Tch Tips: Four Ways to Communicate with Families

Tch tips

Depending on when your school year started, you’ve probably made it through the initial sprint of setting up routines, establishing the foundation for your class culture, and everything in between. Now as you move into the fall, it’s time to evaluate and refine your communication with families.

  • How are you letting them know about your classroom’s activities?
  • How are they learning about the progress of their children?
  • How are you getting families involved?

Check out these four tips for communicating with your students’ families throughout the school year.

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Five Key Ingredients for a Well-Managed Classroom

New Teacher Survival Guide

You stand in front of your class, ready to dive into the lesson for the day. Before you speak your first complete sentence, two students start an audible conversation in the back of the room. And from the corner of your eye, you notice a boy in the front taking things out of his desk. Before you can deal with those two issues, you’re interrupted by a fourth student, who yells out a question from the periphery.

It’s not even 9 AM and you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed.

If this sounds like a typical morning, you’re not alone! No matter where you teach, classroom management is paramount to learning. Fair or not, part of your performance evaluation will depend upon how well you manage your classroom so that student behavior doesn’t create a barrier to learning. So, let’s look at some key ingredients for a well-managed classroom.

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Be Your Own Mentor

New Teacher Survival Guide

I began my teaching career in January, after a December graduation.

That first day, I took a deep breath and started to tell my first period class of eighth graders about my expectations.

A boy I’ll call Ben bounced out of his seat and turned away from me.

“Sit down,” I said.

“No,” he said. “We have to say the pledge.”

Just then, the speaker crackled to life and a voice from above asked the students to stand.

Ben was a challenge throughout the semester. But the first day Pledge of Allegiance was just the first of many things that could’ve gone better — if only I’d had someone to tell me the simple things about the school’s routines, and was there to help me improve my classroom management. By the end of the semester I decided to give teaching one more year, promising myself that if it didn’t get better, I’d look for a different career. The next fall I had a new job in a different district, where I was happy to stay.

Over time, I’ve benefited from the help of many of my more experienced colleagues. And I’ve mentored numerous student teachers and first-year educators, both formally and informally, and learned from them as well. Unfortunately, many districts still expect beginning teachers to “go it alone.”

What can you do if you find yourself in this situation?

Your only choice is to be your own mentor.

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I’m Welcoming the End of Summer

Tch Laureate Team

Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on Geneviève DeBose’s blog, Back To The Point, on September 6, 2016.

Today was technically the first day of my 13th year as a middle school teacher. I use the word technically because no students were at school today, but our hallways and classrooms were filled with colleagues buzzing about getting ready for the arrival of our scholar activists. It felt really good to be back.

Usually I end the summer reluctantly. Of course I’m happy to return to school, but who doesn’t want just one more week of summer? Strangely, this year feels different. I was ready to come back. Looking forward to it, actually. I can’t pinpoint exactly why. Regardless, it feels good to want to return to school, to want to see my colleagues, to want to meet my kiddos.

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“Welcome Back Classroom Hack” Challenge

There’s just something about teachers — I don’t know if it’s nature, nurture, or some combination of the two, but teachers are clever. If you need a problem solved in a way that is practical, economical, innovative, and immediate, your best bet is to find a teacher and present your problem as a challenge.

Welcome Back Classroom Hack Challenge

Teachers also know the value of iteration. They understand that we learn from our first attempts that fail, and they’re cool with it. Add to this mix a willingness to learn from the iterations of others and a strong bias against reinventing the wheel, and you can see why teachers are among the most resourceful, ingenious, and inspired individuals. Teachers are hackers, no doubt!

Though we may be problem solvers at heart, the classroom is unpredictable and perfection is a pipe dream. We march forward with good intent, but there always seems to be that one thing that didn’t work out quite like we planned. The more complex the puzzle, the harder we work to devise a solution.
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What Do You Believe About Teaching And Learning?

Setting Up Your Classroom Deep Dive Blog Header

I’ve always been one of those people who has a tough time really wrapping my head around the new school year until the physical space of our classroom is ready. That may be the residue of years of Augusts in my mom’s 4th grade classroom, watching her think and craft and organize in the most enthusiastic ways. It could be a little of my penchant for tidy spaces. But, most likely, it’s because I know the actual work of teaching is so unpredictable, so kinetic, so messy, that having our classroom space ready gives me a sense of calm.

Space is important. It’s not everything. It doesn’t have to define us (I know so many of you teach in spaces that are difficult to work with), but the way we use the space we have can reflect what we believe about teaching and learning. In fact, it does reflect what we believe. It’s the first message anyone gets about what learning will look like in this classroom. And I know this matters to you. In a recent “Ask Sarah” column, I answered a reader’s question about what an ideal classroom can look like.

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Reimagine Your Learning Space: Starbucks Your Classroom!

Hey!

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other. I know we don’t talk that often these days, so I thought I’d drop you a line and see what’s been happening with you.

How are you? How’s your summer? Hot? Are you chillin’ like a villain? Doing some grillin’? I wish I was… But I’m not. I’m kinda’ blah right now. I’m bored. And I’m boring, too. I’ve looked the same for centuries, and that’s a long time. Trust me.

Look, I’m not saying it’s your fault. And, I’m not saying you don’t care. I’m just saying that I’m in need of an update in the worst way… I’m Outdated. Constricting. Confining. Compromising. I’m Obsolete! You know what I’m saying? I want a change. I need a change. I must change!

No more rows, columns, grey, and gloom. No more control — it’s an illusion.

Collaboration is where it’s at. Communication, creativity, and critical thinking are what I want to emulate, stimulate, cultivate, and propagate.

What you say mate?

How about some couches, armchairs, coffee tables, high tables with stools, restaurant style tables, standing tables, a rug, and maybe even a yoga mat? How about you make me look like Starbucks, but cooler? Can you do this for me?

I promise you won’t be disappointed and the kids will love it.

Stay cool.

Yours truly,

Your Classroom

Boring Classroom

What Does Your Classroom Communicate?

As teachers, we spend a great deal of time in our classrooms. Sometimes it may even feel like we’ve moved in. I imagine our students feel the same. If we’re going to spend most of our time in our rooms, the space should feel good. It should feel comfortable. A classroom should inspire creativity and productivity, but that’s not always our reality. When something is off in your classroom — when your design lags behind your teaching style — you can feel it. It’s almost as if your classroom is trying to tell you something needs to change.

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