Motivated to learn…

There’s no need to be ashamed or to hide it; I am a lifelong learner.  bva-7From the time I could read, learning has intrigued and empowered me in ways I could never explain.  Such is the case this week as our MISD leadership team grapples with these five critical questions during our two-day conference with the Schlechty Center:

  1. How do we get others to “buy-in” as we continue our journey to transform into the leading learning organization in the nation?
  2. What are some tools and resources we can employ to get to know our “who” (our learners and classroom leaders) to determine if they are engaged and why?
  3. How do we provide and receive meaningful feedback and encouragement to and from our colleagues on this journey?
  4. What work inspires autonomy, mastery, creativity, and a sense of purpose?
  5. How do we bring JOY to the learning everyday?

These are not easy questions to ask nor easy questions to ponder for answers!  We know there is a strong link between engaged students, teachers, administrators, support staff, parents, and community members, and increased levels of overall performance and achievement for all.  In their book, The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work, Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer discuss it this way:  “Intrinsic motivation is the love of the work itself—doing the work because it is interesting, enjoyable, satisfying, engaging, or personally challenging.  Intrinsic motivation—deep engagement in the work—can drive people to surprising displays of effort.”  This is true of children in classrooms and adults in real jobs everyday!  Ask yourself the five questions above about your own work; what are your thoughts?  How do we build intrinsic motivation and deep engagement in young learners so they successfully reach their fullest potential?

As always, I welcome your thoughts and perspectives as we continue to tackle these questions…

Note:  In the meantime, thanks for providing some extrinsic motivation (in the form of $) to pump up our POWER of Miller success this week!  🙂

We’ve got the POWER!

IMG_0976  IMG_0282Oh yes…we’ve got the POWER here at LME today and everyday!  It was a grand day for proving our POWERs of strength, endurance, teamwork, and pure JOY during “specials.”  Each learner, classroom leader (including yours truly), and several community volunteers actively participated in ten stations of exercise to earn a point of completion at each station.  Students (and the rest of us) gathered sponsors fIMG_0403or our intended success.  Now we collect the money (due by Oct. 2) and celebrate our success (Oct. 4).  We also look forward to sharing our final results in the next few days…stay tuned!

Special thanks to our incredible Specials Team, led by Coach Rogers (with Hans and Franz), our office team (especially Mrs. Worley, Mrs. Huff, Nurse Sullivan, and Mrs. Gossett), our staff, our parents, and everyone who participated or led the cheers as we raised funds and successfully proved our POWER of Miller!

The Art of Setting Limits, Part Two

As we discussed yesterday, setting limits is a specific alternative to punishment and threats.  Giving a child limits is a MentalToughnesspowerful tool in the parental (and educator) toolbox for providing positive discipline for a child.  In fact, children crave routines and knowing their limits on behaviors; both help them feel safe.

Here’s five-step approach we use in classrooms to set limits with our learners in order to increase effectiveness for everyone:

Explain which behavior is inappropriate.  Simply saying “stop that” may not be enough.  The child may not know if you are objecting to how loudly he is talking or objecting to the language he is using.  Be specific in your directive.

Explain why the behavior is inappropriate.  Never assume the child knows why the behavior is not acceptable.  Is she disturbing others?  Being disrespectful?  Not doing a task you asked of her?  Again, be specific.

Give reasonable choices with natural consequences.  Instead of using the ultimatum (“do this or else”), tell your child what the choices are and what the consequences of those choices will be.  Ultimatums lead to power struggles because you are forcing one thing.  Providing choices with consequences does not force your decision, but the child’s personal choice.  Likewise, consequences that logically follow from your child’s actions usually work best as a teaching tool.  Example:  In an angry moment, the child chooses to break something.  A logical consequence would be for the child to clean up the mess and pay for the item out of her allowance.

Allow wait time.  It’s usually best to allow a few moments (not too many) for the child to make the decision.  In upsetting moments, it is critical to remember the child is not thinking clearly (and neither are you, most likely).  It may take a few moments for everything to process before a choice is made.

Be prepared to enforce your consequences, even when they are inconvenient.  Setting a limit is completely meaningless if you do not consistently and persistently enforce the consequences you set with the choice.  For example, if your consequence is no TV or social media for a month, be ready enforce it the entire month–no exceptions!  Never back yourself into a corner; set reasonable enforceable consequences and stick to them!

Limits are powerful teaching tools to modeling appropriate behaviors.  It’s really not about who’s the boss; it’s about modeling respect, giving guidance, and ensuring an overall feeling of safety and security in a nurturing, calm manner.  You are your child’s first and most important teacher; practice these techniques and never give up hope!  As I remind parents daily, the days of raising our children are long, but the years are far too short…  🙂

We look forward to The POWER of Miller tomorrow! 

