Learner or Teacher?

 

man working on a laptop
credit: smart-elearning.eu

The other day, while reading fellow blogger and author Carrie Rubin’s post about authors, gender, standards, and profanity/violence, I replied with my perspective as a teacher who worked with middle and high school students for many years. As a reading specialist and as a writer myself, I required lots of writing from my students and taught them that reading and writing go hand-in-hand.

My reply to her post:  Characters need to be believable and readers need to decide what’s appropriate for themselves (or with a parent, if the reader is a preteen/adolescent); a rating system isn’t necessary. I didn’t give my response a second thought when I hit Send….. I naturally define my thinking from a teacher’s perspective.

Or do I?

When Carrie thanked me for the ‘teacher perspective,’ I kind of chuckled and thought, “You’re welcome. There it is! My ‘teacher-filter’ is in full-swing again!”

But I got to thinking…..

How we learn is a big part of who I am as both learner and educator. When I had my own classes, I was constantly analyzing my instructional delivery:

  • Is it on-point?
  • Is it fun?
  • Am I being concise enough, while still including key information?
  • Am I being verbose, boring them to tears?
  • Am I talking over their heads?
  • Is it interesting to them? Can they connect what they know with what I’m teaching? (value leads to ownership: What’s in it for me?)
  • Are they getting it? How do I know? How do they know?

And all of this chatter was happening in my head while I was in the middle of instruction. Every. Day. All. The. Time. Holy cow!!

Now, as an instructional coach, I have this internal dialogue when I facilitate professional development sessions or do demonstration lessons. I also often walk into classrooms and think, “Wow! So many ways this could be taught!”

So, as I write this post, I’m thinking to myself (as I often do when I write): So what? Why am I sharing these particular thoughts? 

And in this instance, I realize this:  My perspective isn’t that of a teacher as much as it is of a learner.

I want someone to teach me who:

  • is on-point & funny/engaging/approachable
  • gives key details, but asks lots of questions to engage my thinking – often referred to as Socratic Teaching… I just call it ‘giving the learner a chance to think’!
  • speaks a language I understand – this has nothing to do with linguistics and everything to do with understanding ‘audience’
  • connects the information he or she is teaching with something in my life – a hook that pulls me in
  • a good story-teller who practices brevity
  • notices if I’m getting it or not… acknowledges when I’m struggling and puts the empowerment of struggle in its rightful place

I love learning. I love awesome teaching just as much….. whether it’s an author who makes characters ‘real’ through believable words and actions, a presenter who makes a tough subject relatable, or a parent that helps a child understand (and appreciate) diverse thinking and opinions.

little girl studying in school
credit: businessinsider.com

I used to tell my high school students that if I didn’t learn something new each day, then it was a wasted day. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but to sell the idea of learning for life’s sake (not for a test) to kiddos was a big part of my ‘mission’ you might say. Plant the seed. Lay the foundation. Whether five or fifty, learning is for life.

plant growing in soil
credit: wealthenthusiast.com

 
Learner or teacher?

Learner, first!  Always.

 

Disconnected…

A year ago, January 4, 2015, I drafted this post, but never published it. I was struggling terribly and knew that if something didn’t change soon, I’d go right over the edge. It was a really, really, tough time for me……

gasoline tank reading in car
credit: affinitycentre.co.uk

Jan 4, 2015:

What do you do when what you do is no longer what you wish to do? 

 

The clarity is undeniable.

As I write this post, it’s Sunday evening. In a few short hours, I’ll return to my high school classroom and my students, after two weeks’ winter vacation. We will catch up ~ talking of gifts and family visits, travels and test scores (ACT and SAT scores were being posted during our time off). We will laugh and tell stories. Then, we will pick up where we left off in December. Inevitably, we will count the days to our next vacation (nine).

In spite of this wonderful sharing with my kiddos, time away from the classroom continues to clarify for me:  I no longer wish to be there.  I’m ready for a new chapter.  I have disconnected….

Tony Robbins quote about change

 

In September 2014, I began putting the wheels in motion to make a change, discussing with my principal that I was ready to leave the K-12 classroom (for the second – and final – time), and didn’t want to return to the classroom at the start of 2014-15, but wasn’t completely sure what else I wanted to do… yet. I hoped he would understand my need for change. He did, thankfully, though my transition turned out to be a lengthy process. Leaving a teaching position in the middle of a school year is generally frowned upon (and not something I’d ever do under ‘normal’ circumstances), but I knew my health and mental wellbeing were being compromised with each week that went by.  I was overwhelmed, depressed, and filled with anxiety as I considered my options. I needed to get out, but what would be my next chapter? I tinkered (again) with leaving Education, but wasn’t sure ……  I desperately looked for a *sign* that would help guide me.

