🎶 It’s beginning to look a lot like finals – stress in every soul But the happiest sight to see Is the end of finals week When we’ve reached our goal! 🎶
It is that time of the year – getting ready to finish out this semester with big plans in place to enjoy a break before starting again new. The catch…there is simply so much to do between now and sanity – um, we mean winter break.
Isn’t this busyness true at all stages of life when it comes to the holidays? Whatever your religion or holiday participation, December is about closing one chapter and January is about starting a brand new one.
With that in mind, we need to check off the many items on our list and hope for even greater things in the New Year. It seems a little scrazy to talk about the New Year already when there is so much left to do in this one. (We just can’t decide between “scary” and “crazy” so our stress has caused us to create a new word…which can be a positive thing about stress — it can raise our productivity level! Anyway… back to the main focus of the blog as stress has clearly caused us to ramble)!
Below are a few words of wisdom to remember during finals week…
Take a deep breath.
Make a list and check it twice. It is easy to get distracted – especially when there is yummy holiday baking and shopping, and decorating, and so much cleaning to be done and … wait a second… let’s get back on track here…
Take much needed brain breaks – just don’t forget to get back to work and finish the task at hand.
Enjoy the journey and not just the destination or we end up wishing our life away.
Are you still breathing? Yoga or a quick walk will do too.
Look at the big picture – this too shall pass. In the moment, everything can seem like the big picture, but it is just a small piece of the puzzle.
Enjoy the ride – sleigh or otherwise. Best wishes on your finals, teacher candidates, and a huge congrats on when they are completed! We knew all along you could do it! 💪🎉👏
Congratulations to our Fall 2021 Methods Year teacher candidates for completing your many required field experience hours this fall. You made all of us professors proud by being “an active participant in the investigation of learning, teaching, and leadership processes” (SMSU SoE Mission Statement). Plus, there is no better way to hone your teaching craft than being IN the classroom teaching children!
You succeeded (which we knew you would)! 👏👏
When asked what was rewarding and challenging about your social studies, math, and early literacy field experiences, a few of you responded with some great responses. Thank you for that…
Carrie: Rewarding…The opportunity to teach. Relationships developed with classroom mentor teacher and students. My mentor teacher will be a new friend and tremendous resource throughout my teaching career. Challenges…the requirement to complete my 45 hours within a three week period.
Rebecca: Rewarding…Seeing the student’s light bulbs turn on when they finally understood something. Their smiles were priceless. Also, how much they grew over a short three week period. Teaching the social studies lesson was so much fun. Challenges…finding enough hours for social studies because my classroom didn’t do much social.
Jessica: Rewarding…integrating social studies with science and reading. Challenging…nothing seemed challenging to me. 😊
Jalynn: Rewarding…Building relationships with students throughout the 3 weeks. I also really like social studies, so this was one of my favorite placements because of how much I loved the content! Challenges…getting 15 hours of social studies while doing my math and literacy hours at the same time.
Timothy: Rewarding…Working with and creating relationships with both kindergarten and fifth grade students. Helping a 5th grader understand multiplying decimals. Very rewarding to see students excited about their learning. Overall, my experiences were amazing. Challenging…getting some students to believe in themselves.
Thank you to those teacher candidates who responded to the email request to list your rewards, challenges, and an action shot in the classrooms. Congrats SMSU teacher candidates on a job well done!!! You were immersed in teaching excellence! 🙌👍
We are extremely proud to say we are teachers. I don’t know about you, Dr. V., but every year since I have been a teacher, I have had the same dream, or should I say nightmare, right before school officially begins….I am not prepared for the first day of school. Kids are out of control. I slump in failure.
This syndrome is called “first day jitters.”
On Friday, August 20, 2021 at SMSU, we welcomed several brand new freshmen, who are dreaming of becoming teachers. Some Physical Education, some Special Education, some Secondary Education, some TESL Education, some Early Childhood Education, and some Elementary Education. All are entering their first year of college with dreams and aspirations of doing their best to become the best. All beginning with the same syndrome – that dreaded “first day jitters.”
We know these young adults come with excess anxiety and doubt and wonder and questions. The pandemic has caused extra stress for our new freshmen. It is our duty as their professors to help them overcome this fear and help them see the opportunities that await them.
Just like the brand new teacher candidates, most professors have a little “first day jitters” syndrome happening too. Each new school year brings its own worries and doubts and fears…
“Are we doing enough for our teacher candidates? Are we noticing if they need more than just content thrown their way? Are we getting to know them deeply? Are we listening to their stories? Are we training them to succeed in their future classrooms? Are we advising them correctly?”
