Monday, 28 January 2019

New Year New Goals

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Every year as the clock changes from 11:59 pm on December 31st to 12:00 am on January 1st, we have a new sense of ambition and fire underneath us to better our lives or others.  Everyone sets new goals - they may be focused on their health and fitness or setting aside time for themselves each day.  These goals or resolutions are what help to give a positive outlook for the year ahead.  No matter what the past year may have dished out for each of us, we see that one minute difference as a fresh start.

As January comes to an end, sometimes the door to our New Year's resolutions also comes to a close. Although we may have jumped on the New Year goals all so eagerly, we may find ourselves pushing them to the side and only focusing on them when we think we have time or energy.  Most of us know this all too well, and it may even deter us from setting New Year’s resolutions; I’m guilty of this.  However; as many of us are student teaching, just starting out on the path to becoming a teacher, or somewhere in between, this is a crucial time that we also remember to take care of ourselves and try to set goals, even the smallest ones.    

A focus of these goals tend to be around self-care, whether it be eating healthier, exercising, or bettering one's mental health and reducing stress.  The end of January signals getting back into classes or taking on more in the classroom.  For us aspiring educators, this could be one of the more stressful times of year; however, it doesn’t need to be.  Though we may have not made any resolutions or goals for 2019 on January 1st or they have already been pushed to the side, it's not too late to set some right now to ensure that we are taking care of ourselves as we get back into our busy schedules. 

Self-care is unique for each person and can seem like something that we may not always have time for.  But, self-care can start as small as drinking more water throughout the day, going to sleep ten minutes earlier every night, or even just taking a short walk around campus or to a park every day.  Focusing on just adding one small thing into your day that you want to do or will help you to relax is one way to achieve a self-care focused goal.  No one is an expert when it comes to self-care but ourselves.  I know I am not, but I can talk to my friends and look for small goals that I can set to work towards and figure out what works best for me. 

What is something that you’ve always wanted to do for yourself?  I know I personally wanted to drink more water; I talked to friends who I always see carrying around water bottles, and thought about my own schedule.  I set reminders on my Fitbit and set small goals to work up towards such as drinking at least 32 ounces by lunch time.  This is one area that I have found myself getting better at, mainly because I made it attainable and started small.  When it comes to student teaching, in the short week I have already had I found myself feeling stressed about the projects and lesson plans I need to get done.  I knew that if I did not try to find some way to feel better about all of the work, it would eventually catch up to me.  Even though I have been knocking lesson plans out every day, I still feel stressed.  I know that going to the gym or simply walking longer distances sometimes helps me feel calmer.  Setting a goal for adding this into my schedule is hard and I have found myself debating if I have time or not, but I reminded myself that I could manage taking ten minutes out of my day to take at least a short walk. 

 I want this to be a reminder to everyone that even though we may be in different spots in our journeys to become teachers and we are all struggling with different things, we are also all there for each other.  Ensuring that stress and other challenges don’t get to be too heavy is crucial.  Do not hesitate to reach out to a friend or professional and set those small goals towards better self-care!

Let’s all use the change in time on January 31st at 11:59 pm to February 1st at 12:00 am as a time for a new us.  Thinking about what we want to improve for ourselves and seeing what smaller goals we can use to work towards our ultimate goal.  Any victory no matter how small is a victory, and we should always ensure that we are reaching our own victories.

Happy 2019 Student PSEA!

In Solidarity,
Hannah Fiscus
Student PSEA President

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Be the Change in Student PSEA

The 2018 Student PSEA Conference is only a few days away, and suddenly we are all faced with some big decisions to make: Which blazer should I wear? Should I take notes on my tablet or a notepad? Am I going to be the change I wish to see in my organization and run for a leadership position?

Leadership is one of the key components that Student PSEA prides itself on. We provide endless opportunities for members to step up and become leaders within our association so that they can effect change at the chapter, region, state, and even national level. It’s not hard to fall in love with this incredible, organized group of aspiring educators, which is why it’s important for us to have this conversation: What does it mean to be a leader?

To be a leader of an organization of almost 7,000 members, you have to be a little crazy. If you haven’t already seen it, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the Dancing Guy video. You might be wondering how a lone shirtless dancing man turns into a pop-up dance party, or you might be wondering how this relates to our professional organization. The truth is, in the words of Chris Clayton, Student PSEA is a “revolution,” and you are all a part of the largest statewide aspiring educator-driven movement in our country.

“Leadership is over-glorified.”

If you watched the video, you saw how one man inspired a group of strangers to join together in a dance party like no other. However, that man wasn’t the crazy lone wolf. It was the first follower who decided to join along fearlessly. That’s what we do in Student PSEA. We lead by example and inspire others to join us on our journey to make the future of public education in Pennsylvania great.
When we think of leaders, we often think of our state executive board, our region presidents, and our chapter presidents. You may be thinking you don’t have the personality or the experience to run for such influential positions. However, the second you walk into a Student PSEA meeting and participate, you, too, are a leader. In fact, you’re the most important one. Whether you’re writing a letter to a lawmaker, building a Little Free Library for a local community, or even speaking up and making your voice heard at a general meeting, you are running the movement that we are so passionately organizing.

