Practicing What We Preach: Educators Learning From Their Own Lessons


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• Can teachers follow our own advice and “make new friends but keep the old” or “use our words” when we are frustrated with each other? Reflect on how the life lessons we teach our students can also improve our own professional attitudes and habits as we work together as colleagues. Presented by Suzanne Blakely, M.S.Ed. @ NYCAEYC Annual Conference 2013.

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  • (Nametags, candy jar and conversation as they enter)Welcome! So glad you are here today.
  • Before we get started, I want to introduce myself:Been in the ECE field for 13 yearsLove to learn - Masters in Education and 13 years of professional devp!Worked in four different schools and volunteered in many others, all in independent schools10 years teaching K, 2 years teaching 1st grade, currently Assistant Director of Pre-K at a private preschool on the Upper West SideSurvey the room – who’s here?Age group - Work with infants? Toddlers? 2’s? 3’s? 4’s? K? another age?Setting – preschool? day care center? After school program? Elementary school? Other?Role in your setting – Head Teacher? Assistant Teacher? Support staff (SEIT)? Administration? Psychologist? Social worker? Other?Years in the field – less than 5? 5-10? 10-15? More than 15?
  • http://practicingwhatwepreach.wikispaces.comThis website is where you can find a “Slideshare” of today’s Powerpoint, as well as digital copies of all of today’s handouts. I also have posted a few reference articles from professional journals that discuss some of these topics, and as I find more, I will continue to post! Please check it out and feel free to share with colleagues! I want to try and accommodate different learning styles – will have the presentation up for visual friends, will talk for auditory friends, providing website to reference later if you want to just listen or handouts to make it easier to take notes now. Best learning happens when linked to something personal and have an opportunity to apply and put knowledge into action, so we will spend some of our session doing just that.
  • Goals for today:Reflect on the adult interactions, culture and work environment of your school communityReflect on how our interactions with children can inform our professional interactions with our adult colleaguesBrainstorm ways to improve the culture and work environment for the adults within your school communityShare your ideas with other colleagues in the fieldReflect on becoming a role model and agent of change in your own school I want to personalize this presentation and make it as relevant and meaningful for your experience as possible.
  • Rules of Engagement!Talking about what is less than ideal about our work environments can be tricky – our goal today is not to simply badmouth or complain, but to openly and honestly reflect, so as to identify specific goals and areas for improvement. This session aspires to help you move forward through active problem-solving that results in concrete solutions and improvements.Anonymity honoredHonesty appreciatedRisk-taking encouragedNote-taking of “ah ha!” moments recommendedRespect of other’s experiences and opinions paramountOther basics:Help yourself to candy/snack/water breakFind a seating option that works for you – sit, stand, etcbathroom breaks wheneverCan we all agree to these? Anyone want to add anything?
  • Turn and talkRemember Robert Fulghum’s famous book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten?” For those of you too young to know the reference (book first published in 1989!), Fulghum’s book lists lessons normally learned in American kindergarten classrooms and explains how the world would be improved if adults adhered to the same basic rules as children. This presentation is based on the same premise! If educators could consistently practice what we preach to our students when interacting with our adult colleagues, we could improve the culture and work environment within our school communities.So let’s start with the basics: What are these “life lessons” that we teach our students and know is the “right” way to behave?! Turn to someone next to you and work together - Brainstorm a laundry list (use back of handouts or scrap paper)of important “life lessons” (especially social/emotional goals) we hope to instill in our young students…For example: Sharing is caring!Offer pens(3-4ish minutes to generate lists)
  • So, what did you come up with? Ask for volunteers to share and record on chart paperI did this exact exercise myself in preparation for this presentation and we have a fair amount of overlap between your lists and mine! I’ll quickly share my list in the next few slides. You’ll notice that I chose to pair my life lessons with illustrations from some of my favorite children’s books that I might use to teach that life lesson. (If no one volunteers, ask for show of hands if their list contained a connection with mine as we go)
  • For example, does anyone know Robert Munsch’s hysterical book, “We Share Everything!”? The kindergarten teacher in this book keeps coming over and intervening in student conflicts with the flowery response of, “In kindergarten, we share everything!”- Ran out of certain color of construction paper – you know who you can ask and who isn’t going to share!
