Tag Archives: education

Great Teaching Strategies

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YouIn my current job I supervise college students in their final semester of college doing their student (practice) teaching.  They are assigned to current classroom teachers who are their mentors.  While visiting one of my college interns this last month I heard a great mini speech a mentor teacher gave to his students.  I loved his speech so much it made me want to re-enter the classroom just so I could use it with my own students.  See if his speech will help you.  In my teacher’s soul I call this the YOU speech. It went like this

“Ladies and gentlemen, in 10 days it will be the end of the quarter.  The grades you will receive then will become a permanent part of your school record.  Your grades are listed online.  You and your parents can check on them any time you want.  When you check on your grades, If you don’t like what you see, NOW is the time to fix them.  Here’s what I suggest.  Check on your grade today.  Then fix the YOU problems.  Then come see me and I will do everything possible to help you raise your grade.

What is a YOU problem?  If YOU don’t hand in your homework and your grade is low because of the zeros you get for homework, that is a YOU problem only YOU can fix.  If you need to make up a quiz and you haven’t come in to make up that quiz, that is a YOU problem.  If you turn in a rough draft and I make suggestions for things that will make your final draft better, and YOU don’t make any improvements, but just hit “print” on your computer and turn in the rough draft as your final draft, that is a YOU problem.  When YOU fix all the YOU problems, then come see me and we will talk.  I will do everything in my power to help you improve your grade.  Unfortunately I can’t do anything to fix the YOU problems.” Only YOU can do that.”

I wanted to stand up on my chair and cheer at the end of this speech!

Great speech

But I figured that wouldn’t be very professional.  As an observer I am only supposed to blend into the background and observe.  But I must confess to my blog followers:

  •  I thought of all those essays I had covered with suggestions only to be ignored. Many times I felt like I had spent longer on the essay making suggestions than the student had spent writing it!
  • I thought of all the parents who had emailed me to check on a student’s grade.  How could that grade possibly be true?  Hint:  The zeros indicate the paper wasn’t turned in…by your kid.
  • I thought of all the students who turned in three weeks worth of work on Friday at 2:30 and said, “Can you grade those papers and enter them right now so I won’t be grounded from going to the prom this weekend?”

You can’t blame me for wanting to cheer.

It is time to give credit where credit is due.  THANK YOU Mr. Broxterman for that wonderful speech.  I’m sharing it with all my blog’s teacher readers.  In the spirit of the month of Thanksgiving, I’m certain they will be grateful for your words forever.  The YOU speech will be heard around the world in classrooms everywhere.  On that I’m not even kidding.  My blog is read in more than 30 countries. OK readers, link this speech to your teacher friends everywhere.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed on in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

This Really Happened in School

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happened in schoolI Once Had a Student Who….

… was copying the work from the paper of a second grade girl sitting next to him.  I walked back to him and reminded him quietly that he was supposed to do his own work.  He didn’t need to copy from Amber.  He vehemently denied copying her work.  Then I pointed to the top of his paper.  Not only had he copied her work, he even copied her name and had writtten AMBER instead of his own at the top of his paper.

No, I’m not making this up.

I Once Had a Student Who…

This happened in school

…was doing something to get himself in trouble.  I can’t remember the exact infraction.  I had him write a letter to his parents and tell them what he had done.  I told him he had to get his parents’ signature on the letter and return it to me.  On the school bus on the way home, he enlisted the help of a third grader who was learning to write in cursive and asked him to sign his mother’s name.

He returned it to me the next day with the giant cursive signature looking so much like a third grader’s handwriting.  The signature touched all the lines perfectly and had the big loops done correctly…just like the ones in our writing guide.  When I saw it, it was so hard to keep a straight face.  I called his mother later in the day and we had a great laugh about it.   I kept the paper for her to include in his keepsake papers.  He never could figure out how I knew it wasn’t her signature.

I Once Had a Student Who

…was a senior in my class.  She had such an inexhaustible need to be the center of attention, she would do absolutely anything to achieve that goal.  Once she made a huge scene grabbing her abdomen, screaming and rolling around on the floor.  It was so over-the-top (and I was so accustomed to watching her dramas) that I felt certain she was faking.  However, given the circumstances I had to play it safe and call in the our school medical emergency team.  They were just a group of teachers with first aid training.  They were most impressed by her hysteria and called an ambulance who rushed her to the hospital.

This really happened in school

Later in that same morning when my administrator questioned me about having an ambulance come to take a student away, I confessed to him that I really believed the student was faking the illness.  The next morning he revealed that the hospital had done an emergency appendectomy on the student.  He was relieved that we had reacted appropriately.

But that is not the end of the story.  Our guidance counselor went to visit her in the hospital (later I also visited her).  He overheard two doctors talking outside her room.  They were confessing to each other that she had not had an inflamed appendix at all and they had operated unnecessarily.  So much for Hippa privacy.  Unfortunately this young lady’s brother had died of blood clots following dental work and she had the same propensity.  She ended up having two heart attacks from blood clots going to her heart following surgery.  She was left with some temporary paralysis in her legs which put her in a wheel chair for a couple of months and on crutches for the remainder of the school year.  She did finally make a full recovery.

When I claimed she would do absolutely anything to be the center of attention, I wasn’t exaggerating in the slightest.  She never once admitted to anyone that she was faking the whole episode.  To her the heart attacks, and paralysis were all worth it to fulfill her need to be center stage.

No, I’m not making this up.

And then there was the time…

I'm not making this up

…a senior girl began coming in tardy too frequently for my first bell class.  Our high school had a great team of people who called home about any absences or suspicious tardy notes.  If a call from a parent sounded suspiciously young, they would do a follow up phone call to verify that it was really a parent calling.

But I had some kind of gut instinct about this particular situation.  I called the parents directly and told them I was concerned about all their daughter’s tardies to my morning class.   I cared for this young lady and was wondering if there was anything I could do to help her with the health problems that were making her late to my class.

