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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in collaboration

Posted by on in What If?

While you may not see them, the parents or guardians of your students are in your classroom every day. As the primary caregivers of your students, they influence how your students think, feel, and react. Even though the ideal parent or guardian would be informed and supportive while providing a stable home environment and supervising homework, not all individuals meet these ideals. Instead, the parents and guardians of our students are people much like ourselves.  They want to do what is best for their children and don’t always know exactly how to go about it.

Some are overinvolved in their children’s lives and extremely sensitive to the smallest problem—real or imagined. Some will have a negative view because of unpleasant past experiences with school. Still others will be positive and supportive allies. Despite this complicated variation, one thing is certain. Creating a successful relationship with parents and guardians is the classroom teacher’s responsibility. Here are a few suggestions that can be adapted by almost any teacher.

At the start of the term send home a letter that explains the most important rules, policies, and procedures in your classroom. In particular, be very careful to explain your homework policy if you want parents or guardians to help you with this area.

Make sure that all written correspondence is neat, legible, and carefully proofread so that you appear as professional as possible. Readers should pay attention to your message, not question your expertise.

Contact parents or guardians when their children are successful as well as when you need their help in solving a problem. When they hear good news from school, parents or guardians realize you are trying to help their children be successful. When they only hear from teachers when there’s trouble, they quickly learn to dread conversations with us.

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Posted by on in Differentiated Instruction

Why Teach and Coach Collaboration?

Collaboration is an important 21st Century skill that is of critical need for our students as the future participants of industry, entrepreneurial opportunities, education, and government. Collaboration is a valuable commodity that in its appearance seems more art than science, when the opposite is just as true.

Partnership for 21st Century Learning, an organization that addresses a variety of areas, including Education, defines Collaboration as:

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  •  Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

Working together for a common goal can be more challenging than it would appear. A common example is group work. One or two team members  do the work while other teammates are either not included in doing the interesting tasks; or they choose to stand aside, content to let the others do all the work, before showing up to share in the credit.

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Posted by on in Blended Learning

mouse

What would you do if you found six mice in your home? How would you react? How many do you think would be in your home if you found six? Just six? More than six? How about 72. That's right, 72.

The other week I was at Home Depot waiting in the holiday lines to check out, when I overheard (okay, I was eavesdropping) an interesting but disturbing, yet mathematical conversation. It just so happened that the clerk behind the counter had a pest problem, and the man who was in front of me checking out was the owner of a local pest removal company (I knew this from his sweatshirt and hat that advertised his business). The clerk said he found six mice in his home. Unfortunately, the clerk was in for some additional bad news, besides the six mice he recently found at his home, as the local pest removal owner told him that for every one mouse you see there are 12, and for every rat you see there are nine. 

As soon as I heard this, I couldn't wait to get back to school the next day and tell my 6th grade math class the great news. Yes, this was great news, because we were just talking about rates and unit rates in math class, so it fit perfectly. Then I realized, that instead of waiting until the next day, I could bring this lesson to life that night. I quickly got out my smartphone and posted the discussion I overheard and the following question into Google Classroom using the Google Classroom app. "How many mice did the clerk have at his house? Tell me your thinking, along with your answer."

Some students actually answered a non-homework, non-assigned question that night on their own without any prompting by me or their parents. Some students actually answered a non-homework, non-assigned question that night on their own without any prompting by me or their parents (thought I needed to add that sentence twice in case you thought there was a typo). The students were simply online somewhere and checked out our Google Classroom on their own and chose to respond. Think those or any other students would do the same for a worksheet question? Highly doubtful. For the rest of the class, I told them my story the next day in school, and then posed the mice question to them. They couldn't wait to get on Google Classroom and post their answer. The responses I that I got after school that day were so enjoyable to read. Many of my students' responses started or ended with, "Eww," or "Ewwwww," or "Oh my gosh. That guy has a whole colony in his house." But they all found the relevance in their learning and it meant enough to them to find the answer out to the scenario without me telling them to do so. 

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Posted by on in School Culture

Anyone who has worked with me can attest to the mantra I believe wholeheartedly: “Education is like a three legged stool. The school is one leg, the student is another, and the parents are the third. It takes all legs holding up their load for the stool to stand.” All legs have an equal responsibility, different, yet equal.

The school has a responsibility to provide a guaranteed and viable curriculum. Engaging lessons crafted to develop the whole child should be delivered in a safe and caring environment. Instruction should be multicultural with equity and inclusion for all. The school should provide feedback to each student in regards to closing achievement gaps. Finally, the school should introduce children to the arts to offer opportunities not always available through the family.

The student has the responsibility to be a learner, not just a student. A student infers seat time. A learner embraces and takes ownership of his learning. The learner should engage in the classroom, know where he/she is in regards to mastering a target, and be a good citizen, both in and out of the school. The learner should be open-minded, caring and respectful to all in which he encounters.

Parents need to be their children’s first teachers. Developing language, introducing literacy, and making every activity a teachable moment are parents’ responsibilities. Parents should value education and support the school and teachers in whatever manner is doable for them. They should ensure that their children are well rested and loved. Parents need to make sure that their children are on time and attend school regularly.

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Posted by on in Education Leadership

invitation

Do you send out invites to your parties, or do you just hope people hear about them through word of mouth and just show up? Unless you still live at a college frat house, chances are you send out invites. The invitations are an important part to any successful party. Without them, people don't know when, where, or even if there is a party. And it could be the best party ever, but no one would know without the invitations. 

Earlier this year,  few of my colleagues and I went to a Breakout EDU workshop. It was something we all had a strong interest in, and something that we were excited to try when we got back to school. But then, something terrible happened. We all went back to work the next day, closed our doors, and started teaching in our own self-induced, solitary confinement classrooms. What we were so excited and energized about doing (and something that required communication and collaboration), faded away as quickly as the next day came.

A few weeks went by, and I kept looking at my Breakout EDU kit that was sitting in my room since I had received it from attending the workshop. To be honest, as cool as that black, spy-looking kit looked, it was also a bit intimidating. All those locks with all those Breakout EDU games were a little overwhelming. The box was unlocked and I was still unsure whether I could break out of it or not. Then I started thinking about my colleagues who attended the workshop with me. I sent an quick email, or invitation, asking if they would like to do a Breakout EDU game together with my 6th grade math class. Everyone quickly responded with a, "YES!" That was it. That was all that was needed in order to get this party going. A simple email inviting others to join in. So, we all eagerly got together at the end of the day on Friday of that week, determined which game to do, picked a day to do it the following week, and took our kits home for the weekend to set up. We met briefly Monday to iron out any issues we encountered from the weekend with our kits, and then again at the end of the day Tuesday to get the room set up for our Breakout EDU game the next day. The next day, the day of the Breakout EDU game, we all adjusted our schedules to be there for the party. 

Now, a couple of things. First, we made time to meet. It wasn't a hour or even a half hour. We didn't request time from our principal to let us met. We just made time. It was 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there. But that time allowed us to connect and share our ideas, struggles, and excitement. Second, nothing goes the way you plan it out in your head, and this proved true once again in our planning. One of teachers accidentally locked another teacher's directional lock and had forgotten the combination to open it. Things happen, and I am glad this did happen. It allowed us to troubleshoot and problem solve together. It allowed us to come up with a solution so things like this don't happen again. Sounds eerily like a real-world situation and in school, no less! So now, when we share out Breakout EDU experience with other teachers, we can give them some preventative measures so they don't end up making the same mistakes. 

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