I am Proud. And I Think That’s Ok.

Compliments are a funny thing, you know? People tell us we’ve done something well, or look nice or whatever, and we’re not really sure what to say or do (or maybe it’s just me).  “Thank you” seems like an ok response, but if you say anything beyond that, you’re headed into funny territory where you’re worried the complimenter is going to think you’re arrogant.  That you’re conceited or full of yourself or maybe just weird and don’t have any social skills.

I was reminded of this very thing the other day when I told my daughter that she looked nice.  She had chosen an outfit for a field trip to the theater the next day and was twirling around in the mirror with a big smile on her face.  I gave her my compliment and her response was “I know, right?” We had the cursory conversation about how she should probably just say thank you.  She said sorry, and told me thank you instead.  In fact, I’ve been teaching her this since she was 3YO and did the same thing when people told her she had pretty eyes.  Her 3YO response was a very honest “I know. :)”

Now I”m rethinking it and I’m not so sure that’s the right thing to do. Ok, look, I’m not saying that being appreciative of the kind words isn’t appropriate, but I’m not sure that you shouldn’t also be able to say “I know!” In my kiddo’s case, she had specifically chosen a dress that she liked, and matched the right shoes and sweater with it, and worked hard to tame her curly hair (which really just means she brushed it–LOL).  She was proud of what she had created, and her response to my kind words was honestly just appreciation, right?  She felt validated that she had done a good job.  She is happy in her skin (ok, in her maxi dress), and she wanted me to know she agreed with me.  I am so glad she has such great ideas about herself!  She has confidence in her abilities (yes, I know in this case it was in dressing herself), she feels good about herself and she has positive self-esteem.  If you ask her, she can tell you other things she does well, and I’m ok with that. I mean we want to have confident daughters, right?

The hard part is that really thin line you have to walk so that you don’t fall into arrogant territory.  Even at 8 it’s a thing, but it seems to me that it is even harder to balance in adulthood.  And especially in education. (Ok, probably in other jobs, too, but education is the one I know best. 🙂 ).

I started thinking about this the other day when we were hearing the announcement of the Teacher of the Year (YAY, Shannon! You are an inspiration to us all!).  While I didn’t win, I do know that at least one person nominated me, because I was given the words that had been written about me on the form. I love this, by the way, because it’s good to know that even if you didn’t win that someone saw something great in what you do.  It’s “an-honor-to-be-nominated” kind of thing, I guess here, huh?

But then that took me to the whole idea for this post in the first place.  The words that my friend wrote about me made me feel all kinds of things–so many things that I wanted to share them.  Partly so that other people would read them about me, but also because I think it says loads about my friend that she says such kind things.  But can I do that?  What does it say about me that I post words that someone said about me and what I do well on a public blog for all to read?  Am I a show off?  Am I trying to toot my own horn or make people notice me?

Maybe I’m just proud.  And I want for you to be proud of me, too. Maybe I just like that other people notice that I work really hard to do whatever I can to help my students be their best and learn all they can.  Maybe I appreciate that even though it’s hard, I try and try and try and sometimes things work out well (and of course, sometimes they don’t so I try again).  I try to be an effective teacher, a kind friend, a supportive teammate, a life-long learner, a voracious reader, a thoughtful writer, an encourager….and probably lots of other things I can’t even mention. I say it’s just natural to smile and say “I know,” after your “thank you.”  Maybe the appropriate response is a little tweak of that, and it’s “I agree.”  Maybe that’s the way we can balance the appreciation of the compliment and the pride you feel when you attempt to achieve a goal or do something well and someone notices.

What do you think?  How do you respond when someone gives you a compliment or a kind word?  Do you say “Thank you” but really want to say “I know?”  Maybe you have a suggestion for something else to say, instead of “I agree.”  I’d love to hear your thinking. Leave a comment below, will you?  A kind and positive one, though, please–even if you disagree. 🙂

And, since the original point of this post was to share the amazingly kind words my friends wrote about me, I’m posting them down below this.  Maybe they’re just for me to read and reread, but they’re there for you, too, if you’re so inclined. 🙂

“Jennifer is a very passionate teacher.  She makes special connections with her students and colleagues.  Her love of learning is obvious as soon as you enter her classroom and hear her talking to her students.”

