Monday, February 22, 2016

The Innovator's Mindset Week 4: Chapters 4 and 5

There are a couple of questions that came from chapters 2 and 3. We can assume that you feel relationships are important in your classroom or building, but how do you build those relationship? How do you create opportunities for your students or teachers to learn based on personal learning styles or interests? How do you get in the trenches to find out what your students or teachers really need?

If you have just recently joined in the reading and conversation, welcome! Don't forget to go back and comment to every week's post, including the introduction the first week. Also, please fill out the registration form. If you have friends or coworkers who would like to join, please tell them they are still welcome to, just try to catch up as quickly as possible. For next week we will read and discuss chapters 6 and 7.

83 comments:

  1. I think shadowing students or teachers for a day to see what they experience is an excellent way to "get in the trenches" with them, and also being in teachers' classrooms (not just to evaluate) could also show spots where barriers exist. Couros says we must be willing to remove the barriers that challenge those we serve (p. 85). It is more than just having a relationship with a student or teacher and knowing some of the things they enjoy or do in their free time. It is about completely investing in them so that we know what is holding them back or preventing them from reaching their full potential. If we don't walk in their shoes, I don't think that can happen. Leading by example and sharing those barriers in ourselves can only bring us closer to becoming more innovative.

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    1. I also like the idea of getting into classrooms more. It is impossible to really understand what is going on in a school if we are not spending significant time in classrooms. Getting into classrooms lets us understand a teachers strengths, weaknesses, struggles, and successes. Knowing these things will help us know and be able to help that teacher.

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    2. Well said, Aaron! Proud to have you as our Asst Principal!!

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    3. I love having administrators in the classroom! I think it is important for both students and teachers to see administrators present and involved! (I guess you throw parents into that too!) Being in elementary school, I don't want my students to be afraid of "the principal" but rather see and respect them as authority but also as an part of their learning experience. Much like for my students, as a teacher, I like the principal knowing the happenings of my classroom and be able to support me when a difficult situation arises.
      I have found another way to get to fully know my students in order to understand them and strip down any barriers is to have lunch duty, go to recess, and meet with my students monthly to discuss their progress, concerns, successes! Different environments such as lunch and recess can be very telling for some these little ones. Our school has implemented the Leader in Me program which has allowed our students to take more ownership and responsibility for their learning. It has allowed them a place to set goals, track progress, and have ownership in their learning. They are more thoughtful in their learning and goal setting which has also offered another insight into the students that may not have been seen.

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  2. Couros says “Culture is developed by the expectations, interactions, and ultimately, the relationships of the entire learning community. But relationships are built one-on-one. Do you see the personal moments you have with your staff as investments or expenditures?” There are so many ideas to take away from this one quotation. I build relationships with teachers and students with one-on-one interactions. As difficult as it can be to juggle all the responsibilities of the every-changing role of a Media Specialist, I do my best to invest in people by taking the time to listen to them. Many teachers and students find themselves in my office either seeking guidance or simply wanting someone to care about whatever is going on with them in or outside the profession. As a result, I see that these are the teachers and students who come to the Media Center more often to collaborate or get help with a lesson/research assignment. However, I would like to find more ways to reach out to others and have more regular opportunities for interaction.

    When I’m collaborating with teachers, I do try to ask lots of questions to determine what it is that would like my assistance for, rather than what I want to deliver. I think this is also helpful in building those one-on-one relationships reaching the heart before the mind. And being willing to take risks with the teachers on a specific lesson/project/unit so they won’t be stifled from the get go. I’ve noticed that the teachers I’ve collaborated with often share with others what we’ve worked on, which helps to encourage others to also work collaboratively.

    I also agree with the author that it is important to create an atmosphere where trust is the norm, we think through ideas before acting quickly on change, and do what we want others to do. I also think it would be helpful for leaders to seek input from all stakeholders before changing something -- this helps to build trust by providing an opportunity for those who will be affected by the change to share their ideas and/or concerns and perhaps make the implementation of the change run more smoothly (because their either more on board because they feel they’ve been invested in or because their ideas have helped create a better process for the change).

    Couros says, “Be Present, Lead People, Manage Things.” To me this means, be available for those one-on-one interactions, invest in the staff and students, and leave the managing for tasks that need managed.

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  3. I feel that developing better and stronger relationships begins with conversations. We cannot develop trusting relationships with our fellow staff members if we do not know them. Having conversations with our colleagues allows us to begin to get to know them both professionally and personally. When leaders know their staff and have a solid relationship with them then leaders can begin to help meet their individual needs. As Couros states, "Imagine knowing individuals in such a way that you could actually select specific materials to accommodate that staff member's needs and interests." I agree that knowing your staff well enough that you are aware of their individual needs would be powerful for school growth. Having a culture built on strong relationships helps make that growth possible.

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    1. I agree- building relationships definitely helps build trust. Congrats on your basketball sectional championship!

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    2. I started the year with the sign that began with Rigor, Relevance and Relationships, but changed it to Relationships, Relevance and Rigor - to emphasis the RELATIONSHIP part. This also means my staff. I need to make sure I can connect with them in their jobs and help them. This book is helping me to come out of my box(office) and work with staff and students to become more innovative.

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  4. One of the things that struck me most from these two chapters was the story of the teacher who "shadowed" a couple of students. Her experience was that students sit almost all day, and sitting is exhausting; that students didn't feel like their voice matters at all; and that students have almost no autonomy and very little opportunity to directly choose any of their learning experiences. I was reminded of an idea we used when planning youth ministry events back in the day. We would talk about the "butt clock," meaning "how long have the students been sitting at any given time?" What we said then was "the mind can only absorb what the behind can endure." I need to make sure to use the "butt clock" when doing my planning and find ways to get students up and out of their seats more often. We are on a block schedule and I think that ups the ante even more. I have students for about 84 minutes a day, and I have to be more creative in helping students be able to get a little movement during class.

