Thursday, 7 April 2016

Classroom Management & Strength-Based Practice

What do you do when you have a difficult class? Just ask Jim Gomes, a retired teacher from Windsor who has written an interesting article on What To Do When You Have a Difficult Class. He has included tips that are useful even at this later point in the year/semester.

If you know anything about strength-based practice, Jim's advice will make sense. He starts off by saying "Embrace them!" He suggests that every students wants to feel valued and you can do this by focusing on your students as people first and find ways to show them you care. The worst thing you can do with a difficult class is not want to be there. Kids need hope. If you want any significant change, you must first connect with your students and bring enthusiasm every day!

9 Principles of Strength-Based Practice (from resiliency initiatives)
  1. Believe that every student has potential
  2. Focus on what is strong (strengths), not wrong (labels)
  3. Language we use creates our reality - be positive
  4. Believe that change is inevitable
  5. Authentic relationships are the catalyst for positive change
  6. Start with their story, perception is reality
  7. Begin with what they know to build confidence and comfort
  8. Capacity building is a process so see challenges as a way to build capacity
  9. Value difference and the essential need to collaborate

Need a little more inspiration? Three movies are references in the article; Beyond the Blackboard, Freedom Writers (Line Game scene), and Dangerous Minds (Choice scene). Jim has also written a book called Ready, Set, Teach! 101 Tips for Classroom Success.

It's show time! 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Don't Fear Failure, Let Failure Fear You!

I have failed! 

During the holidays I started reading a book called The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey. My new year post was suppose to impress you with what had I learned...but I failed to finish it.

That doesn't mean I gave up... I am still reading. From the first few chapters I can tell you that The Gift of Failure is very well written with great advice for both parents and teachers. Lahey states that we have taught our kids to fear failure, and in doing so, we have blocked the surest and clearest path to their success. Instead, we need to allow our kids to fail and even enforce the mindset that it is okay to fail; that failure is good. Ironically, we often learn more when we fail. As educators we need to be mindful of teaching for autonomy, independence, and resilience or we will create students who refuse to take risks or stick with a task. Hence the recent focus on patient problem solving in math. 

How many times have you rescued a student from potential failure or a "teachable moment"? It feels great to save a student but, unfortunately, what feels good for us isn't always what is good for our children. The failure, Lahey says, our children experience when we back off and allow them to make their own mistakes is not only a necessary part of learning; it's the very experience that teaches them how to be resilient, capable, creative problem solvers. Given support, love, and a lot of restraint, kids can learn how to engineer their own solutions and pave their way toward success that is truly of their own making.(Lahey)

Failure happens all the time, tweeted Mia Hamm. What makes you better is how you react. Elite athletes know this well. How failure is interpreted ultimately involves mindset. Students, just like athletes, need to know that failure is natural and an important part of the process, it is not necessarily the end. Competence comes out of our own efforts. We have to run our own race. Consider Michael Jordan. In his career he has missed over 9000 shots, lost 300 games, was trusted with the game winning shot 26 times and missed. Yet he says "failure makes me successful". His view of failure was a challenge to do better; productive not limiting.

It's time to get gritty - teach your students not to fear failure but to let failure fear them!  Welcome to a new year. Rise and shine new teachers!

Nike Commercial MJ and Failure

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Be Unshakeable!

Okay, here is another list - because it's Christmas! This list is from a book called Unshakeable by Angela Watson. If Santa does not bring you this book, buy it. It is a GREAT read with practical advice and very little edu-babble.

20 Ways to Enjoy Teaching Every Day
  1. Share your authentic self to bring passion and energy to your teaching.
  2. Allocate your time and energy wisely through productive routines.
  3. Establish healthy habits for bringing work home and decompressing.
  4. Determine how to do what matters most and let go of the rest.
  5. Go the extra mile for families (but don't take forever to get there).
  6. Learn to say "no" without guilt and make your "yes" really count.
  7. Do your part to create a positive school culture.
  8. Take charge of your own professional development.
  9. Let your vision define your value and measure of success.
  10. Uncover the compelling reason fro every lesson you teach.
  11. Create curriculum "bright spots" you cant wait to teach.
  12. Incorporate playfulness and have fun with learning.
  13. Build in periods of rest and downtime throughout the day.
  14. Construct a self-running classroom that frees you to teach.
  15. Motivate students to take charge of their learning.
  16. Connect with kids and gain energy instead of letting them drain you.
  17. Choose to love kids most when they act most unlovable.
  18. Be truly present and look for the light bulb moments.
  19. Re-write the story you tell yourself about teaching.
  20. Innovate and adapt to make teaching an adventure.
Angela Watson also has great podcasts (I will add to the blog) if you are looking for something to listen to on your way to and from work or travelling over the holidays. Just do it!