Clap your hands!
About a week ago, I was feeling pretty frustrated with this whole teaching thing. I was worrying whether or not the way I was feeling physically, had to do with the stress of my job.
And then I received an email that put a huge smile on my face. Now, keep in mind, the thing that put a huge smile on my face is not something that everyone would get excited and happy about. Understand too, that I am VERY passionate about edtech!READ MORE…
My youngest son is no angel, not in any way, shape, or form. He had been getting in ”trouble” since preschool. I would go to pick him up and he would wave, and grin, at me from the timeout area. He didn’t know any better, he was just one of those kids that was always up and about. Back then, if you were that kid, you ended up in timeout.
When he was in the second grade, I had a conference with his teacher. She couldn’t wait for me to sit down as she proclaimed, “He needs to be on medication! You need to put him on medication!” (We won’t go into the fact that legally a teacher cannot tell a parent to put their child on medication.) She then proceeded to show me what she did because he could not ” behave.” She took his chair, put it facing the blackboard in the front of the room, and then if that wasn’t enough, she rolled the hanging chart behind him “so he wouldn’t distract the other kids.” I saw red! What a humiliating experience for my child! She seemed quite pleased with herself. Needless to say, I contacted the principal immediately and had my child removed from her class.He was placed in a classroom where the teachers practiced strategies that allowed them to deal with kids like my son.
Last Sunday, I was talking to a parent who has a son in one of the new charter schools in my state. She informed me that her son had to wear the “yellow shirt.” The yellow shirt states, “Do not talk to me, I am in isolation.” My mouth fell open, and I told her, “Get your child out of that school immediately. She responded, “Oh, it’s ok, the shirt is normal.”
Normal? What’s normal about having anyone’s child walk around with a shirt saying “Don’t talk to me”? Using Color coded student ID’s according to your test scores? Showing the class a student’s work and mocking them in front of the class? What’s normal about a teacher humiliating a child in the hope that they will behave better? How could this possibly work? The natural reaction to humiliation is to either shut down, or to become aggressive. The child no longer trusts the teacher and it has created an intolerable situation in the classroom for the student and/or the teacher. It can also lead to bullying. If the teacher is allowed to bully a student, why shouldn’t the other students?
I know they “take us there” sometimes. I was one of those teachers who had to stop using sarcasm as a classroom management technique, especially when I had a difficult group of kids. But now, I always think of how I would feel in that situation. I think about how my sons would feel. You know the adage, “Treat others the way you want to be treated!” Now that’s a good classroom management technique!
Remember the teacher from Charlie Brown? “Wah, Wah, Wah.”
I know that’s what my students hear at times when I speak to them, and it can be frustrating. That’s why I feel that some of our students need someone besides their teacher to get through to them. A person who says the exact thing we say 600 times a day, but for some reason, they hear this “other” person.
A colleague signed up for a program called “Girls on the Run.” Their mission is “to educate and prepare girls for a life time of self-respect and healthy living.” I chose three of my students; one, who had just lost a loved one, and two who have had “issues” the entire school year.
The changes began when they were asked to be part of this program, at least for two of them. The excitement they felt was contagious, I was excited for them! Permission slips were signed that night and bought in the next day. After the orientation meeting, I was regaled with details about the program and what they would be doing. The behavior of one of them changed drastically after two meetings. She has, literally, not given me one problem since she joined. The one, who lost a loved one, is excited about life again.
I took my colleague aside to share my excitement, and told her I was still a little worried about one of my chosen girls. Her attitude really showed no change, it stayed the same, lip poked out, huffs, puffs, eyes rolled. We figured it would just take her a little more time, and hoped for the best.
The following day, I am not making this up, as we walked down the hallway, this particular student smiled at me, and said, “Mrs. Mims, Mrs. F. told us that we have a negative and positive core, her hands demonstrated her words, “She said to take out the negative core and put in the positive core.”
I said, “Do you plan to do that?”
She responded, “Yes, and if I forget, G. (one of the other girls in the program) will pull it out for me.” They beamed at each other, heads nodding affirmatively.
