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First Grade is on FIRE! – by Cheri

Each year, my PE teacher (was with me at my previous school as well) helps me promote a love of physical fitness within our students.  He and I have designed different running programs for our students so that they can understand that staying healthy and fit doesn’t require a gym membership or a lot of money.  We teach them the fundamentals of running…how to breathe, how to pace themselves, and how to enjoy the actual act of running.  This year, he is having our students “race” across America!  He puts up a map of the United States with the mileage to get across posted.  Each week, students run while in their health and PE classes.  He measures their miles and records who wins every week.  This year, we have a deal…the grade level who works hardest and shows the best behavior and sportsmanship will get to add my weekly mileage and Oakley’s (the brown dog) weekly mileage.  Students ask me every day…how many miles did Oakley go?  How many miles did you go?  Did we win?  They are pretty excited!

As I was walking down the hall the other day, I noticed that my art teacher has a bulletin board outside of his room with a saying…We are all Picassos, we just have to remember to be one.  I think about this as I think about our students and their mileage each week.  The art teacher has been working this year to instill a love of art in our students…so that they are not afraid that they can’t draw or paint, but that they try and all works are masterpieces.  I saw a prime example of this during the grade levels’ PE time each week…our fifth graders have the lowest mileage of everyone in the building!  Our first graders have the most!

I thought about this more a minute…the fifth graders are bigger and stronger…and understand what it means to pace yourself to do your best.  But, they also know that when you run in Houston, you sweat…and then you smell.  You may not look cool…and is it “cool” to actually exercise as a fifth grader?  Those first graders DO NOT CARE!  They run!  And they run!  I actually watched them yesterday out running and…they run!  It is an amazing thing!  They “think” they are runners…they still believe they are Picasso’s!

So how do we keep this belief in students between the ages of 6 and 10?  How do we get all kids to believe they can still learn and grow and not be afraid to “sweat”?

  • Students need to learn the concept of a growth mindset.  We have embraced this in some of our grade levels this year and it has made a big difference in student attitudes toward learning.  4th grade is a prime example…they know they may not know everything YET, but with work and perseverance, they will eventually get it!  Once students understand this, they can do anything!
  • Students need to know it is ok to take a chance.  Many children, as they age, become more conscious of who is watching them and their opinion of what they do.  We need to talk to our students about this on a daily basis.  We can teach them to take chances in their lives when it comes to something they want to learn or try.
  • Students need to know it is ok to make a mistake.  Everyone makes mistakes and we need to view our mistakes not as setbacks, but as opportunities to grow and not give up.  How many times have we all as teachers made mistakes (me…just about every day)?  We need to model that when we make mistakes we learn from them and move on.
  • Students need to know it is ok to do their thing.  I was working with a group of 5th graders one day on understanding underlying messages of poetry.  I used the Robert Frost poem, A Road Less Traveled.  As we read and discussed the poem, they understood that his message was that his life was how it was because he took the road less traveled.  If they love an activity that not everyone else loves or thinks is important, we need to encourage them to try it out anyway!

I am anxious to see who wins our Run Across America contest this year!  I am rooting for all groups, but hoping we can work as a team on my campus as well, to motivate and support our 5th graders to believe it’s ok to “sweat”!

A few resources from Amazon to help you with running activities for young runners and motivating students are below.

Sparkle on, my friends!

              

 

Upcoming Changes to Facebook!

Teachers That Sparkle are excited to share upcoming changes to their Facebook postings!  Beginning Monday, April 16, the following posting schedule will be used!  Be sure to take a minute to change it out!

Motivation Monday – Motivation for teachers!

Teachable Moment Tuesday – Tips for teachers!

Wow Wednesday – Stories of success from the field!

Thrive Thursday – Tips for taking care of you, the teacher!

Fri-Yay! – Well…who doesn’t need a little extra Friday motivation!

 

Check out Teachers That Sparkle on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/cherikimber.dixon.1!

Sparkle on, my friends!