  • David Shannon’s “David Gets in Trouble” - Honesty is the best policy Colleagues not taking responsibility for their actions? Taking credit for someone else’s work?Administrators not telling you the whole story?
  • Lillian Hoban’s “A Bargain for Frances” – Be fair…compromiseAdministrators or teachers playing “favorites”Taking advantage of someoneReluctance to compromise with colleagues – “my way or the highway”Prioritizing one class schedule/needs over others (ex: art teacher expects everything to stop around her and takes classroom time to prep for art display)
  • Mark Teague’s “Pigsty” - Clean up after yourself…Take care your surroundings…Staying organized can help you find things or help you as a learnerStaff microwave full of splatters?Not putting away shared play equipment on the roof playground?
  • Barney Saltzberg’s “Beautiful Oops” - It’s ok to make mistakes…It’s ok to take risksHaving a lesson totally flopTrying to integrate a new component to our curriculum and being scared so bailing on it
  • And on a related note…Arnold Lobel’s “Frog and Toad: Windy Day” - If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (resilience)If something you try doesn’t work, who cares? Pick yourself up and try again!Continue to reach out to colleagues even when they aren’t very responsive to your collaboration, friendship, etc
  • Katie Couric’s “The Brand New Kid” - Make new friends but keep the oldCliques between grade levels or classrooms or divisions?Feeling isolated in your classroom without friends or support from others?
  • Molly Bang’s “When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry” – Stay calm and carry on…Manage your anger and frustrationAngry and impulsive reactions when something goes wrong
  • And on a related note…Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s “King of the Playground” - Use your words to solve problemsAngry outbursts directed at others – tone of voice, mean words, retaliatory actions…Talking about others behind their backs rather than addressing the problems head on
  • Robert Kraus’s “Leo the late bloomer” - Everyone learns in their own way at their own time…Forgetting to apply best practice or accommodate for different learning styles during meetings or professional development sessionsTruly believing that everyone has different strengths and leveraging and celebrating those strengths within a communityKnowing that we all have areas for improvement
  • Todd Parr’s “It’s ok to be different” - It’s ok to be different…Diversity makes our world interestingJudging someone for what makes them differentStereotyping or making assumptionsCertain holidays celebrated amongst school community, others not acknowledged
  • “The Little Red Hen” - Many hands make light work…teamwork…shared responsibilityTeam teachers who don’t operate as a teamCommittee workone teacher consistently taking care of grade level responsibilities
  • Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” – slow and steady wins the race…process over productTaking all of our time to prepare projects or elaborate bulletin boards that will look adorable and impress parents, rather than choosing less prep-intensive tasks and redirecting that same energy to collaboration, planning, etcAcknowledging that change is slow and takes time
  • Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Thinks You Can Think” – We never stop learning…Learning is a life-long journey…learning is fun…Knowledge is powerLife-long learning: yet lots of resistance to professional development in our field Knowledge is power: yet we don’t always experience timely and honest communication, nor are we rewarded with transparency in decisions
  • Phillip and Hannah Hoose - “Hey Little Ant” - Treat others the way you want to be treated* Kind of sums it all up, doesn’t it?
  • If we’re honest with ourselves, we can all admit…life lessons can be hard to follow – not only for kids, but for adults too! And thus, schools can be hard places to work! Despite the fact that we all love working with young children and are generally happy, friendly people, we don’t always follow our own advice! Sometimes, the life lessons that we teach our young students to follow with each other are hard for us to follow ourselves with our colleagues. We have all found ourselves the “victim” of a fellow colleague’s judgment, possessiveness of materials, or unwillingness to compromise.  Let’s do a little exercise that should demonstrate how common this issue is within early childhood settings To prove my point, let’s try a little exercise:Raise your hand if you have never been frustrated with the behavior or attitude of colleagues in your community!  Anyone want to (anonymously – no names!!!) share a specific anecdote? Go ahead, get it off your chest! (or turn and talk or jot down an example on your own notes?)And if we are honest with ourselves again, we can also admit that sometimes, we ourselves also fall into unhealthy habits and, like all humans, lose our patience, roll our eyes at a colleague, cover up for a mistake we made, or any number of other things that we would tell our students not to do!  To prove my point, let’s try ourexercise again:Raise your hand if you have alwaysfollowed these life lessons every moment of every day with everyone while at work! Anyone want to be brave and share a specific anecdote about yourself?!
