Holistic Educators and Resilient Teachers - Online
Welcome to our Online Teacher Group page. Any material posted here is confidential and is not to be shared with non-group members.
We seek to support and learn from each other through community. We aim to have this be a community that focuses on the human challenges of the classroom, and addresses the whole teacher and the whole student. We strive to have it be more than a discussion group, but one that provides personal support and inspiration to its members, as well as personal and professional practices to improve our effectiveness.
November 30th Meeting Notes
The Holistic Educator - Fall 2016
Check out our group members John and Bruce's great work in the books below.
By John Creger
By Bruce Novak
The topic of our November 30th meeting was learning from, and for the sake of, difficult students.
In the news and at recent educational conferences the topic of the School to Prison Pipeline has been prominent. Here is a brief excerpt from The School to Prison Pipeline, Explained by Libby Nelson & Dara Lind published by the Justice Policy Institute.**
Students who are suspended are more likely to repeat a grade or drop out than students who were not. A Texas study, considered the most thorough analysis of school discipline policies and their effects, looked at data from every seventh-grader in the state in 2000, 2001, and 2002, then tracked their academic and disciplinary records for six years. They found that 31 percent of students who were suspended or expelled repeated a grade, compared with only 5 percent of students who weren’t.
The Texas study found that students who had been suspended or expelled were twice as likely to drop out compared to students with similar characteristics at similar schools who had not been suspended.
Students who are disciplined by schools are also more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. The Texas study found that, of students disciplined in middle or high school, 23 percent of them ended up in contact with a juvenile probation officer. That figure stands at 2 percent among those not disciplined. And students who have been suspended or expelled are three times more likely to come into contact with the juvenile probation system the following year than one who wasn’t.
These are troubling statistics and caring educators can find themselves at the center of very difficult decisions regarding students that regularly disrupt their classes. Holistic educators and resilient teachers seek to do everything they can to help a troubled student but also have a responsibility to all the students in the class.
Rather than focus on the behavior of difficult students, classroom management strategies, and methods for responding to difficult students, we used this session to focus and reflect on ourselves and the personal and professional lessons that are available to us in the midst of these traumatic situations.
We began our meeting by having Stefanie Olbrys and Deanna Brown describe their situation with two difficult boys, who they, and the entire school community are trying their best to keep out of the School to Prison Pipeline. Thank you Stefanie and Deanna for sharing your situation so openly with us.
Catharine Hannay, founder of MindfulTeachers.org led us in a modified Loving Kindness Meditation. Thank you Catharine for setting the heart-centered tone for the rest of the evening.
The first issue we discussed was how can we prepare each day to bring our best ‘self’ to our work and challenging situations, so that when called on we take the most appropriate and most skilled action.
Bringing our best self to the situation is like a batter coming to the plate in the midst of a baseball game. The batter prepares himself to face a challenging pitcher by bringing himself present to the moment He doesn't want to think about his last at bat (especially if he made an out), or be thinking about what will happen in the future if he strikes out this time. He calms his breathing, relaxes any tension he feels in his muscles, shuts out the noise of the crowd, remembers that he has a tendency to hold the bat too high (so he lowers it a bit), and focuses his attention on the pitcher. None of this guarantees he'll get a hit, but it does put him in the best position to succeed.
We developed a daily, pre-teaching, "Flight Check" of practices that are helpful in preparing ourselves (like the batter) for the rigors and challenges that a difficult student or a class can present. Thank you all for your thoughtful contributions.
1. Each morning write or state our purpose or commitment.
Stating our purpose helps us keep our calling from becoming a simply a job. We can even write it as a declaration: For example, "I'm a commitment to using my gifts: writing, speaking, and teaching to support the hearts of teachers and through them the students in their care.") Being a commitment is different than "having" a commitment.
2. Write an intention each day that is aligned with our purpose and commitment.
3. Take a moment to notice our mood and emotions.
What are we feeling? Our mood influences everything we do. Are we feeling anxious, frustrated, resigned, angry, curious, excited, etc.? Is the mood one that we feel will make us more or less effective? Sometimes we'll need to step back and remind ourselves of the "bigger" picture, the larger narrative. Doing so can shift our mood to a more effective state.
4. Before each day begins engage in a brief meditation to set the tone.
One minute meditations throughout the day are also very powerful.
5. Bring our awareness to the innate gifts we bring to our work each day and commit ourselves to using them more fully.
Our gifts are our superpowers, the essence of who we are.
6. Bring our awareness to the patterns of behavior, long held habits, or dominant personal and professional narratives that are present in our work.
If they're not effective step back and re-consider them. How? Notice, pause, breathe, center, and choose our response.
7. Bring our awareness to the teacher archetype we're manifesting.
Is it effective for the class and students we're teaching? Examples of archetypes: Cop, Buddy, Wizard, etc.
8. Bring our awareness to what's there with our students rather than keeping our focus on what's missing.
What are the gifts of each of our students? It's especially important to identify the gifts of our most difficult students and to try to connect to them in some way.
9. Clear our negative judgements and feelings about particular students.
We're human beings and there are some students for whom we harbor negative feelings. Acknowledging this without guilt and then doing our best to clear our negative assessments is key to making each day a fresh start for the student, the relationship, and for us. (There are several concrete practices for doing this.)
10. Bring our awareness to our tendency to let our inner critic beat us up.
This is especially true when dealing with difficult students and classes. Listen for "I should be..." or I shouldn't be..." conversations. Be kind to ourselves. We're a human beings doing the best we can. Guilt is not helpful.
11. Acknowledge that we do not have the power to force a student to learn.
Sometimes the only place a child can safely exert their power is in the classroom. They may decide to prove to us that we can't make them learn. No matter how much we care and how hard we try we may fail to get through to a difficult student.
Sometimes the best we can do is "do no harm". We maintain respect for the dignity of the learner/difficult student. We trust in our colleagues who may be able to succeed where we have not. We do our best to plant seeds that may germinate long after the student has left our care.
I'll add "Flight Check" suggestions from Maria and Bruce as soon as I receive them. We closed the meeting by committing to engaging in at least one of the practices above.
Thank you to Kim Harpham and John Creger for helping me plan this meeting. Your generous support was crucial to its success.
C E N T E R shared by Maria Caracuel
Commitment I am a commitment to _________
Emotion and Mood, My internal state is _______
owNership: Based on my character I value _____
Tenacity: I will hold on in my pursuit of my practice of____.
Excellence: I plan and focus on _______
Relationship: My family is ______ My home is _______
© Maria Caracuel 2016
Additional Material Related to Our Meeting
A series of links on Teaching Archetypes offered by Catharine Hannay from her website Mindfulteachers.org
Clifford Mayes: "The Archetypal Hero's Journey in Teaching and Learning"
Tom also offered this link to Korthagen and Evelein's book on Core Reflection. Tom led me through a Core Reflection at the Holistic Teaching and Learning Conference in Manitoba this Spring and I found it to be a deeply effective experience. Thank you, Tom.
Fred Korthagen and Frits Evelein: "Core Reflection: Activities and Lessons for Teaching and Learning from Within"