Get Your Creative On!

Left - Right Brain Graphic
source: trend-kid.com

Are you creative? It’s amazing how often people say they aren’t.

I’m fascinated by ‘creativity’ – the stuff that happens in the Right Brain – the process of creativity and the gazillion ways to demonstrate it, the psychological, spiritual, and physical need for it in my own life, and its incredibly important (and often overlooked) role in learning, so I was pleased (and surprised) to discover this morning that we’re in the middle of World Creativity and Innovation Week, a movement begun in 2001 and celebrated each year, April 15 – 21, around the world.  According to their website, during the annual week,

people are acknowledged, informed, inspired and encouraged to use their creativity – to be open to and generate new ideas, to be open to and make new decisions and to be open to and take new actions – that make the world a better place and to make their place in the world better too.”

Curious? Click [here] to learn more.

Then, go get your own Creative on!  🙂

Quote about Creativity
source: spinnabellee.com

 

Have a great weekend and Happy Creating! If you need to find me, I’ll be in my art studio….   🙂

~ Robin

From Every Book…. Learning the Pleasures of Being Literate {Slice of Life}

I wonder:    Who taught you the pleasures of reading and writing?  Did you discover them in high school? Earlier? Later?

High school student writing at his desk

In my high school Intensive Reading/Critical Thinking class, it takes a while to get students to ‘buy into’ reading for pleasure.  It’s not uncommon to hear, “You want us to read???” followed by:  Do we get a grade??

My classes are a mix of AP and Honors students who don’t use strategies (because they ‘know how to read’) and are insulted that they’re in my class, thinking they most certainly do not need to be, and struggling and reluctant readers who haven’t read for pleasure in years and have limited knowledge and nearly no use of reading skills and strategies or critical thinking.  They’re also insulted, because in spite of their limited skills and strategies, they’ll tell you they can read just fine and WILL graduate.

You can imagine how much fun the first six – nine weeks of each school year are for me.

Call me persistent. I plug away at showing them how ‘normal’ reading and writing really are.

I demonstrate the ‘naturalness’ of reading and writing every day. I share how I stumble on to new words in most things I read, I talk about current writing projects, and I find ways to tie the two together.  I tell them, “We’re always readers and writers. This is not about school. This is about life.”

I am Chief Learner, right beside them, never assuming to know it all, willing to show what I don’t know, and genuinely excited to learn new stuff……

This seems to alleviate some anxiety for some students, once they trust me.  But it’s a slooooow process.

Trust me.    Really.Slow.

In August, my reluctant and struggling juniors and seniors look at me like I’ve lost my mind, have three heads, am speaking a foreign language. Their eyebrows furrow, their arms cross defiantly across their chest, and an unknown power seems to pull some of them lower and lower and lower in the chair ~ as if swallowing them up so they don’t have to hear this nonsense.

You can almost hear inside some of their heads, (but thankfully, not!), “What is up with this lady? Has she lost her mind, talking about reading and writing like it’s something people do, something she expects US to do!?”

The AP and Honors students typically take out a book to read the first opportunity they get.  They seem to be thinking, “This might be the one saving grace to this class!”  The reluctant and struggling readers find this odd or just plain stupid.

Then September arrives. A few more books and magazines are evident on Wednesdays.

By October, most students have found something to read, even if it’s ONLY for the 30 minutes each week.

 

Girl on desk, reading
I encourage my HS readers to get comfortable…..

Sometime after October, though, the magic begins……

  • Mrs. Kyle, I’ve got a book on my phone. Is that okay?
  • Mrs. Kyle, I got a new magazine. Can I bring it Wednesday?
  • Mrs. Kyle, my friend told me about a book. Can I go pick it up from the Media Center?
  • Mrs. Kyle, can I borrow this book to take home and read?
  • Mrs. Kyle, I brought my e-Reader. Check out this book!

Finally, even the most reluctant readers find that treasure that makes me them sit still and just…. disappear for 30 minutes…..

Reluctant reader settles in for independent reading

With little time to read for pleasure and wanting so much for my kiddos to find that pleasure, I’m thrilled when all students, even the reluctant ones, find the sweet spot… that book or magazine that works just.for.them.

No longer do I have to babysit or ‘police’ Wednesday Reading.  I can actually sit back, enjoy my own books (while keeping half an eye on kiddos… just in case), and model my own love of reading, my own literacy. I often notice kids glancing up at me, as if to see if I’m really reading, too.

