Three Strategies To Jumpstart Classroom Relationships

New Teacher Survival Guide

Quick. Imagine you’re on “Who Wants To Be a Teacher Millionaire” and the million dollar question is: “What do most teachers agree is most true about their work?”

What would you say? At the center of our teacher-hearts, what do we believe about our work? There are many good answers, but I think the answer I would offer, given all the teachers I’ve met in my career, is a belief in the power of relationships.

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Making Sense of Math Through Number Talks

Tch Laureate Team


This is the first in Crystal Morey’s Getting Better Together series, Making Number Talks Matter Book Study. Crystal and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

Growing up, I was a struggling reader. I had trouble retaining what I read even though my fluency was impeccable. So it’s no surprise that in school, I gravitated towards math. I was the “smart” math student. On timed tests, I would be the first done and would turn my paper over with a flourish as I publicly displayed my quickness.

Getting Better TogetherThe next few years were more of the same: memorize algorithms and apply them as quickly and efficiently as I possibly could. I became very accustomed to the process.

I remember, though, shopping in a store with my mother and trying to determine a discounted price. I would literally find a piece of paper in my bag, write down the problem, and solve it. My mother would look at me puzzled, wondering what had taken me so long. She used different mental strategies and could quickly apply math — and she was more accurate and faster than I was.

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The 80/20 Rule: Maximize Your Potential in Less Time

What makes the biggest difference in your teaching?

If you hop online to the places where teachers hang out and ask that question, you will hear a bevy of answers. It only begets more questions. Is project-based learning the way to go? How about Genius Hour? Flipping the classroom? Inductive method? Constructivist approach? Teach Like a Pirate? Too many choices can be paralyzing, and the only thing a teacher knows for sure is how much they don’t know.

There’s a simpler way.

You don’t have to be everywhere and do everything to be a better teacher. You don’t have to spend every free moment chatting away on Twitter, reading blogs, and going to every EdCamp within a 60-mile radius. You can preserve your most important resource — your time. You just have to follow the 80/20 rule.

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Rube Goldberg Machines and the Engineering Design Process

Rube Goldberg – a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation. ~ Webster’s New World Dictionary

When Rube Goldberg walked away from his engineering career in 1904, it’s unlikely he realized the impact that he would have on 21st century education. I find it ironic that many educators at the forefront of STEM education find inspiration from his cartoons, like The Simple Alarm Clock, that were published in newspapers across the United States over 100 years ago.

When I initially share the Engineering Design Process with my middle school students (see below), I like to have them collaboratively plan, construct and then use the iterative process to continuously refine a Rube Goldberg Machine.

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New Course on Academic Language for ELLs

Do you have English language learners (ELLs) who need to develop and accelerate academic language? Do you want to understand why it’s important for all teachers to know about academic language across the curriculum? And do you want to know how you can support ELL students’ language development in your classroom as you teach your content?

Then consider joining “Academic Language for ELLs” on Teaching Channel’s Teams platform, which runs from October 6 to October 27, to learn more about supporting your ELLs’ language in your classroom. As an experienced ELL teacher, coach, and WIDA Certified Trainer, I will guide a private group through understanding academic language features, then implementing linguistic supports for ELL students. Each teacher in the group will focus on a personalized “action cycle” in order to bring this learning to life in real time for a student or group of students. Participants can be K-12 core content, Special Education, ELL, specialist teacher, or coach.

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Establishing a Culture of Collaborative Learning

Tch Laureate Team


This is the first in Kristin Gray’s Getting Better Together series, Establishing A Culture of Collaborative Learning. Kristin and all the Teaching Channel Laureates are going public with their practice and seeking support in getting better from colleagues and the Tch community.

I’m an extremely curious person. I find so many things within teaching wonderfully interesting and thought-provoking, that I view my job as much about being a learner as I do about being a teacher.

Getting Better TogetherWhile I value all the things I still want to learn more about, learning as a teacher takes time and can be messy. I have stacks of professional books I cannot make a dent in because I add books quicker than I read them, I have wonders I still can’t answer, questions that lead me to even more questions, and, sometimes, I uncover content I never truly learned as a student.

Among all of this learning messiness, however, is the comforting feeling that I am not on this journey alone. I have an incredible network of educators that help me learn and get better every single day.

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Supporting Heroes, Not Villains

On Wednesday, I retweeted President Obama’s support of Ahmed Mohamed, the now famous Texas teenager whose homemade clock was mistaken by school officials for a bomb.

The story, as well as the tweet, had gone viral. Although painful, the story spurred conversation about education, which was encouraging. I, like the President, realize the potential of an inspiring science education. That said, it did not take a rocket scientist – although Ahmed is one in training – to realize that the story was also deeply rooted in institutionalized biases towards Muslims. So, I balanced the welcomed dialogue about STEM with the grim reality of the pervasive racism that ended with a 14-year-old student in cuffs.

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#TchLIVE: Meet the Tch Laureate Team!

Back-to-School Night still gives me butterflies. My mind wonders: What glimpse of my students’ families will I get? Will parents and guardians share some tidbits that will help me better serve their children? How can I lay a foundation for the year that we can build on together?

It’s also a chance for families and loved ones to experience for themselves the physical space in which their child spends most of her or his day. It’s a precious opportunity for us to come together at the beginning of a journey.

And to best set out on that journey together, we should get to know one another. To ask questions, to have conversations, to understand desires, hopes, and dreams on the one hand, and levels of expertise, practices, and pedagogical stances on the other.

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Effective Professional Learning is not a Mirage

Empty HallwayThis is what it feels like to be a teaching professional.

Closed door isolation: from each other, from ideas, from learning theory and educational policy as they’re translated into real teaching, and from ourselves as teachers as we try to learn. Over time, this deafening isolation dampens the imagination and initiative we brought with us as new teachers, and the silence among us grows.

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