Tag Archives: teaching strategies

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

Happy New (School) Year!

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new school year

I confess.  As a teacher it used to annoy the summer sunshine right out of me when the stores starting stocking their shelves with school supplies on about the Fourth of July.  I had barely finished posting grades and watching the most recent class of seniors graduate and the merchandisers were trying to entice us into another school year.

Yet by August I was ready to begin the cycle once again.  I actually enjoyed decorating bulletin boards and thinking up new activities for getting acquainted with my students.  Shiny floors, new calendars, bright posters, a clean desk (which only occurred once a year), and students decked out in their favorite outfits gave a fresh exciting feel to a profession I loved.

One of my top priorities was to build a community within my classroom.  I created and “gathered” (stole) many ideas for helping students to connect with one another over the years.  We knew we had a community only when every member of the class was valued by everyone else.  The first part of becoming a community was learning facts about one another.

Bulletin Boards Created by My Students

  • Let them work on a project together.  Not everything in the classroom has to be perfect when they walk in.  Let them take ownership of their new home by designing some of their surroundings.

Building a classroom community

It Takes a Village

  • Have the students bring a photo or a baby photo on the first day of school.  Make a display.
  • Let the students bring items from home that illustrate important items or times in their lives.  Have them describe what those items stand for in front of their peers.
  • I always had a True/False Quiz about myself on the first day of school.  I wrote statements about me and had them write answers about whether they thought each statement was true or false.  I tried to fool them.  Allow some of the students who would like to participate to make up true false quizzes about themselves to try to stump their peers.
  • Type up a paper with everyone’s name on it.  Have classmates circulate around the room until they have listed two things they have in common with every other student in the room.
  • Line Up.  The first week of school have them line up in a variety of ways.  They have to get up and talk to each other to determine how to arrange themselves.  Line up youngest to oldest, Alphabetize themselves by the first letter of their middle name.  Group themselves by sports or school clubs they are involved in.  Line up by the number of siblings they have.  Line up by the grade they were in when they moved into your district.  Etc.
  • Let them write riddles about themselves that end in Who Am I? Peers use the clues to guess the student as the teacher reads the clues aloud.
  • Give out snack sized bags of M&Ms or Skittles.  Have them tell something about themselves for every piece of candy they have in the bag.
  • On the first day of school, I used to have my Teacher Academy students draw a picture using only their feet to hold the crayon.   I’d play funny music as they made these crazy drawings.  The point?  It was an icebreaker, but it also illustrated how uncomfortable students could be in our classroom when we asked them to do things that were new or difficult.
  • Give out a few pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to each student. Don’t reveal the design.  Have them work together to assemble the picture.  It can be a large drawing of your school logo, but it will take them a while to figure it out.  Meanwhile they make new friends.
  • Have them bring their chairs into a circle.  Ask a question to which they must all respond.  Example: ” Describe a person who makes you feel valued?  How do they make you feel that way?:”  This helps them focus on how we can make our classmates feel valued.  There will be a positive feeling in your classroom at the end of this activity.
  • Get them excited about working on a creative project together.  In our high school we were encouraged to decorate a grocery cart (instead of a parade float) for the Homecoming Game.

homecoming cart

You can’t build a community in a day.  However, working on building positive relationships within your classroom walls, will pay dividends for all your students.  it is time well spent.

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

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

Absent from School

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the U turn  Life’s Unexpected Detours

Sorry.  The teacher (writer of this blog-Dauna Easley) has been absent.  Quite suddenly, almost a month ago, my mother had to have emergency middle-of-the-night surgery.  Her condition was critical so I have been staying with her day and night in the hospital.

A few days ago she began to improve slightly.  She is now in a facility for acute care until she is strong enough for rehab.  I hope you understand I will return to my blog writing when she is stable. However, she has made great strides in the past few days.  Thank you for your understanding.

However, if you are visiting my blog, please know that there are many wonderful teaching posts for you to read.  Take the time to browse through the ideas and stories I’ve shared during the past year.  There are almost one hundred posts for you to look through.  You’ll see them listed by month along the right margin of this page.

I’d love it if you send me a comment about which ones you enjoy the most. 

If you are an experienced or new teacher who is committed to changing lives in the classroom, I’m certain you will enjoy my book, 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

Teaching Strategies

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Making Lessons Meaningful

questions from teensAsk any teacher.  What is the most common question students ask?

 Why do we have to learn this?

In junior high and high school you have to add a whining voice or a sneer…and two more words to the end of that question…

Why do we have to learn this stupid stuff?

Now you’re moving closer to the dilemma that teachers face everyday.  The most effective assignments are meaningful to the students.  What’s even better than that?  Classroom assignments that are meaningful to both the students AND their families.  If you can lasso a lesson like that you are sitting on a throne right on top of the learning pyramid.  Yay you!