Soon enough, several *signs* practically hit me in the face, and I figured it out; I wanted to return to Career and Technical Education as an Instructional Coach, this time on a campus instead of at district level. While I was ready to leave the classroom, being able to interact with students every day is important to me – to stay connected to the reason we do what we do in Education (and being an administrator is not on my Bucket List). Instructional coaching allows a teacher to be part of a leadership team, but not have to manage staff, budgets, facilities, etc…. Instead, an IC focuses on supporting teachers and their students by positively influencing effective instruction – from teaching and learning strategies to time management, organization, and relationship-building – through professional conversations, modeling, side-by-side teaching, and feedback – much like an athletic coach, but without the cursing, push-ups, or laps. 😉

Time seemed endless as I waited for the ‘right seat on the bus’ to open up. It was during that time that I turned to art as a respite. As I struggled to go to my classroom each morning and my inner writing voice that had been my early-morning friend, had fallen silent as I struggled, I needed a way to focus and … cope. Exploring art and other writing forms helped me through a difficult time. Time well spent, some might say…. I’m a glass-half-full-sorta gal, after all.   RobinLK Studios was established in 2015.

baby with a fist - Success
credit: prweb.com
Fast-forward a year.

Next month, I’ll celebrate my one-year work anniversary on my current campus. Working as an IC, I help new teachers navigate the complicated waters of entering teaching, while learning how to navigate the complicated waters of working with seasoned teachers – who tell me no help is needed, thank you very much….. all the while working on my own professional shortcomings, namely, high expectations that must be tempered, so I can meet teachers where they are without stepping on toes.  The new role hasn’t been without many ‘growth opportunities’ for me, but these make me understand the bigger picture:

It’s not about us. It’s about something much bigger than each of us, which I’ve known a long time, but sometimes a swift kick in the butt is needed… just sayin’.  😉   We need to get out of our own way, sometimes.

 

So, what do you do when what you do is no longer what you wish to do?  My humble advice:

  1. Accept that change is necessary for your own wellbeing (and for those around you – who have to deal with you!).
  2. Dig deep. Ask the tough questions. Discover who you are (or as someone said to me, “Figure out your sh*#!).
  3. Find your passion.
  4. Take the leap!

 

I’ve come to realize that being disconnected isn’t a bad thing, though sad sometimes, as we leave a part of ourselves behind… Instead, it’s part of the process of life, an opportunity to see the stepping stones on our own path to something better(?), different(?)…. more fulfilling…. perhaps.

stepping stones across a river
credit: commons.wikimedia.org

 

Have you ever struggled with feeling disconnected and needing to make a change? What did you do? How did it turn out? What advice would you give others?

 

Thanks for stopping by… Wishing you a wonderful day… and clarity to get out of your own way and step on that next stone….   🙂

 

Right Turn Ahead…{Slice of Life}

right turn arrow on road
photo credit: Phillie Casablanca

 

Funny how a summer can put things in perspective.

Paradigm shift.

 

Bells ring. Students arrive.

Nine weeks come and go.

Ten. Eleven. Twelve. Thirteen.

Biding my time.

Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen.

Biding my time.

 

Then ….

email icon
photo credit: Houston Chronicle

 

Don’t get excited, but….

 

 

 

Too late.

 

Excited!

Even for Maybe.

 

Right turn ahead?

Maybe.

 

Emptying cabinets.

Sorting supplies.

Boxing books.

 

Am ready.

 

Mixed feelings about leaving mid-year.

But… not mixed feelings about leaving.

 

Am ready.

 

Waiting.

Hopeful.

 

If not now,

soon.
Slice of Life Tuesday at Two Writing Teachers

 

 

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.

Of Aqua Net and Apologies…. {Slice of Life}

Slice of Life logo
Source: http://bit.ly/1FcxMni

Recently, while hurrying through our teacher workroom before sunrise, a fellow teacher stopped me.

We worked together in Career & Technical Education a few years ago. She was a tech center instructor, while I served as an instructional coach, bringing pedagogy to CTE instructors.

Now, we both teach at the local high school.

“I owe you an apology,” she declared.

I quickly sifted through my not-yet-awake brain, but couldn’t think of a single reason. “No, I can’t imagine you do,” I answered.

“Oh, but I do,” she insisted.

Now she had my attention.

“Remember when you came out to XYZ  Tech (protecting the innocent) …  and tried to do training?”

I smiled, remembering in clear detail, the training sessions at her tech center. I listened. And kept smiling.

“Well….” she went on, apologetically, “…. we weren’t very nice to you.”

I was stunned.

Like angry waters pushing through a yielding floodgate, her words rushed through my head. “We were rude to you. We acted like snobs. We didn’t see how what you were teaching us had anything to do with us and our adult students at a tech center. We thought what you shared was for K-12 teachers, so we ignored you.”