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    1. I do think that it is difficult for students to sit for long periods of time. Last year, I worked in a middle school that was committed to movement within the classroom. Students sat on yoga balls. Some of the classroom tables had bicycle pedals attached at the bases, and students pedaled while they read. Referred to as "action-based learning", movement was incorporated into all lesson plans; movement was a requirement. Because of my experience at this school, I now utilize movement daily when planning. For example, today my students competed for the "silver spoon". Each time a student answered a question, he/she would acquire possession of the spoon. As a new student earned possession of this trophy, the previous spoon-holder had to deliver the prize, sometimes running across the room to do so- (students move quickly because they are in a hurry to get back to their seat to answer the next question so they can win back the coveted spoon). All the time, questions continue to fire away and all students are in the game. Today was the first time that I had tried to use the silver spoon approach, and it went really well. Our class motto is "you snooze, you lose".

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    2. "The BUTT clock"! YES!! I also feel that way after a day of Professional Development or an Inservice. Lots of sitting, note-taking, thinking. But never enough time to practice, interact, MOVE. I need to be more mindful of this with my students. I appreciate these kind of reminders.

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    3. We are also on the block schedule, and I feel the struggle with the students who spend so much time sitting.

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    4. In kindergarten, I constantly think of the clock you mentioned. Movement and conversation are so necessary, even though these processes are sometimes inconvenient to the instructor and the schedule. Teachers need time to process with one another, too. Great ideas can die on the vine simply because we are not given time to cultivate them. Sometimes a seed is planted, but no one takes time to water and feed it. That is why I love how Couros invested time in watching the actual inner workings of his teachers' classrooms. He saw how important it is to plan for reality. It would be intimidating to have my principal work in my classroom, but the benefits for all stakeholders would be awesome!

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    5. Am I the only one who disagrees with Couros's way of spending time in the classroom? He really believes that it is expectable behavior to answer emails when his teacher is having class? To me, this is disrespectful, and totally inappropriate behavior. Somewhere, being tech savvy has allowed for rudeness, disrespect, and the belief that this behavior should be modeled. On the flip side, what grabbed my attention is the importance of being present. I remind myself to begin with the end in mind.

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    6. I liked the "put yourself in the student's shoes" approach. I know some teachers that assign hours of homework. I feel that they sometimes think their class is the only one that matters. The students also have 5 or 6 other classes (with homework), part time jobs, club and/or sports activities, family responsibilities, 4-H, church, etc. I am amazed by how many things our students juggle. I think if some teachers had to "swap" places, there might be some differences in teaching methods.

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  5. I work in a preschool setting. Building relationships with students is important. With the younger students, building relationships with their families is also key to seeing progress in the classroom. Sending home quick emails, phone calls or notes explaining something positive that happened during the day is a great way to break the ice. Many of my parents are only used to having teachers contact them during negative events. Once the students and families know that you see their child in a positive light, you will be able to connect, build trust and hopefully be able to teach the student about risk taking.

    I loved Couros' quote about having the teachers shadow the students. I feel movement, play, books and songs should be a part of every preschool curriculum. There has been a shift during the past 3 decades which has changed what preschool looks like. It is now more focused on getting ready for the academic rigors of Kindergarten. I wonder if some of the disenchantment the older students feel is because they have been sitting and listening since they were 3 years old.

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    1. The shift to rigor in preschool breaks my heart. I taught kindergarten for 5 years before moving to technology. I admit that I pushed a lot of rigor in my classroom and had quite a bit of in seat time during the day. I know I tried to incorporate movement, but looking back now I could have and should have done more. I think it's interesting that schools who are moving to schedules with more play are being highlighted in the news for doing something different when we all know it is and always has been what is best.

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  6. Relationships with teachers and students come more easily in a small school of about 70-90 students per grade, as I have some students in courses three consecutive years. Also, we are a small staff, sharing many of the same students, acquainting ourselves with the same parents and siblings over the years. E-mail has made connections with everyone at our fingertips, even though there are hazards that come along with that, as well. Currently I could speak in a lengthy conversation with all of my colleagues, some on deeper personal levels than others, yet we are all navigating in a building where we feel safe to try new things and share our trials. Some of those conversations are through tears and struggles, but that has strengthened our level of trust within our ranks, thereby fulfilling another of George Couros' expressions, " If we want meaningful change, we have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind."

    Last semester I made an effort to chat with each student individually after a test to discuss his progress and areas that needed improvement. At the time it seemed a small effort on my part to let each student know that I care about each one's success. The students were very receptive to this, and it did not take excessive amounts of time to canvas a room while the students were working in groups or independently. I have let a lot of little things detour that practice this semester; as I write this, I am making a commitment to reinstate this connection with my students.

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    1. Tammy, you are so write about the power of individual conferences. The students experience it so rarely on a regular basis, and although I cannot get more than one or two a day in a few days a week (if I'm lucky), I can tell the students appreciate their "teacher time." I wish you well as you start up the conference process again! You are reminding me to be more focused!

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  7. I implemented an idea today from Chapter 5. George Couros reminds us that, "Your technology is mobile. You can do what I did; take your computer or tablet and work while you're in the classrooms." I did not sit in a teacher's classroom; instead, I sat in a teacher work area and had a series of conversations with teachers as they passed through. Some conversations were social and others were centered around a particular technology or instructional issue. Although I wasn't able to get quite as much work done, I can't imagine spending my time in a more valuable way than talking with my colleagues. I also spent part of my afternoon in a 3rd grade classroom working with students. Although I've done that before, I was reminded again how important that is as well. I was able to guide students as they practiced some important skills and considered digital responsibility, while I got a quick reminder of the challenges of a classroom of students (though I won't pretend that one short lesson presents nearly the struggle of an entire day). I appreciate all the teachers' generosity and patience with me.