You guessed it.  There were no health problems. The parents said, “What?” in disbelief.  She was leaving home promptly each day.  Her boyfriend was calling in to school a couple of times a week impersonating her dad and apparently doing a good job of it.  This gave the young couple some alone time together before she came to school.

The parents went a little momentarily nuts as you might imagine.  But this was a particularly mature young lady.  She actually told her peers aloud in class what she had been doing and also what I had done about it.  She even thanked me for intervening.  No, I’m not even making this up.  She thanked me more than once that year.  She said she had gotten herself into a situation and didn’t know how to get out of it.

However, just like those weight reduction commercials on television that have to include a disclaimer:  “These results are not typical;”  I have to confess that over the years I have uncovered some other teen detours  when they have not been so appreciative of my diligence.  A couple of them have stayed mad at me for the rest of the school year.  But once they live a little longer and become a parent themselves, I think they’ll grow into a different perspective.

One teen girl even said to me, “You better hope I never run into you on the streets.”  No, I’m not making that up either.

Life in front of the classroom has its ups and downs.  No matter how great a teacher you are, you will have your wins and losses.  The losses (even the temporary ones) hurt teachers a little more because we don’t go into this profession unless we care deeply about kids.  It is no small job creating caring, responsible adults with enough confidence and courage to succeed.  But I can’t think of any other more worthy endeavor. Can you?

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Encouragement

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Encouragement

In the rush to enter quarterly grades, hold parent teacher conferences and analyze the data from last year’s test scores, one of the most important strategies a teacher can share is too often forgotten.

What do students need MOST from us?  Encouragement.  Some of them come from homes in which encouragement is never offered to them.  Too many come from homes where discouragement is the main course of the day.

Even those who do hear encouraging words in their homes may turn a deaf ear on the words from a loved one. One time I was offering some words of encouragement to my own daughter, Kelsey.  She looked at me and said, “You have to say that.  You’re my parent.  But other people don’t think that about me.”  She shot down my words just like that.  And sadly she was right.  Much of the world failed to see all the great qualities she possessed.

The Challenge

Stop right now.  Think.  Reflect.  How many times can you offer words of encouragement to students today?  Make it a personal challenge.  Keep track of it if you have to.  Give yourself a point every time you say something encouraging to a student or a co-worker.

Good news!  I bet each of us can think about encouraging words that were offered to us years ago.  Kind and encouraging words have the power to inspire us forever.  I have some that I heard decades ago that I can pull out and replay whenever I need them now.  Why do we forget this?  Because it is rare that we get the opportunity to hear how our words have inspired someone else.  However…remember this because it is important… just because we don’t get to hear their power doesn’t mean their power is diminished.  Encouraging words matter!

Bad news! Unfortuantely the only comments more powerful than encouraging words are negative remarks.  It is sad but true that it takes exponentially more positive words to erase negative comments that we also hear.  It’s a big job, but the kind of people who enter the profession of teaching are exactly the kind of people who are worthy of that challenge.

What Really Matters?

Believe me I know how easy it is to get caught up in the frustrations of the new software that won’t work.  I know how much it hurts when your students’ test scores are compared negatively with the kids from a neighboring community with an entirely different demographic.  The hall duties, test score paranoia, and scripted programs can wear down even the most optimistic teacher among us.

Let me be your zoom lens today.  If you took dozens of  digital photos of your classroom today, how many snapshots would include you encouraging a student?  When the frustrations of the profession start to get you out of focus, zoom in on the kids.  Let the other distractions fade into the background.  Zoom in on the students.  Encourage them.  That is what drew us into the teaching profession to begin with.

Looking Back

looking back

Remember when you were in college and all people talked about was their GPA?  It defined you.  Your grade point average determined if you could get into the college you wanted within your university.  Everyone told you your GPA would get you a job offer.  And to some degree that was true…for your FIRST job.  But once you got your first teaching job, how many people have asked you what your college GPA was?  In real life those numbers fade into the background.

Real life is about persevering during tough times.  Real life is about setting goals and pursuing your dreams.  Living successfully is about overcoming obstacles and pushing through fears.  Life is about taking risks in the face of failure.  It is about choosing the crooked road to live out your dreams. What helps a person do all those things?  It is not test scores.  It is the encouraging words that someone (hopefully a teacher) shared with us along the way.  It is the belief in ourselves that someone planted within us…using encouraging words during our discouraging moments.  Those words are what will follow students forever and help determine their success in life.  At the risk of being tarred and feathered by politicians and the authors of standardized tests, the words you say to your students to encourage them have more power to impact their lives in a positive way than anything else. Period.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed on in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Invite Dauna Easley to speak to your group dauna@cinci.rr.com

The Power of Waiting

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WaitToday teachers are feeling the push to cover more material faster.  More and more schools that I enter are using scripted education.  Districts are purchasing programs which require the teacher to follow an exact script.   In that way they feel like every student will have the same opportunity to learn valuable concepts.  No student will be penalized on the test because the material wasn’t covered in class.

In our race to raise test scores we seem to be sprinting all the time. Teachers tell me “I have to cover the material from pages 75-79 today.  I can’t get behind.  Every student in the grade level needs to be on the same page at the same time.”  No detours allowed.

But real life seems to be all about the detours. Or maybe that’s just my life. This rush…this cookie-cutter formulated approach to education makes me sad.  Why?  My years in the classroom have revealed to me that students learn best when we engage both their minds and their emotions.  If you have to cover pages 75-79, do you even have time for a great story from “real life” that illustrates the concept in a way that they will remember for the rest of their lives?

Sometimes slowing down is the only way to build better understanding.  Activities take more time than merely covering pages in a book or program.  Learning games and discussions that engage students and build comprehension can be time-consuming.  But they are worthwhile.   Do you know what a teacher does when he needs to cover ground quickly?  He calls on only the students with their hands up.  They are tempted to overlook the student who isn’t making eye contact.  We have to keep moving.

