all about the bump: promoting positive adult culture in schools

The post that appears below is the original draft I submitted to Edutopia, an amazing website of all things education! (To all my readers in schools, it is highly valuable and worth following.)

Here is the link to the edited post as it appeared on Edutopia.


I cannot count the number of times I have heard a colleague advise a student to “do what makes you happy.” Yet ironically, I wonder often how many teachers are happy in their jobs. Research indicates job satisfaction was at a 25 year low in 2012, turnover trends are alarmingly high and costly, and morale is consistently demeaned by societal and political commentary. Moreover, who needs statistics? Just look around during a staff meeting to see the weight educators carry.

In an effort to counter these patterns, stakeholders need to put into place systems of support for each other. Even better when those support systems are grassroots efforts instead of mandated. One such way I have done this for the past several years is through the “Hump Day Bump,” which is a weekly compilation of staff-to-staff notes of gratitude and compliments emailed to staff each Wednesday. I started the “Hump Day Bump” as a way to spread much needed positivity in my first urban school. Poverty, violence, and limited resources overwhelmed the students. A sense of defeat pervaded the staff, compounded by low scores, exacting evaluations, divisive cliques and grueling hours. Internal and external pressures strained the tensions already present between administration and staff. The “Bump” gave all staff the chance to read good news in their inboxes, observe good things in each other, and share those in a non-threatening medium.

However, the “Hump Day Bump” is not just a tool to counter pervasive negativity in our field. It is also a way to build capacity. First and foremost, a viable adult culture based on mutual respect is critical to a school’s success. It is nearly impossible as an educator running on empty to give the absolute best to students; a healthy adult culture helps keep our tanks full. Additionally, hearing affirmation for what part of our pedagogy and professionalism is effective boosts teacher efficacy, another critical component to both the happiness of teachers as well as the achievement of students. Most importantly, to capitalize on the aforementioned benefits, our field is in desperate need of teachers who are in it for the long run. A revolving door of teachers benefits no one: neither students nor schools. Teachers who feel valued for their contributions are more likely to stick around; I know I am.

If you’re looking to implement your own “Hump Day Bump,” here are some easy-to-follow steps:

Plan and send your inaugural “Hump Day Bump.”  (Or pick a different name; I have a colleague who calls it the “Bump-Ups.”)

  • In your email system, set up two folders: one titled “Fishing” and one titled “Hump Day Bumps.”
  • Pick a small group of colleagues across a variety of configurations with whom you already collaborate frequently. Send them an email that describes how and why you plan to implement the “Hump Day Bump.”Ask them for their notes of compliments and/or gratitude for their peers. I call this the “Fishing” email.
  • As your colleagues respond, keep all those emails in your “Fishing” folder.
  • When you have some time (it usually takes between 10-30 minutes depending on the quantity of “bumps”), copy and paste all fishing responses into the body of an email. Format them so names stand out and they are bulleted for easy access. Delete emails as you copy and paste for organizational purposes.
  • Send your inaugural “Hump Day Bump” to the full staff. It is best to use BCC for this. Give an overview of what it is, why it matters, and how you’ll approach it each week.

Set a routine.

  • I usually send “Fishing” emails on Friday for the following week’s “Bump.” If I don’t get adequate responses, I will send a reminder on Monday or Tuesday.
  • Either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, I synthesize those “bumps” into an email as I did for the inaugural edition.
  • Email out on Wednesdays. I typically end each “Hump Day Bump” with a call for shout-outs for next week’s “Bump,” as well as some kind of funny image, meme, or video.
  • Keep all “Hump Day Bumps” in your designated folder.

Make it work for you! Here are some modifications and precautions.

  • Include students as recipients or authors of “bumps.”
  • Start a “Bump” activity in your classroom.
  • Use a verbal version to start collaborative meetings.
  • Elicit specific “bumps” for certain educational holidays e.g. Secretary Appreciation Day.
  • Keep track of who is not receiving “bumps.” Reach out directly to their colleagues for something to add in the next edition. If there is a downside to the “Bump,” it is that it has the potential to highlight those staff typically highlighted and ignore those typically ignored. Tracking involvement can help mitigate this.

Have any other modification and/or implementation ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Eleven years and four schools later, the “Hump Day Bump” is still going strong. In fact, not only have I carried it to all my schools, but so have several of my colleagues. The “Hump Day Bump” has now spread beyond state and continent borders! I hope now it can provide some positivity in your schools.


To see my first post on Edutopia about Socratic seminars, follow this link.

the untethered expat: culture shock

I’ve been a bit off lately.

I’ve seen it coming, and I recognize it for what it is, but nonetheless, it’s unsettling.

I felt it on our school trip to Belem. The last presentation–the culminating speech–was in Portuguese. Again. Chaos erupted across the room as Brazilian friends leaned in to translate for their foreign peers. Someone leaned over and began translating for me. I was hot. I was itchy. I was tired. I was annoyed by an earlier rude interaction. I couldn’t focus on the speaker, I couldn’t focus on the translator, I couldn’t focus. My skin crawled. I left the room with a wet face and huddled in a bathroom stall, a secret fight with my tears.

Culture shock.

I felt it on our twelve-hour commute home from Ihlabela. The sky leaked, the traffic crawled, the language blurred–all closing our access to “normal” road trip conveniences: a bathroom where I can flush the toilet paper, a restaurant where I can read the menu, a map where I can navigate the alternative routes. No one looked like me. No one talked like me. I was trapped in a car on a road going nowhere, literally, in a foreign land.

Culture shock.

