Are you a middle school teacher or parent who longs to connect with your teens on a deeper level? Yearns to be there for them in their life-is-too-big moments? Wants to share life lessons with them – without sounding like an afterschool special?
Then you’re in the right place! Join The Ish Girl (aka Amy Kelly) as she shares fresh ideas, strategies, and resources for connecting with teens.
From body image to bullying, academic pressure to addiction, Amy will give you the tools to broach a variety of hot topics, and lay a foundation of trust and communication with your teens.
Missing the Big Picture? How to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
YOUR NORTH STAR AND YOUR BIG PICTURE In our last episode, we talked about the overwhelm and paralysis that often accompanies teaching. We focused on choosing a “North Star,” a big picture, guiding value that helps us create boundaries within our classrooms, and priorities for organizing our time.
However, even once you’ve established student learning as your North Star, it’s still easy to fall into overwhelm and paralysis. Because devoting the necessary time to planning and instruction means filtering out all the noise. It can feel like a constant battle.
THE BIG PICTURE BATTLE One of the sources of that noise can even be your administration.
As leaders, their bosses encourage them to stay on the “cutting edge” of education, and often that means adopting new “methods” of instruction.
Teachers are on the ground with those initiatives, the place where the rubber meets the road.
As beginning teachers, it can be exhausting every time your district/school adopts a new “method.” Learning the method distracts you from perfecting your craft.
VISUALIZING THE BIG PICTURE To make sure I’m articulating this the way I want to, here’s another way to think about it.
The Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It Imagine your content as a package. Your job is to get the package to your students, in a way they can open it up and use it. There are a million ways to deliver the package, but some are more efficient than others. Some are easier for you, because of your personality and gifts. Others are more effective for the students.
The Package As a beginning teacher a huge part of the learning curve is understanding exactly what is in the package – the big picture, your content – and studying and discovering the best ways others have delivered the same package to their students.
The Delivery How you deliver the package is your method. You can drive it in a truck, or on a motorcycle. You can send it by airplane.
The Tools You also give your students tools to open up the package – things like scissors to open the box, language for how to read and follow the instruction in the box, and a screwdriver to use for putting together what’s inside.
Keeping It Simple As a newer teacher, you want to keep all this as simple as possible – as you gain more and more experience, you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t, and gain a comfort level with trying new things and making adjustments.
The Struggle The struggle point is when your administration adopts that new method. Keeping our example going, what they’re saying is that you need to use this new Tesla (a stick-shift) to deliver your package, and you must use this particular highway, and here are the tools we want you to give your students to open the box: a hammer, a straw, and a stick of gum.
(Okay, that’s a little snarky, but you get what I mean.)
WHERE TO BEGIN When you are at the learning-the-package, big picture stage, figuring out that new delivery system can push you over the edge.
This is where it can get murky and become hard for teachers to know what to focus on first. It’s one of those places you might hit overwhelm and find yourself paralyzed, even though you know you have so much to do.
What we’re talking about today is how to stay on track and keep moving forward by keeping your “main thing” in mind.
KEEPING THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING Again, this is where the north star we’ve chosen comes into play. As we talked about in Episode 112, with this guiding our big picture, we know our priority is to move our students forward in their learning in the area we teach, so they know what they need to know by the end of the year.
So, looking at that big picture, where to start?
ASK YOURSELF THIS FIRST The first question to ask yourself is: what do I need to teach?
The answer, for most, is: Objectives. The standards and be
Paralyzed By Overwhelm? Here's Why You Need a North Star
NEEDING A NORTH STAR One of my biggest challenges as a new teacher was figuring out what to prioritize. Given my huge to-do list, I fell into overwhelm and, as much as I hate to admit it, was often paralyzed into not taking any action, because I didn’t know which thread to pull first. I realized that I needed to take a bigger picture approach to set my priorities. I couldn’t base them on the granular, day-to-day responsibilities. To combat my overwhelm, I needed a big picture, values-based north star.
HOW TO CHOOSE A NORTH STAR The issue was, which north star to pick? Was it connecting with my students? Creating relationships with colleagues? Communicating with parents? Pleasing my administrators? Jumping into leadership roles to make a place for myself at a district-level? Making sure my students left my classroom knowing what they needed to know?
My knee-jerk response was: ALL OF THE ABOVE, of course!
But that was a recipe for crazy-making – no matter how much experience you have, but especially for beginning teachers.
So, I took the opportunity to observe the extraordinary people I had the privilege to work with. There are two that I remember, who after watching, I knew had very different north stars.
A TALE OF TWO TEACHERS Both these teachers were on the staff at a brand new middle school we helped open. They taught the same subject, at different grade levels. And by watching them, I discovered they each had two very different North Stars.
Teacher #1 The first taught at the 7th-grade level. His students came to us as 8th graders, as we were both assigned to the gifted and talented teams in our respective grade levels.
He was dynamic and engaging, and very active on the educational speaking circuit, as he had recently been awarded Teacher of the Year by a major U.S. entity. This meant that he was often out of the classroom to keynote different events.
He was known for the grand, sweeping activities he did with students, from marching down the halls with his classes to demonstrate adjectives and adverbs, to conducting classroom video conferencing with scientists and other professionals out in the field.
Pretty snazzy, right? And the administration – both at our campus and at the district level – ate it up.
Teacher #2 The second teacher was his counterpart on my 8th-grade team. I had a front-row seat as I observed him get in the building early each morning, connect with as many kids as he could teach them the stuff he knew they needed to know – specifically, how to think for themselves – and get out at the end of the workday. He was a “why” guy – you know the one – the guy that challenges the different initiatives admins roll out, and refuses to jump into anything unless he can see how it correlates to what he’s doing in his classroom, for his students.
Two Different North Stars Their North Stars were different. The first’s was to impress the administration and build his career on the speaking circuit. The second was to make sure his students learned everything they needed to know before they left his class. They had very different end goals in mind.
YOU CAN DO IT ALL – BUT NOT AT THE SAME TIME The truth is, as a master teacher, you DO want to hit on most, if not all, of these – connecting with my students, creating relationships with colleagues, communicating with parents, pleasing my administrators, jumping into leadership roles, and making sure students leave the classroom knowing what they needed to know.
The trick is understanding that you can’t do it all at one time.
DISCOVERING YOUR NORTH STAR So, for beginning teachers, here is what I would say: list out all your north stars and put them in a hierarchy.
That’s the first step in setting up boundaries for what you prioritize.
To figure out how to rank your list, I recommend using the question that Gary Keller propose
Dread the Drudgery? How to Move Beyond Your Tasks to Make an Impact
I DREAD IT EVERY YEAR It’s the beginning of the year, and my husband and I need to sit down and do our yearly Financial Planning Summit for 2021. I have to be honest, it’s something I dread every year.
You know the feeling I’m talking about – that pit in your stomach that prompts you to do everything you can to avoid it?
Dread comes from lots of places. In our case, it’s rooted in:
Previous experience Hating the “details” (That’s me - I’m a big-picture person) Getting stuck in the weeds of details (That’s Philip, who is my exact opposite – he rocks the details, but it’s more difficult for him to see the big picture.) However, it’s NEVER as bad as we think it’s going to be! (OK that’s a lie – it used to be. But it’s not anymore. We’ve been married long enough that we know how to “fight well.”)
HOW ABOUT YOU - DO YOU EVER EXPERIENCE DREAD? Most of you are back in the classroom now after a much-needed winter break.
If you’re newer to teaching, you may have experienced dread about going back.
Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed in general?
With virtual learning or even in your physical classroom, you might feel like you’re recreating the wheel, especially when it comes to administrative tasks.
I’m curious – do any of those tasks inspire dread in you? For instance, tasks like grading? Filing? Record-Keeping?
ONE HUGE DREAD-BUSTER Fortunately, there are lots of ways to minimize the dread you might have about getting all. the. things. done. In fact, it can be pretty simple to reduce it. Adopting ONE practice in your classroom organizational systems (that we'll be talking about) will:
Save you time Get rid of that dread Create more time for you to engage with your students GREAT EXPECTATIONS If you’re like me, as a newer teacher, it was a reality check to realize there were so many things I had to do as a teacher OTHER than engaging my students. It was a little disillusioning, to be honest.
So when I said that – “Things other than engaging my students,” what popped into your head. Wherever you are, say them out loud. And pay attention to how your body feels when you say each of them.
A huge stack of papers to grade Lesson plan materials to file away Parent communication to send Lesson plans to design Grades to record Interim and report card comments to write Which of these repetitive tasks created the most tension in your body? Tightened a knot in your stomach? Felt a contracting in you rather than an expansion? Felt like DREAD?
What is Dread, Exactly? According to an article from Counselling Directory (I’ve included a link in my show notes,)
“Dread may be described as a sense of impending doom. An oppressive and overwhelming force; sucking the joy out of life and smothering your enthusiasm for new experiences. Dread may include being constantly on edge, imagining worst-case scenarios and screen-playing moments of imminent catastrophe in your head.” -Counselling Directory
“Oppressive and overwhelming force sucking the joy out of life”...have you ever experienced that as a teacher? And look at that next part… "smothering your enthusiasm”. Does that description resonate with you and your administrative tasks as a teacher?
DREAD, COURTESY OF THE LITTLE THINGS Like I talked about earlier, most of us don’t think of the administrative tasks involved in the jobs we choose. If you’re like me, you were drawn to teaching for the interaction with students. For the impact you can make.
Is the need to take care of all those administrative tasks creating an overwhelm in you? One that stands in the way of that interaction with students you desire?
How do you balance it out? The work MUST be addressed. BUT there ARE ways to make it easier on yourself.
One of those ways is
Struggle with Being a People Pleaser? The Power of "NO"
To download "10 Ways to Say No Without Feeling Guilty" go to the Episode 110 Show Notes.
The Impact of the Grownups We Remember The Legacy of Great Teachers
TWO PEOPLE WITH HUGE IMPACT IN MY LIFE This is the second part of an interview I did with two of my very favorite people, who have each had a tremendous impact on who I am – my siblings, Amanda Spell & Aaron Webb. If you caught the last episode you know that in this particular discussion, we’re talking about the grownups we remember – specifically:
The teachers who impacted us positively growing up How they impacted us The way their impact played out in our lives How we're still experiencing that impact now Why they're the grownups we remember Last week, Amanda and I shared the teachers who most resonated with us and why; this week, we’re talking about Aaron’s favorites.
HOW MY SIBS IMPACT THE WORLD
Amanda Spell If you didn’t catch that episode, I want to tell you a bit about my incredible siblings.
Amanda is a small business owner and runs Amanda Joy’s Catering and AM Health coaching. She’s been on a health journey this last year and has lost 114 pounds since January! Her newfound health has given her a new lease on life. Married to Mike for 20 years, she is Mom to two teens, Jacob and Sydney. She is the middle child (that’s something she wanted me to be sure to include. 😉)
Aaron Webb My brother is a husband, stepdad, brother, and son. He is a Senior Chief in the Navy Reserves, with 16 years of service and 5 deployments to the Middle East. He is a creative and artist who found his voice through painting. His work is currently showing in multiple galleries and private collections throughout the United States and Europe.
Interested in their work? Check out the links below.
THE IMPACT AND TENSION OF EXPECTATIONS Something I keep going back to is that all three of us felt like there was a tension inside us, between the expectations put on us of who we’re supposed to be and how we're supposed to be vs. who we actually are.
It’s a universal feeling for most teens, this tug of war as we discover and emerge into our true selves.
The teachers who acknowledged that true self in each of us became the ones we remembered.
Here are some other takeaways I’d like to call out, especially if you are a teacher working with teens.
7 THINGS TO REMEMBER WHEN YOU WANT TO IMPACT TEENS
What we say to teens and how we say it matters. We can help our teens find their voices. Being yourself can blaze the trail for your teens to do the same. Providing context for our content is powerful. Your passion can open the world for your teens. Your students know when you’re a beginner – so own it. Students know when you really care – and when you’re just checking your boxes. FAR-REACHING IMPACT
I graduated 30 years ago, Amanda 27 years ago, Aaron almost 25 years ago. Sit a moment with the fact that we’re still talking about the teachers who impacted us – across all grade levels.
They’re the grownups we remember because they made an impression on us, whether because they truly saw us, or because they marched to their own drum without apology, or because they inspired us and expanded our possibilities.
WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN IMPACT?
If you’d like to be the grownup your teens remember, I’d love for you to join my Meaningful Mentor Workshop. you can register for it by following the link below.
The Grownups We Remember - The Long-Reaching Impact of Great Teachers
THE GROWNUPS WE REMEMBER I’m so excited to introduce you to two significant people in my life: my siblings, Amanda Spell and Aaron Webb. For this episode and the next, you can listen in on a conversation we had about the grownups we remember. Specifically:
The teachers who made a positive impact. How they impacted us. The way their impact played out in our lives. How we're still experiencing that impact now. Why they're the grownups we remember. SIBLING REVELRY Amanda is a small business owner and runs Amanda Joy’s Catering and AM Health coaching. She’s on a health journey that started early this year and has lost 114 pounds since January! Her newfound health has given her a new lease on life. Amanda has been married to Mike for 20 years and is Mom to two teens, Jacob and Sydney. She is the middle child (that’s something she wanted me to be sure to include. 😉) You may recognize Amanda from Episode 47 of the In the Middle of It Podcast.
My brother, Aaron Webb, is a husband, stepdad, brother, and son. He is a Senior Chief in the Navy Reserves, with 16 years of service and 5 deployments to the Middle East. He is a creative and artist who found his voice through painting. His work is currently showing in multiple galleries and private collections throughout the United States and Europe.
Interested in their work? Check out the links below.
THE GROWNUPS WHO IMPACTED US As we talked, I found it so interesting that a theme emerged. You’ll see it played out in the next episode as well – all the grownups we remember had some similar qualities and four that stood out. The teachers who made an impact are the ones who:
Saw us as individuals They didn’t lump us together as “The Webb Kids.” They took the time to get to know us and our gifts and talents and personalities.
Empowered us Also, they cast a vision of what was possible and communicated confidence in our ability to achieve it. They gave us opportunities to lead and use our gifts.
Got involved with us outside the classroom Not only did we often see our teachers at church, but they also acted as student government sponsors, cheerleading sponsors, and coaches.
Showed up wholly as themselves Finally, we saw that they were different than other teachers – they marched to the beat of their own drum. They modeled what it looked like to be different and still thrive.
THE GROWNUPS WE REMEMBER IN THE NEXT EPISODE I can’t wait to share the 2nd half of our discussion next week, where we get into Aaron's inspiring teachers and how our present lives are still impacted by the grownups we remember.
Along those lines, if there is a grownup who you remember, I would love to hear from you. You can DM me on FB or IG and tell me how that teacher impacted your life. I’ll be choosing several to share on the podcast in the next episode. You can find links to all my socials below.
BEING THE GROWNUP THEY REMEMBER Want to be the grownup your teens remember? Be sure to sign up to be the first to know about my Meaningful Mentor Workshop. You can sign up using the link below.