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An invitation to come out of the bloset

Blo-set: (blôzt)
A place that offers safety to readers who aren’t yet ready to start commenting on blogs

There have been some incredible comments lately from first time visitors, and long time lurkers. Many of the comments are worthy of being separated out and becoming posts of their own worthy of continued reflection. Frankly, I think that the comments on the posts from November are more worthy of being read than the posts themselves. I am in awe that so many people have spent so much time writing incredibly thought provoking comments. So instead of a normal post, I leave you with some of the thoughts that have been floating around in my head that I write down on a piece of paper and carry around in my pocket each day.  I invite you to please take one and reflect on it in a comment, or on your own blog and leave a link to the post in a comment. You own this blog post. I would love to know what you think. If you have been out of the bloset for a while, please set the example and leave one on this post or write your own. If you are still in the bloset, I would especially love for you to come out of the bloset today by leaving a comment and let us know what you are thinking!

Do your students trust you?

Are your beliefs obstacles to growth?

When was the last time you asked the kids what they wanted to do?

There are over 100,000 app choices for an iphone…how many choices do your kids have to individualize their final product?

If given a choice, would students choose to come to your class?

Is everything that can be “taught” to another person relatively inconsequential and have little or no significant influence on behavior?

Loneliness and smiling are both contagious.

Do you get upset when kids act in their best interest?

Discipline when they are “good”-no one listens when there are “bad.”

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. – Abraham Lincoln

How much of each class is spent forcing the kids to do the exact same thing?

When kids are afraid they try to gain control of anything they can.

Can you make each kid feel special in their own way?

If we spent less time prodding kids to do things, and instead spent more time modeling, showing, and encouraging them to do things…they would do more things.

From @ddmeyer The biggest challenge for a year 1 teacher is classroom management. What is the biggest challenge in year 5, 10, 20, 30?

What are the questions you ask yourself at the beginning of planning each unit? at the end?

Does “I don’t care” really me “I really care but I just don’t know where to start?”

Should one kid be sacrificed, for the greater good of the class…

23 comments

  1. The thought I would add to the bottom of this list is, I can only answer some of these questions. What do my answers and the questions I can’t answer say about me as a teacher?

    1. I would like to come back with a “What do you think it means?” …but, I think it means you are a normal first year teacher 😉 ….but, try becoming abnormal and begin reflecting on some of those questions. I think many teachers would ignore them because the answers are sometimes a bit painful. Greater wisdom does usually come after a painful experience 😉

  2. These are great questions. There were two questions that stood out to me. The first question was, “should one kid be sacrified for the good of the class?” My answer to this is no. Throughout my education and professional experience, we have sometimes discussed our most memorable school experience. Unfortunately, most of these memories from my colleagues were negative. These experiences probably seemed small to the teacher and other students, but greatly impacted the other person’s life. It is my goal to make sure that all students feel that they are an essential part of our classroom and to never put a student in a situation where they feel embarrassed or singled out. This leads me to the second question, “Can you make each kid feel special in their own way?” The answer to this question is yes. I believe that every child has strengths and that every child is an important participant in our classroom. It is important to me that every child feel special and that all students know that there are somethings that they will be good at and somethings that will be more of a challenge to them.

    1. Tonya, that statement about “sacrifice” always makes me reflect on one specific class with one specific student. I know that I spent so much time and energy on that one student that I simply could not “make sure that all students feel that they are an essential part of our classroom.” I felt like I was in a situation in which I had to choose from letting one fall, or 24 fall.

  3. I thought I would look at this one (What is the biggest challenge in year 5, 10, 20, 30?) since I am at year 10 and have recently undergone a relative metamorphosis from where I was in year 9. I believe that the challenge for me has been to figure out how to feel like I do have control of my environment. I recently realized that ultimately I’m the one in that classroom, and I can control how the students interact with me. The stuff that floats around (report this, check that, etc.) is much less annoying when I am working on developing something new and different. Having said that the other challenge has been how on earth do I get this done while still having family time (that’s not necessarily linked to a time-line though). I’m still working on that one, sometimes I win, and sometimes not so much.

    1. I think many teachers battle with feeling like they give their “best” energy to their school kids, and their own kids get the leftover when they get home. I can’t quite figure out how to exactly handle that one either.

  4. On sharpening one’s axe, you might say that posting a comment is like preparing for another blog post (or reflection of some sort), it gets the blood flowing, ideas moving, and fingers typing.