When we call on a student who looks confused, one who doesn’t have her hand up, we have to wait and let her think about her answer.  When I’m confused and people rush me I become more confused, don’t you?  When we have the courtesy to wait we are really saying, “I believe in you.  I know you can get this concept.  Your understanding is important.  You are worth my time.”  When a student is confused they need that extra beat.

Great teaching is about allowing the extra beat.  It is about engaging our students with a true story or a lively discussion.  It is about having time to notice when they are hurting about something personal.  Their pain and the timing of their understanding doesn’t always happen between pages 75 and 79.  No matter how great a script writer you are, it is often the detours that include the teachable moments.  A great teacher knows the power of watching and yes,  waiting for those breakthrough moments.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Contact Dauna Easley to speak to your group:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach

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The Teacher Who Made ME Want to Teach I wish I had a photo of her, but unfortunately I don’t.  Her name was Esther Waggoner and her third grade classroom pointed me in the direction of my life’s work: teaching.  I feel certain she taught me multiplication tables, cursive writing, reading and  many other academic subjects.  Plenty of exciting learning takes place in third grade.

I remember another thrill that school year.  Our old school building added a new wing while I was in third grade.  In the middle of the school year we got to pick up our belongings in our arms and carry them to our new classroom.  But none of these reasons are why I mention her here.  It wasn’t the academics or the surroundings that made that year special for me.  It was the enthusiasm of the woman in front of the classroom.

don't ever do this

Mrs. Waggoner just simply taught with Joy.  Messes didn’t seem to bother her.  Noise didn’t freak her out.  She loved children and she loved teaching.  She honestly was having so much fun in her classroom that she made me want to grow up and enter a profession in which I could go to work and have that much fun.

At home my parents belonged to the “Go Play” philosophy of child rearing. “Don’t make a mess or too much noise.  Do your chores and then go play.”  I was fine with that.  I never questioned it.  I loved to play outside from the time my chores were done to the time the lightning bugs came out at night. I honestly had no complaints.  I hadn’t experienced any other way.

Play with us Then Mrs. Waggoner appeared in my life.  She actually played with her students.  I studied her like she was some kind of personal science experiment.  What was this?  An adult who enjoyed playing with children? I had never met another adult like her.  During the winter months when we had a long season of indoor recesses she let us push all our chairs back against the wall and set up bowling pins.  We’d roll the ball knocking those wood pins down over and over again.  She never flinched.

DSC_0390_x2_Iván_Melenchón_Serrano_MorgueFileI remember one month when she even taught us how to square dance at recess time indoors.  She’d  clap her hands to the music and yell out those square dance calls with enthusiasm while we swung our partners and learned to do-si-do. She even danced with us when there was an odd number of students so no one would be left out.

I was hooked.  From third grade on I wanted to grow up and enter a profession that allowed an adult to experience that much joy.  Mrs. Waggoner is the reason I became a teacher.  Of course I taught academics.  Yes!  Students won’t respect a teacher who doesn’t challenge them academically.  But I first considered teaching because of the way that Mrs. Waggoner made me feel.  I wanted to connect with young people in the same way she connected with me.  It was Mrs. Waggoner’s joy that first sent me into teaching.  But it was the connections I made with young people that kept me there.  I’m proud to say that I enjoyed the profession as much as Mrs. Waggoner did.

When I finished college, can you guess where I began my teaching career?  In third grade, of course.

I went to a small town parade this past weekend.  I noticed that when military people and firefighters passed by, the crowd applauded.  I was proud of everyone.  It was exactly the right thing to do.  I was applauding right along with them.

But somehow I wish that teachers were the recipients of some applause and not just the targets of the media and politicians running for office.  It has become fashionable to criticize teachers just the way too many citizens dishonored our veterans when they returned from Viet Nam.

Great teachers deserve applause.  We’ve even seen too many teachers protect their students with their own lives in the past decade.  Today I applaud Mrs. Waggoner, the woman who taught with such enthusiasm that she pulled me toward this important profession.  I hope I have made her proud.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the authordauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Dauna Easley is a speaker who has been invited to speak in 37 states.

Contact:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

How to Encourage Teachers

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spread a compliment

In every school (or business or neighborhood) there are people who spread gossip.  We all know who they are.  But of more significance and greater impact are the people who spread compliments.  Those are the people to whom professionals are most attracted.  They make us feel good.  They make the day seem more positive no matter what the challenges may be.  Here is the great news.  You don’t have to be a supervisor to encourage fellow teachers.  In fact in my career I have been most encouraged by other teachers who I admire who notice and mention to me something that I do well.   Who have you complimented lately?  Why not set a goal of complimenting two teachers per day for every day this week?  Take the challenge.

What can make this a little easier?  I’ve been in a couple of teaching environments where there was a small stack of notes in the mailroom near teacher mailboxes.  These might be Pat-on-the-Back notes, Applause cards, or have a smiley face theme…whatever suits your school theme.  When you see them lying there, you can just write a quick note and slip  it in someone’s mailbox.  When we make it handy we eliminate having to search for a note card or hiking it down to the mailbox area.  Any teacher in the building can start the ball rolling.  Why not you?

thumbs upI’ve also heard of building supervisors or district administrative staff members who carry thumbs up sticky notes.  They leave these anywhere they see a nice bulletin board or a creative display within the school.  It can be a post it note with their name on it or imprinted with a positive theme of any kind.  What about a thumbs up sticky note.  I currently supervise student teachers at the university level.  I like to carry a camera into buildings and take photos (with permission) of wonderful bulletin boards and displays.  I take the time  to find and compliment the teacher and ask her if I may photograph the board.  Teachers are always very complimented that someone noticed and took the time to stop and comment.

listen to parentsDon’t forget to help a young teacher.  I had already been a teacher for seven years when my principal asked me to move into a first grade position that became available.  I had been teaching third grade since I graduated from college.  First grade scared me, but I didn’t really want to mention that to my principal.  At that time in my career, teaching very beginning reading seemed like a mystery to me.  How did you start from scratch and create a child who could read?

There was a wonderful lady in my building named June Hutzelman who became my mentor.  It wasn’t any kind of “official” assignment.  My principal thought I could handle this job and didn’t think I needed anyone to help me.  Ha!  I didn’t want to admit otherwise.  June guided me through the first two months.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit this now, but what she taught on day one, I taught on day two.  Her day two assignments became my day three classroom work.  By about mid October, I had the swing of things and I could maneuver on my own.  I will be forever indebted to June for taking me under her wing.   As a wonderful side benefit, first grade became my favorite grade to teach.  I’ve taught preschool through high school seniors and like them all.  But that thrill of teaching very beginning reading is matched by no other thrill in teaching in my opinion.

When I left full time teaching to become a college field supervisor of student teachers I gave away all of my collected materials to young future teachers or beginning teachers.  I mean I gave away absolutely every plaque, poster, desk item, magnet, bulletin board fabric or border, worksheet, EVERYTHING!  At first I thought I couldn’t do it.  But as the time neared, It felt better and better to give it all away.  They carried away car loads full of items for their classrooms.  Two unexpected side benefits came from this.  I brought no additional clutter into my house; and when I visit them in their classroom, I can see my stuff still being used with students.  It feels just right.

blue ribbonHere’s my favorite idea that I’ve seen in the past couple of years.  A former student of mine, Erin Hunkemoeller,  who teaches Spanish in the Northmont School District in Clayton Ohio, sent me a copy  of a sheet that they call Inspirations.  Two or three teachers create this one page sheet together.  Every school is full of great teachers with creative ideas.  Why not share them?  Inspirations is one sheet with three creative ideas that come right out of their classrooms.  They describe them briefly and include photos.  This strategy affirms great efforts, shares and spreads wonderful ideas and encourages the entire staff.  Northmont receives my blue ribbon award for this great idea that is well implemented.  They are working together to TEACH…To Change Lives.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Dauna Easley is available to speak.  Contact:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Building a Relationship with the Parents of Your Students

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Students are backThe students are back.  Your bulletin boards are up.  You are beginning to feel like you are in the swing of things.  Though the general public claims that teachers have three months of vacation every year, I know very few teachers who aren’t teaching in August and June.   And my experience is that the Labor Day holiday in America is really a weekend when most teachers are still laboring away in their classrooms or getting caught up at home from the long hours they have put into starting back to school.

Building a Positive Relationship with Parents

stepsBut there are still more steps to the process.  If you are going to be successful with students, you also need to have a positive relationship with their parents. Often that starts even before you meet them face to face with a summer letter.  Open Houses and Curriculum Nights also tend to be scheduled at the beginning of the school year.  In this post I’m going to talk about making the most of curriculum nights.  Those are the times when the parents come to school to walk through their child’s school day.  In the early grades this can sometimes be handled in one classroom, but as children grow older, often the parents move from room to room following their child’s schedule for the school day.

What Teachers Tell Themselves

Sometimes the messages that administrators and teachers tell themselves aren’t the whole truth.  We tell ourselves that parents come to Curriculum Night to learn about classroom policies, supplies needed, and how much time their child should spend on homework.  We believe parents want to learn about classroom projects and the expectations of the teacher.

Wrong!

When parents come to Curriculum Night they really have only four (or five) burning questions in mind.  They care very little about your preplanned presentation or your beautifully prepared class syllabus.  Here is what they are really thinking.

  1. Will my child like this teacher?
  2. Will this teacher like my child?  Will s/he be fair to my kid?
  3. In this classroom will my child learn?  Will s/he have the opportunity to succeed?
  4. I wish I had the chance to ask or tell the teacher about this burning issue on my mind…
  5. In the junior and senior year of high school there is a fifth burning question.  What are you going to do to help my kid get into college?  This is unique to these two years.  If you don’t address that on curriculum night, the parent will leave frustrated.  Think about it ahead of time and address it on curriculum night.

I promise you those four (or five) questions are what is really on the parent’s mind.  And they’ve already made a preliminary decision on questions number one and two.

The Real Truth

Like it or not…

Fair or not…

Accurate or not…

This is how the conversation goes when a child gets home from school on the first day…

Parent:  “Hi honey.  Did you have a great first day of school?”

Possible answers.

“No.  My teacher is mean.  She doesn’t like me.  And school is boring.”

“Yeah, It was great.  My teacher is funny.  She  likes me.”

Whether we like it or not, it is the child’s first perception of school on the very first day that most influences a parent’s point of view about the teacher and the school year. Smart teachers figure that out quickly and are very careful about the first days of school.  Fearful teachers say, “Don’t smile until Thanksgiving. That way the students will know who’s boss.”

Teacher Fears about Curriculum Night

On Curriculum Night teachers are afraid that one or two parents will tie them up asking personal questions about their child.  “Do you think Nikki has ADHD?”  Answers to these questions are confidential and it would be inappropriate to address when other parents could overhear a private response.  And, let’s me honest, the teacher is probably still trying to figure out if Nikki is the one with the curly brown hair or the glasses.  Those kind of conversations should best be left to parent teacher conference conversations.

