Let Them Know You Believe in Them

I am a little heart broken. I have a 15-year-old daughter who has swum on and off since she was 5 years old. She is thinking of quitting the sport altogether.

Yes, the practices are hard. Yes, the practices are early. Yes, she has had a number of her friends quit the team. Yes, she has other commitments in high school she prioritizes over swimming. Yes, she loves the sport. Yes, she began to excel.

And then she got a new coach. It was great at first. But then she could tell that he stopped believing in her. And now…well now…she wants to quit. Because of her age, she doesn’t want to switch teams.

If it’s not with this team she’s on now, she’s done.

She wants someone who will believe in her. Someone who will push her to reach her potential. But this coach, this coach has her swim with elementary-aged students, not even with her age group. She is never tired after practice, and she is calling enough already. If she is going to spend so much time doing something, she wants to spend it with someone who believes in her.

The classroom lesson? Students know when you don’t believe in them. They give up and disengage when you don’t believe in them. So go out, take a risk, let your students  know without a doubt you’re on the journey with them.

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On The Hill

Yesterday was a busy day. I am in Washington DC, and I got to go to The Hill to advocate for education on behalf of the National Writing Project (@writingproject).

The night before we had a briefing of what we would ask for. This year we asked for money for SEED grants and for money for states in something called LEARN which brings money to individual states. It’s a lot to remember- but as the core is the notion that the funding our congress people sign for makes a difference in individual classrooms and for individual students.

For instance, one of my colleagues was awarded a grant through the National Writing Project which will be used to train teachers in teaching argumentative writing. But more than that I have been able to bring this information to my classroom. 

In order to ask for the money, what I realized, we have to create a connection to our students, show our representatives what the money is being used for in a very tangible way.

Yesterday was a busy day. I am in Washington DC, and I got to go to The Hill to advocate for education on behalf of the National Writing Project (@writingproject).

The night before we had a briefing of what we would ask for. This year we asked for money for SEED grants and for money for states in something called LEARN which brings money to individual states. It’s a lot to remember- but as the core is the notion that the funding our congress people sign for makes a difference in individual classrooms and for individual students.

For instance, one of my colleagues was awarded a grant through the National Writing Project which will be used to train teachers in teaching argumentative writing. But more than that I have been able to bring this information to my classroom. 

In order to ask for the money, what I realized, we have to create a connection to our students, show our representatives what the money is being used for in a very tangible way.

The Biggest Short

On my way to Washington DC today I watched the movie The Big Short about the Great Recession of 2008 and how the housing shorts pushed the whole crisis. The story is about those investors who predicted the crisis, shorted the market as a result, and made a ton of money betting against the housing market. 

These investors knew doomsday was to come. They invested against the American economy and were rewarded monetarily. At the end of the movie there is a voice over that reflects on what value really is. He questions the true value of something while an earlier character, now homeless, chases his child around his car. 

What holds value, he asks.

Another character points out that in tough times poor people and immigrants are blamed, but the voiceover adds teachers to the list. Teachers were blamed for the crisis. 

It makes sense if you think about it. Blame the teachers- they have created this mess. After all, they are the ones who educated these bankers.

However, I don’t know a teacher who teaches for any other reason than to make the world a better place. The money certainly does not bring people into the profession.

The truth is: those of us who get into education do not place our bets in funds or markets. No- we place our bets on the future- on our hope for greater things to come- our children.

Time…is not on my side.

No slice yesterday. Deep struggle. It is true; there is little time to be had for teachers at the end of March. Students are scrambling, teachers are scrambling, and everyone is a little snarky.

Although I had no slice yesterday which means that will not make my goal to blog every day in March, I am not giving up. I won’t give up on my self. In fact, it is a reminder to me that perfection is not my goal. To do the best I can with the tools I have is my goal.

To be kind to the people I care about, that is my goal. In this time when colleagues are struggling, my goal is not to come to that frustrating place with them. My goal, instead, is to raise the vibration.

After all: we’re all busy. We’re all stressed.

Commitment

The students walk in groggy-eyed, dreading what is ahead of them for the morning. I walk in to the library and the juniors and seniors are milling about, some in pajamas, others in yoga pants, or sweats.

The first year I did this I worried about behavior problems, but in the seven years I’ve done it I have never once had a student melt down or give any kind of problem. After all, putting 70 students into one room is normally not a great idea.

