P.O Box 547
Merrill, MI 48637
Contributed by Barbara Lehnen Jacques.
Editor's note: example of a Spirit Whisperer helping students become conscious of the levels of learning something new as well accepting and appreciating their current level.
When Spirit Whisperers notice students appearing to struggle, they often ask, "Would you like some help or would you like more time?"
Inch by inch, Charlie"
"One step at a time, Luis."
"Little by Little, Fatima.''
Spirit Whisperers use these and similar phrases to reduce children's stress and give them permission to enjoy learning. This style of Teacher Talk slows the rush to completion that dominates our achievement-centered society and puts more emphasis on the learning process. When children, tots to teens, understand that learning takes place one step at a time and that they are developing steadily in their own unique way, they enjoy the process of learning, delighting in each small step along the way. Inch by inch.
Spirit Whisperers help students/children learn how to take the next step. They say things like....
"What is your next move, Tevi?"
"Fatima, what do you think the next step might be?"
"If this project were a staircase, what move could you make to get to the next level, Charlie?"
"Roberto, what would be one good way to get started?"
Perhaps you noticed that Spirit Whisperers refrain from telling the child the next step. Once children make an internal decision and act on it, the path becomes more clear. The universe then joins in and conspires to help them move forward.
When Spirit Whisperers see a student appearing to go backwards with behavior, attitude, effort or accomplishments they tell them. They say, "I see you appear to be taking some steps back with . . . When I see students doing that I assume they are gathering energy to make a big leap forward. I am telling you this because I believe in you."
When a student says, "I'll never be able to do this." Which one of the following comments is a Spirit Whisperer most likely to say first?
"Yes, you will."
"I'll help you."
"Act as if you can."
"I believe you will."
"Just take one step and see what happens."
Did you pick one? The answer is NONE of them. Although a Spirit Whisperer would find it useful to say any of these comments from time to time, their first response would be to address the student's feeling tone.
"You must be really frustrated to make that comment. Tell me more."
"It's tough some times to wish things would be easier isn't it?"
"Sounds like you're having a challenging day. What's happening?"
Then they listen.
Spirit Whisperers help children create vision, mission and purpose. Creating vision boards on New Year's Eve.
Spirit Whisperers help their families or classroom participate in projects that help others.
In addition to performing a service—giving to others—builds connectedness. A shared sense of purpose combined with reaching out to others will help your children/ students to connect and work as one. In addition to building unity within your family/class, the individuals build bridges and connect to the community, the neighborhood, the homeless, the elderly, our service men and women, and the less fortunate, as well as to the environment.
On New Year's Eve, two families, the Bolanos and Charter families gathered to celebrate by constructing Homeless Helper Bags. Large zip lock baggies were filled with food and hygiene items, socks, gloves, hand warmers, etc. Sixty-seven bags were created in less than an hour. Each family keeps several bags in their car in case they see a person in need. When delivered the spirit of the receivers and the givers will each be affected in meaningful, personal ways.
Spirit Whisperers create connection.
Want to get clear on becoming the teacher/parent you always wanted to be? Here is one way.
Have you ever noticed that Spirit Whisperers talk differently than other people? Listen carefully and you will hear them ask, "Would you consider.....?" instead of saying "You should...."
~ Chick Moorman
Sketch a profile of students' heads. Challenge students to fill it with dreams, visions, plans, goals, mission. Display them.
Spirit Whisperers help students connect with "getting acquainted" activities.
Stretch a clothesline across your room. Use it to allow students to display things they are proud of. Display something of yours.
Warning: The accompanying photograph is intended to be purely and unapologetically used as a marketing devise. Proceed with caution. It is also an example of what Spirit Whisperers read and put to use in their personal and professional lives.
"Spirit Whisperers ask students with a problem, 'What ideas do you have for solving this?' They do not ask that question because they know students will reel off a batch of answers. They ask it because that question is more often asked to students that are seen as solution-seekers. Spirit Whisperers want all students to know they are seen as competent in the skill of searching for solutions."
~ Chick Moorman
"Students/children often attempt to wiggle out of consequences. They come up with excuses, reasons, promises to be better next time, or thinly veiled threats.
One helpful way to react to those situations is by asking them, 'Just because I like you, do you think I should let you get away with it?' This question lets students/children know clearly that you will be holding them accountable for their actions. At the same time, it tells them you like them. This helps to separate the deed from the doer."
~ Chick Moorman
From Ivonne Alexander
How do you go to the beach in Vegas? You use chalk, paint it and then lay down on the sand created by imagination.
Here the amazing Sylvia Dokter, a true impeccable honest human being, friend, and Doula enjoying the beach.
Ah yes, imagination is the canvas for creation and children are our best teachers for it.
I love being a Mother
"Spirit Whisperers use Teacher Talk that prefaces suggestions with phrases that allow the child to retain responsibility.
