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Posted by on in Classroom Management

Smartphones and tablets appear in the classroom news almost daily, but seldom in a positive context. Cyberbullying, sexting, binge gaming, social media addiction – the focus is too often on the downside of modern technologies. The most intuitive response is to stir clear from all that, just to be on the safe side, thus inevitably making it “a boring side”. We say “prevention”, but what we often mean is “total ban”. Well, an ostrich attitude has never led to anything good.

KEEPING UP WITH THE TIMES

I understand that with new apps popping up every day, teachers, no matter how tech-savvy, often are the last to know what is going on in the smartphones of their students. We are not as interested and engaged, as they are, not as eager to discover something new. It takes all the running we can do, to keep in the same place. Even if we show a genuine interest, kids will try to hide things, doing all they can to distance from the “uncool adults”. However, it does not mean that we should give up or leave it all to parents. Avoiding technology in our classroom, we will only widen the gap and make it worse. For our students, we will be not merely outdated, but as good as extinct. For the sake of communication and understanding, we must show them that we do populate digital terrain – just as they do. I do not mean fraternizing and joining every social medium there is, but actively using technology as an educational tool. There are several other reasons to do that.

BOON

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

megaphone girl

You've probably been there before. A student, frustrated with their hand in the air decides it's all of a sudden ok to yell across the room "Hey Teacher!" (they might use your name, but you get the point). There's a good chance this isn't a rare occurrence in your classroom. You're awesome, so you probably manage your classroom well and when this happens, you reinforce your expectations and model appropriate behavior.

And that's good. That's what you should do. But I'd like to take thisa step further and look at what causes this type of disturbance to happen in your classroom.

The Classroom Management 'Play By Play'

Step 1: Bobby raises his hand across the room, silently, as they are supposed to. They can't continue working without assistance. And because you are helping Katie at the moment, and your back is to Bobby, you don't see him raise his hand.

Step 2: You finishing assisting Katie and move on to Jake, who is close by and just raised his hand. Now, you don't know this, but Jake actually has a much less urgent question than Bobby, but because Jake was closer, you noticed him first. This frustrates Bobby, because he raised his hand first. He now feels  like he is being ignored.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

pablo-34.png

 

This was the week I retook control of all aspects of my life. Things would be different this week. Everything would turn around and become better this week. Instead, I wasn't good enough this week and my students did not hesitate to let me know.

This week I started waking up a half hour earlier (3:45AM!) to start my morning workouts. This week I managed to start going to bed earlier. This week I refocused my eating habits to reflect my fitness goals (Elite Spartan Beast on 4/29) . This week was the start of a journey that required me to conduct 17 formal teacher observations in 8 days (12 days including post-observation conferences). This week the lessons for my 3 daily classes were absolutely on-point. Everything was going so well for me this week, until...

Then my students informed me that I am a grumpy teacher. One of my students coined the term "Grumpy T" (T for Thom) to describe me. This started a class-wide discussion in one period where the class agreed that I had been grumpy and different all week. This shocked me and I felt incredulous when I heard this. My body felt great from the workouts, I was getting more sleep than before, I was eating much healthier, and I was loving all the observations and genuine conversations I was having with teachers. How could I possibly be grumpy?

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

Most of us have seen or experienced the traditional archaic model of education where a lesson is taught, notes are taken, quizzes or worksheets are handed out and grades are given. While this model works for some students, there are many students that completely shut down in this process. This process of judgement and single chances creates an immense amount of FEAR in students.

We have all had the difficult student that responds: "I'm not doing this!", as you hand out an activity. This response is not bred out of defiance, but rather out of fear. Fear that they wont be able to perform the task, can't read at the appropriate level, or simply a fear of failure.  These fears drive a lot of management issues that occur in classrooms. If students can't access content, they "fight back" due to the fear of failure. Some students have failed so many times that the fear is perpetual and constant throughout the school day.

This needs to change.  Assessments and assignments need to transform from end games to learning opportunities. Students need to see the work that they do as progressive to their learning not terminal and definitive judgments on their abilities and intelligence. The culture of constant judgement (grades) and finite decisions based on performance defines an environment that produces fear. In any environment where fear is prominent, other negative emotional and social responses will arise.

In my classroom I created a system to remove the fear from learning. Here are a few things that have worked for me: 

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

angry kid

The honeymoon is over, eh?

Now that we have several weeks of the new school year under our belts, the spit-clean shine on the faces of all those children has faded and reality sets in. At first we thought we were blessed with a class, a school, a district full of little angels. Then the cracks began to show through--a little disrespectful look, then a "NO!", and then running out of the classroom when they are upset. Oh no! And we had such high hopes!

I am pretty proficient at assuming positive intent with adults. I can easily see how hard the adults at school work for the students, and I know the difficulties of being a parent. Do we afford our students the same luxury? Do we assume positive intent with students?

In my nearly two decades of being an educator, I cannot remember meeting a student who was naughty to be naughty. The students I work with are behaving for a purpose. They want control, they want to feel like they belong, they need freedom, they want to have some fun, or maybe they are just hungry (or is that h-angry?). They want to be good, to be praised, to be loved, they sometimes just don't know how to get there.

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