Episode 2

Classroom Community

14 October 2021

We speak with Elizabeth Coller from the Kinder-hearted Classroom on the importance of building a positive classroom culture; from student “shout-outs” to social contracts.

Tags: WELLBEING  |  PSYCHOLOGY  |  TIPS & TRICKS

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Elizabeth

I think really, to be honest, classroom community is all about relationships like at this age, I think a lot of it is just helping them understand that they have the power to make an impact on their friends. And so a lot of times that just is a lot of conversations.

Chelsea

Today, we’re chatting with Elizabeth Coller on this episode of Teacher Teacher.

Marcus

Hey, friends, and welcome to Teacher Teacher, a podcast for teachers by teachers. I’m Marcus Stein. And I used to teach.

Chelsea

And I’m Chelsea Metreyeon and I also used to teach. Every episode will be bringing new insights and info from educators and experts all around the world.

Marcus

Helping you unwind, unpack or simply understand what’s going on out there.

Chelsea

Well, I don’t know about you, Marcus, but I’m excited.

Marcus

Yeah, I’m excited, too. Let’s do it.

Marcus

Hey, Chelsea. You know, when I was let’s see, I was the self-proclaimed captain optimism when it comes to classroom culture. I gave myself the title, but I say that because like positive classroom culture was like my biggest priority. I give myself like a 13 on a scale of one to in terms of how positive of a teacher I am. It was kind of annoying to the kids, but it’s my thing. So that’s my question for you is like, are you a 13 when it comes to being a positive teacher?

Chelsea

Well, I love how you said when you were in the classroom because you’ve definitely brought that title with you that way throughout your whole life. Yeah. I mean, as a Kami hero and now as our Kami teacher champion, like you’ve brought it with you. So keep that title, that self-proclaimed title. And I would just say in my classroom, I have to say the stress did get to me. So I’m not a 13. I’d love to be at 13. 

Marcus

You are human.

Chelsea

And I’m a human. Yeah. So, you know, I’m not going to give myself a number. You all can just think of what mine might be. But I did work every day really hard to create that positive classroom environment. And I think where I started was each day was a new day. And each day we started with gonadal, we did our yoga, we did a little five-minute yoga. And each day we kind of just started fresh. So that was my way of bringing some positivity each day for my students.

Marcus

The keyword there is work. I mean, that’s the thing that you and I have in common. You do have to work to build a positive culture. And that’s the idea today. That’s what we’re talking about today: building a positive classroom culture

Marcus

Before we jump in, I just want to shout out to Kami for producing this podcast, just like you. Kami wants to empower students to love learning in or out of the classroom. Kami can level up the way you teach. Give feedback and assess. Head to kamiapp.com to find out more. All right. Now let’s start the show.

Chelsea

Today we’re so excited to have Elizabeth Coller from Kinderhearted Classroom. Elizabeth started working in education in 2009 and has since created an online community through her blog, YouTube channel and other channels that reach classrooms worldwide. She’s worked in collaboration with companies like Lake Shore Learning, Samsung, We Are Teachers and Crayola. Sharing, teaching strategies and tips with other educators. Welcome, Elizabeth. We’re so excited to have you. 

Elizabeth

I’m so honored and it’s been a joy to be invited so thank you. 

Chelsea

Yeah, of course. So first to get started, can you tell us a bit about yourself and kind of what you’re all about as a teacher, maybe as just a human to anything you want to share with us?

Elizabeth

Yeah, for sure, so. So I am a mama, I have two boys, I have a 10 year old and a seven-year-old. We love all things outdoors. So we’re actually doing the 52 hike challenge this year, which means we’re trying to get fifty-two hikes in a year. And they all are different locations. I taught both of my kiddos in school just a little interesting fact. They both went through my kindergarten classroom. And I was just talking to a parent today about just the kind of the struggles and difficulties sometimes with that if you have your own kids that come through. But for the most part, I just feel so lucky to have had that experience. 

I’m in my 13th year in the classroom. I’m at a new school this year, and I’m just loving life. I really feel like the school that I work at, the ethos, kind of the foundation of the school is built off of the hero’s journey, meaning that each, you know, each kid is on their own unique journey. And it’s my job as the teacher, as kind of guide from the side, to just help them unlock their potential and to discover what their journey looks like. And so, yeah, we’re just we’re about three or four weeks into the school year.

We just finished session one because I teach in a year-round school. So session one today was like exhibition day. And so we just basically showed the parents kind of like an open house what all the things are that we’ve been working on, projects… I put the parents and the students on a scavenger hunt. And so we’re just kicked off there. And honestly, it’s been so good to be back in person in person. Teaching has been I did the whole year and a half with the pandemic and teaching online exclusively.

I top fourth grade and then I taught kindergarten online. And I am so thankful to be back in person. So that’s the really long answer. But that’s me in a nutshell. 

