June Guest Blog Post with Shelley Rolston
This month Shelley Rolston will be sharing with us her ideas, thoughts and inspiration on education. Shelley is the creator of The Write Stuff – her website on Writing and ideas. She currently works for the Langley School District and is passionate about helping others. I was able to work with Shelley recently at the School Board when they needed teachers to mark district Math assessments. Thank you Shelley for sharing with us your love of learning and I hope all of you who read this post will be inspired because I am inspired by her! Enjoy!
Name: Shelley Rolston
School District: Langley
Degree and Institution: BEd. and MEd. UBC (Curriculum and Instruction: Writing Development)
Current Role: Literacy & Numeracy Coach
Connect with her on the following Social Media outlets
1. Who are three people that inspire you and why.
My Dad was always one of my biggest inspirations. He passed away in 2006. He had Alzheimer’s Disease. He taught me how to be curious, be resourceful and most importantly, to enjoy life and don’t take everything so seriously. Watching him go through his stages of Alzheimer’s has taught me to make the best of the life you have and to always be kind to people.
The second person that inspired me was my Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. Corey Hunter. She was so kind and gentle and loving. She played guitar. I knew in grade 2 that I wanted to be a teacher and it was based on her influence on me.
My other influences come from the people I interact with and meet along the way. I continuously get inspired by things people say and things people do that I find interesting, unique and special. I gravitate towards people that inspire. Some of those people have been previous principals I have had, people like Oprah, the Dalai Lama (whom I went to see in Vancouver), Sir Ken Robinson, Wayne Dyer, Maya Angelou and many people who believe in the power of positivity.
2. How does being a mother of teenagers inspire your teaching?
I am so very proud of my two daughters. Being a teacher, I know the important aspects of parenting that directly contribute to a child’s well being and education as I have seen it in school daily for the last 25 years of teaching. Watching how my daughters have matured into level-headed young adults helps to reinforce that all the hard work spent parenting in their early years really pays off. I try to provide not only those same things for my students but also advice to parents that ask as well.
3. You worked on the Social Responsibility aspects of the revised curriculum. Can you tell us more about that?
Our District had a team that I was lucky enough to be a part of to go over the preliminary ideas behind the new Social Responsibility curriculum and work it through with discussions and to come up with examples that would best represent what that might look like in the classroom. I really loved listening to others in different grade levels because it looks so different as social responsibility evolves through the years.
4. Why do you think that Social Responsibility is so important?
I think that social responsibility is the cornerstone to ALL learning. It starts with personal responsibility in the early years with being self aware and learning about social cues. Teaching students about their feelings and character traits helps them to identify how they are feeling and respond in an appropriate way. As students begin to expand their personal knowledge, they can then expand it further to include others. Service is a key component. It is selfless and rewarding. When students have these social skills, they are happy learners. Happy learners can communicate better, think more critically and learn better.
5. Can you tell me more about how this core competency is meant to be used in the revised curriculum?
This core competency is not meant as an “add on”. We all know as teachers we have so much to do and teach already. This competency, as I noted above, will transform your learners if it is fused into everyday learning and content that is covered each day. When students are socially aware and responsible, they will be able to utilize the curricular competencies much easier and more naturally which in turn helps them to understand content.
6. What made you get into teaching?
As I mentioned before, my grade 2 teacher was my first influence into the world of teaching. I really enjoy helping children be empowered by their own learning. When kids don’t like school, I see it as my mission to convince them that school is a wonderful place of learning which can be so much fun. My favourite part of teaching is reading great quality children’s literature and teaching students how to express themselves in writing. I get joy out of childrens’ happiness and learning success and I knew that I could be a very strong influence on the lives of many children just like my grade 2 teacher was on me.
7. What is your teaching passion?
My teaching passion is teaching writing. Writing is very personal and everyone can express themselves through this medium. Some students just need to do it a little differently.
8. Why did you create your website The Write Stuff Teaching?
I created my blog The Write Stuff Teaching to help me to reflect on my teaching in a meaningful way and to share with teachers around the world.
