Inclusion? Inclusive? Respect…

Inclusion? Inclusive?  Respect…

This morning, on my way to work, I was thinking about the notion (yes, notion…) of inclusion.  I’d spent a day and a chunk of change to attend a workshop on inclusion in the school community. I got to thinking…Inclusion? Inclusive?  What’s the difference?

Have you ever joined a new group?  They’ve posted a call for new members looking for fresh faces and fresh ideas and you think, “This might be someplace for me to contribute as well as to learn and grow.”

You put on your strongest face and brave the first meeting.  When you introduce yourself, you explain that you saw the call and thought you could… well… contribute, learn and grow.  You explain that you’ve been following the group or it’s chapter for some time.  You’re a subscriber to their values and beliefs and really feel open to the possibilities you can bring to the table. They appear enthusiastic and you feel the possibilities growing in your heart.

But along the course of the coming months, you see the leader of the group at other events.  The first time, you greet him/her warmly.  But he/she seems ceremonious in his/her greeting.  You think, well, perhaps he/she is busy with the events at hand. 

But the second, third time you meet/see this person out and about, you’re sure that he/she has seen you. And you see that look.  The one that comes from the corner of their eyes.  Their eyes avert yours and you begin to feel uncomfortable.  You’re not sure why.  Not sure why they would avert their eyes.  You’re not sure what you may have done.  After all, you only see this person occasionally and most often at the group meetings.


I couldn’t help but wonder: do we know that we do these things?  What is that about?  Do we do these to our students?  How does the ‘inclusion’ become ‘inclusive’?  When does inclusion become more than a model? 

As I pondered this idea, it occurred to me that inclusion moves to inclusive when respect is present. 

I know I’m not the first to see this connection.  In the workshop I mentioned earlier, the speakers spoke about the efforts they used to make inclusion their schools an accepted model.  The speakers talked about character education; building respect was tops on the list.

During the workshop presentations, the speakers, as you would expect, spoke about how each of us have differences.  They presented how their 4th graders worked with the pre-school disabled class.  The students spoke of the empathy and compassion they developed from understanding that disabilities are nothing more than strengths in other areas.  Again, as I reflected on the workshop, it was clear that the students were developing respect for the disabled students.

I wondered:  Does that respect carry over to their peers?  Are the students more understanding, respectful and thoughtful… more open to their peers with whom they are not friends after experiencing the positive outcomes from their inclusion experience? 

As well educated individuals, we are aware that research shows diverse teams perform better.  In  1999, (eons ago…) Stanford University Graduate School of Business published the results of Margaret Neale and her colleagues’ research on team diversity.  Not surprisingly, Neale, the John G. McCoy-Banc One Corporation Professor of Organizations and Dispute Resolution at Stanford Graduate School of Business and her team found that diversity is not only limited to color, gender or age. “Diversity is also based on informational differences, values or goals that influence what one perceives as the mission of something as small as a single meeting or as large as a whole company.”

So.. what does this have to do with the ideas of inclusion, inclusive, and respect?

It is human nature, I presume, to fear bringing someone into a group that could, in effect, derail your best laid plans.

Patton

My father, a successful entrepreneur, used to say to me, “If we’re all thinking the same, then no one is thinking.”  Thanks to the internet, I’m guessing he was paraphrasing George Patton’s famous quote.  Truthfully, this has apparently been attributed to many people, but I will always attribute it to my dad…

The idea of seeking out an opinion that challenges your ideas takes bravery. It is not used by leaders who are faint of heart or just want to get on with the process.

It is an idea, though, that sits in the back of my mind at all times and I think its most profound influence is that I am open to dissenting opinions, perhaps, some might say, to a fault.

But as a leader, I am always interested in the person’s perspective that least agrees with mine. This could, I guess, be perceived as a weakness; I might appear unsure of myself or my decisions.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I want to hear their perspective.  Not because I am humoring them; not because I am unsure.  Rather, because it is as my father had said, we can’t and shouldn’t all think alike.  He’d explained that being surrounded by ‘yes’ people was not what had helped him grow his business.  Quite the contrary. While he may not have embraced the idea proposed, he’d explained, it did give him something to consider.  What and how he chose to use the information varied. But, he’d said that it usually gave him something to think about.

