Friday, November 28 was our annual Grandparents and Special Friends Day. This is an unusual day in that we are hosting and celebrating our wise and loving grandparents. However, it is a typical day in that we are celebrating our kids – because that is what we do every day in Lower School; we celebrate kids!
I know that many lower school students may not even realize that their grandparents were once 5-10 year olds too. However, while seated in the audience, grandparents took a moment to reflect on their elementary school years and the teachers who were most impactful on their lives. It is no surprise that memories are so vivid. The formative years of elementary school are some of the most influential on a child’s life. For the first time in a child’s life, factors outside of the home have the biggest influence on the child.
Children in these formative years are forming opinions of themselves and what they value. They are forming attitudes about school. Do they like it? Do they need it? Is learning fun? They are also making friends that will influence life decisions and direction.
While some aspects of these formative years have remained the same, some aspects of teachers have too. Our teachers still cheer hard to encourage perseverance when things are hard. We set high expectations and hold our students accountability because we value life lessons and character building.
Grandparents were able to connect to these examples, and it is good to know that kids are still kids.
After a recent classroom observation, one growth-mindset, goal-oriented teacher asked me for feedback. Normally, I write up my notes on an instructional rounds tool and add an “I like, I wish, I wonder” component to the FOLIO page. I always offer a 1:1, face to face, meeting to debrief the notes, but few teachers take me up on my offer.
This teacher, however, initiated the ask before I even extended my offer. After we discussed our individual reflections on the lesson, I offered some additional insights. We focused on four areas.
- Classroom Practice
- Classroom Culture
- Programatic Design
We discussed strengths and identified opportunities for growth in each category in her role as a teacher-leader. This reflective, collaborative, and strategic discussion was a great reminder of the many facets of an educator’s role. These conversations are a great reminder of what I love about my job and my School!
Elizabeth Payne led a recent Parent University on a Strengths-Based Approach to Parenting. She shared that talent is something you are naturally good and it helps us shine. She reminded us that when we ask people to operate in a weakness all the time, and offer negative feedback, it is frustrating and unproductive.
So there is much value in knowing your child’s (or your own) strength. When we focus on strengths, we are 3x more likely to report a happy quality of life, and we are 6x more engaged. Elizabeth outlined 4 clues to finding our child’s strengths:
- What do they yearn to do?
- In what settings are they rapid learners?
- When do they automatically know the next steps?
- When do they ask, “How did I do that?”
As adults it is our responsibility to celebrate and cultivate our children’s strengths. We can appreciate their curiosities to learn more, and give them hope for an optimistic future.
Tough conversations are usually a sign of growing times. When a team needs to work through a difficult issue, it is important to follow our assume the best protocol. In an attempt to do that in a recent situation, I have a few great take-aways to share.
- We must celebrate successes first. Each person should be able to recognize strengths in the other and share those.
- Based on our own reflection and the feedback of others, we need to take ownership of our own growth – determine our own goals and hold ourselves accountable.
- We must be open to the feedback, even if we were not expecting it to go that way.
So I began a recent meeting by establishing the purpose:
- We want to be our best individually and as a team in accomplishing the mission and vision of our School.
- We want to show that we care for and respect each other as a valued member of the team.
- We want to agree on an outcome that requires change on everyone’s part.
So, we sought to sort through differences and identify what keeps us from doing our best. We shared stories or specific times, rather than blanket statements. We exchanged, “What I need from you is__________” statements.
This was a good reminder to all involved that the need to get things done does not equal a partnership, so we cannot value tasks over relationships.