How will you “be the change?”

While experience can be beneficial for larger roles within our organization, it is most certainly not required. If you are passionate and driven about our mission, you are qualified for whatever leadership position you desire. And you have a large amount of leadership opportunities to choose from.

NEA Student Chairperson
NEA Board of Directors
NEA Resolutions Committee
Delegate to the NEA Student Leadership Conference/Representative Assembly

Vice President
PACE Chair
Student representative to PSEA Committees

Vice President
PACE Chair
Delegate to the PSEA House of Delegates

Each of these positions has a different time commitment associated with it. However, every single one of them is vital to the success of our organization. When choosing which position is best for you, it is important to consider the time and energy you are able to commit to your role. Whether you choose to do everything in your role, or nothing, you are leading nonetheless, and it’s up to you to decide what type of leader you want to be.

As leaders, we must be intentional with our thoughts and actions, choosing to love through every situation. Our main job as Student PSEA leaders is to encourage followers to join us in our movement. With only an average of 4 years as a college student, we must make the most of every moment we have to ensure that we leave a positive mark on the organization that has given us so much.

If you are curious about the leadership opportunities available to you, or if you would like to learn more, please visit our conference website and come to our Ice Cream Social Thursday night, April 5th, to meet with current SPSEA leaders and ask them any questions you may have.

I look forward to inspiring change with you this weekend in State College.

In Solidarity,
Marie Hutchings, Student PSEA President

Thursday, 1 February 2018

WE ARE...The Change! State Conference 2018

2018 has been a year of change, and this year’s state conference will be just that. It’s time for aspiring educators of Pennsylvania to come together in State College and be the change we wish to see. However, this is a lot easier said than done, which is why we have planned a conference to help you become the best educator and leader you can be, and registration is officially open NOW!

Starting with Michael Soskil, the 2017 PA Teacher of the Year and our keynote speaker, conference attendees will have the opportunity to learn about the distance service projects he created to help connect his students with more than 70 countries around the world. When it comes to being the change, Soskil believes that “every problem that our world faces has a solution locked inside the passions of our students.”

In addition to our keynote speaker, a variety of breakout sessions will range from topics on innovative teaching strategies to social justice. For the first time ever, some of our breakout sessions will be instructed by our very own Student PSEA alumni, and conference attendees will finally have the opportunity to attend sessions on what Student PSEA really is, and how they can be effective leaders on campus and in their classrooms.

Beginning Thursday night with an ice cream social, conference attendees will have the opportunity to chow down on Penn State Creamery ice cream while networking with members from across the state. Chapters are encouraged to come sporting their chapter T-shirts, and members who are interested in running for leadership positions or simply have questions on how they can get more involved are encouraged to chat with our current Student PSEA leaders during our first-ever “Meet-And-Greet.” We are certainly no celebrities, but we want the opportunity to answer your questions directly so that you feel prepared and excited to run for positions you may or may not have even known you wanted to run for!

In order to be the change, we must elect champions of public education into office. Through donations to PACE, the Political Action Committee for Education, you can help ensure that pro-public education candidates get elected by helping to fund their campaigns. Opportunities to donate to PACE will be provided all throughout conference, from photo booths during the ice cream social, to professional headshots throughout Friday and Saturday, to a silent auction for region and chapter raffle baskets. Or, you can simply just make a donation! Please don’t miss this opportunity to ensure that political leaders in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. are making decisions for the benefit of children and educators.

After a day of educating ourselves on how to be the change, on Friday night we can take our passion and put it into action during our annual Outreach to Teach service project. This year it will be held at the Tyrone Area School District and will serve students in the elementary, middle, and high school. By painting murals, building Little Free Libraries, and spreading positive messages around the school, we will ensure that we are leaving a positive mark on a deserving community before we leave conference Saturday afternoon.

Maybe you already know an aspiring educator in your chapter who is actively inspiring change on your campus. This is the perfect opportunity for you to nominate deserving leaders for our Student PSEA awards, including, Exceptional Underclassman, Outstanding Chapter Faculty Adviser, and Outstanding Servant Leader. We want to highlight the incredible work our Student PSEA members are doing at the chapter and region level, because they deserve to be celebrated.

And, of course, no Student PSEA conference would be complete without our APEX (Achieving Professional Excellence) showcase and awards. As chapters compete to have the strongest APEX submissions, they are ensuring that they are providing their members with meaningful opportunities to grow in each of our four pillars: professional development, leadership & membership development, political action & advocacy, and community service & outreach. APEX provides us the perfect opportunities as members to share our successes and our failures with each other, so that we all can grow to be the best organization we can be.

