3 Things It’s OK to say as a Teacher!

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3 Things It’s OK to say as a Teacher!

As a teacher and parent, I find there are many opportunities to be open and honest with students. By doing so, you can build a solid level of trust from which you can build a solid relationship. Many educators are afraid to be truthful with students for fear that they will hurt the fragile self-esteem.  How can we tell students that success is getting up one more time than they have been knocked down- if they have never been knocked down? How is a child supposed to build self-esteem without ever having to hear negativity? You see, it is not that you provide negative feedback, but rather what you follow-up your statement with!

  1. “You are being LAZY”- I actually had a principal who hounded me for over 3 years to “be more diplomatic” when I spoke to students and parents. During this time, not a single complaint was ever brought to her attention, as it was only her issue with me. She even gave me a book to read “The Myth of Laziness” by Mel Levine. (I don’t think she thought I would read it.) After reading about half of the book, which brought out some good points, I found a paragraph where the author had contradicted himself, highlighted it, and returned it after the weekend. The premise for her was that LAZY was a label, and I should use the word unmotivated as they could become motivated. In being a good teacher, I gave it a try for 2 weeks, with which my students and a parent (during parent conferences) stopped me and said “You mean (I’m being) LAZY”? YES, that’s EXACTLY what I mean! You see, it was not that I was labeling anyone, but just being truthful. The students and parents understood this because I would similarly praise students when their work was Spectacular or Excellent! The statement allows every student to know what you mean with clarity, and as long as you are praising their positive efforts, you have every right and student’s understanding that their work is unmotivating. ūüėČ
  2. “I am disappointed with you(r actions)”-¬†This is an extremely powerful statement to make when you have a great relationship with your class. Throughout any school year, there are so many A-HA moments and times to recognize positive behaviors that students revel in the wave of positive feedback. Especially in elementary school, students attend with the objective to be the best student and impress their teachers. Just walk through the hallways on the first day of school if you don’t understand this. If you are meeting your students at their level, and forging a relationship built on each student giving their best effort to improve everyday, then this one phrase is all you need to hit home an important point. This phrase MUST be followed with a sincere conversation about what disappointed you, and what the student needs to do to recover. It requires a true love of the student to then say “I am PROUD of YOU”! When you get to this point, your students’ trust in you, and will be motivated to do their best everyday (except for those bad days that always come along)! There truly is nothing more motivating for kids today than to have someone who is truly PROUD of them!
  3. “It’s NOT good enough”-¬† Whether you are talking about grades, effort, or attitude, there is nothing wrong with letting your students know the truth. ¬†The truth is what they want to hear. they may not like it, but they will respect you more if you speak it. This is for every student at their level of failure. If a student gets a 90, everyone’s first reaction is to praise, however, a 90 score should draw a “It’s NOT good enough” for your best students. Why should your top students expect anything less? Didn’t you promise to push each and every one of them to reach their full potential? If the A student is short of a 100% due to a lack of focus, you must let them know. If your C student gets a C+, you must let them know how PROUD you are of them, but you must also motivate by letting them know not to be satisfied. To push every student at their level to become better and push their potential should be the goal in every classroom. It is only then that you are truly teaching to every student to give an effort that is good enough!

In the end, it comes down to the students. We talk about differentiated instruction- but this is a myth. There should never be any talk about differentiated instruction as the foundation of the job is built on the premise of doing so. If you are truly differentiating, it should be in your efforts to reach your students each and every day! You can talk about providing different content to your students, but the content is not going to change broadly. You can, however, change the attitude of which each student approaches learning!

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5 Steps Parents can take for a Successful School Year

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With all of my former colleagues heading back in for another exciting, inspirational school year, I feel it necessary to advise my fellow parents on some steps to make this year a success for their kids. Every year, both student and teacher enter the classroom on a clean slate, but it will not be long before the hazards of a “Bad School Year” become apparent (Pun Intended). Here are 5 simple guidelines to help avoid it.

  1. Stop thinking a “C” represents Failure- over the last 10-15 years, there has been a shift in the mentality of the grading system in schools. Along the way, the prolific idea of getting Straight A’s became the movement of the norm. Getting an A used to be reserved for students who went above and beyond the actual work needed to be completed. Today, however, students are receiving As just for completing the work on the average requirements- yes, AVERAGE?! ¬†Should your child receive a B or C from this year’s teacher, do not jump to the conclusion that your child is failing, even if they received straight As the year prior. The work they did the year prior has no indication on the work being asked of them this year, nor does it have any indication on the requirements of the current teacher. The expectations of each teacher will vary, which does not mean that one teacher is better than the other. It simply means that your child will have to reach or exceed the new expectations set forth by their current teacher. Be ready to explain that receiving a B from Mr. High Expectations, is better than the A given to them by Mr. Easy. Remember that a C represents “average”- as defined,¬†1. the typical or normal quality, degree. ¬†Is it really a negative to be of typical or normal quality? If you honestly believe that an average student deserves an A, then I would suggest that your standards need to be raised.
  2. Open your mind to the possibility that it may be “your child”- I have had a running joke with one of my former colleagues for over 10 years because of these situations. Her child happened¬†to be attending the same school we worked in, and a teacher approached about a situation involving her child. In a classic parental reaction, the exact words of…”What? Oh, no, not my child!” were exhaled. Now in defense of my colleague, her child was and is a poster child of excellence, and admirable qualities, however in this instance, it was her child. The situation was handled accordingly, after retracting said words, because of the willingness of the parent to trust the teacher. Many situations are mishandled or blown out of proportion due to the fact that as a parent, you choose to side with your child without trusting the teacher or the facts in each particular case. Yes, there are cases where a teacher has developed a vendetta on a particular child or parent, but these are extremely rare and have usually¬†developed over time (showing a pattern). Teachers are in the classroom to teach and expect the conduct of their students to respectfully allow every individual their right to an education. The goal of every teacher is to create a safe and encouraging environment for all, and if your child is disrupting this, it needs to be dealt with. Trust me, no teacher is ever excited to make a disciplinary call to any parent. ¬†They are made as a last resort, and your support is greatly appreciated! If upon receiving such a call regarding discipline, your reaction was to state “My child already informed me of what happened….” and you then ask “What did YOU¬†do?”, then you are part of the problem.
  3. The way you learned is not the way your child will learn-¬†First, let’s simply acknowledge the known fact that all students do not learn the same¬†way. Good. So what would make you think that your child must learn in the same fashion that you did? We must also acknowledge the fact that education is transforming to meet the needs of today’s students for tomorrow’s careers. We must also allow the education system to do its job and educate our children. Using Math as a prime example- simply memorizing that 2 x 2=4 is no longer good enough. Students are being asked to understand¬†why this is so. Students are required¬†to provide the correct answer, however, they are now being given the opportunity to learn and understand the different options that lead to the correct answers. It is similar to the change in parenting where you actually explain an answer to your child, rather than express “Because I said so!” Should your child have some homework that you do not understand, simply document this in a note to the teacher to inform them of the troubles your child had. Please do not force them to complete the assignment the way you learned, as it limits your child’s ability to expand their learning and understand the lesson at hand.
  4. Your child’s grades are not the best indicator for future success-¬†If you have spent any time on FaceBook, you will see many parents announce and exclaim the success of their children by posting their report cards every marking period. Every parent should be proud of the work their child is doing, but the report card is not the best indicator of success. As a matter of fact, every teacher will tell you that the report card actually holds little value, other than to update a child’s progress. I had a conversation once with a mother who claimed that because I gave her child a B, I would cause her to not qualify for Harvard! Folks, if you believe that Harvard is worried about what your child received in 4th Grade, YOU are one of THOSE parents! The best indicators of your child’s success will be based upon 2 ingredients: Effort and Social Skills! The level of your child- above, average, below- is irrelevant. You must focus on the effort your child is putting forth to improve. No student is getting paid to learn, but if they were, their grade does NOT indicate¬†they are learning. Learning is indicated by the gaining of¬†knowledge from current levels. Thus, your focus needs to be on the effort to gain knowledge, not that your child is an A student. Second, and most importantly, your child’s social skills- or lack of them- will be a huge factor of success or failure in the future. The world is built on communication skills, and the ability to work with others. Whether in a partnership, or in a group, the jobs of tomorrow will demand that your child work well with others. Let’s be honest, even if you are extremely intelligent, you will have a hard time keeping a job if you can’t relate to others. Do your part as a parent and make sure it is……not my kid!
  5. Be Thankful for the teacher-¬†Whether or not you agree with the policies, the grades, the discipline, or the work- just be thankful that the teacher is willing to place him or herself in front of your child every day to do their best to educate them. To think that every year will be a blessed year for your child is impossible. There will be teachers who make a lifetime impact, and unfortunately, there will be teachers who make education a nightmare (Hopefully not). Either way, the year will be a learning experience for your child and can provide them with a foundation to be successful in the job market. We will all have bosses that impact us positively and negatively just the same. Make sure to support your teacher irregardless of your personal feelings towards them. A teacher’s job is hard enough, and the last thing any teacher wants is to have issues with parents. What other career is being guided by politicians at the federal, state, and local level; Departments of Education at the federal, state, and local level; So-Called Educational Leaders; Billionaires and their Foundations; Administrators at state, local, district, and school levels; and Board of Educations? Most of whom have little to no experience actually running a classroom. Support your teachers, support your schools, and try not to be that parent!¬†In the end, every teacher wants to help every student- no matter what you do as a parent. Trust me though, you will get a lot more from a teacher you support than from a teacher you are fighting against.

