Communication – Livia Chan
 

Category: Communication

TL;DR:

  • Stop to notice priceless gifts all around us. It leads to greater positivity, joy, and respect for our place in this world.
  • Each day is a gift. Embrace it. Even though you may be struggling, life is still worth living.
  • Reach out for help when you are struggling. We are stronger together. Reach in to others to offer support and make a difference through every opportunity for interaction.
  • Chase your dreams. Take one small step every day.
  • See the challenges for the month below!

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a GIFT. That is why it’s called the PRESENT.

– Master Oogway, Kungfu Panda

Priceless Gifts

Gifts are all around us. They are waiting for us to discover like a diamond in the rough. The more I expand my horizons to not just see but truly embrace these intangible yet priceless things as gifts, the more I appreciate what is right in front of me. Thank you for joining me on this journey as we extend our view of the gifts that were always there…waiting.

Stop and notice…with intention. 

What are things you can see as GIFTS that offer an opportunity for deep

Gratitude,
Inspiration to live your life with greater meaning,
Foundational to our inner being, and something you can 
Treasure once you find it, for the rest of your life? 

In my first post for this Gift Better blog series last month, I wrote about the gift of words. (If you want to dive into a deeper conversation about this, join Martin Silverman and me on his podcast episode where we talk further about the gift of words.) Such priceless value in the words we intentionally choose for others and the ones we receive as gifts. In future months, I will dive into topics such as the gift of opportunity, the gift of connection, and the gift of believing in others.

The practice of seeing such things as gifts shifts my mindset so I am able to be more present, mindful, and aware of my daily surroundings. The result? Greater positivity, joy, and respect for my humble place in this world. My hope in sharing is that you will discover and embrace the same.

Each day is a gift. Embrace all of the joys a day has to bring. It’s right there…waiting for you to notice, see, accept, and receive with gratitude. CLICK TO TWEET

Personal Struggles

Do you ever go through times in your life when you are not feeling quite like yourself? A couple of weeks ago, I felt this way. Gratefully, this is not common but it definitely made me hyperaware of how I was feeling. I couldn’t pinpoint any one event but a number of accumulated things weighed on my heart and mind.

All throughout the year, my class has been very cohesive, kind and empathetic, and inclusive. But last week, there were a number of incidents that really challenged our caring community which sat heavily on my heart. You see, I am a person that values harmony. I feel much happier when people in my life get along. And it affects me deeply when people don’t.

Life Can Be a Struggle

Last Tuesday, I woke up with feelings of unease and a bit of anxiety. On my drive to work, I listened to a voice message, thinking it was my sweet mom because I thought I saw her name. It wasn’t her. To my shock and utter disbelief, it was a man from Arizona who accidentally left a message. He expressed his love for his brother and informed him that he was really struggling. He wasn’t sure how much more he can handle life and intimated he will harm himself so he was reaching out to say I love and appreciate you. 

I cried all the way to work. Good thing my commute is only a four minute drive. As I entered the school, barely holding it together coupled with how I was already feeling from the past couple of weeks, I went straight into my principal’s office thankful to have someone to lean on. As I am writing this, I feel emotional all over again even though it turned out to be a favorable outcome. 

Every interaction is an OPPORTUNITY. I know not everyone believes this, but I believe things happen for a reason. I spoke from my heart and left a message for the caller. The Phoenix Police Department informed me that they got a hold of him a day later and he was still alive. A great sense of relief instantly came over me. This was the spark that I needed to return to feeling my usual self. I have no idea if he listened to my message or whether it made any difference but I did what I could to support a stranger in need.

A Reminder That Each Day Is a Gift

I shared these stories because they reminded me that each day is a gift. Even though we may be going through struggles, life is so worth living especially when we choose to see the day as a precious gift that is valued deeply.

Embrace all of the joys a day has to bring. It’s right there…waiting for you to notice, see, accept, and receive with gratitude. We can control how our day unfolds starting with how we choose to think and live as our authentic selves and how we interact with those around us.

