Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Creativity




Today, I asked my students to create something with their thinking and learning.  What I wanted them to create was simple, but when I asked them to create, with collaboration, they became excited.

There is something about allowing students to think for themselves and use what they are learning in a creative manner that seems to energize my students.

Creativity is freeing.  It allows us to individualize our thinking and take things in directions that mean something to us.  All too often, we are asked to achieve things in such a way that there is only one correct way to do so.  Allowing creativity opens the doors of possibility and knocks down the walls that contain us.  It is an exercise that we all should gift ourselves when possible.

Being a teacher, I am given quite a bit of autonomy.  I get to create lessons for my students.  Granted, there are parameters that I must stay in including standards and content.  In other words, I am told the WHAT, but I get to create the HOW.

For me, that is where the Art of teaching comes to play.  There is an art to the creation of the lessons, but there is also an art to the dance of the instruction itself.  It is an artistic dance between teacher and students and if you are great at what you do...between student and student.

Too often, we take things like creativity in teaching for granted.  We teach...and that is about it.  But if we remain awake, and intentional about our ART... and notice and appreciate our freedom to create, we might become even more creative...and enjoy what we do just a little bit more.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Monday, November 12, 2018

This Journey




As I am rounding out the last weeks of my one year goal of daily writing, I have realized how ready I am to write.  What I am ready to write are my books.  This practice has allowed me the growth that I have needed to know myself as a writer.  I know what I need personally from my writing and I am ready to finish the writing projects that I have started and move completely into the writing model that I have designed for myself.

I am a writer.

Today, I started organizing my book project files.  For me, this is my cue to reflect on what my first dive will be into and where my daily commitment will rest.  As finishing or restarting a book on professional development and understanding is calling to me, I will do this prior to any "creative" work in fiction...but...fiction waits for me as well.

So will there be blog posts from me during this process...after January 1st?

Yes, but they will be more involved, more developed, and much more in-depth in their scope and topics.  I will write about teaching and the writing process as it speaks to me.  I will write about once each week to maintain what I have started in this journey.

Persist.

This past year, my "one little word" has be the word, persist.  I have focused my life around my blog in this light, but I have allowed other areas of my life to get lazy...which is fine. I am not sure what my next one little word will be for next year, but it is my goal to be more inclusive of other areas of my life.

The message.

Writing has pushed me into even more reflectiveness than I thought was possible.  It has allowed me to learn from my writing...about myself and what I want in life.  I have a little coaching from others as well.  I am proud that I have stuck with this journey and I am itching to get to the next step of this journey.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Grace




Teachers require Grace.

The continual pressure to perform seems to get greater every passing year.

Trying to help students to grow and learn that come to us with so much Trauma is a never ending mountain to climb.

We are always doing a balancing act between making students like us as we build connections as a foundation for learning while making sure that we are true to the standards, making our administrators happy, not upsetting parents, and paying attention to where we fit on the Danielson Model of what makes for a good teacher.

We have to be aware of our roles in dangerous situations such as fires, tornadoes, and now...active shooters.

Most schools have some type of competitiveness and drama between staff.

We are often pawns in the negotiations of the Union and Board to be treated fairly and be paid a decent wage.

We must work in continual professional development to meet our requirements of some 120 hours of PD every 5-years (In Illinois).

We are always wondering if there will be a retirement fund available when it is our turn to use the funds.

We must endure the ever-changing directives and new initiatives that seem to fall from the sky but are valued by the district because they cost them millions of dollars.

Let me restate my initial statement.  Teachers that are invested with their hearts and soul require Grace.  Of course there will always be those that are in it for the short term, summers off, and the expectation to move into some type of management in 5-years.

I am being real today.  I am being reflective.

So...

Given the choice of caring or not caring, I still choose to care and carry all of the stressors and burdens listed above...if I get to continue to be a teacher that cares and offers my students the kind of teacher they deserve.  I will afford myself the grace that I need.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Such a Teacher




I had a student come up to me during passing period.  This student is amazingly smart and insightful. 

She looked at me and said, "You are such a teacher."  I said, "Yes, yes I am."

She then asked, "If you knew what you know about teaching now, when you first were deciding to become a teacher, would you still have decided to become a teacher?"

I laughed.  I smiled.  I said, "Yes, of course.  Teaching isn't a job and it is way more than a career.  Teaching is a way of life.  It is who I am."

My student looked back up at me and said, "Makes sense.  I couldn't imagine you doing anything else."

I agree.  I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else as well.  Even though I have had a basket full of careers, not jobs in my life...teaching is what I have always done and who I have always been.

