Control

At the beginning of the year most teachers spend time going over classroom expectations with students. One of the ‘hot topics’ has been making a chart or poster of things that are in a student’s control. controlThe premise is that if students can recognize that some things are out of their control, they can then regulate their response. The outcome hopefully produces a more self regulated classroom where students are proactive, not reactive.

While I think this a great exercise for students, isn’t it a great exercise for teachers as well? There are many aspects to teaching that are out of my control (class size, which students I get, schedule, and so on). I can choose to be reactive and complain or be discouraged but realizing there are many factors that go into running a school, I may not see the big picture.

Teaching is hard, doesn’t it make sense to work at having a positive outlook regardless of the circumstances? Students pick up on your attitude toward school, make sure it’s worth catching!

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Prized Posessions

One of the benefits of working in elementary school administration is that you get to hear the fantastic, unbelievable things that kids say.

Everyone has heard of or participated in the ritual that is ‘Show and Tell’. In one instance at a previous school, a kindergarten student had brought in a pretty white stuffed rabbit around Easter time to share with the class. The teacher comments on how pretty and white the bunny is and asks the student if it is her ‘pet’ bunny. The student replies yes and asks the teacher if she wants to hold it. The teacher says yes and upon taking the stuffed bunny in her hand realizes that it is wet. Surprised, the teacher asks why the bunny is wet to which the students replies that she licks it and that is why it is so clean!

Southern Cornbread Salad

Southern Cornbread Salad

Cornbread cut into cubes and crumbled

1 can black beans drained

1 can whole kernel corn drained

1 medium onion, diced

2 large tomatoes, chopped

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 bottle ranch dressing

Fresh parsley, chopped 

Put cornbread in large bowl or square pyrex dish. Layer half of the beans, corn, onion and tomatoes. Spread half of the dressing on top then layer with cheese. Make another layer and then top with cheese. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Garnish with fresh parsley.

(Recipe courtesy of Dot Moore)

What Is Important?

As a former administrator, part of my job was to interview potential teaching candidates. Once teachers made it through the application review process and were called in for an interview, there were several questions and statements that were posed to them. I used one particular statement to gain insight into a teacher’s “classroom personality.”  The statement was:  Rank the following three words in order of importance for a successful classroom; explain your thinking: discipline, planning, and enthusiasm.

Here are my rankings and explanations:

  1. Discipline – It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic you are or how much you’ve planned, if you don’t have an orderly disciplined classroom not much will get done by you or the students.
  2. Planning – You must use data to plan for your students. If you don’t know where they are, how can you move them academically to where they need to be?
  3. Enthusiasm – If your students are well managed and they have lessons and activities that are planned for them specifically, you can be enthusiastic about the success in your room (both yours and your students’.)

I’m sure there are successful teachers out there who would rank these traits differently for a variety of reasons. I would love to hear from you! If you are a teacher or not, give it some thought; how would you respond to that statement?

Summer is Here!

Summer is here! The school year is over, grades are posted and things are packed up awaiting the fall. This is the perfect time to reflect on the past year. There are two specific areas that I like to consider and assess how to improve or be more efficient. It’s generally easier for me to do this at the end of the year when things are still fresh.

Classroom management

  • Review your classroom rules. Were there rules that were repeatedly broken? Were there rules that were not needed?  Each year your group of students will pose different challenges (fidget spinners, water bottle toss, slime) that you will need to set boundaries for.
  • Recognition and consequences – Decide before the year starts how you will handle consequences. If something didn’t work in the past, ditch it and move on to something new. Make sure to use recognition of hard work and appropriate behavior as part of your classroom management and I don’t mean the typical, “I like the way so and so is doing whatever.” It must be genuine and specific. For me, I like to recognize students when they show growth in a certain area, academic or behavioral. We all like to be recognized when we’ve worked hard and achieved a goal.

Classroom Efficiency and Routines

  • Collecting work from students and getting it back to them after grading was tricky for me my first year back in the classroom. It took several attempts to get to something I could live with, but as I look back, there has to be a better way.  Is instruction time wasted when students turn in work? With little counter space, there wasn’t much room for separate bins for each subject, so it all got jumbled together. I spent time sorting and searching for papers from students. My goal for returning work was to get it back to them with notes for improvement. This was nearly impossible without a set filing system. Try different filing systems (milk crate with folders, magazine holders taped together, mailbox boxes) and find one that works for you. Change it if it isn’t working!
  • Getting students ready for the day is one of the key priorities. I start day one of the school year with an agenda on the board. When students enter the room they look at the board and read directions. I list all of the supplies and books they will need for the day. I also have a short assignment for them to complete. This is their time to get ready for the day and there is no talking allowed, I stress the importance of focusing and getting prepared and organized for the day. This time also allows me time to take attendance and take care of any notes or last minute issues with students. Most importantly it gives me the opportunity to greet each student and make sure they know I’m glad they are at school!

Make notes of things you’ll want to try and tweak for the beginning of the school year. Remember it’s easier to reflect and jot down any changes you want to make as you wrap up the year.

