Monday, December 29, 2014

Walking in their shoes

The holiday season typically offers the full range of emotions.  This year has been no exception.  It warms my heart to help our families, and it has also created reflection.

This year we were able to assist a handful of families that have experienced a plethora of challenges. Just a few of the challenges have been, a fire, loss of job and living apart for the better part of a year. When I reached out to the mom and offered to help, she cried.  She was very grateful.  We chatted on the phone about the kids and about what she was going through.  My heart hurt for her, and this is also where I had a turning point.

After hanging up the phone I sat back and thought about her situation.  I thought about the kids.  This is where I felt extremely sympathetic, but I was having a tough time putting myself in her shoes and feeling truly empathetic.  I've worked with this family for a few years and during that time I've experienced some doubt and I wondered if the family was doing everything they could.  

Each year we receive a new set of students in our classrooms and schools.  Every student has a story, every family has a history.  I believe we in education do a phenomenal job at sympathizing with families, but we can be better, I can be better.  As I look ahead to 2015 I want to better understand families situations so that I can walk in their shoes and show true empathy.

I've realized this is something I need to improve on, but in my own reflection as a person I've come to look at my own two boys.  At times I see them showing sympathy, but I don't think either one have an understanding of empathy.  If my two boys typically do not show empathy, how many of our Warner students don't either?  At this point I see a bigger issue.  As a society I do believe we sympathize and feel for people in unfortunate situations, but I don't think we truly empathize with them.  I don't think you have to look far to understand where I'm coming from.  So how do we begin to improve?  Here are three suggestions:

1)  Focus on your own child's social and emotional needs.  We cannot expect our kids to show empathy if they are not able to cope with their own needs.  Promote problem-solving and determination. Teach your child how to bounce back from adverse situations.

2)  Seize everyday opportunities.  Our kids watch and listen to our actions.  Take these opportunities to discuss your thought process.  When you happen to see someone under stress, talk about what they must be feeling.  Discussing emotions can be a good way to start getting kids to empathize with the world around them.

3)  Find commonalities in people and situations.  Kids are more likely to show empathy if they are able to relate.  When reading a book or watching a television show, discuss similarities with your child.  Talking about characters has the ability to humanize the situation, and create reflection and thought.

I'm proud of our Warner kids and I know my own boys have good hearts.  This year I'm hoping to help them take the next step.  I want them to learn empathy and to choose kind every time.

As for me, I have a lot of room to grow.  Our experiences shape us as people, and I will do my best to walk in the shoes of others.

Articles Worth Reading:

Onward to 2015 @Glennr1809

Too soon? @Jonharper70bd

Day One @DJrSchug

Can We Change Ed Reform? @joesanfelippofc

Videos Worth Watching:

The Year in Ideas, Ted Talks 2014 (8 min)

2014: Year in Review (2 min)

Will You Choose to Soar in 2015? Inspiring story of Charlotte Brown (10 min)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Kid From the Other Side of the Tracks

One of my favorite movies (and stories) around the Holidays is The Polar Express.  I could relate to the young man and his struggles to believe.  It took me back to my youth and some of my internal struggles.  I've watched The Polar Express at least a dozen times and read the book probably double that.  Recently I began paying a little closer attention to a separate storyline.  I watched and tried to better understand, the kid from the other side of the tracks.  At first I simply thought he was scared. But after watching I could tell, he was broken.  The boy had lost a lot of hope.

That story hits close to home.  Some time ago the holiday season hit and I was very worried about several of our kids.  One young man really stuck out for me.  So with the help of our social workers, we got this young man set up with, "Shop with a Cop".  I still remember the look on his face when he left with the officer.  The smile made my day!

When he returned, he came down and told me what he got for his little brother, his mom and his Nana. You could see his joy.  He truly felt lifted up by the happiness he would be spreading to his loved ones.

