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Building Resilience In Kids

As a dad, anytime my children are faced with a difficult circumstance, challenging situation, hear a “no” when they were hoping for a “yes”, feeling a sense of disappointment, loss or failure, my first reaction is a strong desire to “fix it”. I think most parents can relate. It breaks our hearts to see our children struggle with the various challenges that life throws their way so the immediate and natural response is that we want to protect our kids and just make everything better. If we do that though, we are missing amazing teaching moments with our kids. Each of these challenging moments are opportunities to build resiliency in our children. They are opportunities to teach our kids to persevere and not give up. They are opportunities to teach problem solving, communication, and foster a growth mindset. They are are opportunities for our students to learn how to process emotion and build the skills they need to succeed for their future.

So how do we seize these moments? Probably the most important thing is to make the time to make the connection. It is important that our kids know we are there for them and that their performance, behaviour, and choices are not tied to our love… it is unconditional. But, what do we say in those moments? Here are some potential conversation starters to have with your children the next time they are facing something difficult.

  1. How are you feeling? It is important to acknowledge and validate our children’s feelings. Although, sometimes it can seem trivial to an adult it can mean the whole world to the child. If we dismiss it as trivial our children will learn that their feelings cannot be trusted with us.
  2. Never say can’t – The words we say gives insight into our thinking and can be a predictor of our future actions. The word “can’t” can stop our children from trying. Check out this inspirational video about Jennifer Bricker – Never Say Can’t.
  3. If your friend was going through this, what advice would you give?  We can’t always choose the circumstances that life throws our way, but we can always choose our response. Help your child focus on the things they can control and have influence over, not the things out of their control.
  4. What can you learn from this? What did you do well? What can you improve? Did you try your best? Talking through and reflecting upon the lessons that can be learned from the experience will not only help with their disappointment, it encourages them to try again. Help them identify what they would do differently next time. It builds confidence that prepares them for the future.
  5. What’s next? What now? Help your child look for other opportunities and to find the positives in the experience. We need to teach our children to be solution oriented not problem fixated.
  6. What can you be thankful for? Whatever we focus on gets magnified in our lives. Magnify the good not the bad. Perspective matters. A healthy life perspective remembers all of the positives around us in the midst of a challenging circumstance.
  7. What are your strengths? Reminding our children of their successes and strengths will continue to build their confidence and self-worth. It is important for them to understand that one experience does not define their identity. For example, just because I failed does not mean I am a failure. Just because I made a bad choice does not make me a bad person.
  8. You are good at hard things. Every child has trouble when they face a challenge or find something difficult. Our children need to learn to embrace hard work and challenging activities. “Hard” isn’t something to be afraid of or shy away from.
  9. You are a problem solver. Giving our children the opportunity and support to solve their own problems, not only teaches them this essential skill for their future, it also builds their self confidence. Model the patience and perseverance required to finish difficult tasks and support them by brainstorming potential solutions. The challenge is to give the support they need while still empowering them to be problem solvers.
  10. Share your story. If you can’t think of a personal story to share that relates to what your child is facing, share someone else’s story. It is important for our children to realize they are not alone. They are not the first to deal with this and won’t be the last. Inspiration and comfort can be found in hearing other’s stories.

What other conversation starters and ideas can you share that help build resilience in children? We would love to hear your ideas and experiences by commenting below on this post.

Fear Inhibits Progress

I recently had the opportunity to present at the Alberta Google Summit. I chose to share a little bit of our 1-to-1 journey at Muir Lake School and how teaching and learning is transforming in this learning environment. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and perhaps more than anything was an amazing opportunity to reflect where we have come from in our building and what our next steps are.

After my presentation and throughout the couple of days at the conference I was able to visit with some other great educators from other school divisions. I heard lots of great stories and got lots of other ideas from our conversations. There was definitely lots of examples of schools and teachers making huge advancements in transforming teaching and learning. Unfortunately, there were also some stories that I heard that made me cringe. (more…)

Innovation Takes Time

I started this school year by participating in Educator’s Innovation Day. The day was dedicated for educators to work individually or in groups on anything they wanted to work on around the theme of improving education. I spent the day working with Jesse McLean around the idea of wanting to come up with a middle years entrepreneurial option. By the end of the day we had created the Becoming Tycoons Option and Student Business Planning Guide designed to allow for student choice, innovation, and introduce them to business concepts such as start-ups, management, marketing, and finances. Both Greystone Centennial Middle School and Muir Lake School students will be participating in this option at the same time so we are going to be setting up collaboration and sharing opportunities between our students with Google Hangouts and in person. We have not yet taught this option yet, but I am very excited to see what the students come up with for their businesses. Ultimately, my hope is that this will lay a foundation and open up possibilities for students in their future in the area of business and innovation.

Although, I am excited about this project that we came up with, the day in and of itself has bigger implications for educators. Taking the time to spend a day working on something that we have never done before and was completely brand new to us was extremely valuable. How often do we do that? It is so easy to fill up our days with the business of working and teaching in a school. Rarely, do we feel like we have the time to just sit, talk, and collaborate on working on something new with the aim to improve education. Yet, I would argue that this is some of the most valuable time that we could spend as an educator and is too often neglected.