Reading Class

When you think back to school and reading class, what comes to mind? Is it the many books on the ‘Required Reading List’, the dreaded book report or maybe its endless worksheets to prove to the teacher you actually read the book. Whatever your recollections of reading shouldn’t a class called ‘Reading’ actually consist of reading time?

I don’t personally remember learning to read, but I do remember the dreaded Required Reading lists, dull worksheets, and nerve wracking books reports that dominated my grade school experiences. My love for reading came during the summer, when I was free to choose my own books. I’d check out an armload of volumes from the public library. The ones I loved I devoured, those that I couldn’t get into I’d abandon. The best titles I’d often revisit the next summer.

My early years as a reading teacher were mostly spent following prescribed standards and instinctively coaching students to develop their skills. After 15 years in administration, I am back in the classroom and committed to instilling a love of reading in my students.  Lately, I have been providing a devoted time for self-selected reading, and they love it.  Now when the timer buzzes, I hear groans that they have to close their books.  It’s music to my ears!

So I ask, is there a better way to teach reading than to simply encourage students to read?

The Teacher’s Most Important Job

As an administrator who has recently gone back into the classroom, I have come to the realization that my most important job is to H.O.P.E.

Helping Other People Excell

As the leader and facilitator in the class, it is my job to make sure my students succeed. It’s also my job to model for my students how they can help each other. Students must feel safe and accepted, not only by you but by their classmates as well, to thrive in your classroom. There are several steps you can take to get started.

  • Create an accepting and welcoming environment from day one.
    • Let students know you are interested in them as people, send home a questionnaire to find out what they’re interests are. Try to work that information into lessons.
    • Use the first days of school to conduct get to know you and team building activities. Get yourself involved so they can learn about you too! Continue them periodically throughout the year.
    • Make notes on your calendar to remind yourself to ask about events that students are involved in. Be present at their afterschool activities to cheer them on.
  • Assess your students early in the year. Group them in similar academic groups. Teach small group lessons to get them closer to the standard.
    • Help them set attainable goals and celebrate as a class when they meet them. Encouraging them to be cheerleaders for each other is very powerful.
    • Help students make tracking sheets so they can see their progress.
  • Use administrators and other staff members as resources.
    • Have students visit administrators to discuss their goals either academic or behavior and then celebrate when they are achieved.
    • Invite administrators to your class to see presentations. Students will show great pride when ‘performing’ for other adults.
    • Ask the media specialist, specials area teachers or even previous year’s teachers to visit the class or meet with students to encourage progress.

Stay tuned for future posts on instilling HOPE for your students such as Helping Set Attainable Goals.

Poppy Seed Chicken

This is a great fix tonight and cook tomorrow. It’s quick, easy and delicious.

Poppy Seed Chicken

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

4 chicken breast cooked and chopped

2 cans cream of chicken soup

8 oz sour cream

¼ lb ritz crackers crushed

1 stick butter

2 tbsp poppy seeds

Mix chicken, soup and sour cream and put in baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Melt butter, add poppy seeds and crushed crackers and mix, crumble over top of chicken mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. 

(Recipe courtesy of Dot Moore)

What Time Is It?

Admit it, you’re shocked when you see the first ‘Back – To – School’ ads on TV backtoschooladin early July or the circular that comes in the newspaper; just like when you see Christmas ads before Halloween!

For me BACK to school suggests that we ended or quit something that now we have decided to begin again. True, we do stop physically going to a building we call ‘school’ but in reality, learning should be a year long activity. Most kids are excited for school to begin again. They wonder, ‘What will be different this year?’, ‘What will my teacher be like?’, ‘Will I struggle or will it be easy?’. Honestly, as a teacher, I wonder the same things!

  • As teachers, we must spend time honing our craft and growing. There are always new approaches and new techniques to read about and study. For me, one question I ask myself is “What could I have done differently this year to reach that one student?” Whether it’s a social emotional or academic issue that affects students, master teachers will strive to find the one thing that will reach them and help them be successful.
  • The second area I focus on is, ‘What can I do that will make me more efficient?’ I try to remember and make a list listof the non-teaching tasks I  spent a lot of time doing during the year. Was it running copies, grading papers, filing papers, searching for reading passages or other ideas on the web or Pinterest?  Once I have a list, I prioritize and spend time brainstorming/working on how to streamline the tasks.

Having some tools or ideas to work with gives me a focus and can make

Back – To – School a less stressful time.

Pimento Cheese

For a quick summer treat, whip up a container of Pimento Cheese. You can use it to make a sandwich or spread on crackers like Triscuits or Ritz, or make an easy school lunch with this dip/sandwich spread!

1 lb sharp cheese, grated.

1 jar pimentos

1-2 tbsp mayonnaise

pimentocheese

Red pepper to taste

Combine in food processor until smooth or leave a bit chunky. 

Other serving options:

  • top a baked potato and brown in the oven
  • grilled pimento cheese sandwich
  • heat in an oven-safe dish for a warm dip
  • cut jalapeno peppers in half and top, bake till melted
  • toast on crusty french bread

(Recipe courtesy of Dot Moore)