My teaching career started when I was in the 6th grade.  I was starting middle school and right across from the school was a very old elementary school.  They were running a pilot for children from the ages of 4-6 years old.  This pilot was called Safety Town and was about helping kids learn about safety in their neighborhood, near roads and driveways, etc.

We were able to sign up for two-week sessions.  I signed up for all 5.  This was a voluntary program that paid nothing and really had little motivating factors other than to help the small kids learn how to be safe.  It was run by our police department.

I love it.  As I think back to my many jobs and careers, I have taught in all of them.  When I decided to go back to school for yet another degree...It all made sense to me.  My entire life had been training me to be the best possible teacher I could ever imagine being.

I really am..."Such a Teacher!"

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Friday, November 9, 2018

Feedback




As I finished with a mini-lesson and my students got to work one day this past week, I sat down and watched them all working.  I wondered what learning is to my students...what does it look like?  What does it feel like?  What a gift it might be to be able to see their learning through their eyes.

Think about how much we might learn about our instruction and the effects of our words and strategies.  Would we see what we thought we might see?  Would we be surprised?

I spend a lot of time being real with my students asking for feedback, but... I wonder how real it is and how accurate the feedback might be.  My students tend to want to see me happy and might be telling me what they think I may want to hear.  Or...not.  I can't really know.

So...

I have been thinking about video taping myself.  I have been looking at using one of those new style of video cameras that follow you while you move.  I believe they even have a wearable microphone so I would be able to hear my conferring with students.

I am not sure if it would be the same or have the same effect as knowing the effect that my teaching has on my students, but it would allow me to be critical of my teaching while learning what I can improve upon in a safe, non-evaluative way.

Yes, I want to be the best teacher that I can be.  I want to be effective.  I am a believer that the more aware I am of what I am doing, intentionally, the better and more effective I can be for my students.

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Imposter Syndrome




At my parent teacher conferences, during conversations with the parents of honors students and the students themselves, it dawned on me that these students truly fit into my definition of "Imposter Syndrome" students.

Below is one of my favorite reads about this phenomenon.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-impostor-syndrome/

Basically, the person feels like a fake....like they are not nearly as smart as their teacher or others believe them to be.  They are often down on themselves and are fearing that the world will find them out...that they are not smart at all, and in fact, quite the opposite.

For my students, this can come from various places and events in their lives.  It can come from words spoken by parents, by things said by teachers, by times that they have become confused and failed feeling that this is really who they are.  Where it comes from is important to become aware of, but most essential is recognizing that it exists and making attempts to support this type of person or learner.

Some of the things that I am helping my students with are the following:

*  Stop comparing themselves to others in their classes.
*  Let go of some of the perfectionism.
*  Always be the true YOU.
*  Challenge negative thoughts.
*  Become more aware when you are doing it.
*  Talk to others about it...especially others doing it, you are NOT alone!

I sat down and watched the following video with these students.  They were in tears and saw themselves all over this video clip.  Of course, it is a TED talk.  It is worth a watch if you are a teacher or parent.

https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_cox_what_is_imposter_syndrome_and_how_can_you_combat_it?language=en

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Best me




I am a very reflective teacher.  I reflect in the moment about what I can do to help my students by becoming clearer in my instruction and also, making on-the-fly changes to help support my students.  I reflect each Sunday night while I am creating plans for the next week on instruction.  I reflect when I do any type of professional development from- reading professional books, to engaging in Twitter chats.  I do my most when attending a professional conference.

But...

For some reason, during my evaluation week where my administrators come in and rate me on so many different little elements of my instruction and life as an educator...my reflections become cloudy.  They become clouded with doubt and even apathy.  Even though evaluations have moved beyond administrators only looking at a 40-minute snapshot and deciding if I am a worthwhile educator, with the 2-year look into my teaching, the actual formal visit to rate me makes my attitude change.  I get frustrated.

I get frustrated because my administrators know my teaching, my relationships with students, and my results in the case of data and growth outcomes.

For me, I truly believe that this visit if more of a formality, but it still frustrates me.  I guess it always will.

So...

Is there a remedy?

Not really, but I can be intentional in my attitude and approach.  I can make sure that I show up with a positive attitude and simply be me...have fun...enjoy my students...and just do what I do to get my regular results with my students.

In reviewing what I am thinking, and wrote above, I see that this is clearly a mindset that I allow myself to fall into when I allow myself to leave my intentional self.

Being who I am...on purpose...makes me the BEST me!

Be Mindful.

Peace.

Mark Levine

#Mindfulliteracy
@LevineWrites