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  8. For me as a teacher I try to build relationships by letting my students see the true me. I bring in my likes and dislikes, tell them about my family, what I do for fun. I also like to have fun, show them interesting I saw while I was out and about over the weekend, tell jokes and stories. I kinda put myself out there, open up and the students soon follow along.
    Something that I recently read in a blog post by another teacher that I'd be interested in trying was have a "game day". Students played old fashioned board and card games. Games that required reading directions, partner cooperation, thinking and strategic moves.
    From the experience the teacher said, "I sure learned a lot about my students by observing them through play, by talking to them as they played, and in some cases, playing along with them. I learned more than from data generated by bubbling in answers on a multiple choice test."
    To me this is powerful because it is allowing your students to be kids for a day or class period or whatever length of time you'd allow. To me it seems students will forget about playing the "game of school", lower their barriers and reservations about school, and start showing their true self.
    What a powerful and interesting way to learn more about your students needs that you could then pull into your next lesson plans!
    Here is the link to the blog post: http://ottogoingagainstthegrain.blogspot.com/2016/02/global-school-play-day-in-middle-school.html

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  9. I do feel that relationships are very important in a classroom. I am a special needs teacher and building relationships with my students is very important because I may have them year after year. To build the relationships with my students I acknowledge them. They enjoy receiving recognition and praise for their hard work that they give. They may not understand everything completely, but they try their hardest and want to be acknowledged and may work harder if they get praise. Even the student who is not doing well, if encouraged will do better or try harder for you. Building trust with my students is something I feel is very important. If I open up to them and share some of my life with them, they usually will open up and share.
    I also usually will do group work. This allows the students not to feel so much pressure on themselves, but to solve problems together with a friend or group. This lets them have fun, talk to each other and to me. This is building relationships with the teacher and with students.

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  10. I am learning more about my students as I provide opportunities of choice and reflection. They are creating rather than absorbing. This goes along with Couros's idea of "getting out of the way";not to be controlling, but "unleashing" student abilities. As I am trusting them in their choices, they are trusting me when it is my turn to "lead". This year I am letting go of more of the control and allowing the students to lead. I ask them what they want to know about a topic. They form the questions which they will than choose which they would like to answer and how they want to answer and share their findings. This is showing me what their interests are in what they want to know and how they want to learn. Choice is also allowing them to find the video clips or sites we need to find answers rather than me controlling that as well. As George mentions, this allows them to make a connection with their heart which allows them to make a connection with their mind.

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    1. Hi Val! I'd love to come see what you're doing in your classroom. It is scary to sit back and let go of the reins of control. You sound like a wonderful teacher!

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    2. I love what you are describing!! If I find I have time at the end of a unit, I let my students do the same. Usually, though, it's after I've covered all the standards I need to cover. Do you find that giving them choice takes them too far away from what you were expected to cover? And I love this: the "connection with their heart which allows them to make a connection with their mind."

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    3. Great to be connected with you, Liz!
      Annie, basics do need to be taught and interests need to be sparked. I find that questions students are forming dive deeper into important standards. Giving them choices does take time, but I am finding that this is the classroom I want to be in. I keep asking myself the question what do I want the students to know and be able to do once they leave my room?

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  11. I feel I am lucky to teach a subject such as FACS. My students are always up and about with labs, projects etc. It does require cooperation and time management as well as relationship skills. I think they do better as the quarter goes on and they develop better relationships between each other and with me. I also like the idea of administrators and even superintendents getting in the classroom and trying to get to know staff and build relationships with not just the students but the teachers etc. I think some positive reinforcement by administrators to staff on even just little things such as "I was walking past your room today and noticed..." can go a long way toward making everyone feel more confident and appreciated. As a teacher we can do the same for administration! It is all about relationships!

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  12. My role as a Library Media Specialist is dependent upon making connections with other teachers. My mentor, many years ago, told me to always eat lunch in the lounge, and I have stayed true to that to this day. I meet and interact with people that I would never be in contact with otherwise.
    This seems silly to say, but I make connections with students by knowing their names. I had a girl the other day say, "I can't believe you remember my name, I've been in such and such class for a year, and the teacher still doesn't know my name." Sometimes, just knowing their name opens up the door to further conversations. I also learn what genres my readers prefer, and offer new books to them first.

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  13. Betsy, as a fellow media specialist, I agree with your comment 100%. Eating in the lounge is sometimes the only way I see other teachers and same with the copy room. And with students, I learn their names right away and I try to personalize the "customer service" they receive when they are in the library. When I moved from the elementary library to the high school library, I relied heavily on the students for reading recommendation and popular young adult authors. Those connections were invaluable for me at the beginning of the school year.

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  14. My school corporation has just announced a $10 million building project which includes a complete remodel of the high school media center. As the media specialist, I have been asked on several occasions what I see the media center becoming in the future. I have to admit this has been a daunting task for me; trying to imagine what will be useful to students ten or even twenty years down the road. Reading these two chapters has actually made me think about things differently, and I mean that in a very good way.

    The most helpful advice I think everyone needs to practice is how to be visionary. Looking at the small steps to get us where we want to be is so much more important than expecting everything to just change in a week, or a month, or even a semester. It will take a lot of planning to get my media center where I want it to be for the students but thinking about one little thing before trying to cross that next big bridge makes it much more manageable. I have always had the vision I just wasn’t sure how I expected to accomplish all the innovations that need to take place before my space can be user friendly to the students of this generation. I realize now that my media center will never be “finished” it is something I will continually need to grow and expand in order to keep it innovative for everyone.

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    1. I am slightly envious of your new Media Center, but know how important vision is. My Media Center does not have any electrical outlets in one entire half of it. After years of complaining, I just finally received 1 outlet on that side... When this building was built in the 1960s, I'm sure no one that about the need for outlets for computers 50 years later!

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  15. A few things that struck me from these chapters-

    "Why is it that when kids leave school, they have a ton of energy and teachers are tired? Why isn't it the other way around?" (Couros 40). It's so true. When you have high expectations for yourself, you push yourself and put a lot of work in. Sometimes, I think it is right to put the work on the kids, but only if they have the support and opportunity to learn to do this. It might not be an instant transition. Sometimes I get an idea and I overdo it. We talk about being that guide on the side, so then is it okay to ever stand up in front of your class ever again?! Well, of course it is. Recently, Couros posted on his blog a discussion of exactly this. That we, as educators, have to know when it is appropriate to be up in front and when it is more appropriate to fall into that facilitator role. http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/6072

    I immediately took the advice to work in a classroom, and it was well worth it. In one of the #INeLearn chats, another coach shared the idea of Lunch and Learns, so I'm starting to make my way around the corporation to sit and eat lunch with staff and be visible or just enjoy some friendly conversation.

    Finally, a teacher in our district shared that he often does the assignments he gives alongside students, and that is really powerful. What a great way for his students to see him as a lead learner.

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    1. I love the idea of doing the assignment alongside the students... but I think that means we do the assignment with the students, not as a teacher sample. When we do it with the kids in the same environment, we can really see what is going on and take an empathetic approach with the kids. You might see things happening that you never dreamed of.

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  16. As all teachers know one of the most important steps in creating a positive learning environment is to build a relationship with your students. By building relationships with students you not only get to see student interests and strengths but gain their trust. Working in an alternative school setting with smaller class sizes, I have found that my relationships with my students are the best tool I have to motivate my students as well as educate them. If I know who they are outside of school I am better able to differentiate my instruction as well as my assessments based on their own particular needs.
    I completely agree with the idea that building trust is important because it allows us to experiment without complete fear of failure. Teachers and students who are afraid to try new things or new ideas in a classroom will never be able to go beyond the same educational model that we all received. Administrators trusting their teachers to create meaningful experiences can create a better lesson plan. Teachers trusting their students to take advantage of new opportunities allows for freedom of expression and allows for a more individualized approach. Trust comes from building relationships and face to face interactions.
    I talk with my students, I interact with my students, but I have never shadowed my students. I think that it is an interesting idea and could yield some new insights into their day. I have honestly not really considered how much time students spend in direct instruction, sitting in seats in other classes. I worry about my lessons and how I am keeping their attention for my class period without really considering the school day as whole. That seems like an awful lot of time in a seat. That is something that I think I could really focus on to bring positive change.

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  17. I find that observing students when your in class doing projects. I also find that getting to know your students and the things they car about is bg. Is it sports, cars, dance, TV making a connection with students will often lead to better understanding of how they learn and whats the best strategy for teaching them. We do a lot of group work that has evaluations along the way and I feel this helps. You also need to focus on what technology works for you as a teacher and for the students use what works.

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  18. Building relationships with the students and faculty members is so important. If there is a relationship, everyone has more ownership and will work harder towards the common goals. Squashing ambitions of those that want to go above and beyond is a real concern. I have seen this happen too often. I make it a point when I am walking down the hall or standing on hall duty, I greet as many students as possible- and usually by name. This works to build relationships. I liked the characteristics of an innovative leader. Chapters 4-5 were very inspiring to me. I have also enjoyed reading the discussions of this group.

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  19. Building relationships with not only teachers and students but also parents and the community is one of the most important things I need to do as an administrator. The best part of my days are when I get to stop in a classroom, not to evaluate the teacher, but to see what they are doing and to see what the students are creating. Some classrooms lend itself better to that than others. The ones that don't, are the ones where I struggle to make the real connections. I have thought a lot about "setting up office" in a classroom for the day. Take my chromebook and sit in the back of a classroom for the day rather than hanging out in my office. Not to evaluate, but to hang out with kids for the day. I do enjoy lunch duty where I get a chance to interact with the kids for a while. There are times I sit down at the table next to them and we just talk about life. Not school, life. Walking down the hall way handing our high fives is a great part of the day as well. I have one middle school girl that gives me a hug every day and tells me she is glad I am her principal. I tell her I am too. More days than not I think I need that hug more than she does and I miss it on days she is not here.
    There is a group of teachers that I sit with for a while after lunch to talk about issues. We identify a lot of issues in education, not sure we solve any, but it is a great time to just relax and talk. We don't always discuss education, but most days we do.
    Taking these opportunities to get to know our students and staff on a level outside of the school day is very important. I am very blessed to serve the students and staff that I get to serve. It is my hope each day that I can be the principal they deserve to have.

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    1. Mr. Stoner,

      I find it great that you spend so much time in other classrooms, not to always evaluate, but to build on your community. That probably helps teachers feel less nervous when you do have to conduct an evaluation. They are use to you being in the room and others observing.

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    2. Tom, I love that my 6th graders asked who the goofy guy in the hallway was during the first week of school and I had to explain that you are their principal! Still makes me chuckle.

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    3. It's nice to hear that you sit and talk with the students during the school day, about life. Making a presence that is positive is very important for students.

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  20. Being in the Special Education department of my school has the greatest perks of seeing what other teachers are doing. Our school is a full inclusion school and I co-teach in different classrooms. I like being able to see the different teaching styles and how it works for that particular teacher. I feel that I make a connection with students by sitting next to different groups, and at times, talking about things the students like. I would have loved to seen the Facebook Page Matt Gomez created. That is risky and bold to start, but sounded like a great way to connect teachers, students, and parents. The quote, “If we’re going to be effective leaders, we must model the behavior and attitudes we seek in our learners-be they students or educators. After all, it is much more powerful and persuasive to say, “Let’s do this together!” than to command people to do something we’re not willing or able to do ourselves.” Being a recent graduate and a new teacher, I can recall all of my professors stressing the importance of building a community with our students. I believe that building a community needs to be taken even further. As teachers and administrators, we need to build community first. That will be the example of community for the students.

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    1. I like the co-teaching as well. It is nice to see a variety of activities, teaching styles, and classroom management techniques.