1. How would you feel about....?
2. Would you consider....?
3. How would you like....?
These sentence starters acknowledge that your suggestions may not be the child's best answer."
"For today, do not focus on what your child is doing. Focus instead on what you are being in relationship to that."
~ Chick Moorman
"Every student needs directive feedback from time to time or as Spirit Whisperers like to call it, FEEDFORWARD. Spirit Whisperers prefer that term because what they prefer to give students/children is direction, not correction. Their comments are focused on giving students/children the opportunity to move forward by telling them specificly, without evaluation, what could be improved or by giving them information on how and why they were successful."
~ Chick Moorman
"When you are finished, what do you want it to look like?"
"What emotion are you trying to create in people with this story?"
"How high do you want your tower to go?"
"What is the effect you want your art work to have?"
Spirit Whisperers use language to help students focus on the end result they desire. The invitation is to move their attention away from "what is" and help them focus on the end result they desire.
"What is ONE way this could be shipped to market?"
A fast way to recognize a Spirit Whisperer is to listen carefully to the questions they ask. These questions allow for and encourage more than ONE right answer.
~ Chick Moorman
"Arturo, will you help me with this?" Spirit Whisperers ask children/students for help. Asking someone for help tells them you value their expertise, trust their ability, or appreciate their strengths. It communicates, "I believe I can count on you."
~ Chick Moorman
"Spirit Whisperers put students' efforts on display.
We communicate a lot to children about how we value their efforts by what we do with them. If we let them fold up everything, stick it in their backpacks, and take it home, never to see it again, we have communicated something about how we value their work without even saying a word. On the other hand, if we invest some of our time and energy to make creative displays that showcase their work, we have told children something else about how we value their efforts. And we still haven't said a word."
~ Chick Moorman
"When responding to student's journal; Spirit Whisperers focus on content rather than mechanics. Journals are not the place to correct spelling or punctuation. Spirit Whisperers believe that spelling and punctuation are important, and there are times to work hard on those skills. Journal time is not one of those times."
~ Chick Moorman
A high school teacher we know uses file cards to create what he calls "Paragraph Piles." Once a week he designs an opinion-seeking question and allows students five minutes to write an opinion on the file card, stating their opinions. He collects the completed cards and puts them in a pile on his desk.Two students then split the pile and alternately read the opinions expressed on the cards. No names are attached. A class discussion follows. Emphasis is on hearing and understanding the different opinions. There are no right or wrong answers. Not all opinions are agreed with. Every opinion is respected.
The Class Creed
by Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
Lou Ann Schmidt teaches hearing-impaired children in Texas. To help her students overcome negative self-images and previous programming, Lou Ann recently facilitated the creation of a class creed.
According to Lou Ann, "I told them a creed is something positive that you believe about yourself. (Editor's note: This is the voice of structure and the voice of teaching.) I explained that nothing we wrote would be wrong because it was about us. Each child suggested ideas. We refined and improved the contributions, and then combined some to come up with our final document."
The Class Creed
I am a good student.
I can think.
I can learn and understand.
I can think for myself and nobody else.
I can talk about many different things.
I can have good speech and language.
My memory works well.
I know how to keep going.
"All these statements were positive concepts my young students felt about themselves," she told us. "I wrote our class creed on poster board and put it on the wall. We read it every morning together and discuss briefly what it means. These discussions are helping us make these important beliefs come alive behaviorally in our classroom."
Now, as these students work, they are asked to replace, "I don't get it," or "It's too hard," or "I can't do it," with a positive statement from the creed that applies. "I'm excited with the results I am getting," Lou Ann informed us. "Now, I look forward to every morning and I think they do too."
I just read about a school where all the teachers donate a book to the school library on their birthday. I support that tradition.
Spirit Whisperers put this into effect every single day. By doing so they transform the lives of their students as well as their own.
Spirit Whisperers help children create vision boards. This helps them create and strengthen mental pictures of goals and desires. Vision boards are the last thing they look at before bed and the first thing they look at in the morning. A useful strategy for staying focused.
I know a teacher who gives her students a "touch" choice at the end of the day. As they leave they can give her a thumbs up, a high-five or a hug. As they head out the door at the end of the day, they choose one of the three options and this Spirit Whisperer responds in kind.
~ Chick Moorman
Spirit Whisperers recognize the importance of "welcomes" and "send-offs." What do you do for students who move during the year and go to another school? How do you welcome a new student? Why not put these issues to your students? Ask for their ideas. Let them help design a strategy for seeing that welcomes and send-offs are not left to chance?
~ Chick Moorman
"Spirit Whisperers Invest in experiences, not in things.
My neighbor recently purchased a four hundred dollar sand box for his young children. "How can anyone spend $400 dollars on a sand box?" you might wonder. Simple. It's a state of the art sand box with a swing set and slide attached to it. It's high quality through and through.
