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What I Learned from the Elf on the Shelf

Posted by on in Student Engagement
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elf on the shelf

There I was at 7:00 AM, bleeding, blood all over my hands, kneeling over our family's beloved Elf on the Shelf, Oliver, in the dining room, and my six-year-old daughter waking up and coming down the steps. It was my worst case scenario. My little girl was going to come downstairs and see me covered in blood with our Elf on the Shelf laying on the floor and think that I did something terrible to Oliver. 

Why was I covered in blood and bleeding at 7:00 AM in the dining room with Oliver laying on the floor next me? Because I was trying to make the Elf on the Shelf experience better for my daughters. The night before, I moved Oliver to a spot in our house that was just okay. I knew it was just okay at the time, but I thought it would do. The next morning I woke up, and decided I could do a better job with my placement of our elf. As I was moving him around in the dining room, so he would be hanging upside down like Batman, (much cooler than my first placement), I bumped a glass that fell to floor. I knelt down trying to catch the glass, but since I am well out of my 20's, my quickness just wasn't there, and I ended up kneeling onto a shard of glass and getting a 3 cm gash right by my knee. Four stitches later, and a bunch of Elf on the Shelf pictures put up all around my classroom by my colleagues, I was as good as new. 

As word at school spread about my near holiday massacre, a few people asked me why did I move the elf a second time. Good question, but if you have young children, you know why. Every morning, since the arrival of our elf, that is the first thing my six-year-old and three-year-old look for. Then when they find him, they have to show everyone in the house. They talk about Oliver all day, and I find them quietly talking to Oliver when they think no one is watching. They draw him pictures, and write him little notes. To see that every day from my daughters is worth more effort from me in my placement of him. And as I thought about the answer to the question, "Why did I move the elf a second time?" I couldn't help but relate that to my classroom. 

So here are my Elf on the Shelf Lessons:

Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.

It's an old saying, but it's true. If I had moved our family's elf with that idea in mind the first time, then I wouldn't have ended up in the predicament I did. Same thing is true in the classroom (to some extent anyway). If you take time to plan well crafted lessons, it might not go as planned every time, but your efforts will be appreciated. 

Your lessons are not for you, but for your students

If you can see that look on your children's or students' faces, then you know you have done your job. It makes putting in the time to create relevant and meaningful lessons so much more enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable! Don't take the easy way out with your lessons. It's the only time in their life and in your life you will have that opportunity to make an impression on them. The impression you make is up to you.

If you know you can do it better, then do it better

Similar to the first lesson, but worth restating. If you reflect on your work, and you know you can do better, then don't sell yourself or your students short. You might not like changing things at the time, but in the end, you'll be glad you did. And you will remember that more, than the time spent revising.

Take risks (you might end up with some stitches, but you'll learn a lot and have some great, memorable stories)

This particular incident I had this holiday season, will be one my family, my colleagues, my students (kid-friendly version), and possibly those reading this blog will remember and laugh about for years to come. The risk I took ended up being memorable. The risks we take in our classrooms can end up being memorable, too. But you won't know, unless you try.

Let yourself see the wonderment in your children's eyes and use it

Once you see that wonderment from your children or your students, you can't ignore it. Take time to appreciate that wonderment you see, and remember that when planning your lessons or assignments. Our children and our students can be our best motivators. 

While I was waiting to get my stitches, my first stitches ever at age 38, I got a notification from one of my 6th grade students who posted something in our class's Google Classroom. She said, "I am watching CBS This Morning, and they were just talking about the best five jobs. Google was in 4th place ;)." In my blended learning classroom, we use G Suites for Education daily to collaborate, communicate, be creative, and think critically. My students are thriving. They ask for work because they know they can create their work, as compared to filling out a worksheet. They post questions about topics discussed in class, and they answer each other's questions. When I look out across my classroom, I see that wonderment in my students' eyes this year. So when I got that message, it was the only Novocaine that needed to get my stitches (well, not really, but it made me feel a whole lot better).

So what happened? Did my daughter come downstairs, turn the corner, and see me covered in blood, bleeding, and kneeling over our Elf on the Shelf, Oliver? Did she scream in shock and terror? Fortunately, no. I managed to hold my gaping wound together with one hand, while I grabbed Oliver with my other hand and shuffled to the kitchen to quickly place him elsewhere before she turned the corner. By that time, my wife was standing by the broken glass keeping my daughter out of harms way, as I hobbled through our bedroom and into the bathroom bleeding. And what do you think my wife's words were to me as I went into the bathroom, past our bedroom? "Don't get any blood on the carpet." 

 

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William Madden holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership. His professional backgrounds includes over 15 years in education as an intermediate school teacher and most recently as an elementary school principal. In addition, his experience includes online course design, technology integration, ELA and mathematics curriculum mapping, being on his school's technology and building improvment committees, and conducting professional development. He blogs to reflect on his practice, share with others, and to continue to grow and learn as an educator to meet the needs of today's students. 

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Guest Sunday, 17 December 2017