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  21. Like Valerie Z, above, I allow students to make choices about their learning in my social studies classes, but I still have details to iron out, for example, how to give them choice while covering the standards. I also let them choose their own books as the basis of our reading program, and take time to chat with them about their books. I read the books the bookbloggers are suggesting for middle grades and young adults, and recommend books to the kids based on their preferences (taking my cues from Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer), in much the same way George speaks about school leaders tailoring book suggestions to the needs of staff members. The kids are so delighted when I suggest a book that they find fits their tastes. I also read books they suggest to me--this definitely builds relationship, and our shared love of books creates trust and joy.

    I also try to build relationships by being kind every possible moment.

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    1. Annie,
      I agree that being kind in every moment possible can help build those relationships that students need. We do not know what is going on with every student, their homes, personal lives, etc. Students at all levels can carry so much baggage and it can get in the way of their success if we are not willing to invest in a relationship with them.

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  22. I wholeheartedly agree with relationships being the #1 way to achieve any level of success in a classroom. When I was in the classroom I tried making a point to speak with each student of each hour. It goes beyond just asking them about their day or how their weekend was. You have to show a genuine interest in what students enjoy doing or where they may be working.

    The very same thing is true when working with adults.

    George Couros mentions that when he visited schools he would hold the equivalent of college professor's office hours for 45 to 60 minutes throughout a day. HIs strongest statement is when he states, "The sessions were open-ended and we tailored the discussions based on the simple question, 'What would you like to learn?'". This is something that I have been using in my new role as a technology integration specialist. I don't necessarily get that much time with each teacher, but I do like to ask them the question, "What would YOU like to learn?" I feel this simple question shows the teacher that you actually care about what would help them.

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  23. For me, relationships are the most important part of a classroom. Students aren't going to pay attention to class if they feel you aren't paying attention to them. Going with this idea, I try to use a variety of lessons in class in an attempt to reach all students. We have discussion, create art, write papers, have debates, do simulations. After doing a new type of activity, I always ask a few students in each class what they thought about it. Did they like it? If not, what did they dislike about it? what can I do to make it better? I also like to give students options in class. Sometimes we'll have a menu where they choose how they present their information or what they create. Other times, they get to choose the content they learn for that day. Additionally, I talk to other teachers about what they are doing in their classes, and then ask students about those certain projects or activities to gauge whether I could use them in my classroom. I really liked how George kept coming back to the idea that we must put ourselves in our students' shoes and decide if we would want to be a student in our own class. I think about that everyday, and that has caused me to reflect on past lessons to make them better and change up ideas at the last minute and I decide that I might love my content, but not even I would like that activity. This helps me think of myself as a guide to my students' learning and not just an end all be all know it all.

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    1. I agree that students are more engaged when you vary the lessons. I have the same philosophy with you on if you are not paying attention to your students then they are not going to be willing to pay attention to your lesson.

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  24. Relationships are the most important within the classroom. I spend a chunk of the first quarter getting to know my students and building relationships. Being a Special Education teacher, I have the privilege to see the students in a variety of classroom settings which helps build the relationship. I take the time to get to know their interests, fears, and concerns. I allow them to vent when they are frustrated and am genuinely friendly and care about their problems. I find that this allows the students to feel comfortable to open up to me. This mindset has worked to help motivate the students I work with, even the ones who are not motivated to complete their daily tasks.

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  25. "Getting in the trenches" really means that we take an interest and take the time to get to know people. When I was teaching, I spent time with students during lunch. I'd allow a few students to come back to the classroom and eat lunch with me so that I can get to know them on a personal level. At recess, I would swing on the swings or play tag to make those connections with students that wasn't happening while in the classroom. (Reflecting on that thought, some of my issues were really how I was teaching.) Those connections helped me recommend books or writing topics to my reluctant readers/writers. Those connections also causes the student to be more open and honest about their needs.

    As a technology coach, it is about spending time with teachers and students outside of the teaching realm. I like to sit and listen to teachers converse in the lounge. Not so much so I can throw my two cents in there about technology integration, but really about getting to know the teachers personally.

    Making personal connections builds a strong culture in the classroom and in your school. These personal connections help us to guide students and teachers as you don't have to break down trust issues. Knowing what makes someone tick goes a long way.

    With that all said, I'm not an expert in being a good listener by any means. I have to force myself and make a conscious decision. It is something I have to keep reminding myself each day.

    For a good listen on school culture and building strong relationships, I recommend this podcast.
    http://www.podbean.com/media/share/dir-ipyfc-166cf05

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  26. I build my different relationships through being honest when talking to my students and the coworkers in my building. I try to share with them what I feel is necessary to build the best relationships possible. I try to share personal details about my life to build a stronger connection with my peers and classmates. I always try to keep things out in the open to try and keep the trust between my students and coworkers at it's best.

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  27. I love building relationships with the staff I work with, since I work with all the staff. I hope they learn from what I can share with them and I have definitely have learned by watching and talking to them. Learning from the students has showed me new ways to teach and incorporate new ideas. Students are always telling me about new ways of exercising and games they have created or leaned from other schools. I also love to go to workshops around the state. I learn more with just talking to other teachers on off session times then I do in some of the classes.

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  28. I think that the biggest way I develop relationships with my students is discovering what they like and make sure I know all about it. With two children who are close in age to my students, this hasn't been too difficult. What my students like, my kids like. However, I know that "keeping up on the times" will be more difficult once my students get older. I also try and do things with my students outside of the classroom. I go and watch their basketball games or ice skating performances, etc. What I like most about these two chapters is the quote, "We rarely create something different until we experience something different." This inspired me to really get to know my students as people. Then I can create learning experiences based on that relationship.

