Teacher Appreciation

106977326_320276c

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” ~ Maya Angelou

It’s time to thank the dedicated teachers for all their sacrifices and support for children throughout the year.  Teachers play a key role in student success and feeling valued lets teachers know their efforts are not going unnoticed.

“Ideal teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross, then having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create bridges of their own.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

power-of-choice

Teacher: The Real Four-Leaf-Clover

four_leaf_clover_by

Teacher, I know you have those marvelous kids in your class who struggle against unfathomable life circumstances, the ones you see trying to survive and attempting to get an education, but, at every turn, something or someone is blocking their efforts. And, you think, these kids deserve a break. It’s not their fault. They just need a little luck. At least, that is what has been on my mind and heart recently, with St. Patrick’s Day inching closer—Luck. However, I learned recently that the four-leaf clover, a symbol of good luck, actually represents much more, including Faith, Hope, and Love.

I can’t even begin to advise, in a quick article, on the way to reach and help those kids for whom our hearts ache. Circumstances can be tragically different from one student to the next. And, I know this can be depressing and discouraging, with a tinge of guilt in between.

This much I can tell you, teacher-friend. You are their good luck, Monday through Friday. You show up in their lives and present them with opportunity, encouragement, knowledge, care, and, for many of you, a whole lot of love. You are the symbol of the four-leaf clover, having faith in their abilities, hope for their futures, love for the unique individuals that they are, and crossed fingers for luck to come their way.

Good fortune may or may not chance upon them, but, because you show faith, perhaps they believe in themselves a little more; because you dare to hope for them, they begin to dream; and because you love them as they are, hurting and broken, they begin to love themselves. Perhaps, learning about themselves in this way empowers them to create their own luck.

Remember: You are someone’s good fortune. Thank you for being that teacher! Pass this along to your fellow four-leaf clovers.

Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

image from http://getbarmax.com/bar-exam-luc/

A TRULY PRICELESS GIFT – TIME

gift
School is out! Well, not yet. But, the buzz of a winter break is sublime to anticipate. Put down the lesson plans and the virtual chalk (does anyone use chalk anymore?). Your school district is giving you a priceless gift – time off. So, what are you going to do with that precious gift? Please do not pass over this reward. Imagine for a moment, you didn’t get it this year. What would that mean to you? Would rest and relaxation be more wonderful? Would spending that time with family and friends be sweeter? However you spend your winter break, we hope it is filled with great joy. Happy Holidays!

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

photo credit – istock

Take off the Costume

Wonder Woman

Costumes and candy are bulking up the store aisles. It’s Halloween – when we embrace the fantasy of being a super hero, a princess or some gruesome extraterrestrial from Mars. It’s a blast to pretend for a moment that we can be something different or something more than we are. What teacher or parent wouldn’t want to acquire a few extra powers? (I hear the yeah! Girl!) Halloween is also a time when you can peek into a person’s personality. Dressing up in costumes can be simple fun. On the other hand, I believe the costume or mask someone chooses to wear reveals something unique about that person. There is a story to be told, if we are willing to listen with our eyes and then our ears. I know one kid in the neighborhood who has sported a policeman uniform for the past 8 years. His father happens to be a policeman, and, although, his parents have given him every opportunity to pick a different costume, this young man is sticking with the police department. I don’t think it is a far stretch to assume, he looks up to his father, and wants to be a policeman someday. The number 1 costume choice for 2012 was a witch. What that might reveal could be interesting. I remember wanting to be Wonder Woman back in the day. She was the trifecta, pretty, smart and strong. Come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever outgrown my Wonder Woman complex. I have tweaked it over the years, embracing my unique version of a wonder woman. Sorry, but I’m not feeling that costume. That could in no way be comfortable! I am curious about the costumes and masks we continue to hold onto over the course of time. What costumes are we wearing year long? How about the children we teach and the ones under our roof? Do they slip on a mask to cover up their feelings and thoughts to blend in with the crowd? How many of us continue to keep the mask on to keep others from knowing the real us? There is this pervasive feeling among so many, adults, teens and children, that if we were to be ourselves, then others would not like us. Fear of being disliked, shunned or rejected keeps the wonder woman costume glued to our bodies. What is the worst thing that would happen if the costume were to come off? Would some people dislike you? – Yep, people dislike you already. People dislike me. That is a hard, jagged pill to swallow. But, what matters most is accepting and liking yourself and that cannot be accomplished in fantasy land or year round Halloween. Enjoy an entertaining and fun time with family, friends and neighbors. Just be sure to remove the costume, pack it away till next year, and love on the real you.