Tips for Curriculum Night

smile

  • Smile!  Even if you’re nervous, smile and joke a little.  The parents will think, “Yes this teacher is friendly. My child will be able to approach this teacher with questions.”
  • Be wise and have a sheet listing conference times for which a parent may sign up.  This will help you greatly when you begin to schedule conferences.  ALSO it lets the parents know that coming up they will have a chance to discuss private issues with you.
  • Tell the parents how much you enjoy this class.  The parents aren’t particularly interested in how busy or stressed you are.  They want to believe you enjoy this class which includes their kid.
  • Don’t just spew off rules and deadlines.  Describe the strategies you will use to help all students succeed.  One of my own daughters had special needs.  I left too many Curriculum Nights almost in tears.  Teachers were quick to talk about how they wouldn’t bend the rules or make modifications in front of a room full of parents.  Many of them did make wonderful and necessary modifications for my daughter.  But on curriculum night I often felt like my child had no chance to succeed.  (This was especially true in the upper grades).  Think about every parent who might be sitting in your room.
  • Have the parents pick up an index card as they enter your room.  In the front of the room have 3 questions on display.  Invite the parents to write responses to these three questions.

1. What is your child saying about my class so far.

2. How can I help your child succeed in my classroom this year?

3. Do you have any questions or concerns you’d like to share about your child?

Collect the cards as they leave.

Don’t have them pass the cards to other parents.  The contents may be private.

Follow Up

Don’t just have parents fill out the cards, read those cards as soon as possible.  I read through them on Curriculum Night or at the latest, the next day.  I put the most pressing concerns on top.  For the next few days I called parents or emailed them and let them know I had read their comments.  I would ask for further input in some cases.  In other cases I would tell them what I was going to do to help them with their concern.  My follow-up usually stunned and impressed parents, especially at the high school level.

This follow-up will help you enormously as a teacher.  You will avoid inadvertent mistakes when you find out what is on the parents’ minds at the very beginning of the school year. The first weeks of school are crucial in developing a positive reputation in your school and community.  Parents talk to other parents.  The word will spread quickly that you are a caring professional, or the opposite.  Do yourself a favor.  Every interaction with the parent for the remainder of the school year will be easier if you make a positive impression from the beginning.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Dauna Easley available to speak to teacher audiences.

 

My Toughest Year in the Classroom

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toughest year in the classroom

Something happened this week.  One young lady I know and love experienced her first week in front of a classroom full of students.  She was hired on Sunday evening and drove two hours out-of-town for her first teachers’ meeting which was to take place at 8:00 on Monday morning, the very next day.  Her new students arrived Wednesday.  She had never even seen the school before her first day.  How did this happen?  Who knows?  But embarrassingly it happens all the time in our profession.  My young friend was tired of the endless interviews for teaching positions.  It was the last week in August and she was determined to take any job offered.  The good news is…she has her start.  Even better news…she’ll be a good teacher.

What was her email comment on Friday after her first week of school?

I used to think I looked forward to and appreciated Fridays.  Turns out I was way under appreciating them all these years.

I laughed when I read her comment.  It took me back to the toughest year I ever had as a teacher.  It was a year I’ll never forget, like a bad nightmare that stays in your psyche and haunts you forever.  I was luckier than my young fledgling teacher.  My toughest year came after I had already been teaching for more than 20 years.  By then I was a confident and experienced professional who didn’t think anything a student could conjure would knock me off my game.  I was competent.  I was prepared.  I was wrong.

Picture This

picture this

In one week I went from teaching primary aged students to high school seniors!  I went from teaching in a private school that I owned to a high school with students considered “at risk.”  I had teen moms, many pregnant students, and kids with parents in jail.  On the first day of school when I asked them to introduce themselves with 3 descriptive words, several of them announced they had “an attitude.”  They saw this as a positive attribute.  They were proud of their attitudes.  I went from suburban type students to predominantly urban kids who came from different neighborhoods who didn’t like each other.  The only thing that united them was their dislike for me.  They all agreed on one thing.  I had to go. Those kids reared up and took a bite right out of my backside when I wasn’t looking.

teacher challenges

I only made it to the second day of school at 11:00 am when I knew I was going to cry in front of the class.  They were passing a basket around the classroom and asking their peers to contribute money to buy me a ticket out-of-town.  No, I’m not making this up.  I was used to children who loved me.  I knew I was going to cry and worse…I knew they would love to see my tears.  Not crying in front of them became my number one goal.  But I could feel the tears just ready to spill over.  What was I going to do?

I was so new in this building I couldn’t even decipher when the bells were ringing.  All day long you would hear bings, buzzes and bells coming into your classroom.  I later learned that there were a certain numbers of bings and buzzes to call each administrator.  The kids knew when the change class tone sounded, but I didn’t.  One of those buzzes started to sound.  Maybe they were going to leave for lunch but I wasn’t certain.  I spotted the closet door.  I decided I would walk through that door and act like I was looking for something in the closet so they wouldn’t see my tears.  I tried not to run.  I tried to look like a woman who was just going to the closet to look for something.  I opened the door and walked through.  It turned out not to be a closet after all.  I was right in the middle of another classroom, not the closet, but I burst into tears anyway.

I got lucky.  It did happen to be the lunch bell.  My students vacated the room and I had a half an hour to pull myself together before the torture began anew.  At the end of my first week I called the friend who had recommended me for the position and apologized to her, but told her I was going to quit.  I called my mom and told her I was going to quit.  But I didn’t.  I hung in there.  If I told you all the things my students did to me that year, you would never believe me.  You would also stop reading my blog because I would sound like an ineffective nincompoop.  I made many mistakes that year.  But I grew more as a teacher than during any other year of my teaching career.

