Wednesday, December 27, 2017

SELF DETERMINATION: You Have Got to Want Success for Your Students BADLY!

Note - As today is the 2nd day of Kwanzaa, I decided to look at each of the "7 Principles of Kwanzaa" and examine how each correlate with CLASSROOM TEACHER SUCCESS. Today's principle is Self-Determination (KUJICHAGULIA in the East African language, Kiswahili). Take a read and feel free to comment.

Remember your first day, week, month, year as a rookie classroom teacher? Did it go according to plan? Was the experience all you expected it to be? Did you know right then and there that you made the right career choice? Or were there times that you wondered whether or not teaching was really for you?

I recall vividly my entire first year as a 6th grade classroom teacher in the city I was born and raised (East Orange, NJ) after substitute teaching the previous two years in Brooklyn, NY and East Orange. I have no problem admitting that my first year was a complete disaster! To say I was subpar would be an overstatement…I was that bad. I didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t make the sort of connections with my students that would make me successful as their teacher. I was not an education major in college so I had no pedagogical foundation. I can honestly say that the experience was one of my biggest defeats in life. At the end of the year, I left for summer break wondering if I’d ever return to teaching.

After being away from the school for a week, I convinced myself that I could in fact perform at a high level as a classroom teacher the next school year. I literally started preparing myself mentally every day throughout the entire summer, starting in that first week of summer break. I told myself that I could do it...I convinced myself that I could do it. I started writing mock lesson plans and literally practicing my teaching in my apartment. I was determined…I was hungry…I was driven…I was ON FIRE! I was NOT going to be defeated for a second year because I was convinced that if I’m defeated, the children are the losers. SELF-DETERMINATION governed my attitude for the entire summer of 1993. The children who were assigned to me were going to soar that next school year. I was going to be ready!

Well, to summarize the following school year, I have said for the past 23 years, the ’93-’94 school year was not only my best year of teaching but my best year in education which includes my fourteen years as a principal. Why? Because I was hungry…I was DETERMINED. I had experienced enough mediocrity. I was ready to be GREAT in the classroom…how about you?

As I type, today is December 27, 2017. How has the first half of the current school year gone for you? Has it been all that you anticipated it would be? Have you accomplished the things that you planned on accomplishing? Are your students achieving at the levels you expected? Are your students where you expect them to be socially under your guidance? Are your students dreaming BIG as a result of your presence? Are your students on the right trajectory toward maximizing their potential? Has the first half of the school year been fulfilling? Obviously of all the educators who will read this post, the responses will vary, but my point here is YOU…not your students. You have got to want success for your students badly. Let me say that again for the people in the back…YOU HAVE GOT TO WANT SUCCESS FOR YOUR STUDENTS BADLY! It’s extremely easy to point to the variables that we have zero influence and control over and proclaim that “if only this would change or if only that would change…” I certainly was guilty of that mindset my first year, but the summer of ‘93, I started looking at myself…I started looking at myself differently. I concluded that the variables outside of my classroom that were shaping my students lives, I could not influence nor control but I had maximum influence and control over MYSELF.

How determined are you to see your students succeed? How frequently do you engage in your own self-reflection and self-assessment of your attitude toward yourself as a classroom teacher, your attitude toward your students, and your attitude toward your practice as a classroom teacher? This is a vital component toward developing and enhancing your self-determination which is crucial. You have got to walk into your classroom every day with a deep level of determination to have your best day ever, every day. But key to reaching that level of determination is an ongoing examination of your own self-determination through the self-reflective, self-assessment process I stated above in order to make the required self-adjustments daily.

When you get back to school in January, ensure that it is evident within your attitude and evident within your actions that you want success for your students badly. Find ways to block out all of the distractions while eagerly approaching all of the challenges with a mindset of “I GOT THIS!” You must be determined. Self-determination is a vital ingredient toward accomplishing that objective.