Let me describe three lessons I’ve run across in the past couple of years that fit smack in the middle of that category.  As a grandparent who also is a teacher, many school projects the grandchildren are assigned are routed in my direction for guidance and encouragement.  Here are three of my favorites.  My hat is off to the teachers who planned these lessons.

Let’s Talk About Love

let's talk about loveA few years ago my seventh grade granddaughter, Taylor had to build a poetry folder.  She had to select a topic and find poems of all kinds to include in that folder.  Her idea wasn’t unique.  The topic she chose was Love.  I wondered how many hundreds of seventh grade girls over the years had chosen love as their topic?

But the assignment was well constructed and this made the project so much more meaningful.  Yes, the students had to gather love poems and tell why they selected those particular poems.  But they also had to write their own poem about love.  Additionally they had to ask two other people to write love poems that they were to include in their portfolio.

This opened up all kinds of meaningful dialogues about love between my granddaughter and me.  I wrote one of those love poems.  I wrote about what love is and what love isn’t.  I told her a story about the boy I secretly “loved” in high school and how I ended up the maid of honor in his wedding…and how I survived that to love again.  We had so many great conversations as we worked on this project together.  I know those conversations will stay with Taylor forever.  Thank you to Ms. Shannon King from Liberty Junior High for that great lesson.

Looking into the Future

looking into the futureMany teachers wisely look into the future to come up with an authentic assignment for their students.  When my grandson was a junior, he had to write an essay that he might later use as a college admissions essay.  The teacher required them to describe themselves and their talents.  What made them unique?

My grandson, Austin came to me for assistance with this task.  He doesn’t like to write and he especially didn’t want to write something “bragging about himself.”  Those were his words.   He chose to write about his background in sports first. (High school boys like to talk about sports as much as seventh grade girls like to talk about love).

Then he hit a wall.  After he wrote about his experiences in sports he didn’t know what else to say.  He counted the words and found his essay wasn’t long enough. He stewed.  He was completely unaware that he has leadership skills.  And he didn’t have a clue about his greatest talent.  He has a unique gift for making others feel valued.  He brings people together.  I watched him do this his whole life.  I had marveled about it to myself many times.

Why had I never put this into words before?  Why didn’t he know that about himself?   That assignment gave me a vehicle for putting this into words.  He was amazed at the things I was saying.  I gave him many examples from his life to make my point.  He listened and nodded.  You could see it was the first time he recognized this ability within himself.

I know this is another conversation that will stay with a grandchild long after I am gone.  Thank you to Ms. Erin Schneider from Lakota East High School for this authentic assignment.  This essay helped him craft future college essays.  In only a couple of weeks he graduates from high school and he was accepted by the college of his choice.

Looking into the Past

authentic assignmentThe most recent authentic assignment happened this past week and was a reminder and the motivation for me to write this post.  Memorial Day is just ahead.  My eighth grade granddaughter, Kiley, was given an assignment by her language arts teacher.  Each student had to find out about a relative who had died before they were born.  They had to interview family members and ask them a list of questions to learn about their deceased relative and give a speech about them.  What a great way to draw families together to discuss their shared past.

This was an especially significant assignment for Kiley.  My youngest daughter, Kelsey, died of cancer at age 16.  She happened to pass away one week before my granddaughter, Kiley was born.  Kiley is her namesake and was given Kelsey as a middle name.  Kiley has heard stories about Kelsey all her life.  However, she dutifully wrote up her interview questions and I filled them out completely.  She even remembered a couple of stories I had forgotten to include.  She asked me to repeat those stories to her.  We did a lot of gathering photos and she assembled her display board.  She emailed me a picture of her poster before she glued things down.

Kiley's poster

She made it through her speech but her voice quivered a quite a bit.  When her chin started shaking she said to herself, “I can’t cry in this class.  There are too many boys in here!”  Everywhere she looked kids were getting tears in their eyes. She had to skip one of the stories she wanted to use, but she made it through.  A success!

But the greater lesson is what she learned by preparing the speech.  That is the hallmark of an authentic assignment.  Meaningful assignments grow the student.  They are memorable in a significant way.  They open channels of communication.  We think about those assignments for years.  I can picture Kiley decades from now helping her own grandchild with a speech.  I’m sure she’ll tell her grandchild about her quivering chin in her speech when she talked about her Aunt Kelsey whom she never met.  Thank you to Ms. Brooke Schreiber from Liberty Junior for your meaningful lesson.

Thank you to all the teachers who take the time to create authentic assignments.

Choose to TEACH…To Change Lives.

The choice is yours.

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

The Danger of Test Scores

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Is This Wise?

Is This Wise?There is a great fable about an imagined animal school which decides to adopt the design structure of schools for humans.  Humans have greater thinking and learning power than animals, right?  Someone erroneously believes they can improve the performance of ALL animals by modeling animal schools after a learning institution for people.  But is this wise?