With all due respect to my neighbor, who I am sure loves his children and has the best of intentions when making major purchases for them, children do not need a $400 sand box. What they need is the experience of going out in the back yard and building a sand box with us. They need to hold boards together while we pound and pound while we hold boards together. They need to get a sliver and have it removed and bandaged. They need to help us sand the boards so slivers are kept to a minimum. The need to rub shoulders with us, sweat with us, smell us, see us, and touch us. They need the experience of building a sand box much more than they need the sand box. Spirit Whisperering parents know this.
Instead of buying expensive toys and other material objects for their children, Spirit Whispderers give them the experience of going to the zoo. They take them horse back riding. They allow them to experience a farm, a skyscraper, a fire engine, a camp ground or a foreign country. When investing in their children, Spirit Whiperers
invest in experiences, not in things."
~ Chick Moorman
The I Can Can - By Donna Sherry
On Monday morning I presented my 4th grade class with an orange garbage can. The students were amused at this and wondered if I planned on having a lot of garbage that week. I proceeded to tell them that this so-called garbage can was to be our "I Can Can." The idea of the can was for them to fill it with likes or ideas that they personally could do. I drew a picture of a garage can on a ditto and told them that whenever they felt they accomplished a certain goal they could write it on a piece of "I Can Can" paper, cut it out and put it in the "I Can Can." At the end of the week, or whenever free time arrived, we would share these accomplishments. I told my students they did not have to identify themselves in any way if they did not want to.
Like many new and exciting ideas, the novelty began to wear off. I did not want this to die out because I believe it's important for kids to "see" things that they can do. Of course a great deal of their achievements centered around school activity: "I can do my math," "I can write neat," "I can get a perfect on my spelling test," and so on. This bothered me somewhat, for I try to instill in my class that school subjects are not the only things in life.
So about the third week after our new arrival, I told my class that sometime during the week I wanted them to write something for the "I Can Can" that they could do with their hands. They could then put it in the can or tape it to the sides of the can for others to see. The next week they worked on things they could do with their eyes. A few weeks later they examined things they could do with their voices. My class really enjoyed doing this. They also like it when I put my thoughts, goals and accomplishments into our can. We always share these - either by reading them aloud or by classmates going over and reading the can to themselves.
I feel this is a great way for each one of my students to see her/himself in a more positive light and to see others the same way. Most students are now decorating their papers and many are identifying themselves. They also are seeing that there are many things they can do that are not related to math, penmanship or spelling. This is positive. Here are a few examples of what some of my students can do.
Eyes - I Can
see all the beautiful things God has made
see others with my eyes
close my eyes
see a ball coming at me and when it hits me I can see stars
see trees (drew a picture)
Hands - I Can
make a paper planes
walk on my hands
stir a cake
play the guitar
Voice - I Can
laugh with my voice
yell very loud
say how pretty you look
talk to my friends
talk to the plants
disguise my voice
Positive Information Telephoning
Teachers in a Michigan junior high school have been making what they call "P.I.T. Calls”. Positive Information Telephoning was instituted to increase the amount of positive contact between school and parents. Developed and defined at a staff meeting, the project encourages teachers to call parents when positive things are happening concerning a student's behavior or academic performance.
There is no quota. Teachers are encouraged to call only when and if something positive happens. So far, the teachers as a group are averaging 20-25
calls per week.
Calls have been placed for a variety of reasons. Scholastic accomplishment, effort on a project, improved attendance, and demonstrations of interpersonal skills have all triggered phone calls.
Parent reaction has been predictably appreciative. One parent commented, "This is the first time I have ever been called without something being wrong." Another parent drove immediately to school, thanked the teacher personally, stopped in the office to express appreciation, and then drove to the administration building to do more of the same.
One Spirit Whisperer's goal for the year.
From Ivonne Alexander, Cancun, Mexico.
Creating brilliant future maps with my three kids. Mapping our future while being present, here, now.
Tully, NY educators put their hopes and dreams on display where students can view them.
From Matthew J Peters.
My son's second grade teacher is awesome. She is always challenging and expanding the minds of the individual kids in the class.
Here is just one of the many signs about kids creating their own futures. This one is beside the door of her classroom for each student to see every day.
I've got to say we heard horror stories about public schools; especially Florida schools from our northern friends.
We checked out school ratings before we landed a neighborhood to move to and have been nothing short of amazed at the teachers my children have had in this Florida public school.
During this afternoon's tutor session, I said to a student who was in a hurry to finish, "Homework isn't about getting it done. Homework is about getting it." We talked a bit longer, and he truly understood.
From Barbara Lehman Jacques.
Spirit Whisperers prefer Responsible Action Statements to Rules. They go for developing internal ethics over obedience.