16 comments:

  1. There is no force greater than a determined mind. If educators believe in their own self determination they will instill this into their children. A child determined to be successful will be no matter what the obstacle is.

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  2. Another excellent article on the principle of self determination. After my first failed year as a teacher I was determined to overcome this setback. So much so I eventually became the Teacher of The Year in a short period of time. Self determination is such a critical component of success because it forces you to take a deep critical analysis of your strengths and weaknesses. It forces you to plan for success. It forces you to give effort, focus and attention. As a result I never ask my students to pass test. I ask them to work hard, diligently and to get off the mat when they have setbacks. This is what makes self determination so important and critical to the success or failure of our students.

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    1. POWERFUL! My favorite principle (along with Nia).

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  3. Awesome, I truly know this is my calling regardless of when and how it happened it's me and my students. I had to find ways to reach my ESE students exceptionalities and prepare each one for life outside of school. Regardless of the different variables that surround our students I am learning daily to block out certain unwanted things and focus on students. I know what our students go through outside the classroom so I strive to be the best teacher possible and a positive role model within my community. It's brothers like yourself that keep me learning and aware of what I am doing and how to go about it....Thanks for keeping it real.

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    1. Hey Walter, I appreciate your words. Powerful stuff! Sounds like your students are at an advantage because they have you as their teacher!

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  4. Habari Gani Principal Kafele!
    I read both posts just now and replied to Umoja but I don't know if it posted.
    Anyway, awesome and inspiring blogs. I told myself during this vacation I'm not thinking about school. I need a mental break. But you have turned my brain on as only you can and got me excited to think about it.
    One of the things I've learned and still journal reflection. I did it as a teacher, Dean, vp, and now as principal. It is definitely one of the most important acts anyone not just educators can do. After reading these first 2 posts want I've realized now is that I've discussed exclusively on students but not much on my staff. So I'll strive to build Umoja amongst staff during 2nd half of the year and continue my self relection.

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    1. Habari Gani. Just figured out why your comment didn't initially post. It was being treated as spam. Like I said in the email, I appreciate your words and I appreciate your work. The journaling that you do is a powerful tool that should be engaged in by all.

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  5. I think in my best recollection-back to when Principal Annie Jackson decided that a parent selling a book out of his trunk "A Black Parent's Handbook To Educating Your Children"- had a message to bring to our staff and students. That evolved into a message directly to young grade 6 students with the power of a live social studies lesson. I sat there with my students and witnessed self determination realized as the young man turned the classroom into a learning lab that fed my self determination for my students to achieve and succeed. The man became a substitute teacher, a teacher, a staff developer, a vice principal, a principal and eventually a self employed international speaker now Principal Baruti Kafele.I take that determination -which has never dimmed and never ceases to inspire into the new year and all the arenas where educators are needed-inside and outside the school.

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    1. Wow Ms. McCree...your comment is amazing!I forgot about how Black Parents Handbook got into your school. I immensely appreciate your words!!! #bam

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  6. What a perfect way to go into 2018. Great writing!! This has been one of the reasons that I get my classroom on a daily basis. Can’t wait for the other 5 writings.

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    1. Just discovered that your original comment went to my spam box. Again, I appreciate you my brother Another one coming tomorrow!

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  7. The only act that matches the power of reflection is the act of focused reflection. I love that connections and the ability to reflect on my practice as related to these values and principles. This reflection the past two days have made me realize that I have unofficially used unity through mentorship and self determination to make it to year 19 in public education. It is what has been propelling me forward by allowing me to stop , make corrections and fortify my ability to be determined to succeed. Thank you for the space to do have this experience as 2017 closes and I plan for 2018. I am determined to succeed as a coach and mentor this year!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Mashonah....strong stuff indeed. Congrats on your years of surface and may 2018 be your best year yet!

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  8. Self Determination...sounds like I’ve found my 2018 “One Word” Focus! Once again I am inspired by you and your determination to have a profound impact on the lives of others!

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    1. I appreciate you Susan...thank you for your words!

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