During a recent Wednesday Reading Day, as fifth period was coming to an end (and I closed my fifth book ~ I’m a grazing nonfiction reader) this thought popped into my head for Six-Word Wednesday….

 

Six Word: From Every Book....

 

I quickly jotted it down and in the last eight minutes of class, I shared it on the doc cam/screen.

I showed my kiddos where this thought came from:  the five books I had sampled that day ~ two books on my iPad/Kindle and three print books I brought to school, telling students, “When I get bored or distracted or interested in some other topic, I change books.”

Puzzled faces.

I often tell them, “As a nonfiction reader, it’s okay to close one (book, Web tab, magazine, etc….) and open another when things get…… well, boring.  “And, as a writer, I’m always finding interesting things in everything I read.”

I showed my Kindle library on the big screen and held up the three books I had been reading/annotating, flipping through pages so the highlights and margin notes were evident.  I explained that, as a writer examining other writers’ work, I liked the content of one, but not the writer’s voice and that I liked the layout of another, but not the content.  Students listened intently.

I pointed to my reading motto on the wall:   Life is too short to read boring stuff.   Read.Good.Stuff!  

A senior then asked, “Is Kindle free? How do you get it?” while another asked, “What’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction?”

Me {in my head}:  I’ve talked about – and demonstrated – the difference several times this school year, but apparently, you weren’t ready to hear the message. Today is your Need to Know Day.  Welcome to the Literacy Club.

Aloud, I once again briefly mention the differences.

“Thanks!” he cheerfully replies. “That helps.”

It’s amazing what we learn when we don’t assume what kids know and we teach them the pleasure of reading and writing… even when they’re 18 and 19 years old.

Join us every Tuesday and share a slice of your life at TWT.

Tell Us About Yourself: Sending an Introvert Into a Tailspin

Freaked out at the thought of having to introduce yourself to strangers?

 

Quiet Book Cover
Source: http://bit.ly/1wZT1oc

Several months ago I blogged about my BIG discovery {here}, after reading Susan Cain’s, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, last December.  What a great read!  In it, she discusses introverts in our society and society’s response to them.  She writes, “The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.”

 

 

 

You can see her TED Talk here:

If you’re an introvert, you know she’s singing the gospel… Now, if everyone would just get quiet and listen….!! Right?

What was particularly enlightening to me ~ other than discovering I’m really an introvert camouflaged in an extrovert’s body ~ (light bulb moment!) was to learn why my instructional style is so challenging for some of my students…. You know, the ones who are also introverts, but not masquerading as an extrovert.

These guys and gals take quiet and attentive (qualities a teacher appreciates) to a much higher level, often edging closer to a referral for what appears to be open defiance because they will refuse to participate than have to talk with peers (and/or me).  Yes, it happens!  Maybe you were one of those kids? Maybe you’re raising one?  If so, might be helpful to give your kiddos’ teachers a little insight.  *Not taught in teacher-school.

Turns out, my collaborative classroom approach overwhelms introverted kiddos ~ as probably happens in many classrooms (fellow teacher-types, take note from this slow learner!).  This was a HUGE a-ha! moment for me… during my 20th year in the classroom.  As I read her book, I found myself saying, “That explains a LOT!”

When I reflected on how some of my classes are markedly different from others, it occurred to me:

Those classes that require me to cajole students to talk to one another and/or me {and they still refuse} are the classes in which introverts rule.  They are silently in control! 

When classes resumed after winter vacation last January, I was ready! Armed with this epiphany, I greeted my 2nd period class and told them what I finally understood. Poor kids.  They were visibly relieved. It was as if you could hear them whispering, “Finally, she gets us! Took her long enough!”  😉

HUGE difference between first and second semesters, as I gave my students latitude in how they would interact with their peers (and me), balancing the need to teach effective collaboration skills with giving students a ‘comfortable, safe’ learning environment that worked for everyone.

Electronic communication turned out to be a helpful way to get introverted students to interact.  Much has been written about the interface, including this article for Time by Cain. I have seen it first-hand, having students who didn’t utter a word for an entire semester, become involved in peer and student/teacher discussions when they could interact behind the safety of a keyboard.  Win-win!

Things were much calmer for me, too.  It was nice to have one class a day in which the kids weren’t swinging from the rafters a quiet disposition was expected and appreciated by my students. I didn’t have to be ‘on stage’ to get my point across.  Now if I could just get my other classes to try out this calmer, more focused presence….  Bliss, it would be pure bliss.

I’m kidding. It would be boring as all get-out!

