Teacher

Circle Up with Empathy!

From our Sept. 2016 Newsletter, by Jackie Hicks:

Start the School Year with Circle Time

I’m hoping that you are starting the new school year with excitement, energy and enthusiasm, armed with fresh ideas, confidence in your curriculum, and eagerness to meet your new students.  This is the time of year when possibilities are abundant.  How you deal with the first two to three weeks is crucial in getting off to a good start with students and establishing your classroom culture.  If you are willing to invest in building relationships amongst you and your students as the priority for those first weeks of school, you will reap the benefit throughout the school year.  For that purpose, I suggest you provide regular time and guidance practicing CIRCLE TIME with your students, starting on the first day of school.

CIRCLE TIME can be extremely effective in establishing rapport among students and teachers, while also developing a classroom culture that teaches and strengthens social-emotional skills. Kindergarten is a good place for students to begin experiencing sitting in a circle facing each other as they get to know themselves and each other by listening and sharing their thoughts and feelings.  HOWEVER, Circle Time isn’t just for Kindergarten.  In fact, at every grade level there are important social and emotional developmental growth goals that can be addressed during CIRCLE TIME.  Parents, teachers and community members want to see children develop character, which is becoming more urgent as we see the lack of empathy, kindness, and personal responsibility occurring in our society.

What is CIRCLE TIME?  It is special and regular time when everyone in class (students and teachers) sits together in a circle on the floor or in chairs facing […]

By | September 28th, 2016|Education, Empathy, PCA, Teacher|0 Comments

Let Students Make Mistakes! by Serena Pariser

Making Mistakes Represents a Critical Element of Comprehensive Learning —Let Students Make Mistakes

Can you think of a time in school when you made a mistake? Was it a learning experience or just humiliating? The title of this blog may make some of you cringe, recalling some of your biggest mistakes in your own classroom experiences. Allowing for mistakes to be made is much different from how many of us were taught growing up. A friend once told me of a horrifying memory in 5th grade when she raised her hand to answer a question, incorrectly, and had to suffer the embarrassing laughter of her classmates. She remains fearful of raising her hand in a class-like setting to this day. Mistakes, handled improperly, can be scarring.

The flip side is that mistakes can also, should also, be opportunities to strengthen and empower students. When I say mistakes, I of course don’t mean letting them get the answer on a math problem wrong and telling them “good job”. Give your students a non-judgmental forum for trial and error.

Making an attempt at active participation should always be encouraged, and it is in the students’ trying where much of the learning happens. Let them feel safe and confident enough to leap knowing they may indeed fall. You’ll be surprised at how much student engagement and interaction will soar once they realize that nobody is going to laugh or be angry with them, including the teacher, if they get the answer incorrect.

How to make your classroom a safe-zone for making mistakes:

  • Teach your class that mistakes are part of learning. (You may wish to reference one of Thomas A. Edison’s more famous quotes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 […]
By | January 7th, 2015|Congruence, Education, Empathy, Teacher|1 Comment

One Exceptional Math Teacher!

This post was first published on Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog, Momasteryon Jan. 30, 2014. In less than a day it was shared more than 1 million times. It is inspirational, and we wanted to share it with you.

Every Friday afternoon Chase’s teacher asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student whom they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.

And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, Chase’s teacher takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her and studies them. She looks for patterns.

Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who doesn’t even know who to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?

You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down — right away — who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.

As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children — I think that this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of […]

By | December 10th, 2014|Bullying, Education, Empathy, PCA, Teacher|1 Comment

Education Reform: the Missing Ingredient…

For decades, there has been one educational reform movement after another.  Many of these movements even advocate similar best practices.  Mostly, however, these reform movements fail.  We think that is because there is one crucial piece that repeatedly gets left out of the formula.  This missing piece is the significance of student-teacher relationships and their impact on learning, and what’s needed to improve those relationships.  Adding in this key ingredient is what is necessary for our system to produce its desired educational result: all children receiving a quality education that prepares them well for college and/or career.