Marcus

I’m sorry. I have to take an aside. Here we go. Marcus and his aside. But I love this idea of the hero’s journey archetype. I was an English teacher, so like, come on, archetype, come on, hero. Come on, journey. Do kids get to pick specific heroes? Like do they? Is this a thing? 

Elizabeth

Yeah, but you know, that’s an interesting thought. This last week, we just talked about that as a staff. And one of my heroes in class really loves superheroes just in general. And he was kind of talking about, you know, really the baseline for us in the classroom is really just kind of tailoring to what the students want and what they’re interested in. And so he showed some interest in like Superman.

And so we do a lot of older student teaching. And so we have like mentorships and stuff. And so he actually is now talking with another older hero or older student and that older student’s mentoring him. So I think what’s going to happen is they’re probably going to decide on like a superhero and kind of model after the superhero. But yeah, the hero’s journey really has more to do with them and their core skills and you kind of choosing what journey and what path they want to take. There’s a lot of free choice in the classroom that I teach at in the school that I teach at. 

But social-emotional learning is huge. And then we do like a whole like units on practical life skills. So the students actually learn how to sew on a button and do all the things that like… they’re actually going to need in their life

Marcus

You know… So I’m just going to be honest. Again, my question about the hero came from a place of jealousy. I’m just jealous that my teachers never referred to me as a hero or a heroine like that could have changed everything for me. I mean, I could have been a superhuman by now.

Elizabeth

Yeah, it’s different. It’s a different mindset than kind of your you know, your typical, I think, classroom, and there’s a lot of buy-in from the heroes, that’s for sure. The students really buy into that idea of the hero’s journey.

Marcus

I’m bought into it. In fact, every time I say the word student, I’m going to go for the hero terminology. So thank you. Thank you for making that hero aside with me, 

Elizabeth

For sure. For sure. 

Chelsea

I’m also loving the connection to the older students as well. It gives your little guys something to look forward to. And maybe they then when they’re in fourth grade, they can be like: oh, I hope I get a kindergarten buddy to guide through their journey as well. I just love that so much.

And today, our podcast, our theme is building a positive classroom culture, which it sounds like your school is really good at doing, and even in your little classroom as well. And your Instagram is called Kinderhearted Classroom, which is amazing. What and what inspired you to create that? 

Elizabeth

When I was in kindergarten, my kindergarten teacher, her name was Mrs. Kinderheart. And in. She was the best kindergarten teacher. Her husband was a carpenter, and he would bring in all these wooden blocks and like drill holes in the wooden blocks and make these wooden pegs and anything that we made in the classroom. She let us take home. 

I remember making pretzels. I still remember the smell of the dough and just the hands on activities that she had. And like we were talking a little bit earlier, just about the impact that some teachers have on students and how profound that impact can be. So six years ago and when I was thinking about kind of starting, you know, to create resources and sharing them on platforms and stuff, I was like, what name am I going to come up with?

You know, what can I say? Should I just say my name? I’m like, you know what I’m going to say? I’m going to name it after Mrs. Kinderheart. So it’s The Kinderhearted classroom. And a lot of people say kinder-hearted.

And really my tagline when I first started was just filling little hearts and minds with love. One lesson at a time. So that’s kind of the behind-the-scenes story there. But yeah, so I had a teacher. It was a teacher. That’s why my platform is The Kinderhearted Classroom. It was named after her. 

Chelsea

I love it. And I do have to say, I was telling Marcus earlier, I love your Instagram and I think you’re super hilarious. And for example, the one the other day with the Playdough and it was the voiceover from Mulan when he’s like, shame on your family and the lids were off of your Playdough. Like I was cracking up for a good while, Justin. I loved that one so much. So not only are you providing ideas, but you’re also providing like comedy to teachers and…

Elizabeth

Comedic relief?

Chelsea

Yeah! A place for someone to go. Hey. Yeah. Today all the caps are off of my dang markers again. And I’ve talked about it 700 times, so I. You’re hilarious. So I love it. 

Marcus

I like the wordplay. Chelsea, you called it, you know, kinder-hearted. I was in my mind calling it kinder-hearted. And I was like, you know what? It’s perfect both ways. You know, she’s a kindergarten, kind-hearted woman. And so you can call it kinda kinder-hearted.

Elizabeth

Great. 

Chelsea

So, Marcus, that’s what my brain did as I was reading the question. I’m like, well, it could be kinder. But she also said she taught fourth before. So it could be kind of like, which route do I go? So. Exactly. It could be both. I love it. 

Marcus

Yeah, it’s both. Congratulations again on your first session theme wrapping up today. Going backwards at the start of the year, though. How do you start the year off to get that positive culture? Like, is there something special you do at the start of the year to build the culture from the beginning? 

Elizabeth

Yeah, that’s a great question. And I honestly think that it’s one of the hardest things. That and classroom management are the two hardest things.

