Who Will Your Family Be?

The last post talked about how our family, as the result of circumstances beyond our control, had to re-define itself.  This post invites you to take a closer look at your family and to define what you hope it to be and how you can support each other.

Do you get what you want or what you need?
  Who Will Your Family Be?

 

Parenting will be messy, complicated, challenging, rapturous, rewarding, heart wrenching, and heart filling. You will be stymied, stumped, swamped, and sustained by the love and challenges you face. As you saunter, skip, or scramble down the path of raising children, it’s worth you time to pause and consider just who you want them to be? Themselves, of course.  But part of being “themselves” will include the values and traits you instill in them, as well as the values and traits you strive for as a family.

This is your family. This is your life. You cannot always control what happens nor the actions of those in and around your family. You can, however, set the tone, the tenor, the boundaries, and the expectations.  Be open to the beautiful changes and opportunities in life and the inherent joy children bring to our lives. Clinging to expectations – yours or those of others in your tribe – will create tension and suffering.  Have expectations, but be willing to hit the pause button to reflect honestly on the circumstances, needs, and priorities.

Modern life for parents and kids has its own challenges for resources, priorities, and success.  Every family needs to define its own set of values, priorities and goals, as well as the expectations and boundaries for individuals. Family, in its truest sense, provides a haven for all to be themselves, including the exploration of self and space and ability to test-drive ideas and experiences.   It’s a place to relax, process the world and one’s work, and to learn to get along with others.  It’s a place where dignity and respect are to be modeled, practiced and where we learn to be accountable for our actions.  When we fail, and we WILL, it’s a place we learn to apologize, make reparations and move on knowing the next time it will be different.

If you’re a family caregiver, it’s worth your time to think about how you want your family to be.

If you’re a teacher or work with children, it’s helpful to understand the child in context of your students’ families, or better yet, to get to know the family and what’s most important to them.  This process of drafting a family manifesto or defining family priorities or Ways We Want to Be is akin to the process many teachers use at the beginning of the school year facilitate a class’ articulation of their own rules or guidelines.   While often called class rules or class covenants, they are much like a manifesto as they state the ideals in the most positive form.  These are written and practiced in ways that allow for exceptions or missteps, and in turn, these allow for reflection and growth. These become part of our thought process and guide our behavior.  Whether it’s a class rule that we take care of our materials and we forget to put library books away or an instance where our family manifesto says we use kind and respectful words, and we lose our tempers and yell, both examples provide ways for families and classes to talk honestly about what happened, what the underlying needs and feelings might be and how to repair any damages to property or feelings so that folks can do better – or do differently – the next time.

This process reminds me a familiar quote:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi

 

So it’s worth considering your beliefs about family and life.  Those beliefs become thoughts and then words, ideally shared with yoru family.  In turn, these become your actions and habits before finally, your destiny and legacy.

Show our kids the value of thoughtful reflection and collaboration, setting goals and learning from our mistakes are all value lessons. Maybe even some of the values and traits you might incorporate in your own family manifesto.

What do you believe is most important for your family? Post your short answer in comments. I’d love to hear what’s most important to you.

 

Ways We Want Our Family To Be

281167694_7cba89cabd_oIn the last post, I shared a glimpse of how my family  hit the reset button after a very stressful period. Even some of our friends who helped us through that phase were surprised by some of the details.  Indeed, when you are slogging through the mud, it’s hard to examine or talk about that trek.  A decade later, that murky path and the route we took out of that mayhem is transparent.  What we learned, and what many families learn as circumstances slowly or rapidly provide a reality check, is how we define ourselves.   

 

 We were never one of those couples who had a 6 month, 1 year, 5-year,  or 10-year plan. Maybe we had a 6-month plan and even a fuzzy idea of the long-range plan. But really, how many couples put family and work obligations on hold long enough to really engage in the kind reflection and  long-range planning?  (If that’s you, then big cheers to you!) We thought it was a good idea, but never had our act together long enough to take action. We were pretty much about getting through the day, the night and perhaps, the week ahead. Continue reading “Ways We Want Our Family To Be”

Here We Go, 2016!