Which leads me to my question: When is inclusion inclusive?

I would suggest that it stems from my belief that inclusion isn’t inclusive if not accompanied by the respect for the possibility that another’s ideas, talents, and experiences could find a flaw in my thinking, my plan. 

I explain this as my desire to turn the faceted apple to the light as many ways as possible in order to expose an unforeseen weakness or oversight in my plan.  It is only when I am certain that I’ve uncovered as many of these possibilities, within the given constraints, that I will commit my team to a new path.  (Even once committed, I am still listening for ideas that may tweak the path for the better.)

I believe that being open to finding that idea is one of the keys to effective leadership.  Respect for ideas (and the unlikely people that may bring them) just might be the twist your plan needs to be the most successful idea ever.

Reference:

  • “Diversity and Work Group Performance.” Stanford Graduate School of Business. N.p., 1 Nov. 1999. Web. 20 Jan. 2016.

The Power of Intuition

It’s Saturday morning and I’m at my regular breakfast stop:  my kitchen counter with my computer at hand.  I’m watching some light Saturday morning news, which is my ‘brain break’ from the normal research and heavy reading I do during the course of a normal week.

A news story catches my interest.  A medical doctor is being showcased not to acknowledge how data drives his medical decisions (which  it does), but how intuition plays as big a role in an initial assessment of his patient.

As he said, ” When a patient walks into your office, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, you tend to pay attention even before you know… you just know.”

Meriam-Webster’s online dictionary’s simple definition describes intuition this way:  “a natural ability or power that makes it possible to know something without any proof or evidence; a feeling that guides a person to act a certain way without fully understanding why.”

I’ve only recently acknowledged that I’ve been intuitive my whole life. I’ve only recently become comfortable saying, “I just know…” My husband describes his intuition as the ‘little guy on his shoulder’. If the little guy on his shoulder says that there’s something going that he can’t quite put his finger on, then he knows he needs to proceed with caution.  (I wonder if intuitive people ‘find’ each other through their intuition?  I would never describe our finding each other as ‘love at first sight’; rather, I just knew he was a good man… even before I really ‘knew’ him…)

But I digress…

My question at the heart of this is:  Where and how does intuition fit into education?  Does leadership contain an intuitive ability?

As a leader, many of you have met someone for the first time, or entered a classroom and had an intuitive reaction.  Intuition sets off an alarm in your head.  You have this innate sense of possibilities… or struggles… in front of you.  You have no data… no evidence… on which to base your assessment.  But, there’s no denying you sense it.

I set out to find out what the research has to say on the role of intuition in teaching/learning and leadership.

Atkinson and Claxton (2000) say  that intuition is defined as “one component of the dyad conscious analytical thinking”  (p.74) and the “less conscious and intuitive processes” (p.82).  Through this lens, they examine the process of mentoring.  They ask: How do mentors balance between providing specific practical knowledge and good grounding in theoretical understanding to proteges or supervisees? Their work shows that the key to a new teacher progressing from a knowledge base to the skilled teacher is his/her ability to intuitively sense how to adjust to the students’ receptivity of the lesson.  The mentors’  key? The ability to develop strong reflective practices within the mentee so she can learn to trust her intuitions.

Marzano (2011) and Danielson (1996) would, to my mind, describe this as the ‘art’ of teaching and each has built the ‘art’ into their respective models. (Marzano, Domain 3) (Danielson, Component 4a).  No one would dispute that intuition can replace knowledge. However, I would assert that a teacher with knowledge but without intuition is missing an important skill; one that I’m not sure can be taught.

In my experience, intuition can be developed. In fact, I would assert it’s the real ‘education’ in education.