Please talk to your child every day and encourage them to simply “Try your Best!” Keep your expectations high, but also be willing to explain why you are still proud of your child’s effort even if they are not a straight A student. As a teacher, I have so many more stories of inspiration from my C students, as many A students didn’t have to work as hard. If your child is PROUD of their effort, as the parent you need to be PROUD of your child! Work together with your child’s teacher to make the most of the school year, and the results will come. Your child will never give 100% effort to learn if they know you do not support their teacher. That responsibility falls squarely on your shoulders! Best of luck to a great year. Remember that every year, every week, every day can be a fresh start to their education!

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“One More Day” Before School Starts- Inspiring School District

Need some INSPIRATION with only a day remaining before students come to your Class?

The Daily Grind can bring the spirit of teachers down, it is great to see a district that keeps the atmosphere fresh and engaging for their staff.  Great Job! Would love to see the Mid-Year Inspiration and, of course, the End of the Year Celebration put on in this district!

3 Issues of “Age Appropriate” when it comes to Technology?

A close friend and colleague posted the following which led to an interesting conversation and plenty of eye-opening feedback:

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In today’s ever-evolving world of technology, with¬†the ability to bring information and knowledge to its user- What is Age Appropriate when it comes to Technology? The following are 3 issues to contemplate when providing technology into the hands of your kids.

Identify The Benefit of Use

“I give it to them to keep them busy and out of my hair,” is NOT an acceptable reason in terms of good parenting. Sorry-but there must be a purpose for your child to have a tablet or smartphone. Anytime you put technology, or anything new, into the hands of a child, they will be engaged. Something as simple as a new pen can be just as engaging as a tablet. Granted, the tablet is visually much more stimulating. However, depending on the situation, the pen may offer more engagement to a child with the simple addition of your attention coupled with a stack of blank paper. An iPad may offer apps, but you must make sure that the apps are specific to challenge and engage your child. Make sure it is meaningful to them- If they love music, make sure music and instrument apps are available. If they like to build, make sure they are engaged in something that will expand their interest, like MineCraft!

