Teaching Between Desks

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classroom desksIn Japan, teachers are often found providing instruction to students while moving throughout the student desks. American educators Bradley Ermeling and Genevieve Graff-Ermeling observed the method, known as kikan-shidō, during a professional study visit to Saitama, Japan in 2014. In their article Teaching Between Desks, Ermeling and Graff-Ermeling noted the following functions that were used to facilitate deeper student learning:

  1. Monitoring student activity. Teachers find it easier to keep track of what students are doing when they spend time walking throughout the desks. Teachers can address off-task behaviors quickly and directly.
  2. Guiding student activity. Teachers can quickly assess the learning taking place at student desks and move students along by asking guiding questions and/or responding to student questions.
  3. Organizing materials and the physical setup. Teachers can help students with the items needed to complete learning experiences while they are walking throughout the student desks.
  4. Engaging in social talk. Teachers can use the walkthrough time to talk with students about content or whatever else may arise, further strengthening the student-teacher relationship.

Throughout the walk, teachers can offer instruction, clarification, and feedback to students in real time. To read more about kikan-shidō, access the article here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/oct14/vol72/num02/Teaching-Between-Desks.aspx. As you plan for next week, consider changing up your instructional routine and apply kikan-shidō. You and your students might enjoy it!

Sustainable Grading Practices

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red pencils for gradingAccording to Glen Pearsall in a recent article published in Educational Leadership, teachers work on average teachers work 14 more hours per week than they are paid for due to issues related to preparation, planning, and grading. Many teachers reported they often stay late at work or take mounds of student work home to be graded. While such dedication is noble, it is not sustainable.

Pearsall recommends the following strategies for managing grading and marking student work:

  1. Minimalist Marking. Practice error flagging (place a dot or dash at the line where errors appear and then have your students correct the mistake), error counting (divide the work into subsections and give a subtotal for each section, then students have to find their errors and correct them), student-generated comments (you identify errors and have students write general comments summing up the advice), and model correcting (select a portion of the work to mark-up and then have students complete the remaining sections).
  2. Alternative Grades. Rather than use traditional letter grades, employ a system that has a mark for equal to prior work, better standard than prior work, or lower standard than prior work.
  3. Annotating Feedback. Provide students with oral feedback regarding their work and have them summarize the feedback in writing.
  4. Identifying Patterns of Error. Teachers provide students feedback by creating a table of common errors and train students to recognize those errors themselves. Over time, students will start to recognized their common patterns and work to correct them independently.

Pearsall’s article provides more detail about these types of strategies and may be accessed here: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/summer18/vol75/num09/Teaching-Smarter.aspx. Keep these strategies in mind as you plan for student assessment next week. You may be able to reduce the amount of material you collect and take home for grading, and your students may be more engaged in their own assessment.

Win Every Time!

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clownThe 1998 movie Patch Adams is loosely based on the early struggles of Hunter Adams as he undertook training to become a physician in Virginia.  Adams’ philosophical perspective regarding developing close relationships with his patients – particularly through the use of humor – was directly opposed to the distance that the clinical faculty demanded in the doctor-patient relationship.  In one poignant scene from the film, Adams, portrayed by the late Robin Williams, is required to stand in front of the faculty for a hearing related to his fitness to continue studies and to provide care to the indigent people of rural Virginia. Adams passionately challenges the faculty to think about the importance of patient-first relationships in the healing process, and states, “That’s why, when you treat a disease, you win or you lose; but when you treat a person, I guarantee, you win no matter what the outcome.”

In the movie, and in real life, as well, Adams was able to gain re-entry into medical school and continue his work providing free medical service to the underserved in rural Appalachia.  He later expanded his efforts into the global community, impacting the lives of the underserved from Africa to South America. His Gesundheit! Institute continues to thrive and grow under his watchful eye.  Patch still employs humor as a medium to connect with others for their overall well-being.

As we jump headlong into a new year, we will also jump headlong into curriculum, instructional methodologies, behavioral expectations, intervention systems, data, and a host of other items that trend toward the clinical aspects of education.  These things are important, and yes, we want you to use them to their fullest extent to inform and improve your practices and increase student achievement results. But please don’t let these clinical elements ever overshadow that fact that we are teaching people. I encourage you to smile, laugh, play, and have fun with your students.  I encourage you to connect with them, their families, and your colleagues in meaningful ways, knowing that the relationships you develop will yield tremendous and lasting results. I guarantee, you win no matter what the outcome.

Why Do We Need Summer Break?

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Steamboat sunset

Why do we need a summer break? We need a summer break, because it gives us all a chance to recharge. Many people travel over break and find a multitude of benefits from their excursions from the norm. According to Larry Alton, there are five scientifically proven health benefits from traveling (https://www.nbcnews.com/better/wellness/5-scientifically-proven-health-benefits-traveling-abroad-n759631):

  1. Increased overall health.
  2. Decreased stress.
  3. Enhanced creativity.
  4. Increased happiness and overall satisfaction.
  5. Decreased risk of depression.

Take advantage of your summer breaks. See and do things that you would not ordinarily do during the school year. You will be glad you did!

Four Components of Self-Care

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self careTeachers are known to be caring professionals. They give so much time and energy to caring for the needs of students, colleagues, family members, and friends at the expense of their own needs. Often times, they give so much to others that they are completely spent and burn out.

The best way to fight the burn is with a regular routine of revitalizing self-care. In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall identify the top four components of a self-care plan (pp. 196-197):

  1. Health.  It makes good sense that we must meet our health needs to avoid burnout. Regular periods of exercise, proper nutrition, and regular times of rest help to keep our minds and bodies in optimum condition for managing the stresses of life.
  2. Love.  Regularly spend time with family members and friend. Reward yourself with something special in order to rejuvenate your mind and spirit.
  3. Competence.  Challenging yourself to learn something new will take you out of your comfort zone, but it will help you to grow. As you grow, you will feel a sense of pride in your accomplishments, and you can share your new experiences.
  4. Gratitude.  Every day we all can find something for which to be grateful. Take a moment to write it down. Finding those silver linings can improve our moods and carry us through the day.

As you plan for next week, be intentional regarding your own self-care. Build into your schedule time to exercise, time to spend time with family members, and time to learn something new. Set aside a few moments daily to write down the things for which you are thankful. You will find it to be tremendously beneficial!

Raise the Praise!

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excited childPeople who can self-acknowledge have the ability to value themselves, their feelings, and efforts.   Students who have experienced trauma often have difficulty in this area and often rely on environmental feedback to determine value. As such, they need to be in environments that are positive and filled with encouragement.

In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall note the positive developments children experience when they receive praise from caring adults. Students increase their attachment, relationships, self-esteem, and positive social manners in praise-rich environments (p. 184).

In order for praise to be the most powerful and effective in contributing to the overall well being of children, it must be authentic. In her book Mindset, author and psychologist Carol Dweck recommends complimenting students on the things they can control. Dweck recommends the following guidelines for praise:

  1. Praise effort.
  2. Encourage resilience.
  3. Champion growth.

Creating a positive classroom culture of praise and encouragement requires tremendous forethought. As you plan for the week, think of ways you can incorporate authentic praise in your classroom. All of your students will benefit greatly, and so will you!

The Powerful Impact of Grace

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swanI was very fortunate to have Todd Whitaker as a professor in my principal licensure program and as my university supervisor during my principal intern year. Dr. Whitaker frequently reminded us that great principals and great teachers knew what to ignore or overlook. He explained that great teachers and principals have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and have the ability to address issues of importance without escalating the situation.

In their book Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom, authors Kristin Souers and Pete Hall discuss these issues in a similar manner, but they encapsulate them in a single word: grace. Grace isn’t a natural response, but it is sometimes the best response. How can we apply grace in a classroom? Souers and Hall provide the following list (p.178):

  1. Give students a second (or third or fourth) chance
  2. Engage in some dialogue to determine what the students need
  3. Offer compassion when students are hurting
  4. Refuse to be offended
  5. Listen – truly listen
  6. Identify student strengths and compliment them
  7. Thank them for the helpful things they have done
  8. Spend a few extra minutes asking how they are and offering help
  9. Model grace so others may follow your lead

Grace doesn’t mean that students are not held accountable for their behaviors. Students are to be held accountable. Grace is the wisdom to know when. Think about your own experience and about the times when you were shown grace. Let those thoughts guide you as you prepare for next week.