Friday, February 23, 2018

My #OneWord for 2018

If you have a social media presence, you probably saw the #oneword campaign a couple of months ago, people choosing one word to describe a change or a goal for the upcoming year.  Like many people, I settled on one word for myself, but beyond a Twitter chat in January, I didn't get too wild and crazy with it on social media, no reason in particular.  I focused more my goals for 2018, which I outlined in a previous blog post.  However, it's not like my one word isn't related to my goals for 2018; in fact, my one word, which is actually two words, fully and completely, will guide the steps I need to achieve my goals.  

Image result for tragically hip
Promotional photo of The Tragically Hip, with Gord Downie
on the far right.  Photo courtesy of
My one word came about months before the new year began.  It started with the death of Gord Downie on October 17, 2017.  Gord was the lead singer of The Tragically Hip, a band that never got much traction or attention in the United States, but is the unofficial band of Canada.  While not a lifelong fan of The Hip as they are more often referred to as I really started to get into them over the past few years.  Gord lost his battle with brain cancer in October, devastating a nation and a fanbase.  Even though he had announced his battle months prior, it didn't make the news of his death any easier, to the point that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau broke down in tears during a press conference announcing that Gord had passed.  

In the months since I have been listening to a lot of The Hip.  Gord as a songwriter had a beautifully cryptic style of writing that was wide open to interpretation often times.  Other times, the lyrics were dead set on something specific, such as the song 38 Years Old, a song about a prison break in Kingston, ON back in the 1970s (some of the lines are true to detail, other aspects are fabricated to make a great song).  One of the songs that really stood out to me over these months was Fully Completely.  Now, I am not the greatest at interpretations of art, poetry, songs, so on and so on.  When I listen to Fully Completely, my interpretation of the song is that it is the ending of a relationship, especially lines like, "Lover, she simply slammed the door" and "You're gonna miss me, wait and you'll see, fully and completely."  I could also see an interpretation of somebody trying to kick a drug habit as well.  Again, I'm not great at interpretations, but often times, things are purposely ambiguous for multiple interpretations and only the artist can explain the true meaning(s) intended.  

So, how do I take a song about the ending of a relationship and relate that what I want to achieve as a person in 2018?  To me, Fully Completely is a perfect description of how one should approach everything that they do in their life.  One should fully and completely approach relationships, work, play, etc. with a sense of purpose, an idea of an endgame, and take the steps necessary to achieve.  One should never "take a day off" when it comes to achieving their goals, all things should go toward a goal.  That doesn't mean work all day every day and never play, quite the contrary.  You NEED to get away from work stuff and do things that you enjoy, in fact, I believe that play and leisure will help one achieve a goal more effectively.

I want to take a moment to thank Ben Dickson and Sara Holm for my blog idea this week.  Ben and Sara moderate the #teachnvchat on Thursdays at 7:30 PM Pacific and originally focused on #oneword2018 a few weeks ago.  This past Thursday, we revisited our one words and had one of the best #teachnvchat sessions that we have had in a while (nothing against previous chats by any means, this one was just energetic and inspiring beyond belief).  Without their idea to revisit, I would not have been inspired to write this particular post.

What is your #oneword2018?  Think about it and share it with the world!

Until next time... 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Power of Positive

Right before winter break, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop at my school about positive behavioral intervention and supports, also known as PBIS.  This wasn't the first time that I had attended a training on PBIS, as my previous school when I was an administrator was a PBIS school.  However, while the concept of PBIS is good for all schools, it is something that is especially useful at the alternative school environment, similar to what I am doing at the current time.  While much of the training was something that I was already aware of, I got some great things out of the training to try out with my students over the course of the past few weeks.  

The textbook that we used
in my Principles of
Coaching class back in 2004.   
It is no secret that positive interactions with people are going to bear more fruit than negative interactions.  You can look at the old saying, "You catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar" and apply it to education.  I also think back to a class that I took in college that was part of my minor program, a class called Principles of Coaching (my minor in college was Physical Education with a coaching emphasis, I coached various sports, mostly football, for 9 years before taking a hiatus that has now lasted almost 5 years; I miss coaching, but there is also a lot about it I don't miss, namely being able to spend more time with my family).  One of my coaches, Herb Greinke, was the instructor and the focus of the class was coaching and teaching through positive interactions, rather than the "old school" way of the screaming, chair throwing coach reminiscent of Bobby Knight.  I still remember that class very well, the textbook that we used, and the feedback that Coach Greinke gave me throughout that class. 

Fast forward to my current position teaching PE at a behavior school.  Most days can be very tough.  You have students that come from broken homes and often times have struggled with adult authority throughout their lives.  However, my bad days with students are very few and far between, and I credit that strictly to my ability to remain positive with students.  I make sure that I am interacting with students on a regular basis, asking students how their day is going, what kinds of plans they have for weekends, how they are doing in their classes, etc.  It is also essential to praise students for a job well done.  However, what the PBIS training got me thinking about was making that praise more substantial.  It's easy to be positive by telling a student, "Good job!", but it goes a lot farther if you can be more specific with the praise, such as,"I appreciate that you came to class today on time and participated in our activity!"  It is also helpful that rather than reprimanding a student for infractions, redirecting a student will be more effective.  Many of my students are used to using foul language on a regular basis, so rather than taking points away from a student's point sheet or writing a referral for language, I remind students of the school's expectations regarding language and often times, a student will self-correct.  

I get that this isn't my most groundbreaking post of all time.  If you are reading this, it's probably glaringly obvious that positive will go a lot further than negative.  However, if you are like me, you may have gotten into a mode where your positive feedback is too impersonal.  By harnessing the power of positive, tailoring it to your students in a personal manner, and making positive a part of every moment in your classroom, you will make a lasting impact on even the more difficult students.  

Until next time...