Darn, I Was Gonna Say That

tony-anticipates-his-next-classI’m convinced that teachers who are starting out need to learn this lesson with time. It makes little logical sense to tell kids the answers but it serves a powerful function toward mastery when you are starting a new concept. Students often don’t answer because they do not know what is being asked of them. This can be the actual math or language arts of the thing or it could just be the manner and style in which the teacher expects the answer. Sometimes when students say the predictable phrase, “I was gonna say that,” they aren’t lying. They didn’t know what you wanted from them and that is a simple problem to remedy. At the introduction of the lesson, go around pucking random non volunteers by your chosen method, I use cards. Use this pattern: 1) Say the answer 2) Ask the question and 3) Ask the question again and pick a random non volunteer. This will inform them how to listen and answer questions and get you more familiar with their process. It sounds silly to give the answer and then ask someone to say it back but it really decreases their affective filter and makes them more comfortable branching out and taking risks. In short, they become more comfortable with you so you can ease into more higher order questions like “why is that the answer?” Continue reading “Darn, I Was Gonna Say That”

Special File for Student Notes and Creations

Explains a “sunshine folder.” In this, you put special “gifts” from the kids and then when you are feeling down or just want a reminder that you “don’t suck” as a teacher, you can just pull the folder out and browse through it.

Often teachers share with me that they get trinkets and drawings from their students. I know I get my fair share. All too often we sweep them aside to the edges of our teaching desks and end up throwing them away. A mentor of mine several years back told me about something I know have and call a “sunshine folder.” In this, you put special “gifts” from the kids and then when you are feeling down or just want a reminder that you “don’t suck” as a teacher, you can just pull the folder out and browse through it.

I am not sure exactly why, but it seems that all children love to draw. I have been given so many pictures through the years it could probably fill a landfill. Most of them are gone forever because I didn’t hang on to them. After my mentor’s suggestion, I started keeping all the photos and small stapled envelopes my kids give me and it is getting quite encouraging already. I never know what to do with these gifts and the students always give them to me at inopportune times. Having the sunshine folder helps me keep their sentiments until a time when I can properly enjoy them and it shows the students I care enough to file it and read it at a later time I’ve noticed in recent years the students have used more “realism” in portraying my bald head. The last on I got gave me wings like George Constanza on Seinfeld. I guess looking at the ongoing realism of these pictures from my students is a little bit like accepting that I am aging. All the more reason to keep these special items in a dedicated place.

In the recent past I had a not-so-great day of teaching. I was quite deflated. Everything seemed to have a “catch” attached to it and nothing was working, not even my printer. So, I sat down and pulled out my sunshine folder. As I read through so many messages of “You’re the best … You rock … You’re the best teacher ever …” I found myself feeling better and reminded once again of why I do this wonderful though often difficult job of teaching.

Play With Technology

IMG_2490.JPGI needed a USB multiport adapter and I found one that was as much fun as practical. I got to thinking about he represents play in learning technology. Whenever people ask me how I learned so much about technology, I tell them I simply “play” with it and learn stuff while doing so. Continue reading “Play With Technology”

How To Get Girls To Fall In Love with Science


Image via Flickr by daveparker

The United States is one of the few countries around the world where 15-year-old boys outperform the girls in science. This disproves the old theory that boys just have a better aptitude for science. Instead, the U.S. Department of Education believes that “improving girls’ beliefs about their abilities could alter their choices and performance.”

Inspiring a passion for science early could also help girls close the gender pay gap and gain financial independence for themselves and their families. But how do we get American girls to fall in love with science like their peers around the world?

Start Early

Studies show that societal and peer pressures make girls lose confidence in their ability to master scientific concepts by about fourth grade. It’s crucial then that they learn about science early so they have faith in their scientific skills. Conducting regular, simple scientific experiments from as early as kindergarten will help build their confidence.

Appeal to Their Desire to Solve Real Problems

Image via Flickr by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Studies show that girls tend to choose their career path based on their belief that it’ll make a difference in the world. This is why girls tend to favor nurturing professions, like nursing and teaching. Teachers can help their female students become passionate about science by emphasizing the ways it can help people, animals, or the environment.

“They see that there’s some value to it, that they can make a difference in the world,” explained Tamara Hudgins, Ph.D, the executive director of Girlstart, a charity that provides science-based after-school and enrichment programs for girls. “So when we do robotics, we look for ways to apply it to real world problems, such as creating a robot that can go into an oil spill and save a pelican.”

Encourage Girls to Participate in Special Programs

Girlstart is just one initiative that creates science-based programs specifically for girls. Many local universities, zoos, museums, and parks and recreation departments also run similar schemes. Seek out information about these and other after-school and enrichment programs available, encouraging your female students to participate in them. Since these initiatives are tailor-made for girls, they can provide more targeted instruction than most teachers who must try to engage male and female students.

Teach Them About a Range of Careers That Use Science

Many girls shun science because they think it’ll lead to a masculine career. Teachers can counteract this by teaching their classes about the many varied opportunities a career in science holds. For example, a student that loves science could become a family nurse practitioner, a marine biologist, a nutritionist, a product designer, or an industrial chemist.

