Monday, November 16, 2015

Teaching One Thing but Practicing Another

I made two goals in July.  The first was to post at least once a month.  The second was to post my classroom creations when I created them instead of waiting forever.  Progress check?  I haven't been doing that great!  Yes, it's only been a couple of months, but still!  I put it out there, expecting that I would stick with it.  But then the year got started and I got busy and I was tired and I had planning to do and I came up with A TON of excuses.  Not ok. :)

I've always been a perfectionist.  I've striven to be the best I can be at everything I set my mind to for as long as I can remember.  I set extremely high standards for myself and I expect myself to reach them.  But the catch is, as great as high standards are, chances are that once in a while I might not reach them.  To most people, this would be completely reasonable.  To me, I've always been an all or nothing person when it comes to fulfilling my expectations of myself.  It's always been "perfection" or "failure".  The funny thing is, this mindset was created all on my own.  I grew up knowing that what really matters is not always reaching what I saw as perfection, but the effort and work I put into it in the process.  I was surrounded by a growth mindset.

Being a perfectionist, always taking on too much, and always giving my all to everything has been a great way to learn a hard lesson (more than once): there are some standards I will not reach when I expect to reach them.  Doesn't mean I don't still try though! ;)

This past weekend I realized how interesting it is that I spend my days trying to get my students to believe that doing their best is what really matters, and that getting 55% on a test is a great thing if they only got 35% on the last one, and that our "failures" only teach us, the list goes on and on.  How can I convince my students to listen to this and believe it, when even I am not listening to it?

So what's the point in all this?  I know our students don't see the behind the scenes aspect of our day-to-day school life, but they do see more than we think they do.  They know when we're having a hard day even when we're all smiles and pretend everything is great.  They can sense when we're really passionate about something and we aren't.  They can (sometimes) tell when we're making it up as we go along.  There are things they figure out without us telling them.  If we're really wanting our students to believe the life lessons we're teaching them, we need to start believing them as well.  I can't hold my students accountable for being ok with their best effort even if they haven't done as well as they wanted to when I know I wouldn't settle for that if it were me.

Some things are meant to be learned over a lifetime.  For me, it's learning to truly be ok with not always reaching every standard I set for myself within the time limit I expect.  But it sure has given me great stories to use as examples for my students!  It really helps when they're freaking out about a test score and I can say: "Trust me, I am a pro at freaking out about grades.  If I tell you there's nothing to worry about, then there really isn't anything to worry about."

Everyone has something they push their students to take to heart that they themselves haven't yet taken to heart.  Think about that next time you wonder why some students haven't figured out what you're talking about yet.  I mean, my students are 8.  I'm 24.  If I'm still working on it, they probably are too!

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I learned a great lesson last month: do not underestimate children.  Especially once they've set their minds to something.  A big something.

We've been enjoying starting our mornings off with Kid President each day; we've been inspired to talk together, write our ideas down, sing out loud, be day makers, and just be more awesome!  But one day, Kid President inspired us to do something more awesome than ever before.  Kid President gave us a way to help others.  (3 Questions that Could Change the World from Kid President)  The video hadn't even finished, but I could tell my Imagineers were already thinking about what they could do to help.  In the discussion that followed the video, we visited and my students set to work.  It started with "Socktober?  We can do that!" and "If we all brought 4 pairs of socks then we'd have 100 pairs already!" and it wasn't long before we had a Google Doc of ideas and were inviting our principal, Mr. Himaka, in to hear our plan.

*I read about Socktober (a sock drive to collect socks for homeless people to help
keep them warm over winter) when I read Kid President's Guide to Being Awesome
over the summer and I knew I wanted my students to participate, but I wanted them to
come up with the idea, not me.  I'm so glad they latched onto the idea when it came up
and decided to run with it!  Things like this mean so much more when they come
from the kids instead of the teacher!*

It's incredible what kids can come up with when you give them the chance.  They brainstormed ways to invite Mr. Himaka in to speak with them (a note on a sock!) and ways to invite the other 3rd grade teachers to participate with their classes.  They planned how they would advertise and where each sign would go.  They created their own posters and flyers to be sent home.  They dictated my tweets.  They even set to work designing a myriad of possible games for the Fall Festival.  This was 3rd grade Imagineering at its finest!  These kids knew what they wanted, and they couldn't be stopped.

