Now and in the future

It’s 7 days into schools being out during the Coronavirus outbreak. I have to admit it feels different than during any other point in my career. We’ve had those usual long summer vacations, various holidays, and even some brutally horrible winters where students seem to miss a day a week for the entire winter season. But again, this feels different. I just read that in the 228 years of the New York Stock Exchange, on Monday, March 23rd there will be no trading from the floor. This may not be significant for many of us, but it shows how truly unique this time in our world has become. It’s hard to imagine any school district or business being truly prepared for what’s happened. As an educator, I feel comfortable in saying, “school districts, students, teachers and parents are waking up to a totally different time of teaching and learning. But, it’s how we adapt and work together that will bring us all closer together!” Let’s face it, no matter how much planning school districts have done, the Coronavirus has shaken education on its head.

Up to this point, schools have, for the most part stuck with similar instructional methods to teach and reach children. Sure there have been huge advances in giving students choice, allowing for project based learning, 1-1 learning, and other key ways to get students interested in learning. In this case though, we have been forced to really think about what we want students to get out of their education. We have been forced to think about what is necessary, what is fluff and what role we want our educators, leaders, parents and students to play in helping to promote education that is equal, fair and relevant. I don’t have all or even most of the answers! What I am hoping to provide is at least some guidance, hope and perspective to how this will influence education for the foreseeable future.

  • I like to believe that every school/district looks at the spectrum of teaching and learning through the eyes of their students, teachers, parents, community and leadership. We all want students to share the same exceptional experience no matter their age, gender, race, or disability. Whether that’s happened before is up for debate. But we know that Covid-19 has forced districts to rethink and adapt their thinking. Again, I don’t have every solution, nobody does. We need to clearly articulate what students to learn while they aren’t in the physical structure of a school? Is it standards, objectives, communication skills, problem solving, or even the ability to work collaboratively in the hopes of fixing a larger problem?
  • Let’s start with the end in mind. In our classrooms, we try to get students talking, involved, creative and passionate about working with others. It makes for a much more dynamic and happy learning environment. But truth be told, not every student likes or wants that type of class, so we hopefully don’t force them to change. We might encourage participation. We may experiment with partners, groups or pods. In the end though, every student is different. Now with our current situation, it’s imperative that social connections with students, parents and teachers grow exponentially. There are going to be questions that wouldn’t have been asked before. Our ability to problem solve will be challenging at first. It will hurt! But with time, I believe we’ll be grateful that it’s forced all of us to promote relationships.
  • I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always tried to build a connection before building content. Maybe it goes back to my high school years, where very few teachers were about developing meaningful relationships. This doesn’t mean that content, standards and objectives don’t matter. They do! Let’s think about today’s situation. We are all going to be sharing. This means teachers, parents, districts and most importantly STUDENTS! They won’t be taking a test in class. It will be online. Projects will be much more open source. Again, this isn’t a bad things, just a different thing. We must embrace the willingness to structure our content and lessons so students can build a better mouse trap together, instead of getting stuck in it alone. Take a brief look at what future employers seek from their workers. Sure it has technical and analytical skills that are the content piece. But what strikes me as most important are these: soft skills, leadership, communication skills and positive attitude. Today’s situation can and should allow us to develop those skills. As a matter of fact, it will force it on us. That’s a good thing!

What makes education the noblest profession is how it’s constantly evolving. Whatever your role is with children: teacher, parent, nurse, secretary, custodian, principal, etc… you’ve learned to change with the times. Remember that even 20 years ago there were no cell phones and the internet was just getting started. Think what would have happened 20 years ago if the same situation would have occurred. Let’s use all that we have, all the we’ve learned to improve education, not complain about it. I welcome your comments, thoughts and feedback. Have a wonderful day and be safe!


My Why!

I hope you will share your why!

In September of 1991, I began teaching Health and Physical Education in Camden, New Jersey. While I’d already taught previously, it was exciting to explore this new opportunity despite the minimal resources and space available (Washington Elementary had no gym or lunchroom).  I’d met the principal, Mr. Kozieja, a white-haired, former member of the Armed Forces who assured me that great things would come my way if I worked hard. He was right and we became close friends through his mentorship!

