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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

Where’s Waldorf?!

Education Transformations sat down with Lyra Matthews, a first grade teacher at Sparrow School, a Waldorf inspired charter school in San Diego, to find out what she likes about this method of education. Waldorf Education is a humanistic approach to instruction based on the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, focusing greatly on use of imagination, nature, hands-on activities, artistic and social expression, and fostering both creative and analytical modes of understanding.  One of the reasons Matthews likes it is because she has the freedom to teach in a way that allows her to take into account the developmental stages of her students. She says she takes a subject and comes up with her own way of presenting it, in order to find ways to pique the students’ interest and appeal to their natural curiosity. Also, she uses stories as a basis for lessons, with imaginative images that children can relate to, since they inherently have a pictorial way of thinking. Matthews has been teaching the Waldorf method since 1998 and, having had all of her own children go through and enjoy the Waldorf inspired educational approach, she is motivated to stay with this method of teaching.

Through years of classroom experience, she has discovered she can use music and rhythmic movement as ways to attract the interest of her first graders, and to have them work as a group. She has seen that starting a lesson with a song draws their attention to a subject, and presenting ideas in the form of stories makes it understandable to them. The subjects are further enhanced by incorporating art into the work, as the children draw directly into their own […]

By | April 9th, 2014|Education, From the Staff, Teacher|3 Comments

Hands On Turns the Fun On!

Can learning be fun for students and teachers?

Teacher of the Year, Heather Glanz, who has been teaching fourth grade in the Santee School District for the last 17 years, says a very enthusiastic yes to this!  She shared that thinking like a kid is how she does it.

How do you think like a kid?  Glanz says, “Start by putting your hands on everything!!”

The more hands on you can be, the more fun they, and you, will have.  What would a kid really enjoy?  That’s what Glanz asks herself when she is teaching, and for her that works.

We asked Glanz about implementing the new Common Core standards.  She says that most of what she’s already doing with her students, including developing critical thinking skills, is in alignment with the Common Core standards, so it will not be a big transition for her.  She continues to implement the “best practices” that she has perfected over the past 17 years. 

Glanz’s attitude towards students and learning helps her classroom stay fun and exciting.  Many of her students have come back years later to visit her.  They remind her how important her teaching is, and that she really makes a difference.  One such student claimed that Glanz’s passion about science developed in him a lifelong love of science, and inspired him to major in science in college.  How awesome is that?!!

To our question about one thing she would like to see change in education, Glanz answered, “More money and resources allocated for the classroom and the students.”  For example, science needs to be taught through hands on experiments, which requires materials.  “Students can’t learn how a rock forms just from a book,” says Glanz.  In her school, she shares only five […]

By | March 21st, 2014|Education, From the Staff, Teacher|1 Comment

Why is the US ranked 17th in the World, educationally?

How did the United States get so sideways with its educational system?

I’m not sure exactly what caused the U.S. to lose ground educationally, but there are a number of common denominators among the top ranking countries that relate to their success. Although they have very different cultures and governments, the top ten BEST ranked countries in education are all committed to educating their children as their highest priority.

Finland and South Korea, ranked 1st and 2nd in the world, are culturally, socially, and politically unalike. Yet in both, parents have grand expectations for their children; education is well funded; and more importantly, teachers are held in high regard – trusted to do their job.

In Finland, teachers would not tolerate being evaluated by the standardized test scores used in the U.S. to measure student and teacher success. “While Finland and South Korea differ greatly in methods of teaching and learning, they hold the top spots because of a shared social belief in the importance of education and its ‘underlying moral purpose’.”

Dr. Sahlberg, of the Finnish Ministry of Education, made no effort to hide what he felt were clear distinctions between the current Finnish and American approaches to education – he remarked, for example, on the disturbing “deprofessionalization” of teaching.

If we are honest about our priorities in the U.S., we must admit that our emphasis is on Military and National Security, not on education.

finland-map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDUCATION’S TOP 20:

1. Finland
2. South Korea
3. Hong Kong
4. Japan
5. Singapore
6. UK
7. Netherlands
8. New Zealand
9. Switzerland
10. Canada
11. Ireland
12. Denmark
13. Australia
14. Poland
15. Germany
16. Belgium
17. USA
18. Hungary
19. Slovakia
20. Russia

By | March 1st, 2014|Education, Teacher|2 Comments

Music Can Help Bring The Grades Up

Does music matter in schools?

Many students can’t even take a music class in school anymore, but for the ones that can and do, it matters a great deal.

Recently we had the chance to interview Spencer Caldwell, this year’s Teacher of the Year for Cajon Valley Union School District, a band and choral teacher at Hillsdale Middle School for the last 17 years.  Caldwell was also Teacher of the Year in 1996 and 2005.  Clearly he is doing something right!