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  29. Building relationships is SO important! I have always felt that I have been able to build good relationships with my students each year. I try to talk to them and, most importantly, listen to what they have to say--acknowledging that we are not peers, but still that they are important and need to know that their views and needs are valid. I also think it is very important to get to know who we (teachers) really are both inside the classroom and out. I talk about my dog and my family regularly and they love it. Knowing "real" things about their teachers helps them to see us as people who exist in the real world, not just in the classroom. Also, I try to be "in the know" about the things that they enjoy and do outside of school. I have always felt that knowing about their lives and the things they enjoy has given me some "street cred" and they can tell that I genuinely care about them as both students and people.

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    1. I agree with you completely. Since I had written something along similar lines, I'll put it here.

      This Spanish teacher agrees that “We have to make a connection to the heart before we can make a connection to the mind.”
      I model what an English speaker goes through on the journey of learning Spanish. I tell my classes about my triumphs after hard work, and also major blunders where I felt absolutely foolish. I explain not only the grammar, but the process of making mistakes, learning, and improving. I share my discoveries. For example, I start off at the very beginning when we’re discussing the sounds of Spanish that when I first started, I couldn’t make the rr sound. (Many students are self-conscious about not being able to make that sound.) It took me 6 years to learn, and I explain how I did it. I tell many stories about my language journey, and ask them about theirs. I think it helps them to know “we’re all in this together” and also really feel that I love them anyway, even if Spanish isn’t easy for them. I also praise them for catching my mistakes! Being real with my students is important for forming those connections, and students are more receptive to the learning.

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  30. One of the easiest ways to get to know your kids is to get involved with them. Coach a team or advise an extracurricular group. The kids that I coach I know very well and often have a great relationship with. Having time to talk with them about something other than classwork is huge. If a kid is wearing a band shirt that I happen to like, I tell them. To see them realize that a teacher could like the same things as them makes us seem less like aliens. I agree about "street cred". They need to know someone cares about them and knows their interests.

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    1. I also have found that coaching helps build relationships with students. With smaller groups, it is easier to help them explore their strengths and interests. Working with our Robotics team has given me the opportunity to learn about each student's interests.

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  31. Building relationships takes time but it is well worth it. It makes learning and teaching more enjoyable. Teachers need to be aware of things going on around them. Listening carefully to what students (and staff) are communicating both verbally and non-verbally. We need to take the time to ask the questions to learn more about personal needs and what is inspiring and interesting to their students.

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  32. Initially, I identified with these chapters on how I feel in my role as a teacher. It would be extremely beneficial for the whole school if we built stronger relationships. In chapter 4, the section describing the benefit of a personalized approach to professional development stood out to me. I have personally sat in many meetings throughout the years where I felt a disconnect to the information presented and to the presenters. A personalized approach on what could benefit me as a teacher may have helped me professionally. In addition having a connection the presenters could also benefit learning. I would be more willing to share my ideas and contribute if I felt comfortable and secure with these individuals.
    Reflecting on these points also make me realize that my students are craving the same individualized learning and connection to me as their teacher. Finding ways for students to connect the material being learned and how they show their understanding is important. In addition, building a relationship of trust and communication is vital. This is imperative for these young learners on their journey to becoming productive citizens in this world.

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    1. Yes, we just had a PD day, and every year I hope for more collaboration and growth, but it stays the same. I hate sitting and not gaining any new knowledge. Building relationships with our students is vital to their success, as well as our success. I spend the first week of school doing things that will help me build those relationships with students, as well as peer relationships.

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  33. Building relationships with students is one of the things I miss most about no longer being in the classroom on a daily basis. I have tried to shift that to the relationships I build with staff. My open office door sometimes invites staff looking to vent, but I've become okay with that. I try to listen closely and find something I can pull out, twist positively, and build on. After reading these chapters I'm really starting to realize that I still need to develop relationships with students. I often only see them when their device is broken or they need help. I'm going to start looking for ways and opportunities to build relationships that will help me better understand how the tech initiatives we implement as a school impact our students both at school and outside of school. Only then will I really be able to act innovatively, proactively, and positively.

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  34. "A leader should create a culture of innovation and that comes from the people, not the stuff." This quote really spoke to me as I move into a coaching role and try to change the culture of our school. Chapters 4 and 5 are all about relationships and how we build a sense of culture with students and staff. The biggest item I think we need to improve on as a school and education system is the ability to share our ideas. We need to "be competitive collaborators" as George put it. We need to encourage each other, share ideas, know what has worked and what hasn't worked. In essence we need to look at how we collaborate and fail together. So much of our culture is built on success that we don't look at how failure can help us to become better. We want others around us to succeed therefore we need to share what our path of learning has been. If we want to truly create a culture of innovation then others around us need to see our failures, our successes, and our paths to learning, not just awards or accolades, but the nitty gritty of our learning journey.

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    1. Another important part of building this culture is that risks are necessary in our learning journey. There is a great article by AJ Juliani on Elon Musk and his learning through Space X. https://twitter.com/atkauffman/status/703914114368868353

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  35. Everyone learns differently. This is not a new idea. In college, I sat in classes and learned about the different learning styles that students need. Did you catch that? I sat and learned! I want my students to be involved in the learning process and to take what they learn another step. At the beginning of each year, I give my students a "learning style" inventory. They answer questions about how they like to learn and I can use this information to create lessons that meet their needs. Am I able to meet every need 100% of the time? No, but I can then incorporate other techniques, if a student is struggling.

    I think it is important for us to meet our students needs, based on what works bet for them. I often think to myself, would I enjoy this lesson? I have even found myself with eyes glazed over during a lesson, while teaching it. I can only imagine how my students must have felt! This chapter reminded me of an article I read recently from the IDOE, about a corporation in southern Indiana. I recommend reading it, if you have not. http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/outreach/20150125-rebeccareevesflyer.pdf

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  36. “Learning to recognize and create new and better opportunities for our students is what matters. In fact, it’s essential” (Kindle, Ch. 2). After attending the annual middle school conference at Valparaiso University (and after 8 years of teaching), it is clear that students value and depend on a trusting, safe, and genuine relationship before they are willing to invest in the content of your classroom. For example, teaching a subject that many students struggle with and dislike (Reading and Language), I need to build a foundation with my student that extends beyond my content and let them know that I am there to help them grow as a person and not just in a grade or paper. “The three most important words in education are: relationships, relationships, relationships. Without them, we have nothing” (Kindle, Ch. 4).