It’s best to speak about these careers without any references to gender, as girls are certainly capable of entering any male-dominated profession. Instead, pique their interest with descriptions about the jobs available. If possible, you could also invite male and female professionals working with science to speak to your class. These positive role models can inspire the young science professionals of the future.

Changing the way we teach science in schools is key to getting girls to fall in love with this important field and pursue it in the future.

Small Growth is Still Growth

Many of my students just got their reports cards and they included large growth in grades. A few on the other hand, had to see what they have been seeing for years up to now: flat growth or decline in scores. There is only one way to take this: they need to improve. I don’t tell parents of my kids that their children have to be the highest in the class. I just want them to improve. If there was a 2 in one area last trimester, we are looking for a 3 and so on.

The challenge to the high kids is to maintain their high grades. Having said that, the children with lower grades have nowhere to go but up. Small, incremental growth is still growth. When I ran in high school we called it “running your own race” and making a “personal best.”

School Software Choices: Web-Based or Stand-Alone?

So you heard about a software you want for your classroom or school, great! What next? If you’re like I was, you have no idea what to ask or expect. One of the most important aspects of school software is the installation. Will they take responsibility to upload your students into the database? x-Solution-EducationIf not, are there instructions? Will it accept a csv file from Aeries, or EADMS or your attendance software? It doesn’t matter how modern and cool the program looks, if you can’t get it up and running you’re dead in the water. Software can sit for years unattended because this question wasn’t asked. Continue reading “School Software Choices: Web-Based or Stand-Alone?”

My Top Ten Posts on Teaching from 2012

We must always be adapting to change as educators but there is also a need to identify and internalize the methods that are timeless. Check out the titles I see as my best of 2012.

Student recognition
I recognize students in the classroom with 7 trophies. They travel around all year and can be used for student recognition year after year. Read more about this mini-grant I wrote at one of the top ten posts of 2012: Trophies in the Classroom

2012 was a year of change in education but many things remain the same. I suppose you could call them the “universals” of the trade. These are my best posts from 2012. As I re-read them, I could see that some universals of education are in there. We must always be adapting to change as educators but there is also a need to identify and internalize the methods that are timeless. Check out the titles I see as my best of 2012. If you have the time, I hope you’ll give them a read. I would much appreciate your comments.

Reflections on the Reflective Teacher
We as Teachers Can Improve the Culture
Trophies in the Classroom
Kids are Like Sponges: Use Stories to Teach Them
The Parent Trigger and 2 Radical Changes I Suggest for Public Education
Common Core and Collaborative Groups
What Students Need from a Teacher
Teacher as Motivator and Coach
Getting Buy-in From Your Students
5 Altruistic Values of Teaching

Thanks for reading my posts. I look forward to publishing more on the Common Core and other trends in education in 2013. Hope to see your comments.

Introduction to Explicit Direct Instruction

A table of contents to a powerful and proven teaching method called Explicit Direct Instruction, or EDI.


IAT_CL1_PX00768Explicit Direct Instruction is a teaching method created by Data Works that uses proven scientific data to teach kids. It is a part of my dynamite lesson plan for teaching every day. This method has been used at my
school in teacher training with student achievement as a result.  Here is just one of a few examples of good edi lessons (Word format) you’ll find in this series.  Above is the table of contents to my posts describing the lesson plan steps in detail. Each step was created with the learning processes of kids in mind.  The goal of it was to foster student achievement in public school.  My hope is that this method will help you as it has helped me to create and teach dynamite lesson plans. You can access information on each step through the links above. I think you will find each component has a powerful place in student achievement.

A Neighboring Teacher’s Noisy Class

This post was published first on Damien at the Speed of Life.

It doesn’t happen that often and in fact hasn’t happened in a long time but as a teacher, I cringe when I hear another teacher lose control of their class. I’ve been in this line of work since 1997 so I completely understand the frustration children can cause when they are breaking the rules on purpose. Especially, of course, when they “won’t shut up.” However, when I hear a teacher yelling, not just raising her/his voice, it makes me cringe. A part of me even feels the urge to step in and assist them with their probably unruly class. I never do though. Each classroom is the sole responsibility of its teacher and stepping in is, to me, a bit of a sacrilege. I’ve had many cringe-worthy moments on the job throughout my career. It is indeed hard to see a fellow professional do something regretful. The following example happened to me when I taught down South years ago.

One year I was occasional exposed to another class where the teacher literally had no control. When we were in a certain room on occasion the kids would bang against the wall we shared. It took everything in me to not go over there. A couple times it was unavoidable. I remember once going in there and seeing kids standing on desks. I asked the teacher to speak with her/his class because the noise level was affecting my class. I actually couldn’t blame my kids for laughing the sounds were so outrageous. You can’t help but cringe when you see another teacher who has lost control of her/his classroom. The worst part of that particular moment was after I spoke to the teacher, he/she said they were sorry could “I” speak to them. Wow, a cry for help and I only a second year teacher at the time. Then one of the kids looked at me and said “Cand ‘YOU’ be our teacher?” That was harsh. I made sure to talk to the teacher later offering my support. It was definitely a cringe-worthy moment but I learned a lot. To this day, I only step in for the most serious of reasons.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Cringe-Worthy.”

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