Social Emotional Care for Teachers

This year, at the annual Tri-Association Educator’s Conference, I attended a session on Having Difficult Conversations with Jennifer Abrams. While there were multiple insightful takeaways, something that stuck with me was the importance of teachers taking care of themselves.

Unfortunately, I feel like this is something that is often overlooked- and not just by school leaders but by teachers too. Educators in our school are always on the go, ASFM has a reputation for continuously moving forward. While this is exciting, it can also cause stress and fatigue. On top of facilitating instruction, teachers have recess duty, lunch duty, dismissal duty, unit planning and unpacking, assessing, team meetings, alternate team meetings, faculty meetings, MAP testing, exploring new initiatives etc- the list goes on and on. Teachers get stressed and are working on weekends, often giving up self-care for working on school related projects.

ASFM has been and is currently exploring explicit Social Emotional Learning for students. We have had a few professional development sessions on how the pilot group is moving forward and what this is going to look like school wide in the upcoming years. This week, our school leaders determined that it is also important for teachers to consider their own social-emotional care. I know they always care for teacher well being- however this week they did something more intentional. Typically Tuesday afternoons are set aside for professional development- students leave a bit early and teachers stay an extra hour in order for this to happen. During this past Tuesday, ASFM asked teachers to take care of themselves. Therefore, different sessions were offered; yoga, gardening, art, meditation, and ultimate frisbee to name a few. There was also the option of leaving early and participating in your own self-care off site. Teachers were encouraged to tweet about what they were doing using the hashtag #asfmhappiness . It was interesting to read and see the variety of activities people chose to do. And great to see they took it seriously. I feel the gift of time to focus on yourself is something we often forget to give.

Personally, I spent some time in school working- as it meant I would have more free time at home.  I then went home, went on a walk with some friends, spent some extra time with my dog, Bruno- and finally had the chance to carve pumpkins I had purchased a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had done that many after school “activities” that were focused on myself and not on work or professional growth in a long time. What I did took longer than the additional hour I was given- however in that first hour- it kickstarted my mindset into thinking, on this day I am going to focus on me. So, thank you ASFM for that time and for reminding me that I am best at my job, when I feel my best.


With Change Comes Frustration… and Learning

With the desire to encourage students to develop creativity and collaborative skills, a 4th grade team of teachers was willing to scrap a traditional project that had been implemented for years, relinquish control, and provide students with some autonomy over the demonstration of their knowledge.

For about 10 years, culminating a unit on electricity, approximately 160 students showcased their knowledge through the creation of an electrical quiz board. With this particular project, there were limited opportunities for creativity and problem solving to be explored. Because technically, the quiz board was limited to 2 formats of completion.

The approach to the final project needed to be shifted. Students were given the prompt to work with group members to address, “a problem in their lives that could be solved applying their knowledge of electricity.” The final products would be presented at an “Electrical Engineering Fair.” With a more open ended task at hand, students had the opportunity for multiple problems and solutions to be addressed- which increased student agency as it provided autonomy over their task, technique, and team- 3 of the 4 “Ts” Daniel Pink refers to in his book, Drive, which examines motivation.

To encourage creativity, students explored different Maker Kits and alternative forms of electricity that allowed them to address their problems from an unconventional perspective.

A FaceTime call with David Patrick, an engineer and green home designer in New York, also allowed students to witness adults as life long learners who address their problems with solutions- as well as the process of developing prototypes and having to learn and adapt to unforeseen obstacles along the way.

The project was a roller coaster of emotions and learning for students. Initially, there was quite a bit of hype over the amount of ownership they had for demonstrating their learning. However, as the building phase began and students ran into hitches and stumbling blocks with their plans, emotions changed. Frustration levels escalated for both students and teachers- as failure was a territory that was rarely experienced and did not play a role in their culture of learning. Students were challenged with the need for adapting their blueprints or starting over completely from scratch. Teachers were confronted with the hurdle of not simply providing answers for students, but responding to students with questions to push and stretch their thinking, while boosting tenacity. On top of experiencing these frustrations, it was an additional challenge for students and teachers to move forward through the process, and reflect on the amount of skill development and learning that was ongoing simultaneously. However, as both stakeholders proceeded, perseverance and creativity around problem solving were exhibited and cultivated. By the time the Electrical Engineering Fair arrived, emotions and excitement returned to where they were at the introduction of the project. What was most exciting to witness was the authentic enthusiasm students had over their own learning, and how devoted they were to completing their product, as they had a personal investment in solving a problem they themselves had identified. Teachers walked away with a wealth of learning as well, upon reflecting on questioning techniques and being a partner in their students learning versus a leader.

While change can be a difficult experience to manage and frustrations have the potential of running high, great learning is there to uncover when willing to reflect and find it.

Youth Media Team

The Youth Media Team is a group of teenagers who attend and report on a wide range of educational conferences all around Ireland. They came together in May 2013, and have been nicknamed the “red shirts” bringing a technology based mix of interviewing, blogging, and Tweeting to a various number of educational events. Recently, they attended the #GREAT14 Conference in Galway, Ireland, that was hosted at the National University of Ireland and presented by the Year Two cohort of Michigan State University Masters of Arts in Educational Technology students.

The Youth Media Team were the keynote speakers for the conference, actually demonstrating two interviews in front of all of the attending participants. They then went on to discuss how they became involved with the group, and also filled attendees in on their goals in life.

After a session I led on Developing 21st Century Skills using Mystery Skype, I was lucky enough to have the chance to be interviewed by Jack, one of the Youth Media Team members. What surprised me most when being interviewed, was how quickly Jack had taken information from the session and created well composed questions to gain more knowledge around the content area. You can access the interview through this link.


To can check out more of the Youth Media Team’s interviews from the #GREAT14 conference as well as past conferences, access their website: