Monday, January 22, 2018

Being Absent



As the flu makes its rounds in my building, today was my day to be down and out.

Due to many issues and an injury with surgeries, I had to miss way too many days this year.  It is strange not being at school when the kids are there. There is an odd ache of letting people down, missing out on special moments, and disappointment students that count on you.

As many days as I missed this year, you might think that the feeling has gone away, or lessened. It hasn't. In fact, as I look at the list of days that I missed, I am left feeling helpless, and somewhat useless.

Does this mean that I crave to be with my students to feel "useful?"  I am not sure. Maybe. But teaching has become my way of life, my way of being. I work and think through ALL teaching breaks.  I am a teacher before being anything else in this life.

Being absent from school is like being absent from life.

I know I will be at school tomorrow and kids will ask me how I am feeling.  They will say that they are glad that I am back or that they missed me.  It will take a full day of guilt to feel like I am back. Not their fault-mine. It is just who I am.

It is my guess that most teachers, especially the great one, share these feeling with me. I know a lot of great teachers, so thankful for that.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Writing not writer



I have spent about four hours each day, since the first of the year, writing.

I have been writing for fun, for inspiration, and for a true book project.

I have felt like a writer more than ever for the past 21 days.

My wife, a few years ago, gave me a small poster that read, "Don't be a writer, be writing".  This, for all of this time, had left me defensive.  Now that I am writing. Now that writing is a daily routine- it is said that habits take 21 days to form and today is day 21. I am no longer defensive.  If I am honest, I am feeling more humbled by my writer behavior. Yes- even embarrassed by the "writer" that I was.

Writing is hard.  Writing is a process of putting yourself out there.  It requires thick skin and the absence of defensiveness. Writing creates a naked soul.  Writing is all in the head-literally.

So- where does this leave me today?

I am proud to be writing.  I am proud to have three or four outlets for my writing.  I am thrilled to be finding and developing my voice...my flow...my writer's mind.

I am thankful for the massively supportive #PLN of writers and friends.

SO- this is my simple way of saying thank you and having a celebratory reflection of being writing, not a writer.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites



Saturday, January 20, 2018

Unconditional Commitment



I have had a high number of students off for extended periods of time this year.  As a middle school teacher, we have our share of students that are hospitalized for emotional issues.  We have students that require surgery for one reason or another. And we also have a large number of students that go out of town or out of the country for weeks and even months at a time.

I have mixed feelings about this phenomenon.

When students have little choice, I feel complete compassion for the students.  I do whatever I can to help them get caught up in a very patient manner.

When students are on "vacation" for extended periods of time. It is their choice. Well, really, it is the choice of the parents.

I used to get angry that these students were missing school for fun and the expectation was on the teachers to help the students get caught up.  At times, what made me even more angry, was when the parents did not really take ownership of the lost time in school and didn't make school a priority.

With years of reflection behind me...and being real with myself...I now fully recognize that my 11-13 year old students do not make these choices.  I have no right to be frustrated with them.  All students, when needing my support, will get my support.

It is interesting how we as teachers, become angry or offended because students aren't in school for various reasons...especially for family vacations. I think we take this personally. I know I did.  It really isn't about me/us. It is about the students and their needs.  It is about unconditional commitment and compassion.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Friday, January 19, 2018

Balanced Feedback



Getting and giving feedback is so important.  The issue with feedback is often how it is given and the words used to express it.

I constantly struggle with giving feedback to students.  I give a lot of feedback, but I am often reflecting, with empathy, on my word choice.  Giving praise, as in saying good job, feels superficial and really doesn't help the student to grow. On the other hand, asking students to tell me more about their work or explain their thinking feels vague and just about the work.  I want my students to feel good about themselves.  I want to help them to build a sense of pride that will eventually lead to academic confidence.

I was talking to one of my students today.  She wrote a wonderful piece on the causes and effects of the 1920s teenager as they have led to today's teen.  It was well thought out and incredibly insightful. Without thinking, I said, "This is so wonderful. I learned so much about your thinking and who you are as a writer and as a young teen. You should be really proud of your hard work".

Her response- tears.

She said, "most teachers just give me a grade or tell me what I could have done better. I have tears in my eyes because I am really proud and you told me it was okay to be proud".

I left that conversation with my own tears...and my own reflection.

Later today, I met with my administrators.  They asked me great questions about my work and challenged me to see what I was doing well and where I could grow... Great use of feedback-right?

I wasn't satisfied!

I wanted to be told something I was doing was great!  I wanted to feel proud.

I wish I could have had the moment with them that I had earlier with my student.

We all deserve to hear that we are great sometimes.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Real Caring




I have this student, Casey, that is one of those students that doesn't fit in with others, He is in 7th grade and wears clothes younger than he is. His voice is awkward. He is clumsy. He is smart. He is one of the most polite, caring, empathetic students you can ask for.

Being in 7th grade, of course, Casey gets picked on. When someone picks on him and I intervene, he is even very polite to the student(s) picking on him.

Casey cares a lot.  Does Casey care about others too much?  Does he care about others more than he cares about himself?

The other day, while conferring with Casey, I asked him how he was doing.  His response, "Great!"
I got real with him and told him that it really bothers me when his peers pick on him.  He said, "Oh, please don't let that bother you.  I completely understand that they don't really know me.  If they knew me, really knew me, they wouldn't pick on me all of the time. I am sure that once they get over worrying about what others think of them, they will stop picking on me."

What an amazing kid. Immature, but mature beyond his years. Caring, but realistic.

I wish I knew Casey when I was in 7th grade.

More importantly,  I am really happy that I get to know him now.  He is truly a gift.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Acceptance



As I have proven myself to be successful with some of the hardest to teach students through the years, I have recently been afforded to great privilege of borrowing a handful of students from our program that teaches students with emotional issues.

I have started to connect with all of the students. One, hard to reach student, has chosen me to be her favorite this week.  She started to open up and allow me to teach her.  She has asked to learn more difficult concepts and asked for additional reading to better understand what we are learning.

Apparently, this is odd for her.  This is odd as she tends to not connect with male teachers.

Today, she brought me a Thank you card for taking the time to teach her.

Something like this would warm my heart regardless of which student might do this for me...but this, today, made me tear up.

I allowed her to see me tears. I allowed myself to show her what an impact that she had on me,

A few lessons learned here-

1. Be open to teach ALL students.

2. All students can be reached.

3. Students deserve to know their impact on us.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Repelling the Negative





As I walked down the happy from my classroom today after school, there were three teachers complaining about students.  I call this behavior Celebrating Negativity.  There went on and on about students talking about their lack of abilities, their poor behaviors, and how terrible they were in each of their classes.

I know I should do something to stop this behavior.  I have tried.  I have stopped and explained that these students have needs that are not being met.  I stop at times and explain how these students have had wonderful days.

Today, I stopped and asked, "What are you doing for the student to help them become better?"

All I got was dirty looks and rude grunts.

This teacher behavior frustrates me.  I have heard from so many that these "teachers" exist in all types of schools in every state.  I am not satisfied with accepting this.

Although I repel the negativity and make sure that I do my best to make up for these teachers with these noted student, I do not feel that it is fair that they exist.  In all honesty. I do not understand why these people are teachers.  They have all been teaching less years than I have.  I am older than all of these teachers.

I am just not okay with this.

I have always had the mantra, since I was 15-years old at my first job...If I don't like where I am working, it is time to move on.  Also, I will always give 110%- why give any less, it only reflects on your belief in yourself.

I guess I will need to deal with this for the rest of my career, but I will never be okay with it.

Students need their teachers on their sides.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites