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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The Cycle of Failure

We've all been in the situation with that "difficult" student in our class where they shut down, let out a sign of discontent and throw an assignment aside while saying something like "I'm not doing this!". I know this can be frustrating as an educator but I want you to think about something other than trying to correct the students action but I want you to think: "Why are they doing this?".

Chances are (depending on what age you teach) that student has not been successful in school for most of their academic career. When they give effort, in return they get low grades, judgement or looks of disappointment. If this has been happening for 3, 5 or 10 years I can't really blame them for shutting down and not wanting to continue the cycle of failure they are stuck in. This can help explain no only the actions of the student but the reasons behind it. 

Re-Framing Failure as Opportunity

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Homework clipart

Throughout all of my 15 years of teaching, there has been one word that has caused me, my students, and my students' families to shudder. If you are in education, and even if you are not, I am guessing you can figure out the word. The word is homework. Didn't take you long to shudder, did it?

The word homework causes many to shudder much like the word shot does for my six-year-old daughter when she has to go to the doctor. Not even the promise of the lollipop at the doctor's office can get her to stop her fussing over going. She dreads going days before and, of course, tries to talk her way out of it all the way up until we get called back from the waiting room. She clams up immediately when the doctor comes in, and then the tears, crying, and wailing comes as soon as she sees the shot. What should take only seconds, ends up taking emotionally draining (for everyone) minutes and minutes to complete.

Obviously shots are different than homework, but some of the emotions our children (and we) go through dealing with homework are the same. Shots have a different purpose than homework. Shots are to prevent or treat illness, where as homework is to assess student learning. Or at least it should be.

Homework should not cause students, parents, and teachers to shudder. It should be relevant, meaningful, and meet students where they are. It should be quick and manageable. It should be reflective for the student and teacher. It should be a formative assessment that helps the teacher guide instruction. It should be more for the teacher, than the students. And it should not be used against students, be it grades, placement, or punishments. 

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

best year ever

This is my 15th year of teaching, and this is by far and away my favorite year to date. It is not that I haven't enjoyed my other years, but this year is standing out already as a special year. I have been thinking a lot of what is making this year my favorite year, and what is making it different than my other years. So these are the ideas I believe are the difference makers for me this year.

Communication

This year I started using the Remind app to better connect with parents and students. It allows me to connect with parents in real-time using my smartphone or computer. In years past, I would send out emails or send home a daily report book or sorts. However, what I was failing to do those previous years is not only meet the parents where they are, but also where I am. Nearly everyone has a smartphone and nearly everyone never puts it down for more than five minutes at a time. So not only are parents getting notifications about assignments, but Remind also allows me to send pictures, send files, send links, and have individual messages with parents. It is a fast and easy way of communicating with the parents, and it has helped build stronger parent-teacher relationships than in any other year.   

Blended Learning

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

The world is full of heroes.

Some of our heroes are people that exemplify qualities such as ingenuity, flexibility, agility, determination, or reliability. For example, we are impressed by the extraordinary speed and strength of basketball player Lebron James, or the extraordinary agility and accuracy of soccer player Lionel Messi. We are awestruck by the perceptiveness and intelligence of scientist Marie Curie. We admire the bravery of Rosa Parks or Amelia Earhart. We note the selflessness of Mother Theresa. These people all possess transcendent human qualities that we also possess. The difference, often, is that we hold the same qualities to a lesser degree. Sometimes the people we consider “heroes” are those that demonstrate in large measure qualities that we feel we lack.

But humans are not our only heroes. We also emotionally connect with institutions (the United Nations) or concepts (democracy) that exemplify values we believe in: justice, equality, freedom. We may admire the incredible abilities of different animal species as well. So by “hero” I am not refering to a testosterone-driven male figure but, rather, someone or something exemplifying an extraordinary human quality.

The curriculum is also full of heroes; every topic of the curriculum can be seen as heroic in some way.

You’ve probably noticed that many young people associate with heroes or idols. It is not unusual to see pictures of a rock star, artist, or actor plastered into lockers or onto bedroom walls. Our students can become quite fanatical about learning all there is to know about some athlete, actor, author, songwriter, or world leader. If our students are associating with heroes constantly in the world around them, shouldn’t we pay attention to this imaginative activity? Imaginative educators do; they bring out the heroic in the curriculum topics they teach.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

emotions.jpg

As the students were working on their bell ringer today (recalling radioactive decay equations), I stood in the middle of class and read the following to them:

He was the only person making his way into the city; he met hundreds and hundreds who were fleeing, and every one of them seemed to be hurt in some way. The eyebrows of some were burned off and skin hung from their faces and hands. Others, because of pain, held their arms up as if carrying something in both hands. Some were vomiting as they walked. Many were naked or in shreds of clothing. On some undressed bodies, the burns had made patterns—of undershirt straps and suspenders and, on the skin of some women (since white repelled the heat from the bomb and dark clothes absorbed it and conducted it to the skin), the shapes of flowers they had had on their kimonos. Many, although injured themselves, supported relatives who were worse off. Almost all had their heads bowed, looked straight ahead, were silent, and showed no expression whatsoever. - "Hiroshima" by John Hersey

Then, I showed them haunting imprints of people killed by the blast...

This was my prelude to starting the discussion on nuclear fission and fusion in chemistry today. And, while the images students undoubtedly saw in their minds upon hearing the above story were gruesome, my purpose was clear. I wanted to evoke strong emotions.

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