So the school I teach at, each session is themed differently. So our first session is all about building classroom community. And we actually title it: Building the Tribe, which sounds very granola, but we basically open the session up with a lot of team-building games and activities and social-emotional learning.

I teach kindergarten where our studio is called the Spark Studio because it’s that four to six-year-old range. They’re learning social awareness, self awareness. They’re learning how to be problem solvers and make decisions. And so a lot of the focus this first session has been getting them to think about others.

So we do this thing at the end of the day called shout-outs. And I am telling you, no matter what grade you teach, because the entire school does this, and it is literally it’s literally transformed the classroom community. And especially at this age, it’s harder for them to know, like to see that, oh, I fell down and he came over and picked me up. And I’m going to give him a shout-out for that.

And so there’s this like that first week, there was a lot of modeling on my part. But at this point, we do at the end of the day, for our we do like a closing meeting and we do our rose and our thornes. So we talk about basically a growth mindset, things that we accomplished that we thought we did well with, and then things that we’re struggles or challenges for us. And then we do shout-outs. 

We have a round carpet. We call it a Socratic discussion where we sit down and I ask questions. And a lot of what I do is ask questions to get them to be thinking. But building that classroom community in the beginning for us really looks like thinking about other people and treating others like we want to be treated.

In that shift takes place in the students’ minds, it all of a sudden becomes more about, well, how can I be a blessing to other people? And so what we’re doing right now at this age, we have these little boxes that have tokens inside. So if you can imagine, just like a rectangular box that opens up, it’s like this little mini, like a photo box. And inside there are five tokens. And so they basically can earn a token whenever they receive a shout-out.

So if I was a student and Marcus did something kind towards me, say he helped me bring my water bottle to recess because my hands are full. At the end of the day, I would give Marcus a shout out and Marcus would put a token on his token board.

And we would as a classroom or as a studio, we would talk about and praise Marcus. Then so what that does is it really helps kind of engineer and change the students’ mindset to be thinking about others instead of themselves because at this age, that self-awareness, even social awareness is it’s a hard concept for them to grasp. I’ll give you an example. So yesterday I had a student who had a couple of friends who were coming up to me and they were saying, you know what, this person is annoying and this person is me and this person… And they were making a list. And so I, I just brought that student over and I looked at them and I said, hey, this is what your friends are saying. Do you want to be known that way? How do you want to be known? When people talk about you, how do you want them to talk about you? And it was just that like I call it like a come to Jesus moment where like that student for the first time was like, huh? It matters how I treat people. And so we just had that like it’s exhausting. And as a teacher, I mean, especially at this age, those kinds of conversations, especially early on, it’s just constant. It’s just a constant thing.

But it’s so beautiful to see the students. It clicks for them because when they receive a shout-out, they feel that special feeling. And then they want to return the favor. Right. And so it just becomes this like positive… positivity, like undertone in the classroom.

And I’ll say this last thing, and then I can I can finish answering this question. But I always say, you know, publicly praise and privately preach. And I am all about you bringing positivity to the good behavior and then having those little side conversations that are just like, I see you, I see you, I want you to become the best version of yourself. Also, is this who you want to be? And just doing that privately. 

I feel like, you know, because it’s easy at the carpet when you’re at the carpet and you got little kiddos like doing, you know, happy baby yoga poses and downward dog and everything. It’s easy to call out those kinds of behaviors instead of praising the positive ones. And then all of a sudden, all the attention then gets pushed on the negative behavior instead of the positive. So I’m constantly like: You are so kind. You go put a token on your token board. Oh, my goodness. You are so thoughtful.

I actually have posters hung up in the back here to growth mindset. So that as a reference for me as a teacher, I can at any point look over and see, oh, I’m going to use this verbiage: Oh, man, you were you showed some compassion when you know, you gave up your… 

So it’s just constantly like modeling that vocabulary for them. And then they will take it and absorb it. And then they pretty soon are kind of leading the charge in that area.

Marcus

First of all, if I was in your class, I would be rich. I will be great because I love praise. I love praise. If if a tangible token, I’m like bet. Gather all the tokens, Pokémon go.

But the biggest thing I sort of like took away from that is this concept of shout outs. I absolutely love the routine of that. I love the utility of it. I love how universal that concept could apply. Everybody should learn how to pause and shout out somebody doing good. I mean, even adults, it’s it’s something we forget to pivot to. The kids are just learning it for the first time. But we adults sometimes forget, too. So thank you for that. That Nugget’s that’s going to stick in my head. I’m going to start praise and people shout them out. 

Are there any other routines, like do you have another routine, perhaps, that you do that promotes that positive behavior? Like, I’m checking that one. I’m just trying to get another one here.