In this new animal school, rather than the teacher being satisfied with the beaver’s ability to chop down trees and build dams, the teacher also insists the beaver learn to fly.  The results of the beaver’s efforts to fly are, of course, frustrating and even ludicrous. Facing such a failure the beaver is no longer even proud of his innate ability to build dams better than any other animal.

What Are We Doing?

Take a discerning look at our schools.  Isn’t that too close to what we really do?  Instead of identifying and capitalizing on a student’s intrinsic talents, we reduce the time he spends in a pursuit in which he excels and simultaneously increase the amount of time he spends being tutored in a skill for which he has minimal talent.  Think for a moment about this.

In a culture in which we are being driven by only test scores, we remove a student from his favorite class to tutor him/her for a class in which s/he is failing.  Did it work for the beaver?  What a scary philosophy this becomes when you consider the implications not just for individuals, but also for our country.

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Why do we put all our efforts into forcing students to remediate to obtain mere passing scores in a subject area in which they are weak?  Why not use those same efforts to encourage and push them in an area of their brilliance?  What our country really needs is people functioning at the top of their form in the areas in which they excel.  Ignite the flame in the area of their strengths and watch them catapult forward.  If and when we finally do that, our entire nation will benefit.

Great teachers know this.  They search and search until they discover and reveal a student’s talent.  They frequently are the first to reveal that talent to the student.  They give voice to it, encourage it and often push the student to heights they didn’t believe they could ever achieve.

I’m not the national Secretary of Education, but I think one of the things we need to be doing in every school district in America, is identifying individual student’s areas of brilliance and finding ways to encourage, enhance and grow that talent.  Flying beavers are not the answer.

Want to help stop test score obsession?  Please share this blog post with someone.

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

Finding Ways to Make Students Shine

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Against the Odds

against the oddsOne morning in our sheet of staff announcements, there was a mention about an “Against the Odds” award.  This award was being sponsored by the largest newspaper in Cincinnati.  The newspaper wanted to feature ten students across the entire area that were having success in spite of some personal challenges.  They would do an article on each student selected and then invite them to a dinner with business leaders. I ran quickly through my class list mentally.  No one was in a wheel chair, blind or deaf.  It would be a long shot even if they were.  Only ten students – not just from the city – but the whole area.  I’m embarrassed to admit that my vision was so narrow about this opportunity.

Thankfully, Jim Wallace, an insightful guidance counselor suggested I nominate Dorothy.  In spite of being born with a cleft palate and having several surgeries to correct this, she was having some success in our high school career academy early childhood education program.  She worked conscientiously and had high grades in my class.  She held down a job after school hours working in a child care center.  Why not Dorothy?

But let’s be honest, this is frequently where the process breaks down.  What teacher has extra time to go through a lengthy nomination process which usually requires many steps including a well written essay?  Not one teacher I can think of has extra time for such a long shot possibility. It never ceases to amaze me how many letters of recommendation a high school teacher is asked to write and how long a good letter of recommendation takes to author.  But I went to work anyway.  I already knew Dorothy’s mom was disabled with serious health issues.  I had to hold my home visit while she was in bed.  I discovered her father had also died when she was very young.

Weeks later we found out she won the award!  What a significant accomplishment for her this was.  The newspaper sent a professional photographer right into my classroom to shoot a whole roll of film of Dorothy working on the floor with preschoolers.  (I ran a laboratory preschool to train my high school early childhood education students).  The resulting photo in the newspaper was the largest I had ever seen.  It covered 3/4 of the front page of the education section.  After all it was the newspaper that sponsored the award.  The program made for the dinner was even more impressive, all glossy print.  She received a $500.00 scholarship from business leaders.  But best of all a young lady was getting a long overdue chance to shine.  She became a temporary hero in our classroom instead of being just outside the inner circle.  I have no doubt that this was an event that Dorothy will remember forever.

I shudder to think of how I almost over looked this opportunity.  It taught me to dig a little deeper and take a few more risks as I look for a variety of ways to give my students the chance to shine.

graduation

Graduations will be happening soon.  The same students will receive award after award at banquets and scholarship ceremonies.  The vast majority of students will walk across the stage in their caps and gowns and that will be it.  No special accolades except for the scattered applause from their families in a large auditorium.

Only teachers can make that event significant for more than just a small group of students.  Yes, it will take a little more time and effort…time teachers don’t have.  It may even take a little personal out-of-pocket money.  I always liked to buy a small item I thought represented each student’s special talents.  I brought their parents into my classroom ( all of my students).  I carefully chose and dedicated a song to the class.  That song played behind a slide show of their photos and memories we had made.  I wrote a poem just for their class.  I brought students to the front of the room one at a time and told a cute story or two about each one.  I voiced their talents.

If you want to teach to change lives you have to find a way to make every single student feel significant.  It’s a tall order and I promise you I fell short a time or two.  I am human, not a saint. But as I look back over a long teaching career, it was the times I went above and beyond expectations to honor students, that make me most proud.

TEACH...To Change Lives

TEACH…To Change Lives

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

Also available at Amazon.com