*Interesting side note:  My ‘introverted’ class has been period 2 for three years running. Entirely different groups of kids from year to year, yet it’s consistently 2nd period.  Wonder why?   I smell an action research project lurking in the shadows…. 

Fast-forward eleven months.

Last week, I read a blog post from doc-turned-author Carrie Rubin {here} about her own embarrassing moment with introversion, and her advice for those of us who develop trainings or meetings for others.  As a presenter/PD facilitator/instructional literacy coach, I hadn’t ever considered how introverts might feel in my sessions. But once again, it sure explained a LOT about some participants’ sudden trips to the restroom or to ‘take a call’ when introductions begin.

According to Carrie, introverts are terrified to hear “Tell us about yourself…”  Wow!  This was an eye-opener for me… but makes perfect sense.  Now, when I’m plan sessions, I’ll remember to give participants a heads-up with plenty of ‘think time’ ~ to collect their thoughts and plan their words. Thanks, Carrie!

How about you?

Introvert? Extrovert?

Incognito??

Raising one (or two, or three ….)???

Becoming Unnecessary

Number Five
A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.

Thomas Carruthers

Become unnecessary?  Why would I do that?

Because as teachers and as parents, it’s our responsibility to our students/children.

My two cents??

Teach kids the definition of integrity: what you do when no one is looking,” … and get out of the way.

Ever wonder why some teachers seem to just have it all together?  You walk into their room and things are humming along.  These folks might be your colleagues or they might be your own kids’/grandkids’ teachers.  What makes things different in these classrooms?

If you’re a teacher with a classroom, a student in a classroom, or have visited a classroom, how would you describe it?  Chaotic? Organized? Learning-centric? Student-centric? Teacher-centric? Lacking any learning at all?

My goal is simple:  Make myself unnecessary to my students.

Let students own their learning, own their behavior, own our daily routines, and let them know they’re in control. If you’ve dealt with a toddler, tween, or teen, you KNOW what I’m talking about.

Let students/children do what they choose, within established parameters. Teach them to run the classroom, so when a Substitute Teacher (hardest job on a campus!) fills in, students can carry on their daily routines.  Whether they actually do can be a 50/50 crapshoot, but set the standard and watch for the outcome.  When they miss the mark, it’s time to pay the piper.  When they shine, it’s time to celebrate!

It’s not perfect, but Subs often report after my absence, “Great day! These are good kids. Please call on me anytime.” THAT is what I want to hear. Students are in control – of themselves and our classroom.  Bravo!

So what works?   (usually)

 What I’ve learned in  20 years….

As I write this and think about kiddos in general, I think these five could be applied to home life, too, right?  Kids need structure and organization. Heck, we all do … to be successful.  Well, the seating chart might be a bit overboard for home ….

1.  Establish policies and procedures.   Spend time thinking about how you want things to look and sound in your classroom. Make a list. Be clear about policies vs. procedures.  Then, describe in detail, all of the policies (what we do) and the procedures (how we do) for your class, in writing, in your syllabus/Wk 1 packet.  Leave nothing to chance.

  • Want students to sign in to the orange notebook by the front door and put their tardy pass in the blue basket if they arrive late to class? Then say it. In writing. In person. In practice.  (This continues to be a struggle for some of my students… really?!?)
  • One of the most common things I hear from fellow teachers is, “Students should know what to do.”  And I think, Really?  Do you just know all the policies and procedures when you start a new job?  Or, does someone give you an employee handbook and maybe some tips/guidelines?  Give your students a handbook. Leave nothing to chance.
  • Teach students to follow written and verbal directions. I get The.Most.Pushback from students on this one. I tell them, “Bosses expect you to follow directions. Clients expect you to follow directions. Test-makers expect you to follow directions. College admissions officers expect you to follow directions.”  When asked why they didn’t follow the directions that are on the board – in writing – and repeated verbally – students say (when pressed beyond I don’t know), “.. because I’m lazy.”  It’s true. Students admit ‘lazy’ all the time in my classroom.  I admit being lazy sometimes, too. Kids are shocked to hear this.  Lazy is easy. Tip to kids:  It’s a two-way street. We’re in it together. Now, let’s get past lazy and get things done.

2.   Color-code everything. Yes, even in high school! Think about it:  Isn’t it more efficient to say to a student who asks (and some always do!), “What did I miss yesterday?” to go check the pink notebook on the shelf than to say, “Go check the notebook on the shelf” and there are three other notebooks. What’s the student say next? “Which notebook?” (even though they’ve asked you ten times already this year).  Now you’ve got lots of extra discussion. Avoid it.  Color-code everything (including notebooks and baskets) and teach students from Day 1 the routines (When you are absent, you will check the pink notebook when you return to class).