Our school already has a lot of fundraisers going on in the fall, so Mr. Himaka helped us decide to have Socktober be a 3rd grade run event this year.  My class' original goal was 500 pairs of socks - if it was just us participating - or 1,000 pairs of socks - if the whole school was participating.

Somehow, in all of their brainstorming and planning, someone suggested that a great way to advertise Socktober was for me to dress up as a giant sock.  No.  There was no way I was going to dress up as a giant sock.  No one does that!  We joked about it, but it was too unrealistic to actually happen.  Although I thought the idea had bright (and sneaky!) Imagineers threw the idea in while talking with Mr. Himaka!  Of course, he thought it was a fabulous idea!  He even gave me a name: #KefferTheSock!  Realistically, part of the reason I had been so against the idea in the first place was because I was worried about what the other teachers would say about it.  I didn't want to be seen as a distraction!  Once I had the go ahead from the principal, I agreed...on one condition: #KefferTheSock would only appear on the last day of Socktober IF we had 1,000 pairs of socks.  1,000 pairs of socks from our four 3rd grade classes...definitely thought it wasn't going to happen.  I set that goal high for a reason!

The kids did a great job and worked their little butts off all month long.  Socks came pouring in at the beginning, we got about 150 pairs in the first week!  By the end of the third week, we had just over 500 pairs of socks.  If it took us three weeks to get that many, how in the world were we going to get 500 pairs in ONE week?  We weren't.  As much as the adults talked (out of earshot of children, of course) about how we'd done such a great job for our first time even though we weren't going to hit the goal, the kids NEVER once said a word about not hitting the goal.  They talked about #KefferTheSock showing up.  They helped count socks.  They kept bringing socks.  But they NEVER doubted themselves.
Happy Socktober!
Our final push for socks came from Mr. Himaka: it turns out that phone calls from the principal work magic.  Especially when those calls include announcements about #KefferTheSock making an appearance at Friday dismissal.  Throughout the next four days, the socks came pouring in.  We hit 1,000 pairs of socks on Thursday night, and exceeded our goal on Friday.  It took us three weeks to get 500 pairs of socks; and then, in a matter of four days, we got 500 more pairs of socks.  I have never seen my students so dedicated and excited, nor have I ever seen them so capable of explaining the purpose of something they were doing.  They were proud, and I was proud of them.
Almost there!
The last day of Socktober was a BLAST: #KefferTheSock made her first public appearance.  Instead of waiting until dismissal, I wore the sock for most of the morning.  It was so much fun having kids ask to take their picture with me!  I even got to present my PeaceBuilder of the Month awards at our assembly...dressed as a giant sock (in front of parents!).  I spent the rest of the day switching back and forth between Miss Keffer and #KefferTheSock.  It was a really fun way to celebrate reaching our goal and my class was STOKED that I was finally dressed up as a giant sock.  We ended the day with #KefferTheSock out front during dismissal...LOTS of waving!  I loved seeing the kids and parents enjoying the fun together.  Lots of waving, lots of laughter, lots of pictures...
Before school - some of my amazing Imagineers
#KefferTheSock at our Red Ribbon Week Assembly 
#KefferTheSock enters the mummy race during the Room 14b class party...and ends up like this?
#KefferTheSock ROCKIN IT with a fabulous Mouseketeer from last year's class.
#KefferTheSock ROCKIN IT with a fabulous Mouseketeer from last year's class.
Mr. Himaka, #KefferTheSock, and a fabulous Mouseketeer from last year's class 
Friday, 10/30, total 
Final total - EXACTLY 1, 175 pairs!
Whew!  I had no idea that was going to be such a long post!  I am so thankful to have had this experience with my Imagineers and with our entire school community.  My kids set their minds to something and they didn't let anything stop them.  Although this was lead by the 3rd graders, the entire school got involved, and it was amazing to watch everyone come together for such an amazing cause.  Teamwork sure is an incredible thing.  Way to go Gators!