Each day is a new day—a gift for you to notice and receive with graciousness. It starts from within.

Reach Out

So when we are struggling, it is so important to reach out to other people to seek help. It is through our connections that we are stronger together. I cannot imagine how I could have dealt with these situations without sharing with others. We do not have to go through life or any part of life alone. The sooner you reach out for help, the sooner you can get support. If you find yourself in a place where you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know, then there are helplines that offer anonymity. 

Reach In

Each day is a gift for us to make a difference in the lives of those we touch. In every interaction, it is truly an opportunity. Choose to see it as an opportunity. When somebody says how are you and they respond, “I’m fine,” ask for more. That was an opportunity to find out how they are really doing and uplift them. Please allow me to encourage you to make the most of every day. It is a gift for you to spread your love, passion, purpose, and sunshine in others’ worlds.

Start embracing. The day has been given to you as a gift. Take it. Treasure it. The day is yours to make an impact. 

Mindfulness

We’ve been encouraged by people like Eckhart Tolle to be fully present and to embrace the power of now. We have 24 hours in a day. What we do between the 12 o’clocks counts. I found that becoming more aware and practicing mindfulness helped me to see each day as a gift. 

Mindful practice: Last month, I guided you through mindful practice to fully absorb intentionally chosen words as a gift of words from others. Today and every day, find at least one moment where you stop, perhaps close your eyes, and be still. As you breathe deeply, take in how your day was a gift given to you. Feel gratitude. Then breathe and deepen that gratitude even more. Reflect on the positive things that a new day offers—love, connection, opportunities, and so much more.

Each Day Is a Gift: Chase Your Dreams

What is your purpose or passion? What is your WHY? Align your day to it. 

What are your dreams, hopes, and wishes? Take small steps every day to make it happen. One step every day leads to 365 steps in a year!

Is what you’re doing serving you and those in your care or loved ones? If not, change it. Reflect and make it better.

Gift Better Challenge

Each day is a gift—a present. When I began to view more things as gifts, it changed me for the better. There are days I struggle too. The “each day is a gift” is not a mindset I can uphold every second of every day but I am able to be more aware every day. This led me to greater overall happiness, positivity, and gratefulness in my heart. 

Next month, I am excited to share the gift of gratitude. Until then, here are some ideas for this month’s challenge. Begin to see each day as a gift. Pick one or pick all:

  • Build this daily habit: Wake up and before you think of all the things you need to accomplish today in the first minute of being awake, think, “Wow, I have been given the gift of a new day! I have been blessed to go and make a difference in people’s lives today! I feel grateful.” Create your own challenge to try it for ___ days or weeks. Then make a commitment to reach out to the first three people you thought of. They were placed on your mind for a reason.
  • Make a difference in one person’s life every day.
  • Make one small step toward your dreams to embrace each day.

Carpe Diem

Seize the day! Life is too short. Make the most of it! We’ve all heard these sayings from time to time. They’re great reminders but the reality is that it’s hard to live by every single day, especially with how very busy we are. But, we can aim to remember these messages more often by seeing each day as a gift.

I’d love to learn what resonated with you. I would love to connect. Please feel free to fill out this form so we can!

With a heart full of gratitude, Livia

This blog post was originally published on TeachBetter.com.

TL;DR:

  • When we open our eyes to see atypical things as gifts, we find more to treasure as we grow our capacity to feel joy.
  • Learn to practice mindful moments of deeper gratitude when we begin to discover and see more things as gifts.
  • We can see words as gifts to us. We can give the gift of words by intentionally uplifting others with our words.
  • The purpose of this new blog series is to share how I see things as gifts. It can lead to greater joy, positivity, and gratitude. See the challenge for the month below!

The best things in life aren’t things. The best gifts in life aren’t things either.

What is the Value of a Gift?