3.  Create a seating chart.  For sure, there are several ways to go about this.  I’ve tried most. Try and try again, right??  Here’s my take on a few:

  • Option A:  Let students sit where they want for the first day or two of school. This allows you to (covertly) identify potential issues (buddies sitting together, slackers/sleepers), etc…. ~ Once you’ve identified the potential issues, build YOUR seating preferences and have it ready to go when students walk in. Be ready for whining. Too bad, so sad. Nonnegotiable. Thank you (with a smile).
  • Option B:  Have a seating chart the first day students walk in.  Meet students at the door. Greet them. Give them a ticket or sticky note with a # on it that corresponds to a number on your roster (b/c yes, students will swap tickets). Direct them to find their designated seat. This helps with attendance and establishes your classroom management from Minute #1 (always a good thing).
  • Option C:  Let students pick their seats and you fill in a chart. I do not recommend this for most K-12 classes. *Note: I had the opportunity to see this option play out early this school year, as a first-year teacher (and friend) decided to “trust her students and let them pick their own seats.”  By Week three, she was crafting a carefully considered seating chart. 😉

In case you’re wondering, Option A stands for Awesome in my book.   🙂

4.   Label everything.  Everything:  cabinets, drawers, crates, doors, teacher area, student areas, pen/pencil cups, computers, tables in specific locations, folders, notebooks …. eveeeerythiiiing.

classroomlabels1

5.   Rock the wall space!  Make it count.  Display things that help students be successful, you be successful, and help classroom guests understand what they’re observing.

uploaded to pc aug 10 2013 1284

In Florida, teachers are currently evaluated under the Marzano model, with unending requirements, also known as 41 elements.  While I agree with the philosophy behind the model, I am annoyed at ~ and exhausted by ~ the relentless directives about how to do things, all to get crappy ineffective teachers on board (or out the door).  I’m annoyed because compliance doesn’t work. Ineffective teachers do a dog-and-pony show when someone walks in, then go back to doing crappy as soon as the door shuts, while the rest of us are exhausted, working 10+ hours a day just to keep up with all those ridiculous mandates.  *Administrators, pleeeeaaase, get these people out of our schools!

Kids talk.

Some teachers people have NO business being in the classroom (because they’re not teachers… they’re paycheck collectors).

Soapbox
Source: http://mediarelations.illinoisstate.edu/report/1213/april9/soapbox.asp

Climbing down from the soapbox ……

Back to those walls….

  • Word Walls (yes, in high school ~ most important in content-area classrooms!)
  • lists of frequently used resources, such as Internet sites,
  • instructions for how to do something (sign in before using the computer)
  • college/career/military information prominently displayed

 

How about quotes that teach, inspire, and encourage?  A few of those strategically placed, go a looong way.  One of my first Community Building assignments (weeks 1 & 2) asks students to look carefully around the classroom, choose a quote that speaks to them, and write about it.

From inspiration to procedures and expectations, wall space is great real estate. Make it count!
From inspiration to procedures and expectations, wall space is great real estate. Make it count!

What kids choose, says a lot about them. What kids say, says even more.

Sooo… How unnecessary are you? 

To your students?  To your employees?  To your family??

What can you teach others to do for themselves?  How much are you willing to turn over?

If you home-school, do your children own it, or do you?

What would happen if you let go …. a little?

If your kids/grandkids are in school, what’s their teacher’s classroom looking/sounding like?

I encourage you to visit.

Early Childhood Ed: Tykes, Testing, and (Future) Teachers

This post was first published in 2011.  At the time, I was a member of our district’s CTE Instructional Support team.  Since then, I returned to my own academic classroom, where I’ve spent the past three+ years.  Now, with a wish to return to CTE, I’m sharing an answer to the question I get from fellow academic teachers in my current high school:  What’s Career and Technical Education?  Isn’t that for at-risk kids?  My answer:  No way!  It’s definitely not your father’s shop class anymore.  🙂

-> -> -> ->   Remix debut:   November 2014

 

Rigor + Relevance + Relationships

 What do you get when all three are in balance?

Join me for a tour of a colorful, productive, high-energy, Career and Technical high school class ……..

