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Posted by on in What If?

green dragon

Over the years I have read and discussed learning environments with a wide variety of educators. Teachers bringing in flexible seating, balls, couches, and standing tables all to create an atmosphere in which kids can be comfortable and enjoy the learning process. Then something happened ... my Principal, Mr Sears (@JSAPrincipal), went to see Ron Clark and came back talking about his school and how the classrooms are themed ... different ... take on a life of their own.

This got me thinking.

At the time I was teaching 6th grade Ancient World History so I decided to create something to do with world history. I was chatting with some students and the idea arose ... a high top table with some Roman arches. Not only will it create a new place to sit, but it will also be a teaching prop.

Here the students are sitting at the Ancient Roman inspired high-top seating area. The stools the kids are sitting on are converted desks. A local upholstery shop made some nice padded covers for the desks and the kids LOVE them.

The level of excitement the kids had was contagious. This high-top seating area changed the vibe of the class. I already had a nice sectional that was donated, but this piece I built was transforming my room. No longer was it just a classroom ... the classroom was becoming a part of history. As the end of the year was coming I began planning my Summer building activities to further transform my room. Then teaching assignments for the upcoming school year came out and I found out I was no longer teaching 6th grade Ancient World History, I was being moved to 8th grade US History from 1st Contact to the Civil War. It was all good, but I knew my plans had to be changed and more than likely my Roman arches would have to go.

The change in content was not going to deter me from my goal of transforming my learning environment. I just had to change direction. As Summer began I started doing some research. The initial plan was to create and Italian coffee shop, but so I was looking for something that would have the same type of feel. A place where people would meet and converse. My research led me to Colonial Taverns as they served as a place where people of all social classes could go to find out the news of the day and discuss events happening around them. One place in particular was the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston A place where revolutionaries met ... now this was my type of attitude I wanted to have in my class. I adopted the name Green Dragon Classroom and even came up with a logo.

Yes, I am patterning my classroom after a Revolutionary War meeting place. The Roman columns have been dismantled, recut and made into the Green Dragon Sound cart, which will hide my 21st century technology ... and my 15 inch subwoofers.

The top part will serve as a place to set the laptop, printer, and other tech supplies. Material will also be placed over the speakers to further hide them from view. The whole point of this is change the ambiance of the classroom from the mundane to something historical where the room becomes part of the teaching. In the works are two tables, one high top with built-in book shelf, and a broad display case. I am building all of these items using scrap plywood from a local business so the only real cost is my time and eventually the stain needed to give this furniture some color.

Will my room be as spectacular as the Ron Clark Academy? Probably not because they have a bit more money and donations than I do. I am just one teacher working on a budget of ZERO dollars, but you will be amazed what can happen when you set your mind to doing something.

Stay tuned for more posts on my Green Dragon Classroom adventure.

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Posted by on in What If?

You get what you expect in this world. That is a mantra that I live by, both with raising my children and overseeing students in my school. Having high expectations is paramount to student achievement, good behavior, teacher professionalism, and parent engagement.

When I was the principal of a rural high school high in the mountains of Colorado I took a radical measure based upon my high expectations for all students. I raised the eligibility policy standards to proclaim that students could not participate in any extracurricular activities with any grades less than a C. D did not stand for dance in my building. Students had to have Cs or better in all classes to play sports, go to a dance, or participate in the school play. Was this popular at first? With the teachers, yes! With the students, not so much.

Now granted we had safety nets in place to ensure that we were giving students a lot of support to make this happen. We had tutoring three days a week. Grades were checked by advisors on Mondays with eligibility running on Friday. This way students had all week to retake tests and get items turned in. We set the wheels in motion and did the culture ever change!

Tutoring was packed every day.  Classwork and assessments took on a whole new meaning. Students retook tests after spending time with the tutors and all of a sudden the grades began to improve across the building. Students were excited with their success and often would run into my office to show me their grades. We had turned the culture into one that displayed pride in academics instead of apathy.

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Posted by on in What If?

child and computer

There’s an ongoing debate about the use of digital devices in the early childhood classroom. And, to be perfectly honest, there are few who are more skeptical – and worried – than I am. So I invited Warren Buckleitner, author of Buckleitner’s Guide to Using Tablets with Young Children, to Studentcentricity in an effort to shed some light on the subject. Also joining us for what turned out to be a lively and informative discussion were Diane Levin, co-author of Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education, and early childhood expert Heidi Veal.

Diane’s takeaway, which she sent me following the conversation, is indicative of her concerns and comments (like me, she’s a worrier where this topic is concerned):

Warren Buckleitner provides us with much valuable information on very engaging and appropriate ways to use technology with young children.What he does not do is provide the complimentary information we need to understand how to fit this technology into the development of the “whole” child---e.g., how to help children find their own unique ways to become engaged in the real world and become develop self-regulation strategies and behaviors without the benefits of a screen.

Warren chose not to send a takeaway, but Heidi more than made up for that with hers, which follows:

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Posted by on in What If?

hug

I write blogs because I literally lie awake at night wondering what I can do to have an impact on this world.  So many thoughts run in and out of my head and the clock continues to tick away.  Soon the sun rises on another day and the daily routine begins.  When the day closes with another sunset my mind begins to waken.

For the first time ever I’m going to let you into my mind (blog factory as I’m starting to call it) and give you a glimpse at what is constantly taking place there.  Now I know this may not be as exciting as Charlie’s Chocolate Factory or Santa’s Toy Shop, but in any event I’m going to take you where no one has ever gone.  A place where questions are in abundance, hope is at an all-time high, and passion flows like a river.  You are going to want to check this out.  Keep reading.

Enter my mind

How can we make this world better?  What if media stations all over the world could only air positive news?  Negative news could only be aired if it served a purpose to protect the public.  What if the lottery gave three-hundred people a million dollars instead of giving a giant prize of three-hundred million to one person?  What if they gave a half-million to six-hundred people?  What if we all decided that the Lottery could give the three-hundred million to a charity?

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Tagged in: inspire

Posted by on in What If?

Motivation

It’s hard to imagine that there’s a teacher anywhere who hasn’t heard by now that intrinsic rewards offer children more than extrinsic rewards – that, in fact, extrinsic rewards can have long-term negative consequences for kids. Still, gold stars and praise and other such rewards have a strong hold in the classroom.

Part of the reason for that, of course, is that teachers find the idea of intrinsic reward much more abstract. It’s so much easier to offer pizza or ice cream to the students who read the most books!

Another likely reason is that, even if they’re firm believers in the need for intrinsic reward, teachers often don’t know how to make the transition from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation. That’s why I invited education coach David Ginsburg, who writes and speaks on this topic, and educator and psychologist Joan Young to talk with me on Studentcentricity.

Here are some of the points made during our discussion:

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