What is Your Why? – by Cheri

Are thinking of becoming a teacher or campus administrator…if you are, then I ask you to think about this one question…Why?

I work with many different types of new teachers (college educated in education and alternative certified) and that is the one thing I like to find out as I interview anyone new joining my team.  I tell my leadership team all the time…we can teach people to teach, but we cannot teach them to care.

What is my why?  It is simple…I have a calling to change the world.  I often think about the story of the elderly man walking along the beach who sees several dying starfish lying on the beach.  He stops and begins picking them up, one by one, and throws them back into the ocean.  Someone walks up to him, laughing, and asks him, “Why are you bothering with this old man?  You cannot possibly think that you can save everyone of those starfish.”  The elderly man looks up and responds, “I may not be able to save them all, but I just saved that one.”  That is me…I know I cannot save everyone, but if I can make a difference for one person every day, then I have done what I believe I was put on this earth to do.

So…why teaching?  I had a teacher in the 8th grade who believed that I was not a loser.  I knew that I had something in me to go to college (which was not necessarily a tradition in my family) and I knew I was bright enough to handle any academic task, I also knew that my self-esteem was not the best and at that time, not sure I was lucky enough to be something in this world.  But, she saw something different.  She was my writing teacher and thought that I had a talent in writing.  Her telling me that changed my whole view of myself…maybe I was someone who could fulfill my dreams.  My whole world changed.  And, at that moment, I realized that I wanted to be someone who could tell a student something positive about themselves that they may not realize, and it could change their whole world.

So, I ask…why do you want to teach or lead a school?  You may not have an answer like mine, but I hope it is one that you can stand behind on your hardest day.  If you think you want to teach because it works with your own children’s schedules, I must be honest…it doesn’t.  If your why is because you get summers off…you don’t.  And, if it is because you have a degree in something else, but could not secure that dream job…I hope you think again.  Not to be ugly, but teaching needs to be a calling.  You will work hard.  You will doubt every decision you make some days.  You will cry.  You will have sore feet.  It is not glamorous.  But what it is…the MOST rewarding career you will ever have.  The moment a student understands something that they have struggled with because you found that right way to teach it…priceless.  The moment your most challenged new teacher says, “I get it now” and they really do…you will not stop smiling!  The moment that one parent who you believe is out to ruin your career says, “Thank you”…nothing will compare.  These are the reasons to teach!  I hope you read this and can say to yourself…yes, that is why I want to do this.

Remember, anyone can teach you how to write a lesson plan.  Anyone can help you develop a school wide management plan.  Anyone can share their routines and procedures…but they cannot teach you to care.  That is on you!  Good luck and make the most of your journey!

Team Work Makes the Dream Work! – by Cheri

Wow!  That is how I will be starting this week’s weekly newsletter to my staff!  I was lucky enough to spend time with some amazing educators this week…my teachers met with me to enjoy sweet treats and discuss celebrations and progress during this challenging school year (yes, our district was devastated by Hurricane Harvey)!  And, I have to say…they are simply AMAZING!

This did not happen by accident and it did not happen over night!  Just like most other schools across America, each year I have to make tough staffing decisions, hire new teachers, and ensure that those who need extra support get what they need.  This takes time and energy…and sometimes some trial and error!  So, as a new teacher, or someone who wants to improve their craft, here are my suggestions for you to ensure you can make the same progress that my teachers have made this year!