  • So, what makes it so hard to apply these “life lessons” to our own professional relationships? Let’s try to identify some of the common barriers and obstacles that get in the way of behaving the way we know we should.(ask for ideas and record on chart paper)Possible answers:StressLack of complete or accurate information Entitlement, selfishness“everyone else is doing it…”No reward for good behavior! in fact, often inadvertently punished or taken advantage of if don’t look out for yourselfBehaviors not modeled, tone not set from the top (school leaders, tenured/popular/legendary faculty…)But often times, just identifying the challenges that are in our way can help us better understand how to tackle them.
  • So…what can we do? We will spend the rest of our time together working on being part of the solution! 1) First, we will learn a few different ways to analyze the problems that we want to fix to improve our school communitiesWe will experiment with two different tools to help us with this process: Ex: force field analysis Ex: framework for problem solving2) Next, we’ll talk about the importance of choosing an action plan3) finally, we’ll talk about becoming an agent of change within your community
  • Force Field AnalysisHere is one way to think about how to tackle a problem and move towards change. We can perform a “force field analysis” of any problem before trying to create a strategy to address it. This approach is based on the work of social psychologist Kurt Lewin from the 1940’s. His work provided a framework for looking at the factors (forces) that influence a situation –  helping forcesdriving forces that drive movement toward a goalthings or people which keep the situation from hitting its worst – identify your allies!arguments in favor of the changebenefits of the change groups or individuals who will support or benefit from the change or  hindering forcesrestraining forcesarguments against the changeObstacles blocking movement toward thegoalthings or people which make the situation less than ideal This is a tool that can be used in any situation where you are planning a major change, such as practicing what we preach to improve the climate at your school. This process helps you consider the relative strength of each force. Some versions of this model even go so far as to include a scoring component – after you identify each force, you assign it a number that represents how powerful it is (1-5). Also, after you complete it, you can determine which of the restraining and driving forces can be eliminated, increased or weakened or even what forces could be added, to reduce the problem.
  • Here’s an example (skip if running short on time)Montgomery County Public Schools (Rockville, MD) used this model to analyze potential helping forces or “drivers” and hindering forces or “flat tires” that might affect their staff’s ability to achieve the goal of starting all meetings on time.Some drivers:Selecting a realistic start timeReminders5 minute warningOffer incentives for being on timeSome flat tires identified:Being stopped by other staff on the wayNot being prepared with plansWanting to get one more thing doneCan you imagine how helpful this tool might have been in helping this particular faculty move towards their goal in a proactive, realistic way?
  • Framework for Evaluating ChangeBut force field analysis is by no means the only model out there to help people think about problems and solutions. In fact, here’s one that I created this fall to use withmy faculty. I’m fairly new to administration and am very much “learning on the job!” I noticed a trend that faculty often complained about problems, but it was rare that the complaints evolved into concrete suggestions for improvement. So I created this document to try and guide our discussions and spur us towards action and change, rather than just venting or complaining. Identify the current status that is problematic or less than idea and should be changedIdentify the desired outcome or goalIdentify the stakeholders: who is affected most by this – students, teachers, parents, administrators?Identify when and how often this affects peopleHonestly evaluate if this situation is something that can be eliminated? Improved? Is unable to be changed?Identify power players and possible allies: who has influence and power in addressing these changes?Brainstorm concrete and realistic ideas to encourage change and reach the desired goal
  • Here’s an example (skip if running short on time)Current Status: necessary supplies are often unavailable for teachers during the day (bowls, paper towels)Desired Goal: Improve classroom teacher’s access to necessary supplies
  • So now that we have some tools to help us analyze the forces, both for and against, practicing what we preach, we can start making an action plan. I’ll offer you an example from my own experience. At one of my schools, the teacher’s lounge had a laminator, but faculty frequently forgot to bring their own scissors with them, and the room was inconveniently located, making it a frustrating waste of time to return to one’s classroom to retrieve the forgotten scissors. I offered to buy some scissors from my administrative budget to donate to the staff lounge, so that they would always be there when needed. However, faculty advised me against this solution, reassuring me that it would never work…people would steal them. So after talking to numerous teachers and reflecting on how to improve the situation, I formulated a plan…
  • Attached feather dusters to the scissors and sent an email to faculty…
  • Tried to offer proactive solution to increase odds scissors would stay in the roomPointed out (playfully and with humor) how ridiculous this problem was and how we should be able to fix this as adults!