A gift is something given to you. You receive it with no expectation of any return. Gifts have a way of evoking positive emotions, which can lead to happiness, joy, and potentially have a place in your long-term memories. As a child, I remember the feeling of elation when receiving certain gifts. We didn’t grow up with many gifts except for birthdays and Christmas. My parents as immigrants didn’t have a lot of extra money to buy “just because” gifts.

The simple things brought my brother and me great joy. When I was four, I remember our next door neighbor surprising us with Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit gum sticks from time to time. One time, for no reason, these neighbors gave me the most beautiful pink bejeweled purse. I have a number of these childhood memories of gifts that became keepsakes that I still have today, including that purse. These gifts made me feel special. I treasured them for decades and still do. Why? They were thoughtfully picked out for me and I felt grateful for that, probably more than the item itself. I don’t use any of these items today but they hold a special place in my heart as a feeling of being loved. What are your favorite childhood gifts that evoke joy?

Open Your Eyes to See Gifts

As an adult, I still like to receive gifts but I feel more joy to give them. While I am grateful for the tangible things I can hold in my hands, I admit I am often more touched by intangible things like kind gestures and thoughtful actions. For example, what I love to give and receive is the gift of thoughtful words in the form of a simple note, text, or message.

I now see that intangible gifts are all around us. We just need to open our eyes to see them as gifts. And once we do, it is there for us to receive as we wish. It’s boundless. We do not have to wait for others to give it to us. These gifts can be shared with others too.

We have our own set of lenses for which we see the world. What happens and how we feel about our world are interpreted based on a number of factors like past experiences, relationships, attached feelings, and our current state of mind and emotions, for example. I see our interpretations as a choice. We choose how and what we see as a result of our mindset and the lens we wear.

Gifts Lead to Gratitude

Why do I choose to see through a lens of gifts? It is through this lens that gratitude can more easily ooze out of my heart.

Let’s think about how most people feel when they receive a gift. For many, after an element of surprise, there is an instant feeling of happiness (hopefully not disappointment!), and then usually appreciation follows.

Especially with intangible gifts I receive, I like to enter into a mindful moment, a deeper sense of gratitude, and dive into feelings that bring joy. I want to see things as blessings, for when I do, I am less likely to take them for granted. I love to allow these feelings of gratitude to reach my heart and breathe it in to enjoy or be “in” joy.

The Gift of Words

As mentioned above, I love to give and receive words. When I read heart-filled personal messages written to me, I see and receive these words as a gift. As a mindful practice, I take a moment to absorb the words that were carefully and meaningfully chosen just for me. I breathe in the kindness, thoughtfulness, and gratitude in their words. Sometimes I close my eyes too so I can really feel the love. I allow it to sit and rest on my heart like how a blanket warms me on a cold winter’s day. (I know cold because I live in Canada!)

In our busy lives, we read so many words in emails and on our various social media accounts. We speak and listen to many more words throughout our day. How many of these conversations uplift others or make you feel uplifted? Every interaction we have is an opportunity to intentionally uplift others through our kindness and gratitude. We have it in us to give our gift of words. YOU can give your gift of empathetic and uplifting words. It costs nothing but a desire and a bit of your heart, time, and effort. We can shift someone’s day just by the way we say hello to them!

So Many Gifts

I didn’t always see gifts all around me. It’s a more recent discovery and one I have absolutely grown to love. The more I see things as gifts, the more I have to treasure and value. It’s a mindset shift that led me to greater positivity and joy. I am excited to take you on a journey with me. In a monthly blog series called Gift Better, we will explore and dive deeper into various priceless gifts all around us, waiting for us to cherish. I encourage you to put on your Gift Better lenses to begin to see possibilities as you join me. Through possibilities, you will begin to see opportunities. It is my hope that you will begin to shift your viewpoint by expanding your mindset.

Gift Better Challenge

Oh, the opportunities abound! By viewing many more things as gifts, it has changed me for the better. I have always been a positive person but now I am even happier, more positive, and grateful as a result. I feel joyfully alive every day!

