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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in classroom climate

Posted by on in General

Building relationships with kids takes time and commitment on both sides of the equation.  A solid connection can be encouraged or fortified by a grand event – an open house evening, a “Donuts for Dad” or “Muffins for Mom” celebration, or a campus carnival – but such an event alone cannot create long and meaningful relationships.  The daily interactions of teachers with their students, with ongoing discourse between the two, is the only thing that I have found to be most effective in developing and nurturing lasting connections. 

Sometimes you just have to listen to each other’s stories of pain and sadness, joy and gladness, and everything in-between. 

By the end of the first month of school, I know quite a bit about a child’s life just from the continuous conversation he/she and I have had.  Tiny bits of information from numerous simple conversations while lining up, while turning in papers, while waiting for lunch, while passing each other on the sidewalk at the end of the day all help to bring us closer together. 

All of that dialogue has informed me of the child’s family situation – parents together or separated, number of brothers and sisters, favorite subject in school, type of pets, names of school friends, fears and worries at home and at school.  

I know each student’s favorite type of music, favorite football team, favorite color, favorite candy, favorite brand of shoe.  I know a little bit about each child’s interests and each child’s goal for the future.  All of these seemingly trivial pieces of information help me to carry on more conversations with each child and help me to further forge the bond between me and them. 

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Posted by on in What If?

There's bad news and there's good news about classroom discipline. The bad news is that sometimes we are the cause of the discipline problems in our classes. We cause them because we inaccurately assess our students’ needs, fail to plan adequately for emergencies and daily activities, misread our students’ reactions, or unknowingly commit any number of mistakes that challenging students are quick to capitalize on.Discipline problems that we do not cause ourselves are just not as easy to manage.

The good news about the mistakes we make in our classrooms is that we have control over them. in fact, most of the time, we can usually prevent the ones that we cause. In the following list of  teacher-made mistakes, you will find some of the reasons why you may have inadvertently caused the discipline issues you've had to manage. With each mistake listed here you will also find a way to avoid making it into a discipline problem.

Mistake 1: You refuse to answer or give a poor answer when students question you about why they should learn the material you want them to master.

Solution: We need to be careful to provide students at the start of a unit of study with the reasons why they need to learn the material in the unit. Start each class with a review of the purpose for learning the information in the day’s lesson. Also, make sure students are aware of the real-life applications for the learning you require of them.

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Posted by on in What If?

Whenever I conduct workshops to help teachers support challenging students, by far the most common concern that I hear is always about students who are defiant and disrespectful. For some, the defiance is overt and loud. For others, the defiant act is less obvious: eye rolling, heavy sighs, mumbling under the breath, extremely slow compliance, or significant glances to classmates that seem to signal "our teacher is being unreasonable again."

No matter the form of the defiant action, the toll that student defiance takes on teachers can be harsh. After all, few teachers go home at the end of a successful and productive school day worried about what will happen next class. Even the most stalwart of us find it hard to leave the emotional problems caused by defiant students at school. These tend to be the problems that cause us to sleep poorly and to contemplate changing careers.

Unfortunately, many of us do not handle defiance as successfully as we could. It's easy to just react out of anger and dismay instead of taking a systematic approach geared to actually resolve the problem and prevent it from happening again.

Instead of just reacting, take a few minutes to determine the cause of the problem instead of the general effect the disruption has on the class. When you take the time to do this, several positive effects happen at once.

You treat the defiant student with respect despite the bad behavior.

You send a message to the other students that you will not lose your cool.

You preserve the dignity of the misbehaving student.

You will be far closer to resolving the situation than if you just reacted to it.

The cause of defiance is usually something that the student has been seething about for a while. Given the nature of the modern classroom, there are plenty of opportunities for students to have wounded feelings or a sense of frustration. And it is often this frustration that causes students to react impulsively and to lash out.

To find the cause, first talk gently to the student who has been defiant. This is best done in private. If you both need a few moments to cool down, then be sure to allow that time. No one can hear even a reasonable explanation when they are stressed and upset.

As you talk, don't be accusatory. Keep your language as factual and dry as possible. Describe what you saw and heard. Then, tell the student that you want to listen carefully to what he or she has to say.

Listen carefully. Ask a tactful question or two. Figure out what caused the incident.

Try not to be preachy. Do not induce guilt. Your relationship with the student has no place in this discussion. Stick to the facts at hand. Determine the cause and act accordingly.

Once you have had this conversation with the student, then you can make the decision about how to proceed. Not every defiant act deserves a harsh consequence. Your innate teacher's judgement will allow you to make the best decision that you can make now that you are informed about the cause.

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Posted by on in What If?

Every year, during the final few weeks of the school term, grim articles about how to hang on until the last day of school without losing your sanity abound. Loads of stern advice about topics such as the importance of managing stress and the misery of standardized testing and unpleasant conferences about failing grades seem to dominate teacher forums. What if, instead of just hanging on, you took a different approach to the time you have left with your students? An approach that includes some joy and fun and learning and all the other good things that school can be and should be every day.

One of the easiest ways to ensure that your students (and you) have a positive ending to the school year is to involve them in some of the many decisions that regulate classrooms instead of just trying to impose your will on a crowd of students who are distracted by warm weather and the promise of summer vacation. Brief class meetings now and then will not take up too much instructional time and can make an enormous difference in your classroom climate. Sometimes just raising student awareness about a problem and asking for their help is enough to solve it. 

The first few minutes of class after your students settle in and complete their warm up activities are an ideal time to hold a class meeting. Tell students that you are going to set a timer for a few minutes (the length of the meeting will vary according to the age and maturity of students as well as the topic under discussion) so that you can brainstorm together.

Have students move to form a circle so that you can see everyone and everyone can see you.

Establish quick ground rules for the meeting. The two most important ones are that students should listen courteously and respectfully and no one should talk unless they have permission to do so. Many teachers have found that giving students a token to serve as a “talking stick” sets a positive tone for a class meeting because it limits the number of students who want to speak to just the person with the token.

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Posted by on in School Culture

complacency

I just finished reading one of the best books ever. The Operator by Robert O’Neill is the story of the Navy SEAL who dedicated a good chunk of his life fighting for American freedoms. If the name doesn’t sound familiar, it should; he’s the SEAL who fired three rounds into Osama Bin Laden.

The boy from Butte, Montana, gave his all for all of us for over 16 years. He didn’t stay 20 years (20 years gives a pension and benefits); he left after 16. He left for a myriad of reasons, but the biggest factor was how he was becoming complacent when he was going on missions. He shared about one specific mission where he was so lax that he was smoking cigars a few minutes before a planned ambush of terrorists. After the ambush, he was hanging out with guys who were tossing around damaged RPG heads as if they were nerf balls. O’Neill said flat out that if he kept up his complacent ways, it would literally kill him, which had me thinking.

What about those in education who become complacent? The teacher who is waiting until 25 years? The principal who won’t do anything that would “rock the boat”? The superintendent who is just trying to keep everyone happy? All of these complacent actions are killing the creativity of both staff and students and dashing the hopes of some, keeping them from being the best they can really be.

We’ve all seen these so-called educators in our schools. We’ve either subjected to them as a student, worked with them as coworkers, or even supervised them. If you think that none of them are where you work, you’re being foolish. They are everywhere. Some are placed in positions that have the least student contact, some have positions created for them (or a position is created to keep them occupied and out of everyone’s hair), some become lapdogs for administrators, and some even brainwash an entire community into thinking that they are so important that whatever they do is equally important. What these people project versus what these people do is just flat out sad. Their complacent attitudes end up just wasting space and tax-payer dollars.

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