Sunday, September 23, 2018

Being in the Now




As I look at my schedule for this week, it is way too easy to become overwhelmed.  I have things nightly right after school every day.  It is easy to feel under water before the week even begins.  This is what I would call a full week.  Not an easy forecast while I am trying to feel better after getting a bug late last week.

When we get to this point and look at our calendars and freak...

We have two choices.

1.  We can allow the load of the week to pull us down and lay heavily on our minds.

OR

2.  We can take things one at a time.  Day by day.  Living in the moment.

When we get bogged down with the "too much to do" mindset, we tend to live in the pile of things that we have to get done.  When this happens, we do very little well.  We also do not do ourselves emotional or physical good in the process.

As teachers, we need to be in the moment for our students.  We need to be present to be effective.

If we choose #2, all of those things on our calendar will still be there.  We can still cross them off one at a time.  By our minds can focus only on the task that we are involved in NOW.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Saturday, September 22, 2018

A little Caring




I had a student come up to me this week and ask why they were not in my class.  I had to explain that I only teach a couple of 7th grade classes and I have no say in the students that end up in my class.

This student, a girl, has a long history of getting in trouble in school.  In fact, her siblings also have a history of getting in trouble on a regular basis.

I have been connecting with this students since the beginning of the year.  She doesn't know this, but I know her history.  I act as though I have no idea about her troubled past... Instead, I only have a little fun with her and let her know that she is valued and important.  I show her that I am glad that she chooses to come say hi to me and hang near me as I stand in the hallway in the morning and give fist-bumps and high-fives to the students passing by.

"Boy, you everyone's favorite...ain't you"

"I am not sure about that.  I am just happy to see all of these wonderful students and I want them all to have a great day, that's all."

It doesn't take much to help a troubled student to turn things around.  Sometimes, just reminding them that they matter and not bringing up a troubled past is enough to help a student turn things around.

What I do isn't magic.  I just care.  I just show a troubled student that they are worth my time and look for what is great about them.  I remind them daily.  This can make a huge difference in the mindset of many.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Friday, September 21, 2018

Student Compassion




Today, I wasn't feeling so good.  I had a scratchy throat, blocked ears, itchy eyes, a rough stomach, and it was hard to talk.  I felt weak and a bit of the chills.  I decided to push through.  I wanted to be with my students.  I wanted to keep the momentum going and the engagement that we have been working on so much since the start of the school year.

It was worth it.

We made wonderful progress in various aspects of our work.

But...

More importantly,

My students took great care of me.  They made me promise the day before to do my mini-lessons as a dramatic read today.  I just couldn't I was not up to it nor was my voice.  I couldn't bring myself to the silly actor place that we get to go as teachers.  I was barely hanging on as it was.

My students understood.  They didn't push it.  Not only that, but they took care of me in other ways.  They worked without me asking them to be quiet or to get back on task.  They asked others around them to stay quiet as they policed their peers in order to make sure I was okay.

Students are amazing in this way.

They can be frustrating at times.  They can be obnoxious at times.  They can be immature at times.

But...when you need them to be great, they are amazing!

Care about your students and the caring that you get back will be way more than you'd expect.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Night with an Author




What a wonderful night.  I am so lucky to work in a middle school building and district that embraces literacy to such a high level.  We also love our YA Literature and authors.  Tonight, we had a visit from the incredible author of the book, Bird.  Yes, Crystal Chan came to our building and  spend some quality time with kids and parents.



She spent over an hour hanging out with everyone and then another hour talking about her books and journey as an author.  She was amazing, the kids were amazing...what a great night.



Having inspirational events like this where teacher and parents, along with our students is the true meaning of educational community.

We need to embrace these moments.  I think I will embrace the experience again in a couple of weeks when Andrew Smith drops by to talk about his new book...




Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

An honest talk




I had a heart to heart talk with my students today.  I let them know what I have been seeing in class that has been frustrating me and standing in the way of even more growth than we have already seen.  I took clear ownership of my parts and let the students talk about what they see themselves doing to stand in the way of making each class meeting truly count.

The conversation was honest, authentic, vulnerable, and real.  I never talk down to my students, and this was no exception.  We had true conversation as we partnered to reflect on the academic behaviors of the past week.  We kept it positive and complimented each other on what was working really well.

This 15-20 minute conversation was the catalyst to an amazing class.  It also strengthened the bonds of the community in each class.  You can tell we are now closer and trust each other.  This is the perfect environment, now, for honest reflection leading to amazing work and partnership in growth.

This was an authentic SEL lesson for all involved.  It was not pushed, nor was it fake.  It was real and in the moment.

We all need to know that we are valued and are still loved, even when we fail.  We all need "real" in our lives to build the trust that will allow us to speak freely of what we need.  Once this culture is created, it opens the doors and the windows for continued work.

I am so proud of my students.

I am proud of me.

I am proud that I can be in a place where this type of magic can occur.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Missing real connections




Every now and then I get an email or some type of connection from a past student that has wonderful news to report.  This week, I got an email from a past student that is a senior this year.  She is in the top 10 of her class and she got into the college of her dreams.

She explained to me that she has had some wonderful teachers in High School to this point, but her real connections with teachers that hold meaning to her were during her middle school experience.

I asked her for her theory on why this differences exist.

She came up with the following list.

High School Teachers...

Seem like they have no time for students.

Are more involved in sports at the school.

Take on other things that they get paid stipends for.

Have more of a life outside of school than my middle school teachers.

Do not connect with students.

Are just there to teach the material.

Have less personality than my middle school teachers.

Some of these surprised me, while others did not.  One thing is for sure...this list made me sad.  At the same time, I am so glad that my past student had the teachers that she had at middle school to influence her and become life-long connections for her.

Again, I am sure there are some great teachers at her high school.

Even though this list was about "them", I think I will reflect on this list to make sure that I am well aware that I do not ever fit any of these categories with or for my students.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#MIndfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Monday, September 17, 2018

An off Day




Today made me sad.  My students were not the best behaved.  In fact, they were completely disrespectful.  After talk to other staff members in the building, they reported the same thing...some even worse.

What is going on?

Full moon?

Something in the water?

Rebellion?

Or...

My students are feeding off of stress that I am feeling about so many changes in our building and a few new things thrown at me this morning....

Students truly do feel our stress.  They react when we are not "right" with things.  They can sense it.  The same way that students can tell when teachers are lying or not being real or genuine.  We act or react in a way that makes our students feel nervous.  They can sense that things are not right and that makes them feel uneasy or even unsafe.

As teacher, we need to slow down and patiently self-reflect before blaming our students for their behaviors.  Behaviors are usually a sign that something is missing or needed.  They can also be reactions to un-noticed emotions in our kids.  We are the adults.  We need to start with what we see and feel within ourselves before we jump to the wrong conclusions or blame.

After some reflection, I realized about 10 things that made ME off today before the day started.  Did my "stuff" impact my kids?  I am pretty sure the answer is yes.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites