New Year beginnings

The season has changed to winter, and the cold air is with us now. The fields have long been harvested and are resting until it is time for planting in the spring. I have often compared teaching to farming. Both work hard in planting seeds, caring, nurturing, and bringing in a harvest each year.

Students are returning from a break, and teachers are still working hard in planting seeds, nurturing, and applying additional support to help students develop and grow.


Improvement in academic achievement is realized with an increase in motivation and engagement. (Brandsford, 2000; Fredricks, 2014; Hattie, 2008; Schlechty, 2011). There are many books to advise, suggest, and guide us in ways to improve motivation and engagement. As teachers know, there are many times it is difficult to maintain, but not impossible when we can find the right rhythm to our teaching.

We can begin the rhythm with students returning by refreshing our minds to the routines and procedures and welcoming them to school. Let’s start with these:


As we begin the first week of January of 2023, work on getting back in the rhythm of re-teaching routines and procedures and helping everyone feel welcomed back to school. Begin by making efforts to help bring more attention to social-emotional learning by doing a self-check of “how do you feel today?” You can have kids place post-it notes with smiles and sad faces or utilize other ways to show emotions.

Feedback and questioning will be our focus for a few tips as we work on having students gain leadership in their learning pathways.

Do you have a favorite story? I think I have so many stories I could not possibly pick just one. I loved reading to my fifth-grade students as they returned from recess. It was a time to get settled back down and ready to re-focus on learning. I loved to select stories to engage the students and challenge them in their thinking. One of those stories was Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White, a Newberry Honor Book.

“One Sunday morning, Belle Prater disappeared.” Gypsy wants the facts, and when her cousin Woodrow, Aunt Belle’s son, moves next door, she has a chance. In Coal Station, Virginia, the story is told.

As you read stories to children, you like to have places you can stop to allow them time to think about what was just read and to predict what will come next. The book is 196 pages long, and on pages 72 and 73, Woodrow provides a couple of puzzles to his classmates. My students enjoyed having these in the book. Laughing and enjoying school is what it is all about. Here is one of the puzzles:

C M PUPPIES?

M R NO PUPPIES?

O S M R PUPPIES,

C M P N?

L I B!

M R PUPPIES

The answer is at the end of the post.


Telling a story was the heading I used for the Solution Weekly to introduce stories.

Inside each one is a story to be told. The author of our story should be ourselves, but how often do we allow others to take the pen to try to write in our story?

Storytelling is an art. It is so engaging to listen to a true storyteller who can hook you in with their tone of voice, placement of words, and passion in their expressions.

Stories bring facts to life, make the abstract concrete, and, through meaning-making, walk the listener through the mind of the scientist or mathematician (Ellis, 2005) to understand the value and application of such concepts. Wells (1986) argued that storytelling is a fundamental means of meaning-making.


We ask our school staff to build relationships with students, families, and co-workers, but we do not provide the tools to support the efforts. Every child has a story, and every educator has a story too. Still, we all have a responsibility to strengthen our support to help each other for each child to author a fantastic story.


“Good Morning, and Welcome to Pine Crest Elementary.” Smiles begin to appear as the tiny feet step off the bus stairs. One by one, walking as they hear, “Good Morning and Welcome to Pine Crest Elementary.”

What started as a simple good morning became a daily habit of greeting not just children but everyone as they came through the door, passing in the hallway or the first place they were spotted each morning. What a way to start the day! This is how you can tell if someone needs a little extra support for the day.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is an easy catchphrase to say. Yes, we are teaching SEL, and we are introducing a 30-minute lesson each day. Is this what is needed for SEL? What is gained and helped with studies of SEL? There are solutions to everything when the right questions are asked.


“Hi Amanda, how are you today?”

Fine.

“I saw you drawing earlier. Would you want to share some of your art with me sometime?”

Maybe.

“Just come to my office when the teacher says it is okay, and I would love to look at it.”

Amanda came to share her artwork with me, and it took a little time to break down the wall she had built around herself. She did not trust anyone, had no friends, and said very little.

Who knew Amanda?

Asking around, no one knows anything about Amanda. Why do we not know? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, all of the children arrive; some we know a great deal about, and some we don't know anything at all. How is the lesson for 30 minutes helping Amanda with SEL if no one knows her?


Many schools are enormous, so how can we know all students? It is true; you do not have superpowers, but close I would say. Devising a strategic plan is the best way to begin. Always begin with what you know.

Every child in every school should feel seen, heard, understood, and welcomed. Getting to know them is the first step in addressing social-emotional learning. Children need an environment first where they are safe and feel good. Always begin with my Two Rules as you start to form a culture where there is more to learning.

Amanda says, “Listen to what is not said.” Begin to see, hear and feel this year.

ANSWER: See them puppies? Them are no puppies! Oh yes, them are puppies! See them peeing? Well, I’ll be! Them are puppies! It helps if you have a southern upbringing!

"I only have 2 rules!"
© 2024 Brenda Yoho
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