Responsive Classroom: Empathy Is The Key

Kuleana responsibility

I learned a new word: kuleana. It’s a Hawaiian word that means one’s personal sense of responsibility. I accept my responsibilities and I will be held accountable.

As an educator, having a vision is important. We have a great responsibility to our students and to society. I’m privileged to be an educator, and part of my vision is to teach children not only academic skills, but social-emotional skills that will prepare them to master this concept of kuleana and use it throughout their lives.

This same personal sense of responsibility is naturally embedded in the work I do every day. I’m part of a community of educators who believe in the principles of the Responsive Classroom, a K-8 approach to teaching and learning which includes specific tools, strategies, and practices to help teachers provide a high-quality education to every student, every day. It’s not an add on nor a stand-alone program. These principles, woven into everything we do, how we speak, and how we model behavior, are based on research that shows a strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning.

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Introducing The Formative Assessment Deep Dive: Take It And Try It!

Formative Assessment Deep Dive Blog BannerFinding teaching resources online can often feel like a scavenger hunt. Even when searching one particular area of teaching, there are videos here, blogs there, and various conversations floating around social media. With such a variety of resources, it can take a great deal of time to learn in a progression that makes sense.

Teaching Channel just made this searching and learning so much easier with their new Deep Dives! On one page, dedicated to one idea, you can read background information, watch related videos, read blog posts, and ask and answer questions. It’s a one-stop shop for learning individually or as a team, as well as planning professional development for your school or district.

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Tips to Enrich School-Family Partnerships

Super reader teachers her mom how she uses pointer power when she reads

Super reader teaches her mom how she uses pointer power when she reads

The classroom is filled with parents, siblings, and grandparents eager to learn from kindergarten super readers. All around the room, students dressed as their favorite reading superpower are sitting alongside their their families, immersed in stacks of books, teaching their families how to use superpowers as they read.

When they get to challenging “kryptonite” words, students demonstrate how they use picture power to study the picture and think about what word might make sense. This is how we celebrate reading. It’s an opportunity for students to demonstrate their growth and for families to learn about how they can continue to support their child’s reading at home. It’s a bridge from school to home. This is one of the many ways that we engage families at our school.

Engaging in meaningful school-family partnerships is foundational to improving student outcomes. Families are an essential resource as we strive to work together to best support our students. Over the past few years, our school has grappled with this question: How do we build meaningful school-family partnerships? While our practices are always evolving, I’ll share some of the ones that have successfully enriched our school-family partnerships that you might try in your own school:

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Teacher Appreciation Week: Share Why #TeachersRock

For Teacher Appreciation Week we’ve concocted a weeks worth of tweets to keep teachers feeling loved and appreciated. During the week of May 4th-May 8th, come to Twitter and answer these questions.

Remember to use the hashtag #TeachersRock so we can find your answers and share them with our teacher community.

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Sustaining Strong Classroom Culture Throughout the Year

For too many years, I used to think my classes would either have good chemistry, or they wouldn’t. Sometimes there was a group of students who just clicked, but more often than not, students don’t know each other when we begin together. And even though my department offers our students many courses to choose from, they are always filling a requirement when they come to one of my English classes. Some bring their natural enthusiasm, others their implicit skepticism, and at least a few always have to be won over. Finally, I decided to get honest with myself, to take a step back and look at why some classes just “had it” and others didn’t. That honest look taught me some careful lessons about class chemistry.

First of all, it wasn’t about chemistry at all; rather it was about culture. And when I realized that difference, I realized why some classes clicked and others didn’t: I was counting on it to just happen, rather than setting out to create it. Over time I learned that culture is something learned, that we have to work at it, that I have to speak it in order to live it. This week we’re highlighting a series of videos that take a look at the lessons I learned.

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#TchLIVE: All The Way To The Finish Line! Maintaining Strong Classroom Culture

Building classroom culture is something we tend to think a lot about at the beginning of the year, but it’s just as important to maintain and nurture it throughout the year. For this month’s chat, we want to talk about how you set up your classroom culture, how you maintain the things that are working, and how you change the things that don’t.

This #TchLIVE chat will be on Thursday, March 26th at 4pm PDT.

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I Am Thankful For…

“There are things known and unknown and in between are the doors.”
— Jim Morrison

I stand on the outside of my classroom door, weighed down by too many bags, as I dig for the keys that have, yet again, found their way to the most unreachable corner of my purse. As I pause, I touch the poems along the entrance, glance at the light bulb covering the wall with the words: Think. Question? Learn! Grabbing the handle, I can’t help but look into the mirrors I’ve covered the door with, reminding everyone who walks through it to “See yourself ______ today!” Yesterday’s word is still there: spirited. As I turn the handle, I recognize the daily ritual of crossing the threshold.

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Sweet Ideas for Halloween-Inspired Learning

Want to hear something frightening? Halloween is approaching. A day filled with candy, costumes, and corny carnival games. A day I loved as a child and loved as a teacher.

Yes, I know there are many teachers out there who absolutely dread the day, including my colleague Lily, a confessed Halloween Grinch. Well, here’s a different perspective: I truly love it.

To me, it’s a day to embrace the goofiness inside all of us, where we let go of regular classroom routines, and offer a chance for some kids who normally don’t embrace school, to shine. Now, I know that not everyone celebrates Halloween, but in most cases, the students who do celebrate it will celebrate it at school no matter what you do. So, even if Halloween is not your cup of witch’s brew, rather than ignore the day completely, think of a way to make it work for your classroom and community.

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Case Study of a Teacher: Creating a Collaborative Learning Environment (Part 2)

Teacher Planning and Collaboration

Last week we got a glimpse into the collaborative, analysis-rich classroom that David Olio has created. After seeing a classroom like David’s where students work so well together, I always wonder how students got there. In these short videos, we unpack some of the strategies and routines that David has created to facilitate the collaborative learning environment that we see in his videos.

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