We have big hopes and big dreams to help each and every one of our new teacher candidates to succeed and become the best teachers they can be.
So, brand new freshmen teacher candidates, please know we have the same SMSU first day jitters as you. We get it. We are on your side. We are in this together. We are here for YOU.
We extend a BIG welcome to our freshmen teacher candidates. We can’t wait to see what your future holds for you. Be a bright and shining star for children. Start strong, remain strong, and finish strong. No pressure – but the world is counting on you, and you CAN do this!
Bring on the new school year…jitters and all. 🙌😊🤎💛🐴
May is Mental Health Awareness month. I know a handful of my students were struggling spring semester and still are even though school is out for the summer. In fact, just today I visited with one who is having a hard time dealing with life. She talked, she cried, I listened. She said she is getting professional help and is getting better (so thankful for that).
Dr. V. and I had the privilege of watching and listening to Gerry Brooks, well-known Kentucky elementary principal, give an hour online ASCD Mental Health Summit presentation on how he has uses object lessons to encourage his staff and build up their mental wellness.
When googling the definition of object lessons, you are given several choices. The Oxford Language website defines it as a “striking practical example of some principle or ideal.” Dictionary.com explains it as “a practical or concrete illustration of a principle.” My favorite definition is the one found on Wikipedia (I know, I know…not the most trustworthy, but hey, it’s my favorite!)… “An object lesson is a teaching method that consists of using a physical object of visual aid as a discussion piece for a lesson. Object lesson teaching assumes that material things have the potential to convey information.” (Carter, 2010).
Below are a few of the mental health object lesson ideas I found extremely beneficial:
Light Switch: Principal Brooks gave his staff a light switch. This object is a reminder to his school family to switch off their professional lives and turn on their personal lives when they leave the school building and go home. His professional switch goes off Friday and switches back on Sunday afternoon. His advice to his teachers is you are no good to anyone if you are stressed out so it is okay to turn off your professional switch! Many of his teachers liked this idea so much they went out and bought all their students a light switch. Teachers will ask their students to pull out their light switches and turn off their math brains and turn on their science brains…a simple but yet powerful tool for all to destress!
M & M’s: Gerry likes to gift his staff with tasty treats. He especially appreciates M & M’s because of all the different flavors (for his diverse staff). If we were to give our colleagues these same treats would we know which kind to give to others? If we know one of our colleagues has a peanut allergy, we certainly would not give them a bag of Peanut M & M’s. We are told to know our colleagues on a personal basis. They can be a support system. Gerry encourages us to send a friendly text to five people a day and just imagine the joy you would have if YOU received such a text:
1 whoever you need to track down his/her number
Reading Glasses: Principal Brooks gives all his teachers a pair of reading glasses whether they need them or not. He wants us to try our best to look through other people’s lenses so we can be the best we can be in our profession. By doing so teaches us empathy, sympathy, and understanding. Imagine you are teaching your math lesson. It is a very important concept your students MUST know for the test. You are interrupted by the school counselor asking to have one of your students come with her/him. You may be thinking…absolutely not! This child cannot miss this important lesson. What you don’t realize is this counselor has two sets of very angry parents in the office and the only child who can help resolve this issue is the one she needs to take with her. We must try our best to see situations through the lenses of others.
Peanut Butter and Jelly: This object lesson was eyebrow raising for me. I’ve known about it all 34 years of my teaching career, however, this was the first time to ever hear someone point it out and say it out loud. P in peanut butter helps Gerry remember professional, and the J in jelly reminds him of jealousy. OUCH. Truth right there. Honest to goodness truth. Professional jealousy is real!! He admitted he experiences this when he compares his school’s test scores to others. Or a teacher is asked to present at the staff meeting about something wonderful he/she is doing in the classroom and the colleagues become jealous. A little jealousy rears its ugly head when we start to compare ourselves to others. We may begin to have a little conversation in our head that goes something like this… “what did they do to earn that score? Why did that teacher to get to talk at the staff meeting? I’ve done amazing things too.” I know I’ve made these same types of comparisons, and I’m confident you have too! We must stop this!! We cannot grow if we start to allow professional jealousy.
