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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Student dignity

Posted by on in School Culture



We didn’t do anything.


She transferred here from a different school. I don’t know why. She was mostly quiet, but it was not difficult to get a smile out of her. She said she wasn’t good in science, but was killing it in chemistry, perhaps the hardest science of all. I’d like to think that in the 3 months I knew her, I reached her and got to know her a little.

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Posted by on in School Culture


My husband, who was a math major in college, received this text from our daughter, who is a veterinarian with strong math skills: "If dad is bored, he can think of a word with uppercase letters that has 5 acute angles, 2 obtuse angles and 5 right angles." This is her third grade daughter's homework. It took my husband twenty minutes to come up with LANE. My daughter also thought of VALVE. But here's the point. It was a child's homework assignment and there was no way she could ever have done it herself.

My fourth-grade granddaughter recently asked me what I was thinking to write for my next blog post. She has strong opinions and great suggestions, so I turned the question back to her, and she told me that even with an excellent and innovative teacher that she loves, it is hard to stay focused on the work all day. She shared that sometimes her orchestra music plays in her head when she is supposed to be listening. Many of her friends need balloons filled with material that makes them squishy or balls of play dough to keep them from feeling bored and frustrated. I think we grownups would call those objects stress relievers. This is for nine-year-olds.

But if we really want to see the state of education and what we have done to our young children in school, let's go back to the beginning. I recently led a discussion for parents whose children will start public school kindergarten this fall. I tried to walk a fine line between reassuring them and making them aware of inappropriate practices so they could advocate for all children, including their own.

I cautioned parents that the latest research supports that kindergarten is definitely the new first grade and its goal was to produce readers, regardless of whether children were developmentally ready or not. In the end, however, I encouraged the parents to attend the kindergarten orientation meeting at their local school to form their own opinions.

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Posted by on in Teaching Strategies

Excerpted from Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher

“It is no secret that the relationship we build with our students affects their success. A positive relationship with our students is one of our strongest defenses against disruptive behavior.

Often we try to stop misbehavior with a flurry of negative commands and injunctions against behaviors that students find more natural than the more formal or productive ones we try to teach. Many students can recite dozens of things they know they should not do. If those same students are asked to tell what their five greatest strengths are, however, many would be at a loss.

While it would be wrong to unfairly praise or encourage students for behaviors that are not acceptable to their future success, the negative attitudes that many of us carry to school with us are just as wrong. Although it is natural that we should spend so much time in our profession dealing with the errors our students make or with the things they should not do or with what’s wrong, we do need to balance this negativity by focusing on our students’ successes or strengths as well.

The long-term rewards that accrue when we focus on our students’ strengths are partly the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. When our students believe they can do some things correctly, they are going to be brave enough to take that extra risk that will generate even more success. Hateful or unkind comments, on the other hand, will destroy even the bravest student’s confidence.

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Posted by on in Classroom Management

Redirecting students skillfully is not an easy task. There is often a delicate balance between trying to gently redirect a student whose attention has wandered and disturbing the entire class. Many of us wonder just when to redirect—at the start of a problem when it is confined to just one person or when a group of students seem to be off task? As a rule of thumb, most experienced educators will agree that it is best to act fairly early and with the least intrusive methods.

When you notice students off task, try these tried and true suggestions for gently redirecting without raising your voice or embarrassing students:

1. Matter-of-factly remind all students of the behavior you would like to see from them. The key idea here is that you have already made the expectations clear for every student. All you need to do most of the time is just to calmly remind students of what the expectations are.

2. Praise students who are on task. Be explicit and direct so that any student who is off task knows what is expected and, even more importantly, how to accomplish the expected behavior.

3. Put reminders on students’ desks. You could use one color of sticky note with a smiley face on it for students who are behaving well and another color with a frownie face for those students who are not on task. Another reminder that some teachers have found useful is to walk around placing stickers on the papers of students who are on task. If you announced that you only had five stickers and were going to give them to the first five on-task students that you see, then you can expect that your students will generally rush to earn them.

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Posted by on in Professional Development

Ask me to explain symbolism in Gatsby or the narrative structure of Frankenstein. I can tell you two secrets that can help you interpret almost any poem. Who or whom – no problem. I can show you how to structure an essay, improve your style, and find your voice. This is the part of teaching that I walked out of college knowing how to do.

College did not prepare me to sit in a funeral with several students while we watched a 17 year old say good-bye to her mother which happened last week. Or go to a funeral of a student. College did not prepare me to respond to a student who tells me she is pregnant and she doesn’t know how to tell her parents. College did not prepare me to sit across from a parent during a conference who tells me through tears they have no idea why their child is struggling or what else they can do for him. College did not prepare me to be a guidance counselor, academic adviser, or role model, but I am all of these on a daily basis. Honestly, I’m not sure how to actually prepare for this part of the job.

Teachers are held accountable for teaching the standards, assessing students properly, giving constructive feedback, and getting students ready for standardized tests. I am paid to do this, and most teachers I know do a good job at this. But that’s the baseline of teaching, and my reward comes from relationships that go beyond content. If I have just taught English, I have fallen short on my goal as a teacher. I’m hoping to teach the 2Cs – communication (written and oral) and character (public and private).

I was reminded of something that I wrote earlier in my career that sums up a teacher’s life. I am reposting and telling you this so I will not be accused of self-plagiarism (yes, that’s a real thing). And while this was written by me about me, I submit this not out of a look-at-me-attitude but a this-is-a-typical-teacher’s-life perspective.

“Who would have thought that teaching American literature would have me coaching powder puff (back-to-back champs), sweating and freezing in the bleachers of too many different types of sporting events to count, playing piano for five theatre productions, writing countless college and scholarship recommendations each year, attending recitals, viewing art shows, making hospital visits, and sadly even going to funeral homes? I’ve celebrated and cried with students. I’ve cried for students. This is what teachers do. And while we do this out of love and concern for our students, the reward in the classroom is an added bonus to knowing that we have done what we set out to do in teaching – impact lives.”

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