    Great post Paul.

  5. Paul, I love your posts because they are always thought provoking and pushing me to be better. Two thoughts/connections come to mind:

    The question, “If given a choice, would students choose to come to your class?” kind of hits close to home. I had a mom of one of my third graders come to me today and tell me that her son was crying because he didn’t want to come to school. Now, it could be that he had had a fight with a friend or some other personal issue, but I immediately thought it was because of me. I am a closet worrier and feel so bad that one of my students has negative feelings about school. So what can I do about? I know that connecting with your students is so important and I feel that sometimes I get too caught up in the teaching portion of school. I will try to improve my relationships with my students in the days to come.

    Discipline when they are “good”-no one listens when there are “bad” is such an important point! I have gotten into a really poor habit of calling attention to the “bad” ones when they’re doing “bad” things. Thank you for reminding me that the easiest times to enforce behavior are when they are doing something that you like and calling attention to that! I am going to make a major effort to encourage good behavior rather than discourage bad behavior. It is also a great motivator for the rest of the kids.

    Thanks again for reminding me about two very important points!

  6. I would like to tackle the question of trust. I feel that until a teacher has gained the trust of their students that real learning does not take place. Trust and respect go hand in hand and so if teachers want the respect of their students those students will need to see their teacher as someone who is warm, caring and authentic. I have noted that when the student has developed that trust that discipline issues go way down and that they respond much better in and out of the class. Also I’ve noted that when that trust is there the students will hang out before and after class to visit and share details of their life with you. I am not suggesting that one become their buddy, they have enough of these, what I am suggesting is that they need an adult friend who will mentor and set an example for them. It’s fun to have them stop by after they have graduated because you have developed that trust with them. I wish that it could happen with every student.

    1. “I have noted that when the student has developed that trust that discipline issues go way down and that they respond much better in and out of the class.” They certainly don’t teach that in pre-service classes!

  7. * Do your students trust you?
    –I learned just the other day that the answer to this question is yes. It was a huge ego boost.

    * If given a choice, would students choose to come to your class?
    –I teach high school English to Title I students. My initial answer would be no. Most of these students hate reading, and they hate English. But a few of my sophomores were upset to learn they weren’t going to be in my class this year. Also an ego boost.

    * When kids are afraid they try to gain control of anything they can.
    –I don’t know if it works this way for the kids, but it sure works this way for me.

    * If we spent less time prodding kids to do things, and instead spent more time modeling, showing, and encouraging them to do things…they would do more things.
    –Yes and no. The big thing in my English class is the fact that I don’t want my students to regurgitate stuff I’ve given them. I spend most of English III trying to get them to move beyond that particular mindset. I tell them that all opinions are welcome provided that they are rooted in the material. I’m always surprised at how resistent they are at the beginning of the semester, and how much they grow by the end of the semester. I think it has a lot of do with sharing my thoughts and then saying, “But there’s more than one interpretation. What do you think?” I hope that would be considered modeling, because it’s one of the things I do to get some conversation going in my class. I HATE it when I’m the only one talking (unless, of course, it’s necessary that I be the only person talking at that particular moment).

    * From @ddmeyer The biggest challenge for a year 1 teacher is classroom management. What is the biggest challenge in year 5, 10, 20, 30?
    –This is my second year. I haven’t had any problems with discipline in my first two years of teaching. That probably comes easier to me than anything else. So I guess I’m not sure I agree that this is always the case.

    * What are the questions you ask yourself at the beginning of planning each unit? at the end?
    –I always make myself consider frame of reference. I had a great teacher who brought something to light for me: if the students can’t relate to it, they’ll block it out. So I spend a lot of time trying to make material accessible. My first degree is in advertising, so I really enjoying turning a product on its head, or side, and trying to figure out how it looks from each angle. I try to spend time with the students allowing them to do the same thing, but some lessons make this easier than others. I ask what other sorts of materials I can bring into the classroom. I LOVE to use music because it’s generally so accessible for the kids. It’s awesome to see their faces light up when I use Lynyrd Skynyrd to teach Transcendentalism or Fort Minor to discuss Manzanar.

