Last week, I read Kristi Keery-Bishop‘s blog post, where she reflected on her one word goal for this year. With just over half of the year done, and with summer vacation now here, it’s a great time to look back, think about what worked and what didn’t, and set some new/updated/modified goals for the next school year. Among other things, Kristi’s post got me re-reading my one word blog post from the end of December, and drawing some conclusions.
Looking back now, I realize that while my goal was to focus on hearing, I think that I made the assumption that the only people that I really needed to hear were colleagues. I did spend a lot of time this past school year focusing on this list of points when interacting with adults.
As a Kindergarten teacher in Ontario, I share the classroom with another adult — something that I’ve done before, but under very different circumstances — and it’s been great learning for me to not be the only one making the decisions. In fact, many times during the school year, my partner had more experience with our current problem/issue, and she took the lead in developing a solution, proposing a plan of action, and exploring implementation options. Yes, we still brainstormed ideas together. And yes, I still asked questions that sometimes changed the plan, but I learnt that I needed to listen more, and I got better at doing so. I am not (and was not) perfect!
- Sometimes I interrupted.
- Sometimes I made assumptions before hearing the whole plan.
- And sometimes I tried to modify ideas before we tried them out, when really there was value in trying them out first. (With many thanks to my wonderful partner, she was great at reminding me of this, and we did start to do this more as the year went on.)
As I start teaching at a new school with a new teaching partner, these are all areas that I will continue to work on in the new school year. I think it takes time and practice to hear more and talk less.
This past school year though, I realized that it’s not just adults that I need to make sure that I hear, it’s also the students. I know that it seems almost obvious to draw this conclusion, but it’s unbelievable how easy it is to forget about this. I actually thought about this idea more when I recently read Stuart Shanker‘s Self-Reg: How To Help Your Child (And You) Break The Stress Cycle And Successfully Engage With Life. This book reminded me that children don’t always tell us what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, and what they need in the best of ways. In fact, sometimes we observe them and see “misbehaviour,” when really it’s a case of “stress behaviour.” The four Foundations Courses that I just finished, really helped me view behaviour differently, but even so, it wasn’t until I looked critically at my one word goal that I realized the tremendous importance in hearing kids: both in what they say and in what they do.
- If they cry … why?
- If they get physical (hitting, kicking, punching, etc.) … why?
- If they scream … why?
- If they struggle with sitting and listening … why?
- If they can’t join a big group … why?
- If they can’t engage in a small group … why?
- If they float from one activity to another one … why?
- If they call people names … why?
- If their behaviour changes throughout the school day … why?
It really is about asking, “Why this child and why now?,” on a regular basis, so that we can help problem solve for greater success. While I think that I’ve improved at asking this question after the fact, I really want to focus on asking myself this question in the midst of the problem so that I respond differently. Maybe my different, calmer response will also lead to a different outcome.
I’m excited to start a new year at a new school with a new class and a new terrific partner. In the midst of all of this new, it will be good to still focus on my old one word goal, but with the addition of actively listening to students as well as staff. How have you done with your one word goal? What changes will you make for the 2016/2017 school year? I would love to hear your reflections!