Monday, March 10, 2014

Creating the Right Climate and Culture (Part I)

37. Welcome students and families to your school in style...
The Ron Clark Academy uses Golden Tickets and Red Carpets to welcome students and families to their school. What happens in your school or classroom to make students, parents, and extended families welcome?

38. Believe that every child can learn, regardless...
I absolutely love this quote on page 168: "We have to look at our children and see what we want them to become." IMHO, it sums up everything that is right - and wrong - with education. Children of any age are capable of great things. Focusing on the things that are not so great, or things that are just plain bad, will often promote these very characteristics in our students. It is the classic self-fulfilling prophecy that we all learned about in our very first EdPsych class. The day we forget it is the day we no longer belong in front of a classroom.

39. Open Your Doors to Parents. See #37

40. Dress the Part; Attire Matters
Lots of research supports this, yet research also exists that says some students automatically get defensive when they see an adult in corporate dress. Seems they identify that person as "The Man" (or "Woman") and automatically distrust that person. How do you feel about this one? 

41. Make the most of every moment
Be honest. How much "down time" do you allow in your classroom? Is that appropriate in the era of ever-higher standards? What can you do to allow "brain breaks" while continuing to increase the amount of time-on-task in your classroom?

42. Can the intercom Testify!

43. Please don't interrupt a teacher's lesson to deliver a note, ask a question, or disturb the class
While not quite as annoying as #42, this can also be a problem. Any interruption can set a class off. How do you handle such interruptions?

44. Avoid sitting down while students are in the room Okay, I'm not the kind of amazing teacher that Mr. Clark expects, but I will say that this was one that practiced whenever I could. I did, however, buy a barstool to perch on during read-alouds and when students entered/exited the classroom, because I did need a break from time-to-time. (In my schools, we were always expected to stand in the hallways during passing times to help monitor the chaos - the barstool put my eyes just above the heads of most of the kids who were milling about.) Otherwise, I was always pacing the trenches, down on one knee next to a student's desk, or sitting on the floor with groups of kids working on a project. Thank goodness I never had a chair with wheels!

45. Do not use cell phones or computers while students are in the room, unless the device is part of the lesson being taught The cell phone rule in our schools is, generally, "Off and Away." Does that go for teachers as well? Even during passing times? What about "wearable devices," or the telltale rectangle in the pocket, etc.? Confession: Cell phones were just starting to show up in classrooms during my last years teaching. Often kids would forget to surn their phones off and eventually one would go off during class, usually with a ring tone of the student's favorite song, etc. Whenever that would happen, I would stop everything and dance VERY badly (not that I can dance well, mind you) in front of the class. Kids would BEG me to stop, because apparently my dancing was a painful and punishing sight! I told them I would stop dancing when phones stopped ringing in my classroom. Usually by the start of second quarter my dancing "skills" were no longer needed.

46. Make homework for home, not for school
While I agree with everything Mr. Clark says in this passage, I will admit that I struggled with this at times during my classroom years. I'm wondering how you check for understanding in your class? How do you know kids understand the concepts before sending them off to work independently on the assignment? In this age of "Flipped Classrooms," will this start turning around? If students gather knowledge at home from videos, websites, and actual READING, and we spend more class time pursuing answers to real-world problems, how will we check understanding then? By extension, how or will that affect how grades are assigned?

47. Make sure you do your homework, too!
I may not have the right to comment on this lately, but I can say that when I was in the classroom I would over-prepare and almost script out my lessons. How do you ensure that you are completely prepared for your daily lessons?

48. Begin each class on fire!
How do you get your classes started with energy and enthusiasm?

49. Increase teacher quality instead of reducing class size
What's the best thing you've learned from a mentor or colleague so far?

50. Set an electric tone on Day One
What do you do to get kids excited about school at the beginning of the year/semester/term?

51.Don't constantly stress about test scores...
Some may say this is easier said than done. In these days of new standards, new assessments, new evaluation procedures, etc., this is a tough one for many. How do you feel about approaching testing as an opportunity to show what a student has learned? How do you think your students would respond to this? (Careful - see #38 again...!) :)

52. Open up your home to your students
Curious about the group's response to this idea... hmm...

53. Stay connected; have parents on speed dial We need to talk about this one, folks...

54. Give children a chance to respond and don't give up so quickly
Wait-time... this is tough for many teachers to deal with early in their careers. How do you handle wait-time in your class? Also, how do you make sure you are giving each child the opportunity to participate?

55. Realize that kids need to move...
How do you get kids up and moving in your classroom?

56. Use chants to create a supportive, encouraging, exciting environment
How can you use these ideas in your classroom?

57. Get on the desk!
Okay, I'm not recommending this. Insurance companies and lawyers will see the nightmare in this idea. (See page 212) But perhaps a different way to lok at this is, how do you get your students' attention and convey your enthusiasm? How do you keep them from zoning out?

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