  1. The first day on campus in August is one of the MOST important days of the year!  I believe in first impressions and this is your chance to make it or break it!  It will be scary…whether you are new to teaching, new to the campus, or you have any kind of history at that school.  Walk in with a smile!  Although you can no longer hang in your shorts and flip-flops, you should be excited to come back and start the new year!  Walk in with confidence!  No matter what your experience level, you are on the campus for a reason…prove to your leader they did not make a mistake by having you on the team!
  2. Build your network!  I will be honest…I was a very shy, young, new teacher and I had to find a network that worked for me.  Growing up, I would not say I was a “popular” kid, so I felt that this was my chance to re-invent myself.  I did accomplish that, but I had a time when I felt my network should be the popular teachers (who may not have always been the most positive group of teachers)…again, trial and error!  Find a group that will be a good support system for you.  You will NEED these people throughout the year to hear you cry, listen to your concerns, ask questions, and share your joys!  Choose wisely!
  3. Remember, school begins day 1!  I ask my teachers to spend most of the first week of school building relationships and ensuring students understand expectations and procedures.  This is the first, and possibly the most important part, of learning for the year!  Once this is accomplished, teaching and learning can flourish!  I am very passionate about teaching and learning…and as a classroom teacher, I knew I could not waste even one minute of time.  My day was planned for success and for learning.  EVERYTHING we did was tied to learning…even recess!  Time moves fast and you want to ensure your students make the most progress possible!
  4. Your team needs to become your new group of best friends!  I use a few cheesy lines with my staff each year, but one I think about here is…you don’t have to like everyone who works here, but you are a team and you need to ensure you are working together.  I share “team” responsibilities with teams at the beginning of the year…two that stand out are: the team is responsible for the team and the team is only as strong as its weakest link.  Once each team understands the responsibilities, they develop two team goals that they commit to working on together to accomplish each year.  My staff has done such a great job with this task this year!  I am so proud of them!  They have learned the true meaning of working as a team AND supporting each other for the greater good of the team, even if everyone isn’t friends outside of school!
  5. Find ways to have fun!  This is hard work…and if you only view the world of teaching and learning as hard work…it will always be hard work!  Make learning activities fun!  Find ways to build relationships with your colleagues so you enjoy spending your time with them!  I was lucky as a classroom teacher in Houston, TX…most of us were transplants for other states so those I worked with became my family!  We grew together, our own children grew together, and we are still together socially although we all have taken on different leadership roles!  They are priceless to me and I know they are a big reason why I have been able to continue this work for such a long time!
  6. Finish strong!  What makes me smile each year is to see how much progress students and staff (especially new staff) make by the last months of the year.  Something I am working hard with my staff right now is to ensure that we do not let up or give up, and finish the year strong!  The end of the year brings many challenges like increased student discipline infractions and a lot of paperwork to wrap up the year.  This can be overwhelming!  The weather begins to warm up (well, in Houston it does…sorry to my friends in the north!), and students AND staff want to be outside.  And, everyone is tired!  But, don’t give up!  I always remind staff…you have worked too hard all year to not finish strong!

Teaching is challenging!  Even after 22 years, I am TIRED on Friday evening!  And as we all are seeing right now, we are never compensated for the work we do!  But, the work we do is some of the most important work there is…and as you have heard me say, we do this because it is a calling!  Finding ways to use your team and making the work more enjoyable has been one of the keys to my success!  I don’t have all of the answers, but these tips above have helped me over the years!

Sparkle on, my friends!

Teachers That Sparkle Give Away!

Hey all!  We love our followers!  Sign up with your email on our website by April 15 and we will give away one of the shirts below!  They are super cute!  I wore mine to school last week and EVERYONE wants one!

Be sure to continue to check out our site and blog!  Our goal is to help all teachers (aspiring, new, and experienced) be the best they can be and make a difference in the world!  We sure could not do this without our followers!

Sparkle on, my friends!

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Taking Care of You! – by Cheri

I secured my first teaching position at the age of 24.  I had just graduated from college, my daughter was turning 5, and I had been married for 4 years.  In order to finish college, I worked full time and attended college full time…in addition to caring for a family.  I will say, I am a work horse.  I don’t get tired (as a matter of fact, I have to do extra work outside of a school day so that I can sleep) and some people have referred to me as a “freak of nature”!

In spite of this, I quickly learned that teaching is a very exhausting job!  Not only are you on your feet for over 8 hours a day (yes, I said over 8…I know some people believe teachers play all day…not the case!), but you are having to make so many split second decisions and watch every move of every child in your class, that your mind is also wiped out by the end of the teaching day.  I also learned that not only does this occur on a regular basis (don’t get me started on full moon days!), but then you also have to spend time lesson planning, grading papers, and ensuring you are using your data on students so you can make adjustments and find ways so they can achieve academic success!  Not only exhausting, but stressful as well!

I remember my first year of teaching…by Friday evening, when everyone else in my social circle wanted to go to happy hour (non-teaching friends), I wanted to go home and go to bed.  Yes, at 4:30 I could have crawled in bed!  I remember my ex-husband saying how much of a wimp I must be if I could not even make it through a normal dinner on a Friday night without yawning!  By year two of teaching, however, I learned that I needed some kind of outlet so that I could relieve the stress and “take care of me” for a minute, or I was not going to make it with a career in education!

As I finish my 22nd year in education, I have found that there are natural times of the year that work in schools is tougher than others.  I call this the roller coaster…beginning of the year is exciting so we are on the top of the hill.  October is usually the first time a teacher has to complete report cards and there hasn’t really been a school break at this point, so the roller coaster is starting to go down hill.  Most districts have a week break at Thanksgiving, so November tends to stay steady until the break and then we go back up hill.  Only 3-4 weeks of school between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday so we stay on the hill.  January, as we return from an extended break, we are still on the hill.  Then February hits..it is cold (yes, even in Houston sometimes), it gets dark early, and the month is long (minimal breaks) so we are rushing down that hill FAST!   Spring break comes in March, so we climb back up…and April and May are BUSY in most districts so we are down hill, once again!

It is important that you find ways to take care of yourself!  It took me a minute (like I think most teachers, because we feel guilty for taking a minute to breathe…because we are supposed to be super human, right?)  Let me share some things that I did to keep my stress level down and my motivation up!

  • I picked one day a week to lesson plan and grade papers.  I found that if I stayed at work a little longer on Friday afternoon, the copy machine was free, so I could lesson plan and copy papers before heading to happy hour.  I also started grading papers while watching Sunday football (or the sport of the season)…multitasking was the way to go!
  • I tried to get to bed at a decent time Monday through Thursday nights.  I cannot (even to this day) sleep on Sunday nights, as I continually visualize the week ahead in my mind .  I also trained my daughter to sleep in on Saturdays (even if it meant until 7 am) so that we could catch up and then have fun the rest of the day.
  • I found that most of my friends were teachers and when teachers get together, we talk about school.  We made a pact that we would NOT discuss school on Saturdays.  Most of us are transplants, so we are each others’ families and spend a lot of time together…so we decided that if school was off limits at least one day a week, we could just unwind and enjoy each other without the burden of teaching.
  • I have always been athletic (my original college degree was actually physical education) so I found that if I did something physical that tired me out, I slept better and could control some of my stress.  I find running does this for me…and as a campus administrator, still a runner today!

My point of this message is…teaching is a TOUGH job!  We do it because we love it!  We do it because we want to make an impact on the world!  But in order to do it well, we have to find ways to take care of our own needs.  Trust me, it is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed, but if you want to make a difference for the students in your life, you must be at your best.  And the only way to do that is to find a way (or two) to take care of you!

Sparkle on, my friends!

Lesson Planning 101 – by Cheri

Failing to plan is planning to fail!  Boy, I learned this the hard way!  Trust me, you want a lesson plan and you want one that is going to meet the needs of you as a teacher and your students.  So, let’s talk about an effective lesson plan!

I must remind everyone, I went to college in the 90s…yes, I am old.  And, I was lucky enough to attend a satellite center of my university so I had some of the BEST educators as teachers and only a few students in class.  We LEARNED lesson planning…we just had to execute when we got our first teaching jobs…which was a whole other story!  I sure have learned a lot on this journey!

So, as I said, going to college in the 90s to study education we were taught to use the Madeline Hunter lesson cycle.  Honestly, it was the only lesson cycle that was ever discussed.  I found that I liked it.  Each piece has a purpose and helps the teacher ensure that they are TEACHING (which as a principal I have learned tends to be missed sometimes), what to use for practice, and how to assess for understanding.  Let me outline it below.

  • Objective – What skill you are going to teach.
  • Materials – What materials you need during your lesson.
  • Anticipatory Set – The introduction that will “hook” your students and get them excited to learn.
  • Input – Information from the teacher to the students.  I call this the “teaching” piece.
  • Model – Show students how to use the learning or complete the work.
  • Check for Understanding – Discussion/Questions that help the teacher know students are understanding the learning.
  • Guided Practice – Work related to the skill taught that students could do in pairs or groups.  Not graded work.
  • Closure – Review and remind students what they learned.  This wraps up the lesson.
  • Independent Practice – Independent work to show that students can apply the learning on their own.

Since I have gone to college, other lesson plan templates have been developed and used.  I tend to prefer this one over the others because I do believe it really does help the teacher prepare for what needs to take place to ensure students learn.  I have used it with my teachers at all of my campuses.  They find it very helpful as they plan learning.

As you start or refine your lesson planning practices, keep a few things in mind.

  1. You do not need to script your entire lesson.  I did that one summer…it took a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of attention away from time with my daughter…and I ended up not using the scripts.  The purpose for planning is so that you have a good idea in your mind what you will teach your students.  As long as you can do that, make your plans as detailed or simple as you need.
  2. Introducing a skill and then giving students a packet of worksheets is not going to ensure that they learn.  I have seen this and it does not work.  You do need to introduce the skill and you do need a way to gauge if students understand and can apply the learning, but you are missing a big piece if you don’t plan the INPUT part…the actual teaching piece.  If students did not need this, they would not be in your class.  Don’t forget to TEACH!
  3. Many teachers do not understand the closure of a lesson.  This is an opportunity for you and your students to reflect on what you have learned.  I like to encourage my teachers to use a process like this…”Ok, boys and girls, today we learned how to draw a conclusion in a piece of fiction by using clues within the story.  We read a story, discussed the story elements, and then talked about how to draw conclusions.  Can someone share one thing they learned today about drawing conclusions?”  After discussing this and having a few students take turns sharing what they learned, I have teachers wrap it up by saying, “Ok, can we check this skill off of the list of things we need to learn?  Do you feel you have learned it?”  And then they do what students respond.  Students love this and teachers find this process has made it easy for them to use and remember to provide a closure to their lessons.
  4. Many teachers participate in team planning (also known as collaborative planning).  I find this to be beneficial, as you can then share your ideas and get ideas from others.  I would remind you that if you plan with your team, just remember, your kids may or may not have the same needs as your teammates students.  Don’t be afraid to revise that original plan so that it meets the needs of your students.

I hope that as you continue to work toward excellence in the area of lesson planning, this information was helpful.  Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail!  That is the most important piece.  It does not matter what template you use or if you plan alone or with a team, just be sure to plan…it will definitely make your day (and life) smoother and much more enjoyable!

Sparkle on, my friends!

 

 

Anyone Feeling Overwhelmed?! -By Kimber

If y’all are feeling anything like me, at this point in the year, you are tired, burnt out, and feeling a little overwhelmed. Spring is such a busy time of year, and on top of that we are almost to the end of the school year! In my district, we only have 48 days left (I’m OBVIOUSLY not counting down or anything 😉 ). When I find myself feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, I try to take a step back, breathe, and focus on the big picture items; what has me feeling the most overwhelmed, and what do I need to do to overcome that feeling? When I sat back and began that thought process at the beginning of the semester, what I found was the most overwhelming was the curriculum. As a brand new teacher, you hear terms being thrown around all the time. I am the type of person that never wants to show that I need help, or don’t know what I am doing. So, when I would hear “teacher jargon” that I wasn’t aware of, I would just nod my head and play along, like I knew EXACTLY what I was doing. At my school, every Tuesday during our conference time, my team, along with our instructional coach and principal, meet to discuss our plans for the following week. It was always during those meetings I would find myself nodding along and acting like I knew what everyone was saying, but in my head, I truly had no idea what was going on. I would go into the meeting feeling like I was finally grasping the role of “teacher” and I had the hang of things…about 20 minutes into the meeting, I would feel like a helpless little puppy, needing someone to hold my hand and help me out. When I thought about it, what was confusing me the most, was the curriculum and the standards that were discussed during our planning time. I felt like there was so much I needed to teach my students, but I had no idea how to figure out what exactly to teach them and when. Among our team, I am the only rookie teacher…with that being said, our planning time was swift and surface…our team didn’t need to go too far in depth about what needed to be done, because they all had done this so many times before. It worked for all of them, because they having all been teaching for a long time, but it definitely did not work for me. Every week I would leave the meeting feeling like I was never going to get the hang of being an educator, and every week, I would leave work calling my mom and crying to her about how I would never be a good teacher. One day, we sat down and looked at this big packet I was given during one of our planning meetings. My mom explained that this was called a scope and sequence and it was basically a break down of our curriculum. It told us what exactly needed to be taught and when we would be teaching it. I had this in my possession from the time I began in this position, but never truly looked at it. It sounds so silly to me now, but I was so overwhelmed with so many things, I completely overlooked this important document that was going to help me tremendously. At that point I realized that I was getting too hung up on the big picture….I wanted to be the perfect teacher, I wanted my room to look perfect, I didn’t want to ask questions…all in all, I was focusing on the wrong things. I had to realize it was okay to ask for help and let people around me know that I didn’t know what I was doing. If you are an aspiring teacher, what I want you to take away from this post, is ALWAYS utilize your resources. NEVER be afraid to ask for help. Since that day, planning meetings have been so much easier for me. I know what is going on, and I know what I will be teaching each and every week. As a new teacher, everything can overwhelm you to the point where you feel like giving up. Don’t give up. Ask for help, take everything one step at a time, and focus on what scares you and what needs to be done to fix that. If you focus on one thing at a time, and ask the right people for help, everything else will fall into place…trust me. If you are a brand new teacher, hang in there, we are almost to the end of the year! If you are a veteran teacher, I’m sure you can read this post and look back at your first year and laugh! And if you are an aspiring teacher….times will get really tough, but you will be okay. If you persevere, you will make it and everyday will get easier! Good luck and sparkle on!

If You Teach What You Should at a High Level of Thinking, Everything Else Falls in Place…by Cheri

Teaching and learning…seems like a simple concept, but do you really know what it means?

As I started my teaching career, I believed that if I had it in a lesson plan and stood in front of my class and delivered the content, students would learn.  And not only that, but they would learn the material well enough to apply it to the state assessment (and we all know testing is a BIG deal in Texas).  Boy, I was fooled by my own thinking.  I spent a lot of time writing a lesson plan and standing in front of my students “teaching” to only learn that they could recall facts fairly well, but applying those facts to higher levels of work was not pretty.  And I then felt defeated!

As an instructional leader, I have learned a lot…and always ensure that I share with my staff…if you teach what you are supposed to at the level of RIGOR that is required, everything will take care of itself.  What?  What is RIGOR?  Yep…that is always the first question I get.  So let’s talk about that.

Before we do so, I want to be clear, I DO NOT believe in “teaching to the test” EVER!  I do believe that if you teach the skills you are required to teach in the way they are intended to be taught, and if your students can apply their learning to any new situation, students will not only pass a test, but will be able to have an extremely productive life.  So, how does rigor fit in here?  I am not sure when the buzzword RIGOR actually surfaced, but it is one of those words as educators we hear a lot.  The Glossary for Education Reform (www.edglossary.org) defines rigor in education as “assignments that encourage students to think critically, creatively, and more flexibly.  Learning environments are stimulating, engaging, and supportive.  Work is not just more difficult, but work motivates students and encourages them to think deeply.”  Match what you were thinking right now?