 

Imagine taking a basic beige high school classroom and turning it into rainbow sherbetcolored walls, miniature chairs and desks, building blocks, comfy carpets, picture books galore, lunchboxes, blankets, pillows and the occasional puzzle.  Throw in tossed-about shoes that fit the tiniest of feet and cool craft supplies kept neatly on the tots’ little table.   Add toddlers with unending  energy, teenagers with lots of patience and creativity, and a teacher whose passion is evident in the gazillion details she lovingly addresses in her Early Childhood Education classroom.

During my time as a CTE Instructional Support Teacher, I’ve gotten to  visit CTE classrooms, talk with students, and experience all the amazing  things happening in Career and Technical Education programs in our district.  It’s definitely one of the best parts of my job, and on the days that I can escape the minutiae of paperwork, reports, and meetings ~ otherwise known as ‘a day in the office’ ~ I happily steer my car toward a school and spend a few hours visiting students and their teachers.

I recently enjoyed such a day.

Early Childhood Education teacher, Jennifer Houston,  invited me to visit her classroom to see her students in action and learn about all the things happening in their very busy world.  (Actually, she’s been inviting me for months; I was finally able to steal away for a few hours!)

Let’s take a peek …..

Colorful walls transform a high school classroom into an exciting learning environment for wee ones.

Tile walls suggested by Mr. Houston (Yes, Mrs. Teacher’s Hubs).  With the help of said husband and a few generous parent volunteers, Jennifer turned her basic beige wall into a work of art, carefully designed, and decorated with wonderful learning tools for the wee ones.  Can you say O-R-G-A-N-I-Z-E-D???

 

Little tykes in all shapes and sizes… definitely not shy.  Sweet. Curious.  Energetic. Very smart!  Los of fun, showing me around their classroom, asking if I was a student or a guest.

 Cubbies for personal belongings and daily reports, written by the high school students who work with the children.

SAMSUNG

 

 

 

 

High school students complete  program  requirements to be a licensed childcare employee or  credentialed teacher: multiple competencies,  a professional portfolio,  many hours working directly with children, and a myriad of tests, to name a few.

Students (and children) in Jennifer’s class use the latest technologies to enhance their learning, including laptops, funded by a grant, and an interactive whiteboard, a tool often underutilized by many educators.    In this class, the interactive whiteboard really is interactive as teacher and students use it during lectures and projects.

A simple purple line divides the high school classroom setting from the childcare lab school side ….  students who aren’t ready yet to work directly with the children are able to observe them from their side of the classroom.  It seems the wee ones will ‘visit’ the high school students and ‘help them’ with their learning, too.  🙂  Fantastic!  Would we call this ‘intergenerational’ learning??

 

To  prepare  to work with the children,  high school students must pass rigorous testing  first.  Jennifer reminds them daily with an easy-to-read board loaded with up-to-date, Need to Know information.  No guessing here!

  

When students  finish their assignments,  they can read a few pointers from former students…..

In a school year (2010 – 11) when CTE programs are being cut due to industry certification issues, and budget deficits are resulting in  massive teacher cuts, public protests, and union rebuttals,  I invite politicians,  administrators, parents, and community members to visit classrooms that reflect the roll-up-your-sleeves work ethic that prepares students to  enter the workforce with skills and credentials needed to be  successful, contributing members of society.

  Not all classrooms are alike and neither are the teachers who inhabit them.  

Some just seem to radiate success a little more than others, shining a little brighter, and often are a bit (lot!) noisier than those of colleagues, as the din of educational energy escapes under the door.  These classrooms have teachers who set high standards, and students who take pride in owning their learning.  These classrooms remind me of  colleagues who became friends over the years…. (you know who you are!).  Gems  indeed, and always worth the extra effort to seek out, visit, and learn something new.

 Jennifer Houston’s Early Childhood Education class is definitely one of those gems.  

Mrs. Houston, with one of her wee ones.
 Thank you Jennifer, for your classroom hospitality, and for *ALL* you do!

 

Cheers for Process AND Simplicity

I love it when working the process ends with a positive result, don’t you?

I also love customer-centric business sense:  Make it user-friendly.  Keep it simple.

This Week’s Process:  Question confounded me.  Process began.  Struggled, walked away, pondered, came back, tinkered awhile, struggled some more, walked away (again), and finally….. got it!

Backstory:  I began blogging in 2009, trying out WordPress and Blogger.  I  started with WP, selecting a title and exploring the dashboard, but found it too advanced for my newbie technical skills (read: nearly none!).  I moved over to Blogger, a simple place to hone my technical and writing skills. Check out my first post ‘ever’ [here].

