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Monday, February 25, 2013

What is Your Legacy: Helping Kids Craft a Beautiful Life

   This year, our ECMS Student Council will take on a Legacy Project.  Sponsors Annie Holub and Pam VandeWater are assisting these wonderful students in designing a project that will allow them to contribute a gift to the school in the form of a permanent feature on our campus.  Selecting a gift for our campus that represents the student body requires making connections and defining how the Class of  2017 wants to be remembered as middle schoolers.

   There are several ways to view the concept of legacy.  One sort of legacy is a gift of money or property.   Legacy can also involve assembling a sort of “collage” of one’s actions, contributions and achievements.  During Rodeo Break, I had the opportunity to listen to some fireside wisdom about establishing and preserving one’s legacy.  And the good news is, building a legacy is for the living and the time to start is now.

     Thinking about one’s legacy helps us to discover ways to use time, talent, and resources in order to leave a lasting impression on those we love and on society at large.  It can also be a way of defining one’s core values and beliefs.  Constructing one’s legacy can be a dynamic,  self-edifying process where high expectations coupled with action and ongoing reflection can lead to a beautiful and meaningful life.

    In my personal teaching practice, I began having students think about legacy and goal-setting as seniors in high school.  This was part of my unit on teaching students to write high-quality college essays.  It was challenging for them because of the hyper-focus on self.  Several years ago, I presented some of these strategies at a workshop on college and career readiness.  Two teachers approached me afterwards and told me that they had been doing this kind of work with elementary students and seeing results in the form of motivation and an increased understanding of the importance of education in general.   I have included more formal studies at the end of this entry about the value of goal-setting with students.

   Mary’s List of Tools and Resources for Building a Legacy
     (By the way, this list is intended for kids and adults-- the process is ongoing).

#1.  Make a Lifetime Achievement List. (This is a kind of Bucket List of things you want to do/achieve in your lifetime). It’s okay to think big!
#2.  Create a Values List (What things are important to you? )
#3.  Write a letter of recommendation for yourself.  If you have trouble doing this, get help from someone who knows you and can recommend you.  Mention your best qualities (give evidence) and areas that you are actively trying to improve.  This can be more challenging that it seems as the letter must be "written by you and about you."
#4.  You have a million dollars to give away to any cause that is dear to your heart.
What cause would you choose and why? Who will benefit and how will they benefit?   
#5.  Someone has given you the opportunity to create your own museum.  What will go into your museum?  What do you/will you collect?  (Example:  Mr. Kwok On began the Kwok On Museum in Paris, France by collecting types of puppets from around the world.  It was his passion. The museum has about 12, 000 pieces in a very small space but is the best of its kind in the world…all because of Mr. On’s passion and love of the art of puppetry). 
#6.  Revisit your lists on a regular basis. Remember that they are not written in stone and as you change, so will your lists. 
#7.  Share your list with a friend or family member.  Do this periodically as a matter of habit. 

Research studies that support writing down goals and sharing them:

Study 1
According to Dave Kohl, professor emeritus at Virginia Tech:
1.     People who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetimes as people who don't.
2.     80% of Americans say they don't have goals.
3.     16% do have goals but don't write them down.
4.     Less than 4% write down their goals and fewer than 1% review them on an ongoing basis.

Study 2
Psychology professor, Dr. Gail Matthews, of the Dominican University of California conducted a study on goals that included 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States. 
    The results of her study were "Share your goals with a friend."     
    People who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why Being on Time Matters

  Punctuality is a challenge for many people.  Recently, we have been experiencing an inordinate amount of students who are late to school in the mornings.  When students arrive late to school, they must be checked in, go to their lockers, and then go to class.  This leads to falling behind in work, missing out on  presentation of new content and any feedback that might come as a result of having time to access prior knowledge at the beginning of class.  If students are tardy over time, it can mean a huge deficit in learning.  Ten minutes late to first period mounts up over time.  If you have 10 tardies,  you may have missed 100 or more minutes of class.  That's a conservative estimate.
   This is an entry that will focus on solving the problem.  In praise of self-directed behavior, I offer advice from Peter Bregman from The Harvard Business Review.  Bregman talks of the necessity of transition time and how 5-10 minutes of planning ahead can shave 30 minutes off a task.  So what does that 10 minutes look like?
   Here are some suggestions that might help your middle schooler's morning go better.  Take 10 minutes to plan the night before.  Do it together with your student several nights in a row and then turn him/her loose and monitor.  That might involve organizing what your Eagle is wearing, eating, taking with him/her in the backpack.  Putting out the clothes he/she will be wearing, packing a lunch/snack, locating ID and loading the backpack with materials and work are all tasks kids can manage. Having everything ready to go and in one place can shave off time and reduce stress.
   Help kids to help you, too.  This might involve reminding mom/dad to locate those car keys or to gas up the vehicle.   Just doing one of these tasks can greatly reduce stress and save time in the morning.  And the more we can empower kids to do organize their morning before school, the more self-directed they become at school.
   "The goal of adolescence is independence, " according to developmental psychologist Erik Erikson.
Empower your kids to help you to get them to school on time.  The benefits to students are to develop the essential school (and later workplace) habit of punctuality and reap the many rewards being on time offers. Plus, it helps to eliminate frenzy from the morning routine.