Last week that same young man came back to see me.  I was excited to see how much he had grown. We talked about school, we talked about his bike and we talked about life.  He then said to me, "Mr. Gilpin, do you remember when you talked to us at an assembly about the power of giving to others?" I smiled and nodded.  I told him that giving makes the heart feel good.  What happened next absolutely floored me.

The young man pulled out a wad of money, and began to put it in my hands.  He then said, I've been raking leaves this fall and helping my neighbors.  I remember when I was at Warner and someone helped me at the holidays.  Now it's my turn to help someone else.

This gesture, this act of kindness, blew me away.  I smiled, hugged him and told him to come back soon.  I let him know that his kindness would never be forgotten.  He smiled and headed back for home.  I turned and just couldn't stop thinking about what he had just done.  When I counted up the wad of money it came to $32.  The amount had to be everything he had.  Every so often people remind you of how great the world can be.

Next week will be an exciting time in many of our student's lives.  The anticipation of the holiday season, the joy that so many people are surrounded with, but it also can be a very stressful and sad time for some kids.  We all know that often times school is a safe haven, it provides consistency, love and so much more.  Some of our kids may act out around the holidays, they can't explain it, but internally they don't want to be away from us for days on end.  I, for one, always like to leave the communication lines open.  Encourage students to blog over the holidays. I've also checked in with my kids by arranging a movie day or a meet-up at All Skate.  This is a nice way for families and students to come together, and it gives some students that piece of hope they so desperately need.

This week's big question:  How will you support the student that needs you most over the holidays?


Monday, December 15th:  AM Lockdown
Monday, December 15th:  4pm Lego Club
Monday, December 15th:  3:45pm String Team
Tuesday, December 16th:  Warner Outreach Night 4:30-7pm
Tuesday, December 16th:  Admin meeting 9am
Tuesday, December 16th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Wednesday, December 17th:  Grades K-2 assembly 8:45am
Wednesday, December 17th:  7pm Musical in CAC for grades K, 2, 4
Wednesday, December 17th:  3pm Board Game Club
Wednesday, December 17th:  3:45pm String Team
Thursday, December 18th: Board Meeting at a special time (5:30pm)
Thursday, December 18th:  Classroom parties in the PM
Thursday, December 18th:  4pm Minecraft Club
Friday, December 19th:  Staff Holiday Breakfast in the Library (7:45am)
Friday, December 19th:  Lil Boy Blue rehearsal in the Warner Cafeteria (9am)
Saturday, December 20th:  Winter Break Begins
Wednesday, December 24th:  Happy Bday to Shelley Singleton
Saturday, December 27th:  Happy Bday to Joan Fitzpatrick
Monday, December 29th:  Happy Bday to Susan Nash

Articles Worth Reading:

How much does fear drive us? @pernilleripp

7 ways to keep others from squeezing the life out of you @coolcatteacher

What is the hour of code? @HuffingtonPost

The Identity and Empathy Gap @HuffingtonPost

15 Photographs That Will Open Your Eyes to the Wonders of the World @HuffingtonPost

Learning Unleashed @Venspired

Reimagining Learning @Jeff_Zoul

When your run gets ugly @ShutUpRun

30 Things To Let Go Before the New Year @marcandangel

Principles of Guiding Choice @gailandjoan

Videos Worth Watching:

Catching Kayla...touching & inspiring! (12 min)

One Stitch Closer (2 min) GREAT STORY!

Spirit of Giving (5 min)

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Change is Inevitable, Growth is Optional!

This past week I had the good fortune of listening and learning from one of the greats... @ToddWhitaker.  The title of this post was a quote from the beginning of his keynote.  

During Todd's Keynote I heard several quotes that I wanted to tweet, but couldn't get myself to take 10 seconds and stop listening.  I did jot down several quotes, and here they are:

"We give negative people the power to ruin our day."
"Great teachers have an intention behind every action they do."
"Twitter is not an obligation, but it is the best FREE professional development in the World."
"In great classrooms, each child believes that he/she is the teacher's favorite."
"When it comes to behavior, the best teachers want prevention; the poor teachers want revenge."
"Treat ALL people as if they are good."
"The difference between effective and ineffective people is, effective people know how they are perceived by others."
"Positive feedback will do loads for the morale in your building."