Blog posts included the ups and downs of running, eating healthfully, positivity, and eventually, professional stuff (added in 2010).  Result?  Big ‘professional stuff content gap’ from 2010 – 2014 on WordPress, with plenty of posts over on Blogger.

Fast-forward to Last Week.  Need? To get the words out of my head and writer’s notebook, into my blog, and combine two blogs’ content. But how?  Let the struggle begin. 

Pleasantly, I discovered WP is now more user-friendly, with an efficient dashboard that combines simplicity with necessary features.

Meantime, behind the scenes, I struggled with Blogger’s new dashboard requirements, use of external providers for custom domains, blah-blah-blah.

If you noticed moisture trickling from your computer recently, it might have been my sweat. No kidding. There was a LOT of struggling going on:  advanced settings, dns settings, IP addresses, more stuff I didn’t understand or care to figure out right then.  Geez.

Result, One Week Later:  Two blogs blended. Figured it out Friday night. Archives tripled in size.  I wonder:  Could it have been the DD coffee and red velvet cupcake for dinner??  😉

With one click, the process ended with a positive outcome.  Thank you WordPress for keeping it simple and efficient.  Thank you Google Search and YouTube for answering my gazillion questions.  Thank you Blogger for giving me a place to grow over those years.

Kismet? Maybe.  I began with WordPress in 2009.  Now I’m back. My words have a safe place to gather….

On to tidying up broken links and polishing old posts for Remix debuts.  Let the editing begin!

10 Steps to Building Community in the Classroom

I’m often asked, “Robin, you always talk about ‘community‘ in your classroom.  How do you build it?”

Great question! I’ve found over the years that building classroom community requires lots of “front-end loading” on my part, and as instructors, we can make a HUGE difference in our students’ learning experiences just by choosing to tackle these steps (or not).

  1. I always start with the end in mind.  Thank you, Dr. Stephen Covey.
    • What do I want to know about my students?
    • What do I want my students to know about me?
    • What do I want my students to know about each other?
    • How will this information be useful, to my students and to me?
  2. Determine how much time you will devote to building classroom community.  One day?  One week?  More than a week? Ongoing?  I write this into my lesson plans.
  3. Choose methods and tools for collecting the information: surveys, assessments, open-ended responses, checklists, peer conversations in the classroom (live), online forums/threads, posts in an LMS (Learning Management System), skits, monologues, or possibly dialogues.  The list is endless.
  4. Prepare methods and tools for ease of use and in varying modalities: online, paper/pencil, creative versions.
  5. Explain to students what will be happening – building a classroom community – and compare to neighborhoods.  Talk about how and why to build a classroom community.
  6. Engage students in the process, requiring purposeful conversations, reflective writing, and time for feedback/input.
  7. Make notes about students as they share, interact, and ask questions: What are their strengths? What are their interests? Share results when appropriate, such as True Colors self-assessments.
  8. Talk frequently with students about how working together strengthens learning and teaching experiences.  They find this interesting.
  9. Be open with students, sharing about yourself what you feel is appropriate – interests, challenges, goals, hobbies, frustrations.  Students tell me this makes me ‘real’ and ‘approachable’ as a teacher.  The thing my students probably find most fascinating about me is that reading makes me fall asleep. Since I’m a reading instructor by trade, they laugh at this!
  10. Organize the course in advance, and change things frequently to keep the class fresh.

Now, I can hear some of you (many?) saying to me, “Robin, there is no way that I have time to do all that.  And there’s no way that you do all that!”

Truth is, I’ve ‘tested’ my commitment to building community, and when I don’t take the time to do so, I have a significant increase in disciplinary issues, assignment misunderstandings, and not-so-positive phone calls from home, even at the college level!

On the contrary, when I do take the time to develop a sense of community, students take ownership of their learning environment and course management much more readily (not all, but most), and report a higher degree of satisfaction during and at the end of the course.

Why?  Because we all want to feel valued, important, and needed.  Taking the time to build the classroom community shows your commitment to students’ positive learning experiences.

And what happens when you don’t take the time and just go through the motions?  Read the answers posted to a recent prompt on plinky.com, a website that asks a random question daily to spark your thinking.  The prompt was, “Describe your worst teacher ever.”  Surprisingly, the answers are similar across grade levels, elementary to college:  lack of interest on the part of the instructor, boring, unmotivating, and the list goes on….

Does that mean we have to entertain students?  No, I don’t believe so, but it does mean that we need to understand that ‘education’ has changed and we have a professional responsibility to meet students where they are, which we can’t do if we don’t know anything about them.

How would you answer the prompt? You can read my response here.