My daughter was very upset....
I love going on field trips with my students. There is something special about taking a group of students to a place that they have never been to see things that are completely new to them. You notice a true sense of wonder, engagement, and curiosity emerge when you take a child to explore a new part of our world.
I always make it a point to watch student expressions and actions because I like to fully engage with students during these experiences. I am also careful to keep an eye on the interactions that my students have with people they come into contact with. As an educator who places a high emphasis on social-emotional learning, this allows me to gauge where my students are and involve them in real-time teachable moments.
Last week I had the privilege to go on a field trip with my 8th grade students to Longwood Gardens (if you have never been, you need to get there!). Our students were participating in a guided tour and a lesson about recycling and renewable energy. My family frequents the gardens multiple times a year so I really hyped the trip up to my students and they were ready.
When we arrived at the gardens, my students were excited and very eager to enter. The looks on their faces displayed genuine interest and we could not get in soon enough for them. We met our tour guide and embarked on our journey....
When people talk about childhood idols and heroes, I always say David Copperfield. No, not the character from Dickens. The other character:
If you don’t know of the man above, David Copperfield is an international illusionist who has performed all over the world. He did a series of specials in the 80’s and 90’s on television and currently performs daily in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield wasn’t just simple magic. There was spectacle; there were music and lights; there was a story; there was the attractive girl; there was the impossible becoming possible in a few minutes. Illusions were almost performed like MTV music videos. I was obsessed.
My love for illusions and magic was instantaneous. There was a magic shop in town that I was stopping in every day after school to either learn a trick or save up lunch money (sorry Mom) and buy a new trick each week. At one point, I had a duffle bag full of all sorts of tricks....
Discipline. Behavior management. Guidance. Whatever you call it, there is no topic that early childhood teachers want to talk about more, in my experience as a trainer and mentor, than what to do when children “won’t listen.”
I spent several years trying to come up with new and more insightful ways to talk to teachers about guiding children’s behavior. I’ve talked about changing the language we use from “punishment” to “discipline” in an attempt to change the adults’ focus. I’ve tried talking about how teachers can use “helping behaviors” when children’s behavior is challenging to them. I talk about “discipline” meaning “to teach” and not “to punish.” I see nods of agreement, I see note taking…and then I see a struggle to change when they are back in a classroom.
About a year ago, I had an epiphany. I developed a matching game to use with a group of teachers who were about to go through a four-session series with me on guiding behavior. At the beginning of the first session, I gave each teacher a copy of this matching game handout and asked them to read both columns, then draw a line from the behavior in the left hand column to the appropriate response in the right hand column. It looks like this:
My commute home from work is always rough. On a good day, it takes about an hour. On a bad day, it can take considerably longer. Unfortunately for me, today was a bad day. It seemed like every time I looked there was a car cutting me off, an individual barely driving the speed limit in the passing lane, a slowdown of traffic for no reason, or a driver fiddling with their cell phone when attention should have been on the road. Like any normal person, I experienced some frustration, yelled a few things, and forgot about it a few seconds later.
Before I returned home, I had to make a stop at my local PetSmart. See, we have two dogs, an 85 pound Rottweiler-Labrador mix and a 65 pound red nose Pit bull. Big dogs mean big appetites, which means I find myself at this store once every few weeks. When you are a frequent flyer as we are, you see a lot of the same people working and it's natural to recognize each other. Today was no different and the young woman who rang me up was someone who I have seen often. Our interactions are typically very similar, but today she said something that stopped me in my tracks.
Before she started scanning my items, she began to ask me for my phone number for their PetPerks program. As she was asking this, I greeted her and asked her how she was doing today. As we were talking at the same time, she stopped and looked up at me. She saw me smiling at her, she smiled back and asked me, "Are you always happy?" I looked at her for a second, caught completely off-guard, and responded with a simple yes. I explained that life is too short to not be happy and that even when things stink, we can make them better with how we approach and view the situation. She agreed with me and we chatted a little more about the topic while I paid for my items.
Luckily for her, she didn't see me less than an hour before sitting in traffic dealing with people who I repeatedly questioned aloud if they knew how to drive, were trying to kill someone, or if they wanted driving lessons. I'm human, I get frustrated in traffic like most people. There are plenty of things in this world that annoy and irritate me. If you knew me a few years ago, you would be surprised at how I would have handled those situations. I can guarantee you that nobody would ask me if I were always happy. I probably would have carried that irritation from the drive throughout my commute and into the store with me. So what changed?...