Next month, I will share how I see each day as a gift. Until then, here are some ideas for this month’s challenge. Begin to see your authenticity as a gift and words as gifts (both given and received). Pick one or pick all:

  • Pay attention to the words you receive. These words were chosen just for you. Feel the gratitude in your mind, heart, and soul when you receive a gift of words. Breathe it all in as you take a mindful moment to absorb the feelings of kindness and gratitude.
  • Be intentional with the words you say to others. Put on a set of lenses that sees your words to others as a gift, an opportunity to intentionally uplift and make their day a brighter one. Make a positive impact on their day.
  • Give the gift of your true authentic self to others. Find what brings you joy and share it with others.

The Gift of Self

I pledge to give the gift of myself and my authenticity in this Gift Better series. In all of my beloved roles as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, colleague, coach, and educator, I lead with my heart. It is through my heart and my words, you will learn more about me and my experiences. If we have connected on social media, I’m so glad we are friends. I hope you have learned already that I love to give the gift of words through my deep care and gratitude for our connection. I model what I wish to see in the world. If we have not connected yet, I am looking forward to meeting you. Feel free to DM me on Twitter. Let’s chat!

Change the Way You See the World

My hope is to make an imprint on your heart so that you will begin to see gifts all around you too. It is through this new lens that I hope will lead to more gratitude and ultimately, more joy in your life like I have found in mine.

“All it takes is one idea on how to change the way you see the world to change your world.” – Robin Sharma

I would absolutely love to connect with you to have a conversation. Please feel free to share what resonated with you most or how you met one of these challenges. I am grateful you chose to give me the gift of your time to read my post. Please click here to let me know your thoughts, thank you!

With a heart full of gratitude, Livia

This blog post was originally published on TeachBetter.com.


Click on the images to read the blog posts previously published on TeachBetter.com.


Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Ghandi

How many times have you read this quote? How many times have you read or heard a quote and thought, “Yes! This resonates with me!” Now, how many times have you absorbed a quote into your daily being and it no longer is a quote that just resonates with you but is you?

I am someone who does a lot of reflection throughout my day. I have no idea if it’s more or less than the average. That’s irrelevant. What is relevant is the action I take as a result of my reflections which brings me back to this particular quote. Read it again. Think about it for a moment. Dive into the words for a longer moment. What does it mean to you?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Here’s my story about what it means to me.

I have read this quote a number of times in my life. Each time, it reminded me to ask myself if I am the change I want to see in the world. If you think about it deeply, that can feel like a big and overwhelming task! But of course, it doesn’t have to be.

I imagine we have different ideas and missions when we think about this quote. What is your change you want to see in the world? Mine? It is to live each day spreading love, kindness, gratitude, and positivity by reaching out to connect, uplift, and serve others.

I am deeply passionate about three things: friends and family, ringette, and being an educator. These are centered around people, making connections, building relationships, and being an active part of a community. I love ALL of it – plus the feelings of welcomeness, friendship, and belonging that go with it.

I view many things as gifts. Every day is a gift. Every relationship is a gift. Every connection is a gift. Time is a gift. What pulls this idea plus my passions all together is this: PEOPLE are gifts to me – how they influence and inspire me, affect me, and love me, all give me the strength to live my calm days and my busiest of days. I am so very grateful to all and how we are connected.

Every interaction is a gift. It is an opportunity to touch someone’s life and to make it better. Uplift their hearts or their souls… or both!

Recently, there were a few things that made me realize that it is time to share something that has been on my mind and my heart. It has been a slow realization and that’s okay but now it has grown to be something I want more than just to hope for and wish to see in the world. I feel a stronger need to move from passive to active.

