The power of positivity through genuine relationships

Jimmy Casas (@casas_jimmy) speaks often to the power of the “three Rs” relationships, relationships, relationships. So true, both in education and life without a solid relationship foundation what do we really have? Nothing. While relationships have become a buzzword lately it’s imperative these are genuine and not just “going through the motion” by “checking off the box.” The students we all serve can spot phony in a nanosecond. When we are truly invested in them as individuals far beyond mere data points, they know.

If you see my Twitter feed enough you know I send out daily motivations often early in the morning. Monday – #CelebrateMonday created by my pal Sean Gaillard; Tuesday – #TootlingTuesday created by my friend and district colleague Renee White; Wednesday – #WednesdayWisdom; Thursday – #ThoughtfulThursday; Friday – #FF (Follow Friday); Saturday – #SaturdaySpark and Sunday – #SundayMotivation. All of these daily tweets are designed to provide positivity in some fashion. Celebrating the great aspects of the school, regognizing district colleagues going above and beyond, inspirational quotes or sayings, providing PLN educators who might be beneficial to increase their personalized learning, the list goes on.

While daily tweets of inspiration, praise and thought are one thing how do we put relationships into action. Enter my work with two projects at both the elementary and middle school level.

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In 2011, when I was new to Twitter one of the first interactions I had on a “global level” (educators beyond my district and state level) was Angela Maiers. Angela had just rolled out her You Matter initiative and I was blown away.

Her work inspires me greatly and through bringing her You Matter movement to my previous school caused me to blog about the experience which led to a conference call with Angela, myself and school stakeholders. Angela’s overarching work and her Choose2Matter organziation (http://www.choose2matter.org) transformed the student and staff culture at Wendell Creative Arts and Science Magnet Elementary  and I’m so grateful for the opportunity Shane Barham afforded me to bring this initiative to his school.

When I transitioned curriculum coaching roles within our district from elementary to middle school levels one of the areas of attraction that led me to Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School was the school had recently integrated the Positivity Project (https://posproject.org) I immediately saw the deep value in relationship as well as clear positivity of the initiative.

What was even more powerful once I arrived at the school was the ability to intertwine Positivity Project (P2) with our Leader in Me/Seven Habits which is part of of our magnet theme. Amazing, right? Excited to see where this program takes our school in 2017-18.

Even more exciting is as a pilot school in our district we recently invited over 30 other schools in our district to our school to learn more about P2 from our student leaders and the president and co-founder of Positivity Project, Mike Erwin. From that workshop we now have several new schools in our district planning to implement P2 for 2017-18. Strength in numbers – and a growing Positivity Project PLN within our own district. The #OtherPeopleMatter initiatives are powerful.

While all the inspirational tweets, blogs, initiatives, and are talk have great power none of these have true value or merit without genuine, ongoing relationships. Relationships with students, staff and community stakeholders. How are you doing in that department? Remember, the students we all serve can spot the artificial quickly. Be honest, reflect, improve. We all can. We are better together. After all, #KidsDeserveIt.

Rolling out the red carpet — authentic student led learning in action!

The past few months have been a whirlwind. Accepting a middle school instructional coaching position 2/3 into the school year and making the leap from a career deeply rooted in the elementary level to the “great unknown” of middle school has been quite the career journey that I’ve embraced with open arms.

Learning and growing through risk doesn’t stop with the adult learner by any stretch of the imagination. In fact it should be practiced and embraced ongoing with the students we all serve.

At Carroll Leadership in Technology Magnet Middle School student led learning occurs a variety of ways perhaps most notably through challenged based learning (CBL) aided with the support of our amazing CBL coach Christine who offers ongoing support from afar as well as several on campus visits throughout the academic year.

Within the CBL students are able to engage in thought provoking challenge tasks while deeply hitting all the 4C components (communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity) in a fun learning environment. The results of the CBL activities are amazing — learning opportunities the students will remember for months and often years to come because of the fun factor but most vital – the deep learning aspect.

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During our Leadership Night this past week, I was exposed to the final aspect of many current 6, 7 and 8th grade CBL projects in full (after witnessing many in progress in the weeks leading up) as we welcomed our rising 6th grade students and families to CMMS. Every grade level had several CBL projects on display which student leaders led the discussion with classroom teachers only offering clarification if need be to the parents – the students truly owned the learning in every single room…powerful.

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While this evening was an authentic representation of many of the amazing aspects of what our school has to offer it also shed light of our work with the 7 Habits as a Leader in Me school woven through our work with the Positivity Project. These were evident by the language the student leaders were using as well as “P2” gear being sported around the school and examples as well as Leader in Me/7 Habits throughout the school. Most notably as soon as students and their families arrived they were greeted by several faculty and made their way down there long hallway on a red carpet where roughly 3/4 of our faculty loudly cheered as one family at a time’s name was called out by one of our 6th grade teachers. The students and their families made their way down the red carpet and to the auditorium where student leaders and CMMS principal Mrs. MacWilliams officially kicked off the evening. Powerful. Authentic. Positive. All of which start from the top and trickles down. https://twitter.com/CYarzy/status/849800519266832388

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Through community partnerships, great publicity through social media, word of mouth, other avenues the community and our magnet nodes are getting wind of what the amazing learning environment. This was evident by a phenomenal turnout by our Future Leaders and their families.

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While this night was a huge success it wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work and weeks of planning without the administrative team, classroom teachers, academic support team members and especially our fantastic magnet coordinator, Mrs. Maloney. I’ve been a part of many community/family school events throughout my career this was hands down one of the highlights within my career.

However the true stars of the night were the students. Both our current students who served as student leaders in many capacities whether in leadership showcases in rooms and around the halls, or student leaders on the stage, greeters, etc.

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Also our future students who came to the school many for the first time in knowing that this would in fact be “their school” in 2017-18. Learning and leading all around. So strong – so powerful. Great things happening and even more to come in the coming months. #WeAreCarroll.

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