9. When did you create it and how has it brought out your voice?
I started it in the Spring of 2013. I love how it keeps me current and fresh and reflecting on all the things I am doing or thinking about education. I wish blogs were around when I first started teaching. I hope to inspire some new teachers.
10. Why did you choose Writing to be your focus?
I chose it because I find it fascinating. It is so personal and everyone’s writing and ideas are different. I completed my Master’s Degree at UBC in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on writing development. My paper was on the difference between boys and girls in their writing development. With this in mind, it inspires me to teach in a variety of ways to engage all learners.
11. Tell me about Mindfulness.
I first heard about mindfulness when I watched the Oprah show after work one day. It was at a time when, although my classroom management was always strong, things were changing. The kids were changing and I was seeing kids arguing more, tattling more and generally harder to manage with more outbursts and more behaviour issues. I knew that I had to change up what I was doing but I did not want to use stickers and points and external rewards. Goldie Hawn was on the show and she was telling all about her mindfulness program: Mindup. One of her researchers was one of my professors at UBC when I did my Master’s Degree so I knew the program must be good. Mindfulness allows children to take brain breaks and become very aware of their own emotions and reactions. The more aware they are, the more they can control their emotions and behaviours.
12. Tell me about what Mindfulness means to you? To your students?
Mindfulness is very soothing for students. It is meaningful and empowering to me and to my students.
13. What “fruit” have you seen from practicing Mindfulness?
I have seen increased positive behaviour, more happiness, virtually no tattling or bickering. I have seen friendships grow more fully, even with 7 year olds. The children are more aware of others and their manners have improved. Parents love the instruction on the brain their kids are learning and many report kids using mindfulness at home.
14. You are working in a speciality position right now, how have you integrated Mindfulness into the different classrooms you work with?
Yes. In this position of instructional coaching, I see students that would really benefit from mindfulness. I started a “mindful group” where a small group of grade 1’s became mindful ambassadors to help spread happiness. I’ve shown teachers how to use the chime to do a brain break. I’ve also provided professional development for teachers in the district on teaching mindfulness.
15. Why do you think we need to change our practices? Or tweak them?
I think it’s more of a “mind shift” that we need to engage in first. Sometimes we can get into a rut because school has been so routine through the years. If we can step out of that routine and way of thinking and take a look at how our world is changing, we will then see a need to change what we are doing in the schools. If teachers have implemented some mindfulness and character building instruction into their classroom, kids are more able to self regulate and learn more independently. If students can work independently, the classroom design can be more flexible to accommodate those learners. Teachers can take a step back from direct instruction and become more of a facilitator of learning and inquiry.
16. Tell me about your thoughts on the Growth Mindset.
Carol Dweck is the “founder” of this growth mindset research. Her research has shown that kids’ intelligence is not limited and that intelligence can be “grown” by effort and persistence. The reason this has stuck with me so much as because I have always believed this to be true since I first began working with kids. I use a positive “self talk” in my classroom encouraging students to be the best they can be. There is something so amazing when a child says they can’t do something and then after trying and practicing, they can! I think growth mindset is appropriate for EVERYONE, not just kids. My favourite part of it is the “power of yet”. I use that a lot now, even with my own kids. If someone says they can’t do something, I say, “You can’t do that YET”.
17. Why is this important to you?
Practicing with a growth mindset in mind is important because it encourages students to be self directed learners and that anything is possible.
18. Why is it important to students and to schools?
It’s particularly important to students and schools because teaching and learning is evolving and changing and if we want our students to be self directed in the new path of innovative learning that is starting, they need to believe they can do it and not be dependent on others.
19. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I think having the honour to teach children is the best honour and most important job in the world. I take it very seriously. But teaching is a seriously demanding and difficult job. It’s so easy to get burnt out. By changing and evolving with the times and empowering students to be in charge of their own learning, it relieves some of the stress of teaching. It allows you to put that extra energy into really getting to know your students’ learning and interests. I really believe in teacher wellness and work-life balance and by changing the way I taught and incorporating mindfulness into my classroom, I have brought back the joy of teaching.