Fostering L.O.V.E. in Your Classroom

Valentine’s Day is one of the most exciting days of the year for elementary students.  Many of us can easily recall the feelings of affection we had for a classmate when we were still wide-eyed and innocent.  The day brings great anticipation.  Who will give us a valentine?  What message will we choose to give a special someone with our conversation heart candy?

For many children, Valentine’s Day is their first experience with “love.”  As adults, we know that there will be many trials and tribulations later, but for now we smile at their crushes and stories about “boyfriends” and “girlfriends.”  Don’t we all secretly wish we could have that time back again, just a little? Oh well, at least we can re-live it through our children.

Valentine’s Day is also a good time for teachers to remember the importance of love in the classroom.  Love still has an important place in our schools.  Fostering love in the classroom builds a sense of community for our students.  There are many ways to establish and cultivate love in our classrooms.  Here are four suggestions for making your classroom a loving environment.

-L-

Let your students know that you like them.  This can’t be faked.  If they don’t feel it, they won’t be able to do their best for you.  The brain is wired to perform best when it’s comfortable.  Tell them you like them.  Show them you like them…each and every day.

-O-

Offer your students choices.  Students who are given choices in what and how they learn feel that they are part of the learning process.  Learning isn’t something that happens to them, it is something that happens with them.  Teachers who know their students well are more likely to provide students with learning choices that they value and that motivate them to become independent learners.

-V-

Value their differences.  Get to know their culture, their background, and their interests.  Find out the names of their pets, their favorite relatives, and the sports they play.  Like adults, our students want to be recognized as individuals.  This takes time, but it is time well-spent.

-E-

Excite them about learning.  When teachers are excited about teaching, students become excited about learning, it’s that simple.  Move around the room.  Check in with each student for every lesson you teach.  Get your students up and moving.  Students need to talk about their learning.  Meaningful learning can be messy and loud.  Take a deep breath and tell yourself that that’s okay.

So, this Valentine’s Day remember the importance of love in teaching.  Students who feel loved are more open and available for learning.  They are also more likely to give back.  Maybe they’ll give you a sweet card or some candy this Friday.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Weingarten Gets It

“We can’t reclaim the promise of public education without investing in strong neighborhood public schools that are safe, collaborative and welcome environments for students, parents, educators and the broader community. Schools where teachers and school staff are well-prepared and well-supported, with manageable class sizes and time to collaborate. Schools with rigorous standards aligned to an engaging curriculum that focuses on teaching and learning, not testing, and that includes art, music, civics and the sciences — and where all kids’ instructional needs are met.”

-Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers in the Washington Post Answer Sheet column by Valerie Strauss.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has made a stand that resonates with many educators.  It is possible to embrace the Common Core Standards while being critical of the testing that has accompanied their roll-out.  Being quick to find fault is a habit engrained in American culture.  Many are critical of the new standards.  Ironically, few of those critics are actually educators.

Weingarten is president of the second largest teachers union in the country.  One might suspect that she is only looking out for her constituency.  That, of course, is her job.  Yet, advocating for her teachers ultimately benefits children.  Weingarten makes a connection that so many policymakers have missed.  When teachers are treated fairly and rationally, they are better educators.

States are using value-added models to evaluate and rate teachers.  These measures are attached to the funds that states have received through Race to the Top.  In other words, states have been coerced into using test scores to develop complicated evaluation tools for teachers.  There is little evidence that VAM-based evaluation tools have been, or will be, accurate and fair to teachers.

By circumstance, principals stand in the middle of this political mess.  They have been thrust into a quagmire of illogical formulas designed to quantify the art of teaching.  Rather than being overwhelmed by this predicament, principals should be a voice of reason and sound thinking.

While diligently serving as the interpreters of educational change, principals can make sure that good teachers don’t flee a profession they love.  The adoption of the Common Core should be separated from the assessment-focused milieu that has been forced on schools.  Principals can, and must, do this for their teachers.  Principals can foster a transition to the Common Core that does not alienate teachers in the process.  If they can’t accomplish this, who can?

Link to full Washington Post article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/01/13/weingarten-slams-teacher-evaluation-by-student-test-scores/

 

Edweek Rankings: What really matters when it comes to student achievement?

Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report was released January 9th.  Depending on past performance, states were either eager to find out how they did or cringing while they waited for their results.  Many states use the report as a feel-good moment to pat themselves on the back.  The rest start spinning negative results into positives before the report even hits their doorsteps.

The Quality Counts report is comprehensive and complicated.  It contains enough variables that most states should at least be able to find some positives within their results.  After reviewing the report, however, one may begin to question the relationship between student achievement, standards, assessment, and accountability.