There’s also a essay contest sponsored by Secret. All 15 girls in the program agreed to participate in the contest! I willingly offered my help, because win or lose, they are putting themselves out there. One of them told me, she already knows what she’s going to do with the money she wins.:)
I wish all our kids could have access to programs like this. I realize it won’t work with all of them. But the ones it does reach, it would make such a difference in their lives, and in our classrooms. Imagine the impact these types of programs would have on our students, emotionally, socially, mentally, spiritually, and physically. All aspects of their life would be challenged to grow. My girls will run a 5K race with Girls on the Run on June 4. I know they can do it, and I will be there, cheering them on!
What possessed you to make the decision you made today? About a week ago, I handed out test folders in the morning to avoid the chaos of handing the folders out at 3pm dismissal. Everyone, including your daughter, was asked, if they were missing anything. Everyone responded, including your daughter, that they had everything. Three days later, when it was time to collect the folders, your daughter claimed that she did not receive a checklist . She didn’t say it nicely either. Now she could have taken the initiative and asked you to sign the tests, but that’s not something I would really expect from your child.
Today, I reminded my students with missing folders, that during recess, they would call their parents, and give a friendly reminder to sign their checklist and return the folder. Every child, but yours, accepted this responsibility. Your child became very snippy, told me she never got one, and how unfair it was. Oh well! This is how it works in our classroom.
However, while I was outside with the other students at recess, your daughter convinced the indoor teacher to let her call you. She called you, sobbing, (as you know, she can produce tears on demand), telling you how unfair I am. She was heard to wail that I was not being fair at all! And what did you do? D id you tell her that you will deal with this at home? Did you fuss at her for making a non-emergency phone call from school? Did you ask to speak to the teacher? Did you tell her life is unfair,ask her to hang up the phone, and deal with it like a responsible 5th grader? NO! You came to the school and picked her up!!!!
Two hours before the end of school! She missed a crucial math lesson.(Remember the conversation we had at conferences about her struggles with math, and I asked you to stop picking her up 20 minutes early just so that you could avoid sitting in the student pick-up line?) When you came to pick her up, did you notice the smug, satisfied, look on her face?
But, don’t worry, she will be held accountable by me, even as you cater to her every whim. She will learn that in our classroom there are rules to be followed, and consequences. She will learn that Daddy and Mommy will not always be able to pick her up. I will be glad to do this favor for you. You can thank me later.
While attending the 2011 PLC summit, one of the presenters told us about an experience he had while watching Family Feud. The question was, “What is the reason your child’s teacher is calling your house?” Not one of the “right” answers were positive, not one! An example of some of the answers were, “Your kid is failing” or “Your kid skipped school”. It reinforced the stereotype of parent/teacher communication; we’re the bearers of bad news. About a year ago, we had an idea forced on us by our principal, and it’s an idea I actually grew to like. We were forced, every Friday, to call a parent or two, and let them know something fabulous about their child. It’s called a Fabulous Phone Call. It’s not time-consuming, and there’s no out-of pocket expense. It’s exactly what it says, a phone call to a parent, telling them how wonderful their child has been. I try to choose a child who is always fabulous, they deserve praise too, and a child who was struggling to be fabulous. It’s not all about academics either. Maybe the student showed improvement in behavior, grasped a concept, or helped a friend. There are so many benefits to the Fabulous Phone call, the most important being that it provides teachers a chance to create positive communication with our parents. I usually begin my phone calls like this, “Hello, this is Mrs.M; your child is not in trouble.” I try to get that in before, “What did he/she do?” Afterwards, we have an enjoyable conversation about their child, and it usually ends with many, many, thanks from the parent. I keep the phone call positive at all times. Monday Morning, I place a “Fabulous Phone Call” coupon on the child’s desk, which says, “Congratulations, you have received a fabulous phone call!” I also ask whether they were notified about the phone call. Who knew a simple phone call could bring such joy?Pick a day, any day, and make a Fabulous phone call to one of your students’ parents, and destroy those negative stereotypes!
Power of Positivity: The Friday 5 - A principal documents the power of a positive phone call!
Today was one of those days! I had to take a deep breath, and exhale, “Woosah.” (For those who don’t know, I got that from the movie ”Bad Boys” with Martin Lawrence and Will Smith.) It works for me, because it stops me from saying something I have no business saying to someone else’s child! My students were so crazy today with the level of “it’s all about me”. All the “this is what I want to do, and who cares what you say!” No, they didn’t actually say those words, but the body language, attitude, lips poked out, made me stop during Math.
