August 26th was just yesterday.  Just yesterday, the students walked in with apprehension and uncertainty.  Well, guess what? They weren’t the only ones feeling that way. Oh yeah, we may look like we have it all together, but we walk into school with the same apprehensive feelings as our students, only ours stems from the uncertainty that we still…after many years of education and several more of continuing education…we still are not certain that we are giving enough.  We come to school early, we leave late, and then we spend countless hours at home amid our own family working many more hours, only to find ourselves wondering… “Does this even matter? Does anyone even notice? Does anyone even care?”

It’s the time of year we look forward to. A break from the begrudging monotony of day to day tasks that we so desperately work towards finding some sort of tranquility. But, unbeknownst to us, we have worked ourselves straight into what we call “survival” mode. So, while we continue to develop lesson plans and activities with just enough creativity to get us through yet another week, we also reflect on ourselves as educators and on our students as learners, wondering… “Are we doing enough?  What should I do differently?  What can I do better?  Am I really giving my all??”

In the midst of writing Student Learning Objectives, Professional Growth Plans, and preparing ourselves for the new teacher evaluation system… In the midst of writing daily lesson plans (differentiated, of course), developing guided reading groups, and collecting student data from weekly common assessments (for both formative and summative data)… Oh…and…in the midst of attending committee meetings, team leadership meetings, professional development and continuing education courses (you know…for re-certification purposes), grade level meetings (many times on the go), and preparing for parent-teacher conferences…  Oh…not to mention the classroom management and behavior issues we deal with on a daily basis!  And yet, while we understand that non-educators do not realize all the other buzz words and buzz work that we juggle within the span of a week… even with all that I have listed above, we still manage to criticize our own worth.

It is my opinion that we are the most beat up, devalued, misunderstood profession there is. Even though it is the ONE profession that creates all others.  Think about that!  Teachers plant seeds of knowledge and facilitate growth and development in every other known profession and are still deemed, unimportant!! Well, I submit to you that you ARE noticed, you DO matter, you ARE important, and you ARE worth everything you put into this profession!

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Take a moment during this time of year to reflect on all that you do. I mean, really reflect! It’s A LOT, right?  Of course it is!! What you do every single day will influence the life of a child for the rest of their days and that is no small feat by any means! Remember, what we do is not for everyone! Be appreciative for the things you have learned as an educator, for all the people that you have come in contact with (those that have passed through and those that have remained),  and especially for every child that has passed through your classroom.  In education, many of us have discovered our purpose and with teaching we have nurtured our passion.  Be thankful for the responsibility and opportunity to change the lives of children because it is a gift bestowed to only a chosen few.

So, during this time of year, as you reflect and recharge, know that what you do matters.  Because just when you think no one notices and no one cares…someone will let you know that it does. That “someone”…will be one of your students. THAT’S why we do what we do. THAT’S what really matters!

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