* More on the good news about misbehavior

I am still processing the excellent book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior,” by Katherine Reynolds Lewis. Lewis describes four types of parenting styles (and I like to think of them as teaching styles, too): authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and uninvolved.

If you are a parent or teacher, which style best describes you? Do you use punishment and rewards to control your kids? Do you try to be their best friend? Are you distant or spend most of your time at work or away? Are you mostly concerned about “covering the material” without connecting emotionally?

Lewis argues that an authoritative parenting style is most effective. Could you be described as a calm adult who holds kids responsible but allows them to learn from mistakes? Do you refrain from criticizing while allowing kids to experience natural consequences?

One important takeaway from examining parenting styles is that it’s okay to be our imperfect selves. When upset, we are more likely to regress to the type of parenting style we experienced, which may have been authoritarian or indulgent. If we are honest with kids, admitting that we messed up or missed what they needed, we teach them that we can learn from mistakes- and so can they. We are modeling a healthy response to imperfection.

Notice that communicating about problems is key to effective parenting and teaching. More on that next!

* The good news about misbehavior

I am thrilled with a ground-breaking book called, “The Good News About Bad Behavior,” by Katherine Reynolds Lewis. Published last April, this book presents thorough and up-to-date evidence that we are dealing with a brand new world of trouble- and hope. I’ll summarize this fascinating book across several posts, but one huge takeaway is that screen time has changed the brains and behavior of children and teens.

I was saddened and shocked to learn that by five years old, the typical kid is fastened to a screen for four and a half hours a day, which is about 40% of their waking time. This early exposure to the developing brain is NOT a good thing. This trend follows the same trajectory among teens, with the added component of social media and the anxiety that produces. Just remember, there’s bad news and good news! More to come!

* And it Is Done — anewperspectiveperhaps

We did it. We finally got through the 504 review and hopefully it will be last meeting of the school year. Each time I have to sit down face to face with this group of 6 people, my heart grows a little more heavy. Do people not know what they say? Or is it some […]

via And it Is Done — anewperspectiveperhaps

Read this post for more insights on why families are ditching schools and hunting desperately for a place that will readily differentiate instruction for their kids.  For ALL kids.

* Bureaucracy “at work”

Question:  What would happen if schools were run this way?  Are they run this way?

After years of putting it off, my dearest teaching widower (DTW) and I decided to refloor the upstairs.  That was over 2 months ago.  We got 2 estimates from Big Box home improvement stores.  We went with the $500 cheaper quote, but it turned out their offer was cheaper because they didn’t order enough laminate.  For over a month, people at various levels in the Box world assured us that the delivery would be made “on Monday.”  My DTW called and emailed and went in person to sort this out.  The laminate finally arrived, but we were still short those 11 boxes.  After another month of reassurances and many more “Mondays,” we were told by a multitude of folks that indeed our order was there, waiting for us to pick it up.  Seriously?  We had paid for them to deliver it.  My endlessly patient DTW told the last person who called, “I don’t believe you, but I’ll wait.”  As a rule, DTW’s become quite patient waiting for their wives to return home.

hallway

There are even more boxes in our kitchen- but still missing 11!

This experience is not unlike having a leak fixed in my classroom.  No one was ever responsible, the only person who knew how to fix it had retired, and there were multiple “fixes” that never worked.  It became just about as difficult to identify and serve a student with special needs once the Box Response to Intervention model was instituted.  I am 100% in support of providing modifications and accommodations to ensure that kiddos don’t get placed unnecessarily.  But when you have a kid who can’t read 3 letter words in second grade, you don’t need months of new strategies.  You need your 11 boxes of laminate OR specialized instruction, whichever comes first.

 

* Lose that control

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”  — Mario Andretti

Take advantage of all available moments to breathe curiosity into your kiddos.  Match activities to their interests.  Create new interests.  Let them go wild!  Go wild with them!

dancing kiddos

my dancing kiddos

I think one of the most inhibiting and frightening factors for teachers is fear of “losing control.”  The truth is that we do not have any control.  Each student will make choices and you cannot control those decisions.  We have love, acceptance, affirmation, modeling, structure, curiosity, passion, consequences, and joy.  We can control how we respond to every choice around us.  And in that environment, kids will thrive.  They will not be robots nor will they be crazed.  They will dance and delight in learning.

As you prepare for the next school year, determine that you will aim much higher than “having control.”  Paradoxically, unless you you do have sufficient love and skills and structure to manage a class, your group will appear quite out of control.  Embrace their choices and draw them into your dance.