 In 1986, Donna Lynne Harlan’s doctoral dissertation reminds us that the 1959 Woods Hole Conference, led by Jerome Bruner, was convened to address issues that are still circling today.  Namely, that the battle between the progressive philosophy that education requires the use of unconventional thinking (intuition/guessing (1960)/having a hunch (1971)) and the structuralist view that focuses on performance and outcomes. Bruner (1977) said that student creativity develops when students are surrounded by creativity and discussions.  It’s the reason we are focusing on higher level thinking skills at all levels of education; we want our students to trust their intuition– to take risks in their thinking– to examine, in the light, those ideas that are lurking in the background of their thoughts– to be brave and put those ideas out there, into a supportive thoughtful environment where those ideas can blossom and spur other ideas for themselves and those around them.

As a leader, from the perspective of observer instead of the observed, these are the subtle talents woven into the evaluation domains that I am looking for: can the teacher take her knowledge and interweave her intuition to create thoughtful reflective students who feel safe enough to bring their ideas to the light? Can she encourage her students to be academically brave?

Knowledge can be gained.  Intuition?  It’s stuff dreams are made of…


Citations:

Bacigalupe, Gonzalo (2002). Inviting Intuitive Understandings in Teaching and Professional Practices: Is Intuition Relationally and Culturally Neutral? Review Essay: Terry Atkinson & Guy Claxton (Eds.) (2000). The Intuitive Practitioner: On the Value of Not Always Knowing What One is Doing [16 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 3(4), Art. 51, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0204514.

Bruner, Jerome S. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960

Harlan, Donna L. (1986). The role of intuition in the teaching/learning process. Doctoral Disserations

On Understanding “judgmental”

In my current In-Class Resource/Support role, I am sometimes conflicted about expectations between myself and my general education co teachers. Sometimes I find myself feeling judgmental.  It makes me uncomfortable to feel judgmental.   I’m trying hard to understand it. 

Being a curious sort, I went where anyone would go— Google.  I was surprised to learn that, like many things, being judgmental has several roots (or flavors, as I  prefer to say).

The flavor that fit me best was this:  I see people behaving in a way that I would not and because I resent their behavior, I become judgmental. Hmmm…

According to LittleBuddha.com:

Because you would be embarrassed to act this way, you resent somebody else doing it.

This type of judgment might reveal that you are not fully expressing yourself, hence you feel resentful or put off by others doing so, even if they do it clumsily.

( I don’t think the last part applies to me in this particular situation, but you can be the judge.)

Let me clarify:  One of my classes is watching the movie, “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee”.  We’re moving into the unit that examines the westward movement in the United States in the mid-1800’s.  The students don’t understand a ‘cowboy and Indians” reference and have no background in the strife that took place at that time between the federal government and the Indian Nations.  When I learned that we were watching this, I thought it would lay a good foundation as we prepared for the next unit of our curriculum.

If you’ve seen the movie, or have any back ground  (prior knowledge) reference to the westward movement, The Battle of the Little Big Horn, Col. Custard or Chief Sitting Bull, you are lightyears ahead of this generation.  (Is that bad to say?) 

I digress.  As we watched the movie, some of the students snickered and laughed as the Indians chanted and danced.  It made me uncomfortable, to say the least.  I waited for the general education teacher to stop the film and address the students, asking them to be respectful of another culture’s customs.  That although the dances and chants may seem odd or uncomfortable to them, part of the journey of the film is to introduce the students to lives and peoples who lived during this period of time.  (This is where the judgmental piece comes in.)

I began to feel judgmental toward my co-teacher.  Because I would be embarrassed to act this way, not correcting the behavior of the students, I resented somebody else not doing anything about it.

As I write this piece, I’ve concluded that before my class begins the next section of the movie,  I will respectfully prompt the students about expected behaviors, developing tolerance, and being respectful of that which they do not yet understand. Then I wondered, am I overstepping my boundaries by putting morale guidelines out for my students like those I would put out for my own children? Is it an appropriate action for me to take?

In a recent general television newscast, pretty plain vanilla and usually of little interest to me, a reporter spoke about the impact of the recent attack in San Bernardino; people were not going out (nope not me.), people were not traveling (nope, I’m not traveling because of the possible threats, I’m just not going anywhere…), people were shying away from people of other cultures (… hmmm, was this happening to me, I wondered?).

