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General

Voices from the BAM Radio Community sharing their thoughts, insights and teaching strategies.

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2e1ax elegantwhite entry adambindslev

My mantra is simple, "Where attention goes, energy flows". Without a student's authentic attention, you are basically swimming with no arms or legs in a choppy ocean of learning. Therefore, garnering student's attention in the first few minutes of class as they walk in is perhaps your most important job as an educator. Setting the stage for your lesson and doing everything you can to be sure kids are engaged is not as difficult as one would imagine but it does take effort. Here are three tips to consider as you attempt to tune in students to your learning frequency.

1. Kids come to class with a million things rattling around in their brain. The hallway is a test tube of attention virsuses which seek to invade students consiousness and disrupt your class. With that in mind, the one thing you can most definately control in regards to their attention is sound, I am talking about music. Having kids walk into an empty, quiet class is an invitation to disruption. So choose music which can not only interupt their consiousness but is related to your teaching concept. On test days I would pipe in "Rocky" and as a history teacher it was easy to find music associated with concepts I was teaching; Woody Guthrie for the Great Depression, "Over There" for WWI but if you teach math, science, art, ELA, ELL or anything else, use your creativity to support your lesson. Whatever you do, don't give up one of the most powerful forms of attention engagement.....sound!

2. Your visual. In my travels as an Instructional Technology Coach is a district of 35k students, i see a lot of classrooms. In the vast majority of classrooms I visit, I see pretty much the same thing on the wall when class begins; a scientifically written objective with either text directions on a white smartboard or a visual of a content specific item; the Scientific table of elements or a picture of George Washington. Chances are students rarely pay attention to what they see on your wall when they walk in, so make them. Find powerful visuals that will not only knock their socks off but will also facilitate your learning objective. I use Skitch on my MAC ( http://mac.filehorse.com/download-skitch/ ) but with a PC you can use ( http://jing.en.lo4d.com/ ), either way, not only can you rip a quick image but you can manipulate it to give student direction. How could a kid not pay attention to this?

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Posted by on in General

fresh start

The side door to the administration building swung open. I could not see this from my little office within, but I certainly heard the shouting of the eighth grader whose angry hand had nearly wrenched it from its hinges. "I hate her! I hate her! I can't stand this place! I hate this school!"

The lobby was filled with parents, most of whom had just returned from a field trip to the zoo with their first graders. The weary moms and dads were now seeking a cool, yet temporary, respite from the Arizona heat before heading home for a few silent hours sans children. Each looked to the door and then to me anticipating how this situation might play out. I was already on my feet having just excused myself from a phone call with another child's parent.

Freddy reached the front desk as I reached my door. He flung his referral at the secretary and continued to scream. "I didn't do nothing! I hate that teacher! I hate this school."

Ever-calm Valerie, spoke quietly in an attempt to calm the boy down. "Okay, Freddy. You are in the office now. I know you are angry, but please don't take it out on me. Why don't you have a seat at the front table and cool down for a minute?"

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Posted by on in General

There isn't a teacher shortage. Not really. But there is a shortage of districts and states that are successfully attracting people to teach careers. If I can't get a dealer to sell me a Lexus for $1.98, that does not mean there is an automobile shortage. The "teacher shortage" is really a shortage of $1.98 teachers.

Something is wrong. Not only do we have a drastic drop in the number of proto-teachers in the pipeline, but the profile of the teacher pool is off. The teacher pool is overwhelmingly female and white. Males and minorities are not represented in the teaching force in numbers that remotely resemble the demographics of our student population.

So how do we get and keep the teachers that we need?

After all, it ought to be easy. No other profession gets to pitch itself to every single young person who could possibly pursue it. So what are we missing?

To understand how to recruit teachers, we just have to remember how the teachers we have found their way to the classroom. And the most important thing to remember is how they start.

It's not a deep, complicated thing. Almost every teacher in a classroom started out as a student in a classroom, and that student had two simple thoughts--

1) I kind of like it here in school.

2) I can see myself doing that teaching thing.

That's it. If we get a student to harbor those two thoughts in his teenaged cranium, we have successfully created the seed from which a future teacher could grow. But looking at those two thoughts can also tell us where our edugardening has gone awry.

Kind of like it here.

No excuses. Speak when you're spoken to. School to prison pipeline. Assumption that black and brown students are a problem. Crumbling buildings. Lack of even basic supplies like books and paper. Curriculum that is centered on test prep. 

None of these are going to make a student feel as if school is just like a second home. And schools that carry the greatest weight of discrimination and mistreatment are the greatest anti-recruitment. If you have made a student feel unwanted, unwelcome and unsupported in school at age fifteen, why would that same student consider returning to school at age twenty-two?

I can see myself doing this.

The most fundamental part of this is the modeling of staff. It's hard (not impossible, but damn hard) to imagine myself doing a job if I can't see anybody like myself doing the job.

Beyond that, students will be influenced by what they think the job is, the job that they see teachers doing. Are male teachers of color responsible for breaking up all the fights in the building? Do coaches get to follow a different set of rules than other staff? Do lady teachers have to keep their heads down and never talk back to a male boss? Do some teachers spend half their time doing drill and drill and worksheet band dull, boring drill? Any such unwritten rules are noted by students, and factor into how appealing the job might be.

Do students see that teachers struggle financially, holding down extra jobs to make ends meet? Do students see their teachers treated with respect? Do students see teachers supported with resources and materials, or do they have to buy supplies out of their own pockets? Do they see the job turned into a low pay, low autonomy, de-professionalized drudge? These factors also affect whether students can see themselves living the teaching life.

The Path

Of course, there's more care required for these early seeds reach full flower. College teacher programs may support the fledgling teacher or throw more obstacles in the path (I often wonder how many male teachers of color we lose to repeated "Well, what the hell are you doing here?") Then we get to the luck of the draw with the match-up for student teaching, and finally, the problem of individual district hiring practices.

The Circle

And then we arrive back in the classroom, where the person who was once a student may have to withstand one more assault on their desire to teach. And we don't have time to get into all of that yet again.

Retention is a huge problem, easily as big as recruitment, but here's the irony-- the recruitment problem and the retention problem are the same problem, because the best way to recruit the teachers of tomorrow is by giving support and respect to the teachers of today. You cannot dump all over today's teachers and expect students to say, "Oh, yeah, I'd love to jump into that pool of pooh."  You cannot reduce teaching to mindless meat widget drudgery and expect students to say, "yes! Someday I want to be a soul-sucked functionary, too."

Of course, there are folks out there for whom the death of the teaching profession is a goal, not a problem. But for the rest of us, the path is relatively simple and clear. Elevate and support the teaching profession, and the people who look at it in action every day will want to join in. If you want good seeds, you have to tend to the plants that are already growing.

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Posted by on in General

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To her credit, she has been reminding me. I just keep forgetting to buy it. I mean it's not as if we haven't had several opportunities in the past week. So when my daughter asked me—again—if we had any paper she could use for sketching. She got the same answer. No, we don't. I have suggested, more than once, that she use her imagination and find something else until we can get her some.

This morning she asked again. I'm fairly certain she knew what my answer would be. I hadn't left the house since the last time she asked. But I didn't say that. I'm only allowed a certain number of smart-aleck remarks a day and it was too early in the day to throw one away.

I did remind her though—again—that she should try finding something besides paper on which to sketch. 

 

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Posted by on in General

 

Let Freedom Ring in Your Classroom!

When the bell rings, is it the ring of freedom or that of condemnation for your students at the start of class? Freedom is something that we hold very dear to our hearts in this country. We wave flags to celebrate it, our soldiers sacrifice their lives to protect it, and we tout it as one of the most defining factors of the United States.

While I'll admit that intro was probably a bit much...I still want to ask you: Do your students have the freedom to learn in your classroom?  While visiting teachers in their classrooms, I still find instances of the traditional, outdated, and archaic model of instruction where a teacher is standing at the front of the room, delivering content (in their way) and expecting the students just to absorb it and grasp its meaning upon first listen.

This traditional model of direct instruction and ineffective lecture-based content delivery leaves almost no freedom for your students to actually learn. They just passively accept their fate as non-engaged, un-inspired learners. They have little say in what they are doing or when, and even less accountability for their progress toward mastery of the content. In order to change this, I'd like to share 5 ways to give your students more freedom in your classroom.

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