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Friendship Qualities

Today, a sweet mom from my school asked if I’m spending time right now planning for the fall.  Ha!  I told her that I’m currently visiting family in another state and trying NOT to think about fall yet!  There are so many unknowns that I’m enjoying this calm before we walk into the storm called “Public-Education-During-A-Pandemic” in a few weeks. 

I don’t know much about this coming school year, but I do know that children will enter my classroom (physically and virtually) with some unique kinds of social and emotional baggage.  Many of them have lacked appropriate face-to-face interaction with their peers for months and I imagine that, no matter how hard us adults have tried to act cool and calm, kids are definitely picking up on the trepidatious vibes that are likely radiating from most of us. 

Part of my normal morning routine with my 2nd graders at school is to spend a few minutes talking about social skills and building strong character.  During my first year of teaching, I attended a workshop and the presenter (if I had any idea who she was, I would credit her) shared a resource called The Friendship Qualities.  It was a list of 100 words that described a good friend.  I’ve used them ever since. 

On the first day of school, all hundred Friendship Qualities are in a box and each day we pull one out and talk about it.  Sometimes we act the word out, sometimes we talk about the opposite of that word, the kids record the friendship quality in their agendas, and we always try to talk about what that word looks like in real life.   

I’ve found that when I FRONTLOAD the topic of character and behavior, my students have a better shot to develop rich, healthy relationships with one another throughout the year.  Social spats and issues still pop up (hello, we’re all human), but The Friendship Qualities are the behavioral anchor in my classroom. 

These are words that my students learn, love, and remember.  More than once, I’ve had kids come back when they’re older and say, “The Friendship Qualities!  I loved those!”.  If you’re heading back to school this fall and you’re looking for ways to guide your students’ character and their emotional development, see how you can fit these words into your daily routine.  You won’t regret it. 

Below you’ll find links to a Level 1 and Level 2 version of The Friendship Qualities (one year I looped from 2nd to 3rd with the same kids and needed a whole new set of words!).  There’s also a link to mats to display the words in your classroom. 

Friendship Qualities Level 1

Friendship Qualities Level 2

Friendship Quality Mat

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Making it Work

This morning my husband was reading a daily devotional out loud for us and within the first two minutes of him reading I realized that I had already planned out two of my bulletin boards for this fall, written half of this blog post, and made a list of things I need to do today.  While he was reading.  For two minutes.  Sheesh. 

I think teachers are born to multi-task.  We’re good at tending to 18 kids at the same time.  We’re good at putting out friendship fires in the middle of math lessons (while we’re still teaching!).  We’re even good at preparing to leave, leaving, and arriving at places at weird times, like 11:18 and 3:12. 

If you are a teacher, or a parent, or a student for that matter, I’m sure your head is swirling with back-to-school thoughts.  Mine is.  I think most of us vacillate between being excited to get back in the trenches and routines and being afraid that students, family members, or teachers will become sick and the ramifications that could have on our communities.   

I know that there are legitimate concerns about going back, but I also know that we will make it work. 

The possibility of masks for little kids?  Ya’ll.  If we end up having to do that, we will make it work.  One of the super powers that teachers possess is getting kids to do things that they may not want to do – every day!  And sometimes we even make it a little fun. 

The possibility of virtual learning thrown in for kids that have to miss school from illness or exposure?  We will make it work.  If we didn’t know how to present and post material online before, we sure do now! 

The possibility of plastic partitions in classrooms to keep kids separated?  We will make it work. 

Six feet apart?  We’ll make it work. 

Lunch in the room?  We’ll make it work.

Teachers missing school?  We’ll make it work.

If any profession can keep kids safe, get them to do things in a new way, and keep them learning when circumstances are less than favorable, it’s teachers.  We always find a way to teach our kids, invest in their emotional health, and create an environment for them that is conducive to learning and growing.  For those of us who are choosing to stay in this profession, we will make it work.   

We always do. 

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Scooter and the Muttering Monster

If you know me at all, you know that I’m passionate about my job as a teacher.  And, if you know me well, you know that I’m even more passionate about my students’ character and behavior.  This is my sixteenth year in the classroom and somewhere, early on in my teaching journey, I realized that character education is clutch (I’m 37 – can I even use that word?).  It’s the most important piece of the teaching puzzle.   

Every year the social and emotional needs of the students in my classroom are different.  It’s almost as if each year, each group, has a bit of a theme.  Last year our “theme” was paying attention to our thoughts.  We spent a lot of time talking about combating negative thoughts with positive ones.  We talked about believing the truth, instead of believing lies that prance happily through our brains every day.  

This is SO real life!  As an adult, this has been, and still is, a part of my own personal journey.  Good grief!  When I actually take the time to notice what’s running through my head, it can be kind of sketchy.  Since when did I start thinking, “You’re a horrible teacher,” or, “You’re never going to get it right,”?!     

Last spring a little idea began to form between myself and my teaching buddy, Amy.  Wouldn’t it be fun if I wrote a book that catered exactly to the social and emotional issues our students wrestled with every day?  Amy is my teaching neighbor and my sounding board and she just happens to be a talented artist.  Wouldn’t it be fun if she illustrated the book? 

Over the summer, we met weekly at Starbucks, giggled at my story drafts and her drawings, and gave each other feedback.  By mid-summer, we were looking at each other saying, “Are we being serious?  This is actually happening.” 

And, thus, Scooter and the Muttering Monster was born!