Difficult Situations

Some days I feel like I have everything under control, and some days I feel like I have been sucked into a vortex of everyone else’s problems that have suddenly become mine.

I do three things. Smile, breathe and listen. I know it sounds too simple, but it really helps!

Smile. Just a half smile, so you don’t scare people. The smile releases endorphins and tricks your body into relaxation. It gives a sense of personal control, a feeling of “I’ve got this!”

Breathe. Take a few deep breaths to connect your mind and body. As you breathe in, take your time and feel your belly rise. Allow your lungs to absorb the oxygen, and then exhale fully. Repeat three or four times and scan your body for tension as you breathe.
Breathing pulls you into the present moment and prevents you from dwelling on the past or fearing the unknown future.

Listen. The reason that there is a problem is because you don’t yet have a solution. The solution can only found when you have all the facts and you have listened to all perspectives with an open mind and heart. Listen to a variety of people that you respect so you can hear some non-biased perspectives. We generally listen with a filter or a specific lens due to our innate biases. You have to remove these roadblocks to gain a clearer understanding.

Take some time away from the situation and let your heart and mind get to work without your cognitive influences. Go for a walk, hike, bike ride, swim, lift weights, do yoga or pilates, nap, listen to music or just get a good night’s sleep.

Not all problems can be solved this way, but it is worth a try. It does not cost anything and it will help you build a positive habit that will help you in the future.


Do You Ever Dream of Candy Coated Raindrops?

“My love, do you ever dream of
Candy coated raindrops?
You’re the same, my candy rain”

Soul for Real
Tweet from @937RhythmFM

Do you ever dream of candy coated raindrops? No? Well, me neither. However, when I think of dreams it always reminds me of that Soul for Real song from the 90’s, “Candy Rain.” I used to love that group. I loved them so much I named my online persona after them. For the longest time, I was soul4real on everything social media account available. I’ve cut back over the years, but my Twitter handle is still @soul4real. As a result, every time someone wants to share that they are listening to a song from this group, they always tweet it like the one to the right. I get a few tweets a week like this.

So I wrote all of that because for some strange reason I can’t think of anything I dream of. I’m sure that has everything to do with me being on sabbatical. Maybe I should dream of having another sabbatical, but I’d have to wait 7 years for that and I hope to be retired by then. And when I return in the fall, I’ll already be going through a bit of a job change, transitioning back to teaching composition full time. It’s been four years, so I don’t have the barely hidden disdain for grading hundreds of essays every 3 weeks in me. I’m actually looking forward to it. Hopefully that feeling will last a few semesters. I guess I could dream that my students will be the best students to ever take a freshman comp class at GCC, and we all enjoy every minute of our time together. A girl can dream, right?

In the mean time, while I get back to enjoying my sabbatical and trying to think of things to dream of, you should enjoy the soulful stylings of a great group – Soul for Real singing “Candy Rain.”

Assessment and Evaluation

This is my Week 3. I’m behind.

Assessment and evaluation are not exciting words. Are they? Maybe it is the connotation surrounding the words. In twenty years of being an educator, the amount of essays I have graded must be in the billions. A hyperbole? Perhaps. Billion certainly feels like an accurate number sometimes. As a composition teacher, when I think of assessment and evaluation, I think of my students writing essays. It was not until I attended a conference about ten years ago when my view of assessment changed. The district I was working in, at the time, began assigning us to Professional Learning Communities. The definition of a PLC was a group of teachers at the same level, all the senior teachers for example, working together to create common assessments for all of the students. We would meet once a month. At some point, I became the Lead Senior Teacher. All of the PLC Leads were sent to a conference on Learning Communities and Assessment by Solution Tree. There, I heard inspirational solutions from Rob Marzano, Richard and Rebecca DuFour, and Anthony Muhammad. The culture of assessment presented was ground-breaking, research-based, and credible with real-world examples of proof. It made me want to change the world. Well, the assessment world. While I was exposed to definitions and examples of formative and summative assessment, the vital piece of information about assessment that I gleaned from the summit was a protocol of three questions to ask myself about evaluating students:

  1. What do I want students to know?
  2. How will I know if they learned it?
  3. What will I do if they do not?

To me, there was not a choice but to choose to incorporate this innovative way of thinking. Once I embedded the above into my pedagogy, there was no turning back. Of course, the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy is my guiding statement of always doing what is best for students; however, it could not be accomplished without assessing their learning by asking hard questions and being honest with the answers, especially with number three.


The Mother of all Virtues

Patience can make or break a teacher; consider the following examples:

  • The first time a student struggles while others want to get through the assignment
  • The ever-evolving battle of classroom management
  • The realization that three years of lectures are now obsolete and need to be remade
  • The endless forms, regulations, training, seminars, webinars, assessments, observations, and reviews
  • The implementation of new technology that is routinely phased and replaced
  • The grind from tutor to adjunct to associate
Hands gripping puzzle pieces.
We’ve had one assessment, yes… but what about SECOND assessment?

Much like a nurse without crisis management skills, the realization will quickly set in that an error in career choice was made if an educator lacks patience.

Teacher writing on board with student texting in foreground.
Cell phones in class… Breathe in… Breathe out…

Teachers may not always feel patient. I know I have lost my patience during trying moments, but no other career path exemplifies the concept of patience better than education.

Time itself slows for an instructor. Where many jobs provide tasks to be completed in a week or day, educators live in a world of semesters. This is a world where careful planning is followed by laborious execution and capped off with in-depth assessment.

Sand in an hourglass.
Looks to be half past midterm.

It is fitting that the mother of all virtues is the most important trait for the mother of all other professions.

Continue to be patient, my friends.