Posted in Education, Mindfulness, New Teachers, Teacher Traits, Teachers, Uncategorized

Time to Reflect

Reflection is a very effective form of professional learning, one we aren’t always good about as educators. It always seems as if we need to move on to the next unit, the next activity; and little time if any is taken to reflect upon what we’ve learned.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with a principal who was AMAZING about reflection. He had a theater background, and was a big fan of the “post-mortem”. While the term may seem morbid, the process can often breathe new life into what we are doing. Basically, once a large task is complete, the group meets and reflects upon what went well, and what needs to be improved upon.

In wrapping up a large event in my current position, I send a Google Doc to everyone who was involved, and give them editing rights. I ask them to answer four questions:

  • What were our successes?
  • How do we ensure future success?
  • What can be improved?
  • How can we improve it?

From there, we then meet to discuss what was recorded, and see what adjustments we can make.

Spring is a time of renewal. Even on cooler days, the sun is warm when its shining, and any rain falling is purposeful. It’s efforts are seen in green grass and sprouting flowers. Time flies! Take some time in this season of renewal to “stop and smell the flowers” –  reflect on your actions so far this year to prepare for those last weeks of school and beyond.

Posted in Education, Hattie, New Teachers, Teacher Traits, Teachers, Uncategorized

You make an impact

There are sooooo many factors out there which impact student achievement. There’s this guy out there named John Hattie who was able to identify 138 of them. Once he identified them, he gave them a numerical value. Anything receiving a numerical value of .4 or greater made a significant impact. I’m sure you can probably guess some of these factors.

Here are a few which come up in conversation more than others:

  • A teacher’s education – Dr. Hattie gave this a .41. It definitely has an impact.
  • A student’s motivational state – .42 – Higher value than a teacher’s education.
  • A student’s beliefs, attitudes, and dispositions toward learning – .47 – pretty good compared to that .41

Looking at the research from this perspective it would appear a student’s belief in their own potential has a greater impact than the amount of education their teacher has…that would be correct.

Let’s look at this from a different perspective. Remember when I said Dr. Hattie indicated anything at a .4 or higher indicated significant impact? Here is another figure for you:

  • A teacher’s belief in themselves they can accomplish the job, and can exude that confidence in front of a group of students, has the highest impact on student achievement. 1.57 – way above a .4!

This is why, as an administrator who sat on the opposite side of the table during teacher interviews, I learned not to give priority to the amount of education a teacher has, rather to their passion for teaching and belief in children. A teacher can have all of the content knowledge in the world, but none of that matters if they can’t connect to children.

The coming weeks are going to be hard. It’s a long haul between now and spring break. You will make it though! Just remember: Believe in your students, believe in your team, believe in yourself!!!

Posted in Cultural Competency, Education, Mindfulness, New Teachers, Teachers, Uncategorized

The Holidays Aren’t Always Happy

While you are on winter break, you will likely be someplace with heat, hot water and food… So. Much. Food. For the most part, so will your students. While the majority of our students will be thrilled for all the joys accompanying winter break, there are some not looking forward to this time of year.

Picture the child living in a motel, sharing cramped space with a sibling, extended family member, or perhaps the son or daughter of the person their parent is currently dating; not knowing where they will live at the beginning of the month.

Picture the child living in a large home opening all the presents they asked for as their parents are getting ready to separate from one another the week after Christmas.

Picture the child spending winter break taking care of their four younger siblings all day because there wasn’t enough money for gifts let alone childcare; and picture the child who is terrified because they remember what happened the last time uncle Mark came to visit…

While the holiday season is stressful for all of us, we as adults have some control on how we cope with that stress or remove ourselves from it altogether. Our students don’t always have that.

While we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, we can acknowledge those students who may be going home to less than ideal situations. Depending on the relationship you’ve built with the student, you may be able to help keep them from a dangerous situation. The best thing you can do to support your students is to keep doing what you have been: working on building relationships with your students, and continuing to ensure they feel safe and welcome into your learning environment on a daily basis. Not sure what else you need to do? Ask a member of your administrative team, or your school counselor.

Posted in Uncategorized

Navigating the Parent Conference

On conference day, organization and preparedness are going to be your best friend. As a conference is scheduled, set up a folder for each student which includes a current copy of the student’s grades, a log of any contacts you made with the parents, and some artifacts which can show some “glows” and “grows”. Many buildings also have a conference form which provides a place for notes and a follow-up plan with action steps for the teacher, parent, and student. Having a printed agenda to follow can also help keep things running on time. In addition, take some time to make sure your classroom is well organized, and that there is a comfortable place for parents to wait outside.

The meeting space in the classroom should also be comfortable for the parents. While a round table is best, a few desks pushed together works just fine. Just avoid sitting at your desk while your parents are sitting at desks which are way too small for them!

When the conference begins, be sure to greet your parents warmly, introduce yourself, and ask them to have a seat. Take a moment to review the agenda, remind them of the timeframe, but also be sure to inform them follow up at a later date can be scheduled if needed.

Once introductions take place, go down the agenda; reviewing grades, sharing artifacts, and providing recommendations and suggestions supportive of learning. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the parents feel they are part of the team. It should be a two-way conversation. Ask questions, get their input, address their concerns. At the end, fill out the conference form, and inform parents a copy will be sent home the next day.

There will be times when conferences don’t go as well. If you anticipate this, ask your building administrator to sit in. If you feel things didn’t go well, reach out to follow-up or schedule another conference, with an administrator if needed.