I said,” I have to stop for a Public Service announcement.” This is not meant for all of you, as a matter of fact, it’s not meant for most of you.” Seriously. And yes, I know, I was not using my class time wisely, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I proceeded to explain to them that when they get home, they can Tweet, Facebook, text, or call each other and vent about me all they want, but while they were sitting in our classroom, they would keep their negative attitudes to themselves, especially since it was intefering with me teaching and them learning!” Yes, they took me there! I didn’t have any other problems for the remainder of the day, thank goodness!
Sometimes, they do that to you. I love them all, but sometimes I just want to shake them, and let them know, that I have too many bodies in the room to cater to each and every one of their idiosyncrasies. Especially when it’s more than two or three of them at a time. Well, they’re 5th graders, and I know puberty is rearing its ugly head, and the hormones are beating each other up inside those little bodies. So, I’ll just continue to take a deep breath, inhale, extend my arms to the sky, arm down, and exhale, “Woosah!”:)
These words were spoken at the 2011 PLC Summit I attended in Arizona last week. “They didn’t choose their genetic pool”. “They couldn’t say I want two college-educated parents who love me, care for me, and make education my priority.”
I realized after hearing this statement, that many times, I get frustrated with my students about things over which they have no control. When they come to school without school supplies, their parent doesn’t sign a form,or misses a scheduled appointment, or has made the child stay home to babysit, again. These are things that the student can not control, but yet, year after year, my frustration is placed on a child, who is probably just as frustrated as I am! How many times has the child walked in the day after parent-teacher conferences, and I’ve said, “Your mother scheduled an appointment and didn’t come” The child stands there wide-eyed, not knowing how to reply. Maybe they know why, maybe they don’t,but that’s not the issue.
We need to work around the parents who are not supportive, the ones who just don’t have the time. We need to tell our children, “You do you.” “You do what you need to do to succeed.” Let’s not hold them accountable for the mistakes, or neglect, of their parents and guardians. Let’s not make them bear the weight of their parents’ transgressions. Why say to a child who is late every day, “You’re late again.” Knowing the only way the child can get to school is if their parent drives them.
So, I’m taking a new outlook, and it began yesterday. I have a student who is out every Monday. I would fuss at him every Tuesday about the work he had to make up or didn’t understand.
”Well”, I would say sternly, you need to be here on Mondays.”
He was in school yesterday and instead of a “Glad you could make it”, I smiled and said, “I am so glad that you are able to be here today.” A smile lit up his face and he said, sincerely, “So, am I.” The next time he’s out, I will work with him and help him catch up. Am I a” bad” teacher? I don’t think so, but I’m certainly not the best I can be. I’m learning though, and I’m willing to take a good, hard, look in the mirror, and correct my mistakes.
The word that comes to mind, after today’s conference is “rethink.” I have used that word so many times between today and yesterday, it’s unbelievable. But trust me when I say I am not using the word in vain! It is the only way I can describe what PLC is making me do. It is making me RETHINK the way I have been teaching. Now mind you, I consider myself a pretty good teacher, not perfect, but good. I keep my students engaged, I maintain discipline, I teach using a variety of methods, and hey, we’ve even begun incorporating PLC in my school . However, this PLC summit has brought me to the realization that I have not done the best that I can for my students!
I know, you’re thinking, isn’t this the same person who was trashing professional development about two posts ago? Yes, that was me. But this summit, this is what I want! I don’t know how many people were in that room, but each presenter, and I mean, each presenter, had us engaged practically every minute. If teachers were talking , they were talking about PLC, not about where to go for lunch. We met so many teachers from so many places, and we learned, not only from the presenters, wait for it, but from EACH OTHER! Wow!
I have to share what I learned, so over the next couple of posts, I am going to share some key concepts that were presented. Hopefully, this will twinge your curiosity and you will find out what PLC is, and what it can do for your school. Tonight, I am going to the top of the Hyatt and eat at the revolving restaurant. I’ll be ok, my head is still spinning from all I’ve learned in the last two days.