Our Brand Story: Starting from Bras and Panties

When you hear the brand VICTORIA’S SECRET many of you probably think of this.

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If you’re like me, that’s not exactly the greatest picture to come to mind.  It reminds me of a highly sexualized culture for women in which we are valued more for our physical appearance than actual substance.  It sets an unrealistic standard for beauty that we are raising our daughters in.  Generally, not the image of a company that  I would look to as a professional organization that sets an example in the teaching world.

That’s what I thought.  I am going on my second summer working at Victoria’s Secret.  It started as simply a job.  I wanted a break from working with kids and the mall website said they were hiring.  I had very little knowledge of the brand besides knowing it was a world-wide lingerie company.  I will admit that my opinion has been completely changed and more often than not, I’m wondering if our schools might be able to learn something from the brand.

 

Where as I used to see Victoria’s Secret as this…

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…I now see it as this.

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I joke with my manager that I think I do more training with Victoria’s Secret than teaching.  While this could be a slight exaggeration, comparing the ratio of hours worked to training, Victoria’s Secret blows any teaching job I’ve ever had out of the water.  Employees are empowered through education.  The brand has high expectations of performance but provides the necessary support for associates to be successful.  What I find to be most powerful is almost every single training or staff meeting starts with THE BRAND STORY.  It’s approximately a 6 minute video that describes how Victoria’s Secret came to be, their viewpoint on the products, and who the company wishes to embody from the highest CEO to the newest associate.

You can’t help but feel a little inspired and feel a little more buy in after listening to the story.  They’ve figured out how to get thousands of employees invested through a single vision.

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This is where it relates to teaching

(thanks for bearing with me…)

Each of us has a story of why we want to teach, how we got started, or a student that keeps us moving forward.  This story is dynamic and likely shifts from time to time, but the core beliefs stay the same.  How often do we get to share our “Brand Story” as a teacher?  It’s usually the first question in an interview.  I may casually discuss it with colleagues.  But, I think we need to do more.

By sharing our BRAND STORY, we can create a sense of community within a school.

-First, we will understand each individual a little bit more.  Whether you agree with them personally or professionally, you can respect the lens that they use to view the teaching world.  We can be a little more forgiving of the differing points of view.

-Second, we can connect to colleagues.  No two stories will be identical but there is likely some similar feature between any two stories.

-Lastly, we remember our why.  Teaching is hard.  It chips away parts of ourselves each year.  We beat ourselves up over kids we cannot save and academics we can’t move.

 

Our Brand Story reminds us of the bigger picture and that at the end of each school year what we do matters.

 

I am soon to be moving into an instructional coaching position.  I am joining a school where I know very few of the staff and they do not know me.  I will be the outsider.  But maybe, if I can share my Brand Story and build trust to learn theirs, we can develop a relationship.  Maybe from the top down we can start to build a common mission and make the change we are all working so hard to create.

Tragedy

In the past few days there has been a lot of processing. I see faces on the news of the victims. There are arguments on social media over the best solution to the problem. And at the end of the day 50 innocent people lost their lives and we all go to bed a little less secure.

I am a 24 years old and yet in the past decade I need more than one hand to count the tragedies. Growing up, our parents could talk about Columbine as this horrible event.  But what will I talk about with my kids? A movie theater in Colorado? A marathon in Boston? A school called Sandy Hook? These are all within a decade alone. A staggering increase compared to decades before us where we heard of casualties on the battlefields of war. I do not mean to diminish the lives of soldiers who have died defending our freedom. They deserve our unending gratitude.  But at least then you went to bed safe at night knowing they gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect us.  What happens now? I may sleep at night but now fear what may happen each day as I move about this cruel and intolerant world.

My heart aches for my students that are growing up in this world.  To live in fear of tragedy and violence is no way to live, but to walk without concern is to be desensitized to the violence. This cannot be the norm.  This can never be just what happens. We must raise our children with more than tolerance.  We must create a culture of acceptance, trust, and the unwillingness to allow the status quo to go unchanged.  757f56d0c6fc091d97539ee9fcf1c9e9

Check out: Love, Teach Blog: Tolerance is Not Enough – A Letter to My Former Students

How do you explain these events to the little ones in desks across from us? How does a teacher cope with her own shock all while comforting a child?  In elementary school, I know students cannot fully process the seemingly endless tragedies that are occurring.  They do not know or understand the underlying issues of race, religion, and sexuality. They cannot quantify the loss of life.  But, I believe we are kidding ourselves to think that they will grow up a generation unaffected.  We are shaped by even those forces we cannot fully understand.