Elizabeth

Yeah, so the token boards and then just I would just say having those just real-life conversations, I do this thing called a sip and chat. So I’ll make like little hot chocolates and it’s using that one by ten strategies. So there are times where I’ll pull a student over. I have a little rainbow-like horseshoe table and I’ll just sip on some hot chocolate and talk with them. And they get a hot chocolate. And so we just literally sit and talk. Then that kind of behavior. I think students need to see up modeled and then they can do it. They then have the opportunity to do a sip and chat with a friend. And so they can, you know, earn that. 

And we’re pretty relaxed here, too, about we do a lot of flexible seating. So then there’s just some free choice. And I think really, to be honest, classroom community is all about relationships. Relationships first. And at this age, I mean, I’m speaking for like the K-2 age. I think a lot of it is just helping them understand that they have the power to be to make an impact on their on their friends. And so a lot of times that just is a lot of conversations and opportunities for them to shine, I think. 

Another thing that really helps for classroom management, but then also classroom community is letting students step up into a leadership role and lead and pushing that power to them. Like today, you know, today was an exhibition is what we call, but it’s like an open house. And as I was praising the students, I had one student this last session who just I could depend on her for everything. I mean, she’s just so reliable. And so I talked about it at the exhibition, and she ended up being kind of a student that was spotlighted, you know, and the students see it because that’s how she treats them.

The conversation becomes less traditional, like you got to sit in your desk and you can only do this and more open to the classroom like, hey, what do you guys think we need to help our classroom community? Do you guys need more time together? Do you need more time at you know, like how do you think… it really is just pushing the power to them. And so that way they take ownership of of their learning environment and their studio.

We call our classroom rules. We call them our guardrails. And so we make promises. I know I’m on video right now. Can I show you what our guardrails are and I’ll read them to you? Does that matter?

Marcus

You can do whatever you want, girl. If I saw it on your story today too so if you all want to follow her… You could catch us twice. I love the guardrails. I love the… Let’s go.

Elizabeth

OK, I’m going to show you. So we’ve got guardrails behind me. So our four guardrails for this session were: I will not hurt anyone emotionally or physically. I will not distract. I will respect our studio building park and everyone in it. And I will make things right when I’ve done something wrong. 

So then from there, get ready for this. This is what we did today. You guys, you’re getting a behind-the-scenes look…

Marcus

I know what’s coming because I check the story. I’ve been wanting to see this.

Elizabeth

And, you know, basically what we did was we made a contract together and we came up with these ideas. So we have a Spark studio contract now that reads like this: I am on a hero’s journey. I promise to focus and not hurt anyone emotionally or physically. I promise to be respectful to our studio building park and everyone in it. So this is the same. I promise to make things right when I’ve done something wrong.

I promise to try my hardest to reach all of my goals, and I promise to encourage my other friends on their journey and then do you see the little signatures? 

So basically from there, we basically made those rules together. And from there comes everything else, classroom, community, how our classroom management system is run. So if we’re at carpet time and there’s a hero that’s talking to another hero and distracting them from learning, that hero will say: You’re distracting me, can you please stop?

And they literally kind of call them out. And so when I say like I think a lot of times educators have it in their minds that that all of the instruction in and all of the information has to come from them or they have to teach it. That’s just not true. There’s a lot of accountability and ownership that can happen in a classroom when you push the power to your students. And so everything that we do kind of falls under the umbrella of our studio contract…

Marcus

Two things to unpack. One, I need to explain ya’ll how Elizabeth just finessed the mess out of her laptop or camera. She literally just grabbed it, walked us over to the the guardrails, pointed them out, and then showed us the actual spark contract.

She says she’s ready. She was ready. Wow, wow, wow, wow. So many follow-up questions. But like I think the most important one is how much of an impact do you think the guardrails or rules or whatever teachers call them, that one thing that they do at the beginning of the year…How much of an impact can that have on the positive culture? 

Elizabeth

Yeah, I think that it basically sets the tone. And I, I think there are some things that you obviously have to come up with yourself as a teacher.

Right. There are things that are just like safety issues, like, no, you can’t poke kids in the face with a stick. Right. That’s dangerous. Or you can’t, you know, run across the parking lot by yourself. Sorry. That’s dangerous. And it’s my job as a guide, as a guard.

And that’s what the guardrails are for, right? It’s to protect. But then within the guardrails the students get, I feel like the more power and ownership you push to the students, the more they get… they feel the ownership and they want to step up and lead. So coming up with a contract in your classroom is one of the most impactful things that a teacher could do because you’re not creating it. They are. 

Marcus

Ooh! Yo!

