Domain 2: Classroom Environment, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

The Elephant in the Room~ connecting with mental illness

the quiet one… the loud one

the picker… the tapper

the distracted… the focused

the respectful… the belligerent

the rule follower… rule breaker

the meticulous risk taker!

There are so many ways I have heard this elephant described.  I could probably add 100 more terms and phrases to this list without hesitation.  It is usually followed up with…

he doesn’t look like anything is bothering him 

he just checks out

he wouldn’t have to ask so many questions if he just paid attention

he just won’t let it go

and my favorite… how does he continue to earn poor grades when he is so bright?  Twice Exceptional?  But if I’m being honest the statement is more like…  this is what gifted looks like? #truth

How do you describe mental illness?  How do you view the elephant in the room?  I know an elephant.  I have raised an elephant who is best friend’s with my incredible son.  My son met his elephant at the age of 8.  Prior to this friendship, my son was a compliant rule follower… a straight A student… a role model for others.  Yes, they are separate… their own.  My son.  Mental Illness.

Then the day came.  The meeting.  The joint kinship.  The one that introduced my son to distractions, rule breaking, meticulousness ways, perfection, and repeated behaviors to sooth and calm his new friend the elephant.

I saw the changes.

I saw the elephant!

My gut knew from an early age that the tendencies were there… the kinship… the illness.  They were one with their own identities.  Our family walked on eggshells of anxiety… we reassured to the point of exhaustion, we centered our lives around the elephant in the room without saying a word.  We started to speak it’s language.  We fed it.  We calmed it and tucked it in at night.  We were literally raising an elephant alongside our beautiful son…

the elephant in our room…

OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER

We faced it head on.  Therapy 5-7 days a week.  We exposed ourselves and our son to his anxiety.  Yet, the whack-a-mole effect of OCD did not go away.  It simply became a part of our existence.  Yes, our existence.

This is what we as educators need to understand… the elephant is NOT GOING AWAY!

Need I mention that I have a background in Special Education.  An emphasis in Emotional Support.  A Masters Degree in MOM… yet listening to fellow colleagues struggle with the elephant in the room leaves me… speechless.  

So where do we go from here?

Let’s start by acknowledging that mental illness is a part of OUR lives.  NOT just a child’s life… OUR LIVES!  We are in this together.  We must educate ourselves.  We must find a way to understand a child’s way… their being in order to educate them to the best of THEIR ability! To bring out their best… to let their light shine so bright that it puts their elephant in their shadow (in place of just the opposite.)  They deserve it!

Have you ever tried to walk in their shoes?

My son is now 15.  He battles mental illness better than many adults I have come into contact with in my lifetime.  He has strength. He has courage. He has empathy.  He has GRIT.

He said to me, “Mom, tell my story… it will help other kids.”

Yes, Trent, I will.

 

 

 

 

 

Domain 2: Classroom Environment

Guaranteed Impact: make it POSITIVE!

When a child walks into your life, what thoughts race through your head?  Are they thoughts of…

excitement? Excitement for the opportunity to have someone’s precious child in your life.  A chance to make a difference.  A gift of time to impact their life… to open doors and encourage them to walk through!

wonder? Wonder of who they are under that smile… frown… or look of fear.  Wonder of how you will connect and build a relationship that will set sail the journey of learning together.

worry? Worried that you may not be able to connect.  Worry that they may be the most challenging student you have had to date.  Worried that their own life may hold them back from trusting you.  Worry that you don’t have enough time in a day to make a difference.

judgement? Judgement of who they are…

When you walk into a child’s life, are their thoughts the same?  Are you setting the stage for a relationship with EVERY child…

Do you make school exciting?  Do you give them a reason to be there?

Do you create a connection to every child or do they wonder why they don’t fit in your world like others do?

Do you foster a caring environment?  One that eliminates worry from their life… possibly the only stretch of time in their day to let their shoulders down.

Do your students feel judged?  Or do you give every child a “Planet Fitness: Judgement Free Zone”?

This Christmas I received a very special gift from a very quiet and reserved child.  A child that walked into my room withdrawn, with limited social interaction, lack of engagement, and little interest in school.  None of this due to home life… as a matter of fact he comes from a beautiful loving family that builds him up and sets him off each day to conquer the world trusting that his teacher will bring out his best.  

This precious child handed me a special gift.  Then he did something that caught me off guard… he insisted on opening it for me, which warmed my heart to the core because he was so invested in the moment.  He unwrapped a snow globe that took my breath away.  It had a 3 dimensional silver snowflake with the words WISH*LOVE*HOPE that sparkled while music played and snow floated effortlessly within the globe.    He said, “Oh Mrs. Nan, I know the snow globe is nice, but look what it says to you.”  To which I looked at the inscription that read:

“Students may forget what you said, but never how you made them feel.” 

Tears of joy streamed down my face.  Not the first time my students have seen my emotions.  Why?  Because they impact my life!

Over the months we connected.  We found his passion of art and embedded it into his learning through sketch-noting (THANK YOU Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome in my EDUAwesome @Twitter PLF)  This child is now engaged.  He is building relationships stemming from the one that we created together.  He is happy to be in school and moving his bright mind forward with each given day.  He is a #LeadLearner with Sketchnoting, #MakeyMakey and #Osmo in class.  He has found relevance in learning and a purpose for being a part of a learning community.  He is empowered! 

I start my Christmas vacation with heart full… of love and joy for I know that I have lived by my own advice…

You WILL have impact on EVERY child… it is up to you whether it is POSITIVE or negative!  

