Saturday, July 15, 2017

Frustrated During Student Teaching?

How do you react to frustrating situations?  This is a question principals always have in the back of their head as they interview teacher candidates.  Is this a person who can accept the "downsides" of teaching and grow into a better teacher or is this a person who is unwilling to accept the inevitable frustrations of classroom work?  The question below often surfaces in interviews - it's one which offers you a unique opportunity to share some valuable information.

     Tell me about a situation that frustrated you during student teaching

     A:   I was frustrated when my college supervisor made me write out my lesson plans for the first ten weeks of student teaching.  Many of my friends only had to write complete lesson plans for the first four weeks and then they went to “block plans.”  However, in talking with my supervisor I learned that it is always advisable to over-plan – that is, write lesson plans that are more detailed and more involved early in the teaching process.  I discovered the advantage of that on two occasions – once when an assembly had to be cancelled and another when a teacher on our social studies team called in sick at the last minute.  I sure was glad to have those extended and expanded lessons – they really came in handy.  I understand now why I was asked to do a lot of over-planning early in my student teaching experience.
Are you someone who blames everyone else when things don’t go right?  Or, are you someone who takes advice and uses it in a positive way to become a better teacher?  This is a grand opportunity for you to show how you turned a negative into a positive.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Teaching Methods for Full Inclusion Classrooms

Here’s a question that frequently arises in teacher interviews, for both elementary and secondary positions.  This is an opportunity for you to show both a breadth and depth of knowledge about special needs students.  If you are “running neck and neck” with another candidate, your detailed and specific response to this question will always tip the scales in your favor.

     What are some teaching methods used in full inclusion classrooms?

     A:   One method is the One Teach One Support method.  With this method students sit in rows in front of the chalkboard and instructing teacher.  As the teacher, I would station myself off to the right or left of the students in order to provide extra help and support as needed. In this model the participants are all following my instruction so that no child is excluded.  I could also use Station Teaching. Using this method my classroom would be divided into two, even three, different sections.  One group of students would be situated facing horizontally toward the blackboard; the second would be arranged vertically facing the right wall.  If a third group is present they would be arranged parallel to their vertically arranged classmates and will be turned to face the opposite wall or the front of the classroom.  Students with special needs will be divided among these groups evenly.  A third method I could use would be Parallel Teaching.  In this case my classroom would be arranged so that students are split into two groups. These two groups would be placed back to back with students from each group facing me.  One group would face me in the front of the classroom, and the other group with face the special education teacher in the rear of the classroom.  Students with special needs would be divided equally between these two groups and their classmates - making sure that one group doesn’t contain all the special needs students.  Of course, these aren’t the only options I could use, but they are some of the most effective in terms of a full inclusion classroom.
If the answer above sounds detailed and specific – that is intentional.  If I was a betting person, I could almost guarantee you that you’ll get a question (or two) regarding inclusion – especially if you are an elementary teacher.  Take the time and make the effort to know everything you can about inclusion.  Otherwise, it’s lights out…for you!
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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Ace Your First Year Teaching - Part III

What if I told you I have a piece of inside information that will virtually guarantee your success as a classroom teacher.  Would you be interested?  Of course, you would!  Then here it is: the two best friends you could ever have in a school are the school secretary (administrative assistant) and the custodian(s).  These two people, more than anyone else, run a school.  It doesn't matter whether you are teaching in a rural, suburban, or inner city school or whether you're teaching elementary school or high school; your friendship with the secretary and custodian(s) will virtually guarantee your success as a teacher!

Why is that?  Just think about all the tasks and duties these people provide.  How would the school be able to function, how would it exist from day to day, without the work and efforts of these individuals?  The number of times the secretary saved my neck or the number of times the custodian got me something I really needed are more than the number of pages in this book.   They were my lifesavers when I needed materials ordered, a lightbulb fixed, a report sent in on time, a bucket and mop for a classroom "accident," a call made to an irate parent, or a bunch of tables in my classroom for a special science experiment.

My friendship with the custodian and secretary paid more dividends than I could ever imagine.  Notice that I used the word friendship.  I depended on these people so I could do my job.  I valued their support; I valued their input; but most important, I valued their camaraderie and friendship.  Establishing, fostering, and maintaining positive relationships with the secretary and custodian(s) is important both professionally and personally. Here are some guidelines:

·         Don't assume that less education means less intelligence.  One of my custodian friends can tear down and rebuild any computer hard drive faster (and better) than any technician at the local computer store.

·         Learn the names of the secretary and custodian early on.  Take the time to find out about their families, hobbies, and pastimes. Talk with them about their lives away from the school.

·         Always treat the secretary and custodian with respect and courtesy.  Greet them every morning with a smile and a pleasant comment.

·         Here's a neat idea.  Make it a point to stop and converse with the secretary and custodian every day.  Move beyond the simple "Hi, how are you?" greetings we often exchange with people as we rush through the day.  Take 2 or 3 minutes for a brief conversation or a friendly talk. You may discover something interesting.  You may discover a kindred spirit.

·         As appropriate, send them a birthday card or note thanking them for their work.

·         Talk positively about the secretary and custodian in your conversations with colleagues.  Acknowledge and celebrate their contributions to the school community.

