"This blog is for every teacher out there seeking to be relevant and effective for her/his students and families. These are some of my favorite stories from my journey." -Damien Riley, M.A., Classroom Teacher since 1997
I’m not sure any college can fully teach you how to become a teacher completely. There’s a lot of stuff you can only learn while doing it. A police friend I know has been shot at, threatened and scared half to death by some of the criminals he’s dealt with. Another fireman has almost destroyed his back pulling people out of burning buildings. So the issue is raised: What does it take to be a teacher? We deal with something every day just as ominous: surly kids. In my career I’ve had issues with kids that that few non-teachers will ever comprehend. I’ve had kids flat out tell me “no” to my face. I’ve had kids shout profanity at me. I’ve had kids tell me they are sending their dad, uncle or brother to beat me up. (yes that happened once). It can be difficult to stay focused and motivated toward teaching when so many behavior problems exist. The good news is, there are ways to get through them.
Along with the challenges there is plenty of good I must add. Teaching certification is rigorous for a reason. In addition to the small number of students who have tested me, many more have made me so glad and happy to be a teacher. Let’s talk about how to deal with these challenging kids, because teachers are always going to have them.
There are so many plans at your disposal as a teacher to control behavior in the class. You can have a warning/consequences chart, you can do positive reinforcements, you can even take entire blocks of time to model your rules and consequences. In my opinion, nothing works better than a certain type of psychology with kids who won’t behave, it is called “Choice and Consequences” teaching. Let me explain:
When a kid misbehaves it is usually either because 1) They don’t realize it and are just being “slap-happy” as kids are wont to do while young -or- 2) They know it’s wrong and they do it anyway hoping they won’t be seen or caught. You should only give consequences if the child disobeys or is defiant. The first consequence is: give them a warning. Make sure you state clearly the rule they have broken when you do so. ie;
Johnny, you kicked someone’s leg and they complained to me. You did not respect your classmate and that is rule 3 on our list on the wall. If you do it again, you will get a consequence.
Now the child knows what to refrain from. If s/he continues, it is defiance and deserves the next consequence. When they do it again, here is the only thing you should say:
Johnny (Jenny), I asked you to not do that and you did it. Now you have another consequence.
Do you practice “choice and consequences” in your class? There are sites for teachers discussing that right now. In fact, our discussion is below. I hope you’ll leave your 2 cents.
Teachers who invent solutions are my heroes! Sometimes after getting a teaching degree, one is surprised that what they learned isn’t reality. In other words, for some challenges, there is no beaten path. This can be due to legislative changes or just the needs of a particular area in education. In those situations, I have learned the value of these three words”Create. Innovate, and Integrate.” Whether you are teaching creative writing jobs or the alphabet, as a teacher your innovation will always yield a lot of value.
I wrote this post last year upon setting up my classroom. After reading it just a couple weeks before I do the same this year, I found it had some very helpful reminders. Today was my first day setting up my classroom. I made a LOT of planning notes and I am far from done. It was a challenge as always and at times overwhelming. There is so much you COULD be doing that you often get caught up majoring in the minors. I am proud to say I was a success today based on my goals set beforehand. My dad shared with me in my youth the concept of SPIDOG. It stands for “Set priorities in direction of goals.” The theory being that if you have clear and concise goals, your priorities and actions will be predicated upon them. After that, when you review measurable progress toward goals, decide if you are a success or not. Don’t let other people decide if you succeed, only you should determine that.
I recently wrote about my goals for the 2011-2012 school year. I followed them the entire 8 hours I was working. It saved me from time wasting. In fact, according to my goals, I was darn productive if I do say so myself. Below are a couple shots taken on my iPhone. They show first day progress toward consequence based rules, my primary goal this year. I am putting the desks in a “U” so I can walk around easily. I did other actions based on the goal of consequence based rules. Are you setting priorities in direction of goals thi year?
Tell me about your goals for setting up your classroom …
Being a teacher, we often get mixed reviews in our cultures. Sometimes, we are seen as “world changers” and other times not as highly. I think a lot of people think they know because everyone has had an experience with teachers. This brings up the question: What does it take to be a teacher? Let me give you a few of my observations:
Teachers are people who use their education.
Some of my friends I run across did not put their excellent education to work. Others did and went into various trades but in most cases, teachers used it to keep getting educated. All teachers have at least a Bachelor’s degree. At this point in time, most districts require an advanced degree or they won’t consider hiring you. Continue reading What Does it Take to be a Teacher?
When you have gone through all the steps of EDI you arrive at closure. But wouldn’t you know it? There is still another step after closure but it doesn’t involve the teacher. It’s called Independent practice. This is where you release the kids independently to do a test or a worksheet. They show they learned the concept through that assessment piece.
Closure is simply checking for understanding (cfu) one last time. Throughout the lesson you should be using cfu to make sure the kids are there with you. As a teacher, you adjust your pace to reflect their needs. CFU is crucial the the dynamite lesson plan. CFU takes effort. It is something every teacher should use and use often. You simply go through the standard and ask questions to check they know it. If they don’t? RETEACH. If they do, go to independent practice. Here are some sample lessons.