So with that I leave us with my favorite George Couros quote from one of my favorite books, Innovator’s Mindset:positive george.jpg

Merry Christmas!  May your holiday be as bright and beautiful as YOU! 

Domain 1: Planning and Preparation, Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

Your Passion is Your Power: The Impact of Dave Burgess #tlap

When one hears that Dave Burgess, New York Times Best Selling author of Teach Like a Pirate, is coming to your hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (#KDPconvo17), the only possible option is: BE THERE There is absolutely no option 2… simply stated. #tlap

fire

I immediately felt the fire burning inside me… the burning that told me my life as an educator would never be the same.  The one that told me if I was actually going to go and see this amazing keynote, that I was now signing on to the Dave Burgess commitment to “create an experience” for every child, every day!  “A contract”, in my eyes, to be 100% committed to this “life changing business” as Dave so eloquently calls it.

Well, I’m there!  I’m committed!  Bring it on Pirate!

To be so bold and make a statement about the power of Dave Burgess seems almost impossible… close to unnatural or maybe better said as not worthy of me to do.  To possibly sum up the impact that he had on me, let alone the hundreds of educators in one room, once again feels close to impossible.

But let me give it all I have and lay it out there in a way that you may just be able to wrap your head around his amazing influence on my life.

“The most powerful force on earth is the human soul on fire” -unknown

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If you did not see into Dave Burgess’s soul when he “spoke” (a mile a minute might I add) well,  you simply did not have a heartbeat.  If you did not laugh, feel a slight tinge of embarrassment, want to jump up and say “AMEN”, or for some like myself… cry, you were not present emotionally.

My face literally hurt from smiling 90 minutes straight.  My heart beat 1,000 beats/minute… I forgot there was anyone else in the room.  I was convinced he was speaking only to me!  Like a preacher, preaching to his congregation, I was a believer! His passion behind every word was his power!

WOW, isn’t that how our students should feel?  Do I do that for my students? #impact

Dave tossed up shocking posters for us to view.  Did it have an impact, YES! 

He put humor around every bend… did it work?  Yes, it did! 

Dave NEVER stopped moving… did it keep my eyes on him? Yes! 

Did he bring energy to the room?  YES!   

Were his words of wisdom practical so that every single educator could walk away feeling empowered to make a difference?  YES! 

He continued to tease us with hooks left and right.  Did it work, YES! 

Did Dave “PIMP HIS LESSON”? YES! 

“We are in a life changing business” Dave Burgess

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“You need to make life-changing lessons” –Dave Burgess

Dave Burgess gifted me an experience.  He took 90 minutes and created feelings inside of me that left me with wanting more… yes, after a full day of work, and sitting through 2 hours of professional development, all I wanted was more…

More time with my students!

More opportunities to create experiences!

More moments to change lives! 

More opportunities to “preheat my grill!”

grill

More everything!  Twenty-one years into education and all I want is MORE TIME TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE!  I want to be the teacher that “could sell tickets to my lesson!”

Dave Burgess made a difference in me… in many.  He paid forward a gift to every child through creating an experience for every educator in the room! #grateful

“At some point in your career you have to decide if you care more about teaching to tests or teaching kids. My decision was made a long time ago. I teach kids.”
― Dave Burgess, Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator

 

 

 

#WeTeachKids

Domain 4: Professional Responsibilities

#IMMOOC Week 5+: When You Know Better… You Do Better

When you know better, do you actually do better?  Or do you tell yourself that somehow, some way you have been given this gift that supersedes all knowledge and experience of others in your path?  Who is it that you imagine will show you a better way?  Is that person older, wiser with age or experience?  Are they new to the scene?  Do you have an image of better in your mind whereby all others are unable to get in?

Do you allow all creators of “better” into your world?

Do you let others break you down?

Better yet, are you willing to break yourself down in order to build a better you? To repair with gold or silver knowledge and experience.

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I look back at the last year of my life and I sit in awe!  The people that have come into my life are absolutely remarkable!  Let me rephrase… the people I opened my life up to are remarkable!  Professionally,  I have connected with over 700 other educators through twitter alone.  But let’s get real, they weren’t knocking down my door… I was pounding on theirs! I wanted more!  I wanted better!  I needed them in order to find the better me!

I have read over 10 books affiliated with education in one year.  May not seem like a lot to an avid reader, but for me, 10 books is like producing, filming and starring in my own movie!  It takes time!

That wasn’t enough though… I have built an in-house PD platform for colleagues to borrow books from me.  I am leading my first book study on #tlap in 10 short days for my district.  This study will once again connect me with educators to help create the gold glue of knowledge that fills my better person.

I took the leap from lurker to full fledge #IMMOOC member with leading educator in innovation and author of Innovator’s Mindset  George Couros!  I have read, reread, chatted, tweeted, blogged, and found myself in passionate conversations about this life-changing experience.  I have colleagues that have turned into friends… ones that have pushed me to push myself.

 “Get R.E.A.L.tell your Kristen Nan story!”, said Tara Martin

This gave me the desire to look for conferences that could connect me to my #IMMOOC #tlap family.  Which takes me to the most incredible, powerful, unforgettable, “better me” transformation I could have asked for… yes, my last 2 unforgettable days with New York’s Time’s best-selling author of Teach Like A Pirate, DAVE BURGESS!

Let me tell you about this POWERFUL experience8647beec-2ece-462a-a0d8-aaf3bcd26157.png

in my next blog! #hooks