Likewise, the Learning Center Competition allows you the opportunity to showcase your hard work and share your ideas with hundreds of other aspiring educators, who just may take it into their own classrooms. Think of all of the future children you could reach with just this one small act!

Congratulations to last year’s winners!

1st place: Slippery Rock University
2nd place: West Chester University
3rd place: University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg

Learning Centers
1st place: Taylor Ochmanowicz and Nicole Bachman, Millersville University
2nd place: Dave Zielewski
3rd place: Sarah Derfler, Millersville University

I believe that the best educators in this country are the ones who practice servant leadership and work to serve their members and their students to the best of their abilities. I believe that some of our state’s finest aspiring educators are the ones who actively involve themselves in organizations such as Student PSEA, and it is our duty as a union to spread our knowledge as far as we can, with as many aspiring educators as we can, so together, we can change the world.

We are Student PSEA, and WE ARE…The Change.

I look forward to seeing you on April 5-7 in State College.

In Solidarity,
Marie Hutchings
Student PSEA President

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Finding Comfort in the Discomfort: A New Year's Resolution

“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.” –John Burroughs

2017 is over. We have wrapped up our fall semesters, received our final grades, said goodbye to our December graduates, and now it’s time to welcome 2018. As we enter into our spring semesters, we may find ourselves setting new goals or continuing to work toward the ones we set back in September. Either way, the month of January sets the tone for a time of self-reflection. Was I successful last year? What could I have done differently? Was I effective in promoting a positive change in the world around me?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, chances are you were and still are making a difference, and I congratulate and admire you. Others may find themselves avoiding these questions, hiding their faces in books and distractions – myself included. For me, that time ends now, and I invite you to join me in evaluating how we can be better in 2018.
Educate yourself
As Student PSEA leaders, we pride ourselves on the amount of professional development we provide our members at the local, region, and state level. As members, we highlight our membership on our resumes as proof of our continuous efforts to educate ourselves on the newest research regarding education policy and pedagogy. But we can do better.

As aspiring educators, we can do more to educate ourselves on the social injustices that affect our school children. Issues such as bullying, the School to Prison Pipeline, and the elimination of DACA are hindering students’ abilities to achieve and perform in and out of the classroom. By educating ourselves on these issues, we can actively advocate for their rights to a quality education, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, immigration status, or ZIP code.

Be politically active
In 2017, Student PSEA ran our first petition to encourage the Pennsylvania State House and Senate to oppose President Trump’s plan to eliminate the DACA program and create a quick replacement of DACA in Pennsylvania. The idea was created by Alison Chapman, the Southeast Region Student PSEA PACE chair. When asked what inspired the idea, Ali explained, “It is our legal responsibility as public-school teachers to provide an education to any student that walks through our doors, regardless of their citizenship status.”

Thanks to Ali, we ended 2017 with 268 signatures, and Student PSEA has now been more active than ever in advocating for all students’ rights. We can continue to do more by contacting our representatives about laws and policies affecting our children, and, in 2018, we can vote to re-elect a pro-public education governor.

Help out in your community
Our most successful project every year is the annual Outreach to Teach project at our state conference. In 2017, we helped create a positive learning environment in the Cornell School District, and now in 2018, we will bring our service to the Tyrone Area School District. However, there are hundreds of communities across our state that could use our help in more ways than just painting murals.

Getting involved in your local community can create long-lasting relationships that benefit the children who live and learn there. If your community needs a mural project done, go ahead and help out! If not, or if you’re looking for something more to do, think outside of the box and look no further than the people that live around you. Host a block party, run an afterschool program, or simply support local businesses. Our charity does not need to end when we leave conference this spring.

Be a leader who serves
A servant leader is someone with a will, a passion, and a drive to advocate for something they believe in – someone who works with members to advance a common goal. They lead by example and choose to love intentionally, meeting the needs of those they are leading and influencing those around them. They cultivate new leaders and ensure that the future of their organization is in better hands than their own as they move on.

Everyone in Student PSEA is a servant leader, whether it is in our association, in our classrooms, or on our college campuses. We all have the power and the responsibility to bring positive change through the simple action of loving intentionally and inspiring a bright future. We are Student PSEA, and we are the change.

This past year, I’ve made mistakes, but have no regrets. While I was at my lowest, I watched others rise above and find their passions to lead and serve, and I realized that what makes Student PSEA so great is our unity and our strength from standing together. The best advice I have ever received was from NEA Student Program Chair Ashley Muscarella, a dear friend of mine:

“Find comfort in the discomfort.”

In order for us to grow as humans, we have to allow ourselves to become uncomfortable. We must push ourselves to the limit and challenge the way we view ourselves and the world around us. By being mindful and intentional with our thoughts and actions, we can bring and inspire change in 2018.

“I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being.” –Maya Angelou

Happy New Year, Student PSEA!

In Solidarity,
Marie Hutchings

Student PSEA President