Some Things About Teaching That Will Never Change

IMGP2724Common Core is the latest change that has teachers and families scurrying to absorb. Yes, it is the law of the law these days, the trend as well. Still, why get bent out of shape over something that is new and eventually, passing. The core standards of California are gone now, as an example. I internalized them along with teachers in the huge state I live in. We made progress toward goals and then they took the goals away. Any time there is change it causes stress. Technology is another thing that is causing millions of teachers to stress. This can, in turn, reduce the effectiveness of a teacher. Do you want to do that to your students? The reality is, rather than focus on the changing landscape of education, you can keep your feet securely planted. There are some things about teaching that will never change.

avstationAsk yourself, “What do I do with my students throughout the year that always works?” One thing I do is an incentive program using trophies. No matter what Common Core steers us toward, we can go there with recognition and my trophy program in hand. I feel stability in that. I have some examples I use with candy, no I do not give my students candy, that help explain fractions. I will still use those. I teach kids to write through the graphic organizer of a hamburger. It works in a stellar way! I see growth in writing when I use this method. It will most assuredly be compatible with Common Core. Instead of letting fear take over and reduce your effectiveness as a teacher, remember you are still there to light torches. Those kids will not remember the standards framework you used to teach them, they will remember how comfortable you were as you took them through the often uncomfortable process of learning. Don’t focus on the new things coming down the pike for teachers, focus on the things you know that work. I feel confident in saying, those things will never change. Common Core and technology will work better for you when you’re professional, self-assured, and confident.

Satisfaction as Merit Pay

There has been a lot of talk about “merit pay” for teachers. I’m not here to debate the idea but I can tell you it has existed for years. I know because I have received it. You might wonder just how much I got. Well, it hasn’t been monetary. I hope this post is a bit more colorful than bragging about incentive money. For me, merit pay comes through watching kids “get it.” Let me elaborate. This is my audio visual desk where I do most of my teaching from. I also use a Mobi to travel around the classroom and control the laptop as well as the LCD projector remotely. These are all great tools but without a lesson plan strategy like EDI and a daily plan of what I plan to teach and assess, the fancy gadgets mean nothing. Continue reading “Satisfaction as Merit Pay”

Back to School Night: Ten Positives

  One tradition of school I really like is Back to School Night. It’s a time for parents to come in and see how the teacher runs things. It’s a time for the families to start a connection with the school and the teacher. With non traditional activities running wild in education, this is one tradition worth keeping. Here are ten positives:

  1. Parents see the classroom as their kids do.
  2. Teachers get to hang out informally with parents and their students’ siblings.
  3. It’s a reminder to teachers that their walls are a gallery to be presented.
  4. Kids get to show their parents their space (desk, table …)
  5. Principals get to address a large set of parents.
  6. Families are made a priority by the school.
  7. Treats.
  8. Extra curricular booths can get exposure.
  9. Teachers get insight into the home life of their students.
  10. Teachers get to address their students’ families.

Steering Kids Back to the Flow – Connecting to Jobs

paycheck-love-logo.jpgDistractions are the enemy of the teacher. Even an innocuous airplane outside of class can unravel all the learning done in one sitting. Kids are generally lured away from the flow of a lesson by distractions large or small. The point to remember is that you need to be able to steer the back into the flow of the lesson. There are several ways to do this and every teacher has to see what fits for their style as well as the needs of their class. Continue reading “Steering Kids Back to the Flow – Connecting to Jobs”

Puppet Communication

Puppet Communication in Upper ElementaryCommunication should be of the utmost importance to a teacher. She/he should consider all tools at her/his disposal to get the point across to kids. All the planning and research in the world can’t be used unless the teacher knows how to communicate it to students. Direct communication like speaking to a class or one-to-one has it’s place of course as probably the most important and effective mode of transporting knowledge from teacher to student. Still, indirect or implicit communication can have a stronger impact in select situations. For example, when teaching social rules of the classroom, a skit or puppet show may be more effective than a lecture. The stuents can see themselves and their peers in the puppet and not feel self-conscious or defensive about the content. Sometimes, even having the kids make brown bag puppets or other type and then allowing them to speak through the puppet.