Elizabeth

They’re coming up with the rules. They’re coming up with things that they feel are important. If they feel like it’s important, they’re going to they’re going to, one, hold each other accountable, and two they’re going to feel the ownership. They’re going to feel it. I will be honest with you, I’m learning with them. I’m learning how to roll this out. And each each year the class is different students. It’s a different mix. It’s a different vibe. But the more that you can push that power to them and have them make the decision. All I’m doing is asking the question like for example: Do you guys feel like we need jobs in the classroom because the floor is really dirty and there’s paint all over there? Is that how you want the classroom to look or is this something that you guys want? Do we should we come up with jobs? We should come up… You want to come up with jobs? Yeah OK 

Marcus

What you think the jobs will be? Anybody want one of these jobs? Wow. 

Chelsea

Can I interrupt you, Marcus? I have two ideas, actually. 

Marcus

I’m just so excited!

Chelsea

With how, Elizabeth, you said these students have never been in person before with school, and that’s going to be the lot a lot of the case for K-2 teachers as this pandemic continues, as virtual learning continues. So making those guardrails because they don’t know how to be in a classroom. But regardless of the age. 

And then I also thought of a story as we were talking about how teachers inspired us. Your contract? I was in high school, a economics class. Our teacher was teaching us about the Constitution. And so he had us make a class constitution. We came up with the rules. We all signed it. One of the rules in particular was that he could not assign homework on Tuesday, an obscure rule, but he couldn’t do it.

One day he broke it and we came into his class the next day and he goes, guys, pull out a piece of paper. We were like, OK. And he’s like, I want you to write the constitution is the supreme law of the land.

So we all wrote that. And the rule is, if he had given us homework on a Tuesday, was that he had to shave his legs if he broke that rule. So he stuck his leg on to a desk and he had shaved his leg up to the kneecap to prove to us that the Constitution ruled the land as well as our classroom. So to show you that impact of your class rules, like if they break it, there’s got to be a consequence. And they know that this is how we live. It worked for high schoolers because obviously I still know that story till now. But it was amazing. He shaved his legs and he was like, girls, I don’t know how you get around your ankle bone in behind your knee. He was like, that was difficult. But shout out to Mr. Crowson if you’re listening.

Mr. Crowson shaved his legs. 

Elizabeth

Yeah, I love that story.. 

Marcus

I’ve done a year with no contract and then the rest of my teaching career with a contract in Chelsea. Fun fact. It really does work for older students. It really does.

Well, we’ll talk about the year where I didn’t do it on another episode, but I completely agree with you both. It put ownership on the kids. I mean, all it takes is a giant sheet of paper right?

And you prompting your students and asking questions, well, you know it is filthier here… Well, y’all do get really loud. Well, you know. Other people are complaining about the noise level in here. Like having the conversation is literally how we built our social contract as a group.

And it started as a conversation and it concluded. And, you know, we put the giant paper in the front and we all signed it together. Yeah, I didn’t shave my legs. That was not a consequence. Oh, my consequences were always related to food.

There’s the spine. If you break up, you have to bring us donuts the next day or you have to bring us cookies. 

Elizabeth

That’s good! Oh, that’s so good!

Marcus

And so they got me good because the rule that I broke all the time was no yelling. And Mr Stein… I have a very loud voice, so I get a little passionate. And let’s just say my students always had a good supply of donuts and then the rules were just for them. 

Like they would hear me yell at other kids in the hallway and be like, Mr Stein… Donuts tomorrow? Hehe! Caught you yelling at the kids at lunch. So that contract idea, I think, is fantastic. And I think what you said, it is in the hands of the kids. And no group of kids contract is going to look exactly the same.

Elizabeth

Right, yeah, that’s so good. And the accountability in it is built within. So a lot of times it relieves I like a hero, you know, student and I call them heroes. Sorry, students and they are heroes. A hero will come up to me and they’ll, you know, tell me something that’s like, telling on another student. A lot of times. My answer is, why aren’t you talking to them about it? That sounds like you need to have that conversation with them. If they’re not treating you, kind of you should say that, say, hey, when you treat me that way, I don’t want to be your friend. Do you want to have friends? Just constantly like pushing it back. And so we actually the way that we hold each other accountable in the studio is they if a hero asks another hero to whatever it is, you know, you’re distracting me. Please, please stop doing that. If they ask three times and the hero doesn’t do it. They have to pull what’s called a hero buck. And so we have like an economy in the classroom. And so they’ll lose a hero buck if it ever happens and they have to do it.

And so it’s one of those like things that helps me. And then we also have to like ask three before me, you know, rule like you can’t open your lunch or if you need help opening the playdough. Oh, did you ask three people? And it just is constantly pushing them to be independent and problem solvers. And so I, I think that’s more real life anyways, right? We’re trying to raise, you know, men and women who can problem solve and figure things out.

And they’re not dependent solely upon one person, but they go to their community and they go to their friends. And those relationships are important and they want to be kind human beings. And so I think that it starts young and everything that we do here in the classroom, to be honest, a lot of like even the contract and stuff I do at home with my own children. 

