Chapter 16: Connect with kids and gain energy instead of letting them drain you
This is, in my humble opinion, the #1 reason many of the teachers who want to or do leave the profession do so: the drain. Again, I return to the people who claim they put as many "hours" in as teachers do in a week. Fair enough. The number of hours may be the same. Are they breathing deeply trying not to scream in the face of a small being in front of them? Until the next small being needs undivided attention? And the next question: would they even begin to be able to handle it? I believe and acknowledge that each job has its annoyances. Truly. But our "annoyances" are supposed to also be our raison d'etre. And that is where the rub is.
I consider myself a "lifelong educator," as Watson uses the term on p. 196. And I highlighted this very important point she makes: "After all, if you don't enjoy the kids, what's left? The meetings? The paperwork? The testing? The kids have to be your greatest source of enjoyment as an educator." This point resonates.
I enjoyed her discussion of Morning Meeting on p. 198. It made me miss my advisory time at the junior high level. I have become so embroiled with "getting in" all the content I can, that I have forgone the importance of that first part of our day. My kiddos are jumping right into a math review sheet at that time. Maybe I need to spend more time making that time a time for renewal and reset.
On p. 199, Watson suggests making a connection with 5 kids a day. What a great idea. I am sure I have heard it before, but it's amazing what one forgets after many years in this business. I really liked this one. She offers a printable that will help in keeping track of connections.
I was really inspired by the idea of thanking students who do the right thing, as addressed on p. 202 and 203. We have Mustang Money for reinforcing good behaviors, but, you know what? I often forget to hand it out when it would benefit students most. I give a "buck" to students for coming to school, because I sincerely am thankful for their presence. After that, I need to become more conscious about focusing on those who do as they should, day in and day out.
On p. 205, I loved the idea of wrapping a child's desk for their birthday. In fact, I enjoyed many of her suggestions for birthdays, because they did not necessarily involve huge, icing-laden cupcakes and craziness. Having the student's picture as the background on the desktop, or whatever the student might like, is such an awesome idea.
I, like Watson, need my lunch time. I used to try to get to extracurriculars, but I need my family time. I need to be present to the people who lose so much of me to school. So, at this point in my life, that is not happening. I feel no guilt in that.
Chapter 17: Choose to love kids most when they act most unlovable
Watson makes some of the most important points of her book in this chapter.
- Control the environment. You cannot control the attitudes of a child.
- Choose to raise yourself up instead of letting the kids get you down.
- Don't take behavior as a personal attack.
- "I have to consciously remind myself that children who are disrespectful, obnoxiously attention-seeking, or totally indifferent are not necessarily acting that way toward me." p. 214
- There is a difference between off-task behavior and misbehavior.
- When kids do "kid" behaviors at the wrong time, we must respond differently than when there is a conscious choice on their parts to misbehave.
- On. p. 218, Watson states what my whole building knows to be true.
- "The key to solving behavior problems is to figure out which unmet need the child is attempting to address, and then help him or her meet that need."
- "Always make it your goal to respond in love."
- She mentions the 2 x 10 method of working with problem behaviors in students.
- Watson wraps up the chapter with my favorite mantra. My friend Jessie and I have said this for years:
- I can do anything for nine months.
Chapter 18: Be truly present and look for the light bulb moments
On p. 225, when Watson mentions, "When you're fully present with kids, you process interruptions and unwanted behaviors differently in your mind and attend to them rather than your own agenda," it reminded me of something that happened in my room the other day. A colleague was telling me something. A student came up to us. I addressed him to see what he needed, and she sent him away, asking for him to "not interrupt and give us a minute." I reflected that I must be giving her some idea that the students are not the main focus of my room. I am NOT saying that students should not learn when to interrupt and when not to interrupt. Trust that I spend a great deal of time working with them on that. Truth was, she was not telling me some pressing information, and I really did want to attend to the child. It reminded me that it is important for all adults to recognize the culture of our rooms and that the children are the reason we are there.
Same thing happens when my phone rings (either the vibration of my cell or my actual class phone). I tell the students that THEY are the most important thing in the room, not the phone. And I mean it. Watson's points about being fully engaged with the kids are great reminders.
On p. 230, she admits to enjoying "having" to be at the copier, as it slows her down a bit and lets her have time to think. I am like that at copiers, at store registers, and the like. I enjoy things that make the world stop.
She ends the chapter with something that I realize I believe, but some teachers do not. "Your work is important. Ultimately, whether someone else tells you that or not is irrelevant," p. 234. Such truth. I find that others who need our boss to acknowledge their importance are constantly scrambling for her acceptance, and, in the end, becoming colleagues we would rather not have. We must believe in ourselves and our work.