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January is typically the time of year for resolutions and starting over. We’ve all read the articles and blogs expounding  ways to lose weight, exercise more, read more, be more fully present, etc.   I hadn’t expected to write a follow-up to Here We Go, 2011, but I did in 2014.

As I began to gather my thoughts and energy for the return to school next week, I re-read that post and copies of the third graders who did the real work reflecting on hopes and dreams.   Go ahead, read the original post, Here We GoAs we transition back to our routines fresh from a two-week break, it will be imperative we remind ourselves of our guidelines and routines.   Of course, we’ll use the Responsive Classroom practices of positive teacher language, interactive modeling and loads of practice. This will happen in classrooms across the country this week.  Can you feel the energy of teachers who are willing to invest sometime early in the year to re-establish routines and re-connect with students?  The payoff is huge.  Really. Consider it an investment.

East into the year by taking the time to reflect collectively and individually. By helping students reflect on their hopes from September and then set some new goals for the remainder of the year, you’re helping them develop the internal motivators for learning, time management skills,  and showing them you value their thoughts and goals. It also lets you see how they’ve grown and where you need to help guide them during the rest of your time together.

Need some guidance or encouragement to do dig in and invest the energy to do this with your students? Margaret Berry Wilson shares some beautiful read  alouds in her post Revisiting Hopes and Dreams in the New Year.  Margaret also explains how  to Use Y Charts for Revisiting the Rules.  (Be sure to watch the video of Susie Gosh to see how she skillfully facilitates a third grade class discussion on this topic.) Both are inspiring and actionable, no matter what your experience with revisiting hopes and dreams mid-year.

For many, this  community-wide approach so this is a familiar January-jumping off point. Even if you’re headed down this road on your own, know that it builds community, lets students know you value them and helps ease that back-to-school transition for all of us.

If you’re a teacher, how do you revisit hopes and dreams in January?   And are you signed up to keep in touch?  Be sure to check the box in the top right so we can stay connected. And forward this to your teacher friends or share on social media.  There’s more good stuff to come in 2016!

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Lisa Dewey Wells

Energize the Season

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The countdown is on until the holiday break in schools across the country.  Teachers are trying to forge ahead, focused on academics and school community and kids are, well… excited. It’s hard to stay focused while still recognizing the joy and excitement of the season.

The countdown is on until the holiday break in schools across the country.  Teachers are trying to forge ahead, focused on academics and school community and kids are, well… excited. It’s hard to stay focused while still recognizing the joy and excitement of the season.

One December, we were greeted with stormy winds and rain, and throwing a wrench into our third- grade field trip plans. Teachers and administrators to make last a minute decision on whether or not to transport children 30 miles away into a storm, but my brain was also processing how this unexpected glitch would further interfere with the difficulties we were having with transitions and remembering to “do the rules.”  It clearly wasn’t going to help – or would it?  I had been noticing and journaling the deviations, searching for patterns or triggers. Not surprisingly, transitions were our downfall. When a class has trouble making a transition, there’s a domino effect. Signals are unheeded. Reminders ignored. We’re  late. Or unprepared (physically and mentally). Conflicts arise. Stress increases. The rules seem to erode.

One December, we were greeted with stormy winds and rain, and throwing a wrench into our third-grade field trip plans. Teachers and administrators to make last a minute decision on whether or not to transport children 30 miles away into a storm, but my brain was also processing how this unexpected glitch would further interfere with the difficulties we were having with transitions and remembering to “do the rules.”  It clearly wasn’t going to help, or would it?  I had been noticing and journaling the deviations, searching for patterns or triggers. Not surprisingly, transitions were our downfall. When a class has trouble making a transition, there’s a domino effect. Signals are unheeded. Reminders ignored. We’re  late. Or unprepared (physically and mentally). Conflicts arise. Stress increases. The rules seem to erode.