One of the many ways Caldwell has made a difference for students is by founding a nonprofit parent organization called Hillsdale Music Department Parent Association, to help raise money to support his music program, as well as the district’s five feeder elementary schools’ programs.  They raise about $30,000 annually, which makes it possible for students to have music education and performance experiences that extend beyond the basic classroom curriculum, providing instruments and concert attire at no cost to students experiencing financial hardship, providing funding for an assistant band director, piano accompaniment and individual instrumental coaches, supplemental choral instruction, and more.  Some of the parents involved have kids who graduated from the program 5-6 years ago, but they have stayed on the board because of their dedication to the cause.

Spencer Caldwell Spencer Caldwell

When it comes to implementing the new Common Core standards this year, Caldwell feels like he doesn’t have to change much, because he already uses many of the strategies they espouse, and his students are all very engaged.  Also, when they tracked SAT scores, they found that kids who took music classes were ahead of the rest by an average of 60+ points. However, he […]

By | February 28th, 2014|Education, From the Staff, Teacher|0 Comments

Stop Bullying Flash Mob

We all need to be more aware of bullying and the effects it has not only on children, but on adults as well.

Just last week a freshman at Serra High School in Tierrasanta was arrested after it was discovered that he brought an unloaded semi-automatic hand gun to school to confront a bully.  The young man was expelled and arrested with felony charges, in his efforts to protect himself.  No one was physically hurt (in this instance), but clearly damage was done to all involved.

In an effort to raise awareness about bullying and encourage the community to get more involved, Daril Bonner will be presenting an epic Flash Mob at Horton Plaza Mall Square on Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 12:30 pm.  This performance will be a heart-wrenching dance drama designed to inspire people to be more than just silent bystanders, but to get involved.

As reported by the “East County Magazine,” San Diego actually has a higher suicide rate than the nation at large.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide ranks tenth in causes of death nationwide.  Daril says, “If we remove the social stigma that comes from seeking help, we reduce the risks.  Stomp out bullying flash mob is designed to counterattack the social stigma that bullying is not that big a deal. The facts and statistics prove otherwise.  It’s vital that the community of San Diego get involved. We are exerting our efforts to help prevent teen suicide and reduce school violence related to bullying in San Diego.”

This flash mob will be a moving, eye opening experience.  If you can make it, please do, and share this […]

By | February 7th, 2014|Bullying, Empathy, From the Staff, Safety|0 Comments

“A Taste of Transformation!” Workshop Launched!

The first day of our six week mini-series is in the books and wow what a great group we have. The focus on this first meeting was empathic listening.

Active, or empathic, listening comes from the theories of Carl Rogers’ person-centered-therapy. This type of listening involves a person listening to another person, and then responding to that person using techniques such as paraphrasing. In this way, the listener restates what has been said, which demonstrates empathy, and shows that he/she was listening and understanding what was being said. This is very useful when a person feels they have something meaningful to say, because they will feel much better about, and be more likely to share it with you if they feel you are actively listening.

Overall the first day of this series went great, as the participants shared many useful things they had gotten from it. We look forward to the next 5 weeks as we explore even more ways the Person Centered Approach can be used in schools.

By | February 3rd, 2014|Empathy, PCA, Workshop|0 Comments

School Violence and What Constitutes a Safe School?

Students report that clear plastic backpacks, metal detectors and armed guards in school do not make them feel safer.  They feel like prisoners in their own school.  So what does it mean to feel safe in school?  It is easier to say what makes school feel unsafe:   physical abuse and violence, verbal taunting, ridicule, threats, spreading rumors, and humiliation, all of which can now take place more publicly and to a much wider degree, thanks to modern technology.  Cell phones, texting, YouTube and Facebook now allow us to torment each other instantly worldwide.   Most students have been both perpetrator and victim to some degree of these behaviors in the course of their school careers.  So we all are capable of making someone else miserable and know what it feels like to have it done to us.  When students don’t feel safe in the school environment, classroom, lunch room, playground, corridors, restrooms, stairwells, after school waiting for the bus or on the public transportation home, they can’t fully engage in learning.  They are either preoccupied with an earlier incident or thinking about how to avoid a future perceived torment.

Most adults believe that the older the students are the less they need (or want) adult help.  It isn’t true. Even adults have difficulty dealing with bullying and intimidating behavior. Just look at our U.S. Congress.  The older we get the more serious the intimidation can become.  Dealing with bullying in school at every grade level requires adult (particularly parents and teachers) involvement.

How can elementary school children deal with the playground bully?  What happens when children fight back?  Or tell an adult what’s going on?  What happens when they don’t?

My wisdom about the answers to these questions comes […]

By | January 8th, 2014|Bullying, Education, Safety|0 Comments