Managing a classroom is never easy — even for the most seasoned and experienced educators. Even more, every class of students is different, and a great strategy that works with one group may not necessarily work with the next. That’s why it’s smart to build a toolbox full of strategies so you can change up your routine to find out what works for the students you’re teaching right now.
If you have six minutes, we have six strategies you can learn today and try tomorrow for a more focused and well-managed classroom.
There are many teachers who serve as sources of inspiration in our lives, but the one that we hope to emulate most is undoubtedly Professor Albus Dumbledore, of JK. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
During this hectic holiday season, as the days are shrinking but the pile of grading is not, we cleave to his wise words:
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times,
if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
As Gretchen Vierstra recently pointed out, teaching in December can be tough.
Many of us find ourselves at school before the sun makes its grand appearance and are still there long after it quits for the day.
What is it that’s causing the daylight hours to hasten by, providing us additional hours of darkness?
Is there a way to embrace the “Darkside” of the season, while still resisting the negative forces at work?
Whether you’re looking for ways to get students engaged with the darkness around us during this time of year or enamored with the bright lights of the season, here are some tips and tricks to use around the solstice to help students embrace phenomena and enjoy the holiday season.
My internet browser always has extra tabs open. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m composing in one of approximately nine open tabs on my Google Chrome web browser. Nine may sound excessive, but it’s actually fewer open windows than my usual mode of operation. And I’m only talking about one application.
Usually, when I plan a lesson or conduct an observation, I’ll have ten or more tabs open, as well as a word processing program and YouTube or Amazon for background music. I admit this is probably not all that healthy when it comes to sustained focus, but there is a method to my madness.
When events like those in Charlottesville, Virginia happen, we watch the news in disbelief and despair. We scroll endlessly through our Twitter feeds — tweeting, retweeting, sharing resources, and keeping abreast of the latest developments. Maybe what you saw invoked anger, maybe sadness, maybe fear.
The question that remains is, what are you going to do about it?
Teachers need to talk with their students about race, but before you begin to explore race, bias, and identity in your classroom, you’ll need to do a bit of work to be sure you’re prepared.
When you’re ready, the resources below can help spur discussions about implicit bias, privilege, and systemic racism, and empower students to work toward a more just society.
Research tells us that LGBTQ students continue to experience harassment and discrimination at school, and these climates negatively affect health and educational outcomes. However, the narratives mean more coming directly from the students themselves. Below are the responses offered by three students when asked what they would like teachers to know about their experiences as gender-nonconforming students.
As teachers, our greatest charge may be moral: create a safe and responsive environment where all students learn. And that charge — in the face of 12+ hour days, isolation, and little support — can be hard to live out. But summoning the requisite courage and compassion is particularly essential for students who are gender-nonconforming. In a world too often lacking in understanding and acceptance, sometimes even in a student’s own home, teachers have a potent opportunity and responsibility to make our classrooms and schools an oasis of grace and safety.
On the Youth Mic blog, three transgender students have shared their perspective in their own voice. Their experience personalizes and echoes the findings of a recent report, “Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth and School Facilities,” which found that 70% of transgender students said they’ve gone out of their way to not use campus bathrooms. This means drinking less, even to the point of developing urinary tract infections in an effort to skip the public restroom, in addition to complications around physical education classes, attendance concerns, and the effects of dehydration on attention and study habits.
But the bathroom question, though serious, is also symbolic. It begs us to ask a more fundamental question. Will we fully include these students — these human beings — in our public education system?
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a
difference in our lives.”
— John F. Kennedy
It’s The Little Things
A thank-you note or a kind word — even a simple smile goes a long way for a teacher. We often underestimate the influence of the little things or think what we have to offer is so insignificant — what’s the point?
But I know teachers who cherish notes from students scribbled on scrap paper and well up with tears when one of their “kids” says thanks. It’s just as powerful when this kind of everyday recognition comes from parents, colleagues, or administrators.
“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
— Native American Proverb
Leadership is hard; it’s littered with the unknown, filled with the unexpected, packed with the unanswerable, and bursting with challenges great and small. Yet at its core, leadership is an essential element to successful school culture — to developing, building, and even changing the ways in which schools operate, teach, learn, and grow.
When exploring school culture and its correlation to leadership, though, it’s essential that we think of the term of “school leader” in a more global sense. At their core, teachers are leaders. And when the “leaders” of a school realize this fact and empower teachers to help enact change, welcoming them into the STORY of their school, the impossible becomes the reality, the unimaginable becomes the routine.
You see, teachers are leaders because they’re at the center of the humanity within the work; living in and yet simultaneously crafting the story of the school, the narrative of the culture, and this is absolutely essential because the reality is this: a story entertains; it engages; it endears us to others; it enrages; but most importantly, it EMPOWERS. Without the story, we’re left with blank slates. Simply put, we — and our school cultures — are incomplete. As Michael Margolis, CEO at Get Storied said, “If you want to learn about a culture, listen to the stories. If you want to change a culture, change the stories.”
A teacher can learn a lot by taking a close read of the classroom.
However, the pace of a typical school day doesn’t allow for much time to step back and take it all in. That’s why video is a great tool to help teachers understand what’s really happening in the classroom as students engage in learning activities.
In the videos I collected of students, I began to notice there was a pattern to their conversations. Based upon the task at hand, my role was to be a facilitator. As teachers embark into NGSS territory, it will become more obvious that students are highly engaged in their tasks. They’re excited and need help making sense of their thinking.
Our new series, Women Leaders in Education, shares powerful narratives from female trailblazers in education. Our first interview is with Linda Darling-Hammond. An educational leader focused on bridging education and policy, Linda Darling-Hammond is an advocate, author, reformer, professor, and policymaker. She has been instrumental in shaping many areas within the education ecosystem, including teaching standards, assessments, educational systems, and education policy. Teachers across the nation continue to be inspired and encouraged by her powerful and thoughtful messages.