So we have like we have car contracts, we’ve got home contracts. We’re like, hey, this is how do you guys want our space to be? I just had a discussion with my oldest son this week about making his bed. And I’m like, how do you know your bedroom is not just your bedroom, it’s in our house. How do you want when people come over?

What message do you want us to send them? Do you want them to feel like they’re walking into a peaceful, calm, organized space? Or do you want them to feel like it’s chaos in here? Like what? You know, and so it was that whole conversation of being kind and compassionate and understanding and considerate human being.

Marcus

You need a line of like T-shirts or a poster with these bracelets. I’m like, you know, that’s good. Well, it’s your bed in my house. Well, what we gotta do? I just love it. I love it. I love it. I love it. It’s such a good outlook at things. It’s such a calm outlook at things. And I think the way you prompt and react to things plays a huge role in the way things are positively happening around you.

So my question for you, friend, is how when you know you’re having an off day, a negative day, how do you keep the classroom culture positive when you’re off? 

Elizabeth

I talk to them about it, and that was me two days ago at Carpet.

I just look at them and say, hey, I’m having a rough day. And sometimes we have rough days. I wasn’t feeling my best, but I’m here. I kind of have a headache. And so can we work together to just be understanding that, you know, my head’s kind of hurting right now?

And that would be the same thing if another hero had if he or she was not feeling well. Obviously, you know, you don’t want you don’t want to be in the classroom if you’re sick or whatever. But even if you’re just having… like you can have real conversations with on a five and six-year-old level to where I think they would understand because. And we do. And we do. And so. That was me a couple of days ago, to be honest, I hadn’t slept well the night before for some reason I was like a full moon or what? And then when I got to the classroom, the students were just so energetic. There was so much energy, and we had a couple little bumps in the road in the beginning of the day.

So when we sat down in the morning for our morning meeting, we kind of just talked about it. And I just kind of opened it up with like: Hey. How’s everybody feeling today? Where you’re your where’s your head at? Did you guys get good rest? How does your body feel right now? Do we need to pause and like snack time? 

And so I think they’re like it’s not always positive and it’s not always up. That’s normal. And I think that should be more talked about. And like I have bad days and I do try to stay positive and I try to keep, you know. And I do believe also that the positivity in your classroom; you have a huge effect on that as a teacher, if you’re always

coming in, drained and down. And that does rollover, that energy does translate. And so that’s why it’s so important for self-care. You got to take care of yourself. You can’t you know, you can’t pour from an empty cup. I know we’ve all heard that quote, but I would challenge you and say you should be pouring from the overflow. You shouldn’t be coming in and anything being depleted from your cup. You should be so full when you come in that you’re pouring from the overflow, which can still be challenging if you’re not always full like me the other day. 

I was coming in, I had, you know, little sleep and had a million things on my mind. And, you know, life was happening. And you still got to show up with your, you know, 20 kids in the classroom or whatever it is. But I think it’s just a conversation like bring it home to your students. Yeah. Bring it home like I’m human, just like you. And if we can all work together and then that way, it also gives them an opportunity to step up and…

Marcus

Mhm. 

Elizabeth

It gives them the opportunity to be like, hey, I’m going to think of other people today, you know, and today it’s you know, Elizabeth… My kids call me Elizabeth, by the way. And I probably well, I know that’s super controversial, but I have my kiddos just call me Elizabeth because I’m just a human, just like them. And they have in my classroom. Obviously I’m the guard and I have to make sure that they’re safe with the guard rails and all of that. But they are just they’re just tiny humans that are going to be adults just like me one day. And so I try to push as much of that power to them as possible. 

But so, yeah, I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but we just talk about it. We just have I do have bad days and…

Marcus

You keep it real. I mean, keeping it real is a part of being positive. Just keep it real. OK! 

Elizabeth

Yeah, like so social emotional learning in kindergarten is so huge. And it really it’s huge across the board.

Like you have to learn how to be, you know, a critical thinker and a problem solver. And you have to have self-awareness and social awareness. And those are tools that every person needs to have to have successful relationships like that’s backed by science.

Right. So the same is true for me. Like I, I need to have self-awareness and a social awareness enough to be able to put vocabulary in words to what I’m feeling and thinking so that I know, because when you do that, you kind of take the power out of the negativity, basically… So it’s like a little kid who comes up and bumps his knee instead of saying: no, you’re not hurting, you’re fine. It’s: That hurts. What do you think we should do? Do you? 

Marcus

Ooh!

Elizabeth

Yeah, you know, what do you think we should do with that?

And just giving them the vocabulary in the words to say what it is. And then when you can say it, you can then move on. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. I feel like I’m kind of rambling now.