On the second day of school, my second-grade class for was headed outside for Physical Education.  Again, because we had no gym, all of the classes met on the blacktop behind the school. The students were really excited to get started. We began jumping rope and doing various relay races.  As class was really going strong, a second-grader, Eric yelled out, “Mr. S, the trash truck! Look, the trash truck!” I turned around, and to my amazement, a giant trash truck was rolling into our P.E. area. The students yelled “ooh it smells”, as juices from the back of truck spilled onto the blacktop.  I, of course, had never planned for a trash truck interrupting our lesson. Nor did any college class prepare me for this kind of situation. I screamed, “Everybody to the side–now!” We moved all the equipment to the side and waited for the truck to drive past. Once it cleared, I got them started again. As luck would have it, two minutes later Eric again yelled out, “Mr. S., it’s starting to rain!”  The kids hurried inside into the hallway, soaked and crying! What an awesome beginning!

Fast forward, four hours later to my waiting outside Mr. Kozieja’s office.  As I worried about what might transpire, Eric saw me pacing. He said, “Mr. S., are you okay?”  I replied, “Well, Eric, it wasn’t exactly what I had planned for our first day. A trash truck and rain don’t make for a great class!”  He said, “Don’t worry, Mr. S. I think you did great. Tomorrow will be a better day!”  

Eric’s words have resonated with me for almost 30 years.  This student’s wisdom is part of “why” I became a teacher almost three decades ago.   In our meeting, Mr. Kozieja said, “Craig, I can see you love exercise and kids. That will carry you through many a problem.  But, hopefully, why you’re here is to make a difference in the lives of every student.  A trash truck and rain won’t be the last problem that occurs. Trust me on that!”

Each of us probably have some different reasons for our “why!” I encourage you to reflect on what your why might be. Whether you’re a 30 year veteran like me, or somebody in college whose decided to enter the greatest profession in the world. Knowing your own why will help you to see the bright side when things get tough, (and they most definitely will), but even more importantly, when your students are brimming with enthusiasm, smiling with joy, and eager to learn.

I hope you enjoyed “My Why!” I look forward to hearing and reading about your “why!”

Craig #teachpos

A Quick Break

A few keys to taking a Quick Break

I just learned that my daughter will not be returning to college for the rest of the Spring Semester. My son is off from school for at least another 10 days. I’m guessing it will be much longer. My wife is wiping doors, cleaning floors, and doing all things Coronavirus related. I can’t help but to be drained from all this change. Writing “A Quick Break” will hopefully help you, like it has helped me.

Our lives have changed! There isn’t any reason to sugar coat things. But we also have opportunities to do things we might not ordinarily think about. Yes, that’s the glass half-full approach. For me, and I’m hoping you, that’s most definitely needed. So here are three “Quick Breaks” that have helped me to deal with our current state of stress.

  • I’ve spent time with my son playing board games. Sure, he constantly complains that I’m cheating. Sure, he keeps reading the rules, over and over to make sure we play right. But it’s these times that I’ll always cherish. You need to find these times as well. Whether it’s developing a hobby, reading a book, writing a story, playing with your kids, or even (I dare say) going for a walk ALONE! Take advantage of these moments!
  • I started working on my CMSDREAMBIG website over a year ago. For whatever reason, it got stuck in the abyss. Now that some time has become available, I’ve had a chance to get that really going. I hope you like it. Take these opportunities to either get back to something you started, begin something you dreamed of, or reflect on something that’s impacted you or others in a positive way.
  • The hectic pace of working, and in my case teaching isn’t something to take lightly. No matter your job/role, it’s impossible to not get caught up with all that’s going on in our place of work, schools and classrooms. Whatever job you may have, I hope you love, or at least like it . For those of you who are in education, I hope you love being in education, I definitely do! But, having a little time off has helped me to truly realize how blessed we are. Also, and just as important, is how much we really mean for the rest of the world. Use some of your time to breathe. Use some of your time to reflect on the difference you make. Use some of your time to tell your students, co-workers and families that you care. They will appreciate that more than you know.

I appreciate all that you do each day. You make a difference. Please remember that a little, quick break can be a true life saver. Be safe, use precautions, tell others you care, and create those times that you’ll remember forever.