“I know—let’s make green eggs and ham and let the kids sample it!” exclaimed my principal as I shared the first draft of my plans for our 2018 Read Across America (RAA) celebration. Her voice was filled with the same excitement that fills the whole school when March 2 rolls around. At Edgerton Elementary, we love Read Across America Day so much that we turn it into a week of events. Sure, it takes time to plan, gather, organize, and execute, but the time spent creating a grand celebration for Dr. Seuss’s birthday is well worth the effort. Let me tell you how—and why—we plan the week-long festivities.
As we discussed in part one of our Information Overload series, the sources of information that our students are bombarded with each day has increased exponentially over the past few years. The messages our students receive about life were once limited to cable television and the radio. Today, there are billions of images, opinions, videos, and comments at a student’s fingertips all day long. And as all of this has become more complex for students, it has also become more complex for the adults in their lives.
What is a school or parent to do? Take away the phone? Undo the 1:1 device initiative and go back to pencil and paper? And is it even that big of a deal anyway?
Most teachers feel they are lifelong learners. They love learning, which is part of why they have embraced teaching as a career. So if teachers are to be learners, who are their teachers?
Their teachers come in all shapes and sizes. Some are in college classrooms, some are on Twitter chats, some are fellow teachers down the hall, and some are nationally known speakers who share their expertise.
Personally, I believe that all administrators must often wear the “teacher” hat in order to get the most out of the teachers they work with. When administrators model great instructional practices, it sends a message to teachers about the importance of their role. For principals, curriculum directors, and superintendents, we should find ourselves using our teaching strategies with our teachers often—even during short faculty meetings. We know that just talking at students is largely an ineffective way to teach them things, so we shouldn’t do this with our own staff either.
I have a friend whose daughter just started her student teaching experience. She had met her cooperating teacher for the first time—it sounded like it went well, but one comment stood out. She said, “I shared an idea with the cooperating teacher, and she said she really liked it!”
What an early impact this can make in the formation of a new teacher! By simply validating an idea, the teacher started building a connection, encouraging her enthusiasm, and setting a tone of reflective practice for the semester. It didn’t take much, but there is already a positive connection being built between the student and the teacher.
If we think about our students like we do a computer—where we have finite inputs and then desired (or undesired) outputs—we think differently about the inputs. The coding term GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out) rings true. If we put incorrect messages about life, work, success, and education into our students, we could end up with poor student outcomes.
Humans are much more complex than this simple analogy. There are millions of factors that go into our “outcomes” in life, and some of them are outside of anyone’s control. But teachers, and even more so parents, like to think that by providing some influence on the external factors of a child’s upbringing, some positive results will occur. We try to create “rich soil” for our children to grow and flourish from.
The proverbial hamster wheel is a constant in a teacher’s life. We take on everything and anything that comes our way: new curriculum, standardized tests, lesson planning, paper grading, bulletin boards, classroom supplies, technology, etc. But most teachers will tell you that the absolute hardest part of teaching is a challenging student. There are varying definitions of a challenging student, such as talking incessantly, not being able to sit still, or being apathetic, unfocused, disruptive, or defiant. This year I have three—it can make for a long year, but here are some strategies that can help you with the challenging students in your classroom:
A new year is a great time to look at our accomplishments from the year gone by. Traditionally, it is also the time when we seek out opportunities for growth as we look ahead. I thought I would share some areas in which I would like to grow in 2018. By sharing these with you, I hope that maybe you can be inspired to take on some new learning, grow as an individual and a teacher, and get out of your comfort zone to try something challenging.
As we turn the calendar once again, we find ourselves with a new year full of possibilities. But even with all these possibilities, we know that old habits die hard—this is why listing our New Year’s resolutions is a popular practice and can be very profound. The list either helps us to do something new that we have always wanted to try, or start doing something we have known for a while and need to pick up again.
So for 2018, I have developed my top list of things I would like to do, improve at, or focus on for the year. These resolutions are aimed at improving my knowledge of educational technology (and more!) and are in no particular order—and a few are a little tongue in cheek!
Considering the dynamic nature of the education industry and the practices followed, a teacher’s role today is quite multifaceted in comparison to how it used to be. For example, earlier curriculums and teaching methods were standardized and the teaching tools were common for all. However, with the introduction of technology, the options for teaching methods and tools have greatly increased.
One of the roles I was least prepared for when I became a principal was that of “lead investigator” of the school. I quickly found out that hours and hours could be swallowed up by a simple restroom issue or playground problem. I had no idea what to do or how to do it when it came to questioning students—nor did I realize how much time it could take.
Over the years, I have developed some techniques to help make this process work better, both for myself and for the students. Some of these ideas increase efficiency, some increase effectiveness, and some are just general guidelines to help maintain rapport with both students and teachers.