Simply handing them, or getting them, a phone or tablet does not guarantee engagement or a pleasurable experience. The tools should not be used just to occupy the interest and time of your children so you can “relax”. Social media has opened the door to a paradox of social engagement that we must keep a close eye on. A high number of teenagers admit that they feel more accepted online than in real life, but an even higher percentage say they have seen or been a part of cyberbullying someone online! It is a tool that can provide powerful information and knowledge, or deadly sadness and regret to your kids. Make sure technology is not used as a replacement of you- as true interaction between parent and child can NEVER be replaced!

Changing the “When I Grew Up…..”¬†Mind-frame.

Does the image below bring you back to the era when cell phones were first introduced?


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“If someone needs to contact me, they will find a way or they can wait till I get home!” sound familiar? ¬†Making decisions on whether or not technology will have a true use in the future is difficult to understand when we have no past scenario or use case to make decisions from. It didn’t take long to understand the necessity of a cell phone if you were involved in the business world where deals take place at a moments notice and millions can be lost if you failed to stay in contact. Many parents today say “Who does my son/daughter need to communicate with at 8, 10, or 12?”- Sound Familiar? “There is no reason for my child to have a $200, $300, $400+ toy to play with.”- or is there?

Think about yourself- Why did you end up with a cell/smart phone? It wasn’t because they became smaller in size. It helped to solve a need in your life, or more importantly, a need created by a society moving to mobile technology.¬†For all, it is a simple need to stay in touch- with family, with friends, with news, with business. Most of us, as adults, do not truly use the full power that can be utilized with technology. We talk about what it can deliver in terms of knowledge, information, and education- but always about delivering to the younger generations. Why, though, don’t adults of all ages also take advantage of the knowledge and information it can deliver? Adults become silo-ed into relying on what worked for them growing up. Unfortunately, the younger generations are growing up in a world that is unlike anything in history. If we try to raise our children by the same standards that we were raised, the younger generation will be competing globally¬†at a huge disadvantage. If you choose to withhold technology from your children- It will be like sending your children with a bicycle¬†to race against those who own a motorcycle!

Level of Responsibility

Understand that simply buying an expensive device for your child does NOT make you a responsible parent. However, a level of responsibility is needed for parents to understand when a child may borrow a device from the parent, or when the parent may actually purchase a device for the child! Every child is different, and when to place technology into their hands will be different for each child, even in the same family. Age is a factor, but should not be a deterrent. Can a 7-year-old have a new iPhone? If there is an identified benefit and he or she shows the maturity to care for a device properly, then why not? However, if your child is willing to run out onto a basketball court with their new $500 iPhone in hand, does it matter what age they are? What they are showing you is a lack of responsibility, and thus should not have an expensive device purchased for them.

Once you recognize that there are huge benefits for your child’s future in putting technology into their hands, and change your mindset to be open to providing it, it only leaves you to decide what, when, and how to provide it. This is about providing support for your child’s future, not providing for your child’s happiness. This is about providing better education options for your child, not providing for your child what you did not have yourself.

Conclusion

Once you understand the true benefits to your child’s future using¬†technology and change your mind-frame to what the world will be through your child’s eyes, you will only need to determine what level of responsibility your child can handle. Parents must stop trying to be their child’s “Best Friend” and focus on being their “Best Parent”. It can be this simple. Your focus, as a best friend, is to provide happiness. Developing responsibility is recognized to be an adult to child teaching- parents, teachers, coaches, etc.- and becomes foggy when parents are more interested in being their best friends. Being a parent means more than being a friend- and with it, comes great responsibility. Use the situation to teach about responsibility if needed. There is nothing wrong with telling your child “NO, you will have to borrow mine”, but it is better for their future to tell them “Yes, but only when you display the level of responsibility to own one.” Your child will either rise to the challenge and develop the maturity, or they will confirm the lack of responsibility by simply displaying it.

What are your thoughts?

