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Posts Tagged ‘students’

“I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.”

by Dr. Haim Ginott

Reflect on your classroom rules and the punishments outlined for breaking them. Sometimes their behavior is not about them being disruptive or disrespectful, but are a reaction to whatever stresses they are facing. Students, classroom behavior, and their consequences are the topic of this post’s 30 Goals Challenge.

It is true. I am a decisive element in our classroom community.  Whatever condition the student walks into the classroom in, I have an effect on that. I can provide the opportunity for a person ready to be in our community to shine and succeed. I can also take that same person and shut them down. It’s a lot of pressure sometimes.

Perhaps I’m sick, perhaps I just received word of a family emergency, perhaps something personal has just gone wrong.  If I take that into the classroom community, it effects what does or does not happen there. On the contrary, despite my best efforts, I might not be able to bring a student having a challenging moment into the community for the day.  They may be the element darkening what happens in the classroom. It’s my obligation to try and bring some light to the situation. Again, there’s a lot of pressure outside the content area itself.

Stress. We are human. We have stress. Teenagers are stressed from their obligations, family, friends and biology. Adults are stressed from their jobs, families, and responsibilities.  Personally, I believe that if our schools employeed personal masseuses, some of this might be alleviated, but that’s a different matter. It’s important that we all have ways to deal with the stress, and that includes within the classroom community.

Plan. Have your lessons planned; don’t wing it. Included the opportunity to “moments.” Whether these be teachable moments, or moments to just vent. Make allowances for that. Know your students. Your first period students are going to have different needs than those at the end of the day.  Know that there are differences between boys and girls and their needs within the classroom community. Breathe. You need to breathe. You need to allow your students to do so as well, whether that be literally or figuratively.  Allow for movement: 90 minutes with bottoms planted in an uncomfortable seat doesn’t allow for oxygen to get to the brain and for the best learning to occur.  These are just starting points, and only a few at that.  Keep them in mind and add your own.

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“We spend the first twelve months of our children’s lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next twelve telling them to sit down and shut up.”

by Phyllis Diller

 

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Plato

 

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”

Leo F. Buscaglia

Play.  When young children play, they run without aim. They dig in and get dirty. They aren’t afraid. They laugh at their mistakes and scream with delight at their successes. They sometimes cry, but that can be easily turned around with some reassurance. There aren’t boundaries. It’s all about discovery and adventure. It’s delightful to watch.

Not everyone gets to work with young children and see this.  Children, however, are still children – at any age.  My high schoolers love it when they get to follow commands posted around the school to find the prize at the end of the trail.  They love it when we get to read outside. They love it when we turn the tables into a fort/castle to have fairy tale story time. They love it when they get to read outside. They love it when we have verb conjugation races. They love Pictionary with new vocabulary. They love stickers, stamps, reward pencils and so much more. They look forward to class because it is not 90 minutes of sit-in-your-seat and take notes on a lecture time.  They are still children – some of them may be bigger than I am, but they are still children.

Play in our classroom community.  It’s one of my favorite things to do with these students. They can’t help but interact with the material if they are playing with it. It gets their blood flowing, oxygenates their brains, and keeps them really involved. There is play to just play – but there really is playing to learn.  Problem/project-based learning is a wonderful outlet for this.

I have the wonderful opportunity to work with a content area that lends itself well to these types of activities. While I will praise the idea of play in the classroom, I think it’s also important to share that there will be those who doubt or criticize the action.  I have heard a number of times from colleagues: “I wish I could teach a language, all you have to do is sing and play games.”  If you read my previous post, it is the reason both that I have feared inviting others in and the reason that I should.

 

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“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”

by Peter F. Drucker

The next challenge in the 30 Goals Challenge is to reflect on my best and worst lesson of this week or last semester. I’m really having a hard time with choosing those and that’s not because I had continually average lessons, but because the last week and the last semester have been a bit unique.  A little background might be helpful here.

The last week has really only contained about 2½ days of instruction: we’ve had 2 “cold” days (days with temperatures and wind chills too cold for students to walk to school or the bus stop), 1 snow day, and I personally had 1 pullout day for District meetings.  The days around them were preparing for absences and re-grouping from unplanned days off.  Last semester I semester I started becoming ill and ended up having major surgery. I wasn’t myself for months due to circumstances out of my direct control.  I can say that I had good days and bad days then, but I was really relying on time and procedures and relationships banked. That’s what I would really like to share today.

Relationships.  The best and the worst of a lesson, unit, day, week, year, class are all affected by the relationships established between the teacher and the students.  With positive relationships established, the best and the worst all become just another learning point from which to go from.  If we want our students to learn from the process even when the result fails, we need to not fear modeling that in the classroom. We need to not fear taking a new direction if something isn’t working: formative assessments and reflections are just a couple of tools for this. Having positive relationships with our students allows us to use these moments and turn them into something positive, maybe even the best moments. The best moments, well those are the ones where we can capitalize on that relationship building process.

Relationship building. It takes time, not in length, but effort.  It takes listening and allowing the students to share their voice. It requires respect. This foundation is a necessary building block in order for the curriculum to take shape. This foundation can make the best days and the worst days all just learning days.

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It’s taken me some time to process this. Perhaps I just thought too much of my teaching prowess, my ability to connect with my students, my ability to get even the most problematic of students to engage at least somewhat with the material.  Perhaps I spent too much time in the affective mode rather than the content itself. Perhaps…  “Perhaps” leaves big gaps without providing concrete answers.  The end result was a disastrous classroom moment which included an impromptu visit from an administrator. Disastrous.

As an experienced educator I find it hard to reconcile, rationalize, or justify that period of time. On the other hand, after surviving the next class period unscathed, I doubt the students have thought again about it. Perspective.

“Things” happened in class that day: nothing illegal, no real violence, no one was physically hurt.  Detentions could have been written. I could easily have pushed for even more than that with a couple of students. This hasn’t been done. I’d like to say that this hasn’t been done “yet,” but discipline should be immediate. Should.

The actual events or actions don’t seem to matter.  What matters are two things; 1, the professionalism on my end and 2, the student reaction.  Personally, I never yelled. I did question their motivation and thoughts, but never yelled or cursed.  My ability to manage a classroom comes into question, especially if this is the only view this particular administrator will ever have in that classroom (if it is, then that is an entirely separate discussion to have). The student reaction, however, is certainly notable as well.  Before the end of the week, I had numerous, unsolicited letter and Facebook posts of apology. A star football player personally apologized with tears in the corners of his eyes. The one “Problematic” student that most teachers have already given up on said that not only did I not deserve what went on, but more so because I give him chances that no one else does. Reaction.

There are still issues to address on my end: the catalyst to the classroom disaster, my future preparations and plans, my response to the administrator.

What I want to remember most, however, is ‘how’ the students apologized.  Perspective.

“we are selfish, ignorant, don’t realize the power of our actions, feel a need to stand out, don’t understand most things that happen, get frustrated easily and take it out on others, often forget that teachers have feelings, and we take a lot that we are given/have for granted.
And yet you still put up with us which I find amazing and I think that you are a gift from God and that putting up with us makes you a better person than most. Thank you for being an awesome, kick-butt teacher”

 

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