What My Students Taught Me

rejection

  • Hearts that have been rejected will reject others in self-defense.   They think, “I’ll reject you first so you can’t hurt me.”   It has very little to do with you.  The rejection isn’t personal, but it sure feels that way until you understand that truth.
  • Once students know you really care about them, they will be your staunchest champion.  But you have to prove you care about them first.  And in an environment like this you have to prove it every year.
  • I’ve learned you can’t talk to high school students the same way you talk to third graders.  It doesn’t work.  I was used to saying things like “Oh I like the way Megan has started her assignment.”  That is how clueless I was.  Believe me that strategy doesn’t work in a tough high school environment.
  • I learned to cuss.  I’m not saying that was a good thing.  And I never used profanity in front of my students but I was so surrounded by it, I found it peppering my personal conversation when I wasn’t on the job.  I was in my forties and had never sworn.  I still don’t use the really offensive words, but It makes some of my conversations a lot more humorous, because it astounds people who know me well.
  • Other than cussing with my friends, I stayed true to myself.  I didn’t get pulled into the drama that surrounded me.  I didn’t yell.  I didn’t meet sarcasm with sarcasm.  I stayed calm and was able to be a positive role model.  Most of these students had lives steeped in drama.  They needed positive role models more than they needed anything else.
  • That old adage, “The more you put into something, the more you get out of it,” is 100% true.  I have never worked so hard in my life, but I also never changed lives so dramatically as I did in that environment.  When kids don’t have other positive role models, you can make the most profound difference in their lives.

The worth of a teacher

Teachers measure their worth by the lives that they change.

                                            – Dauna Easley

  • That first really tough year helped me grow immensely as a teacher.  It groomed me to teach future teachers.  If you want to be an effective teacher for future teachers you need a wide variety of experiences.  It helped me begin writing books.  I had a message.  I had stories to tell.  I spent 12 years at that job I thought I would quit at the end of the first week.  I learned I could persevere through challenging circumstances.  That alone is an important life lesson.
  • Those kids groomed me, chiseled me and sometimes even sandblasted me, until I became a true teacher.

TEACH...To Change Lives

 TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from the author:  dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Book Dauna Easley to speak to your group.  dauna@cinci.rr.com

101 Ways to Encourage Students

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100 blog posts

Whoopee!

Today marks my 100th blog post! 

I could lead a cheer, set off fireworks or send 100 helium balloons into the sky.  Writing one hundred posts is quite a commitment.  When I first began writing a blog I didn’t even know how to attach a picture.

But I have a passion for inspiring teachers to help students learn to live successfully.  I want teachers to understand the power they have to change a student’s life forever.  It is for these reasons that I’ve decided to write a post titled 101 Ways to Encourage Students.  I believe this is the best way to celebrate my 100th post.  I’m going to list 100 ideas for encouragement plus one extra idea which demonstrates my commitment to keep on blogging for teachers.

Tweak these suggestions to meet the needs of your own students, and most importantly implement these ideas in your classroom.  Print this page and refer to it often during the school year.  Make a commitment to try at least one idea each time you read through the list.  Here we go…