The Art of Setting Limits, Part One

It’s true; we bring this precious life into the world to nurture, love, grow, and shape into an upstanding citizen and leader of the next generation.  No one bothers to remind you (as you leave for home that first time) there is no instruction or direction manual for this precious child.  AchievementWordleAs my dear daddy quips, “You need a license to drive, hunt, fish, get married, or any other number of things in life, but anyone can be a parent.”  🙂

During a recent parent conference, I was reminded of the fine art of setting limits with a child, especially one who is, shall we say, a unique challenge.  When we, as parents (or educators), are faced with undesirable behavior from our child, we have to make the decision about how to respond to the behavior.  It is easy to be emotional in these moments, but logic should control our response every time.

Likewise, it is much easier to punish than to think of logical consequences connected to the child’s behavior (I call these natural consequences).  Punishment works in the short term because it usually stops the unwanted behavior.  In the long run, though, punishment does nothing to solve the original problem and can lead to resentment and retaliation (especially in the teen years)—much more difficult to manage it then!

Did you know the actual word discipline comes from a Latin word meaning “to teach” or “to lead?”  (See, Mr. Van…I learned so much in Italy this past summer!).  🙂  When you discipline the child, you are setting limits as an alternative to threats or punishment.  Limits are powerful tools for parents and teachers to use and setting limits is an art indeed:

Setting a limit is not the same as issuing an ultimatum.  Limits are not threats; they offer choices with consequences.  “If you clean up your room, you can go outside with your friends.  If you don’t clean up your room, you will not go outside with your friends.  It’s your choice.” 

The purpose of limits is to teach, not to punish.  With limits, a child begins to understand personal actions, positive and negative results, and natural consequences.  Giving a child choices and consequences provides a structure for good decision-making later in life.

Setting limits is more about listening than talking.  Take time to actively listen to your child to better understand thoughts and feelings.  You learn more this way and it helps you set more meaningful limits in the future.

In tomorrow’s blog, I will offer five steps to setting limits.  In the meantime, remember to give choices and consequences—no one said the choices had to be likable…that’s part of the art of setting limits!  🙂

Note:  Hans and Franz really PUMPED US UP today and will do so again tomorrow.  The POWER of Miller is this Thursday, September 26th! 

Know and Go…all hands on deck!

Just in case you missed the memos, emails, texts, folders, mass-blasts, and old-fashioned notes home, it’s a busy week for us herehelping-hands as we gear up for the following festive activities:

The POWER of Miller is this Thursday, September 26th all day (during specials time)!  Learners and classroom leaders will work through and complete ten activity stations to raise awareness and money for our school and chosen charities.  This is our one campus-wide FUNdraiser for the year and your support is needed!  We will celebrate our success next Friday, Oct. 4th.  All monies are due back by Wed; Oct. 2nd.

MISD Homecoming is this Friday, September 27th.  Elementary students release from school @ 12:45 p.m., therefore, we are on a short specials and lunch schedule for the day.  The community parade starts @ 3:00 p.m. and the big game begins at 7:30 at the stadium.  Come out and support our team by showing your Panther pride and spirit!

Digital Citizenship Week is all next week with special activities planned in classrooms to include copyright and fair use, digital etiquette, safety, cyberbullying, and our digital footprint.

PTO Family Sock Hop and Classic Car Show is next Friday, October 4th from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  This is our traditional Back-to-School family event.  You are encouraged to wear 50s attire, enJOY an ice cream float, and dance the night away with friends and family!

These are important items to know and go.  All hand’s on deck now; here’s hoping you choose to be part of the excitement too!

Angel wings…

Full moon…allergy season…buckets of much-needed rain…indoor recess…football Friday on the cusp of the Autumnal Equinox…need we say more?!  🙂  It was a busy day filled with rally, Hans and Franz The POWER of Miller reminders (Do YOU have Miller POWER?!), older learners believe2assisting little learners, Panther football readers, and the announcement of our Yearbook and Student Honor Council staffs (more on these two groups in later blogs).  In the midst of the hustle and bustle, several friends stopped by to read poems or journal entries to me throughout the day (I enJOY this opportunity whenever I can grab it!).  One particular writer shared a personal story spiraling from a literature group discussion in class this week.  This young writer reflected on losing a sibling at a young age…”she’s my personal angel now and lightly flies around all day long looking after me…” (talk about profound, emotional statements).  This child’s message to take each day for the gift it is, to “lighten up” with others, and to show those random acts of kindness and compassion daily goes well beyond eight years of life so far.

I remember being told as a child, “The reason angels can fly is they take themselves so lightly.”  Here’s hoping we heed the lesson and all learn to take ourselves a little more lightly…and maybe we will earn those angel wings after all!  🙂

A special tour…

IMG_3230The elementary princiPALs were treated this afternoon to a special tour of the new Midlothian Heritage High School by princiPAL, Krista Tipton.  This impressive learning environment of creative spaces and educational places for 21st century learners IMG_3233and leaders will open in August 2014.  Filled with innovative state-of-the-art features, the new school invites students from the moment you step inside the building.  Most impressive, though, is the extensive knowledge and obvious passion Mrs. Tipton conveys as she shares the planning and construction story of MHHS.

