I've been on the receiving end of a lot of great advice over the years. I've asked for some of it, and some of it has come my way unsolicited. The unsolicited advice is usually the most annoying, and frustratingly, the most helpful.
Many times (at least in my experience), I've found that some of the older, wiser teachers are full of useful advice. I've sought it out, but I've also been the target of unwanted criticism. I've found that when I sweep aside my bruised ego, the advice and criticism have generally worked together to make me a better teacher.
So, here, in no particular order, are the five best pieces of advice and criticism that I've received from those who know better than I do.
Don't let your personality get in the way. I'm laid back. Very laid back. Deadlines? Punctuality? These things have never been a part of my vocabulary. Part of teaching (for me) has to be acting because my laid-back ways are not conducive for a well-managed classroom. This wasn't pleasant for me to hear, but I needed to.
Don't be so confrontational. As laid back as I can be, I can be just as stubborn. I do not appreciate disrespectful behavior. My first year teaching, I had a class of eighth graders who were in out and out revolt. I went home and cried. But I way wanted to get even. I showed up early one morning and turned all of their desks to face the wall. We were going to have in class suspension.
Fortunately, my much wiser mentor teacher stopped by my classroom before class and saw what I had planned. She told me flat out that I was asking for trouble by creating a "me vs. them" environment. My ego was bruised. This was my payback, and it would be sweet. I'm grateful that she was candid with me, though, and even more grateful that I listened. I have a video blog about what I came up with instead--same message, less confrontational--you can watch it HERE.
Smile and keep a "Jenius Journal." You can read about mine HERE. It really helps when you don't take everything so seriously--my own antics have even made the journal from time to time. Laugh and smile. Smile and laugh.
Find time to socialize with adults during the day. I tend to want to sit in my room with the door closed and plow through my work. But a little peer socialization throughout the day adds perspective and prevents feelings of isolation. So whether it's over your 10 minute lunch or in the hallway during class change, talk to the grown-ups everyday. Feeling connected helps.
Don't bad mouth the kids. So many teachers fall into this trap, and it's easy to do when you're having a bad day and so are your colleagues. It can be quite a bonding experience. But making a habit of bad-mouthing students makes everything worse in the long run. You are dehumanizing the students when you do this and the more you do it, the worse your own attitude gets. Just remember, that's somebody's baby. A professor in grad school told me that many moons ago, and I really think it has helped keep me positive.
For better or for worse--that's advice that has really helped me over the years. Yes, some of it is contradictory, but that's to be expected--it all comes from different sources. Some of it was given to me kindly--some of it wasn't. But it has all helped me to improve. And that should always be our goal as educators--to keep learning and by extension, improving.
And finally, my advice to you--listen to the advice of others and never stop learning.
How about you? What's the best advice you've ever received? Leave a comment below and let me know!
And check out the other blogs below that are all about great advice given to teachers. Thanks a million to Darlene Anne and Pamela for hosting the link-up!
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Friday, February 12, 2016
At the time, I believed her.
And you know what? I still do. Some of the greatest teachers I've ever known are able to engage students with a story--to break down the most difficult equation to its simplest steps--to take the most tedious task and somehow make it engaging.
All of the great teacher talk is--well--great. And I salute great teachers. Teaching is an art. Taking something that is mundane and somehow making it more in the eyes of a student is truly a remarkable feat.
The need for great teachers will never diminish--I have faith in that.
But the world we live in today is so undeniably different than the one we lived in just 15 years ago when I began my journey as that 22 year-old, naive (girl, really) hoping to one day be able to count myself among those who had changed lives--who had inspired.
When I look around my own school and into the vast web of the wider-world of connections that social media has afforded me, I see resistance to digital learning.
"That's not really teaching," I've heard, or, "We're working ourselves out of a job."
We live in a post-industrial society. Our current educational system is a direct result of the industrial revolution, and that model has really changed very little over the years. It is time for a change.
But, wait...I'm not advocating doomsday on our noble profession...just a slight update.
Think about it. Our students will one day go to work in a digital world. Doesn't it make sense that they should be educated (at least partially) in one?
There will always be a need for teachers. We just may need to rethink the model from lecturer and whip to facilitator and coach. We're not working ourselves out of a job by going digital--we are simply redefining our roles and opening a whole new window of opportunities for our students.
With that said, going digital does not mean going teacherless (paperless and teacherless are by no means synonymous--remember slates? queue Little House theme). As a matter of fact, the digital model is simultaneously teacher and student friendly. I've got five reasons for that.
5. You Don't Waste So Much Time Copying
Save a tree--save the world (save your sanity). Since I've gone to the blended classroom model (I use a hybrid digital and paper interactive notebook model [see the video below]). Copier jams no longer make me want to claw at my eyes and rip out my hair. I breeze into work at 8 and skip out at 4.
4. Students Want To Be On The Digital Devices
If I assign my students a foldable in their interactive notebooks or something comparable in their digital notebooks, most of them are way more engaged (translates into on task) working on the digital model.
3. Paperwork? What's That?
Seriously, in the digital classroom, students even submit traditional pen and paper assignments digitally. It's true (see how in the video below). That means I carry no papers home. I sit on the sofa, watch Game of Thrones (write the next book already, George R.R. Martin), and grade with my IPad.
2. Everything is Beautifully Streamlined
I thought I had struck gold when I discovered QR Codes, but the digital realm is pure, unadulterated platinum. Oh, the exquisite beauty of assigning a task in google classroom and having everything right there at the student's fingertips--links, assignments--all a mere click away.
1. Differentiating and Facilitating Happen OrganicallyYou heard me. The unconquerable beast of formative assessment, of regrouping, of helping small groups and individuals happens NATURALLY in the digital classroom. Generate self-grading quizzes in google forms. Divide and conquer. Remediate. As students submit work, look at it and provide instant feedback. Early finishers can go to enrichment stations. There are so many ways the digital classroom and differentiation go hand-in-hand.
The digital age has not impeded great teaching--it has simply redefined it. We are in a new century, and to teach our students as if we were in the last one is to do them (and ourselves) a disservice.
Get the FREE Guide to Blending Your Classroom HERE!
Digital Learning Day 2016--Why Should You Try Something New? Because Your Students Will Thank You.
My students thank me all the time for the new “stuff” we are doing this year. Go ahead--take the plunge! Believe me, if you have access to any sort of technology (even one device), then do it. That one tablet or laptop can open up a window to a universe of instructional opportunities. Your students will want to get to that tech center.
Digital Learning Day, February 17, 2016, is ultimately about bringing equal opportunity to our classrooms, regardless of location or socioeconomic status. It is about the importance of having access to Wi-Fi and up-to-date technology in our schools. Many schools have technology that is not working or that is out-of-date. State and local governments are now focusing on getting it all fixed so that our school children can succeed in the 21st century.
Here's the challenge--On February 17, 2016, try a new lesson that focuses on discovery, analysis, and exploration. Give your students the gift of a new opportunity by using Google Classroom, MS OneDrive, or an App. And don’t forget to share what you are doing in your classroom on social media to celebrate Digital Learning Day with #futureready. To help you get started, we’ve teamed up to share an amazing selection of blog posts and classroom activities that are designed to propel you and your students into your digital learning adventure.