The standards, assessment, and accountability rankings are based on test items used to measure student performance, the alignment of assessments to academic standards, as well as the rewards, assistance, and sanctions states provide schools.  The student achievement rankings factor in NAEP scores, high school graduation rates, and AP test scores.

The table below illustrates an interesting point:

State Ranking for K-12 Student Achievement(score/grade) State Ranking for Standards,   Assessment, and Accountability (score/grade)
Massachusetts 1   (83.7 B) 23   (88.4 B+)
Maryland 2   (83.1 B) 44   (88.3 B+)
New Jersey 3   (81.1 B-) 24   (75.5 C)
Indiana 12   (72.8 C) 1   (97.8 A)
Louisiana 49   (59.8 D-) 2   (97.2 A)
West Virginia 47   (60.8 D-) 3   (96.7 A)

A converse relationship seems to exist between standards, assessment, and accountability when compared to student achievement.  The three states with the highest rankings in student achievement (MA, MD, and NJ) are less impressive in the standards, assessment, and accountability rankings.  The three states ranked highest in standards, assessment, and accountability (IN, LA, and WV) struggle to measure up when it comes to student achievement.

Simply put, Education Week’s Quality Counts report calls into question the need to focus on state standards, assessment, and accountability.  States like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Maryland have raised academic rigor without being waylaid by the demands of standards, assessment, and accountability.  The states that have directed their energy at compliance with federal guidelines have done so without benefit to their students.

No one is questioning the need for standards, assessment, and accountability.  Schools and teachers have always been, and will always be, accountable.  The Quality Counts report, however, illustrates that states would be better off focusing on quality teacher training, instruction, and compensation rather than the minutia associated with standards, assessment, and accountability.

Highlights from the 2014 Quality Counts report can be accessed at the link below:

http://www.edweek.org/media/ew/qc/2014/shr/16shr.us.h33.pdf

Showing Up Is Important- Guest Blog by Debbie Wooleyhand

Promises and resolutions mark the start of the calendar year.  January is a great time for schools to review behavioral expectations with students and families.  One of the most important expectations a school can set is regular attendance.  Habits form early and parents are a child’s first teacher.  Educators need to empower parents and encourage them to teach their children about the importance of going to school.

Showing up is the greatest contribution a child can make to the classroom.  Typically, when a student is absent, the teacher will send home “make up” work.  Yet, there are events that occur in a classroom that can’t be sent home.  The calm that falls over a class when the teacher reads a story aloud, the spontaneous song that breaks out occasionally, or the shared laughter when something silly happens in the classroom- these are intangible moments.  They are the events that help create a special bond between teacher and students.  They are the moments that move a classroom from school-like to family-like.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t put those feelings in a backpack and send them home.

What message can school leaders share?  Tell your teachers about the power of a phone call home when a child is absent.  It lets the parent and child know you care and that it matters when they are not in school.  Let parents know that we really do want the best for their children, not just today, but every day and that begins by building good habits.  Other messages to share about attendance include:

  • Good attendance helps children do well in school and eventually on the job
  • Attendance matters as early as kindergarten
  • Sporadic absences matter. Before you know it, a child has missed 10 percent of the school year
  • Don’t let your child stay home unless he is truly sick.  Complaints about a headache or stomach ache can be a sign of anxiety and not a reason to keep your child home from school
  • Avoid medical appointments and extended trips when school is in session

Lastly, attending school regularly helps children feel better about school and themselves.  My resolution for 2014 is to share the message of the importance of school attendance.  I resolve to talk about it every day. See you in school!

Information contained in this blog came from www.attendanceworks.org.

Debbie Wooleyhand is a veteran educator and pupil personnel worker in a school district with over 70,000 students.  She can be followed on Twitter @ppw78.

Meet Cybraryman- Jerry Blumengarten

Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1) is guest hosting #mdeschat this Thursday, December 12th at 9 p.m. ET.  We “sat down” with Jerry to learn a little more about him and his awesome website:  www.cybraryman.com.

1. What would people be surprised to know about you?

I have a Maryland connection.  My daughter attended the University of Maryland – College Park.  She met her future husband (who is awesome) there. He is from Perry Hall.  They were married at the chapel on the campus and the reception was held at the Alumni Center.  Our Friday night gathering was at our favorite restaurant- Sir Walter Raleigh Inn in the Maryland Sports room.

We owned a townhouse in College Park during her years there.  Not only did I teach, but I wrote for a company (30+ years) that provided educational materials for the utility industry.  I did research at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Goddard Space Center in Greenbelt and at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

2.  What year did you start using Twitter? How has Twitter changed since you began using it?

I signed onto Twitter in May of 2009, but did not start using it until that summer and I stumbled on #edchat.  The first people I followed were @coolcatteacher @web20classroom @shellterrell @tomwhitby

The biggest change, aside from more educators using Twitter, is the explosion of chats that now cover most subjects & grades as well as states.