Valentine Heart Candy: Jerry picked out Valentine’s Day heart candy because they are seasonal. He also shared he has a freezer full of Girl Scout Cookies because once the season for those cookies is done, he cannot get them until the next year. BUT…the good news is, those cookies and those Valentine’s Day candy hearts will be back. The season without them will come to an end. We all have been in a crazy season. Our pandemic the past 14 months has taken a toll on many. It is seasonal and let’s remember the good news is “this too shall pass!” It WILL end.
Thank you, Gerry Brooks, for sharing your education wisdom with us. Your presentation is one I will always remember.
The last object lesson I’d like to share is a pillow. The craziest school year in history is coming to an end (thank goodness). To all of you, my fellow educator rock star colleagues…may you be blessed with sweet rest this summer. Lay your head on your soft pillow and smile when you close your eyes. You did extraordinary things for your students this year and for that we applaud you.
Even though this blog is written from an educator’s perspective, it truly applies to all!!! Turn off your professional switch when you are done working for the day; get to know your colleagues on a personal level; be respectful of others’ perspectives and try to understand the situation by looking at it through a different set of lenses; keep professional jealousy out of your heart and mind and workplace; and when you are experiencing tough times, know it’s only for a season…this too shall pass!
Take care of your mental health, everyone! Your mind matters!!
Carter, S.A. (2010). An object lesson, or don’t eat the evidence. The Journal of History and Childhood and Youth. (V. 3, Number 1). John Hopkins University. Retrieved May 23, 2021 from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/370309
As I sit here gazing out the window watching the snow fall and whip around in the 25 mile per hour winds, I remember a fond memory of when my son, Kyle, was in first grade. The elementary school my son attended was also the same school where I taught third graders.
An expectation at our school was the parents of students who lived out in the country on the main highways or the gravel roads were required to sign a form listing a safe place, or storm home, located in town where their children could go just in case they weren’t able to make it back home. Even a few town kids were required to have a storm home listed.
One blizzardy day in January (kind of like today but worse) a winter storm came upon us. Even though the district had made the decision to let the children go home early, it wasn’t quite early enough. Busses weren’t able to travel on the gravel roads so those kids who lived out in the country were being rerouted to their storm homes.
One little boy was quite worried about my son. With great trepidation, he kept repeating to his teacher “Kyle doesn’t have a storm home! He NEEDS a storm home!” Miss Wolff, a wonderful first grade teacher, gently reassured this little boy, “Kyle will be fine because his mom works at the school. Kyle doesn’t need a storm home.” That concerned little classmate didn’t buy it. He demanded Kyle go with him to his storm home so Kyle would stay safe.
Don’t you just love that story? The innocence? The purity? I sure do. That little boy might have been anxious about my son’s safety, but his insisting on Kyle going with him to his storm home was noble, kind, admirable, and genuine love.
Our nation…our world needs that kind of love more than ever! We need that little boy’s innocent, genuine, pure love and concern for others! Philippians 4:8 says, “8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Dear friends, let us love one another! Let us challenge each other to intentionally think about such things. Let us focus on being honorable, righteous, wholesome, commendable, extraordinary people who care for human beings because it’s the right thing to do.
Yesterday in my Classroom Management course, teacher candidates were discussing the Three Dimensions of Discipline found in the book Discipline with Dignity: New Challenges, New Solutionsby Curwin, Mendler, and Mendler (2008). The first dimension, The Prevention Dimension, has 7 key points. One key point mentions how to handle conflict with students.
Together, we brainstormed how they see themselves handling conflict with their future elementary students. They tapped into all the information gleaned from this course and gave excellent examples. It was a proud moment for me. 😊 Then, the discussion landed us on a chat about the teacher’s lounge. You can about imagine where that conversation took us. Yikes…
I mentioned to them I believe THEY are experiencing conflict in their lives right now. This turned the focus of the discussion onto them, so I asked these teacher candidates how THEY are handling their life conflicts. How are they dealing with their stresses?
One stressor they are coping with this semester is worrying about getting their field experience hours completed. COVID is playing havoc on their field experiences with schools closing down for weeks at a time.
“What are we going to do if we can’t complete our hours?” they question with sincere concern in their voices.
Another stressor they are dealing with is they are in their methods year, which can be quite intense with several assignments from each methods class…sometimes all due on the same day. They have lessons plans to write and lessons to teach and research papers to write and presentations to give and articles to critique and edTPA commentary to review. They begin to doubt their abilities.
Dog pile on top of all that, the majority of my teacher candidates work an outside job to help pay tuition. That’s a lot. That’s a lot for any of us.