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Tragedy has, once again, pulled us apart.  We must listen to the voices that offer sympathy and support. Reach out for the hands that fight to bring us together. March behind the leaders that will create the change we need to stop these senseless losses of life and acts of hate.  We are responsible for building a better tomorrow. It simply cannot wait.

Life’s Better When You’re Laughing

Laughing keeps you young. Perhaps the lack of laughing is the #1 cause of aging.  Hang out with a kid for an afternoon and stay conscious of how often they laugh. You may be surprised.

Keeping my sense of humor with teaching helps to keep me sane and happy. Recently my students have said some laugh-worthy things that are worth quoting.
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-D: What does the +10 on the Pokemon card stand for?
-Me: I’m not sure.
D: Miss A, I have another question.
(Of course, I’m fully anticipating more questions about the Pokemon card in his hand.)
D: What’s sex?

Set the scene: I have just come back to the classroom at noon after a half day in-service. During this time my students had a sub.  Within seconds of crossing through the threshold, at least 5 students have come up to me and are talking simultaneously.
Boy: Can I go to the nurse? I think I had a stroke. I haven’t been able to move my arm for a few days (arm hanging limply by his side for dramatic effect, obviously).
Girl: My leg hurts.
Me: Girl, how did I know there would be something wrong with you??
Girl: Actually there’s a list-I can’t jump, walk, skip…
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The PTO had a spirit day for our groovy book fair theme.  Students dressed up for Hippie day. 8 year olds do not know what hippie’s are…..unless you’re E who went around informing the class as if they were so ignorant for not knowing.
-E: Don’t you know what a drum circle is??? That’s a hippie.

Last, but not least, second grade spellings. If you can read these words, you’re definitely a teacher.
Holupaynos
The Wolf did not blow down the 3 Little Pigs house omperpus.
In the original one the Wolf alckchuly meant to blow it down.
Not unuff room.

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The Unexpected Poets

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Writing has become very therapeutic. It has also become a thief of my sleep. When strong emotions hit, good or bad, they flow out of me through the tip of a pen, the click of a keyboard.  I can never just sit down and write. If I try, my mind goes blank. It’s when I don’t intend it that my best work comes out. (Usually this is well after bed time on a school night when I should be fast asleep.). In fact, I often write without knowing exactly how I’m feeling or where I’m going. It is only once I look back at what I’ve produced that I understand the inner workings of my mind.

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I’ve been inspired by many writers. I am amazed by the work of Sarah Kay and other spoken word poets on the internet. I click on teacher blog after blog devouring the lives of complete strangers that seem to be so similar to my own.

There are days I think I would have liked to have taught creative writing with older students.  My own students are great and truly making incredible developments for 7 and 8 year olds, but no matter what, they will always be 7 and 8. Perhaps one day I will get my chance to try my talents with older students.

For now, I’m enjoying developing my own skills and voice as a writer. I share what’s relevant in the classroom and with coworkers. And every so often those little brains truly amaze me.

Sad is black.

It sounds like a puppy crying.

It smells like dead bugs.

It tastes like smoke.

It looks like rain.

Sad feels like I am a ghost.

Sadness is white.

It sounds like a crying baby.

It tastes like rotten cheese.

It looks like a sad dog.

It smells like old food.

Sadness feels like a belly ache.

Believe it or not, these beautiful, profound works were written by my second grade poets. They were taught sensory poems from the formatting attached here.

Sensory Poem Outline

 

Pretty incredible after all❤

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Teaching in May

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My supply closet grows bare.

I can count the weeks left in one hand, but the hours seem endless.

I’ve grown weary of the same behaviors

and mountains of grading still stand before me.

 

It is May.

A teacher’s favorite and least favorite time of the year.

To an outsider, it’s all fun and field trips from here on out.

To us on the inside, it’s inappropriate behaviors and tired brains.

 

A coworker described it best saying she wished the end was a surprise.

One week we would come in and find out it was time to close up shop.

Perhaps then we could fully enjoy it

instead of the countdown.

 

When the days get long

and my mind heavy there is one thing in my to lift my spirits.

Testing.

 

Any other time of year, this will make a teacher shutter and kids groan.

But in May, it’s special.