  • Any of us can become an agent of change.Just like we bring intentionality, mindfulness and conscientiousness to our teaching, we need to bring same to our interactions between adults. Finding satisfaction in your work environment leads to a happier and healthier work environment. Being in such a community can improve your stamina as an educator and rejuvenate yourself as a professional. Your energy and enthusiasm can be contagious if you make a conscious effort to increase the “goodness” in your school environment.
  • We all recognize the importance of modeling desired outcomes for our students in the classroom. We explicitly teach them how to walk safely in the halls, we model apologizing and asking if someone is ok if we accidentally bump into a student as we move through the classroom…Just like Chrysanthemum’s teacher in KevinHenkes’s wonderful book helped her young student embrace the fact that she was named after a flower by modeling acceptance and considering the same decision when naming her own baby!This approach can be equally effective with your co-workers. Modeling the behavior that you wish your colleagues used with you can set the right tone. Admittedly, it’s not easy, but try to lead by example!And equally important to consider is this…what are our students learning from us if they watch us take materials from another classroom that don’t belong to us, or hear us bickering with an angry tone with a fellow teacher? What are they taking away if the hear us say one thing, but do another? Not only should we practice what we preach to make adult relationships more healthy, it is equally important to model appropriate behavior for our students - our children watch us and pick up on our interactions with each other and learn from that.
  • One person can model the behavior they wish to see in their community and it can become contagious.This is not a new concept. Remember the phrase, “Pay it forward?” The concept was popularized with the book Pay It Forward by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which was made into the 2000 movie with kevin spacey, helen hunt, haleyjoelosment. Or what about “random acts of kindness?” What if we applied these ideaswithin our schools?
  • The “pay it forward” model is actually quite similar to a well-respected approach to organizational change within the business world. Dr. Robert Miles talks about the value of an “organizational cascade” when trying to change the way people think or do their job, when there’s a change in direction.In this model, someone within an organization who has influence (maybe a boss, but also maybe just a charismatic, popular community member) chooses a new path and teaches and guides anotherperson in that new way of thinking or acting. Then that person takes it and runs with it, teaching another, who then teaches another, and slowly the changes trickle throughout the organization. The model can utilize existing organizational systems (principals train asst principals, they train grade level chairs, who train their teachers…), but it doesn’t have to.Experiment with this at your school. Start with a small group of community members that are receptive to the ideas and can implement them, and then have them take it on themselves and then spread the word to their colleagues, who might be more likely to listen to them than an authority figure…or more likely to see the ideas used successfully in action and thus be less threatened by it or less skeptical of it.
  • Don’t Forget the Power of Positive Reinforcement! Just like we encourage, incentivize and reward positive behavior with our students with behavior modification charts, stickers, compliments, etc….adults aren’t above these things! Ex: Set up a box in the faculty room of your school where you collect “random acts of kindness.” You startby giving the first RAK, then every recipient writeswhat act they received on a strip of paper. The strips later become part of a paper link chain in order to get a visual representation of the kindness around school over a period of time.