Again, as I write this, I flip back and forth between the two ‘conversations’ in my head.  As I flip, I realize that I think  part of my job is to teach tolerance.  I work in a public school where we say the  Pledge of Allegiance every morning. 

“….one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all…”

How can we have liberty and justice for all if we don’t have tolerance for each other?  In the grand scheme of life for which I believe I am preparing my students, we must learn to tolerate people for many reasons.

We may work with someone who is just plain mean, and that person may well be our boss to whom we dare not voice our opinion unless we have alternate employment opportunities clearly in place.  We may have a neighbor who has such different values that she just doesn’t think the ordinance about picking up after your dog includes her and her dog, too.  (At least here you can call the police…)

As adults and parents, we communicate levels of acceptable behavior so very subtly.  It is said in things we say as much as what we don’t say. It is one of those, “do as I say, not as I do’ kind of things that, as we know, doesn’t work out well. 

I believe it’s as hard to be a responsible role model today as it ever was.  We have eyes on us all the time.  We owe it to ourselves to decide what kind of legacy we want to leave in our children.  Lately, the environment has taken center stage.  As a new Congress takes its place in January, our fiscal legacy  and immigration will be front and center.  Some dinner tables and car rides will be filled with newscasts or discussions that create more divide than collaboration.  As responsible role models, (#RRMs, if you will…) how we discuss these issues may very well more important than what issues we discuss or what outcome results.

I’m reminded of the phrase, “If you see something, say something”.

Well,” if you hear something, say something”.  Be respectful.  Our children are always watching.

Swimming Against The Conformity Current

I started my Saturday morning off as I start many of my Saturday mornings.  I typically wake up (always a good start…) grab some coffee and work my way to my spare bedroom/office and jump into #SATCHAT with my other buddies who share a passion for sharing and learning.

After concluding my chat time and regrouping for my work for the day today (aka, refilling my coffee cup), I went back and reread the posts from the morning’s chat.  A post from Pernille Ripp caught my eye:

@pernilleripp
Thanks go to @PernilleRipp and #SATCHAT (2/7/15)

Of course I had to click on the link (goo.gl/lBKJqk) and I invite you to do the same.  Her words spoke to me as if she were “Killing Me Softly With (Her) Song” .  I don’t often add comments to a post; I’m not much for the Redundancy Chamber.  But given that I’d had the following experience just the previous afternoon, I was compelled to respond.

I wrote on Pernille’s Blog:

(A brief recap: My co-teacher and I designed a unit length project using ExplainEverything using all the electronic materials the students are given (aka handed) on their classroom wiki, in their iBook, and possibly some Internet research (beyond minimal). Their assignment: create an ExplainEverything project using 3-4 slides per unit from their learning goal rubric where they identify and synthesize their understanding of the topics presented. Their first unit had 17 learning goals. Upon presentation of the project to them, they immediately did the math and said…51 to 68 slides!!!??? and under their breath… are they crazy????)

If you went to Pernille’s blog and read my response, which I hope you will take the time to do, you will read a bit more about the question my Gen-Ed HS Biology co-teacher and I were asked:

If doing this kind of work is so important, then why is this class, our class the only one doing it?  Why isn’t every teacher making us do this kind of work, to work so hard, in all of our classes?

The truth is that I ask myself this kind of question every day.  Why aren’t teachers in our high school asking the students perform creative knowledge constructing projects every single day? Why do we ask so very little of our students? 

To be fair, which is a code I live by every day (and some days better than others), some of the teachers in my building are doing incredible work.  But it still begs the question asked to us by our student:  Why isn’t every teacher asking us to work this hard?

As I said in my post to Pernille, I had to hold my tongue.  I couldn’t possibly tell my student what I’ve experienced in my co-teaching classes.  I couldn’t possibly tell my student of the multiple or even many conversations I’ve had with my building colleagues about changing their craft to include projects like the one I created and (to her credit) my co-teacher has supported. (This has been a bumpy journey; bringing a project like this into a classroom for the first time is filled with unforeseen bumps in the road, despite my months of planning. And she has been a terrific co-pilot, pointing out how we can tweak the implementation here and there to make the process less stressful for the students. God bless her…) But I couldn’t possibly tell my student the words I’ve been told In conversation after conversation; the words that strike frustration and disbelief to my heart:

“I don’t have time. I’m too busy with (insert your excuse of choice here) and (insert your other excuse of choice here) to put all that time and energy into changing what I do.”

