Saturday, February 16, 2019

#GoogleEI: Picture Books About Refugees & Migrants

As a part of my Google Innovator project, I have been making my way through books about migrants & refugees. Reading for fun is always a win in my book, and reading stories about a subject I am passionate about is even better!

If you are a teacher (or person) wanting to learn more about the refugee experience, I highly recommend picking up one or more of the books below. All have been available through my local library. If you want to go a step further, I'd consider adding some of these to your classroom library or reading them with your class. The more we share about these experiences, the more our students will build empathy and knowledge of the world! It also helps normalize conversations about other cultures, which can build safety for students who live in a world of mixed cultures every day.

Without further ado, here is the very beginning of my list, consisting of picture books that would be perfect for a read aloud!

1. The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies


Image result for the day the war cameThis book is not tied to any one specific country or story, but illustrates how quickly you can go from living a normal life to having everything turned upside down. It also touches on the challenges of being in a new place.





2. Mustafa by Marie-Louise Gay


Image result for mustafa bookThis book tells the story of a little boy in a new country, trying to make sense of a language and culture he doesn't understand, and how a simple act of kindness changed his world.





3. Dreamers by Yuyi Morales


Image result for dreamers yuyi moralesThis poetic book describes the dreams of those moving to a new country. I particularly enjoyed the focus on books & libraries, and how they can further our dreams!






4. Undocumented: A Worker's Fight by Duncan Tonatiuh


Image result for undocumented a workers fightThis is an inspiring story of an undocumented worker who worked with others to fight for fair wages and proper treatment at their jobs. It has great ties to both current issues and economic/social studies lessons!





Check out these books, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

From an Administrator to my Music Teachers

It's February! I don't know about everyone else, but this time of year was always stressful for me as a music teacher - kids were signing up for classes, and the number of students signed up for my class determined my FTE for the next year (I was never guaranteed a full-time job). That is stressful!

Now, I'm on the other side as the one who assigns FTE. And while I can't take all of the stress and anxiety away, here is what I would say to my teacher self and anyone else in this situation:

1. Do your thing, and do it well.

While this is the time of year that retention is at the front of everyone's mind, you are really working all year to give your kids a great experience so they will want to return! Don't feel like you have to change it up or track students down or do a silly little promotion - your best strategy is to make your class awesome all year long, because that is what they will think of when choosing classes for next year!

2. Don't make it a competition.

This is so hard! There are only so many kids, and elective teachers are usually "fighting" to get them in class. The worst thing you can do is to turn it into a competition and set yourself against any other teacher. Through collaboratively building each other up, we can all have strong programs! I've seen schools where that is the culture, and it works - everything thrives! I'm not sure how that works out, numerically, but it does!

3. Advocate for yourself!

Share your ideas, thoughts, and dreams with your administrators! There is no one who knows your schedule, strengths, and talents better than yourself, and you often can a creative solution to get more classes (or divide them in different ways) better than anyone else can. Don't be afraid to ask!

4. Realize you don't see the big picture.

There are approximately one thousand factors I am balancing when allocating FTE. Okay, not quite that many, but it is very complicated! There are things that administrators can't share, especially about HR issues, and ultimately, it's their job to figure it out. Please see #3 and advocate for yourself, but don't cross the line to thinking you know everything and pestering admins.

5. Don't take it personally.

This is one of the most challenging ones for me. When kids didn't sign up for my class, I wanted to take it personally (what did I do wrong?). When I didn't get as much FTE as I thought I should, I wondered why. Now, being on the other side, I can see that sometimes circumstances are such that it just doesn't work out. I know I will probably have to let good people go at some point, and that's hard. Meanwhile, in my own professional life, I am in an interim position, and I may or may not get to stay where I am - I'm gaining a deeper understanding of the fact that it may not have anything to do with me, and everything to do with the other factors around me.

6. Give yourself extra grace.

True confession: I was stressed last night. So I gave myself permission to go to the store and buy a candy bar to eat while I listened to an audiobook to chill out a bit (side note: there's something ironic about listening to Brene Brown talk about different habits to numb our emotions in Dare to Lead while munching on a candy bar after a hard day...). My healthiest coping mechanism? Not at all. And then, this morning, I've hardly done anything. And that's okay. Don't beat yourself up, and realize that you might need a little extra space in your life to deal with the extra stress.

And finally...7. I'm on your side.

As an administrator, I want all of my teachers to be successful. Period. End of story. I also have to make hard decisions that affect your lives, and don't underestimate the emotional toll it takes on me to process through these decisions. Even when the results aren't what you wish, know that I am committed to supporting you through it all and hoping that next year, we will be able to get that extra class or better schedule!

Happy February :-)!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

I Feel Like a First-Year Teacher.

This week, I came to a realization:

I feel like a first-year teacher again.


It shouldn't be surprising, right? I am just over four months into my first administrative job. I am a first-year administrator. But somehow, that never hit me until this week.

I've been reflecting on how there are so many areas that I want to grow in. I feel like I am handling situations clumsily - I am not clueless, but I lack finesse and touch. My bag of tricks is small. I have to put a lot of thought and energy into each situation. Meanwhile, I watch others who have been doing this for years handle things with grace, seemingly effortlessly, and I wish I could get there!

Here's the thing I have to remember:

It's okay.


Do you remember your first year of teaching? How did you handle things that came up then? Classroom management issues, parent communication, expectations from administrators...I know that the way I dealt with these things as a new teacher is definitely not how I dealt with them five years down the road. We all learn and grow; experience is a great teacher! No matter how well-prepared you are, there is a lot that had to be learned just through doing it. The perfectionist in me wants to figure it all out right now...but I can't. And that's okay.

Image result for learning curve

I am at the very beginning of the learning curve right now, where learning is steep. Rather than being discouraging, it's actually empowering to know that, five years from now, I will be in a much different place. I've been through this before as a teacher; now it's time to go through this as an administrator. I won't handle everything in the best way, but I will ask for grace and learn and grow a little bit every day!

As I seek to grow, I'm thankful for so many people who are helping mentor me along the way. This week, I've been challenged and inspired in conversations with Austin Houp, my Google Innovator mentor, Amy Illingworth, a PLN friend-of-a-friend, and several people in my district. I'm grateful that I can reach out and find a community around me who accepts me where I am and pushes me to go further. That's what I want!

I'll leave you with two thoughts:
1. If you are in a new job or new situation, it's okay to not be an expert right away. Take a deep breath, learn, grow, and have grace with yourself through the process.
2. If you are an experienced administrator, leader, or coach, what resources would you share to help someone who is just starting out?

Thanks for following my journey, blog-friends!