I don’t know about you, but I could not wait to get back to work. I missed my classroom. I missed my coworkers. I missed being around my students. Most importantly, I missed teaching in general. To me, nothing signifies the start of a new school year like back to school night. The teachers are bright-eyed and excited for the upcoming year, the parents are excited to gain a little of their freedom back, your classroom still looks shiny and organized—it’s great! Although this can be the perfect time to get to know your new group of parents and to show them who you are and what to expect, it can also be a little nerve-wracking. Below are the ways in which I like to prepare myself and my classroom for back to school night and calm those pesky nerves.
I don’t know about you, but I have strong mixed feelings about using technology. On the one hand, technology is something that my students have a deep connection to–it’s how they understand life. On the other hand, I sometimes feel that for all the good it brings, I secretly fear that it is going to ruin our society. Technology is such an integral part of our world today, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if it were to disappear suddenly. Districts across the nation are touting their integration of “21st century learning” (whatever that means), and teachers are being pushed into bringing as much technology into their classroom as possible. Sure, technology can be great; however, when you are relying on it and it suddenly stops working, it can be crippling and very frustrating in a classroom setting (especially when 68 eyes are on you… waiting for you to ‘fix’ the unforeseen problem). Is it unbelievably frustrating when the technology you are using suddenly stops working? Yes. Does it have to be? No. Here are some ways that I have learned to help make the integration of technology into my classroom easier, fun and a bit more seamless.
Mistakes are a very, very important part of the learning process. However, I notice more and more that my students are afraid to make any kind of mistake. It appears to me that they are fearful of looking foolish in front of their peers (and even me, if we are working one-on-one). We know that teenagers can be extremely self conscious and do not want to ‘lose face’ in front of others. However, I find it valuable to teach them that there is no shame in being wrong or in making errors. In fact, I try to instill in them that these ‘faults’ are valuable and should be celebrated in the classroom.
I was having lunch with a friend recently (she is in her 3rd year of teaching) and she talked about the difficulty of dealing with students who “already know everything.” I think this is something that almost every teacher has faced at some point and subsequently asked themselves: “How do you teach a child who already knows the material?” The following are my thoughts on this common classroom issue:
As a close for the year/as a start to the year, I thought I might discuss a successful mini PBL (project based learning) I tried out before the winter break began! My students have just about finished chemistry and I thought it might be fun to have the students come up with the review game for a change! Below you will find a summary of the week(ish) long project as well as some examples of what they created!
I just recently got back from a conference. I love going to conferences. I mean, I REALLY love going to them. I think most teachers have a strong affinity for learning. After all, we have chosen to stay in school for the rest of our lives! I love learning. I love sitting in classrooms, I love listening to other people who are considered experts in their field, I love hearing new ideas that inspire me and make me want to try new things! If you have not been to an educational conference (or any conference for that matter), I would highly suggest it. That being said, it can be a bit overwhelming. So, here are some friendly tips on properly preparing for attending a conference.
We’ve all heard the words “If you do that one more time…” which are quickly followed by some kind of threat. Most of us may have heard our parents say that, probably followed by “you’ll be grounded for a week!” However, this phrase is not unfamiliar to teachers either. This old parenting “gem” is generally brought out in dire situations when we are at our wits’ end and don’t know what to do; we generally follow it up with “You’re going to the principle’s office” or “I’m writing you a referral” or “You’re going to have to spend the rest of the period in the corner wearing a dunce cap!” (oh wait, it’s not 1956. Never mind).
I have found that when trying to motivate students to do what is right (or what I want them to do in class), the carrot works much better than the stick.
Motivating students can be difficult, especially if you are asking them to do something they don’t want to do, like sit quietly at their desk and work on an assignment without distracting others (or themselves). However, it is at these times that we should try the carrot, rather than the stick. Threats rarely work, and if they do, the motivation you are giving your students is coming from the wrong place; students should not be working out of fear they will get into trouble. When students are fearful, this can lead to them feeling uncomfortable in your classroom because it has become an unsafe learning environment (not physically unsafe, but they may begin to fear getting into trouble everyday and thus dread coming to your classroom. None of us want that).
Here are some situations when I implement the carrot, rather than the stick:
As teachers, I think that we sometimes feel the need to tackle the world single-handedly. Although we are used to being the head-honcho of our classrooms, that doesn’t mean that we need to approach everything alone. There are so many wonderful resources out there for teachers that should be taken advantage of. Here are just a few of the resources that I find most helpful:
It’s no secret that teaching is one of the most rewarding professions out there. It is a special bond that occurs in the classroom between teacher and pupil. We take our jobs seriously; that old saying “It’s not personal, it’s business” doesn’t apply to us. It is personal. After all, we pour our hearts and souls into these children. Our feelings run deep and that is why this job can be both a beautiful and moving experience as well as a negative and sometimes depressing one.
As teachers, we need to practice self care and make sure that we are doing things everyday to ensure that we are staying positive and not focusing on the negative. The following are just a few ways in which I keep myself positive in the day-to-day as well as during the more difficult times.
During my prep or after school, I often enjoy a nice cup of tea. The teas that I try to keep on hand in my classroom are “Good Earth” and “Yogi“. Aside from the fact that these teas are amazing, the reason why I like to keep these in my classroom is because each bag of tea comes with a great quote. I like to think of it like a daily fortune cookie that gives me something to ponder while I enjoy my tea. I have always enjoyed these teas for their delicious flavors, but now I have a whole new appreciation for them.
I have found that really working on building trusting relationships with my students is the best tool I have ever had for classroom management. Once your students trust you and respect you, the level of required classroom management drops significantly. I try to keep my classroom fun and feeling safe to them. Teenagers already feel targeted by adults and are so sensitive to any punishment; this is why I try to make my classroom management strategies more ‘friendly’ than serious as they are less likely to blow up and freak out. Here are my ‘friendly’ classroom management techniques: