A Reason to Make A Map

My Kindergartners returned from a special the other day, and after counting I presumed one of them had stopped at the nurse. Moments later she came into my classroom, arms wrapped tightly around the leg of the specialist teacher. Turns out she had gone to the bathroom as the specialist brought the Kindergartners back, and ended up alone in the other building. She remembered how to get back to our building, but without a teacher, was locked out. Thankfully, a colleague was opening the door as she arrived and found her, shoulders lifting and falling with her tears, hands sweating with work and worry.

She and I talked — with the other Kindergartners — and breathed many breaths together. It helped to debrief and to breathe, but I could tell it wasn’t enough. I abandoned my original lesson and said “Hey Kindergarten! For social studies we are going to take a field trip.” Gasps and questions filled the air: “We’re going on a field trip? Wow! Will we take a bus? Where are we going?” Even the student who had been lost was intrigued and a bit excited. When she discovered that she was a much needed part of the field trip, she breathed a bit deeper — distracted and empowered by her role.

I told them it was a walking field trip, and we were going to explore the school a bit. First we walked to the stairwell at the end of the hall. The door has a latch that requires you to push the latch down with your thumb while simultaneously pulling on the handle. For adult hands it is quite easy, for Kindergartner sized hands it requires some thinking, and problem solving to make it work. Some could make it work with one hand, others used two to accomplish the task. As each was successful, she ascended the stairs and waited for the next part of our field trip.

As we continued to the next building I asked the Kindergartners to notice the many things they were passing. I told them we would be making a map when we finished our field trip and they would need to remember the important bits to add to their map.

We entered the next building, and again examined the door to determine how we might get out if we needed to do so without a teacher. The first student pushed and pushed on the handle to no avail. Then another said “It says to push the green button!” Another said “Yeah, I knew it said that.” I acknowledged their knowledge but pointed out that sometimes, when we are nervous we have a much harder time reading, so it’s good to have a simple memorable way to remember what to do. We decided “Green for go!” was a good reminder.

Once outside again, I asked the Kindergartners to look around and think. Where are we? Where do we usually go? Where else might we go? What would be the best place to go? They noted that we usually go one way but we would come to a locked door. They commented that we could go to the Upper School and the Kaleidoscope playground by going another way but didn’t think that would be helpful. I encouraged them to keep looking and thinking. Finally they decided to try yet another way and realized it took them to our Kindergarten playground. I asked what they might do when they reached the playground if they weren’t with a teacher. They thought, and talked, and finally decided they could knock on the window to get a teacher’s attention.

Them: “Can we try it, Miss James?”
Me: “Sure! But wait for me to get inside, then carefully knock on the window to our classroom. Best to knock on the wood around the window. It’ll be loud and you won’t risk breaking the glass.”
Them: “Ok!”

There was lots of whispering and watching as I jogged down our little hill towards our learning space. I looked back as I neared the door. Their eyes watched me intently as they stood in their line encouraging one another with “Not yet. .. She’s almost there…. We can do it!” I think I may always have that vision of them burned into my brain. Such small humans, with such big hearts, brains, and courage.

As I ran into our learning space, I yelled to a colleague, “Don’t open the door for my class! We’re working on a problem!” Entering the room I sat down and waited for their knock. I didn’t have to wait long. The knocks were loud and clear. I came to the window, listened as they told me what happened, and then let them in through our outside door.

Once inside, my fantabulous Kindergartners became cartographers. Each, in their own way, documented the information they felt was important about how one might get from the other building back to our learning space. As they finished, the cartographers eagerly explained their maps to me before asking with great delight if they might take them home. One asked if I knew how other maps were folded. When I told her I did, she asked if I could fold hers like that. I did my best, and with a big smile, she safely tucked it into her pocket.

Teach for Delight: Part 2

I had a parent teach conference the other day. As we talked about the many ways the Kindergartner had grown and blossomed, the mom said “Her handwriting is the one thing I think can still use work.” I chuckled, agreed, and then said “But — and I mean this in the best possible way — I think her handwriting hasn’t improved because she doesn’t care about it. She isn’t invested in it.” Now it was the mom’s turn to chuckle. “Oh yeah, you’re absolutely right. She just wants to get it done so she can move on to something else.”

As I went about my day that stayed on my mind. I recalled this post of mine — Teach for Delight. How might I infuse our handwriting work with a bit more delight? Even saying it sounds funny, but I’m sure there is a way. Here are some of my first thoughts: practicing words they love, writing to people they love, writing sentences and phrases they love, writing jokes, making name tags, decorating their cubbies and the room. The possibilities are endless. I just need to embrace the idea that interest and delight are important and possible — even with handwriting — and then set to making it happen.

I thought about teaching for delight again last week as I prepared for art. My curriculum has many fantabulous inspiration artists, coupled with processes and products that are Kindergarten friendly and appropriate. The Kindergartners enjoy art, and their products are beautiful. But, I was sensing that there was just too much structure for them at the moment. They needed the freedom to simply and completely play. They needed an assignment that allowed them to embrace the process and product with the smallest amount of outside interference possible.

I thought and thought. What artist might we use? How can we do it in the time allotted? How might I structure it so that their process and product would be enjoyable and satisfying? I quickly landed on finger painting as the process. But, how to elevate it a bit to show them, and others, that their work is indeed art? That was a sticking point for a bit of time. Finally, I decided I could help by taping a boarder on their paper, and by trusting them as artists.

With a good bit more thinking, I had the process and rules in place.
* Each artist could choose up to 4 colors.
* Each artist must do at least one practice piece, but could do a total of three.
* Each artist would be kind to themselves and others by:
not touching their face or hair,
not touching their friends,
walk with clasped hands when walking around the room.
* I will prepare a tray, paper, and a paint holder/plate for each artist.

When I announced the project, there were audible gasps and expressions of delight. They listened intently as I explained the process and rules. They were patient, but clearly wanted to get started right away. I told them I would let them know when we were nearly half way through the class so that they could know they should begin working on their final piece. They all agreed that they understood, and had no questions, so I began handing out supplies.

Each artist placed their tray — lined with construction paper — at their spot. They placed one 9X12 inch practice sheet on top of the tray, and one underneath the tray. If they wanted to keep their practice sheets they placed their initials on the back. If they wanted to donate it to the maker trolley for everyone to use, they left the page blank. Then, they picked up their paper plate and stood in line for paint. Their choices were deliberate and purposeful. Each artist was clear about the colors they wanted to work with for this project. Once they received their colors they began creating.

It was interesting to watch the various ways they chose to interact with the paint. Some worked with one color at a time. Others worked with a few at a time. Some worked with one finger. Others worked with both hands, covering the paper — and their hands — with color. On some pieces the colors were distinct, on others the colors melded into one.

I wandered around the room, stopping at each artist’s work to comment on what I noticed. I frequently said “Oh! That is lovely! What a great idea. I never thought of doing that!” I also asked “Are you finished?” Most of the time, the artists responded to my question with a definite “No.” I was committed to allowing this to be a moment when I taught for delight, and to respecting the fact that this was their piece of art and delight, not mine, so each time I responded, “Okay.”

Sometimes that’s a difficult place for us to stand as educators. But, it truly doesn’t matter if I think it’s beautiful. It matters that the artist thinks it’s beautiful, and it matters that I respect that. The only time I intervened was if I thought the paint was so thick that it might crack off the page, or if artist’s hands were dripping wet after washing and were likely to destroy their paper or process.

The results — in both process and product — were remarkably varied and beautiful.

The delight they experienced helped them to be more invested in the process. Being invested in the process helped them stay on task. Seeing, experiencing, and supporting their delight helped me to breathe a bit more, which allowed for there to be increased relaxation and ease in our learning space. All in all, it was lovely, and served to reinforce my believe that teaching for delight is essential.

What’s the Goal?

And just like that, she’s done.

As I finished putting her together, I thought, “She looks pretty good, not perfect, but pretty good.” Since my inner critic was in a talkative mood, I engaged. “True, but is perfection the goal?” I wasn’t being sassy. I was genuinely inquiring. We were both quiet for a bit.

Then I noticed the words “think of all the beauty.” I didn’t specifically pick them to be part of this piece. They fell out of my box as I was choosing other things. But, I noticed them. And, I let them speak to me. Once they spoke, I knew they were the answer, and I knew I had to figure out a way to include them in this piece.

That’s the goal. Think of all the beauty — in art, in life, in ourselves and others. Think of all the beauty.

Learn, be, create, enjoy, and think of all the beauty. Notice it. Acknowledge it. Accept it. Celebrate it. And, preach it.

So, my art and I sit here and preach on. Think of all the beauty.

Talent? Or, Play and Process?

I embarked on some spring cleaning the other day. To my delight, amidst the piles of things to go through, I discovered a few Barnes and Noble gift cards. The best part is, they still had money on them!!! (By the way, are you wondering why I’d be delighted to find a gift card with no money on it? I wouldn’t be as delighted as I am now, but I’d be happy, because they are nice substitutes for palette knives, and they’re free!) The cards had enough money on them that I was able to buy a cooking magazine for my mom, a magazine about Johnny Cash for my dad, and a Keto bread baking book for my brother. Today I bought some ingredients we needed to make wheat free keto bagels! Can you say “Oh, my, GOSH!?

But I digress.

This is what I bought for myself.

The cover gave me a great idea of how to combine two art projects into one that I think will have my Kindergarten artists quite enthralled. But, the inspiration doesn’t end there. There’s a ton more inside, along with — like it says — artist papers and interactive pages. How can you contain yourself? Go buy it now! And, alas, no, I won’t get a commission if you purchase this magazine. I just think it will make you happy, and give you ideas for more creativity and art in your life, and that would be fantabulous.

After flipping through the book, I marked a few spots with paper clips, and set to work on a project of torn paper collage. This particular collage was small in scale, and relatively simply in form. The artist used one set of torn paper to create a background, and then another to create a person in the foreground. Her work was amazing, and her paper choices were great – one particular choice made me laugh out loud it was so awesome.

After reading her instructions, and studying her work a bit more, I pulled out my paper stash, and began picking papers I might use in my art. For my background, I chose papers with text from a handwritten and printed. I allowed my choices to be a combination of purposeful and random. I moved the papers around until I was satisfied with the layout, and pasted them to my base.

I went back to my stash to find the papers I wanted to use to create the image of the girl. I picked out a few different ones, placed them next to one another, and imagined them as the various parts of the girl. I ripped a few and tried them again next to one another. I rejected some as others came together into a pleasing semblance of face, hair, and body. I looked at my compilation from various angles. I re-ripped and re-placed. I added my own twist to the form of the girl so that I could see words I had purposefully chosen to have in the background. I lost track of how many times I said, “Hmmm, I wonder … ”

Finally I got to a stage that was photo-worthy. I want to remember how I placed her so as not to lose that inspiration as I continue to think. I’m loving the way it looks now but I’m also pretty sure there is more to come. This stage is lovely, but it’s also a bit safe. There’s a lot of wondering and thinking I’m going to have to test out before adding it to my work.

Do I want to do an acrylic wash on the background?
Do I want to add a color to the edges of the ripped pieces making up the girl? What color?
What facial features do I want to add?
Do I want to keep it as a card, or cut it and frame it?

I shared this image with a friend. She said, “You’re so talented” Then, she chuckled and said, “How come you’re so talented?” She’s the second person to tell me how talented I am in as many days. I should probably take it as a sign to embrace, accept, and celebrate the talent I have been given. And yet, at the same time, I want to point out that I don’t think I’m that much more talented than anyone else.

What I am is super willing to try, and try again and again. I sit with things, look at them, take them apart, and wonder about what I notice. I love to play. Sometimes I play just for the fun of it — not noticing anything I learned until later. Other times I play in order to discover if there are new ways to do things, or ways to synergistically combine things, or ways to switch things up to make something even better.

So, am I talented? Yes. Am I crazy talented more than everyone else? No.

Everyone is creative and artistic — yes, even you! And, everyone can be more creative and more artistic. You just have to take a breath and give it a go. Put in the time, the thought, and the energy. Have fun, play, and trust the process.

Six Impossible Things

The other day my Kindergartners and I were all feeling a bit out of sorts. All manner of things seemed to be wrong in our bodies, minds, and hearts. It seemed to be a steady stream of young ones coming to me to say (among other things) “My head hurts. My nose hurts. I miss my mom. I miss my dad. She was sassy to me. That was mean. I can’t do it. I’m tired. I don’t feel good. My belly hurts.” Their hurts and wonkiness were poking at all my hurts and wonkiness.

I realized we all needed a moment to regroup, and hopefully find a bit of ease and release from this ick that seemed to have settled on and in us. So, before we did anything else I said, “Hey Kindergarten!” They responded “Hey Miss James.” as they each did their best to give me their eyes, ears, brain, and body. Looking around and making eye contact with each one, I continued. “I’ve been noticing that a lot of us aren’t feeling so good. Would you be willing to do a little breathing with me?” We do breathing, mindfulness, and mindful movement with some regularity so it wasn’t a totally unusual request. They were willing.

We took a moment to become aware of our breath, to find a comfortable seat and a comfortable place to rest of our hands. I asked them with each inhale to imagine breathing peace and ease into any spot in their bodies, minds, or hearts that felt less than good — maybe it felt tight, or painful, or just kind of wonky or icky. Then I asked them to imagine exhaling the ick with each out breath. “Perhaps,” I suggested “you might imagine the pain or difficulty turning into sparkles or beautiful flowers as we exhale.” After we took a few breaths like this, I asked them to shake their arms and hands, imagining the last bits of ick, coming off their fingertips like glitter.

I’m not sure what I said as we finished, but one sweet Kindergartner with ginormous eyes, looked at me and said, “But it’s just our imagination, Miss James.”

I hesitated for just a split second, and said “You are absolutely right! It is our imagination. But, our imagination is amazing, and powerful, and beautiful.” Those big eyes were locked with mine, and I know all the others were watching and listening intently. “Our imaginations are powerful. They help us believe in ourselves. They help us do things we didn’t think we could do. They help us have fantabulous ideas of things to create, and make, and do, and say. Our thoughts make a difference!”

I could tell she wasn’t completely convinced so I mentioned something I knew they would all understand. “Have you ever been afraid at night? Have you ever imagined there’s something scary in your room? It seems so real, right? And the more you imagine it, the more real it seems. Even when your parents come and show you every thing is good and you’re safe, sometimes your imagination is still talking to you, making it hard to believe them.” There were nods of agreement. I continued, “Well our imagination is just as powerful for good things, too! When we imagine the pain and ick and wonkiness leaving our bodies, minds, and heart, sometimes it helps it to actually leave.”

As I drove home that day I was thinking about how amazing it would be to be able to figure out a way to teach the Kindergartners about the power of their brain, their thoughts, their imagination. I wanted to teach them about the connection between our brain and our bodies. I wanted to figure out ways to teach them about the fact that our brains have a tough time distinguishing between what is happening to us, and the stories we are telling ourselves.

As I was brushing my teeth that night, I noticed this magnet. It’s been on my mirror long enough for it to have lost some of it’s umpf. But this night I read it with the conversation fresh in my mind.

Yes! Practice. We must choose to believe, and we must practice. We must use our imagination to help us believe “impossible things.” The world is in great need of belief in impossible things — or, maybe it’s just me. Belief that God loves me, is with me, is working for my good — even amidst the craziness of life these days. Belief that I am making a difference, every day — even when I don’t feel it. Belief that I am deeply loved — even to the extreme that I read in a saved note from a dear friend “Everybody loves, Molly.” Belief that life is good, all is well, and all will be well. Belief that hope, and faith, and joy, and peace, and beauty is possible.

I’ve moved the magnet to my side table. I look at it and remind myself — yes, life is tough, yes, it’s not easy to believe all those things or a myriad of other “impossible things.” But, it is possible!

So, like the Queen in Alice in Wonderland, I’m practicing my positive, hopeful, faith-filled thinking — believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast as often as I remember. I’m trusting it will rebuild the muscles of my faith, my trust, my joy, and my relentlessly positive mindset.

Then, after breakfast, I’m imagining, believing, and affirming way more than six impossible things for all those in my learning space.

Yes, you can read!
Of course you can do it. Try.
What do you think? Yes, you absolutely can add those together.
The monkey bars? Yes, you can do it.
Imagine it happening.
Close your eyes. See yourself doing it. Now give it a go.
I know you’re afraid. That’s ok. Do it anyway.
Yup. I’m right here. Nope. You don’t need my help. You can do it.
Didn’t do it yet? It’s ok. What did you learn? Can you try again?
You did it!

Mindfulness of Doors

Look at the book I got in the mail. I’m super excited!

The d.school website says the book is “full of unconventional and practical ways to help you bring creative approaches to any challenge you face.” How cool is that? I wish I were on sabbatical, so that I could immerse myself in what seems like amazing fantabulousness. But, sabbatical or not, I’m gonna experience the fantabulousness one way or another.

I read through the table of contents the other day and decided to jump in with assignment number 46 – Micro-Mindfulness Exercises. The micro-mindfulness that struck me was mindfulness of doors. The suggestion is that we take a pause and a breath — however brief — as we walk through doors.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Turns out, it’s not. I’ve been thinking about it, planning on doing it, for days now. I walk through TONS of doors as an educator. Some days it seems I am constantly walking through doors. Of the million times a day that I go through various doors, I think I have stopped to pause and breathe, twice. I exaggerate the million, but the 2 pauses and breaths is quite accurate.

As I do with my students when we practice mindfulness together, I’m taking the time to ask myself some questions:

  • Why aren’t I pausing?
  • .Are my mind and body in the same space, or am I rushing through the day, thinking of the next moment, the next task, the next thing?
  • Might it be that I’m not rushing, but at the same time that I’m not totally present?
  • What might I learn about myself, my day, my pace, my breath, my mind, as I notice how difficult this is for me to accomplish?
  • How did it feel to take the pause and the breath the two times I did?
  • How might I — if I want to increase my mindfulness, my pause, my breath, my reflection, my peace — help make the pauses and breath possible? How might I remind myself to pause, to breathe, and to be present?

It’s so very interesting, that even failing to accomplish the mindfulness of doors, has brought a bit more mindfulness into my life. It’s beautiful, because it’s about the process and the mindfulness. It’s not so much about the pause and the breath at each door — though they would probably be a gift.

So, I continue to aspire to mindfulness of doors, and as I live and pause and breathe — or not — I will continue to reflect.

Creativity and Well being

I’ve been having a difficult time in one of my relationships. I’ve felt frustration, anger, disbelief, and annoyance. We need to figure out a way to resolve our disagreement, find a way to coexist, and even more so, to be our best selves together. So far, we haven’t found that sweet spot.

Yesterday, so tired of the discord and associated feelings, I remembered the loving kindness meditation practice. I pulled out my Breathe For Change manual to remind myself of the statements they suggested, and began.

I placed my hands on my heart, and connected to my breath. I used my imagination to create a space of warmth and love, where I could see myself — and even experience myself — as being safe, well, happy, and loved. I sent myself the loving kindness wishes: “May I be happy. My I be healthy. May I be safe. May I be free.” I stayed in the space for a bit, repeating the words, seeing it in my my mind, feeling it in my body, and expressing it on my face.

Our brains and minds are incredibly amazing and complex things. They allow us to imagine, create, and feel things — even things that may be different from our current reality. And, unbelievably, our brains don’t know if we’re actually experiencing it, or simply thinking about it. Years and years ago, I started saying one of Thich Nhat Hanh meditations “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile. Living in the present moment. What a wonderful moment.” It’s amazing, when I am feeling a bit off, how the simple act of smiling seems to release happiness chemicals into my brain.

So back to the loving kindness meditation.

The B4C folks added a level of imagination which I find to be fantabulously helpful. “Imagine a door opening at the bottom of each foot, and breathe whatever is not helping you out through those doors.” It’s so funny, my doors aren’t always the same doors. Sometimes they are large and grand, sometimes shaped like a hobbit door, sometimes tiny little things. I’m not sure why. But, they are always beautiful, and the thought of opening them to release the ick brings me joy.

So, I opened the doors in my feet, and imagined various things that weren’t helping me. Some of them flew out easily and seemed to become tiny flowers as they left. Other things got caught in the corners, and needed a bit more encouragement to leave.

Then I brought to mind the person with whom I’m experiencing the difficulties. I imagined them in my minds eye, and began the loving kindness meditation. First I reminded myself that, just like me, they want to be happy, safe, healthy, and free. Then I sent them loving kindness. “May you be happy. May you be safe. May you be healthy. May you be free.” I repeated it several times imagining myself actually saying it to them, and imagining them experiencing all those things.

Will this make our difficulties go away? Probably not. Will it change my brain and how I respond to this person? Will it bring me more peace and less of the angst I’ve been feeling? Will it help me to be my best self? I hope so, and I trust in the science that assures me it will.

So with another breath I use the power of my creativity to imagine possibility. With each breath, each thought, each moment of loving kindness, each choice to hope, I will bring what is possible to life.

Intent-based Leadership in Kindergarten

My brother just hipped me to the concept of Intent-based leadership. He sees value in adding it to our coaching practice. It sounds promising so I’ve started watching the plethora videos he suggested. As I watch I have to say I agree with him, and I’m thinking — “Wow! This isn’t just a good idea for our fencing team, this would be great to share with my Kindergartners!”

Leadership, responsibility, intent, learning, in Kindergarten
(created the photo art with goart.fotor.com)

Intent-based leadership looks like another awesome way for my Kindergartners to grow in their CASEL 5, as well as, academic excellence and joy. It will encourage my students to think about what they know, what they don’t know yet, what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and what and how they’re learning. My hunch is it’s going to be a powerful tool in the classroom.

Intent-based leadership was developed by L. David Marquet, while a Captain in the US Navy as a Commander of the nuclear submarine Santa Fe. Two quotes on his website hooked me! (I’ve adapted them for the classroom.)

Imagine a school (work place) where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity. A school (place) where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work – a school (place) where everyone is a leader.

Teaching (Leadership) is communicating to students, colleagues, and parents (people) their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

How fantabulous is that? I’m still exploring and pondering, and there are a gazillion good ideas to consider, but here are five of my “OH!” and “AHA!” moments regarding using intent-based leadership in the classroom

#1 There isn’t one source of power, information, and leadership on the nuclear sub or in our classroom. Students and teachers share in the responsibility of learning and growing a fantabulous classroom community.

Do I have a lot of information as the teacher? Yes. Do I bear a large portion of the responsibility? Yes. Do I have a considerable amount of power? Yes.

However, do I have all the information as the teacher? No. Do I have all the responsibility? No. Do I have all the power? No. My students also have a considerable amount of information, responsibility, and power.

My Kindergartners are knowledgeable about many things — they understand what they love, what motivates them, what they think they know, what they think they don’t know, what they actually know and don’t know, what’s going on with them and their friends, what’s going on at home, and so much more.

Ask any of my students if they have any responsibilities in our classroom. Each will say yes. They have class jobs. They are responsible for how they behave, what they say, what they do or don’t do. It sometimes takes them a bit to realize just how responsible they are. Here’s a common conversation.

Student: “My mom forgot to put my folder in my bag, Miss James.”
Me: “Your mom forgot to put your folder in your bag?
Student: :Yes.”
Me: “Whose folder is it?”
Student: “Mine.”
Me: “Who forgot to pack it.”
Student “My mom.”
Repeat until ….
Me: “Who forgot to pack your folder?”
Student: “Me?”
Me: (with a big smile) “Yup! Hope you remember tomorrow!”
The folder always makes it in the next day.

My students are strong, rich, and powerful. Some understand that and use it well. Others don’t realize the power they have. Still others know they have power, but don’t always use it in the best way. I’m eager to help them recognize, embrace, and use their power well. The fantabulous humans in my Kindergarten and I are going to have a remarkable leadership journey together this year!

Our classroom community will flourish when we all co-exist as bearers of knowledge, responsible classroom citizens, and powerful leaders. As we step into our leadership opportunities, listen to one another, reflect upon what we hear, and value one another’s ideas, my Kindergartners will begin to blossom. They will experience and understand themselves as valuable and essential partners in our classroom community and in their learning journey.

If David is correct — and all the data suggests he is — this will reduce tension in the classroom while increasing productivity and happiness.

#2 It’s valuable to know what you intend to do, why you intend to do it, and how you intend to do it.
There are times my students need to do what I tell them to do. But there are other times when they are able to choose between various options. It would be amazing for them to be able to choose based on what is most valuable and helpful to themselves and their learning.

For instance, in reading they might listen to reading, read to someone, work on writing, or do some word work activity. How do they choose what to do? Do they simply follow a schedule I set up for them? If so, then they intend to follow directions. There is value in following directions that is true, but there are also times when it would be good for me to allow them to decide what they intend to do.

For instance perhaps they intend to — share a favorite book with a friend, or listen to reading so as to learn about snakes, or do word-work so they can learn their sight words and thereby grow as a reader. How awesome is that? They understand why they are doing what they are doing, and are working with intrinsic motivation.

I want them to know that even if they haven’t received specific directions from a teacher, they can still do wonderfully productive and fantabulous things. I want them to be confident in their ability to think, reflect, and make good decisions. And, I want them to actually make those good decisions.

This will require a good deal of trust on my part. I will need to trust myself, my students, and the process. And, I will have to be willing to take it one step at a time.

I know I will need do a good bit of frontloading, modeling, and scaffolding. We will have to build relationships, trust, and skill. There will be many discussions: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? What did we experience? What do we want to experience? What did we learn? How did we learn it? When might we do that again? Is there anything that might work better?

The process feels incredibly daunting, and, at the same time, amazingly powerful and exciting.

#3 Student: “I intend to …” Me “What am I thinking right now?”

When my students tell me what they are motivated to do, and what they intend to do, it will be important for me to engage in conversation with them. Sometimes it might be — tell me more. Sometimes it might be “What am I thinking right now?” These questions allow my students to take ownership of themselves and what they intend, while at the same time having the benefit of my thoughts, experiences, and sense of things.

Some of the things I’m thinking might be:
Is it safe? Convince me that it’s safe.
Is it productive? Convince me that it’s productive.
Is it the right thing to do? Convince me that it’s the right thing to do.
Is it kind? Convince me that it’s kind.

This type of exchange is a learning experience for my students and myself. I get to learn what they’re thinking, and why they’re thinking it. I discover areas that aren’t clear to them and that might benefit from greater explanation or experience. They get to think through the process, consider their actions, and remember the purpose of the particular learning moment.

Again, I’m struck by the enormity of the process. And yet, if my goal is to begin to help my students become their best, most brilliant selves, I must take the chance. If I hope to help create not just students who can do what I ask them to do, but humans who can make good decisions and impact themselves and others in powerful ways, then it’s time to give it a go.

#4 We are all leaders and all followers

This isn’t about anarchy. We are all leaders, and all followers. We cannot just choose to intend to do something that is against the guiding principles of the organization. We choose to be part of the organization — in my case, my students’ parents choose to have their children be part of our classroom community. After making that commitment there are certain ways we must comply. For instance we must do our best, be kind, and treat each other with respect. There are other ways we can exercise our leadership and creativity. It’s always about learning and growing and being our best possible selves as individuals and a community.

#5 You can do it, *Molly (*Insert your name here.)

In one of the leadership nudges, David suggests we use our name when encouraging ourselves. Instead of “I can do it.” I would say “Molly, you can do it.” At first it feels a bit silly, but after trying it, I like it. David posits that using the third person way of speaking to ourselves puts us in a bit of a less emotionally charged space. I experience it as though a kind friend is giving me the encouragement. I’m definitely going to suggest it to my Kindergartners. I think it will be valuable, and be worth a few chuckles.


So, there you have it. I intend to embark on the profound journey of intent based leadership with my Kindergartners this year. And, I intend to have a fantabulous year together. Wish me luck!


Here’s a bonus nugget so you can get a feel for intent-based leadership from David himself. The three name rule. I’m thinking about how to incorporate it into our classroom community.

SEL and Setting Intentions In Kindergarten

Social and emotional learning (SEL) is an essential part of living and learning. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has 5 core SEL competencies, called the CASEL 5 – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

According to CASEL, the social emotional learning that happens as we develop and use these 5 core competencies “is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

I don’t know about you, but I think that list of outcomes is spectacular! I read it and say, “Oh, yeah. I want that!” And, I don’t just want that for myself. I want it for my family, my students, and gosh, for the world.

I’m always looking for ways to enhance the SEL in my classroom. My question is always how to most effectively and efficiently give my students agency over their own SEL. I think I’ve found an answer in intention setting.

We talked a lot about setting intentions in our B4C training. We considered: How do I want to show up? What do I want to notice? What emotion do I want to cultivate?

Sometimes our instructors would invite us to join them in a particular intention. At other times they would encourage us to take a moment, and then set our own intention for our practice, or our time together. As I set intentions, I noticed myself using the CASEL competencies.

Self-awareness and self-management: What am I feeling/thinking? What did I hope to feel/think? What do I need? What might help me reach my goal?

Social awareness: Who is around me? How might I influence them, and them me? How do I want to show up in relationship to them? How might I grow?

Relationship skills: How might I show up as a leader, speaker, listener, and/or collaborator?

Responsible decision making: Might I increase my curiosity, courage or kindness? What is my role? Might I think more critically, more creatively? What is happening today? How does all of this impact my decision of how I might show up?

My best intention setting happens when I am present to myself, others, and the moment. I’m able to breathe, notice, think, and choose an intention that actually helps me to become the person I want/need to be in that moment in time. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But, I tell you it’s true. Our minds are incredibly powerful, and our thoughts, emotions, mental images, and inner talk actually shape our brains, our experiences and our very selves. There’s tons of research out there if you’re interested. Here’s one article from Stanford News on the ability of our minds to shape our reality.

I definitely want to share the practice of setting intentions with my Kindergartners.

I imagine the power my Kindergartners will experience as they decide how they want to show up — kind, brave, happy, curious. I am sure there will be lots of modeling, lots of inviting them to join me in an intention, and lots of conversations about our intentions. We will have opportunities to share our intentions. We’ll wonder and talk about how it might look for us to live our intentions to be kind, or to be a good friend, or to be brave. At other moments we’ll check in with ourselves and each other to recall our intentions, reset them, or simply celebrate remembering that we set an intention. We might explore what happens if we set an intention and then forget it, or don’t actually do what we intend. It’s all part of our SEL and growth as our best selves.

I’m super excited to begin this work with my Kindergarten colleagues. My intention is to honor them as capable human beings, and give them tools they can use now and in the future. I’m hopeful this supported agency and growth in the CASEL 5 will empower them to be more self aware, more mindful, and more in charge of themselves and our classroom community.

I believe in the goodness and ability of my Kindergartners, and I believe in the power of this process. I know that there may be times I will need to intervene, so I will of course, remain in the mix. But, my plan is to remain more as a lead learner and model, rather than an arbitrator of all things necessary. I’m confident we will experience a positive difference in our classroom community – socially, emotionally, and academically.

Oh.my.gosh!

My fingers stand poised above the keyboard, waiting for directions from my brain. For many moments, nothing comes. It’s not that my brain has nothing to say. It’s almost as though it has too much to say. So I wait.

Perhaps it will help to say it again. OH.MY.GOSH! Yes, somehow saying it again has helped.

So. This happened just a few days ago.

I graduated the 200 Hour Training Intensive with Breathe for Change!

I am a certified SEL facilitator and (200 hour) yoga teacher.

OH.MY.GOSH!

How amazing is that?

It’s very amazing — not just because I graduated, but because I learned, I did, I experienced, I grew, and I glowed. It’s amazing and fantabulous how much I did of each of those things. Here’s a bit of what I gleaned and want to remember for my life and my teaching practice.

BE AN UNAPOLOGETIC HUMAN CRUISING ALONG WITH AND TO GRACE
Be kind. Be your best self. Show up knowing that there is grace and goodness in each moment. Apologize for being unkind, don’t apologize for being human. Did something touch you and you were overjoyed? Live it. Were you overwhelmed — enough for tears to flow? Experience it. Being alive is a huge gift. Honor who you are, and be open to greater transformation and grace. 

Wouldn’t this be an amazing lesson for our students? I imagine things like: Don’t apologize when you make a mistake or don’t understand something. Notice it, accept it, learn from it, use it, but don’t apologize. Celebrate the struggle. Celebrate being willing to say “I don’t get it.” Celebrate the learning. And also perhaps, start noticing the things for which we should apologize and the new ways we want to show up.

THERE IS POWER IN MY BREATH, BODY, MIND, AND BEING
It’s amazing how powerful simple things like noticing my breath, and accepting it can be. As I practiced mindfulness with my breath, I noticed myself becoming more aware and mindful in other ways. Just yesterday I was outside and thought, “Have those flowers always been there like that?!?!” It was as though I saw them anew. It was wild.

As I experienced the power of the mindfulness practices, I kept thinking — “Oh.my.gosh. I want to share this with my students! How amazing and empowering would it be for them to experience and embrace the power they carry around with them every moment of the day!”

SHOW UP – MAKE MAGIC
Show up as your best self in each moment. Even if it’s difficult — and it’s often difficult.

Isn’t that a great message to share with others? “Yes, showing up is hard. I get it. Sometimes it’s hard for me, too. It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, or you’re doing something wrong. It just means some things are difficult.”

I’m thinking of my Kindergartners as they walk into school the first day. It’s a gigantic struggle for some of them. Sometimes it’s a struggle for their parents, too. I wonder how it might feel to have somehow say “Yup, it’s hard, no doubt about it. But guess what. You did the hardest part! You’re amazing, and fantabulous, and super brave. You showed up. You came in. I’m so glad you did. I can’t WAIT to see what kind of magic we create together today, and every day!”

CREATE A PROCESS AND SELL IT
I laughed as I decided on the heading for this section. Sell it sounds so anti-mindfulness and yoga, and yet, I still like it.

Sell it! Help others buy into the process. Use language that conveys the beauty and power of the process. Allow your emotions to express more than your words might express on their own.

The B4C trainers said things like, “I can’t wait to share this incredible process with you.” or “This is my favorite form of meditation. I’m so excited for you to try it.” Their excitement and conviction, made a difference. It heightened our interest level, and encouraged us to about take risks and give it a go.

I’m always doing my best to use my language, emotions, and behavior to rock the peace, positivity, and possibility vibes in my learning space. Intentionally and regularly selling the process and product of learning is a perfect addition to my teaching practice.

I really like the idea of being clear about my excitement and enjoyment of whatever I’m presenting. This also means I need to be assess my process and product. In order to share my excitement, I actually have to be excited. If I’m not excited, why am I teaching it the way I am? And, if I am excited by it, then, yes, share the love!

I CAN CREATE AND HOLD SPACE – LET ME MAKE IT GOOD SPACE
The B4C training was an incredible 6 weeks of creating and holding space for ourselves and each other. The affirmation, joy, and love were palpable and powerful. From the first welcome “Hello fabulous educators!” to the graduation goodbye — “”You matter! We love you!” B4C spoke to us about how they saw us. They spoke to us about who we are. They spoke to us about how they want us to see ourselves. Amazing isn’t it?

Teaching is about so much more than the information I’m sharing or the activities we’re doing. It’s even more than the thinking and creating. Teaching is about helping others to see and know themselves as the amazing humans they already are, and the even more amazing humans they are becoming.

Imagine starting your very first class — or each one of your classes — with this statement, “Hello fantabulous learners. I’m so glad you’re here. I can’t wait to share this incredible thing with you!” Now imagine ending it with “Wow! Look at all you’ve done, and learned! I’m going to open some space for you. I’d love to hear how you feel, and what you think …”

Talk about transformational!



So, yes! OH.MY.GOSH! The B4C Wellness, SEL, and Yoga Teaching Training is amazing. I’m so glad I took the risk and did it. It’s been transformational.

If your interest is at all piqued give them a look. Here’s a link to their digital 200 hour Wellness, SEL and Yoga Teacher Training information and application — no pressure, no commitment, just an opportunity to talk about the program and see if it makes sense for you.

And, whether or not you choose to become part of Breath For Change, remember you make a difference every moment of every day — for yourself and others! Keep being remarkable.