A few weeks ago during our Teach Better Administrator Mastermind, I was called an “ULTIMATE #reacherouter” by my good friend, Brad Hughes (@brad_hughes). It truly warmed my heart to see those words shared in the chat and have it affirmed by others. Soon after, that’s when it hit me. I was living the “change I wish to see in the world”. What dawned on me shortly after was this: It is now time to do more. I need to go beyond just hoping and wishing that others do the same so if I want to make more of a difference in this world, I need to shout it out. Louder!

As I listen to messages I receive from others and learn more about myself in the process, I am discovering more common themes in what I share regularly. Things like encouraging others to reach out to connect, seeing through a lens of positivity, acknowledging our daily gifts, and practicing gratitude are all important! I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to speak about these in a podcast episode with my good friend, Lindsay Titus, on Define YOUniversity in Episode 36: Share Your Story series.

Seeing connections as gifts have given me the courage to reach out to initiate conversations, take opportunities to start relationships, build rapport, and deepen connections that have turned into new and amazingly fulfilling friendships! Most of these were all relationships fostered virtually. The list of people I can now name as friends because I took the initiative to reach out is plenty! And each day, I feel truly blessed and so grateful for my new friends… many of which are affiliated with the Teach Better Team, which I am a passionate Ambassador and as of yesterday, the new Digital Content Editor! Love everyone on the team so much!

Now think back to a time when someone unexpectedly reached out to you. It might have been at a time you were tired, sad, or struggling with something. Perhaps you received an appreciation for something you did. Regardless, how wonderful did that feel to know someone was thinking about you and took that extra step to contact you? Did it touch or warm your heart? I bet it did! In fact, this happened to me just over a week ago! I was feeling exhausted at the end of the night but still had to plan our PD session. Just minutes after I was on Dave Burgess’ website looking up his 5-word GPS idea, he happened to reached out! Through our conversation, he offered something that far surpassed my wildest dreams, and instantly, my sense of overwhelm turned into excitement and my heart was full of gratitude. What a gift I was given. What a gift we were given. It was the gift of time and connection that inspired us all when he spoke live. His message will continue to inspire us for the remainder of the year! So grateful!

We are busy people. We always find more on our plate than we have time for. It’s a fine balancing act that constantly changes as our day rolls on. I recently learned about committing to spend 30 minutes on what we are passionate about on Brendon Burchard’s podcastHow to Achieve an Action Mindset and Stay Disciplined. 30 minutes is like 2% of our day. How long does it take to reach out to connect with someone? Far less than 30 minutes most of the time!

CHALLENGE: TAKE ACTION! When someone pops into your mind, there’s a reason. Some may call it a sign. So spend two minutes to act on it! Send them a short message to let them know you are thinking about them or why you are grateful for them. It may be just what they needed at that time on that day. Two minutes in a day equates to 0.14% of your whole day. I daresay that if we were pressed to prioritize what is most important to us, most would say our friends and family. So aren’t they worth our valued time? Relationships take an investment of time. The challenge is to do this every day for a week. See what happens! Can you turn it into a daily habit?

I have been told many times when I reached out that my timing was impeccable and that it was something they so needed to hear, be it my appreciation, positivity, encouragement, love, or kind words. Let me tell you… each time I have reached out, I have received a deeper connection in return. In my experience, the time I spent pouring into someone else has come back to me in ways that filled my heart manyfold. That is the power of connection! Simply priceless! Go reach out and make someone else’s day brighter! YOU can give the gift of connection, the gift of love, and the gift of your words.

Let’s bring us back to the quote again and review what is in a typical day. This quote is all about relationships. Remember, every day is a gift. Our connections can be broken down into our daily interactions. From the moment you wake up, typically your loved ones you see first, then colleagues at school, next parents and students. Afterward, it might be employees at the businesses you frequent before you retreat back to your loved ones at home be it in person or virtually. Think about the numerous interactions you had over the course of the day. How many opportunities were there to spread your love, kindness, and positivity? How many opportunities can you take to make someone’s day brighter by reaching out to check-in, uplift, or show appreciation? We don’t have to wait for people to pop into our minds like in our challenge above. Here’s a second challenge: EVERY interaction is an opportunity, take it in the moment!


