Have you ever stopped to think or have been told that ‘there is more?’ In the educational setting, we usually hear a second part of that phrase which goes something like “…to do.” More mandates, more tests, more requirements, etc. Although this is often the case, I challenge us to complete the phrase with “..to be.” There is more to be for our students, colleagues, and parents. This state of being is a constant ebb and flow of how our conscious actions can enable each group to reach greater depths of personal and professional fulfillment.

I share with the staff at Kelly Mill Elementary, that we certainly want academically successful students, but an equally important goal, is in helping our students, colleagues and parents be the best people they can be. In order to reach this goal, “There is More…”

As I think about my childhood, I well remember many interactions with my parents that ended with the same response from them…”Not yet.” I usually heard that when I asked things like, “May I have a snack? May I have a pet? May I go to my friend’s house? May I have ice cream? May I have some money?”  Well, you get the point. (Disclaimer- I really did have a great childhood). 

These were all met with the same response from my parents, “Not yet.”  In my young mind I heard this to mean “Not Ever” because the gratification of getting the desired outcome was not immediate; therefore, I treated the delay of “not yet” as if it was a “not ever.” 

As I have become an adult and have had various experiences in my personal and professional life, I have come to appreciate the upside of “not yet.” In retrospect, it is often the best answer I could have gotten. Does it mean it’s what I want to hear? No!!

I have realized that getting the “Not Yet” is often in my best interest so that I can be positioned for the highest levels of success when the answer becomes a “yes, now.” The difficult part of hearing “not yet” is in feeling like I did as a child and misunderstood “not yet” to mean “not ever.” 

As an adult, “not yet” gives me time to continue to grow and develop my knowledge, skills and mindset so than when I hear a “yes, now,” I am able to succeed at a more effective level. 

So, even when it is not what you want to hear, look for the upside of “Not Yet” it doesn’t mean “not ever.”

This is a question that we are constantly trying to answer. It seems that we are currently in a time frame in education when things appear to be off-balance. Balance doesn’t mean that all things are equal all the time. It is defined as “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.” How much technology integration should there be? How much writing should there be? Does this assessment reflect the learning that has occurred? Did I teach this standard? The list goes on and on with a common underlying element of balance. How do we determine these ‘correct proportions’?

Have we found it? My answer is, not entirely, but that doesn’t mean we will give up on trying to get there. How are you achieving balance?

EIP, IEP, SST, RtI, EBD, BEH, AIMS, SIP, 504, EL, GT, SE, SWD, LD, OHI, TAPS, TKES, LKES, RT3. If you are an educator, you probably know many of these acronyms. We do have a “language” all our own in the school setting. Truth be told, it seems that we add more of these each year. But, there is one that I think needs to be used and heard the most. The word? J-O-Y.

I was fortunate to hear @shareski this past summer at @DiscoveryEd Principal Institute. His topic, “Whatever Happened to Joy?,” was a great reminder of the power of finding joy in every aspect of life. It was a powerful reminder as I thought about how having joy translates to being a better person and thus, a better educator.

It directed my own thoughts toward the lyrics of a song that I had recently heard. The song, Wonder.

May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child…

The lyrics remind me that finding joy can come from anywhere, everywhere, and at any time. Finding joy often starts with a sense of wonder. In our schools, our children find joy in most everything and on most every day. THAT brings me joy! I hope not to forget that.

I posed the question, “What Brings You Joy?” to my staff upon returning to school this year. With all of the other acronyms and words that exist, let’s not forget the importance and power of this one as well. So, “What Brings YOU Joy?”

It is hard to believe that another school year has ended. All of the thousands of ideas, hopes, possibilities, and dreams for what can happen for learners – children and adult- have come to a close…for this year. But, that’s the great thing about being an educator when, in a few weeks, there’s another opportunity awaiting when we can begin again with new ideas, hopes, possibilities, and dreams.

So, enjoy the “lazy days” of summer to reinvent and envision what can happen for your learners – children and adult.

In the words of a poem I recently read…

DREAM BIG

If there were ever a time to dare,
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing,
it is now.
Not for any grand cause, necessarily —
but for something that tugs at your heart
something that’s your dream.

You owe it to yourself
to make your days here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.
Stretch.

Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be good days.
And there will be bad days.
There will be days when you want to turn around,
pack it up,
and call it quits.
Those times tell you
that you are pushing yourself,
that you are not afraid to learn by trying.

Persist.

Because with an idea,
determination,
and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart
guide you.

Trust.

Believe in the incredible power of the human mind.
Of doing something that makes a difference.
Of working hard.
Of laughing and hoping.
Of lazy afternoons.
Of lasting friends.
Of all the things that will cross your path this year.

The start of something new
brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.
There is only you.
And you will only pass this way once.
Do it right.

(Author unknown)

We say it every year, and we mean it every year. Time flies! I haven’t yet decided if it’s a result of getting older or just a condition of the human existence that days seem to go by at an alarming rate. We have so much to do! No less is the case with this school year. It is hard to believe that another school year is coming to a close, but it is. Each school year begins with lots of hopes and ideas of doing things differently…teaching that lesson that we did not get to the year before…adding that project that just seemed to be on the ‘I’ll do it later” list.

Whatever the idea, let’s not forget one thing…it’s the DO-ing that is important. Having the great ideas is the first step to DO-ing differently, and is often a step that many educators find rejuvenating and exciting, but time flies and we often fail to DO. As this year comes to an end, let’s not only think about what we could do differently but resolve ourselves to actually DO things differently.

The world of education is in constant evolution as we strive to improve the quality of the learning experience for all students. We have our own lingo, and it does not take you long to realize that within the educational world there are lots of ways to say things. We spend lots of our own money on resources aimed at creating a challenging learning environment. We speak of differentiating, increasing the rigor, developing critical thinking skills and using higher-order questions as means to deepening the academic experience for our learners.   We spend countless hours in professional development sessions learning new strategies. In fact, just look at the session agenda of any educational conference where you will find lots of sessions on “How You Can Have a Challenging and Differentiated, Rigorous Classroom Where Critical Thinking Skills are Developed Through Asking Higher Order Questions.” 

Just google the word differentiation and you get no less than 16 millions hits. Wow! With all of this emphasis on what these types of learning environments should be, we often neglect to talk about how things are in getting to these types of classrooms.

Let’s face it. It’s awkward. What do I mean by that? In our best intentions and desires to have a challenging classroom, we do not mention that it creates a time of awkwardness on the part of the teacher and learner. This awkwardness, or sense of being uncomfortable, is created when the learner struggles to achieve at higher levels. This can be seen in the form of students struggling before they answer, being unsure about what to do, students who typically respond with confidence getting things ‘wrong,’ et cetera. In reality, it is this awkwardness that you WANT within your classroom as you are designing an academically challenging class or school. If the instructional level presented by the teacher does not create a sense of dissonance (uncomfortable), then is the instruction at the appropriate level? Instead of this awkwardness causing the teacher and learner to give up, it should be seen as a sign of success and a step toward getting the type of learning environment that matches the learner’s needs.

If struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you’re more willing to accept it. (MindShift)

So, embrace this uncomfortable feeling as you are intentional about raising the level of instruction in your classroom. It’s a good thing!

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