I was lucky this year because there were other people in the building facilitating another event, CREATE. I didn’t feel quite so lonely as I watched students bubble and bubble and bubble, and then write their hearts out.

 

This morning I proctored 70 students as they took the AP Lang practice exam our school offers. I have never had that many students take this exam. We arrive at 7 in the morning and are finished by 11. We offer this experience so that our students understand the endurance involved in taking this exam. I was exhausted afterwards, and I didn’t even take the exam.

These students? They’re committed.

The Great Oblivion

As I mentioned in my post from Tuesday, my students conducted a technology fast over the last week. While I allowed students to define which technology they would fast, most of my students conducted a cell phone fast.

The day their essays were due, I had my students stand in a continuum around the room: “I had no problem doing it, it wasn’t a big deal” all the way to “I couldn’t do it and I had a breakdown about it.” We also conducted a class discussion about what happened for them.

It took a bit for the students to get rolling, but those who struggled had some commonalities. These students stated the were afraid of boredom. When I asked them to define what boredom means to them, they said “It’s when you sit by yourself and you get the feels.”

I kept pushing, and I proved, “What’s wrong with the feels? I thought it was good to have feelings and to be engaged in your world in that way.”

You know their reply? “It reminds me that I’m alone. I can’t handle that feeling of being alone in the world. I want to know people are out there with me and if I have my phone it reminds me other people are there with me.”

The class named this feeling “the Great Oblivion.” They concurred that it is simply too scary to explore.

This is the exact reason it’s necessary philosophy is taught to juniors in high school. When the explore philosophers, they begin to understand they are not the only people with “the feels.”

Conferences

Tonight we had parent teacher conferences at my school. Can I just say that I really love the parent community at my school. They do a great job of taking care of their kids and the people who teach them. That is all.

24 Hour Tech Fast

Over the last week I assigned my students to conduct a 24 hour tech fast, their rules, their parameters. They will be reading the book Amusing Ourselves to Death which argues that the media which is most prevalent at a particular time in history becomes the metaphor by which people live.  I just read my students’  essays and the following are quotes from their writing.

I will write more on this subject tomorrow, but wanted all of you to see their thinking around technology after their experience.

“The tech fast hadn’t even started, and I already accepted failure.”

“It also made me realize that all this technology we use is just an illusion and is distracting us from the reality of life.”

“It’s absolutely crazy how this generation is consumed with behind the screen interactions and not generating intimate connections with their friends.”

“I have missed many things in my life due to the distraction of my cell phone.”

“It was if I had bad vision my whole life then put on a pair of glasses. It made me see my family and my friends differently.”

“For the 12 hours I was able to make it, I noticed and increase in my happiness.”

“I have realized that getting rid of negativity in your life that you can control, is necessary to being a happy person.”

“Drawing my life away from technology even for a little bit helped me to consider the sweet, simple things in life.”

“As I  thought further about my experience, I concluded that overstimulation, not tech addiction, is the true paramount result of the digital age. Tech addiction is not as real as addiction to over stimulation – which is why modern people are bored so easily and lack attentiveness.”

“I’m a changed person. If changed means having three mental and two emotional breakdowns within a 24 hour period, then yes, a changed person.”

“It means that as humans, we are starting to forget that the only evolutionary advantage we have is being together.”

“The solitude will help me find myself.”

“We have lost sight of ourselves in a “stunning,” “gorgeous,” “Retina” display.”

 

The Dilemma

I have a constant battle that occurs in my mind. I try desperately not to let it steep out, but it is every present. The battle goes something like this:

I want to savor my life. All the small moments matter. All the things that are intangible hold great significance. Those pieces that make up each day…those matter.

But I also want to be “caught up.” I want to feel like my ever-present to-do list is complete…or at least complete enough.

Each weekend I spend time thinking about how I can procrastinate just one thing, how it will be okay on Monday morning if this thing is not done. I convince myself I need to spend more time with my family, that my daughter only has 3 1/2 more years left to live with us.

So you see, the dilemma is rich and is a no-win set up: if I savor, there is no time because I am catching up. If I am “caught up” there is no time to savor because I’m constantly working.

So how about this? I don’t procrastinate. I savor my moments when they come, and I get done what I can. This feels so much kinder and gentler. After all, why does it HAVE to be one or the other?

Please comment on how you survive this dilemma in your own life.