During this morning’s #SATCHAT as with many other Twitter Chats I follow, someone inevitably goes down the road of ‘providing teachers with professional development…..”.

Which brings me to my question of the day:

What does it take to have/inspire/cause a teacher to swim against the Conformity Current?

I wish I was writing because I knew the answer.  I wish I could say that the tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of dollars my district has spent on iPad training for our staff was the answer. I wish I could say that getting teachers (yes, even new teachers) to swim against the conformity current had an answer I could provide.  But the sad truth is that I don’t.

Before I close, I will share with you where I find the inspiration and courage to fight the good fight, as my friend Courtney Pepe would say (@iPadQueen2012), everyday.

For health reasons, I was home last spring, away from my classroom, and missing my work.  I was using Twitter to stay current on my political addictions and I decided to see what was going on in the educational arena.  Of course, you know the ending to this part of the story; I found my courage and inspiration from the millions of you out there who support and encourage us to do what’s best for kids everyday; to fight the good fight.  And if needed, to swim hard against the Conformity Current.

In swimming against the Conformity Current with the support of my Twitter friends and colleagues, I was no longer alone in the fight but supported by hundreds of others with a greater vision like mine: that kids won’t have to just do worksheets and multiple choice tests, but will have to put their minds to work and create new understandings and possibly change the world in the process.  Now… How Cool Is That?

P.S.  Thank you for choosing to Swim Against The Conformity Current and inspiring me every day.

7 Quick Tips to Surviving the First Month of School

7 Quick Tips To Surviving the First Month of School
By Christine Garner-Duane,
High School In Class Support Math Teacher in New Jersey

I remember my first day of teaching… both times. I started teaching High School Special Education Resource Room Language Arts and Math right out of college. I don’t remember it being anything I didn’t expect. I’d done a lot of student teaching and completed a practicum for each class I’d taken in college; the kids were like the ones I’d spent so much time working with in my college practicums.

Fast forward to 2003 when I re-entered the teaching workforce as a Middle School teacher after many years’ absence running my own financial consulting business. The students were the different but the strategies were still effective.

Tip #1: Get Psyched! It’s very normal to be nervous. We take our jobs very seriously and we understand that we are entrusted with a big responsibility. But that said, we need to come to class with the belief that we are going to rock this class, and these are some of best ways I’ve found to keep a positive attitude:

  • Listen to music: some days you may want to listen to soothing music and other days to want to listen to music that so you can sing your heart out!
  • Self Talks: Every one of us, whether we’ve been in the classroom for 2 or 20 years understands that a positive self talk goes a long way to helping us over our most challenging days. Give yourself permission to have a 5- minute pity party, but then brush yourself off and take the challenge to find out how you can learn from it. You’re in that class because the district believes you have the skill and the heart to get the job done. Failure is only failure when you throw in the towel.   Your students are counting on you— so turn up the music!
  • Eat breakfast and get sleep: It is VERY easy to skip breakfast and stay up late; your mind whirls with ideas and ‘what-if’s when you’re lesson planning. I promise you this… your brain works incredibly better when it is nourished and rested. If you need some proof of this, think back to the last time you saw a parent trying to reason with a tired and hungry child… that should be enough proof for you!
  • Use your learning community to find ideas and support. Help is out there. Don’t be afraid to use it. Consider it your lifeline!  I’ve found Twitter to be a great way to connect with people who will be non-judgmental and so supportive.  Whenever I’m feeling particularly challenged, whether I am overwhelmed or under-inspired, my Twitter communities never fail to pick me up and get me back on my feet again.  I am always grateful.