Chelsea

No, it does. I love how like you’re looking at your students as they’re going to be adults, they’re going to be adults that need to have these conversations. They’re going to interact with a hundred people a day. And the fact that you keep that conversation real at the five-year-old level is amazing because they can learn it early and realize, hey, I can have these conversations and I can talk about my feelings and I’m feeling a little bit off and maybe so-and-so can help me with that today. And I don’t have to just keep it inside and be off on my own. I love that. So, so, so much. 

Elizabeth

They’re not dependent on me solely and that’s not like I don’t want them to be dependent on me because I just don’t want to do the work. It’s like find your people when you’re in this classroom. Find your friends that hear you and see you and you see them, find your people, be that light. You have the opportunity. There’s so many opportunities here for you to lead and to invest and love on friends. And the same thing. When you have a bad day, go to your friends and tell them that you’re having a bad day so they can have that opportunity to encourage and love on you.

Chelsea

That’s why I also loved your little end-of-the-day shout-outs too, because it does bring in that confidence aspect for maybe the student that doesn’t feel super connected to any certain person. But if they can see that one thing they did today and maybe make a friend now, that that friend gave them the shout-out and they the little maybe shy student has someone that they can connect with that way. I loved that earlier when you mentioned that. And then also, too, because we were talking about how you treated yourself with kindness the other day by just telling your students where you’re at.

How do you encourage your students to treat themselves with kindness if they maybe are talking bad about themselves or down on themselves? How do you encourage them?

Elizabeth

I think having a growth mindset is probably key in that area.

So the other day we were doing core times or doing math and language blocks, and one of my students was really struggling and she was kind of getting emotional. And I could tell she was just feeling defeated. And so I just went over and kind of, it’s always like you get down on their level and you look them in the eyes and just practice that pause. And I said, how are you doing? I’m really frustrated right now. And she looked at me. It was like the sweetest thing ever. And she’s like: this is really challenging.

And she was kind of emotional. Do we need to take a break or do you need do you need to pause and just take a breather? Step away and then come back? Do you need help? What do you need right now? What do you feel like you need? And basically, I think the answer is just giving them permission to fail and stepping back enough and letting them fail, but then coming in very lovingly in that supportive way and just saying well and asking them what they feel like they need because their needs… people and students are so individual. She might have needed a hug when another student might have needed help with the problem. Another student might have needed to take a break because they were overstimulated. And so it’s just that real conversation. Again, you know, coming back to that, like what do you if you’re listening to your emotions in your body right now, what do you feel like you need? And so I think that practice just gets them. And I think, honestly, I think adults need to do that check-in. You got to have that check-in.

Marcus

I’m doing that right now in my head, I’m like, what? Do I need a break? 

Chelsea

Yeah, that inward with reflection also at a young age is great, too, to help them work through their struggles, but also know they can reach out and ask for help and all of those good things.

Marcus

It’s… to me, it feels like you’re making things that when we were in school were awkward. You’re making awkward things the normal. Like it’s awkward to go and compliment somebody. That’s not awkward. That should be normal. It’s awkward to talk about your feelings. No, it isn’t. That should be normal. You should be able to say how you feel. And like I’m picking up all of these nuggets from you. And I’m like. Should I go back to the classroom?

Chelsea

I was thinking the same thing. I’m like, wait, I have so much knowledge now. Maybe I’d be better at it. 

Marcus

You know, maybe, huh? So I just as superduper appreciate all of those nuggets. You remind me of when I finally started implementing the social contract with my students. Things did like super improve. And instead of shout-outs, we did like a mailbox system. Because you know what? No Google Classroom, baby. There was no LMS. I have but three computers and two of them didn’t work. So I work with brown paper bags like the little lunch bags.

And if you take them to the back wall, every kid gets a design their bag. That was fun. We spent an entire class period color in the bag. Mind you these are 13-year-olds and they really wanted to color. So we designed our bags. And the concept was you complimented or shouted-out in silence because they are awkward at the middle school level. So saying stand-up and shout-out. I would have been a little afraid to do so we’d drop it in the bag, drop it in a bag. And I made it a point to drop every kid a note at least twice a week. Every single kid, because sometimes they’re not going to get anything from their peers because kids can be mean. But you can control the narrative by being positive yourself. Yeah. So, yeah, like I just feel so affirmed. I feel so affirmed, Elizabeth. I feel like, you know what? I didn’t have it together at the beginning, but I did have a contract and we did have affirmations so…

Elizabeth

You know, to piggyback on what you just said to you. I think it’s important that we send those little shout-outs to parents every once in a while, you know, and just letting them know that, hey, I see your child and especially the kiddos who really struggle.