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

All Hands In – Cooperation

All Hands In
We aren’t seeing stellar examples of cooperation these days. Think government shut down and reality TV dramas. In a society that exalts the best of the best and drools over dog- eat- dog scenarios, cooperative behavior is hardly ever acknowledged or seldom encouraged. It is quite easy to get caught up in a spirit of competition and righteousness. There is nothing like the feeling of being right. It can give us a sense of pride yet open the ugly door to boast, “I told you so, and in your face!” Sometimes, being right is a matter of life and death, like getting the right diagnosis for serious disease like breast cancer. Other times, being right isn’t about anything but our stubborn nature and feeling justified. While stuck in our righteousness, oversights to solutions keep us from moving forward. We should consider if our position is helping to solve the conflict or causing more damage and whether or not the issue at hand is important enough for us to dig our feet into the ground over it. Sometimes, we get so bogged down by the right answers on tests, the right questions to ask, and the right choices to make in life that we ignore relationships with others in the name of being correct or justified. We stomp all over cooperative efforts because, “I’m right, and you are wrong,” is prevailing. Getting all tied up in a competitive moment, we miss the interdependent dynamic that serves everyone. Life is not always right and wrong, win or lose. Most situations in life require cooperation to get the job done. Can you imagine the disaster if all of the individuals working to fight breast cancer held to their own beliefs that they were right and everyone else who put forth a differing position was wrong? I’m sure it took multiple people with a variety of skills, knowledge, and scientific opinions to bring about the strides in research and treatment available today. We all possess something unique to offer, but can we forgo the temporary pleasure of being bona fide and consider the amazing outcome when all hands are in?

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice
For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Wonderful Kids – How Do We Get There?

CJ Soccer 013
While enjoying an article on best practices for teaching, I immediately correlated some of the questions teachers were asked to contemplate to parents also. One question stood out to me: Are my actions bringing a child closer or farther away from educational opportunity? Now how about parents? This question is unique in that there is no single goal set in stone for us to consider. Teachers, your job is crazy tough, but the goal is as clear as glass even when it has children’s smudges all over it – educate. Aside from keeping my children alive, you may laugh but they often make this difficult, there are lists of goals that continue to grow and change and change again. We may want to help our children develop respect for others or self-discipline. But, can you remember when the goal was to get them to roll over or conquer potty training? So, the question is, are my actions bringing my child(ren) closer or father away from (insert goal)? An even greater question to chew on is, have we even considered goals for our children and shared those destinations with our kids? I have a good friend who takes an entire weekend away from the normal distractions of work and family life and develops plans for each of her children and reviews the plan from last year. Never looking to create the “perfect child” but to take time to really think and help that child in the way they are bent. Initially, I thought this was a wonderful but not entirely necessary idea. Until it became clear that she and her husband were being intentional parents, not willing to risk raising their children to chance. I know every parent wants to raise children who are all wonderful inside and out but have we examined how to get there?

We all need a little help in becoming the parent we want to be. TURNING STONEchoice is sponsoring a parent workshop series beginning October 16th in Mt. Laurel, NJ. For additional information and registration please follow this link http://www.turningstonechoice.com and hope to see you there.

~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com

Sweet Moments of Connection

manu-15p0fe6
I thought I was being a proactive parent setting aside time in a very busy evening to go for a walk and talk with one of my boys. It was just the 2 of us, a rare and special time together. There were some “things” I wanted to address with this particular child and found our conversation very one sided. I did all the talking and had the impression he would rather have his teeth scraped by a dental hygienist than listen to the very important subject matter I was sharing. Finally, I stopped running my mouth and enjoyed a quieter walk as he discovered a friend to play with. Ugh! This was not what I had planned. Much later in the evening during the bed time rush he decided to share a very serious matter that was on his mind and heart. I could not believe the words coming from his mouth. I had not scheduled this discourse, nor was I prepared for his message. But, I knew although this wasn’t my perfectly planned and scheduled moment for “real conversation” I had to carpe diem and listen. And, what was I thinking? Those real moments of interaction are hardly ever planned. They occur at the most ridiculous, inopportune times, when life is wicked messy and exhausting. Perhaps, he would have shared earlier if I did not already plan the agenda taking up all of the space and time with what I want to address. It’s funny how kids can hit you in a blind spot to help you see clearer. At times parenting and teaching can be a real mind trip! One moment you are excited over a perfectly planned classroom lesson with nothing but complete blank stares from the faces of your students. The next moment your class is going in a totally different direction but you hear the light bulbs clicking off in their precious little heads. One moment a parent can feel like a failure in reaching a child and the next moment connect over the honest and real thoughts of that child while rubbing lotion on their legs. It’s the ups and downs we go through; a mind trip, right.
Remember to hold on to those sweet moments of connection with your students and children and when those down moments have you discouraged envision the victory ahead.

