classroom 2Picture a classroom full of students and a lone teacher, who is riffing on some personal opinion she or he has. Now picture the look on the students’ faces as they listen to their teacher. Do you see faces of engagement or detachment? Are they tuned in or glazed over? Do they agree, and if not, do they feel equipped to voice their disagreement, or to even challenge their teacher’s premise?

The first images of student reactions we conjure tell us a lot. Perhaps they are flashbacks to our experiences as students. As flashbacks go, we find ourselves replaying the extreme memories — both the teachers who enraptured us, as well as the teachers we wrote off with deep apathy or even resent. For some of us, our snap mental images of student reactions are our personal projection of how we think a class ought to be. We can see it so tangibly: lively discussion, spontaneous laughter, the dance between deep learning and whimsical moments, and the two-way reverence between teacher and students. (read more…)

leadershipWe all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve. – Bill Gates

As a teacher, you will certainly be the recipient of some negative feedback, solicited or otherwise. The comments may focus in on your teaching style, how well you communicate, whether a child likes you, etc. Even if the remark was delivered with constructive intent, you may resent the experience and develop a negative view of a parent, child or administrator.

It is important to remember that there is nothing to be gained from harboring negative thoughts. Almost every form of criticism can teach us something powerful about ourselves. The next time that someone approaches you with some unwanted feedback consider doing the following:

  1. Listen well. Hear them out without interruption. Mirror back what you heard for clarification. If there is something that you disagree with, hold it until the end. This way you validate them and open further lines of communication.
  2. (read more…)

professional developmentAs I read education blogs, news editorials and Twitter, I sometimes am struck by the “us vs. them” mentality I see between veteran and newer teachers. The purpose of this article is not to demonize or laud either one of these groups, but rather to promote the idea that teachers should support one another. We all got into this profession for the same reason, and I suspect we will find that we are more alike than we realize. What’s more, both veteran — those in the profession for 10 years or more — and newer — those with five or fewer years of experience — teachers have valuable, unique skills and perspectives and could learn from each other. In the end, we all want to do the right thing for our students.

Veteran teachers can offer wisdom and assistance based on their years of experience. They have already developed curricular materials for their subject area and should be willing to share these with teachers entering the profession. (read more…)

Hopscotch courtOctober is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month.

Imagine the following scenario: There was a disease that plagued the population for a long time and finally a cure for was discovered. There are enough resources available to translate this discovery into a treatment plan that could be implemented by hospitals and doctor’s offices. This treatment plan, however, might require those medical institutions to change many daily and routine practices including ones that might have contributed to the spread of the disease. Most medical institutions, however, continue business as usual and make none of the required changes. Feeling like they have to do something, however, as a way to at least acknowledge that the disease is not a good thing, the institutions simply tell the general population to avoid the disease.

What is the problem? Is it the disease or it is the lack of change in the medical establishment?

Most of us would readily agree that the disease is really no longer the problem. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Curriculum Associates

Writing instruction took a back seat to reading during the No Child Left Behind era. Common core has brought it back into the spotlight, with a brand new set of rigorous expectations. Educator and literacy expert, Jim Cunningham, discusses the challenges teachers face today and what they can do to successfully teach to the new standards.

How have the expectations for teaching writing changed with the introduction of the new, more rigorous Common Core State Standards?

From about 1980 to 2002, writing was taught in almost all elementary schools and assessed in many states. Since No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which focused on reading and math, writing instruction in the elementary grades has declined tremendously. NCLB was the most intense fidelity implementation of any federal education policy, but it did not have any writing requirements in it—there was Reading First but no Writing First in NCLB. (read more…)