Monday, April 21, 2014

Good schools make an area? or Does the area make the schools?

All across Missouri and this week at Winfield Middle School, we are beginning our annual rite of spring, the MAP tests.  Teachers are nervous.  Administrators are jumpy. Students are excited to have a messed up routine.  Our testing coordinator is extra busy.  Some might even loose a bit of sleep.

This QR Code holds a message for the students to consider?  What does it mean?

We asked students today in preparation for their MAP tests to consider a simple request:  
We understand the stakes involved, we know the motives may or may not be true yet we made a request for them to try hard.

What would it matter if anyone ever did well on these exams?  What would the motivation be behind giving the best effort?  Why would it even be important?

Pride in accomplishment
Of course we all pay lip service to doing our best, claiming we are trying to improve and we are working towards a better tomorrow.  That sounds nice but here is a wonderful opportunity to verify those intentions. 
Property Values
Whenever anyone moves, one of the first questions the potential buyers seem to ask is, "Tell me about the Schools?" This also verifies the perceived or actual value in good schools.  Marketing principles support the ideas that good school may actually raise property values faster than the general market, making some areas highly desirable but other areas flat or declining.   Are good schools in the area because the area is good, or is the area good because the schools are good? 
We value the students effort but only ask them to do their best one time.  We believe that doing our jobs, building relationships with all of them and forming an environment of learning for all with a high bar for behavior as well as academics does far more than bribing, begging, pleading or even bargaining!  Students don't care how much we know until they know how much we care!  Students know if we care, or if it is just an act!  Good schools produce good scores and good scores reflect on the leadership!  We want our students to look good, and we might be the only ones that care!
De-Coding Skills  
When I was in school... 
Our students will enter a world that we cant even begin to describe.  The class of 2020 will face obstacles and issues that arent even developed yet, so we work to equip them with processing tools, thinking skills, infering practices, taking from something concrete and working towards the abstract.  We are asking them to solve problems that don't even exist yet!
The QR Code above, easily made at many online sites takes information and processes it into smaller bites, linking back to the internet of sharing data directly.  Just as a long web address reduces into a tiny address, there are many shortcuts, abbreviation and quicker ways to communicate.  What other new things will our students face as they mature into leadership positions in the communities?

We are preparing students for their future!  Not our past!    Winfield Middle School is #onthemap.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Support or Help? What do we supply?

Below is a representation of support!

This motor needed a new water pump. Right behind the middle pulley is the water pump.  
Was it help or support that aided in the replacement.
This broken engine, repaired by following the written instructions in the manual,  represents an example of the application of support.

The car broke down by the side of the highway with a sign that says, "send help," is an example of help!
Support is necessary to help others get through things.  "Getting through," is the key.  With support, a student can solve a problem.  Support lends itself to self-sufficiency.  Confidence and self esteem are also strengthened when support is offered, as opposed to help.
Support implies a bit more independence than help.  Help implies the situation is too dire to face alone and aid is required.  The broken down car, stranded by the side of the road is trapped and short of a long walk to help, nothing can be down!  An offer of help may imply dependency!   Consider a toddler trying and exploring a new skill or task.  Often times, they want to try it alone. 
For instance, an overprotective guardian may actually weaken the youth by becoming the crutch.  Teachers continuously look for this line or sensitive cusp, ready to support, encourage and prompt into mastery.  The consummate educator understands and sets up opportunities just outside the comfort level or reach of students knowing students own success when it is authentic.  Students can read between the lines when looking for artificial concern.  They recognize true interest and care.
This "key lime pie" was made as a gift.  The recipiant did nothing but recieve it.  No help could have made it better.  (It might have even made it worse!)
Here is a picture that could represent help.  It was birthday gift from a chef who specializes in pies.  There were no contributions from me necessary to complete the task.  Her gift was helping me.

In our lives, how much help do we offer when support is all that's needed? 
When do we step in too early and eliminate the risks, as well as the value for our students? 
Our students want as little help as possible but as much support as needed to reach their goals.  They want us to use our experience to support them and step in to help, after their risk taking events failed them, without judgement or condemnation.

Provide support, and offer help, when only needed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How long does it take to grow a PINEAPPLE?


My wife and I visited Hawaii for our one year anniversary.  We island hopped, took the road to Hanna, explored the volcanoes on the Big Island, attended a luau, and ate our share of perfect pineapples.  Interestingly enough, pineapples have a different growing cycle then most our our mainland fruits or vegetables.  As expected, time and temperature conditions indicate the success of the pineapple crop.
 In the St Louis climate, these tropical plants have to be put into a green house to weather the winter extremes!  Like a relationship that takes extra care to fully blossom.

Teachers are:

Teachers end up in the unique opportunity of service through connection.  School years have 175 days.  A gardener knows this is enough time for growing many vegetables.  Tomatoes, peppers, vines and even potatoes can all be planted and harvested in one typical growing season on most of the U.S.  Six months is not enough time to grow a pineapple though!
This morning flower of the bird house gourd opens in the dark and closes as the summer sun warms it. Like the beginning of a school. 

Classrooms are:

In the classroom, a teacher spends the first portion of the year building relationships, looking for common interests with students.  Gone are the days of "don't smile till Christmas."  Teachers serve the future by serving children today.  Teachers are intentional and deliberate.  Many teachers are not satisfied with the the phrase, "If I only reach one student, it is all worth while."  These extra special teachers reach children continuously, day in and day out.  Every one of her students receives more then just a history lesson.  Life lessons, manners and social competency pointers, just to name a few, make up the substance and thought processes of these special people.

What do our students remember the most?

This influence is unique to the profession.  Teachers teach because of the impact they know their presence makes.  They understand the biggest changes occur when they reach children.  To reach children, they develop those relationships based on shared and regular activities, like class or lessons.  Then, when students lives outside the classroom seep into school, a teacher is there to offer hope encouragement and support, like no other adult in the students lives.  These masters of impact know the students will learn under their tutelage.  These rock stars shape the climate of today.  But these champions know the children cherish the way she makes them feel.  The master know students remember the way their great teachers build their esteem, self confidence and 
After a few months of growing season, many things begin to mature, ripen and come to fruition simultaneously, forming diverse and colorful living flowering arrangements.  Like a classroom in the spring time.

Timing is everything

Just like a pineapple that take 18 months to ripen some relationships, take longer then others before a student maximizes the benefit of the healthy teacher-student relationship.  Most relationships take only a short time to develop.  The truly valuable relationships often take a bit more time.