101 Ways to Encourage Students

  1. Brag about your students to others when the students can hear your comments.
  2. Tell them you were thinking about them over the weekend.  Be specific about what your thoughts were.  Students feel validated when they know you think about them outside school hours.
  3. Make eye contact.  Don’t just look over their heads or at a slide when you are teaching a class.  Make eye contact with individuals.
  4. When they have the courage to raise their hand to ask a question, reassure them with, “That’s a great question.”  Then explain the answer fully and patiently until you are certain they understand.
  5. Tell a student about something the two of you have in common.
  6. Talk about a failure you have faced.  Students can accept their own setbacks better if they know adults who they admire have also faced failures.
  7. Joke with them.  Never joke about them.  Assess their sense of humor and then have fun with them.
  8. When you see them in the hall, smile at them and speak.  Don’t just limit this to your own students.  Often we can encourage a student in our school who is not assigned to us by developing a relationship with them just passing in the hallways.
  9. Tell their parents how much you admire their kid.  Be specific.  These comments always get back to and encourage the student.
  10. If you see a student reading a book you’ve also read, comment on what they are reading.
  11. Never belittle or use put downs with any student.  All students judge teachers by the way they treat the most disenfranchised kid in the class.
  12. Look for ways to build a rapport with every student.  Is It music, movies, a favorite TV show, sports or video games?  How can you connect with each kid by talking about something they enjoy?
  13. Tell them about something great you heard someone else say about them.
  14. Admire a talent that they have.  Tell them you wish you could draw or ______ like they do.
  15. Make fun of yourself.  Let them see you vulnerable and laughing at yourself.  It will make them feel like they don’t have to be perfect either.
  16. Praise progress.  Don’t wait for and insist on perfection before you praise.
  17. Smile when they least expect it.
  18. Teach students how to study successful people.  Biographies, documentaries, DVDs, and online resources put successful people within reach for our students.  Success breeds success.
  19. Do anything it takes to defuse a tense situation.  Kids goof up.  Always work to de-escalate a mistake.  Never, never escalate a negative situation.
  20. Make them feel like you are the teacher who is on their side.  You don’t have to condone unacceptable behavior to make the student still feel like you are on their side.
  21. Be available for chit-chat.  If you are approachable, students will seek you out.  Be available before school, after school, during break times.
  22. Put their work on display.
  23. Focus on their strengths.  We all are too aware of our weaknesses.  Students know clearly what their deficits are.  They need to be reminded of their talents.
  24. Step up!  Intervene EVERY time you see a student being teased or bullied.  NEVER allow it to continue no matter whose student they are.
  25. Teach with enthusiasm.  If you aren’t excited about your class, they won’t be either.  (Yawn).
  26. Look for students who are not easily accepted by their peers.  Befriend them.  When other students see that you enjoy the ones they don’t engage, it will influence their opinion.
  27. Go to your students’ extra curricular functions.  Let them know you came to watch them. It will matter more than you will ever imagine.
  28. Who is your greatest challenge in the class?  Catch them doing something right and compliment them on it.  Smile at them when they glance your way.
  29. Put a positive quote on the board and discuss it each day.  Let them give examples of how they see that quote illustrated in their lives.
  30. Never, never act shocked when they share a problem from their lives.  They’ll never approach you again if you over react.  Listen, empathize and problem solve, but don’t act shocked.
  31. Ask a student for help.  Students love helping a teacher.  My high school students taught me most of what I know about technology.  As a side benefit, they felt valued. “I taught the teacher something.  Yeah.”
  32. Watch for teachable moments and try to capture them. We all learn best when we want to learn a particular skill.  Not every learning possibility can be scheduled or planned ahead of time.
  33. Bring in your favorite song.  Play it and explain what you like about it.  Invite them to share theirs. (Caution: Make them aware that songs must comply with school standards).
  34. Every once in a while bring your students a treat.  Try to make it unexpected and then they will appreciate it.
  35. Supply small items you see that some students need:  paper, pencils, poster board, pens, etc.  Most will really appreciate this.  This says “I care about your success.”
  36. Tell them about something funny or stupid you did when you were a kid.
  37. Finish this sentence for any one of them.  “You know what I admire about you?  I admire…..”
  38. Never allow students to gossip or complain about a student who isn’t there.  Shut it down.  They will notice.  They’ll know that you “have their back” when they aren’t around.
  39. Find something positive about every effort a student makes.  You can address improvements needed only after first recognizing strengths. Criticism without any praise = discouragement.
  40. Orally share inspiring stories with your students.  Yes, you CAN read to high school students.
  41. Tell them about a time you were afraid to try something and how you gathered the courage to do it.  It will help them be courageous.
  42. Put a compliment in writing and give it to them.  Written compliments have 10 times the power of spoken compliments.  They can keep them and read them whenever they feel discouraged.
  43. Stop at their desk and sit down next to them.  Comment on their work or just ask about something going on in their lives.  This will build a positive relationship even if issues arise later.
  44. Use learning games in your classroom.  When learning is fun a positive relationship builds between students and their teacher.  This encourages students to learn.
  45. Notice a talent the student has and ask them to share that talent with the class.
  46. Do everything you can to build friendships inside your classroom.  Assign partners who are welcoming and encouraging to others.
  47. Be an advisor for a club or start a club.  I once started a friendship club between my Teacher Academy kids and the students with special needs in our high school.  Many new friendships were formed.
  48. When you read an article about a student in the newspaper, bring it in and post it in your classroom.  Buy an extra paper and give a copy to them.
  49. If you have someone in your room who has artistic skills, hang one of their paintings, pictures or posters in your classroom.
  50. I’ve often complimented a student on their writing skills telling them I want an autographed copy of their first book when they become an author.  I know those books will be on my shelves someday.
  51. Call a parent to brag about something their child did in the classroom or around the school.
  52. Ask a student to speak in front of a group about one of their experiences or accomplishments.
  53. Ask a student to organize an event.  This lets them know you notice their organizational skills and trust their abilities.
  54. Notice kindnesses you see in your classroom.  Compliment the student performing the kindness privately or in front of others.  What is recognized expands.
  55. Technology can greatly enhance learning.  However, don’t update your website while ignoring the child standing next to you waiting for help.  You don’t like it when they text their friends while you are teaching.  Being attentive works both ways.
  56. Teach students to surround themselves with their own encouragers.  This is a skill they will need for life.
  57. By sharing a problem from your past you will let your students know that you have been through tough times.  They will be more apt to seek you out for encouragement when they have tough times.  Be certain to walk the lines of professionalism on this one.
  58. Recognize birthdays, yes even in high school.  I knew a teacher who kept a box of candy bars and soda pop for students with birthdays.
  59. Visualize future successes for your students and describe those visualizations to them.  Students often picture their own successes first through the eyes of someone they admire.
  60. Ask yourself the “magic question”.   “What is one thing I can do today to encourage success for this student?”  Pick a challenging, quiet or struggling student.  Ask yourself that question and act on it.
  61. Put an index card on your desk.  Give yourself a mark every time you smile at the student who is the biggest challenge in the class.  No one has to know the reason for the card.  How many points can you earn in a day?  Challenge yourself.
  62. Listen when a student speaks.  Really listen.  Listen for clues beneath the surface.  What are they really saying?
  63. Next time you see a student ask them about something they shared with you previously.
  64. Encourage a student to share their dreams with you.  Listen carefully.  Become their dream partner as you encourage them to take the steps toward their dreams.
  65. Find a positive mentor for a student in the field of their interest.
  66. Always talk positively about a student to other professionals.  I believe students sense when you’ve “got their back.”  If you hear another student or adult say something negative about a student, interject a positive comment.  Students feel it.
  67. Be consistently upbeat.  When students have to tiptoe around a teacher’s fluctuating moods, it can be very discouraging for them.  A teacher should always be the adult in the classroom.
  68. Say “I care about you.”  Sometimes say it verbally.  Sometimes say it with your actions.
  69. Write encouraging comments on their papers.  In my job I had to evaluate hundreds of essays.  Sometimes when they would write something particularly well, I would write, “Wow! I wish I had written this!”
  70. Explain to your students the power of focus.  Students can accomplish more if they zero in on their most important goal.
  71. In the classroom, call on everyone to speak.  Don’t just call on those who you know have the correct answer to keep the lesson moving swiftly.
  72. Think of dozens of ways to say “I believe in you.”  You can demonstrate your belief in a student by giving them a responsibility.  They will want to rise to the level of your belief.
  73. Laugh together.  Nothing builds a positive rapport, better than shared laughter.
  74. Give your student a “do over.”  Whether it’s a bad choice they’ve made or an assignment they’ve bombed, everyone deserves a do over once in a while.
  75. Treat every student as you would want another teacher to treat your own child. Pretend there is a little bird in the room watching you.  In these days of electronic devices, there may be.
  76. Give choices in your assignments so that every student has a chance to shine using their strengths.  Students learn material in many different ways.  Choices encourage them.
  77. Teach your students the power of the word “yet.”  I’m not good at math yet.  I can’t write well yet.  When you hear them announce something they can’t do, YOU put the word yet at the end of their sentence.
  78. Be a hope vendor.  Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time.  Great teachers sell hope everyday.  How can you sell hope today?
  79. Make students aware of their negative self talk.  Have them write down what they say to themselves.  Then show them how to turn those thoughts around…on purpose.
  80. Use uplifting music in your classroom.  The right music can enhance any lesson.
  81. Be relentless about looking for ways for students to shine,  Look for awards, competitions, recognitions, scholarships, and contests.  I gave my own token awards.  It is the recognition itself that encourages.
  82. Students spell the word “love” this way… T-I-M-E.  If you are always in a hurry or reading emails on your computer, you aren’t giving them the time to connect with you.  They want your time and that includes eye contact.
  83. Tell them a true story that applies to any lesson you are teaching.  People connect by sharing a story.  A story lives inside someone longer than any worksheet.
  84. Use quiet words.  Quiet words sink in.  Yelling shuts a student down.  In fact shouting shuts the whole class down. Quiet words encourage a student and helps him breakthrough to understanding.
  85. Share your goals with students.  Let them know when you have taken a step toward your goal. Share it.  It will inspire them to work toward their goals.
  86. Walk your talk.  Be a role model.  Don’t expect them to accomplish what you won’t expect of yourself.
  87. Try to add value to each student’s life.  Students need us in very different ways.  Know them well enough that you understand what they need most from you.  Then deliver.
  88. Do whatever it takes to build a community within your classroom.  If one student is estranged, you don’t yet have a community. Keep working at it.
  89. Go the extra mile to make a memory in your classroom.  Memories last a lifetime and inspire students for years.  Some will happen spontaneously.  Others need some forethought.  Use props, activities, guest speakers, projects, and field trips to build special memories.
  90. Be careful what you “see.”  If you believe a kid is a loser, he will know it and live up to that.  Find any strength you see and focus on that.  How could that one strength lead to some future success?
  91. Teach students how to mentally replay the successes they’ve had in life.  Human nature has them replaying their failures.  Show them how to interrupt and replace those negative memories with positive ones.
  92. Know your students well enough to choose partners carefully.  When pairing students for a project put diplomatic and willing encouragers with someone who may need assistance.  But insist on the contributions of all members of the group.  No slackers.
  93. Demonstrate diplomacy in everything you do.  When you teach students diplomacy you set them up for success in life.
  94. Make the most of moments.  Teachers don’t have much time; so try to make moments matter.  A student once came to me and told me at length about how much it meant to her when I passed her in the hallway and said, “Hey cutie!”  Two words.  One moment.  Huge impact.
  95. Give a student “wait time.”  When you call on them for a response, don’t expect them to answer immediately.  When you give them “wait time” it really says, “I know you can do this.”
  96. Ask a student if you can keep a paper or project that they have done well, to show to your students the following year.
  97. Teach students to build an encouragement folder or box.  Have them gather quotes, poems or stories that inspire them.  Have them keep positive notes or important keepsakes from others in this box.  Share items that have encouraged you.
  98. When a student explodes within the classroom, defuse the situation by staying calm. Talk to him later when emotions subside.  Don’t attack back.  Try this opener.  “Tell me what’s going on.”
  99. Make your classroom so safe that students are willing to push outside their comfort zone in your room.
  100. Join your students in an assignment. When I give a writing prompt, I frequently will write my thoughts as the students are writing.  If asked, I’ll share what I wrote.  Students will value your assignments more because you’ve given them importance.
  101. Teach for the “whatevers” in life.  Every day in every way. teach your students to handle future difficult situations.  Here is the message you must give them.  Whatever comes your way you can handle it. Your classroom discussions and activities must say to them, “I know that you are resilient enough.  You are creative enough.  You are intelligent enough.  You are valuable enough.  You are tenacious, worthy and strong enough to get through whatever life hands you.  Sometimes it won’t be easy but in this classroom I have given you the tools to handle whatever comes you way.”