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Dare to Dream? The Scariest Part of Being a Kid Today

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Such a simple question to be followed up with a conversation with a child that could last for hours if you wanted it to. My mother tells me that I wanted to be a garbage man (maybe because she used to always tease me that Grouch from Sesame Street was my true father), an astronaut, an inventor, and a race car driver, but most of all, I wanted to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Personally, I remember having the dreams to be many different things, and the encouragement to become all of them……That is until around 8th Grade.

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It is clear to me that from 8th grade on, the thoughts and dreams about my future was systematically¬†redirected by the adults around me. My dream world that allowed me to believe I could achieve anything had slowly transformed into a reality that told me I could only accomplish what others would limit me to. However, I was born with, or developed, a stubborn personality as a young child. It may have been from moving around so much as an Air Force Brat, or just simply a trait passed on from my parents. Either way, I have been called obnoxious, thick-headed, opinionated, and many other names, but it is a trait that has allowed me to accomplish many goals that adults told me I would never do. Dreaming to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed me to overcome my size and weight disadvantage to not only play in High School, but also to play and excel in two sports in College. When I look back, I was driven to succeed by these “Dream Killers”.

Being a kid today, I don’t know if I would have been as successful with adults telling me “You can’t”, more than “You can!” ¬†It starts with teachers wanting to know “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, and replying “Well, that’s a great dream to have,¬†but the chances are slim, so what job do you want to do?” Even the coaches¬†talk negatively about anyone’s¬†future in athletics, “There are thousands of kids out there who are bigger, faster, and stronger than you.” Today, the difference is that these talks happen much earlier when these kids have no option but to believe the adults! We have become a society of dream killers, or fantasy supporters, for kids as young as 6, 5, or even 4- and both are extremely dangerous to the future of our youth.

The dream killers have evolved into opportune predators on young dreams. These adults no longer wait to kill the dreams of children, but rather suffocate the dream before it has a chance to even breathe. They come in many forms, with many different messages to kill the dreams: ¬†Anything less than straight A’s is not good enough; You have to go to college to be successful; You will be lucky to play in high school; You can’t raise a family doing that. The fantasy supporters can afflict even more damage with their message of support. These are the adults who will encourage and support a young mind blindly. There are no mixed messages here, just one of full support constantly: You are the best!; You are going to be the next _______; Nobody is even close to being as good as you. The danger either way is that we are limiting our children by focusing their minds into our reality. By doing so, we limit the thoughts of imagination and creativity to whatever our vision is, which denies each child the given right to explore and choose to live life as they see fit.

Why have we become so focused on the adult future of our children rather than living in the moment with them? Why do adults feel the need to plan a future for kids that are 10-20 years away? How many of you knew what your passion would be at age 6? 10? Heck, even at 18? The danger I see is that we will have a generation full of regret and second guessing, and this is a dangerous state of mind. Our country has been built on strong-minded individuals who believe that passion and determination teamed up with great working habits will equal success. When we look at our leaders and innovative thinkers, we do not have minds that regret or second guess their decisions of the past. They understand that decisions and choices are made with details available at that time with the resolve that it is what is best at that time. Hindsight is 20/20 but it does not mean that we should relive our decisions. A generation that regrets and second guesses their present, because surrounding adults limited them in the past, will limit the success and advancement of, not only, their lives but the lives of those around them.

We must be careful to make sure we balance our encouragement of our children with a dose of reality. However, we must never limit their imagination, creativity, and dreams. Children have the world at their fingers, and many different paths to choose from. No matter how our lives are in the present and no matter how our past helped to shape who we are today, our dedication needs to be focused on supporting our kids to explore on their individual journey. On the path of life, we should never be the leader making decision ahead of them or the advisor that guides them, but rather the supporter following behind them who can advise when needed. To raise fierce leaders and innovators, we must allow our children to dream, and make mistakes so they may learn that success is simply about getting up one more time than you fall!

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