Reflect to discover what is that change you wish to see in the world. Once you figure it out, live it in whatever way you have the capacity for – minimally or passionately. Small steps are better than no steps taken. And when you are ready, take the next step and shout it out loud and proud!

To connect is a gift you can give to others. Your words are a gift to others too.

YOU are the change you wish to see in the world through every intentional interaction. Share out what it is you wish to see. Announce it! Live by it! And ask your friends to help hold you accountable.

If something you read resonated, I would greatly appreciate it if you please reach out and leave a comment or tweet it out and tag me @LiviaChanL. Looking forward to seeing and hearing about how you created an opportunity to connect too! Be a #reacherouter!!

So grateful to you for reading,

If you are looking for a discussion on random acts of kindness versus acts of kindness, I encourage you to list to Hans and Jennifer Appel on their podcast Award Winning Culture. Listen to Episode 25: EPIC Kindness. Their podcast is on my must-listen to list every week! Click here to see how I keep track of podcast takeaways!

The world is your oyster.

Here’s a gift. Do you want it?
What is it exactly?
It is an opportunity.
What do I do with it?
You take it!

That’s how the conversation went in my head when Jeff Gargas, the COO of the Teach Better Team first reached out to ask me if I would be interested to join him and his co-host Rae Hughart for a podcast episode on Teach Better Talk. Actually, my first questions were, “Who me? Why me?” But I didn’t let that stop me. I told him I was interested right away. With the gift of time during this pandemic, I dove into what the Teach Better Team was all about and was blown away. Since then, I started participating in their webinars, #MasteryChat on Twitter (Thursdays at 5PM PST), live shows, blog posts, and listening to their podcasts and I’ve been hooked ever since. Everyone on the team has been so positive and welcoming, which completely fits in with what I believe too! (If you read my first blog post, you’ll learn that “welcome” is one of the words I live by.) And as Jennifer and Hans Appel shared recently on their Award Winning Culture Podcast about the Teach Better team, “it is infectious to be around the team” and I so agree! Fast forward to today, I was recently asked to be a Teach Better Ambassador and now have the opportunity to share my story on Episode 183 – Teach Better Talk! I have been so blessed with many people believing in me and supporting me. It has truly been humbling and I want to thank you all for your part in helping me find my joy and being a source of joy. I am on my own journey but I didn’t get here alone – I learned from you and with you along the way, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

Click on image to listen.

Opportunities are circling all around us, all the time, everywhere we go, and in every interaction we have. So what do you do with an opportunity?

  • First step: Open your eyes and your heart. Look around to see possibilities you can turn into opportunities. If you don’t see one YET, you may need to take some initiative to find one or create one for yourself. Sometimes opportunities find you but you also can work towards placing yourself in situations where there will be more opportunities available.
  • Next step: Assess whether these are opportunities you want to take. Can you grow from this? Does it help others in any way or make the world a better place? If so, then…
  • Final step: Jump in or dive into the deep end! Take the opportunity! And if you are not quite ready, a toe dip is still a motion forward.

I could talk about opportunities all day! They are possibilities you have chosen to turn into opportunities with action. In the podcast episode, I talk about various opportunities we can take to grow, be better, and improve our relationships, our teaching, and ourselves by the simplest act of making small changes. We don’t need to make big changes, but instead, make and take the opportunity for small changes. Making small changes will lead to bigger changes over time. In the podcast, I discuss some of the following:

  • We have the flexibility for professional development (PD) every day with who we want to follow, what we find interest in, when we do it, where (platform choice) so consider why and how you learn best. The door of opportunity is always open for you to step through. There are always takeaways when you open yourself up to receive them. I am newer to podcasts as a form of PD so I found it hard to keep track of all those golden nuggets I was hearing so I created a Google Form to keep track. Read my tweet and click here to make a copy to use. I am so loving this small change!
  • Reflect and consider how we can better connect with others, how we nurture the positive actions we notice, how we show gratitude, and how we build community with every interaction.
  • In the classroom, take the opportunity to add the elements of surprise, choice, creativity, and fun.
  • On a personal level, tweak your mindset to see challenges as opportunities. Please read my last post to learn more.

