Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Educators: Always Be Engaged With Learning

All the educators (and many times other stakeholders, too!) must stay constantly engaged with the body of knowledge about what works for Hispanic students. This knowledge can come from numerous sources:
  • Membership in national and local organizations--and reading the journals and other publications from those organizations
  • Subscriptions to journals specifically related to Hispanic learners
  • Attendance at national and local conferences, workshops, seminars, classes
  • Reading books and articles by the experts in the field and then provide "cliff notes" for others
  • Collaboration with others within the school as well as outside of the school
  • Mentors and networks
  • A personal reflection journal
  • Participation in teacher action research projects
  • Writing articles for different publications
  • Participation in a blog
  • Visits to others classrooms and schools
  • Choose an area of expertise and spend 10 minutes every day learning about that topic
  • Videos and DVDs
  • Participation in cognitive coaching

Some of these ideas can be divided amongst staff members. For instance, each staff member can join a different organization and then share what is learned with other staff members and stakeholders. Each teacher should develop his or her own professional development plan that is shared with the principal and other staff members. The idea is to be continually learning AND applying what is learned so students are constantly provided with the best we can give them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Student Voices Provide Insights

Student voices provide insight as to what makes an effective teacher:
  • The teacher is deeply interested in students and the materials being taught
  • The teacher conducts class discussions and doesn't lecture much
  • The teacher is able to relate to them on their level
  • The teacher doesn't use coercion--threatening and punishing
  • The teacher makes an effort to be entertaining by using humor, drama, and a variety of teaching methods

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teaching Methods to Meet the Needs of Hispanic Learners

It would be beneficial for educators who are serving Hispanic learners to become very familiar with the following:
  • Thematic teaching: Susan Kovalik
  • Brain based research: Eric Jensen and Susan Kovalik
  • Multiple intelligences: Howard Gardner
  • Cooperative learning: Spencer Kagan
  • Differentiated instruction: Carol Ann Tomlinson

When attending trainings on these topics it's important to keep in mind how they can be adapted to specifically meet the needs of Hispanic learners as well as students in general.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Risk A Quality Teacher Wanabee Faces

When I first started to teach a veteran teacher admonished me, "Quit working so hard. It makes the rest of us look bad." I was shocked.

Not only do teachers who want to be quality teachers get criticized for working hard but also for caring too much. They are told that too much personal involvement is unprofessional. To give no heed to these criticisms is important, especially when working with the Hispanic population. Hispanics as a whole hold teachers in very high esteem and they tend to invite them to many of their special family events such as weddings, baptisms, birthday parties, confirmations, baby showers, quinceaƱeras, etc.

One of the ways teachers can combat the unpopularity they may face for what they belief and do is to intentionally befriend their critics. They can do this by asking their critics for their opinion or advice about something or ask them to lunch or dinner. But whatever these quality teacher wanabees choose to do it is extremely important not to let the critics' negativity rub off on them.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Make the System Work for Them

Effective teachers learn how to make the bureaucracy serve them rather than vice versa. They become personally acquainted with people in the bureaucracy so those people are aware of their passion for children and their classroom success stories. They know that when people in power positions know you are successful they tend to leave you alone. Success in itself is powerful.

Having this personal connection also makes it easier to become savvy about which rules and policies must be obeyed and which can be ignored. This way teachers can do the very least that is required in order to devote their time and energy to their students.

Also, the teachers who are personally connected to the people in the bureaucracy they tend to get more "favors" from those people to help them better serve their students. In other words, they have learned how to make the system work for them instead of against them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Theory to Practice and Vice Versa

It has always surprised me that many teachers only want to attend professional development opportunities where they can learn practices they can implement on Monday. They don't seem to have much interest in the theory--the why. This could be one explanation as to why there is such a strong disconnect between university professors/researchers and practitioners.

Effective teachers seem to be able to cross this divide. They use generalized principles that they learn from research done by researchers about what constitutes good teaching and learning for the student population in their classrooms to develop classroom practices. They also reflect on other practices they implement to see if generalized principles support those practices. Part of this reflection may include teacher action research projects and/or keeping a reflective journal that they then can share with a university professor/researcher or publish in an academic journal.