 Tip #2: Use your organizational skills to ensure that your classroom time is dedicated to student engagement. Sometimes this means over-planning; it’s the tip to making sure that you have lessons and activities in your hip pocket and ready to go. (Some teachers call this their Survival Kit!) One way I’ve accomplished this is by using a technique called the Anchor Activity.   Whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a high school teacher, having Anchor Activities ready and sitting on the sideline can be the difference between chaos and organized enrichment activities. It’s important that you weave the expectation of this activity into your opening year procedures. It prevents idle hands and can be a constructive activity for those students who complete an assignment early. Anchor Activities are part of a Differentiated Classroom. You can read more about Differentiated Instruction from KDP here:

Other Anchor Activities Links:

 

Tip #3: Think about Classroom Management. KDP offers many webinars on the ins and outs of classroom management. If you’ve missed these, they are available for review. Here’s the link:             http://www.kdp.org/events/webinars.php#classroom

Here’s an example of some of the webinars available on KDP.org.

  • Classroom management issues are best managed by developing classroom norms; what are the students expected to do every day when they arrive in your classroom? Elementary teachers may want coats and backpacks stowed before retrieving their morning folder of work. High school teachers may want students to follow a routine of completing a Do Now /Warm Up activity while you take attendance. Routines and procedures make for a smoothly running classroom. In fact, establishing routines and procedures are core evaluation points for teachers in each of the New Teacher Evaluation Models like Marzano and Danielson. I think it’s also important to note that a smoothly running classroom is not necessarily one where all students are quietly working at their desk. In fact, classroom procedures are the cornerstone of effective group activities and collaborative assignments. Each student, understanding your expectations, knows their job and what to do if they have a question, problem, or finish early. Here’s a link to an article that may also help you out. http://goo.gl/5T0cq0
  • Remember to act intentionally; your reaction to student behavior cannot be impulsive. I rarely send a student to the principal’s office unless the code of conduct specifically says to. I typically have a 1:1 conversation with the student, refer to the rules we devised at the beginning of the year and ask him/her to reflect on the consequences for his/her behavior. Typically, the behavior doesn’t reoccur.
  • Develop relationships with your students as well between your students. This goes a long way in preventing classroom bullying and cyber-bullying. I’ve found that people rarely hurt others when we know and understand who they are.

Tip #3: Engage your parents and identify your communication methods. What does that mean?

  • Bulletin Boards are used to communicate to the students and classroom visitors. Plan out how you intend to use this space to prevent clutter.
  • Draft a Letter To Parents. As a new teacher, I’d run it past your supervisor or administrator. There’s nothing worse that misstating information, regardless of your positive intention, and having to retract it. For example, you may want to give parents with a clear choice of their preferred method of communication: text, email, newsletter, website or phone. However, you may be working in a district that prohibits the use of Twitter or Facebook pages. This is something you want to know ahead of time. Your school may use a standard form, which could save you a lot of headaches.
  • Set up your classroom and do a run through of how you see your average day unfolding. This will give you an opportunity to determine if you have your resources (and the student resources) in the best locations.

 

Tip #4: Approach the teacher’s room with caution. I rarely have time to get the teacher’s room for lunch. Some of the lunch rooms were great places and others… well, not so much.  If you’re feeling a bit challenged during this first year,  Moir’s Phases of First Year of Teaching will tell you that disillusionment will set in in good time. No need to surround yourself with anyone who will speed it along. Use the strategies in Tip #1 to give your “get up and go” more “get up and go”!

 

Tip #5: Make sure you classroom supports various learning styles. Behavior problems stem from many sources, but the one I find that is the biggest instigator is when my students are not engaged in their activity. Students can be disengaged for many reasons: maybe they had a terrible morning, or they didn’t eat, or they don’t feel well… the possibilities are endless. If you’ve given them an activity they don’t enjoy doing, like writing a story, or speaking to the class, or word problems, they can become irritable and ungrounded. But if they know that an activity that is better suited to their learning style is coming up, they can find the way to muster through the first activity to get to the second. I have found that children are incredibly resilient and can sustain themselves through adversity, like a worksheet or other activity, as long as they know it won’t last forever and that it’s not the only kind of work they’ll be doing that day.

