One question I hear often is ‘how do you fit it all in’? The short answer is, I don’t know. Seriously, the plate spinning is ridiculous, but somehow we figure it out, right? For me, a big part of the art of teaching is balance – understanding that sometimes some plates might be up, but not spinning as fast and furiously and being alright with that – it’s not easy though.
So how do I keep all the awesome mindset work I’m doing at the forefront and not just something we’ve ‘done’ and moved past? Well, I am quite honestly, always thinking of ways to push it into whatever we’re doing. I’m also lucky there are students who have taken it to heart and are reminding me often of ways. In my heart, I truly believe teaching my students to be kind, brave, strong, successful people is my first job. With that in mind, as I plan the academics, I’m constantly trying to infuse social emotional learning into our work.
Here is one example.
Right now we’re writing realistic fiction stories. We’ve learned that our characters are going to be getting into some trouble and then we need to get them out of that trouble. As I watched my students coming up with ‘problems’ I noticed most of them were understanding the ‘size’ that would be easiest for them to relate to and write about.
While conferring with a girl struggling to find a way to get her character out of her trouble, she said, “Well, my character is having a lot of trouble – she really wants to be the goalie in the soccer game, but the boys won’t let her… it’s definitely not a glitch – I’d say a bummer for sure.” So I coached her to go look at our chart to explore ways to get out of a bummer sized problem. Off she went and came running back with an idea.
“Maybe she gives the boy and I message… and maybe that doesn’t work so she has to be persistent and keep trying! And maybe she comes up with an idea to show the boys what a great goalie she can be!”
I asked students to think about the size of their character’s problem. When we shared during our meeting, we shared with a partner the size and some possible ways of getting the character out of the trouble. For students unsure, they shared their character’s problem and their partner helped them determine the size. We also graphed the number of glitches, bummers, and disasters and the class concluded ‘bummer sized problems seem to be the best for realistic fiction.’
This mindset work was infused into our writing. It was authentic and purposeful.
Let me be clear, this isn’t easy. I try my best to keep the plate spinning, and thankfully, there are always a few students who remind me of the work and often show me ways to keep our day colored with the social emotional work I know is so critical.