As I noticed these changes, I began to comment more on what I noticed, careful to articulate precisely what I saw them remembering to do well, but not offering hollow praise (“Good job!“).  When children hear you noticing (“I see that you remembered to put all of  your writing materials away. Now you are ready to wash up for lunch.“), that also has a domino effect.  When it was hard (or impossible) to see what was working well, I reminded individuals that I had faith in their abilities and knew they could do better. I asked what they thought was interfering with the normal tenor or quality of work and play.  Not surprisingly, they often knew and were then empowered to make the changes themselves.

So on the morning we had to re-group and re-plan the day, I rifled through Susan Lattanzi Roser’s book Energizers! 88 Quick movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus.  Earlier in the week, I had read about her game “The Laughing Handkerchief.” That was going to be our saving grace on this wet, wet morning.  (For other energizers, check out Roser’s video’s on her Lion Heart Consulting page.

We learned and practiced this  game at our Morning Meeting,  They giggled, and cackled and roared and howled, and accepted that the much-anticipated field trip would happen in the new year.  I asked if they could guess why I picked that particular  new game.  The usual answers came up – “It’s fun!” “It’s new!”   But one deep-thinking almost-nine-year-old said, “well, in the game you have to know when to stop and do something else like the transitions we were practicing.”  He really was not a plant!  He defined simply but clearly.  Laughing like a clown (or Santa or mice or whatever) while the scarf floats but watching carefully so you know to stop once it hits the floor, is a lot like making transitions happen smoothly.  Another child pointed out it’s “like changing your energy from high energy stuff to quiet energy.  Like (deep)  breathing (exercises) and yoga stuff we do.” Nailed it.

The connection between observing what’s slipping, practicing rules and routines and then engaging children so that they want to do their best was nestled in the “Laughing Scarf.”  We practiced the game for a few more days and  pulled it out intermittently in the weeks that followed.

The next few weeks will surely bring an increase in excitement and energy as the holidays and vacation approach. Similarly, the transition in January is likely to resemble a mini version of the first six weeks of school. Reminding our students –  and practicing the routines and expectations we’ve established – are two tools to re-grip and move forward productively and with joy.

Besides being a good lesson in changing energy, voice volume, and tasks, the Laughing Handkerchief  is hilarious opportunity to just let a solid belly laugh rip. And often, laughter is the best medicine.

For other ideas and energizers, check out these resources and ideas:

Energizers! 88 Quick Movement Activities That Refresh and Refocus

Handling the Holidays (Part 1)

Seeing It All Come Together

Keeping Routines Crisp

Want to stay in touch for great parenting and teaching resources?  Be sure to Like Wonder of Children, Follow me @lisadeweywells on Twitter and sign up to get updates delivered right to your inbox, by signing up at the top right corner here.

 

Fondly,

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Lisa Dewey Wells

 

 

 

 

Many Snowy Weeks, One Word Hopes and Dreams

A long, long time ago, we began the process of revisiting our hopes and dreams for the school year, but we were determined to forge ahead from Here We Go, 2014.

The practice of having students articulate their hopes and dreams for the school year one of the many  Responsive Classroom practices that helps children be known, feel safe and take academic risks.  It leads to a positive communities, effective classroom management and learners who love to come together to learn.  Ideally, these hopes and dreams become a living, breathing, evolving part of the classroom, which can continue shed benefits when revisited throughout the year.

Each  year, no matter what grade I teach, we revisit these hopes and dreams  in a similar ways.  The challenge for me is to carefully consider the grade I teach (notice how I bounce around from preschool to middle school and most grades in between?) and the particular culture and dynamics in any given class mid-year.  I was feeling the urge to try something different, as these fifth graders have come up through a program that uses Responsive Classroom school-wide.  For some, this would be the seventh consecutive year of having the rock-solid foundation of hopes and dreams and class guidelines as the building blocks for social and academic risk taking in an authentic and engaging community. As a humanities teacher, there is also that tenacious voice inside nudging me to integrate technology in meaningful ways, even if it flirts with the edge of my comfort zone. Continue reading “Many Snowy Weeks, One Word Hopes and Dreams”