  • An obvious starting place: build community amongst coworkersWays to build community:Food  - here’s a picture of my office – first thing you see? Community candy jar!Sunshine fund/ celebrations and concerns boardNew fac orientationMentor/buddyIce breakers and get to know you games at faculty meetingsT-shirts, garb, mugs...Humor, shared jokes, etcGift exchangeHappy hours or gettogethers or events (bowling) after hours
  • Making an Action PlanNow choose one area that you would like to brainstorm ways to improve the situation at your school. Feel free to work on your own or with a partner. Use either framework we discussed, or one of your own choosing, to help you think through the steps we just did together. Don’t forget to identify and account for any specific barriers or obstacles that could slow or impede implementation plus consider the power of paying it forward  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! (like the dog in mark teague’s “dear mrslarue: letters from obedience school”)Share out (if time)What tool/model did you use to organize your thoughts and work towards an action plan? How was this model helpful? How did you adapt the tool?Which were the hardest steps to complete?
  • Reflecting on This Session: (skip if running short on time)Think about what we’ve talked about and reflect on any specific strategies or practices that I modeled during my presentation:Nametags and conversational as they enterHave a candy/snack jar thereAccommodate different learning styles- Seating options, bathroom breaks- Visual, auditory, providing notes for later or encouraging note taking now, etcOpportunities to “interact” and “get to know” each other - introductions and inventory of who’s here, turning and talkingUse of humor HonestyShared my resourcesAdmitted I am still learning myselfAcknowledged everyone’s expertise and contributions - shared the “power”Tried to start an “organizational cascade” by planting the seed in you!
  • questions?
  • Feel free to contact me!And as Molly Lou Melon’s grandmother always told her (in Patty Lovell’s book “Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon”), “Sing out clear and strong and world will cry tears of joy.”
  • Practicing What We Preach: Educators Learning From Their Own Lessons

    1. 1. Practicing What We Preach:Educators Learning From Their Own Lessons NYCAEYC Annual Conference 2013 Suzanne Blakely, M.S.Ed.
    2. 2. /
    3. 3. Goals for You!Reflect Brainstorm Share Plan
    4. 4. Rules of Engagement • Anonymity honored • Honesty appreciated • Risk-taking encouraged • Note-taking of “ah ha!” moments recommended• Respect of other’s experiences and opinions paramount
    5. 5. Brainstorm a list of important “life lessons” that we hope to instill in our young studentsFor example: Sharing is caring!
    6. 6. What “life lessons”do we preach to our students?
    7. 7. Sharing is caring
    8. 8. Honesty is the best policy
    9. 9. Be fair
    10. 10. Clean up after yourself
    11. 11. It’s ok tomake mistakes
    12. 12. If at first you don’tsucceed, try, try again
    13. 13. Make new friendsbut keep the old
    14. 14. Stay calmand carry on
    15. 15. Use your words to solve problems
    16. 16. Everyonelearns in theirown way at their own time
    17. 17. It’s ok to be different
    18. 18. Many hands make light work
    19. 19. Slow andsteady wins the race
    20. 20. We never stoplearning
    21. 21. Treat others the way youwant to be treated
    22. 22. But….Life lessons can be hard to follow!
    23. 23. Why?
    24. 24. So…what can we do?• Analyze the problem –force field analysis –framework for problem solving• Choose an action plan• Become an agent of change
    25. 25. Force Field Analysis
    26. 26. Montgomery County Public Schools (Rockville, MD)
    27. 27. Framework for Evaluating Change
    28. 28. Now You Are Ready To Make an Action Plan
    29. 29. Model thebehavioryou want to see
    30. 30. Be attentive wherever you are for opportunities to help someone. Do something nice for someone you dont know (or dont know very well). If someone wants to “pay you back,”encourage them to “pay it forward“ by doing something nice for someone else.
    31. 31. Create anOrganizational Cascade
    32. 32. Don’t Forget the Power of Positive Reinforcement!
    33. 33. Where To Start?Build Community!
    34. 34. Time To ApplyWhat You’veLearned!
    35. 35. Reflecting on This Session What specific strategies or practices did Imodel today that reflected the message of this presentation?
    36. 36. What questions do you still have?
    37. 37. Contact Information Suzanne Blakely, M.S.Ed. rascalroo@gmail.com