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Posted by on in Early Childhood

Everyone has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, "Make me feel important."  (Mary Kay Ash)

In educational circles today, I hear a lot about social and emotional skills, social and emotional learning, and so forth. Foundational for preschoolers to learn how to relate to the people around them and to begin to regulate themselves is a feeling of being valued and valuable. All children in our classes want to feel valued; they want to know (with the heart not the head) someone cares about them. They want the approval of adults. We teachers have a powerful impact on the lives of boys and girls.

A "simple" action is at the core of buildng a caring community that supports social and emotional skills - using names.

Names are the beginning point of the child's identity. Calling a child by name builds the relationship and helps the child feel that you know him and care about him. Once I was walking along behind a group of brothers. They stopped in the hall to wait for their mom. I spoke to each one, calling each by name. After I walked by, I heard one whisper, "He knows who we are." Knowing names = knowing the child. That makes them feel valued and important to you.

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Posted by on in General

 

 

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Why on Earth would anyone do a Google Hangout with students at 7 am? Well, before you begin jumping on my case about the fact that students need more sleep and that their optimal thinking times are later in the morning, let me explain.  First, know that the class I did the Google Hangout with was in a different time zone than me. Second, I was the one in the 7 am time zone. Not them. It was 9 am where they were.

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Posted by on in School Culture

When I was principal of a rural high school we did an exercise to determine which students had connections with adults in our building. We had every student’s name on a list hanging on the wall in the library. Armed with colored dot stickers teachers were to go through the entire list and place a sticker next to every student in which  they felt they had established a solid relationship. The stickers began to overlap for many children. These were the students that were social, popular, and active in extra curricular activities. These students that had multiple stickers liked school and liked their teachers. There was no doubt as to their graduation completion.

As the exercise continued we noticed that there were a few, 4 in all, that had not one sticker by the name. Who were these children? How had they managed to attend our school and yet not one teacher would say a relationship was established? The information was profound. These children were at the biggest risk for dropping out. They were disenfranchised.

A plan was put into place as we determined how we could get to know and engage these children in school. Various teachers would reach out and try to get to  know these students. Perhaps they could invite them to participate in an extra curricular activity. Maybe just having a deliberate conversation routinely would make a difference. How had these children slipped through the cracks?

Did we save them all? Sadly, we did not. Honestly we were able to reach 1 of the 4 and engage him in school. The other 3 ended up dropping out. I take responsibility for these 3. Never again would this happen under my watch.

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Posted by on in General

class of 2016 2

This year I had the privilege of teaching 80 seniors; however, there were 81 students in my class this year because I learn every year alongside my students. Here are my main takeaways from the year:

Rigor and fun can go hand-in-hand – My classroom tends to be marked with laughter, but this class took having fun to the next level. Laughter is often the result of student silliness, but the Class of 2016, granted they had their fair share of silliness, also had the unique ability to mix fun with work.  In my AP classes in particular, we work hard, but this class managed to seamlessly move in and out of fun and hard work knowing the boundaries of productive and healthy fun and unproductive silliness. These students reminded me that learning and hard work can still be fun.

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Choice Reading is important – Traditionally, teachers have students read the same work at the same time in spite of the mountains of research supporting students improve reading skills by having the ability to read books of their choice. Because of my age and the way I learned in school, I have been assigning novels for whole-class reading and will continue to do this. However, I have been experimenting with allowing students to choose novels, short stories, and poems for independent reading and am seeing the benefits of this. Students read more enthusiastically, have more to offer in class discussions, and are able to recommend novels to each other. Instead of me being in control of the content, students now see themselves as co-owners of the classroom and have a voice in their learning. Sometimes teachers are intimidated by giving up control in the classroom, but seeing students choose novels and dive into them enthusiastically makes this teacher’s heart happy.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

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1. Be moderate in your approach. You do not have to be the world’s best teacher all the time. You just have to be a very good one.

2. Spend your energy on large problems first and allot less of your energy for the small ones. Choose to deal with the problems that will give you the greatest benefit right away.

3. Problems can move you forward when you choose to work to solve them. Use your creative strengths to make your classroom well-disciplined and productive.

4. Make room for more emotional energy. Ask for help when you have a problem.

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