Continue reading “Puppet Communication”

Brave People Make a Difference

imageThis is a photo of my sister in law, a teacher at a CTA conference with Dolores Huerta. If you haven’t heard of Dolores Huerta, she’s a very well known labor leader through history and still now as a speaker. When Jessica posted this I have to admit, Dolores Huerta’s name was only slightly familiar. I looked her up on Wikipedia and discovered she is on par with Cesar Chavez and many more of my union heroes. Continue reading “Brave People Make a Difference”

Less Paper Lesson Planning

I had a rough day recently where I realized paper was not a good foundation for a week of lessons. Our copy machine is hit and miss. Some days it will work perfectly, other day it will be the primary discourager of teachers on campus, myself included. I am always looking to make my teaching “foolproof” so I sat down with a huge chart tablet and started creating what I called “Less Paper Lesson Planning.” The embarrassing truth it that I only used it one day. However, the concept is still with me and I think about it as I plan the lessons for my classroom. I was told once that a goal will always put you in a good direction, whether you achieve it or not. The greatest ideas seem to come only after many failed ones are attempted. I guess that day I set a very deep-set goal that hasn’t gone away. We have a lot of materials at our disposal every day that can be used in place of copies. Projectors, ELMOs, PPT, white boards, smart boards, pair sharing and verbal response, computers, tablets, ipads … more are coming our way all the time. I am finding that when I put my emphasis on “less paper” more innovative ideas come.

Kids, Choices, and Consequences

Successful teaching requires a “choice and consequence” system. These are my experiences and a few tips I have found useful in my 4th grade classroom.

I’m not sure any college can fully teach you how to become a teacher completely. There’s a lot of stuff you can only learn while doing it. A police friend I know has been shot at, threatened and scared half to death by some of the criminals he’s dealt with. Another fireman has almost destroyed his back pulling people out of burning buildings. So the issue is raised: What does it take to be a teacher? We deal with something every day just as ominous: surly kids. In my career I’ve had issues with kids that that few non-teachers will ever comprehend. I’ve had kids flat out tell me “no” to my face. I’ve had kids shout profanity at me. I’ve had kids tell me they are sending their dad, uncle or brother to beat me up. (yes that happened once). It can be difficult to stay focused and motivated toward teaching when so many behavior problems exist. The good news is, there are ways to get through them.

Along with the challenges there is plenty of good I must add. Teaching certification is rigorous for a reason. In addition to the small number of students who have tested me, many more have made me so glad and happy to be a teacher. Let’s talk about how to deal with these challenging kids, because teachers are always going to have them.

There are so many plans at your disposal as a teacher to control behavior in the class. You can have a warning/consequences chart, you can do positive reinforcements, you can even take entire blocks of time to model your rules and consequences. In my opinion, nothing works better than a certain type of psychology with kids who won’t behave, it is called “Choice and Consequences” teaching. Let me explain:

When a kid misbehaves it is usually either because 1) They don’t realize it and are just being “slap-happy” as kids are wont to do while young -or- 2) They know it’s wrong and they do it anyway hoping they won’t be seen or caught. You should only give consequences if the child disobeys or is defiant. The first consequence is: give them a warning. Make sure you state clearly the rule they have broken when you do so. ie;

Johnny, you kicked someone’s leg and they complained to me. You did not respect your classmate and that is rule 3 on our list on the wall. If you do it again, you will get a consequence.

Now the child knows what to refrain from. If s/he continues, it is defiance and deserves the next consequence. When they do it again, here is the only thing you should say:

Johnny (Jenny), I asked you to not do that and you did it. Now you have another consequence.

Do you practice “choice and consequences” in your class? There are sites for teachers discussing that right now. In fact, our discussion is below. I hope you’ll leave your 2 cents.

Best Reader Trophy

IMG_2522.JPG
Do you give out recognition for your top readers? I do. We run Accelerated Reader at my school which makes it easier to run reports and identify who is passing their comprehension tests. In other words, we know who the top readers are. It’s important to publicly recognize these kids and on doing so let the school know that reading for meaning is worthy of reward. Continue reading “Best Reader Trophy”