As educators, we don’t spend enough time in quadrant II of Steven Covey’s Time Management Grid. Taking time to think, reflect, collaborate, share, be creative and innovate never feels urgent but it is of the utmost importance. This time is what keeps education relevant in an ever changing world. It is time that ignites passion and motivation in students and teachers. It is what fights off a culture of complacency that allows for things to be taught and learned in the same way just because that is the way it was taught and learned last year… and the year before that… and the year before that.  It is time that fuels inspiration, growth and change. It is time that allows for the extraordinary as opposed to settling for mediocrity. As educators we need to prioritize this time.

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I know our days are busy. I feel the pressure of the other quadrants everyday. (more…)

Building 1-to-1 Learning Communities

On February 25, 2013 I had the opportunity to present our 1-to-1 technology initiative journey thus far at Muir Lake School at the Google Apps For Education Alberta Summit. It was great to present alongside Kelly Arnold and Charlene Daub and share our learning with others. I considered it a great privilege to present and share our work with the educators who attended and as expected thoroughly enjoyed the experience; however, what I didn’t expect was how much learning I would get out of it. In preparing this presentation I am convinced more than ever that schools need to become 1-to-1 learning environments. It is not about having technology for the sake of technology, it is about the opportunities it provides when used properly. If you are teaching in a school that is not 1-to-1, you should change that. Here are 11 reasons why:

  1. Our world is 1-to-1. Our schools should be too. If they are not, they are in danger of becoming irrelevant. 
  2. Literacy is changing. When students leave our school, they should not be illiterate(more…)

The Power Of Video In Learning Communities

I had an interesting experience the other day… I attended my first ever parent/teacher interview as a dad.

 #nedaviahjael on Instagram

My daughter is in kindergarten in the same division in which I work but not at the same school. It was a unique experience. Obviously, I have been a part of many parent/teacher interviews as an educator, but sitting on the other end as a father was a completely new and powerful experience. During the interview, her teacher Heather Harcus, @HeHarc showed us a video on her tablet of Nedaviah presenting to her class about bats. Watching that video was extremely powerful for me as a Dad. Obviously, it made me incredibly proud to watch my beautiful daughter give this presentation while I marvelled at her cuteness (speaking like a true biased dad); however, it was much more than that. It was more than just viewing a home video. It was like time and place was suspended and I was actually transported into the classroom participating in my daughter’s learning. For the first time I peered through a window into my daughter’s classroom and was able to see her learning in action. It gave me insight into seeing who she is in a new environment; one that I have never witnessed. It gave me a platform for discussion and participation in my child’s learning and school life. I realized that this was a platform I continued to want to access. I don’t want to miss the next 12 years from 8:00-3:00 of my daughter’s life.

For a while now, I have been thinking about how and why video can and should be used in the classroom. (more…)

1:1 Technology Initiative

I am excited about the 1-to-1 Technology Initiative that we have been implementing at Muir Lake School. We are in year one of our three year plan to see all of our students in Learning Communities 4-9 to have access to a personal laptop in every class to be utilized whenever it is the best tool for the learning activity.

Let me be clear. Just adding access to technology for our students is not the goal. We don’t want $500 notebooks sitting on every child’s desk functioning as expensive pen and paper. Our focus is learning first. We want our students to be able to collaborate and extend learning beyond the four walls of the classroom. We want our students to think critically and problem solve. We want our students to increase information fluency and literacies (National Council of Teachers of English Definition of 21st Century Literacies and My Kids Are Illiterate. Most Likely Yours Are Too). We want our students to be prepared for their future, opening a world of opportunities to them. We want them to be able to solve problems that we don’t know are problems yet, and make careers in jobs that currently do not exist. We want them to be creative, innovative, motivated and engaged in their learning. We want students to choose and explore different ways to demonstrate their learning. We want every student to succeed to the best of their ability. Utilizing 1-to-1 learning environments effectively accomplishes this.

Our classrooms should no longer look like they did in the past. (more…)

Innovate, Engage, Learn: Student Online Educational Portfolios

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. – John Dewey

Reflection upon one’s own learning and practice is vital to growth. As a teacher, I learned very early in my career that reflecting upon all aspects of my practice was important to increasing my professional competency. Despite knowing this, my practice of reflection was sporadic at best due to the daily rigors of the job… until recently. After hearing @gcouros talk about his portfolio The Principal of Change as being the most meaningful learning he has ever done, I was inspired to create my own blog as a tool of learning and reflection. Although very early in the process, this journey thus far has been incredible. Not only am I deliberately and intentionally reflecting on my practice, I am thoroughly enjoying the process; consequently, it is making me a better school administrator and educator. I am learning more about my strengths and how to improve them, as well as my areas for growth. So if this works for me and helps me learn, why wouldn’t it work for students?

(more…)

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