Archives for February 2020
Pushing the boundaries and taking calculated risks is a must for every teacher. Each class, each student will present to you a unique challenge. I realized early on in my career that administration didn’t always have the solutions these challenges. These challenges can be very demanding and they can seem unreasonable and sometimes. That’s why I believe that teacher are leaders. It takes the mindset of a leader to take initiative to find solutions when they aren’t easily available. Some solutions require that you think outside the box or settle for mediocre results.
Leaders have a responsibility to constantly monitor what does and what doesn’t work. That means you have to always be thinking about the future. You have to ask yourself, “How can I improve this for my students?” As time goes on, conventional thinking becomes less than adequate to engage students and help them find success. As a result, you will have to be open to change and taking calculated risks. These types of adjustments become they represent new, unknown opportunities for student growth. Although there is uncertainty, the possibility that students will benefit greatly is too important to pass up. Here is a list of 3 things you can do to prepare yourself for your next calculated risk.
1. Talk with your supervising administrator about taking calculated risks
When you engage your administration about risk-taking, you are giving them the opportunity to learn more about your ideas and what you hope to accomplish. This ensures that they won’t be surprised if they come by your room and witness something different. Typically, principals are excited to learn that teachers are open to trying something new and innovative in the classroom.
2. Write out your plans
When you take the time to write your plans down, you are guarding yourself against any possible oversight. While there are no guarantees when taking a risk, it does help to plan and calculate ahead of time.
3. Get feedback on your plan, even if it’s from someone who disagrees
You gain a better perspective when you ask others to look at your plans. Perhaps there is something that you missed. Seek out your colleagues for feedback, even those who are prone to disagreement and pessimism. Take the feedback you can use and leave the rest.
Begin your journey to becoming a risk taker. Here is a question to get you started: when is the last time you did something for the first time?
Emotional intelligence is an important factor in the success of students. Ideally, students enter your classroom with the ability to be self-aware and manage their emotions so that they can pursue academic success. Sadly, this is not always the case and it is left to the schools to help students grow in this area. You (The Classroom Leader) have to tend to this as well as deliver outstanding instruction. Many schools are stepping up to meet the needs of students in the area of emotional intelligence. However, these lessons need to be continuously taught in the classroom as well. Often, teachers have to take the initiative to find tools/resources to address non-academic needs in the classroom.
Thankfully, there are a number of resources available to teachers to help them build their students emotional intelligence. I recently took my kids to the bookstore and we came across Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang. The main character of the book is Jim the chimpanzee. Throughout the book, other characters bring to his attention that his countenance is conveying the idea that he’s having a bad day. Jim constantly refutes this and becomes increasingly irate. Ultimately, he begins to self reflect and he realizes that he is not in a good place. He is having a bad day. What I really like about this book is that students from elementary all the way up to high school and beyond can get something from this book. I highly recommend it and I am using it with my daughter to help her stop and self reflect when she becomes emotionally charged. Lastly, don’t think that middle/high school students won’t receive from this book. Remember, there’s a certain Dr. Seuss book that sells like crazy during graduation season.
Getting students to adopt the growth mindset can be a challenging task at times. There are also other distractions and outside factors that teachers have to deal with. However, promoting growth in the classroom is not impossible. In this episode of #TMBS, I offer teachers tips they can use to motivate students to give the necessary effort to learn and grow.
As I was doing research, I came across some outstanding review activity ideas from Douglas Wise. These ideas are quick and easy to execute. Teachers should be equipped with numerous review ideas because of the variety to learning styles their students have. See below for 4 of the 10 activities:
1. Letters on the board
Choose a selection of letters and ask student to find fitting adjectives that describe a particular character. For example, take the letters B, F, I and T for Macbeth: brutal, flawed, insecure and tyrannical.
2. Find the page
Read out a quotation or a short passage from one of the texts and then ask students to find the relevant page number.
3. Find the quotation
Pick a range of adjectives that describe a particular character or identify a key theme and get students to find supporting quotations.
4. Similarities and differences
Choose two or more characters and ask students to make a list of all the similarities and differences they can think of within a short period of time.
To access the full list of the review activity ideas in addition to a downloadable word document, click here.
Your capacity to grow is found in your teacher habits. Therefore, it’s important to ask yourself, “Do I have good teacher habits?” How you begin your day can serve as the foundation for a win on that day. In this episode of #TMBS, I discuss the morning routine that I am using to increase my growth capacity and get more important things done.
Additionally, I recommend you check out Atomic Habits by James Clear. This book helped me to make it a habit of doing things that I don’t necessarily like to do.
Teachers lead and influence through their words. Words can add and they can subtract. The words that do the most damage are the ones that aren’t spoken when it comes to feedback. I can remember numerous times early in my career when I was hesitant to give feedback that I felt might hurt my student’s confidence. I didn’t want my words harm. Although I avoided giving that feedback, my students weren’t better off. They felt good about their grade, but weren’t aware of how they could grow even more. That was my experience in high school and I struggled in college as a result. Through experience, I had to learn to grow comfortable pressing through and giving my students the feedback that they needed. Here are a few tips that I use to give students feedback that leads to action.
1. Emphasize the positive first
Start by focusing on the victories. Students will warm up to the idea of receiving information that will help them grow if they believe that there is hope for them to improve.
2. Know how your students prefer to receive constructive feedback (In Private or Publicly?)
Some students can handle receiving feedback publicly so that others can hear and some can’t. Through your relationship-building, you will learn the preferences of your students.
3. Offer simple action steps to help them make the adjustments
Feedback should come with simple things that students can do in order to improve. Also, be sure to follow up with students about the actions steps given.
4. Celebrate the next attempt
The opportunity to try again is a blessing. Encourage students change their mindset and get started by going over the top to celebrate their 2nd attempt.