There is a lot you can do to be successful at teaching. Being great at what you do in the field of education has many roadblocks though. Getting your teaching certificate is just the first challenge. But, once you accept the challenge, you can be successful and make a difference with your students. Again there is so much you can do but here are 3 simple teaching tips on how to make that happen.
At work we a have a single job to do but everyone knows there is so much more to work than that. For example: 1. Effective lessons are crucial and require careful planning, 2. Avoid getting overly involved with your colleagues personally (this is just my personal opinion but it has helped my success), and 3. Practice creating solutions to your teaching challenges.
Effective lessons are very important. You will find many helps on this blog alone. After that of course, a simple search on Google will yield many teacher tips on how to craft and deliver excellent lessons. Devote yourself to this. It is the cornerstone of an effective teacher.
It may seem healthy and productive to spend time after school talking to other teachers but I have found it of little value. In my case, and of course everyone has a different personality, I have found that a staff will expand, contract, and change in number. The faces will change but the challenge is the same: to teach effectively. Especially at the beginning of your career, extra-professional relationships at work can distract you. I have decided to keep colleague relationships, other than collaboration for planning lessons, to a minimum. I leave you to make your own conclusions here.
Finally, be an innovator! There was a psychological study done in the 70’s where a guy looked up in the middle of Central Park. He was looking at nothing but he never looked down. People would walk by and most looked up with him. The message here is to be an innovator or leader in what you do. Others may follow but that shouldn’t be your primary motive. Success is the lighthouse. Classroom and online teaching degrees are great careers but you have to get out there and do them! There are some great books on making a living in online teaching available. This is an example of real innovation. You need grand innovative habits to succeed in teaching.
In conclusion, everyone in their heart wants to be successful. Unfortunately there are a host of forces working all the time against us. I have given only three tips this post. These are three tips that are very important to teacher success. What do you think of them? Please join the conversation in the comments with other tips for teacher success.
If you believe in your dream you once held of becoming a teacher, you will be a better one than you are now. If you can visualize something to do in your classroom to spread your belief, the whole class will benefit. Remember that you work with children who have not seen much of life or the world. They see life through your eyes many times every day. What is important is not what you think your boss sees or what your colleagues see, but what they see. The fire you ignite in their hearts, minds, and eyes is the fire that leads the civilization of tomorrow. You have the gift to work with kids, now make sure you take the time to meditate on what is best and profitable to them and for them. I know from personal experience this is an incredibly rewarding direction to take.
Becoming a teacher educates you about classroom management right away. When it starts getting incessantly noisy in your classroom, you have to do something about it. The kids can take over the class and everyone can believe you are shouting at them for no reason … and that’s what they tell their families. You don’t deserve that and it doesn’t have to be the case. Here’s something I have done and in fact am currently doing to keep my room a sanctuary for learning:
A memorable post written Aug 17, 2008. I bring it back once in a while because the W.I.N. philosophy is so valuable to me. I like to share it.
Well, I start back teaching tomorrow. It’s been an incredible summer with a trip to Vegas, to Magic Mountain, and several other small awesome places that my wife and I adore. My kids were out by the pool all summer which was really gratifying to watch. It makes all the hard work really worth it when you see your kids lost in the fun of it.
I’m going back to work (well, I did teach summer school for 6 weeks so it’s not like I was 100% off) tomorrow with a mantra and the W.I.N. philosophy. It stands for “What’s Important Now.” In teaching one is constantly bombarded with new demands and deadlines and sometimes it gets downright overwhelming. By focusing on the “WIN,” you are more effective over the course of a year. This could apply to anyone anywhere but it really helps me as a teacher. I use it in my blogging work as well.
Walking in your classroom has to be, at the very minimum, possible. At best it should be easy. If you are tripping over desks to get to kids and/or unable to get from one side to the other, you aren’t doing it right. Organizing a classroom design to let you walk around unencumbered will yield results. Feng Shui and general aesthetic principles guide architects toward minimalism every day. Less in the room is more in that it yields creativity and relieves tension. Having open space in a class is becoming more and more challenging. With internet for classrooms taking up necessary computer space, we are hard-pressed to create that calming, freeing space we want. Still, the internet and other computer tools are doing much in education so we have to make a space for them.
Teachers are given a mix of school furniture each year and usually the items are minimal. However, one should consider how much extra clutter a room needs. Getting rid of the unneeded furniture in place of items that add to the learning environment can be an excellent decision. At the same time, moving something like a bookshelf can open worlds of wonder to a classroom. It is amazing how much I have seen change by changing the wall my bookshelf was on. This will of course vary teacher to teacher according to preference.
As we look to the future and consider the virtual classroom, the physical room environment should continue to be at the forefront. As hybrids continue to emerge, we may see that the classroom is not less important but more because kids are in it less. Since classroom time is the most important time in the learning day, we as teachers definitely need to be thinking about how less is more in classroom organization decisions.