Obviously, the friendships you establish with the secretary and custodian are not simply for the purpose of getting something done later on.  These people are valuable and critical elements in the overall functioning of the school and of the community in which you work.
Looking for more "First Year" ideas?  Check it out:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ace Your First Year Teaching - Part II

Welcome back!  Once again, we're going to take a look at the brand new book Ace Your First Year Teaching (check it out on the right side of this post) to grab some ideas helpful in effectively establishing your new classroom this coming Fall.  This week's posting comes from Chapter 3 ("Becoming an Effective Teacher") - pages 29-30.

A Student Orientation
If you were to walk into the classroom of any outstanding teacher, regardless of her or his grade level, one thing will become immediately clear: students are respected, attended to, and clearly more important than the subject matter or the instructional materials used.
Quotable Quote
"Effective teachers let students know that they are somebody, not some body."
- William Purkey
·         The best teachers are those who truly care for their students.  They exhibit empathy and try to see the world through their students' eyes.  They know students have good days and bad days just like they do, and they adjust their instruction accordingly.
·         So, too, are good teachers sensitive to their students' cultural backgrounds.  They respect students' languages, customs, traditions, and beliefs.  They never make fun of students who are different, but rather celebrate these new opportunities for enriching the learning experiences of all students.
·         Students need to know that they will never be embarrassed or ridiculed nor will they be intimidated or shown excessive favoritism.  The best teachers have positive attitudes about everyone in the school - students, custodians, secretaries, aides, librarians, cafeteria workers, and fellow teachers.  High-achieving classrooms are supportive, warm, and accepting.
·         Good teachers listen.  They're aware of the "rule of two-thirds," which states that in traditional classrooms (regardless of grade or subject) two thirds of class time is taken up by talking, two thirds of that time is taken up by teacher talk, and two thirds of the teacher's talk is telling or demonstrating rather than interacting with students.  These teachers know that students have much to contribute to the curriculum and to each other and provide numerous opportunities for them to do so.
·         Effective teachers provide opportunities for students to get extra help.  They are observant of students' needs and work to provide the instruction or materials that will help them succeed and flourish.  Student progress is constantly monitored and adjusted as necessary.
·         The finest teachers are those who have high expectations for their students.  They continually challenge their students, engaging them in higher-order thinking activities, problem-solving, creative-thinking extensions, and other instructional activities that s-t-r-e-t-c-h their minds.   I once worked for a principal who said, "Students don't fail, teachers do!"  It was his belief that good teachers must take personal responsibility for their students' learning.  Good teachers are sensitive to the instructional needs of every student and work for the success of each individual in the classroom.
·         Good teachers know they can significantly increase student engagement in the learning process by incorporating students' ideas in classroom discussions by:
o   Rephrasing student ideas in teacher words.
o   Using student ideas to take the next step in problem-solving.
o   Drawing relationships between student ideas and information shared earlier.
o   Using what students say as a summary of important concepts.
Looking for more ideas?  Check them out right here:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ace Your First Year Teaching

Hi Friends:
     We're going to take a little "detour" during the next few postings.  Since many readers are getting ready for, and thinking about, their first year of teaching, I'm going to share a few excerpts from my latest book - Ace Your First Year Teaching - which has recently been released.  Even if you haven't gotten that new teaching position yet, I would invite you to download these tips and save them.  I think you will find them useful in the very near future.
     This week's tip comes from Chapter 4 (Establishing an Invitational Classroom) [p. 49-50]:
       Here’s a question many novice teachers ask, “How should I deal with the ‘bad’ kids in my class on the first day of school?”  My short answer is always, “Just like the ‘good’ kids.”  That is to say that if you believe that respect is an essential element in your classroom, then it behooves you to demonstrate that respect to each AND EVERY student in the room - “good students” as well as “bad students.”
       Psychologists tell us that, as humans, we have a natural and normal tendency to want to do something nice for someone who does something nice to us.  If, for example, you give me a compliment I will want to return the compliment at some later stage in our relationship.  On the other hand, if I say something nice about you in class, then you will probably be inclined to share something nice about me in some future conversation.  This is what is known as the Law of Reciprocity.  Not only is it the basis for good classroom management, it is also a fundamental foundation for engendering respect throughout the classroom.
       Think about this: Every time you shout at a student, berate a student, admonish a student, reprimand a student, glare at a student, or simply stand with your hands on your hips (behaviors we tend to exhibit with our “bad students”) you are fracturing a relationship…you are sowing the seeds of disrespect.  The key to good classroom management is to treat everyone equally, everyone the same.  I know it’s a difficult concept given some of the “bad kids” who may inhabit your classroom, but it’s a necessary one.  If you sit a bad student near your desk on the first day of class or rebuke a bad student and let a good student “slide” on an issue or classroom rule you have essentially said, “I don’t respect you.”
       I know it’s tough and I know it’s challenging, but extending the same positive behaviors and reactions to ALL students in your room will pay enormous benefits.  Don’t single out the bad ones - in doing so you are starting off on the wrong foot.  You have psychologically segregated your students into two groups.  And when you have two distinct groups you will always have conflicts and confrontations.  Treat everyone positively and equally - from Day One - and you will be helping to establish an arena of respect that can pay scholastic dividends later in the year.  You will be building an invitational classroom.