 

Tip #6: Take time to be reflective and make notes on what went well (or not). One of the most helpful practices I still use today is to make notes on what part of the lesson went well and what part of the lesson needed some work. When I teach I keep a copy of the lesson plan on my desk so I can refer to it during the class. This lets me make a quick note on it when I realize that I want to add/subtract something the next time I teach that topic or use a particular strategy. I think it helps me feel like I’m getting ready for the next time ; I can easily reflect on my notes and incorporate the changes for the very next class or next day.

 

Tip #7: Be kind to yourself. I’m not sure why we think that because we’re teachers we are going to get everything right, every single day. It’s not reality and it’s not fair to us. We plan hard. We research. We want our students to succeed. But we don’t work in a vacuum. We work with children who on any given day can bring challenges to us that we could never foresee.  My PLN encourages us to “Fail Forward”;  we cannot grow if we don’t try new things and if you’re not making mistakes, you’re probably not taking enough teaching risks!  Be brave!

Surviving The First Month of School by Putting Kids First

first-day-of-schoolTip #1:

Use your organizational skills to ensure that your classroom time is dedicated to student engagement. Sometimes this means over-planning; it’s the tip to making sure that you have lessons and activities in your hip pocket and ready to go. One way I’ve accomplished this is by using a technique called the Anchor Activity. Whether you’re a kindergarten teacher or a high school teacher, having Anchor Activities ready and sitting on the sideline can be the difference between chaos and organized enrichment activities. It’s important that you weave the expectation of this activity into your opening year procedures. It prevents idle hands and can be a constructive activity for those students who complete an assignment early. Anchor Activities are part of a Differentiated Classroom. You can read more about Differentiated Instruction from KDP here:

http://www.kdp.org/resources/pdf/ProPointers.pdf

http://www.kdp.org/resources/tr/differentiatedinstruction.php

Other Anchor Activities Links:

http://www.rec4.com/filestore/REC4_AnchorActivityPacket_080513.pdf

http://www.caroltomlinson.com/2010SpringASCD/Rex_LowPrep.pdf

http://www.pinterest.com/kelleygg/anchor-activities/

classroom-management

Tip #2:

Think about Classroom Management. KDP(Kappa Delta Pi) offers many webinars on the ins and outs of classroom management. If you’ve missed these, they are available for review. Here’s the link: http://www.kdp.org/events/webinars.php#classroom .

Classroom management issues are best managed by developing engaging lessons with embedded classroom norms; what are the students expected to do every day when they arrive in your classroom? Elementary teachers may want coats and backpacks stowed before retrieving their morning folder of work. High school teachers may want students to follow a routine of completing a Do Now /Warm Up activity while you take attendance. Routines and procedures make for a smoothly running classroom. In fact, establishing routines and procedures are core evaluation points for teachers in each of the New Teacher Evaluation Models like Marzano or Danielson.

I think it’s also important to note that a smoothly running classroom is not necessarily one where all students are quietly working at their desk. In fact, classroom procedures are the cornerstone of effective group activities and collaborative assignments. Each student, understanding your expectations, knows their job and what to do if they have a question, problem, or finish early. Here’s a link to an article that may also help you out. http://goo.gl/5T0cq0

communication-for-designers

Tip #3:

Identify your communication methods. What does that mean?

• Bulletin Boards are used to communicate to the students and classroom visitors. Plan out how you intend to use this space to prevent clutter.

• Draft a Letter To Parents. As a new teacher, I’d run it past your supervisor or administrator. There’s nothing worse that misstating information, regardless of your positive intention, and having to retract it. For example, you may want to give parents with a clear choice of their preferred method of communication: text, email, newsletter, website or phone. However, you may be working in a district that prohibits the use of Twitter or Facebook pages. This is something you want to know ahead of time. Your school may use a standard form which could save you a lot of headaches.

• Set up your classroom and do a practice run through of how you see your average day unfolding. This will give you an opportunity to determine if you have your resources ( and the student resources) in the best locations. Logistical malfunctions can be the downfall of any lesson thought to be well planned.

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