Heritage literally means “given or handed down from the past.”  It’s exciting to see strong MISD traditions being honored and cherished in a beautiful new educational setting.  Congratulations, Mrs. Tipton!

Safety First!

Learners and classroom leaders alike deserve a safe, safetypiccaring learning environment; it is critical to personal excellence and success daily.  Likewise, good communication and collaboration build trust in our learning community.  As expected, throughout the year our school will be involved in ongoing crisis response drills and training.  We practice three important responses:

  • Evacuation:  Probably known to you and me as a fire drill, everyone is evacuated from the building to an on-site area or off-site area for direction.  We practice these drills monthly and work each time to safely increase our speed of exit.
  • Shelter-in-Place:  Similar to a “soft” lockdown, everyone comes inside (including anyone in our car lines).  We bring upstairs classrooms to downstairs classrooms to stay-put inside the building until danger has passed.
  • Lockdown:  Everyone locks into their areas; immediate hallway/bathroom areas are swept.  No one goes in or out of our building until directed by law enforcement.

All three drills are rehearsed and various scenarios presented at times to help students and staff members become stronger problem solvers in response to a crisis.  While we never do any procedure to purposely scare a child, practicing each response is critical to the overall success of facing a real emergency situation should the need arise.  Should you have questions or concerns, never hesitate to contact our school office or me for specific assistance.  As my friends reminded me today, “safety always comes first, Mrs. Van!”

Calling all DADs…

There are multiple opportunities to volunteer, mentor, and participate in our learning community daily…being involved is a special part of the LME family experience after all!  One unique daily volunteerwordleopportunity involves our DADs (Dads Assisting Daily) during morning arrival.  If you can smile, shake hands, give high-fives, share positive words of morning encouragement, and help others get their school day going, then we need you!  Come by any morning about 7:15, get your badge from the front office, and join the safety patrol and staff members on duty until 7:45 a.m. to meet and greet our learning community.  We run two drop-off lines each morning for convenience and we need you!  Special thanks to Dale McCaskill who started this great program three years ago (even though the boys have moved on, come by to join us or drive thru and sing to us anytime).  Thanks to our new SRO, Officer Ray Hall, for assisting each week as your schedule allows too.

Just like our enrollment, we look forward to growing this program even more in the year ahead!

Teamwork and Dreamwork

There is a little friend I’ve “adopted” this year (really, this child has adopted me).  From the first day, first moment of introduction, a connection was formed:

  • Teacher:  …and this is Mrs. Van; she’s the boss of our school.
  • Child:  Why do you want that job?
  • Me:  I’ve been asking myself that question for years…

It’s been “on” ever since that first encounter.  This child seeks me out daily to interact, comment, and share a special observation or two along the way.  Take this conversation:

  • Child:  (Getting out of the car to walk with me) I need to eat breakfast today.
  • Me:  Wonderful, because here we are!
  • Child:  This is the lunchroom, NOT the breakfast room.  Where is the breakfast room, boss of the school?

Or how about this observation:

  • Child:  I need Monday off for ‘labors’ (Labor Day)
  • Me:  Well, you will have Monday off in fact!
  • Child:  I guess you are smart enough to be the boss of the school ’cause we need rest from all this school work we have to do the first week.

After another weekend, this was our morning encounter:

  • Child:  So boss, I went fishin’ this past weekend.
  • Me:  I enJOY fishing!  Did you catch anything for supper?
  • Child:  No, it’s called fishin’ and not catchin’…we ate hamburgers instead.

Then, there’s one of my favorites I overheard during lunch last week:

  • Another child to my little friend:  How do you know she’s the Boss of the school anyway?
  • My friend:  Do you not listen to her at rally and on the mornin’ ‘nouncements everyday?  ‘Cause she just is and ’cause she carries keys and open doors and serves breakfast in the lunch room and helps children and teachers and ’cause everybody says so…
  • Other child:  Well, who made her that?
  • My friend:  Well, God of course ’cause she’s got a direct line.  (Don’t I hope?!)  🙂

teamworkToday, while walking through the classroom of this friend, the child asked to speak “private” with me.  🙂  We decided to go for a little walk and run a couple of errands together in the school.  During our walk, we stopped in the lounge to fill my glass with ice and the child noticed the staff board with pictures:

  • Child:  So all these people work with you, Boss, to make our school work.
  • Me:  That’s right!  It takes all of us working together as a team to help you reach your dream everyday.
  • Child:  Well, Mrs. Miller must’ve had a dream to build this school ’cause we sure work as a team here at Miller everyday and nobody wants to cross you or her, Boss.

It does take the entire team working together to make dreams come true for our learners.  Just like my little friend, I believe in the POWER of LME and in the POWER of Mrs. Miller’s “dream” too!  Dream on, Team Miller!  🙂

Note:  …and for those of you curious to know, this child knows my real name but prefers to call me “Boss of the School…out of respect.”  🙂  I love my job!