I was challenged by a fellow educator (@Aaron_Hogan) to think through five things that we need to stop pretending so here goes.
We need to stop pretending…
...that we (teachers) can do it all. We need help. We need each other. One tool that has helped me realize this is Twitter. Never have I grown so much in my seven years in education as I have through my global PLN on Twitter. Humans were not created to navigate life alone. We are wired in the core of our being to live in community. Family, work, church, a PLN…all of these are examples of communities that we can plug into. The main reason for them? Support and growth. Find a community and plug into it. See one of my earliest posts titled “My PLN Just Blew Up.”
…that all of our students have it together. So often we view less productive students as lazy or entitled, which, in some cases, may be true. There are those students, however, who go home every afternoon and transition into the role of mom or dad. While they’re working to take care of siblings (cooking them dinner and making sure they have clothes to wear) they don't really have time to worry about themselves or what homework was assigned to them. Mom is at her second job. Dad may be in prison. No, we don't want our students to be defined by their circumstances, but we should be in tune with our students well enough to discern if a situation warrants a little grace followed by a "tough love" type conversation. These are great teachable moments.
That being said...we need to stop pretending that students aren't capable of more responsibility. In the book Do Hard Things, twin brothers Alex and Brett Harris propose that today's teens are subject to low cultural expectations. They are capable of much more than we give them credit for. Make your bed, put your dishes in the sink, pass your classes and you've earned a gold star. I submit that with this mentality we (adults) are creating that culture of entitlement mentioned in the previous paragraph. Why can’t they be world-changers? Why can’t they be influential leaders? Because they're young?? We need to give our students more responsibility and trust that they will rise to the occasion when we raise the bar.
…that we (teachers) have to live, eat and breathe education. Yes, I love my students. Yes, I want to be the best teacher I can be for them. I do have a life outside of the classroom though. My students know that I care about them but they also know that I have family, friends and hobbies. I don’t think about them 24/7. We need to have things outside of education that we can focus on like church, hobbies, friends, etc. We need to get our minds off of the classroom at times and this can be a struggle for me. If we’re not well-rounded in our activities, there’s a good chance we’ll experience burnout and not be the best teacher we can be. Work-life balance is a must.
…that standardized testing is an effective measurement. Is giving every student in the state in the same grade level the same state mandated test year in and year out on one day of the school year (6 weeks before it's over) really a good measurement of what they are capable of? “The state” says it is. What happens if a student is a poor test taker? What if there are stressors that are out of their control? Mom and dad got into a fight that morning. Dad just lost his job. Is that test a still good indicator of what he or she is capable of in real life? Are we concerned with our students being nothing more than a statistic that makes our campus/district look good or are we focused on the well-being of the whole student?
Do you have five things you think we should quit pretending in education? Post them and tag me (@BClarksonTX).
I had an incredible experience this past weekend at my first EdCamp in Navasota, TX. Amazing experience! Highly recommend attending an EdCamp if you know of one coming up in your area. I've shared small nuggets of what I walked away with. There was so much more but this is just a snippet. Hope you benefit as much as I did. My advice: jump at the chance to participate in an EdCamp in your area.
Thanks to Todd Nesloney (@techninjatodd), and his team at Navasota Intermediate for putting this together. Looking forward to doing it again soon!
Professional Relationships w/ Students & Parents
*Get to know your students. REALLY know them. What do they like? What are their hobbies? Don't let them feel like a statistic in your classroom.
*Parents need to feel valued. Seek input from them. Allow them to help guide campus vision.
*Students also need to feel valued. Seek input from them in planning lessons.
*A simple "hello" and calling your students by name in the hallways holds more weight than you can imagine.
*Find creative ways to get parents involved. Hold parent meetings of campus at familiar locations (churches are a great option).
*Host family game nights. Create an environment where parents can come and not only have fun with their child(ren) but also have their minds blown by what their child is capable of doing.
*Create value in students by allowing them to facilitate these game nights.
*Allow students to facilitate faculty meetings. Get ideas from them. Present your ideas to the students and allow them to critique/rip them apart.
*You may be blown away by what you feel is a great lesson or idea that turns out to get ripped apart by your students. THIS IS OK!!
*Before solving the problem of getting more parents involved, you may have to first work on getting your staff to buy into the vision.
“Blogging is the first thing we should be doing. Post students’ work! Whatever it is they’re working on, put it out there.”
*Gives kids an open platform to share their learning. Publishing students' work encourages them to work hard to create high quality work.
*One great resource is kidblog.org. It's free and gives kids an individual account. It's customizable and can be as public or private as you want it to be.
*Quad blogging is a concept where 4 classes shared blogging. Each one posts for a week while the other three read and post comments on the posts from the blogging class.
*Use the hashtag #comments4kids (share your blog and search for examples of others to leave comments on)
Follow @lindayollis & @dunkinthebunny for examples.
Building a Positive Campus Culture
*Social media gives you complete control over your campus image. Flood it with what's good on your campus.
*Observe other teachers with a mindset of "what can I learn from this person?"
*COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE
*Good communication is the key, no matter good or bad. It MUST happen.
*Find ways to serve your community. Have a cookout for a local neighborhood or apartment complex.
*Positivity breeds positivity. Negativity breeds negativity; it will eat away campus culture if you let it.
*Positive Post-it day (post-it notes around campus with encouraging notes for random people)
*Allow others to compliment you. It's awkward, but take it and appreciate it.
*Set up a placard for each teacher on your campus during a faculty meeting. Use that time to allow teachers to go around and write specific praise for their colleagues. It's one thing to hear praise about yourself. It's incredibly encouraging to see it.
*As an admin, take time to truly KNOW your staff. What they're dealing with outside of school will affect their ability to be a great teacher. Know them well enough to help them be the best teacher possible.
*Navasota Intermediate's "You Matter" Google Form as an example
Project Based Learning (PBL)
*Do NOT make PBLs a group grade. Parents don't like this and it's not fair to the students. Grade based on effort and content.
*Share the state standards with your students. This will help them have a clear vision of what they should be learning and what their product should show.
*Allow freedom of choice. Students will be FLOORED when they realize that their product can be what THEY want rather than what YOU want.
*Follow @BIEpbl (Buck Institute for Education)
Teachers Pay Teachers has some pretty good resources for younger students.
Come up with real world problems for your students to solve. Make the learning authentic and the product matter.
Brent Clarkson, M.Ed.