When teachers participate in this kind of learning they will experience continued professional growth resulting in better teaching and student learning.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Student Learning--Highest Priority

The highest priority and ultimate value for teachers who make a difference is student learning. They always choose the children over the system. It means they use texts to help them teach rather than allowing texts to use them. They understand it's a great idea to use a variety of texts rather than be tied to a classroom set of one text. Plus, teaching methods which have proven to be effective such as the Project Method and Thematic Teaching require more indepth study than one text would provide. By focusing on student learning teachers teach and students learn rather than just "cover" the curriculum.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Bridging the Mainstream Culture and the Home Culture

In order to be successful students need to learn the "power codes" of society--the mainstream culture BUT the culture of the home should serve as a foundation rather an obstable to be overcome. The two need to be bridged:
  • Incorporate the students' languages, cultures, and daily experiences into the academic and social context of schooling AND
  • Explicitly teach the school's (and society's) codes and customs

To better understand how to do the first, educators can make home visits, confer with community members, talk with parents, consult with minority educators, and observe children in and out of school.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Few Other Tips About Discipline

Dr. William Glasser in his book Quality School gives some thoughts about discipline that would be wise to remember:
  • It's always what we want at the time--survival, love/belonging, freedom/choice, power, fun-- that causes our behavior. That which we get from the outside--threats or rewards--is only information.
  • Kicking students out of class or school does not deal with the basic problem or achieve what needs to happen which is getting them involved in quality learning.
  • It's best to deal with disruptive students without notifying parents. We should strive to only contact parents to tell them positive things.
  • When there is a problem with a student or students don't waste time trying to find fault or blame. It doesn't really matter.
  • When confronted with a disruptive student, don't threaten, get angry, or sulk and take it personally.
  • Stay calm when dealing with a disruptive student so as not to focus on what the student said or did no matter how out of order.

These tips are easier said than done but they are all worth incorporating the best we can...and our best will keep getting better.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Thoughts on Discipline

Too often we continue to use a response to undersirable behavior that isn't working. For instance, some things that probably aren't producing desired behavior are suspensions for a specified number of tardies or a payment of $5 for being out of uniform a specified number of times or changing one's color card for a rule infraction. Brian Mendler, a national behavior mangagement expert, suggests a different approach.

He suggests that if we value something, we can grade it. For example, if you value students being on time then give each student an A who is on time--seated and ready to work. Ten A's in a row equals a 100% quiz grade. This idea could be applied to anything else you might value such as observing the dress code or being courteous. In other words, you are noticing the behavior you do want. As Brian mentions this might also be a way for a student who struggles in class to get an A for once.

To receive Brian's monthly newletter or arrange for him to do a presentation contact jon.crabbe@disciplineassociates.com at the Teacher Learning Center. Brian also authored the book Taming of the Crew which I highly recommend.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Word About Discipline

Discipline problems are rare and infrequent in classrooms and schools that serve all children well. If there are a number of discipline problems it is time for adults to see it as a problem with the system, not a student problem. A discipline problem is evidence that something isn't working. In other words, the cause for the behavior--not the symptom-- must be what is addressed.

When a child does misbehave the focus should be on what is creating the problem rather trying to find the best punishment. After all, punishment doesn't work! And because the motivation for a misbehavior is different for each child, the response must be equitable and fair rather than equal.

When a student is being disciplined--separated from other students in the classroom, sent to the principal, or suspended--learning is not taking place for that student. This will obviously have an effect on the student's academic achievement.

Proactive disciplinarians establish strong and powerfully reinforced expectations of appropriate conduct. When teachers combine this with interesting learning activities and caring relationships with each students, they won't have to waste learning time disciplining. Therefore, teachers will ask "How can I involve them?" rather than "How can I control them?"

Friday, October 1, 2010

Avoiding Teacher Burnout

A sure way method to avoid teacher burnout is hard work. Working hard can be energizing IF the work is helping to fulfill one's higher calling or commitment. When teachers are working together as a team and experiencing success they are willing to do whatever is required even if it means teaching Saturday morning classes and/or doing before or after school tutoring--even when there are no funds to pay them!

So what needs to be done?
  • Teachers need to view their work as a calling.
  • Teachers need to align themselves with a school that has a compelling vision/mission that matches their personal vision/mission.
  • Teachers need to have opportunities to collaborate and to work as a team to achieve the vision/mission.
  • Teachers and their students need to have successes they can celebrate because success breeds success.

Teachers who are able to meet these four criteria will be better able to confront those external factors that result in burnout because of the stress they cause.