3.  What would you tell people who say they don’t have time for Twitter?

First you have to introduce Twitter without saying the name: “Do you know about “The Free Educational Support & Discussion Media System?”  You cannot force anyone to take the time to go on.  Show them the advantages.

4.  Why did you start your website?

After being a classroom teacher (grades 6-9) for 20 years (mostly Social Studies) I was asked to take over the library.  I decided to start a library website for the students, parents and school staff. I wanted a one-stop educational place where they could find useful information in all subject areas.  After I retired I expanded the site to include all grade levels and subject areas.

5.  Who inspires you?

My greatest idols before Twitter were Dr. Albert Schweitzer and Mother Teresa who gave their lives to help others.  Today, I have so many educators and those interested in education on Twitter who inspire me.

6.  Can you share 5 great resources for teaching the Common Core?

My Common Core page: http://cybraryman.com/commoncore.html

My Common Core Math page: http://cybraryman.com/commoncoremath.html

My Nonfiction and Common Core page: http://cybraryman.com/nonfiction.html

My Common Core Argumentative Writing page: http://cybraryman.com/commoncoreargumentative.html

My Keyboarding page: http://www.cybraryman.com/keyboarding.html

7.  You retired after teaching in NY for 32 years.  What advice do you have for new teachers?

  • First, get yourself in the best possible physical condition.
  • Observe other teachers.
  • Form a PLN in your school and online.

My New Teachers page: http://cybraryman.com/newteachers.html

8.  What advice do you have for people who are new to Twitter?

Find and then follow the educational hashtags for your grade level or subject area. It is okay to start out by lurking.  Do not be afraid to ask for help or share on Twitter.  The Twitter educational community care, share and support one another.

More about me can be found here:

All About Cybrary Man http://cybraryman.com/cybrary_man.html

Thanks, Jerry!  We appreciate your contributions to the Twitter-verse and beyond!

P.E.R.F.E.C.T.I.O.N. in Teaching

Is perfection your goal as an educator?  Most of us strive to be the best we can be.  It is hard to truly reach perfection, but it is certainly an admirable goal.  Whether you consider yourself a great teacher or not, you may recognize these characteristics associated with educational “perfection.”

Professional
Great teachers view their work from a professional paradigm.  They consider their role the highest calling.  They are constantly seeking to grow in their pedagogical knowledge.

Excited
Have you ever met a great teacher who was not effusive about teaching?  They bring their students to life because they want nothing more than to share the joy of learning.  You’ll know you’ve met this teacher when you leave their classroom feeling more energized than when you entered.

Reflective
Teaching without reflection is like eating without tasting.  You get the calories, but none of the joy.  Reflective teachers never say, “That was a great lesson!”  They immediately know that even the best lesson needs tweaking.  More importantly, they know that students are a variable in every lesson and how they respond is more important than the content covered.

Flexible
Teachers who are flexible are never thrown off their “game” by the unsettled nature of education.  Flexible teachers allow for teachable moments and going off script.  Students need flexible teachers because they provide stability.

Educated
Great teachers take responsibility for their education.  They seek advanced degrees, attend conferences, and read everything they can get their hands on.  They stay ahead of the rapid changes occurring in their profession.  They are never caught off guard by the educational pendulum.

Creative
Teaching requires creativity today more than ever.  Great teachers are either highly creative or they know how to “borrow” ideas.  They use their resources and colleagues to create engaging lessons.  Creative teachers consistently ask themselves how to make their teaching fun!

Technologically Savvy
The use of technology in teaching has become an assumption.  Administrators who observe teachers expect to see technology used to support instruction.  Teachers who use technology effectively use the SAMR model when planning lessons.

Innovative
The best teachers are the most innovative.  Innovative teachers are better able to reach all of their learners.  When an innovative teacher hits a roadblock she immediately goes into problem solving mode.

Oppositional
Yes, great teachers are also oppositional.  They are confident enough to question their own teaching as well as the beliefs of others, including their supervisors.  They place student learning first.  This makes them comfortable when questioning the “why” behind what they are asked to do.  They are not “Debbie Downers,” but they are unafraid when the needs of their students are at stake.

Networked
Great teachers are networked within and outside of their classroom walls.  They form PLCs with the teachers in their buildings and PLNs with those around the world.  The best teachers are incredibly humble and recognize how much they can learn from their colleagues.

The “perfection” described above is achievable by any teacher who wants to be great at what they do.  The pursuit of lifelong learning is really perfection itself.  Standing still is never tenable.  By seeking perfection you are always moving forward.  It is that pursuit that makes teaching a profession and and a wonderful journey.