I wasn’t going to do it. I wasn’t going to buy another book to inspire teachers. So many of them are starting to look the same. But then, something pulled me towards Tara Martin’s new book, Be REAL-Educate From the Heart. I didn’t know much about it. But I knew Tara. Well, virtually at least. I met her on Twitter, have followed her work, and there’s just something about that welcoming smile of hers. So, before I knew it, I had clicked purchase on Amazon. My book was instantly on my Kindle app and I was ready to read. Immediately, I knew I had made the right choice.
E-Expose a little vulnerability
L-Learning through life
The book is set up in four main parts as listed above. There’s so much to glean from this book that one post is just simply not enough to share what I’ve learned from and plan to do with this book. Tara has a writing style that pulls you in, makes you feel like she is talking to you over coffee or soda (I don’t like coffee, but do enjoy my pop!), and several times makes you want to reach over and give her a hug with all that she has experienced in her life.
“Being relatable means that we allow others to come as they are, even if they are deoxygenated–broken, frustrated, hurt, or simply in need of support–and then we listen to understand and show empathy.”-Tara Martin, Be REAL Educate From the Heart
From this first section so many things struck a chord with me. There are simple things like greeting your students each day and greeting them by name. This goes for fellow staff members as well. There have been many times I and only one other staff member have been in the hall, and not once would she greet me. It really bugged me. So, I made the decision to be the one to greet her by name each time we crossed paths. Over time, she not only reciprocated, but initiated the greeting. It may seem small, but over time it’s made a difference in our relationship.
The value of being relatable really hit home three years ago. At the end of the year I had received a wonderful gift from a parent, but it was the handwritten thank you note from the student that made my whole year. I knew we had connected, but had no idea to what extent until that letter. I found out that he often didn’t want to come to school, but did because of the connection that we had made.
However, I need to learn more about my students, all my students. That’s where the Little Yellow Notebook strategy comes in. It’s a strategy Tara’s own teacher, Mrs. Wright, used. This year I will make a notebook, section it off where each students get a few pages, and record the small conferences I have with each student. The conferences will focus on their dreams, how they are pursuing them, what interests them, how they are feeling. It not only will help me connect, but stay connected and monitor how they grow throughout the year. If paper is not your thing, Microsoft OneNote would be a great way to do it as well. Also, don’t underestimate the power of the Morning Meeting. It’s a great way to get a pulse of the classroom and start the day off on the right foot.
Often relatability really comes out during a difficult time or discussion. The word you choose, the questions you ask, can make all the difference in the world. Tara provides you with a pathway during these times. It’s REAL Talk Treasures.
REAL Talk Treasures
- Value Individuality
- Humble Inquiry
- Listen to Learn
- Provide Accountability
- Open Exaltation
Value Individuality-This is something we all want. We want to feel our ideas are valued. That we are valued. Tara points out that just sitting next to the person, and not across from, shows that you value them, and are not putting yourself in a power position. My current principal does this during our evaluation meetings. It definitely makes you feel like you’re having more of a conversation than an evaluation meeting. I also do this during conferences with both parents and students. It just feels like we’re working together when we do this.
Humble Inquiry-As Tara puts it, “humble inquiry is a question that genuinely seeks to hear what the other person has to say.” I love her example of asking “What’s on your mind?” or “What are you thinking about?” This goes a long way in understanding why a student has done something. It could even be useful in a meeting where no one is talking or sharing ideas. It can really get to the root of the matter.
Listen to Learn-Pause before you speak. Focus on understanding the other person’s perspective. Show empathy. All of these are what you do when you first listen to learn. Once you’ve listened, paraphrase back to the person what you’ve heard. It’s a great way to be sure you understand the situation. Another great way if there are disagreements in the classroom to fully understand and help the situation.
Empower-What a great word. So many possibilities stem from that one word. This is the time to offer advice and work together on possible solutions or a course of action. It’s where that colleague or student feels motivated to try something new. Many times this is all I need. The freedom to pursue the answer to the question, “What if?”
Provide Accountability-This is the set a goal and check back phase. It’s also the phase I need to devote more attention. I’m great at making a goal, but sometimes lack in the follow through department. I’m a dreamer, but sometimes I don’t get past the idea stage. Having an accountability piece would definitely help. It’s the same for kids.
Open Exaltation-Be sincere and openly share your appreciation or gratitude, but be specific. This is something that I have really worked hard on with my first graders and my own son. It’s easy to say tell someone they’re doing a good job, or that you are proud of them. However, going the extra mile and telling them why means so much more. Building a person’s empowerment helps them see their own achievements. So many of our teachers need to hear that what they do is appreciated, so that they believe more in themselves and what they are doing.
Tara has a quote from Gerard Trotman that in a way speaks to me as to why there are so many attacks on teachers and public education. The quote is this: “People who repeatedly attack your confidence and self-esteem are quite aware of your potential, even if you are not.” It’s time we realize our potential and own it. This is something I will be working on more this year. I feel that I have a lot to share with my fellow teachers, but don’t relish speaking in front of them. I need to get over it and believe in myself more. It’s a work in progress.
The next part of the book focuses on exposing vulnerability and will be my next post. Follow Tara at taramartin.com and on Twitter at @TaraMartinEDU. Be part of the conversation on Twitter and follow #REALedu. It’s a great way to connect with others and grow your personal learning network. You never know the great people you will meet.