So…back to my question directed at my teacher candidates. How are they handling all this personal conflict? The number one answer from all of them in this class was…
They vent! They vent to each other (and sometimes to their mom).
They talk it out and when they realize they aren’t alone and know others are going through the same thing, it surprisingly helps them calm down. They have become family. I told them it was okay to vent.
One of the teacher candidates shared with the class she cries a lot. I told her it was okay to cry. And then I said to them: “It is going to be okay.” This same teacher candidate who said she has been crying a lot, asked if she could get that recorded for proof. I smiled and told her of course she could. She pulled out her phone, and I said it again only this time with a little more power…
IT’S GONNA BE OKAY! (Maybe I made it on Tik Tok??). 😉
Tasha Layton’s song came into my thoughts after I spoke those words out loud, so I started to sing these lyrics to my teacher candidates…
It’s gonna be okay
It’s gonna be okay
You’re gonna be okay!
You got this, teacher candidates. 💪💪 Air hugs for all of you! 🤗 It’s gonna be okay. 🤎💛
SMSU Homecoming 2020 was modified this year due to COVID, however, it was still a great time.
Each year a door/office decorating contest is held and this year was no different. Colleague and friend, Dr. LeAnne Syring and I get a little competitive during this contest. Okay…confession. We get A LOT competitive. 😜 Even though we have put much effort into our past door decorating contests, we seem to fall just short of winning…until this year!! Wahoo!!
The Homecoming theme for 2020 was Mustangs Come Together — 6 Feet Apart. So, together, Dr. LeAnne and I brainstormed to come up with our door decorating plan. I love the Beatles and their song Come Together kept playing in my mind. From this tune, our theme of Come Together, Mustangs…6 Shoes Apart was born.
LeAnne had the idea of taking our picture and cutting it out to make it look like we were riding a mustang horse. We found the picture of the SMSU horse in front of our university (created by artist John Sterner) so we used that mustang. The School of Education professors who were on campus a few days before the door would be judged, complied with our crazy wishes to let us take their pictures.
We had great helpers, wouldn’t you agree, Dr. LeAnne? Mariah S. and Amanda M. helped cut out horses and stencils and music notes. Thanks, ladies. We couldn’t have done it without you.
LeAnne also had the idea of rewriting the lyrics to the Beatles 60’s hit Come Together. I gave it a try and came up blank. LeAnne gave it a try and came up with a fabulous tune that was the epitome of SMSU spirit. Dr. LeAnne, Dr. Sonya, our office admin, Jen S. and myself sang the song to a karaoke tune. Give it a listen… 🐴🤎💛😀
We finished our door and song just in time for judging. You could say we were a tad bit excited when we received the first place trophy. 😍🐴🎉
Saturday was the SMSU Homecoming Parade. The SMSU Education MN Aspiring Educators (EMAE) happily participates in the parade each year. Even though we weren’t able to throw candy to the children, we all had a great time! Kudos to all our EMAE officers for showing up and walking the 1.5 miles of parade route. Y’all are rock stars! 🌟
Thank you to all those SMSU peeps who plan the SMSU Homecoming festivities. We enjoyed all that was offered and look forward to next year’s theme. Just know…Dr. LeAnne and I will be back competing for two wins in a row! 💪💪😉
Hello? Hello? Are you out there? Oh – now we can see you! Zoom. Just like that. We shared our partI of Virtual teachingSOS!
Before going any further, take a breath and know that you can do this! Then, watch this Youtube video: I Will Survive, Coronavirus version for teachers going online
What to do now that you have taken a much needed deep breath? We want to share some incredible ideas with you as you charter these educational waters virtually. Tossing some lifesavers your way to help you and your learners navigate the virtual waters of learning. We asked our teacher educator colleagues from the SMSU School of Education and across campus to contribute resources to share out with you. A quick shoutout to our talented SMSU colleagues for responding to our request: Drs. Rhonda Bonnstetter, Sarah Huseby, Kandy Noles Stevens, Frankie Albitz, Kris Cleveland, Debbie VanOverbeke … thank you for your efforts to support our teacher candidates and educators everywhere! Before checking out the list of resources, we want to share our support and thank all the healthcare and emergency workers on the front lines and all essential workers who cannot stay home with their families in order to care for the greater good. Thank you and our continued prayers go out for your safety!
What awesome ideas do you have to share? Please let us know! We need each other and our creative ideas now more than ever. Take care!