Finally, after months of hard work

sweat, tears, and maybe even a little blood

we get to see it pay off.

No longer are we warning kids that this test is on information they’ve never been taught.

Finally, finally, I tell them they are ready,

“Show off all the amazing accomplishments you’ve made.”

 

The results are never less than extraordinary.

They may near bring you to tears

as your heart threatens to burst from pride.

The student who’s been stuck all year actually doubled how many words she read.

The boy who may always struggle has read over fifty words.

The boy who didn’t even know he could read now does so with ease.

 

This is a time to celebrate.

Hundreds of hours on a little brain is hard and they can finally rest.

Read that extra story, take ten more minutes of recess, for goodness sake break out the paint!

We all deserve it!

 

The Class We Should Have Had in College

 Statistics show that the number of teachers coming out of college programs is actually declining. There is also an alarming  number of teachers leaving the profession. Much to our dismay, these are not the old-fashioned, ruler-wielding teachers we wish would step down. Instead they are passionate, ambitious teachers just beginning the climb of their career.

Starting out I was prepared for the time commitment teaching takes. I was aware just how hard my first year would be. I was prepared for an air of negativity that might infiltrate the teacher’s lounge. I knew classroom management had to be gained through experience.  All of these things proved valid and I’m glad I knew them. However, I feel my college experience (and so many others) was severely missing one course.

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ECE358 TEACHING IN A POLITICAL WORLD
Teaching in a Political World will explore the many outside influences on teaching including politics, racism & classism, and public perception.  It will discuss the role of the educator as an advocate for individual students/families, communities, and teaching as a profession. It will explore the frequent conflicts of interest educators face in their classrooms each day.

I need help…and I do not think I’m alone. I want background knowledge on the political systems that influence teaching starting from the local school boards to the House and Senate.  I wish I had known just what a huge part advocacy would be in my job. It is telling parents that they have a voice and should fight for what’s best for their kids. It’s being willing to go to the school board when discrimination is happening in your district. It is fighting for respect and realistic expectations as a member of the field of education.

I needed to be prepared about how angry teaching could make me (and I’m not talking about the kids).  The expectations we are of kids are so far away from developmentally appropriate.  What good are any of the graduate classes, teacher trainings, and new programs if I don’t have time to implement them. I have a battle of conscience knowing I’m not doing what’s best and may actually be doing damage to kids’ self-esteem and attitudes about schooling.   Closing our doors and trying to make the best of the situation isn’t going to be enough.  Nothing is going to change until teacher, parents, and students are empowered and take a stance for what’s right and wrong.

This class may be hard to teach while staying politically neutral. But, teaching isn’t unbiased and neutral. We are pulled from one side of the pendulum to the next by politicians and leaders who have no background in education besides their own experiences as a student. If we want teachers to stop leaving, we need to give them support. This starts by making them aware of just what they are up against and then teaching them what they can do. I’m 24, untenured, and inexperienced, but I want to know what my options are, if not now then later, for what I can do besides complain to colleagues, roll my eyes at one more thing being added to the curriculum, and close my door to make the best of things.

 

Check out this incredible teacher standing up for her students.  The full article can be seen here. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/01/22/teacher-on-common-core-testing-i-am-a-broken-woman/

Hard Days

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Some days are hard.  It might be a full moon.  It might be the upcoming spring break.  It may just be one of those days.  Yesterday I had to remind myself to take deep breaths and swallow my pride.  The kids were CRAZY!  I had everything from running around the room before 9 am to acting silly in a fire drill.  Seemingly small but it led to a hard day.  On our class-wide behavior plan, 7 students ended with negative points.  That’s unheard of!

Rather than yell, cry, or give up, we had a conversation at the end of the day as a class.  The above is what came of it.

I came up with “Today is a hard day.  Tomorrow will be better.  We will….”

As a group we developed some important points,

“Talk only at appropriate times

Do not disturb others in the hallway

Transitions are not play time

Stay in your own space

Complete your work”

 

This morning we set a goal.  Along with following the expectations on the board, we wanted at least 7 students to end with so many positive points.  Many, many times we revisited these points.  Let me tell you, today was SO positive.  High fives.  Hugs. Successes.  Both academically and behaviorally.  I’m beyond excited to say that 14 students ended at or above our goal!!!!

Teachers, parents, fellow adults of the world, remember that it is a bad day, it is not forever.  Take a deep breath.  Swallow your pride.  Tomorrow is a new day.