Hey everyone I hope you had a fantastic week. It has been busy for me. I have several projects going on at the same time, but I couldn't let another week pass without doing one of the things I love...writing! So I begin with this question, how many of you have seen the movie Hidden Figures? If you haven't seen it yet I recommend that you put it on your list of must see films. The things that stood out for me in this movie are both the resilience of this group of extraordinary Black women in the face of racial and gender inequality as well as the potential that was already placed in them even as young girls growing up in their neighborhoods.
Too many times in my years of education I have heard conversations about certain children not being able to do well because they were just academically low and can only do so much. To alleviate this senseless struggle, these students are only required to answer yes/no questions or they are assigned work that only needs "right there" answers; this means that information is easy to locate because it's right there on the page in a book. The idea that we are helping students by planning lessons this way fails to tap into their true abilities to exceed expectations.
Because a large part of my work focuses on math instruction, I have been amazed at the significant gains students make when they have teachers who value their potential and equip them with the tools needed to tap into their gifts. The other day when I visited a class, one student was so eager to show me his work with a word problem he had written that focused on 12 x 6, that before I could ask him to explain his thinking, he said " When I looked at the number 12, I pulled out the 10 and multiplied it 6 times, that got me to 60. Then I took the 2 ones in 12 and multiplied it 6 times... 60,62, 64, 68, 70...72(he really put emphasis on the last number)...lol!!!" That made my heart happy because that's what we want students to be able to do when thinking "outside the box". Now think back to the movie Hidden Figures and imagine what young Katherine Johnson's life would have been like had she not had people in her corner that allowed her to tap into the the gifts from within by thinking outside the box. As we continue to educate children of the 21st century, I encourage you to see their abilities beyond the natural eye...challenge them, see them beyond their communities. And let's take the limits off of children who don't fit the description of the gifted and talented student. Every child has potential and it is our responsibility to help them by doing all we can to stir up their gifts. Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!
Song of the Week
Article of the week
The National Association for Gifted Children has written an article that equips parents with great tips to consider when advocating on behalf of the gifted/high achieving student. I have shared it in the link below.
This week's post makes me reflect back to my first couple of years as a classroom teacher. I had gone through the undergraduate Teacher Education program at my beloved university and I felt confident starting my career as a teacher. During those early years, I was fortunate to work alongside veteran teachers who took me under their wings and equipped me with so many valuable gems of knowledge. The one that stands out the most is effective classroom management. By far classroom management can be the thing that "makes" or "breaks" you as a teacher. If classroom management is limited or non-existent, it won't matter how many great lessons you find on Teachers Pay Teachers, nor will it matter the awesome classroom decorating ideas you find on Pinterest; if there is no order in the classroom, learning falls by the wayside.
Now I get that we live in a world quite different from what it was 20+ years ago when I started teaching. Social media, the rise in school bullying, school violence, the rise in mental illness, reality t.v., and most of today's music that doesn't have a positive message (my mother calls it "noise") all effect the behaviors of students. Not to mention the fact that so many children live in dysfunctional, unstable environments where they are emotionally traumatized. Because these concerns are so critical to a child's well-being, a shift in the way schools are beginning to address these issues are now a focal point. Schools in many districts across the country are taking an opportunity to better understand the idea behind Trauma- Informed Schools.
Trauma-Informed Schools/Classrooms provide students with clear expectations and communication strategies to guide them through stressful situations. The goal is to provide students with tools to cope with extreme situations. In addition to that, schools also support students by creating a culture of respect and support. Classroom teachers can make an impact by establishing classroom environments that support students who suffer from trauma. This can be achieved by maintaining high academic standards as well as helping students feel safe.
Maintaining High Academic Standards
One of the most effective ways for children to overcome the impact of trauma is to master the academic and social goals set by the school. Upon learning that a child has been subjected to trauma, it is natural to assume that the curricula should be lightened or expectations diminished. Often adults will say, “She needs time away from academics for a while.” It is understandable to want to make things easier on a stressed child, and sometimes this is appropriate. However, careful attention should be paid to the message conveyed by lowering standards. Children often interpret lowered standards as validation of a sense of themselves as worthless, a self-image created by the trauma. Ideally, it is best to let the student know that, despite the travails of his or her life, your expectation is that the student will continue to meet the high standards set for all the children, and that the school will help to make that possible.
Helping Students feel Safe
Many of the academic and behavioral difficulties experienced by traumatized children are consequences of the persistent state of fear in which they live. For them to be educated effectively, it is essential that they feel physically and emotionally safe at school. Training should feel physically and emotionally safe at school. Training should include discussion of how the school can ensure that abusive parents do not enter the building, how to make the classroom safe from teasing and bullying, ways to help children perceive adults as safe and positive, how to reinforce predictability in the classroom, and how to help traumatized children react to the unexpected (e.g., a schedule change).
Getting to the heart of instruction happens when classroom environments are designed to purposefully allow students to feel safe and also let them know they are supported by all caring adults in the building. When these needs are addressed, instruction along with academic achievement is possible. Until next time, go out there and be GREAT!
This article is interesting because it outlines specific ideas when understanding more about Trauma-Informed Schools. www.edutopia.org/article/inside-look-trauma-informed-practices
Here's a video that has really made me reflect on how I interact with children in and around school. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxyxywShewI&authuser=1
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