    * Does “I don’t care” really me “I really care but I just don’t know where to start?”
    –Sometimes it’s both. With Title students, I’m learning that it’s difficult to erase years of “I’m never going to be good at this” to get them to put in their best effort. I try to be honest with the students. We discuss work ethic–what it means and where it applies. You wouldn’t believe the sort of impact that has on their performance in class. But let’s face it: they all reach that “done” point. Come to think of it, so do I. So how can I blame them for feelings that I experience, too? I guess as an adult I’m just a little more prepared to deal with those types of feelings.

    * Should one kid be sacrificed, for the greater good of the class…
    –I only have so much to give. It pisses me off that movies like Freedom Writers glorifies teachers who sacrifice everything for the betterment of their students. It’s irresponsible at best. My students can trust that I’m bringing everything I have into the classroom with me, but they also need to know that the same work ethic applies to my marriage. There are times when I need to spend time with my husband. And I expect that sometimes they have to sacrifice school for the sake of family.
    That said, I think I reach the end of my rope with some students. I have pulled every trick out of my proverbial bag. I realized that it’s not my job to educate every student. It’s my job to make that education available and accessible. I can offer encouragement, but students are required to take responsibility.

    I feel like many people in education emphasize the responsibility of the teacher and completely disregard the responsiblility of the student. It’s time we laid some of that stuff in the students’ laps and said, “The ball’s in your court. Now, what are you gonna do with it?”

  8. Hi there,
    I’m new to your blog but with such an inviting first post, can’t resist a response.
    I’ve thought a lot about “choice” – would students choose to be in my class? When I was a classroom teacher, often the answer was no. There was a certain joy in that – it meant that if I made things even remotely interesting, students were pleasantly surprised.
    I’m now working in an after-school program where EVERYTHING is choice-based. Youth choose what to snack on, when to do homework, whether or not to attend workshops or guest lectures, whether or not to blog…
    And now the question I’m asking myself is, when (if ever) should I ‘force’ participation? Is learning always better when chosen, as ‘democratic free school’ types believe…?

    1. I think you can only “force” the kid to do something and expect positive results after you have gained their trust and you know them deep down. I can think of many times in my life I wish I was forced to do something instead of “running ” away from it.

  9. If given a choice, would students choose to come to your class?

    I am working towards giving students that choice. As adult learners, they are able to choose.

    When I first started teaching, I demanded students attend. I worked hard to make the classes valuable and managed to pack in a lot of theory, activities, feedback and stuff. After five years, I am wanting to be more flexible. I want them to have more control over their learning decisions. More student centric and less teacher driven.

    So really, I want students to have that choice.

    I want to provide them with resources so a missed class is not a missed learning opportunity; for resources to be available so they can read up before class, or follow their interests after the class.

    To this end, I am pondering, reading, getting excited, moving forward, cold feet, standing still. Every time I feel as though I know where to start, it all becomes too hard because I leap down that road, too far and too fast.

    I need to restrain myself. Either I need to develop a plan where I know what to fill in with elearning opportunities, or I need to choose an elearning tool and work with that over the next semester.

    1. Love the idea for providing resources so they can “follow their interests after class.” When teachers select sources to use in class they inevitably narrow it down to a few. Would be neat to have sources that did not make the cut available for any kid who would want to keep going with the topic after class.

  10. In reply to: “Should one kid be sacrificed, for the greater good of the class…”

    In general I believe every child should receive the same education in class. By sacrificing someone, their education will be compromised.

    I try to give each child the amount of attention they require (some may require more than others) so that all children can get a satisfactory education.

  11. Blogush, I think you’re right – once the trust is there, it is possible to ‘push’ things a bit further. I think I’m at that place with my after-school program – there is trust, just not enough structure. I’d like to impose a mandatory work period.

    This may seem like an obvious question – but Helen, where do you go for resources that allow youth to ‘follow their interests after class’?

    I would love to provide more of such resources; I find so many worksheets are completely useless.

    If you know of a good website or blog that would lead me to sources, great 🙂

  12. Darn, lost my post.

    Revisit

    Mali,

    I probably teach a different age group. My youngest student would be 17. Still I imagine some of the same principles might be applied.

    Could you gather resources into an online space? Really young ones are capable on the net nowadays.

    You could ask them to create the worksheets. There are good tools for wordsearch, crosswords, puzzles, sudoku. The sense of collaborative learning would be supported.

    Helen

  13. Ooo just had an idea. There is an Easi Speak microphone which is fabulously easy to use and really cheap. You could create podcasts for them to listen to. And they could create their own.

    My girls (youngest is 7) also love to play with garageband (Mac). They make their own music.

    Helen

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