Looking Back

Remember StoneThis week I am at a summer leadership conference for teachers in my subject area from across the state. The teachers are slowly filtering in this afternoon, but by tonight the previously vacated university campus which serves as our host will be crawling with high school educators; folks happy to reconnect with old friends, to swap stories from the trenches, to laugh over dinner and refreshments about the blunders we’ve made this year, and to look with anticipation at the new mountains we aspire to climb. This week will be flavored with motivational keynote speakers and subject-specific workshops, like any good professional development, but as I sit with Starbucks in hand, awaiting the start of this great week, I begin to wonder where my real motivation will come from.

I find myself reminiscing over the first time I came here. I was 24 and celebrating the completion of my student teaching program. I was so proud to have earned the right to call myself a “real teacher”, ready to shed the scarlet letter of “newbie”. I was nervous, wondering where I would teach, what classes I would have on my schedule, and if I would be ready. But most of all I was excited, driven with the unweathered ambition of a kid trying to prove myself in a world of seasoned veterans. I couldn’t wait to get in my classroom, set up my bulletin boards, and display all of my materials. When I finally got my first class roster, I poured over it all night trying to pronounce each students’ name perfectly.

As I let my mind wander, thinking of that first class and those little faces, I find myself getting excited again. Maybe this is where my motivation lies after all.

Take some time this week to think about your first teaching experience. Pause to savor the good, and let’s be honest - not so good memories. Be proud of how far you have come. Think of the students who first walked in your doors, the lesson plans you anguished over, and the thrill of victory when you finally reached that one student. Think of the people who inspired you to be an educator and the qualities that made them great. I know its summer break – so go take that well-deserved rest – but as you get ready for the new year to begin, find some time to think back to what drew you here in the first place, harness that desire, and look forward to the adventures ahead.

Vocab and Values

The start of a new school year may be the last thing on your mind right now, but it is never too early to start thinking about new ideas to create an engaging classroom. Of the many principles which guide my actions as an educator, let me share two:

  • Values
  • I believe students perform to a higher level when they know they are valued for who they are, not simply what they do.
  • I believe it is my responsibility to continually reinforce core content from all academic areas in my class.

With these in mind, I developed an opening-week activity which helps students recall some key vocab terminology, disguised in the cloak of a values sharing activity.

Set aside 1 class period (or at least half a period – I know you’re busy) to have students respond to the following questions on a colorful sheet. For added fun, get their creative juices flowing by providing magazines they can cut up and use to visually support their written responses.

I am (5 adjectives)

I love (5 nouns)

I love to (5 verbs)

I hope (free response)

I will (free response

I am (your name)

Click here to download a free template, with a touch more detail, for this activity, as well as a sample response.

Take some time to respond to these probing questions yourself this summer. When the new year begins, have students create their very own values mini-poster, present to the class, and display on the wall. Create a culture early on of valuing others, and you will create an environment where students value learning.

You mean I don’t know everything?

Training and knowledgeMy flight landed at 7:55pm Tuesday night. As I navigated my way to the Economy Parking Lot I felt a surreal sense of déjà-vu. Hadn’t I just been here? The reality was – I had. My flight departed Monday morning at 6am and returned close to 8pm on Tuesday night. Few trips would be worth this turnaround, but I managed to find one that surpassed my expectations and opened my eyes to a wonderful world of resources.

I attended the 8thAnnual National Career Clusters Institute in Denver, CO, along with over 700 educators from the secondary and post-secondary level. Despite the diverse background of participants coming from 43 states across the country, all came together for the unifying purpose of “Using Career Pathways to Reach New Heights.”

We heard from Don Henderson, Senior Manager of Creative Expressions for Apple, Inc. as well as Kelly Green, Academic Program Manager of US Innovation and Business Development for Microsoft. Amidst a sea of workshops put on by experts in the field, I came upon a grand realization – there is a whole lot I don’t know. But the great news is, there are a whole lot of folks who are willing to share their knowledge.

As educators we take pride in knowing our subject, but sometimes we may not be the first to raise our hand and ask a question. Humbling as it may be, I realize that if I am truly going to be the most effective educator that I can be, I must continue to learn – and it starts with accepting that I don’t know everything.

With this in mind, I welcome you to summer as an opportunity to not only refresh your mind, but to spark the desire to learn that once brought you to this profession.  Realize that we all have much to give and much to learn as well. Take advantage of resources – they are vast and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Take a moment to check out some great resources at www.careerclusters.org and www.relevantclassroom.com .

Get In The Habit

The sun is warming up and the students are filing out. What to do now? As you contemplate this new-found resource called time, take a quick trip to a bookstore and snag a copy of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” by Sean Covey. Written by the son of well known leadership philosopher Dr. Stephen Covey, 7 Habits for Teens is targeted at the students we work with everyday. Written in a fun and engaging context, this book is a light read with heavy applications.

So why should I read it? I’m far from falling under the umbrella of “teenager”! Read it because it speaks the language of the young men and women who sit in your classroom day in and day out. It speaks to their thoughts and concerns, their needs, and the 7 Habits that could help them become more successful in life. Read it because it is fun, and it just might help you develop some positive habits as well!

Habit 1: Be Proactive7 Habits Text Cover

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 4: Think Win-Win

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

Pick up a copy for your classroom, and for a purposeful summer read. You can grab a copy at your local bookstore or at Amazon . 

Find out more about the 7 Habits at Dr. Covey’s website.

Find a Summer Job

Every day we hear more and more bad news about the job market, which can be discouraging as we work to prepare our sJob Applicationtudents to join the work force. But there’s some great news – seasonal employees are still in high demand and summer jobs are no exception! Kids hear so much theory about what it takes to be successful, that sometimes what they really need is to learn it first-hand. Regardless of the type of position, students learn from filling out a job application, interviewing, and being responsible for showing up on time each day! Take this opportunity to connect your students with summer employment, and you will help them make valuable career connections while developing personal leadership skills.

Online: I found two great websites to help your students navigate the summer employment opportunities available.

Our first stop is SnagAJob.com. Students simply have to type in their zip code and a list of local jobs pops up. You can narrow jobs down by employer or by city. Head back to the home page and students can sign up for job alerts in their area to be emailed to them. This could be a great tool even if your students aren’t looking for a job just yet, to open their eyes to local opportunities.

Summerjobs.com is more specific to what we would typically think of as a “summer job”. Camp counselors, lifeguards, and swim instructors can find employment here! You have the option to sign up and become a member of the site, but you can search without registering by simply typing in a key word. When your options come up, you can sort by title, location, employer, and date posted. I like this site because it also gives a brief description of the industry related to the job, which could easily be used to enrich your curriculum!

Push your students to gain career skills by getting a summer job. They will appreciate the money now and the value of the experience later!

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