I've read a couple of Todd Whitaker's books, and I've now had the pleasure to meet and listen to him in person.  What I appreciate is this- if you're looking for a silver bullet you're likely to not find it. But if you are looking for practical, sensible and people driven support, there may not be a better person to learn from.  Todd is engaging, witty and his stories will make you laugh out loud.

I say all this as the premise to this week's post.

Change is inevitable, Growth is Optional

There are times in my life that things are moving so fast that I feel as though I'm simply trying to tread water, not move forward.  The day to day dealings have the ability to mask real issues that can improve the entire organization.  I often reflect and feel as though I need to continuously improve.

This week our teachers will participate in Classroom Labs.  What's a Classroom Lab?  This is a model of a teacher sharing his/her room as a laboratory.  A couple years ago I attempted to get people to observe each other, and a few took the leap, but now as a district we are jumping in with both feet. I'm excited about the Classroom Labs.  I've participated in a few and I see tons of opportunity for insight, reflection and growth.  What I believe is simple. Change is Inevitable. It is up to each individual to determine the amount of Growth.

This week I expect some people to feel energized, I expect some to feel overwhelmed, and I expect some to be hard on themselves.  

I say that because I've been there.  I've visited classrooms and buildings and I've internalized a lot. Four years ago I visited a different building.  I listened and took in all the things happening.  I left feeling challenged to improve.  Any time we step out of our comfort zone and we are willing to grow (because change is inevitable), it is a risk.  I'm excited about the opportunity in front of us, and I will do everything in my power to help others grow.  I hope you'll walk along side me.


Monday, December 8th:  Santa's Secret Shop
Monday, December 8th:  Grades 4/5 PD in Nancy Pack's classroom (8-3pm)
Monday, December 8th:  4-5pm Lego Club
Monday, December 8th:  String Team 3:45
Monday, December 8th:  Happy Bday to Nicole Kelly
Tuesday, December 9th:  Santa's Secret Shop
Tuesday, December 9th:  Michigan Innovative Schools Conference (Lansing, MI)
Tuesday, December 9th:  4-5pm Minecraft Club
Tuesday, December 9th:  Bible Release
Wednesday, December 10th:  LIBRARY CLOSED (MAISA PD will be conducted in the library)
Wednesday, December 10th:  Grades KDG/1st in Micki Archer's classroom (8-3pm)
Wednesday, December 10th:  Santa's Secret Shop (alternate location)
Wednesday, December 10th:  Holiday Tea (1:30-4:30)
Wednesday, December 10th:  8:45am Grades 3-5 assembly in cafeteria
Wednesday, December 10th:  3-4pm Board Game Club
Wednesday, December 10th:  3:45 String Team
Thursday, December 11th:  Grades 2/3 PD in Suzanne Woolworth's classroom (8-3pm)
Thursday, December 11th:  Lockdown AM
Thursday, December 11th:  CP Federal Credit Union PM
Friday, December 12th:  Warner Fun Night 5:30-8:30
Friday, December 12th:  Select Choir 9am in the gym

Articles Worth Reading:

Teaching is the most exhausting job I've had, but I won't quit @HufffingtonPost

Playing Nice With Others: Why schools teach social emotional learning @HuffingtonPost

Why teacher's aren't going anywhere @twhitford

3 Ways Social Media Can Improve School Culture @gcouros

It Appears My Students Have More Faith In Me Than I Do @pernilleripp

Point of Pontification @TonySinanis

It's Elementary When it Comes To EdTech @E_Sheninger

10 Habits of Happy, Healthy Couples @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Ellen discusses Emoji's (2 min)

Adam Levine on Jimmy Fallon (4 min)

Steve Harvey on Ellen (5 min)

The Crazy Ones (1 min)