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Releasing Mistakes

mistakes2

Once upon a time, I loathed writing. It was the subject I feared because my writing skills were awful. You see, I could not spell well and because I feared the mistakes I knew I would make, I refused to write words I fully comprehended but had no idea how to spell. To this day, I still struggle with spelling and now understand my challenge as a spelling disorder and not a reflection of my intelligence. This was such a huge obstacle, mainly because I did not understand why I was so “stupid.” I knew what the word was, how to use it and when to use it, but how to spell was elusive. Secondly, and probably most importantly, I chose to be silent about my struggle and continued to fall behind in my writing lessons. If not for the wisdom and compassion of my fifth grade teacher, perhaps I would not have the courage to write this blog today. Understanding the contradiction of my simple prose vs. my higher level speaking vocabulary (I talked a lot), this teacher casually walked up to me during a painful writing session and whispered, “Sam, please write the way you talk, and I don’t care if you misspell. It will be great.” In that single moment, I was liberated from the shackles of error because I was given permission to make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, and, “It would be great.” I am positive my spelling issues were more severe than my “Releaser” had imagined, but I had a new found freedom that would grow, and, although I would continue to make the same mistakes over and over, I actually would make fewer of them over the longer road ahead. I have come a long way from loathing writing, and I enjoy it immensely (a word I happened to misspell). I might not be the next Maya Angelou, but I am growing out from the wisdom of a teacher who understood the bigger picture of allowing mistakes and encouraging mistakes to get to the real lessons. Which students will you be releasing today from bondages that keep them from growing and learning?

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Live Fearless – Projecting Fear

DSC_0212
My husband suggested a blog discussion on facing fears as he clicked the picture of that freakishly large bug in my child’s hands. (Just to answer the obvious question, that bug is called the hickory horned devil caterpillar.) Instead of facing fear, I’ll share how I projected personal fear to one of my boys. Joseph*, my middle child is absolutely obsessed with bugs. So much so, he received the birthday gift of a real life bug party. This would be the first and last time I would pay someone to bring bugs into my house (think huge hissing cock roaches). Joseph catches bugs everywhere we go. I think he is a bug whisperer. Praying Mantis walk right up to him, butterflies land on his head and chill, and there always seems to be an insect of interest around our home in some homemade habitat for his viewing pleasure. Never has he been afraid to approach or handle any insect. It is refreshing to watch – a child’s fearlessness. But, along comes Mr. Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar and I’m wondering what a creature like that, which clearly belongs in the jungle of the Amazon, is doing in South Jersey. My immediate reaction was to yell firmly, “Do not touch that thing! It could be poisonous.” I know- terrible, right. I dare you to come across this creature and not be a bit cautious. Every family member and friend who actually saw this thing for the first time all had the same reaction –a slight jump back and a, “What in the world is it?” I even commented I thought it might cocoon and turn into a bat. Joseph kept returning to the bug and I could tell he wanted to touch it. But, I had squashed his fearlessness with my reaction and it took him two whole days and a verbal “Ok” from me to say it would be fine. The point is, as teachers and parents we have fears and can project them onto the most fearless people on this planet, our children. Perhaps being more childlike and thinking – what if I did not fear, would change my reactions and life experiences? How much more would our children grow if not stifled with adult fears or even their own? I’m not advocating reckless behavior or ignoring clear signs of danger. I am asking all of us, self included these questions: What would I/we accomplish if I/we did not fear? What would be possible living a fearless life?

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice

Keep Your Head Up- Body Language Message

Scan6_0006
“Don’t slouch. Sit up straight!” Mothers have chanted around the world to their children. I always thought it a nagging, ridiculous demand. I mean, why? Leave the poor kid alone. Yet, I have always been quick to encourage a child on the soccer field to keep their heads up after a demoralizing play or game. I actually get a physical pang in my stomach when I see the head drop and the shoulders fall forward for any kid. You can see their momentary pain without a single word or physical injury. I never bothered to correct my own children on the posture front because I felt I had bigger battles to fight, until I considered the bigger picture: the message of our body language to others and more importantly to ourselves. I am realizing the posture we keep on a regular basis can reveal personal details with the world. Is a student sitting so deeply in a chair as if any moment he or she will be one with the floor? Is a child constantly tapping on tables, chairs, books? With our bodies we say, I’m tired, frustrated, hurt, excited, doubtful, eager, anxious and so many other messages the world receives and we believe of ourselves. I guess in the long run, I do want my children to sit up straight because they have the confidence in and of themselves to believe they are worthy of being a part of this world because they are valuable. So instead of nagging with a “Sit-up”, I tap my chest, lift my chin and sit up straight myself. I know I have been probably slouching all day long myself. I need to “remove the tree from my eye before removing a splinter from theirs”, and set an example. I explain when we sit or stand like cavemen (insert laughter from the boys) we squish our organs (more laughter) and they need room to do their thing. Also, we let the world know we don’t think much of ourselves (insert immediate high lifted posture from all 3 boys). I wouldn’t let the boys engage in self-deprecating talk and fill their beings with negative verbal language. Why should I let the just as powerful body language fill them with the same kind of negativity?

For more information on TURNING STONEchoice and its process, visit http://www.turningstonechoice.com
~Sammy @TURNING STONEchoice