    The culture of the classroom will set the the tone for the rest of the year. The culture that I promote and the beginning of the year and throughout the year is one of trust, student value, kindness, and self-worth. If students have and feel these things, they will value and invest in the work that accompanies the class. From standing in the hallway, to saying hello to ALL students, there are literally ten to twenty things we can do on a daily basis to connect with our students and strengthen our relationships. From observing in class to having empathy (Kindle, Ch. 3) for students and their experiences, the best (and easiest way) to be with your students “in the trenches” is to TALK to them. From asking them about their extracurriculars, to discussing goals beyond the classroom, developing trust gives teachers a chance to connect with their students.

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  37. I think that one of the easiest ways to build relationships is to be present. Spending time in the hallways talking to kids and not just the other teachers is one way to be present. Truly listening and taking an interest in what kids have to say also lets kids know we are present. With all the tasks, emails, etc that teachers have to handle, it is easy to become distracted. I also think that kids need to feel truly comfortable in a classroom to be able to build relationships with each other and the teacher. In order to get to know the kids better and understand their interests and learning styles, I like the idea of starting the year with projects that allow the kids to share information about themselves. I also think that these types of activities should be incorporated throughput the year. I know I am guilty of putting the "get to know you" activities to the side and solely focusing on curriculum once the school year gets moving.

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  38. The best way to get to know your students is to get involved in their lives outside the classroom. I attend school events; I sit next to their parents and find out what is happening in my student’s lives. I open my classroom to students during lunch, and I talk with them about non-classroom things during that time. I believe it is important to be a part of the community that the school is a part of. When I recently changed schools, I moved into the same township as the school. I found a church where my some of my students attended. My own children are in class with sibling of my students. I wanted my students and their families to know who I am both inside and outside of school. It opens up communication greatly. When parents and students have questions they feel they can ask, and I have a better understanding of what is going on that could affect the learning environment.

    One major point of this book has been the emphasis on collaboration. I find that homework tends to be very solitary, and I would like to see that changed. I would like to find a way to make homework more collaborative. I want to give students a chance to assess and share what they learned about a topic and what they didn’t understand. From there, work with their classmates to have meaningful collaboration to learn from each other.

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  39. To build relationships with students, I try to show them I care. When there is down time I talk to them and listen to their conversations. Just today I passed back a graded test (which I then collect back), gave them time to look over it, and walked the rows asking each student if they had any questions on it.
    To address multiple learning styles in math, I try to encourage students to show or tell how they solve particular problems. I want them to see different ways of doing things and they can pick the one that works best for them. I have kids ask all the time, "Do we have to do it this way?" My response is "Do you get it right doing it your way?" Is so, use it.
    As for the "trenches," I watch, listen, and ask questions.

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  40. To build relationships with students, I try to show them I care. When there is down time I talk to them and listen to their conversations. Just today I passed back a graded test (which I then collect back), gave them time to look over it, and walked the rows asking each student if they had any questions on it.
    To address multiple learning styles in math, I try to encourage students to show or tell how they solve particular problems. I want them to see different ways of doing things and they can pick the one that works best for them. I have kids ask all the time, "Do we have to do it this way?" My response is "Do you get it right doing it your way?" Is so, use it.
    As for the "trenches," I watch, listen, and ask questions.

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  41. I try to build relationships with my students right away. I still have a "circle time" kind of morning meeting where we can share good things and bad things. I also share about myself and my family. I want them to know me as a person and I want to know them as a person. I also will try to go and watch them participate in sports or activities outside of school.
    I try to let them "be the teacher" as much as I can, especially in Math. I let them explain to the class how they came up with their answer. More times than not they can reach someone struggling better than I can.
    If I have a child that is really struggling, I will ask them what do you need from me to be successful. It is sometimes amazing what they will say and sometimes its something that I can easily fix, like moving their seat away from the door. I think many times students are much more in tune with their learning than we think as adults.

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  42. I try to build relationships with my students right away. I still have a "circle time" kind of morning meeting where we can share good things and bad things. I also share about myself and my family. I want them to know me as a person and I want to know them as a person. I also will try to go and watch them participate in sports or activities outside of school.
    I try to let them "be the teacher" as much as I can, especially in Math. I let them explain to the class how they came up with their answer. More times than not they can reach someone struggling better than I can.
    If I have a child that is really struggling, I will ask them what do you need from me to be successful. It is sometimes amazing what they will say and sometimes its something that I can easily fix, like moving their seat away from the door. I think many times students are much more in tune with their learning than we think as adults.

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    1. Julia,

      I think it is great that you take the time to build upon your student relationships. This helps establish your classroom community. The more well established your classroom community is, the more likely students will feel comfortable with risk-taking. The collaborative environment you mention is so important. When students see themselves as teachers too, you will continue to model the idea of being a lifelong learner and learning from everyone...even from each other!

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  43. I have realized how important building relationships is with my students and athletes the longer I teach. I coach varsity girls' track and field and cross country, and this year 8th grade Boys' BB, so that wide variety allows me to interact with several groups of students, and in turn, helps me learn more about their interests. I have also found out recently that they really enjoy telling me their stories, so simply listening more intently goes along way to let them know I care about what they are involved in.

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    1. Lane, I agree that simply listening to them helps build real relationships. I think that so many students are hungry for attention and if they can get it in a positive way, like having a respected adult listen to them, then maybe they won't seek it out in negative ways.