“Jen is an in-house expert on how students learn.  She has spent her career and most of her life studying, reading, experiencing and tirelessly absorbing information in order to support every type of reader, writer and mathematician.  Jen is magical to watch as she marvels at literature, ponders over mathematical development and beautifully demonstrates that any type of instruction is an art and a science.  Every student in Jen’s classroom receives a teacher who cards for their whole self, she perseveres to understand what might be puzzling or challenging and expects the most out of them educationally, socially, and emotionally. Jen, not only represents Robinson, but represents the elite group of outstanding teachers.”

Mrs. Bearden exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated teacher.  She meets each student on their level and works diligently to build relationships with her students.  Her love and extensive knowledge of literature allows her to connect many topics across subjects, tying different content areas together and making great connections.  She never loses her patience and always shows her students kindness.  She gives students opportunities to be their best selves, and takes the time needed to develop social skills.  Being in her classroom has taught me a lot about the type of teacher I hope to be and what it truly means to love what you do.”

Valentine’s Day 2016

I didn’t want to call this post just Valentine’s Day, partly because we tried to celebrate it differently (does that surprise you?), but also because it didn’t really happen on February 14.  This story is from Thursday, but in elementary school world, it was the last day of school before Valentine’s Day so alas that’s what we celebrated.  Ok.  I’ll move on.

As with the 100th Day, this day felt a little contrived to me–what 7-YO has a Valentine?  Ok, well maybe their mom, but no REAL Valentine.   Or maybe the whole class is their Valentine?  Anyhow, I began thinking a week or so ago about what we could do that made this day about something real and “normal” in our classroom.  I decided to connect to the conversations we’ve been having about caring and showing each other that they are important.  I mean Valentine’s Day is about love, right?  Caring is love. 🙂

So I formed our day around these three essential questions:

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Since these are big, “chewy” questions, we didn’t really answer them, but we did think about them as we went through the day, and referred to them at various times, as well.

Our first job of the day was to read a book together, which was about a dragon who wrote Valentines for all of the people she loved.  It was an ABC book, and while we didn’t do anything with all of the letters of the alphabet, we did take some time to tell the people we care about how we felt about them (remember our questions?).

This was one of those areas where I wanted to be really purposeful with Valentine traditions, rather than “cutesy” or just fun.  Last year we did a pretty cool Makerspace situation, and while it wasn’t a real Makerspace since I gave them their purpose, they were able to create and try and discover and explore, which was great.  This time I wanted them to be able to both give love and get some back, so we decorated our Valentine bags with words.

I gave them the big idea and even some stems that they could use:

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These were not “have-tos,” but I wanted to give them some place to start so that we didn’t end up with 20 different “I’m glad you’re my friend”s.

Next was getting them into a spot so we could start our bags.  We did this in a version of the game Scoot, where they would “scoot” around the room (in a certain order that I’d share) until they wrote on everyone’s bag.  I had them get into alphabetical order–like dragon’s Valentines had been in the book–and then gave them a spot to start.  Basically I started in one corner of the room and just snaked the line around, putting each kid in a seat/spot as we went.  They would then rotate one slot each “scoot,” following the person in front of them each time. It was honestly kind of complicated, taking the layout of our room, but they got it by about the 4th or 5th rotation and then I didn’t have to lead them anymore.  I was honestly surprised.   Surprised but really impressed and happy. 🙂

I wish I had taken a picture of each one, to document how sweet their words were to each other, but I didn’t.  I only have ones of how great they look all lined up in the hall.  That is where they were as we delivered Valentine’s cards to our friends.

I didn’t get pictures of their bags, but I did get a pic of their words to me.  Check out how caring and lovely they were to me:

Pretty great, right? 🙂

Later on in the day we had a party.  Mrs. Raeber, along with many other parents (and grandparents!) came to help us have a fun time at the end of our day.  We had a snack, played a game, read some winter/Valentine’s Day books and make a keychain.  What a perfect collection of fun, low-key things to do!  These parents are super good at giving us lovely things!

Check out some pictures.   They are pretty sweet. 🙂

There’s more to share–but that’s for another post.  Hope you have a great weekend, and that you feel loved and cared for this Valentine’s Day! 🙂