Me {thinking}:   Never mind the tech center campus provides classes for adult and high school students, and effective learning strategies are effective learning strategies. Period.

I kept smiling, insisting that no, they weren’t rude.

Finally! I had answers to questions that bugged me back then (about four years ago)… Why did some of the participants write snarky, personal comments in their feedback?  Why was the mood so hostile?

I had never experienced such an uncomfortable training environment, one that required three training sessions over a few months and one that was in stark contrast to similar sessions happening at a fellow tech center campus, in which participants were collaborating on ways to build newly-learned strategies into their instruction, sharing how they’d tried strategies with their high school and adult students, and inviting me to visit their classes and see them in action. *Westside Tech, you were The Best to work with!! Thank you for your enthusiasm.  🙂

She pressed on….

“I had no idea what was in store for me ….. that a year later, I’d be here, teaching high school kids.  I struggle every day.”

After offering my colleague support in her current teaching assignment, we hugged as I shared, “Thank you. You helped me understand some things I wondered about for a while.”

As the first bell rang, teenagers pushed past us. We were caught up in the flood of feet heading to first period.

Aqua Net lingered on my clothing the rest of the day, reminding me that sometimes, an unexpected apology can put things in perspective….

I'm Sorry Sticky Note

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 ….)???

When Dads Walk Away…. {Slice of Life}

 

Slice of Life hosted at Two Writing Teachers. Join in and share a slice of your life.

What happens when dads walk away?

As a ‘dad-less’ daughter, I know kids are left behind to wonder why. Why did he go? Why didn’t he want me? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t he want to be around? What could I have done differently to make him stay?

Or, worse yet, kids left behind think mom pushed dad away, and surely, if mom had done things differently, then dad would’ve stayed. It’s her fault.

As a teacher, I see the fall-out, too. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes blatant. Always painful.

Last month, I asked my juniors and seniors to develop a written piece for National Day On Writing (#NDOW).  I provided three photos and asked students to choose one (or more) and write about it/them. The piece could be fiction or nonfiction, personal or not, metaphorical or literal.  As always, my kiddos did not disappoint!  Heads dropped. Pens and pencils began moving. The room was silent. The feeling, intense.

They wrote with focused purpose until the bell rang. They came back the next day and insisted we continue without interruption. We revised and edited (this was tougher to get them to do, but required).

By day three, we shared at our own comfort level. If a piece was too personal, a student did not have to share the content, but everyone had to discuss the process with his/her partners.  What an amazing three days!

Students DiscussingNDOW_Discussions2

 
During the writing process, emotions were raw for several students.

One young man, an accomplished football player and struggling student, was stuck during the first day of writing. When I asked him how I could help, he was speechless. I ventured carefully, asking which photo he chose. The dark, stormy one. I wasn’t surprised, based on his expression. Then I suggested he create a bubble map to organize his thoughts. Several students were creating their own that day:

 

Graphic Organizer

 

Tears began to fill his dark eyes. He hastily brushed them away. I backed off.

A few minutes later, when I came back around, I noticed a few words on his paper:  dad, confused, success, failure. He looked up, met my eyes, and said nothing. I quietly moved on and left him to reflect and write.

By the third day (sharing day), my student had written a brief piece and discussed the process with his partners. His content was his.  His process, he was ready to discuss … mostly.

Fast-forward a month, to this past week. 

My students have been honing their ability to identify and interpret figurative language and author’s tone in print and non-print text, and assess the impact of each on a reader/viewer.   As I worked with small groups, various students had interesting, funny, and thoughtful ideas, examples, and questions to share. Then came the group with the young writer.

As we finished our small-group discussion and began to clean up before the bell, my young football player-turned-writer said, “Mrs. Kyle, I want to show you something,” as he took out his phone. I get a kick out of this line from students, because I never know what I’m about to see! 😉

As he swiped through his phone and found what he wanted to share with me, he mentioned Will Smith, and said, “I have this video clip that you just reminded me of, when we were talking about tone.  Watch all of the emotions Will Smith goes through and how his tone changes.”  With that, he hit play. The video clip was in his SAVED YouTube list.

As we watched the clip together, leaned in over his phone at the conference table in our classroom – his back to his classmates – I could feel other students looking on, but no one interrupted. My young writer watched my face for reaction as we watched the clip together. Tears filled my eyes. I looked up and saw they filled his, too.

 

As the clip ended, he said softly, “This makes me cry every time I watch it.”

I replied quietly, “It made me cry, too. My dad left when I was very little. I always wondered why. Thank you for sharing it with me.”

He nodded and the bell rang.

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.

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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.