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  44. I think I need to put more effort into building relationships with my students. Up until this year I only taught them for 9 weeks at a time so they were in and out of my room very quickly and while I did great learning names and faces I didn't do much to really build a relationship. This year as I have them for a semester they aren't out of my room before I know it, they're still here (!!) and I'm seeing I need to do more to connect with them. I've only been teaching for five years and I still had it ingrained in my head that I'm the teacher, they're the student and I felt like I needed this wall between us so they didn't know too much about me and I didn't know too much about them. I didn't want to be seen as a friend, just a teacher. Obviously that still stands that we need that separation but I think if I took a little more time to have discussions off topic, asked questions or talked about what they're interested in it would go a long way in building a relationship.
    To appeal to the different learning styles I really try to make sure the things we're doing are relevant and fun. I've been doing a lot of assignments lately having my students create things and I think it's going a lot better than when we were reading, reviewing, and testing.

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  45. We have started a program after school to provide academic support to students. Since teachers are meeting with students "outside the school day" teachers have built relationships with students beyond the realm of their classroom.

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  46. Relationships are the key to success in any school culture. Without trusting relationships, we will never be able to move forward with innovation and risk-taking. The thing about building relationships, is that they are continuously built upon and should be ongoing. Leaders, teachers, and students should be prime examples of modeling what we want for our school cultures and the relationships within them. When you create that culture of "yes", you have evidence of strong, established, and trusting relationships because teachers and students are able to confidently "push and help one another to become better" (p.73). In our building, we are centering our collaborative focus around the idea of using your heartset, mindset, and skillset in order to keep our school culture grounded and with a collective focus.
    As educators and leaders, we need to continue to not only adapt to the learning styles of our students, but also our teachers as well. PD can longer be a one size fits all approach if we are to truly capture the idea of growing others from their own individual points. By providing students with voice and choice across content areas, comes the freedom to be a risk-taker and express understandings through lenses in which students/teachers can convey in a learning style tailored to them. Genius hour provides innovation and chances to grow personal learning needs as well.
    Above all, in order to truly have a culture of trust and collaboration, teachers and leaders need to not be afraid to jump in with two feet, even if the process is messy along the way. Teachers and leaders need opportunities to see what great work/instruction is taking place not only within their own grade level teams, but within their building, district, and globally as well. We have to model what we want to see from our teachers and staff but also provide those ways to support teachers and students in their growth.

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  47. Building relationships is an area that I need to work on. This is my first year at the school where I currently work, and I initially wanted to focus on just surviving all the new incoming information. Now, I am beginning to realize that it is time to start joining some of those committees!

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  48. I am so passionate about wanting to build relationships with the students that I often forget that I also need to build and strengthen my relationships with my colleagues within my department. I often find myself wanting to work through lunch, but then realize that it is important for me to strengthen my connections with my coworkers. I always end up laughing and feeling like I have made the right choice by spending time with them. The laughter, support, and inspiration is far more important than getting a few more papers graded.
    Trying to build relationships and trust with the 168 students that I see everyday is definitely a challenge and I find myself trying to seek out those introverted students who tend to stay quiet. I am loud and outspoken so I have to remind myself to LISTEN instead of always being the one who is talking! The more I listen, the more I can understand how a student learns and what they might be dealing with outside of school that could be effecting their school work. Recently, a student who stays after school for almost an hour every day to wait on her dad to pick her up, came into my room and sat down to chat for awhile. I learned more about who she is and where she comes from in that 30 min than I gathered after having her in my classroom for 7 months! I was both enlightened and a little ashamed that I had not known what she was dealing with for so long. You never know what students are dealing with and taking the time to listen can be powerful within and out of the classroom.

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  49. This is my third year of where I currently teach, but my eighth year overall. When I first started this current job, I was more in survival mode as it was completely different from my last school corporation. Last year, I joined on as a union representative and this year I added bus supervisor. I feel that I have really made relationships with many teachers from my building as well as the other schools within the corporation. Next year, I am the bus supervisor and student council advisor. I have really tried to make connections with all of my students a priority.
    Three years ago, I took over from a much older lady. Students hated music class and then here I come with a whole new mindset of how to teach it. I really had to dig in and see what she had taught them and where they were to figure out how to change their thinking about music. They all listen to it outside of school, but hated it in school. I have worked very hard to bring a positive light on this specials class.

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  50. Returning to this week's blog, I feel that I can now answer the question "How am I building relationships?" Building relationships doesn't have to be complicated- it can be as simple as walking down the hallway and just asking questions. The teachers in my building are quite willing to share their strategies and activities with me; I only needed to ask. I have been so glued to my desk this year, even during my lunch, trying to "catch up"- I have never been able to accomplish that! Just spending 5 minutes laughing and joking with other teachers has done a lot to help me energize! Now, I make it a point to visit someone in my building daily, because laughing together is so therapeutic!

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  51. I think building relationships is one of my biggest strengths as a teacher. Every Friday I ask a (aptly named) Friday Question, these questions are designed to be a fun way for me to get to know the students, and for the students to learn a little bit about one another. Some students see it as a way to waste 5-10 minutes of class, but the vast majority really enjoy it and the students really love to see when others share a common interest with them. From these weekly conversations I have learned so much about my students and vice versa. I truly think that helps with the learning process, because it makes them more comfortable in my classroom and more willing to learn and participate.

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  52. As the reading teacher, so many of the community building comes from students in their writing. You would (or maybe not!) be surprised how much you can learn from students in their writing. I also make it a point to find at least one personal connection or thing that a student enjoys that I can relate to. This is also helpful in a reading interest survey that I complete at the beginning of the year. This helps me suggest to students what books that are more interested in reading.

    One thing that I started this year was opening up my classroom for lunch. I allow any student who would like to come up to my classroom and eat lunch. Sometimes they are in my room to study, work on homework, work on assignments for my class or another class. Sometimes they come hang out and discuss school with each other or with me. I think this time allows students a safe space and a way to reach out and build the community that they want.

    I also always allow my students to share their opinions-- in safe, classroom discussions. We set the stage for how to share our opinions and how to agree and disagree. This helps students feel listened to. It's been enlightening to see what they really think.

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