THE PROBLEM
In classrooms, a significant percentage of learning is dependent upon the relationship teachers have with their students.  People need relationships and connection; however, most people have difficulty with relationships, even finding them painful and stressful.  As children we learn to relate to others initially through our parents and families.  People often carry unresolved baggage from their familial relationships that affects their current relationships, both at work, as well as in their personal lives.

For teachers this can be highly problematic, given our understanding that much of the learning in class occurs through the student/teacher relationship.  Even the best teachers are faced with some students who are difficult to reach – a good teacher can reach all of their students some of the time, and some of their students all of the time, but it is a rare teacher who can reach all of their students all of the time.  And unfortunately, in their credentialing education, most teachers do not learn the necessary skills for building effective relationships with their students, parents and colleagues. Thus a gap remains between student and teacher, resulting in disconnection, alienation, class disruptions […]

By | October 2nd, 2014|Education, From the Staff, PCA, Teacher, Workshop|0 Comments

What makes a Teacher Exceptional?

When you observe an exceptional teacher’s classroom, one of the first things you notice is how engaged the students are, how well everyone seems to be getting along, and that the students would probably do anything for that teacher!  Think about your favorite teachers. Chances are they were passionate, fun, knowledgeable, as well as fair.  And you knew you were important to them!  If they made a mistake, they admitted it, and if you made a mistake, it was easily forgiven.  In fact, mistakes were simply viewed as learning opportunities, and nobody was made “wrong.”

Exceptional teachers are often inspired by the teachers they admired from their past.  For exceptional teachers, teaching isn’t just their job, it’s their calling.  And because they are creative and inventive with curriculum, they are able to engage and motivate their students.  Their classrooms are welcoming, safe places to learn.

In speaking with teacher of the year award winners and nominees, one key element of success that they all mention is how important it is to have great relationships with their students.  Likewise, when students are asked what qualities they love about their favorite teachers, they say, in addition to being fun, knowledgeable and fair, that they have “real” relationships with these teachers, and that they are treated with respect, and as a person with unique qualities.

At the end of the year teachers are evaluated for their performance. Exceptional teachers are self-evaluating and reflective of their own performance.  They are able to acknowledge themselves for the things they did well, and to set goals for improving the things they want to do better.  They seek feedback from their students, parents, colleagues and administrators to continue improving and growing.

We offer our workshop […]

By | September 1st, 2014|Education, Teacher, Workshop|0 Comments

7 Deadly Signs of Teacher Burnout

Have you “lost that lovin’ feeling” for the very job that is your passion and your calling? Do you find yourself engaging in the following signs of burnout?

  1. Taking shortcuts with lesson plans.
  2. Arriving late and leaving early.
  3. Engaging in sarcasm and hostile humor.
  4. Avoiding staff meetings and parent meetings.
  5. Frequently calling in sick on Mondays and Fridays whether real or not.
  6. Hanging out with the whiners and moaners complaining about students, parents, and the administration.
  7. Blaming students, colleagues, parents and administration for what’s not working at school.

Sometimes teachers find themselves hating the job they used to love without seeing it coming.  All of a sudden you find you are experiencing signs of burnout.  The causes of burnout are cumulative. We can all recover from a few bad days.  However, when feelings of dissatisfaction about our own or other people’s performance begin to take hold and go unaddressed, we start to isolate ourselves from others.  We feel overwhelmed by the tasks at hand, unappreciated for our contributions, and powerless to change what is not working in the system. Lack of respect and lack of acknowledgment from students, parents, peers and administrators leaves us uncertain about the future of our jobs and careers.  Conflicts with students, parents, peers and administrators that remain unresolved build into feelings of failure, negative self-talk and even depression. Perhaps you are a teacher who is chasing your own tale.

There is a way back and you don’t have to do it alone.  Start by remembering when you loved being a teacher:

  1. Make a list of all the reasons you became a teacher in the first place.
  2. Start hanging out with teachers who are enthusiastic about their students and encouraging about their work.
  3. Make time for yourself—exercise, meditate, pamper yourself, eat healthy foods, […]
By | June 16th, 2014|Education, Teacher, Workshop|1 Comment