Amazing how quickly time flies by… just wow! This was a year ago already – my experience serving as a teacher for English learners. Today, I was privileged to be part of the Reading in the Content Areas classes, and share about culturally responsive teaching with the K-12 and secondary teacher candidates and about my sabbatical experience. Joining me today were two EL experts from our community with years of experience working with English learners and integrating Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) into their teaching. Culturally Relevant Pedagogy is another term for Culturally Responsive Teaching. CRP can be defined as… “A pedagogy that crosses disciplines and cultures to engage learners while respecting their cultural integrity. It accommodates the dynamic mix of race, ethnicity, class, gender, region, religion, and family that contributes to every student’s cultural identity. The foundation for this approach lies in theories of intrinsic motivation” (Wlodkowski & Ginsberg, 1995, para 2).
Today was a wonderful opportunity to engage in dialog around CRT with our future teachers, who – no pressure – are responsible for changing the world one learner at a time. Best of luck to all – and enjoy! Life is short – so share it with others.
Wlodkowski, R.J., & Ginsberg, M.B. (1995). A framework for culturally responsive teaching. Educational Leadership, 53(1), 17-21.
You may have heard the phrase… “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten.” It was true… until my sabbatical. What is a sabbatical you may be asking? It is a time to reflect, a time to renew, a time to reenergize, and a time to start fresh… Some spend time during sabbatical researching, writing books, focusing on different work, and/or relaxing on location. It provides an opportunity to try something new and to stretch professionally in ways that have been imagined during stressful days…or unimagined. My imagination originally directed me toward writing a book and relaxing. At least that was what I imagined when my sabbatical seemed far off. As my sabbatical began approaching my imagination had a new image in mind, which would require an intense amount of time, energy, and emotion. You see my sabbatical experience took on a life of its own in a PK-2…
You can’t always be certain. Sometimes what it appears to be just isn’t so. Sometimes it is something entirely different. Sometimes it is what it is. Most times this is the truth.
It either is or isn’t – a cat. Right?
Recently, Minnesota author/illustrator Mike Wohnoutka addressed the Southwest Minnesota Reading Council hosted on the Martin Luther College campus in New Ulm, Minnesota. I was privileged to attend with a former student-teacher gone teacher and two teacher candidates. It was an evening filled with learning, laughter, reading, reflecting, doodling, and discussion. What does a cat got to do with it, you ask? Let me tell you….
Growing up with three older brothers, Mike Wohnoutka loved to draw, and he was determined to do well. From early on he would go to his room to read to get away from a little of the noise. He displayed talent early on, and his Headstart teacher noticed right away. She wrote a note on his report card indicating that he was an artist and that he should continue to draw. Later on in life his high school teacher suggested that he go to the library to learn about and study others’ works. He then went on to enter a contest in high school with a portrait of his dad, which drew him on the path to an art school in Savannah, Georgia with a 4-year scholarship.
Fast forward to today, and you will find that Mike had multiple opportunities to try out his talents – sometimes noticed and sometimes unnoticed. His talent is obvious and telling. He drew a cartoon masterpiece within seconds right before our eyes. It was incredible.
Throughout his time as a write and illustrator, Wohnoutka has had opportunities to work with a plethora of talented folks. He shared about his life as an author/illustrator and how each day starts with sitting in his study and thinking. It usually involves some coffee; sometimes there is music, sometimes there isn’t. “Think about who. Think about what.” That is telling lesson right there, and one we agree with as a principle. Dr. Wendy & I tell our teacher candidates that we teach learners, not subjects. We teach who, not what. When writing This is Not a Cat, Wohnoutka started with character development. That makes sense and is where we all should start – with the who, with us.
He talked about one particular work that we loved to hear about, to read about, and now to share with our students. This is Not a Cat. It reminded us that what we see is not always what we should believe. It also made me think about not being too overly confident with a decision; there is room for error in that suit. The mice in this picture book are pretty scared when they see a cat, which turns out to be a rat in a cat suit. Later, a real cat hunts that rat. This made me think of the phrase “what goes around, comes around.” Karma.
So many lessons in that simple but awesome book. Maybe I am grasping at straws but so be it. I saw the talent first hand. I am no literary award granter, but I like a book that can hook a reader and share a lesson or two. If it can cause a little suspense and some laughter, even better.
In closing… recently our SMSU colleague family has experienced deaths that have caused us to reflect on what is important. What is important to you? Find out and stay the course… Life is too important and too short not to know. Know what is a cat and what is not.