* DEPPILF-FLIPPED learning

FLIPPED Learning is the topic of a well-written article in the May, 2018, issue of Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School.   The authors, Lim and Wilson, share their experience and expertise in embedding questions in videos as a part of the flipped classroom.  I have blogged before about the flipped classroom, a model in which students acquire knowledge outside of the classroom, usually through videos.  This knowledge is then applied in class through discussions or projects.  Research supports the benefits of hands-on activities for learning math, but does a flipped classroom automatically include such active learning?  Not necessarily.

My biggest concern is that homework is especially fatiguing for students who struggle at school, extending the hours they must concentrate and process information.  There is no shortcut for learning new material, although Lim and Wilson share terrific examples of how to maximize the use of those videos.  Still, videos or not, kids must focus on new content, practice math skills, and then apply that information the next day.  All after a long day of effort.  Ouch!

Many special needs students are simply too worn out for homework.  They need the opportunity to recharge their batteries, engage in physical activity, and focus on their strengths (which may not be tapped at school).  And what about all those kids with social weaknesses for whom group discussions are a blur of white noise?  What about students who have no access to computers?  Videos are also changing; it’s become popular to speed up the presentation, add visual clutter, and increase noise levels to make videos “cool” or catchy (although not as often with math content).  These features actually decrease some students’ ability to focus and make sense of concepts.

If you are looking for good strategies to improve math videos for students, this Flipped Learning article is for you.  But please consider using videos during the school day,  Special needs kids may require a different or second explanation of a concept taught in class.  The pause and replay features are quite useful, as are headphones to eliminate background noise.  The embedded questions can provide opportunities for teachers to determine how much students are learning without the distractions of a group setting.  Use them to provide feedback for your students, too.

middle schooler 1.jpg

Videos are potentially powerful tools in a classroom.  Let’s not make them a burden.

* Bittersweet

Color Your World: Bittersweet

bittersweet bittersweet 3.

Birthdays can be bittersweet experiences for kids at school unless there are clear guidelines to keep celebrations equitable.  And even with those guidelines, some populations (wealthy, privileged) have a clear advantage.  I have seen improvements over the years.  It used to be that the “entitled” families provided a sugar feast for the class, along with balloons and performers.  Many classes still celebrate monthly, but I’m not sure that school is the place for birthday events.  Those poor souls born during summer months never quite make the birthday cut.

There are many other appropriate reasons to recognize students at school, such as effort, perseverance, initiative, and kindness.  

* Alternative seating at school

Color Your World: Red Orange

Research is finally catching up with what teachers have known for years: Kids (and teachers!) do their best work when they are comfortably seated.  You will still find many hard plastic chairs in classrooms, but there are also nooks of beanbags, bouncy balls, and form-fitting chairs like this one in red orange.  As with instructional methods, one size does NOT fit all.

red orange chair

* Gifted piano teacher

Making goal-setting, review and assessment a joint exercise with my students is helping me teach them to make clearer connections between their practise and the quality of their performances, and take responsibility for their work.

via Setting clear and achievable goals in piano class — eliza says

To my readers:  Wow.  I keep telling Eliza that she missed her calling as a special education teacher!  She is doing a fabulous job teaching piano, so I shouldn’t fuss!  Her approach to teaching piano will work well no matter the setting and especially if students have learning challenges.  Follow her blog for terrific ideas!!

* Keep Your Passion

I am shamelessly borrowing Kendrick Vinar’s message and applying it to a passion for teaching.  The big question is: What drains your teaching battery?    Around here, next Monday is the grand opening!   Best to explore these issues BEFORE the school year starts, right?battery

Kendrick gave six examples of Passion Drains:

  1.  Unaligned priorities.  Ask yourself, “How am I actually spending my time?”  (Not “How do I wish I were spending my time?”)  You might think that you are devoted to parent-teacher relationships, but how much time do you spend talking to parents?  Or perhaps lifelong learning is high on your written list, but do you really devote time for reading and collaborating professionally?
  2.  Unbalanced schedule.  I can provide the perfect example of this, being the only teacher with 40+ years experience who worked at school every weekend.  Uh-oh.
  3.  Unresolved conflict.  This is an emotional drain which may lead to darting into closets to avoid the principal or refusing to make eye contact with another teacher.  For my part, I was actually oblivious to the anger I had stirred up in a colleague.  Yikes.
  4.  Unforgiven sin.  OK, you don’t have to be a Christian to understand that those lies or mean-spirited words can’t truly be ignored or swept under the carpet.  They will come back to bite you unless you make things clean.
  5.  Undernourished soul.  Ever feel like you are running on empty deep inside?  Our spirits need nutrition, just as our bodies do.
  6.  Unclear purpose.  It’s natural to feel some discomfort when vacations end, but do you also feel a genuine excitement about getting to know your new students and families?  Are you excited about all the fun that is to come?  Is it a thrill to inspire others to learn?  Don’t stay in teaching if there’s no passion in your heart.

You owe it to yourself and your students to blaze with the joy of teaching.