Those moments were sudden and striking compared to the undertone of malaise I’ve been experiencing lately. A sense of floating pervades my daily experience. A lack of connections confounds me. A tangled web of “what was” and “what is” and “what will be” constricts my access to air. And I already wrote about the plague of insecurity.

Culture shock.

1_8NUOaTClmFPvDi9U4HpscwRecently during some circle conversations and mindfulness moments in class, I’ve asked kiddos:

What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for?

Like always, I was moved by their responses. However, unlike always, I was also moved by my response. Not in a good way: it took me so long to think of who or what I was grateful for. For a while, my mind was completely blank. This is not like me. I’ve written about gratitude often (see: here or here or here or here). It is important. It is foundational. It is me.

But there I sat, a silent vacuum.

Culture shock.

All of this–my response to and experience with culture shock–has been on my mind constantly. It guides my meditation practice. It is the source of dinner conversations with Dave. And I’ve come to realize that my lack of gratitude is rooted in, well, my lack of being rooted.

It honestly hurts my heart to call to mind people or things or experiences back in the US. I’ve “left.” My heart aches with a sense of abandonment.

It’s as equally challenging to root into what is new and express gratitude for the here and now. My heart aches with a fear of surrender.

And I know it doesn’t make sense.

Culture shock.

And so, as always, I am left with my breath. Gently noticing this experience, observing what it feels like from head to toe, from heart to soul, and ultimately letting go.

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first Brazilian road trip: Ilhabela

October 12 in Brazil was a holiday, Nossa Senhora Aparecida, resulting in a four day weekend.

Seeing as we live in South America (that still feels cool to type), a trip to the coast was in order!

So Dave and I planned our first Brazilian road trip! Our destination was Ilhabela, a small island reachable by ferry from the coastal city of São Sebastião. We left São Paulo bright and early on Thursday in an attempt to beat the massive migration from the city to the beaches that occurs every holiday weekend (think I-70 in ski traffic). Armed with breakfast from our local padaria, translations for emergency cellphone-less situations (“help, our car broke down”), and gallons of bug spray (we were warned countless times about the atrocious borrachudo bites), off we went!

It was very much like a typical road trip on any highway back in the states. That is, until we got off in some raw, podunk town only to get right back on to the highway a few miles later. (Cool side trip bonus: we did pass a small religious parade that had half of the road closed down.) Just when we were prompted to do that again, we realized we had the no-toll option on Google maps: whoops!

Once we got out of the city, the drive was beautiful. Rolling hills eventually gave way to a rather aggressive winding road dropping down the mountainside to the sea. (I guess we have a little bit of Colorado here!) Just as we started that descent, we hit the traffic we had been expecting the whole way: not too bad in the scheme of things.

After about an hour-long cue for the ferry, we were on the water! We could see Ilhabela in the distance, vertical and verdant. Even though I’ve never been there, it reminded me so much of Hawaii.

On the island, we drove the one main road that runs along the Western side of the island (the developed side) to Hotel Maison Joly, where we were staying. To our left were the Atlantic-fed waters of Canal de São Sebastião. To our right were small neighborhood streets jutting up to the wild Parque Estadual de Ilhabela. All along the streets walked couples, families and other groups of people, mostly in wet swimsuits. Sunbathers lined the beaches. Runners dripped in the humidity. Dogs frolicked in the sea.

After dropping off our luggage, we visited a beach recommended by our hotel staff: Praia Portinho. Parking, as to be expected, was crazy; we barely managed to squeeze into a spot in front of the bar on the beach. Score! Plastic chairs with umbrellas shaded picnickers, and soon us. Sadly, as it’s still spring here (oh right), the water was super cold. However, we did enjoy people watching (and by people, I mean swimwear watching–what little there is of it). We explored the rocks and watched the sky. We felt small.

After a long commute capping a long week, we stopped for some pizza on the way back from the beach (the Brazilian go-to dinner…who woulda thunk it?!). Day 1 in Ilhabela in the books.

The next day, we sat on the patio of the hotel to enjoy a delicious breakfast with a sea view: fresh squeezed juices, an overeasy egg cooked in a heart-shaped hole in toast (how cute is that!), fruits, assorted breads and pastries. While finishing up, the owner of the hotel came over to chat with us. He was delightful. He suggested activities for us to do on the island, and checked in to make sure our stay was up to his standards.

Friday consisted of spending the morning at the beach: Praia Pereque. Then we explored the one road to the Southern end of the island. Because we were planning on hitting up dinner late (it doesn’t open until 8pm, oh Brazil), we napped. Good thing. The highly rated Thai restaurant on the island didn’t seat us until almost 11. (What is that?!) But the view was beautiful (the outdoor garden area and the people watching), and that curry was del.ic.ious.

The highlight of our trip came Saturday: a speed boat trip to the east side of the island. We visited three beaches: Praia Fome, Eustáquio and Castelhanos. It was amazing to ride the waves alongside birds diving into the ocean for fish. And on the open sea, we couldn’t help thinking about our friends who lived and traveled on a boat; clearly their courageous and adventurous spirits inspired us more than we realized at the time.

Here is a video of our boat-trip-slash-roller-coaster.

 

Sunday. Oh Sunday. It was a 12 hour commute to get home. It was brutal. It agitated the underlying sense of culture shock I’ve (we’ve) been feeling lately. So I’ll save that for another post.

Here are some pictures from our first Brazilian road trip!

Next up on the Team-Possum-Always-Have-A-Ticket-In-Your-Pocket-Adventure-Agenda:

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November 2017: Guarujá and Buenos Aires

December 2017: Illinois

January 2018: Rio

February 2018: Southern Brazil road trip

March 2018: Lollapalooza and Campos do Jordão

 

 

 

 

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