I work hard to attend weekly planning sessions with my teachers.  I don’t attend so that I can cause stress or make teachers work harder, but I attend so that I can support my staff as they write lessons that not only cover our required skills, but to also ensure we keep our expectations high and that students have opportunities to think critically and creatively.  A few weeks ago, I met with a team of math teachers discussing how they were going to teach angles.  The team of 4 had a lot of great ways to introduce the skill and the needed vocabulary.  They also had thought about the “teacher input” they would deliver so that students could learn.  And then we discussed how they would know students had learned.  We are about 7 weeks away from state assessments so they wanted to be sure that students applied their knowledge of angles to problem solving situations (similar to our assessment).  This was great, but I know kids and I know they are getting tired of just routine worksheets.  And I also know, if we don’t keep them motivated right now, they will shut down on us…so I said, “what if our students had to build a house or a building using a certain number of each kind of angle?”  The ladies stopped and thought for a minute…and then it came.  Something sparked in them and by the end of the session, I knew my students would be charged with making buildings that included angles and lines (as a review), and this project would be based on a problem we have in our community during our rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Harvey.  Those students are going to LOVE this!  And I know they are going to learn!

As you work to plan your instruction each day, think about how your students will need to apply the skills you are teaching them to REAL problems in the world.  Think about ways students can interact at those high levels of thinking with their learning.  Think about ways students can put their own creative spin on the learning taking place in your classroom so that they are engaged and encouraged to want to do a GREAT job!  I promise, if you do this and make it purposeful, EVERYTHING else will take care of itself!

There are many GREAT resources out there to help you determine these activities throughout the school year.  See a couple of my recommendations below!  Sparkle on my friends!

 

How Important Is It That Your Students Like You? by Cheri

This is a question I ask my new hires during every interview.  Yes, it is a loaded question…because on the one hand, you want them to like you and WANT them to come to school, but on the other hand, you cannot be their friend…I learned this the hard way!

My first teaching position was as a 4th grade math and science teacher.  I had just graduated from college (with a degree in education) and had a student teaching supervisor that made me believe I could handle anything!  He would brag about me in class, point out only good things I was doing, and I began to think, “this teaching thing will be cake…they will LOVE me, trust me, and just come to school because I will have SO many great things to teach them!”  Yeah, right….not so much!

My mistake is that I really did believe this…and really didn’t have a mentor or anyone to really help me realize that I was living in a dream world…that is not how it works!  No, they came into my portable building on the first day, and I swear, they all had a plan that could totally RUIN the rest of my teaching career!  And that first year was horrible!  But here is what I learned:

  • Kids want structure and rules.  They need boundaries and routine.  I always develop 3-5 rules that students can understand and live with.  I post them on the wall so they are VERY visible and we review them daily.  They should live, breathe, and eat those rules!
  • Kids need to know you care about them…not necessarily “like” them.  They need to know they can trust you.  You are in charge of their little lives for many hours of a school year…and they need to feel safe and secure.  I would tell my students daily…You may not like this, but this is what is best for you…and they would believe it.
  • If a rule is a rule on Monday, it is always a rule on Wednesday, and Friday…consistency is KEY!  If you waiver even for one moment, they will see it…and they will run with it!  I have seen so many new teachers have difficulty with this mainly because it is not easy to reinforce rules consistently…but when you learn to do it, you will have a GREAT classroom.
  • Consequences…boy oh boy!  This one is tough…PLEASE…NO MATTER WHAT…do not threaten students with something you cannot follow through on!  They will learn how much power you do…or do not…have quickly and they will use it!  Pick consequences that match the offense and ones that YOU can reinforce.  I tell my teachers…as my principal told me…once they come to the office, your power is done.  The administrator gets to choose the consequence then and you may not like it!
  • Student engagement!  I ask teachers all the time, what is the difference between compliance and engagement?  Do you know????  Remember, I can sit a “look” like I am listening (compliant), but I may not be focused on anything but how many minutes are left in class.  The more exciting and engaging your classroom is, the more students will want to participate and STAY in class…not get sent out.

These are some simple ideas to get you started.  I hope they help!  As you continue on your journey with us, we will visit this often…as I truly believe that your management in your classroom is one of the biggest indicators of success!

Sparkle on, my friends!