I think that like each parent has a love tank and each child has a love tank. And I’m going to need to take from that love tank, you know, that bank someday, because this kiddo is going to have to have several hard conversations with me and mom because of their behavior. So if I’m constantly depositing into that love bank, that’s a lot easier to have those conversations. And to be completely honest, like we use an app where we can basically schedule messages to go out. And there’s times in the week I’ll just sit down and like just nail out like five to seven: “Hey, I saw your kiddo do that” and then I’ll schedule it to go out different days. And I’ll tell you what, there’s nothing more affirming as a parent to get a note from a teacher, hearing that they see your kid and it just like to know that you’re your kiddo is seen and heard and loved. And so I think shoutouts are really important and shoutouts for like, hey, thanks for always being punctual. Thanks for always keeping your kid off on time. We all know that’s a challenge. Good job, mama. You know, things like that are thanks for being a room mom or things for whatever. 

Chelsea

Love it. Love it. And then one last thing before we go. What is the one tip you would like to give teachers to help them build their tribe with all the challenges going on right now? 

Elizabeth

Oh… I think one of the hardest things as a teacher is feeling like you have enough time to do that and with everything that’s going on right now to whether you’re in person teaching, hybrid teaching or whatever, just finding the time to be able to do that. So I would say I think just, you know, sharing some of the things that I shared earlier about just even the 1 by 10 strategy, just being as deliberate as you possibly can in connecting with your students. And remember, if everybody can just remember a time in their life, like, let’s just pause here for just a second. 

Remember a time in your life when a teacher said or did something to you like I remember in high school, my sophomore year was the hardest year of my life, had a lot of personal stuff going on at home with my parents, with my siblings. I went to school and I gave a presentation in a home economics class. And I felt completely invisible. And I gave the presentation. I sat down and the teacher like walked by and she did that. One of these like where you point and you do the whole finger-like come here I want to talk to you. And I was like, darn it, I said something wrong or I’m in trouble. And she went out in the hall and she praised me and built me up and said just the most positive thing she was. She said everything from, I’m so proud of you. I’ve never seen this side of you before. You have so much potential. And she just like poured into me. And so we can all just pause. We all have those little snippets and memories and just remember those on the hard days when you feel like you can’t you know, you don’t have any other words or you don’t have the energy that you need to get through the day. And just remember that those little moments actually do matter. And it’s so important to make time for those even literally, even if it’s five minutes, five minutes, and you in those five minutes, you set your timer and one minute of each of those five minutes, you’re pulling kids aside and just having a little heart to hearts with them. It makes a difference. 

So just do what you can have grace for yourself, but be as deliberate as possible when you are trying to make connections and build your classroom community, especially during this time.

Marcus

Wow, Elizabeth, I am so thankful because even I’m smiling more. My cheeks are hurting a little bit, and I kind of I appreciate the fellowship. You know, like I appreciate you sharing a part of your life, a part of your world a part… Yeah, I just personally want to thank you from my heart for sharing your hearts. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. 

Elizabeth

Everybody’s been in the classroom, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’ve been a student. And so we all like these kinds of conversations can be so relatable, you know, thank you, Chelsea and Marcus, for sharing bits of your story, whether it’s been in the classroom or being a teacher. It’s just nice to have this community and this kind of conversation is much, much, much needed, especially in light of everything that’s going on right now. So thanks for all the work that you guys do. Thank you. Yes. And thank you. And considering you’ve inspired me to consider going back to the classroom like you’re doing great things as well, because honestly, that’s a different podcast like Marcus said. But you are so inspiring and I know for sure you’ll be to your students like Ms Kinderheart was to you, because I’m sure they’ll know your classroom and what you brought to them. So, yeah, and just amazing.

Marcus

Low key, Chelsea, low key, as soon as I get to work with like a group of teachers or a group of students, again, I’m going to try at least four or five of the things that our friend Elizabeth mentioned said specifically like this one in 10 idea. This idea of scheduling when you will have these conversations with people. I’m stealing that. What about you? 

Chelsea

And I was thinking even outside the classroom with my own team, just to keep it positive here in the Kami culture. Do more shout-outs, give out some tacos and do that one in 10. Check-in on people maybe I don’t usually check in on. So, yes, taking a lot away from this great, great talk with Elizabeth today. 

Marcus

Yes. Some universal ideas that we could all use to build positive culture.

Marcus

Friends, it’s time for us to go. Oh, womp, womp. But we’ll be back.

Chelsea

Thanks to our fabulous guest. It’s been awesome chatting with you today.

Marcus

Everybody out there. Listen, we want to hear your thoughts on this episode. You can catch us on the social medias as @kamiapp

Chelsea

and make sure you use #teacherteacher.

Marcus

And if you need the show notes, the transcript or other resources, we got you head over to our website kamiapp.com/podcast for all of the podcast Goodness.

Chelsea

Teacher Teacher was brought to you by Kami, an Interactive Learning Platform with intuitive tools to not only help you reimagine lessons, assignments and feedback, but to help your students love learning.

Marcus

This episode was hosted by my girl, Chelsea, Metreyeon and yours truly. Marcus Stein.

Chelsea

Catch you next time.

Marcus

See ya friends!

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