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities the author: dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com

Dauna Easely available for teacher keynote addresses or in-service meetings

dauna@cinci.rr.com

Great Teachers Put Compliments in Writing

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put compliments in writing

As you begin your school year, I want to toss a challenge to you.  Every chance you get to compliment a student, do it.  Don’t just think good thoughts.  Voice them.  But my challenge goes further than that.  Give your compliments ten times their power by putting those positive comments in writing.

At a graduation party I attended a few years ago, I noticed a small note I had written rather spontaneously to this particular graduate.  It was framed and on display on a table among items that defined the graduate’s life.  This note meant so much to her that she wanted to share it with others.  That simple gesture humbled me.  When I saw that hastily written note, I was a little embarrassed at the old note card I had quickly selected to use when I wrote to her.  That particular note card had actually kind of yellowed a little.  It was one that had come from the bottom of a box and had clearly been sitting in that box for years.

Yet while I stood there berating myself for not choosing a fancier stationery, the bigger more important message gradually began to occur to me.   This quickly written message was so important to this young lady that it was framed.  She wanted everyone who came to her graduation party to read it.  At this writing I can’t even remember what I wrote; but it still chokes me up that she framed it and put in on display.

 What touched and frankly scared me so much was the importance that she gave to that note.  It gave me a mental reminder to always picture this note when I wrote to a student in the future.  I wanted to remember the power of even my quick notes and promise myself to only use stationery that wouldn’t shame me if a written message turned up framed and on display at a future graduation party.  I feel certain this young lady will never forget the contents of that rapidly composed note.  Written words have a way of branding our hearts.  What it said took me minutes to compose, but the message will encourage her for a lifetime.

Written words from a teacher have such power to push our students toward success.

Use that influence.  Don’t passively wait for the chance, make the opportunity.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

Available autographed or in large quantities from dauna@cinci.rr.com

Also available at Amazon.com