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June 1, 2018
Vol. 75
No. 9

Create Meaningful Connections

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    Stories and advice from school veterans on maintaining your spirit and your perspective in a challenging profession.

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    School Culture
      One of the ways I prevent burnout, for myself and my colleagues at school, is to connect outside of the workplace. We have organized monthly hikes, dinner parties, and beach trips (the perks of living in San Diego!) as well as annual group travel trips to decompress and talk through emotions that are on our minds. The group get-togethers can range from three to four of us to as many as 14, and getting away with teachers is always an adventure. We try to focus on the positives of teaching and remind each other that we love what we do.
      Another way we've tried to lessen distraction in general is by turning off email on our phones. This allows us to avoid checking every five minutes and be more present in the moment. I recently learned the term "phubbing"—where we snub and ignore others around us in order to check our phones instead. This seems very stressful and doesn't allow for the connections with friends and family that are so important.
      As a school leader, I have found that when we continue to be vulnerable with students, it allows us to have deeper and more honest conversations with them. If we share what we like to do and what is on our mind, we can connect and chat with our students. I have left school multiple days just laughing at the stories students share with me. I remember a student sitting down in my office and telling me about how he was reading The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks to get pointers on how to impress his girlfriend. Fun conversations like that remind me that life is good and my students are a joy. Enjoy those little moments.

      Figure

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      Dominique Smith (third from left) and colleagues hiking Cowles Mountain in San Diego.Photo courtesy of Dominique Smith

      Dominique Smith is the principal of Health Sciences High & Middle College in San Diego, California, where he also serves as a culture builder and student advocate. He is passionate about creating school cultures that honor students and build their confidence and competence.

      He is also a social worker, mentor, national trainer for the International Institute on Restorative Practices, and member of ASCD's FIT Teaching® (Framework for
      Intentional and Targeted Teaching®) Cadre. Smith is the winner of the National School Safety Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council and coauthor many books, including Better Than Carrots or Sticks: Restorative Practices for Positive Classroom Management and Building Equity: Policies and Practices to Empower All Learners.

       

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