I give my students daily opportunities. I call them “areas of opportunity” and it is presented as an imaginary gift but it’s very real. They can choose to take it or not. When they do, they grow from it each time. My challenge to you is to explore possibilities, assess their value, and then take the plunge – go take those opportunities and run with it. Whenever I have, it has always brought great joy and when it hasn’t worked out as planned, I am better because I learned from the experience. Go find your oyster and discover your source of joy.

Please feel free to reach out to share what resonated with you here or in the podcast episode. I deeply appreciate you for your time and effort to listen and connect by commenting here or on Twitter @LiviaChanL. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

With a heart full of gratitude,

Thank you, Jeff and Rae, and the Teach Better Team for this exciting opportunity to share my story. Love you all!

After sharing about the word “welcome” in my first post, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss how we continue to make our students and parents feel welcome at a time when we cannot see them face to face like we used to. How do we continue to build community with purpose and intention?

Community of Learners

We are using OneNote in Office 365 as our platform for receiving and recording daily tasks but regardless of the platform you are using, there are ways to adapt these ideas. Here are some things I started doing with my students since remote learning began (some ideas evolved over time):

  • Inserting an audio or video greeting to listen to in the mornings. One of our first online assignments was to record a positive and encouraging audio message to their classmates. Then over the next few days, when they logged in to see the day’s tasks, they could listen not only to my greeting but one from their classmate too! It warmed my heart to listen to their kind messages to each other.
  • Students receive daily tasks so leaving a personal note to read on their personal page that includes their name makes them feel welcome. It’s just like at the beginning of the day when I open my doors with a smile and a greeting that always includes stating their name. So their page starts with “Hello or Good morning, [name]! How are you?” with other messages specific to them. I have always believed there is great power in using someone’s name to make them feel welcome. [This will be a topic for another post.] If I know that a specific parent is directly supporting the learning at home, I also include a direct hello to their parent and include their name too! It takes just a minute or so but I believe it goes a long way to be greeted every morning by their teacher even though they are at home!
  • In our Collaboration Space, we have the closest thing to our “Community Circle” that we used to have daily in class. Students have shared how this space feels similar and that’s why it’s one of their most favourite things to do. Me included! Truly a highlight of my day! It’s our way to connect every day. It’s an opportunity to share work or thoughts about the questions of the day. I offer choice and they have an opportunity to comment on each other’s ideas too. I have shared some examples on Twitter – Sharing our positive message with the world and our May the 4th (Star Wars) wishes. I loved coming up with different ideas each day.
If you do not have a Collaboration Space, the same activity can be accomplished on a blog through comments, a Padlet wall, or a shared space on Office 365 Word or GoogleDocs, for example. I created a table so each student has their own space to write. Click image to view PDF.
  • At the beginning of every Zoom meeting regardless of the purpose, we always do a check-in and everyone has an opportunity to share how they are feeling and why. The time spent on the check-in is so important to reconnect and I daresay more important than any content we need to cover. It fills our hearts to hear many share how happy they are because they can see each other. Sometimes during class meetings, it could easily take over 20 minutes just for this part to share feelings but they genuinely appear to listen to each other. I have to say, it is easier to keep them quiet as they take turns over Zoom with “mute all” than in the classroom! Even if this wasn’t something you were doing in class, starting now is never too late!
  • Then right afterwards, we always do some physical activity. They love it! There’s nothing like exercising together that bonds you too. This was what we were used to in class so we’ve continued the tradition over Zoom. We have played Simon Says for exercises or chosen from our typical activities:

Exercise spinner

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Community of Parents

Ensuring parents continue to feel welcome has never been more important! For decades, we have used the term “parents as partners” and now, they truly are our partners. We need them like they need us and the younger the child, the more we rely on our partners at home. Here are some ways we stay connected as a community:

  • Families were used to receiving a weekly blog post since the beginning of the year with updates about our learning so this has continued to keep them informed. Being informed is very much like being connected and a part of the community. In order to make them feel welcomed back initially after spring break, I created a welcome video so they could see and hear me. It challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone but I saw such great value to comforting their hearts and minds because schools would not be reopening anytime soon. I shared on Twitter one student’s feedback: My video made him feel better and more safe and secure.
  • Before we started remote learning, each parent was called to connect and welcome them “back to school”. It was really a pleasure to speak to every parent and then such a great joy to speak to each student as well. I felt that they needed the interaction as much I did as my soul truly was filled after each conversation. Relationships will help us get through this as we work together so this investment of time was so necessary.
  • Like most relationships, the more time and effort you invest, the deeper the connections and relationships you have. So one of my favourite things to do is to either give a parent a surprise phone call or inform them of how proud I am over how hard their child is working or how they made a positive impact in someone’s day. The more details the better because we want to “notice, name, and nuture” positive behaviours in order to encourage more. This is what I used to do in person at the door after school and so miss – regularly share good news stories! One day, a student this year just decided for himself that he was going to slow down and write more legibly. I felt so proud of his sustained effort to improve. He said something like, “I know you are going to tell my mom. You are that kind of teacher.” Yes, I want to be that kind of teacher who seeks out parents to share positive stories about their child. These stories connect our hearts together because we both can feel proud of successes. It’s these things that add up to a lot at the end in terms of building relationships with parents.
  • Regularly asking for feedback from parents also indicates to them that they have a role to play as they are working with you and a part of your classroom community. I sent home online surveys and emails asking for information about how the family is doing (a check-in), regularly offered my support, and asked for an update on how it has been going at home like a temperature gauge. This gives parents a voice and I have appreciated every suggestion because ultimately it is for the betterment of the overall program for remote learning. I am the one assigning daily tasks but I do not have eyes and ears in their home so I cannot read student’s behaviours and attitudes in the same way I could in person so I need my parents to tell me. We work together as a TEAM = Together Everyone Achieves More.
  • Recently, I held a parent meeting over Zoom one Friday night because I felt strongly about the importance for parents to reconnect with each other and for me to thank them face to face. We belong together as a group of parents all with similar interests – their child’s best interest at heart. The meeting was very well attended. We started with sharing how we were feeling with some positives and challenges to remote learning, parents shared some tips, they had an opportunity to ask questions, and we ended off collectively sharing ideas about year end celebration possibilities with some students returning to school while others would not. Anytime you can collaborate on ideas, that feeling of working together helps to build your community of parents.

Last but definitely not least, ensuring that your parents fully understand how much you appreciate their support at home is crucial to making them feel like they are a part of your team. I take every single opportunity to thank my parents for their support and I’m specific about what it is I am thankful for. I don’t think we can over thank especially at a time like this. Gratitude is something that is meant to be shared and if my heart is full of appreciation, I can’t not share it freely! I know it’s a mutual appreciation we share as we work together as a community. Stronger together! Here’s my tweet about thanking my parents during Teacher Appreciation Week since they are their child’s teacher at home.

I would love to hear how you have been building your community with students and parents. Please feel free to share in the comments section or send me an email at livchan.com@gmail.com. Thank you!

“To belong to a community is to act as a creator and co-owner of that community. What I consider mine I will build and nurture. The work, then, is to see in our communities a wider and deeper sense of emotional ownership and communal ownership. It means fostering among all of a community’s citizens a sense of ownership and accountability, both in our relationships and what we actually control.” – Peter Block

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