Parents can be your greatest allies in education. If they feel included in their child’s learning, the sky’s the limit when it comes to academic success.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Importance of Parent Communication

So, in just a few short weeks, the marking period will end and report cards will go home. This happens right around the time parent teacher conferences are scheduled. Unless you are a parent, your experiences with parent teacher conferences are probably fairly limited. Sometimes, parent teacher conferences can be scary; especially when the “Apple” didn’t fall far from the tree…

The trick to having a successful parent conference comes down to one thing:


Yes, that sentence is in all caps and bolded for a reason. It truly takes a village to raise a child. This goes beyond simply keeping your gradebook up to date, or sending mass emails or phone calls home. In this day and age, these are baseline forms of communication.

Millennial parents especially demand personalized experiences for them and their child (think lattes, Netflix, iTunes). The relationship with you is no different. The key word for you is RELATIONSHIP! At this point in the year, you should have reached out to each of your parents, even if it was through a personal phone call home to introduce yourself. Emails are OK (not great) as long as you know the email belongs to the parent and you get a response.

When its getting close to conference time, your school, or at least your grade level or department should have some sort of system for setting up conferences, especially in environments when parents need to talk with more than one teacher. Don’t wait until the last minute to find out about this in case you need to schedule conferences on your own.

If that’s the case, don’t rely on a piece of paper going home to invite parents to a conference. Use your mass emails, phone calls, and even perhaps an online system like “Sign-Up” genius to get them on the schedule. If you can’t get them to come in, consider a phone conference instead. Whatever you do, never give up on communicating with the parent.

Posted in Education, Expectations, Interventions, New Teachers, PBIS, Teacher Traits, Teachers, Uncategorized

The Honeymoon Is Over…Now What?

The second and third weeks of school are usually pretty good. Routines have been established, school supplies are abundant, and any student who came to class crying those first few days has stopped.  However, get to the end of the first month, and things can get interesting.

The honeymoon is over. The newness of the school year has worn off and students have become comfortable in class and with their peers; and are beginning to show their true colors. For some, coming out of one’s shell may be in the form of participating in class discussions without being prompted while others may trying on the “Class Clown” suit for the first time.

Just like a marriage, a class of students requires nurturing, upkeep, and a bit of variety to spice things up a little. Here are some things to do if you notice things are getting rocky.

  • Don’t Wait for a Problem to Fix Itself – If you notice a change in the climate of the classroom, and it’s a change you aren’t fond of, don’t wait to see if things fix themselves. It’s pretty likely they won’t. One of the easiest things to do is to take a few moments and review class procedures, routines, and expectations. Once these are reviewed, take a few minutes and contact your parents via email or group call to let them know class procedures were reviewed, and to discuss with their students this evening. If you have access to a class website or group page, post any materials you may use or display pertaining to procedures, routines and expectations. This way you can refer to them throughout the school year.
  • Check In With Your Students – By now, you should be on your way to establishing relationships with your students. You should have a general idea of what kind of day they are going to have when they walk in the door. While you should be greeting each by name as they come in each day you don’t always have time to “chat up” each of your students every day. That being said, it’s a good idea to do a bit of an extended check in with a few of your students each day on a rotating basis. You will also learn there will be some students you will need to check in with on a daily basis. These may become students who may benefit from some sort of “check in, check out” routine where you and the child, their parent,  and ideally another staff member the student has a good relationship with sit down to draw up a point sheet for certain times of the day. You can then also determine some sort of reward system as incentive for the student completing the checklist on a regular basis.  Your school may already have a system like this In place, so be sure to check with colleagues, your school counselor, or your administrator.
  • Change Doesn’t Need An Invitation – When you teach something and the students in your class just don’t get it, what do you do? You make a change and teach it another way. However, teachers often don’t attempt to change procedures supportive of a positive classroom climate. Don’t be afraid to move desks around, incorporate brain breaks into the day, or adjust your expectations. What sounded like a great idea at the beginning of the school year may not be working the way you expected. Cutting bait and moving on isn’t always a bad thing, as long as there is a method and rationale to your planned change.

Remember, teaching should never be a practice done completely in isolation. You are in a building full of colleagues with a TON of ideas and experiences to draw from. If something isn’t going the way you think it should, talk to someone. Have them come visit your classroom, give some feedback. See if you can visit their classroom too! Teaching isn’t just the process of helping students learn; its also about being a lifelong learner yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized

You Made it Through the First Month of School!

Guess, what? You have made it through your first month of teaching. Give yourself a pat on the back! In that amount of time, you have probably done at least one of these things:

  • Chose between making copies or using the bathroom
  • Eaten while standing up
  • Skipped a meal entirely
  • Walked out of the building at the end of the day only to find your car was the last in the parking lot
  • Shared a story with a friend or family member which left them in disbelief
  • Cancelled plans with friends
  • Put your phone, coffee cup, computer, stack of copies down someplace and forgot what you did with them
  • Cried a little

While it would be nice to think none of these things will never happen to you (or will never happen again), that just isn’t the reality of teaching.  Thankfully there have probably been some events which have brightened your day as well:

  • You got some really valuable advice from a colleague
  • Shared the workload among your teammates
  • Received a compliment from a student
  • Got excited about wearing jeans to school
  • Found free food in the teacher’s lounge
  • Saw a child’s face light up when they FINALLY understood a concept you were trying to teach
  • Found a friend in a colleague

While no one in your teacher preparation classes told you this was going to be an easy one. It’s likely you’ve come across some things no one in your teacher preparation classes taught you. Remember this: Teaching, like law or medicine, is a practice; and that makes you a practitioner. You are not expected to know everything coming out of school. You will never be expected to know everything. However, if you experienced any of the above events (good or bad); you gained knowledge. That knowledge is want will make you a better teacher!