Sunday, October 4, 2015

Rolling Up Your Sleeves

This past week our 5th graders went on their annual trip to Mystic Lake in the heart of central Michigan.  This is typically the highlight of elementary school for many of our students.

In my six years of visiting Mystic Lake I have learned three things make or break our trip.

1)  The Weather - enough said

2)  Our High School Counselors - we've had some fantastic high school students over the years and the relationships they form with 5th graders make a huge difference.

3)  The Mystic Lake YMCA Counselors -  relationships, relationships, relationships!  This group leads nearly all activities and their energy, expertise and personality impact how each session goes.

As the second night came to a close I chatted with Ricky Wright the executive director at Mystic Lake.  I shared these three thoughts.  He chuckled and said, "We can greatly impact two of those."  I nodded in agreement.

Over the years I have met many Mystic Lake Counselors.  Some I deem as veterans and others can be seen as green or new.  This year's group was full of new faces.  I quickly found myself reminiscing about the days of Mundo, Ezra, JeMarcus, Grant and others.  But then I caught myself.  Was that fair?  At one time weren't those people new?  In the beginning were they polished?

I started thinking of our new counselors like they were beginning educators.  How would I support a new teacher?  What would I do to help someone that appears a bit unsure of themselves?  Should I be critical or walk along side in support?

The first few rotations I watched and chimed in very little.  The goal was to support, be visible and watch the kids problem solve.  Then as the week progressed I assisted a bit more.  It started with a pep talk to the kids at the Giant Swing and then led to the lake. 

The waterfront is picturesque at Mystic Lake.  I decided to head for the kayaks.  It was a brisk morning but the sun was shining.  I couldn't wait to get out onto the water.  Our Mystic Counselor was teaching a few essentials and helping with life jackets.  I grabbed my stuff and headed for a kayak.  A few minutes later I was joined on the lake by over a dozen 5th graders.  The first few minutes the students were getting used to paddling, steering and staying balanced.  Then I pulled the group to the other side of the lake to check out the giant lily pads.  After we explored the shoreline and looked all the way to the bottom of the lake we had a race from buoy to buoy.  After the race it was time for more exploring, so we headed around Pike's Point.  This group was fabulous!  I had heard other groups got bored on the water and I decided it was time to expand their activities on the lake. As the kids came in many were damp from splashing themselves, but all had a smile!

Our Mystic Lake Counselor was in charge on the water.  But I also appreciated that she was open to ideas and trying new things.  The entire goal was to give the kids a fun and engaging experience.  In the end, I hope our counselor also got a few new ideas for her own toolbox.

At one point we were all green and inexperienced.  What if someone constantly compared us to the expert that came before?  Would we be where we are today?

My guess is no.  We all have to start somewhere and we have to be allowed to learn, fail and grow. The next time you encounter someone that is new, I challenge you to support them, walk along side them and help them grow into the position.

I hope to see some of those same faces next year at camp.  I believe with time and support they can one day be the rock stars that people will refer to.


Tuesday, October 6th:  RTI Professional Development at the JCISD
Wednesday, October 7th:  Walk-to-School Day in the AM
Wednesday, October 7th:  Count Day
Wednesday, October 7th:  Grades 3-5 Assembly at 8:45am
Wednesday, October 7th:  RTI Professional Development at the JCISD
Friday, October 9th:  Staff Meeting 8am in Mrs. Archer's room

Articles Worth Reading:

Great Teachers are Boring @Jeff_Zoul

Take As Much As You Want @DrSpikeCook

If only I could say yes @casas_jimmy

Don't Worry, Be Happy @TonySinanis

A Guide, Not a Gospel @MrsMeganMorgan

A Story of a Young Life, Turned Around by Great Teachers @coolcatteacher

60 Ways To Help Students Think For Themselves @TeachThought

Curious About Classroom Makerspaces? Here's how to get started. @Angela_Watson

Da Vinci didn't make just one Mona Lisa @Jonharper70bd

5 Things to Remember When Someone You Love is Depressed @marcandangel

Videos Worth Watching:

Musical Impressions with Ariana Grande & @JimmyFallon  (5 min)

Ellen's Kindness Corner (2 min)

Remarkable Friendship (4 min)

Don't Eat The Marshmallow (7 min)


  1. Ben, I just returned with my team from a 2 day overnight conference. One veteran teacher commented that our newest team member had to 'dial it back' as her enthusiasm was coming across as 'I know everything'. I wonder too, how to support this 'green' teacher in her enthusiasm as she is soaking everything in - and simultaneously supporting my veteran teachers so that they can be energized by this enthusiasm and not put off. Thanks for the reflection!

  2. Ben,
    Thanks for the reminder that we ALL were green at one time. I was lucky to have mentors that helped me grow as a teacher and later as a principal. I hope I pass along some of that support to others who are new as well. Great post!