September 16, 2007

A tired explanation

Posted in classroom management, lesson plans, mommy at 3:31 am by mrsmauck

I’m not sure how reflective I’m going to be able to be this year…how the reflective teacher did it, I don’t know. By the time I get home, relax with my daughter for a couple hours, cook dinner and clean up, it’s past time to plan my lessons for the next day. I’m up until 11 or 11:30 doing that, and then I have to get bottles and pump equipment ready for the next day. Four preps is tough. Writing lesson plans is much like writing papers for my college classes: I dread getting started, but then I get tons of good ideas once I start, and end up thinking it was a satisfying expeirence. Unlike with writing college papers, though, sometimes my lesson plans succeed and sometimes they flop. So when I finish writing, I’m not done. I have to deliver it, and often after that’s done, I don’t want to look back. I feel like I only have time to look forward. I know this is the raison d’etre for this blog, but I just don’t know how I’ll find time to do this.

Looking forward to next week: I think I’m going to have to tighten the reins: Several of my classes became fairly chaotic last week, with too many kids going back to their lockers for supplies, needing to go to the bathroom during class, etc. I’m going to have to implement a system for this. I’m thinking they’ll get three bathroom trips per 9wks, and after that, it’s a Tardy. All trips to lockers after the bell rings will get a Tardy. I hate that I’m having to do this a month into the year, but better late than never. I’ll just have to be sure and do this consistently, and they’ll have to get used to it. I hate this; I’d rather trust them to be responsible, like in college, but they just won’t do it.

August 8, 2007

Classroom expectations

Posted in classroom management at 5:34 pm by mrsmauck

I decided to call my class rules “expectations” instead, creating some for me and some for students. I got this idea from the ever-reflective and inventive Laura Huertero.

 You can expect me to:

1)       Respect and care for students.

2)      Provide each student with an equal opportunity to learn by maintaining an emotionally, physically, and mentally safe environment.

3)      Encourage curiosity and discovery through teaching methods that appeal to all learning styles.

4)      Present problems that require you to develop your critical thinking skills so that you can be a leader in your field.   

In return, I can expect you to:

1)       Respect your teacher and your classmates:

a.       Bring required materials to class.

b.      Be seated and working when the second bell rings.

2)      Allow all students, including you, to learn and achieve their highest potential.

3)      Obey all school rules in my class.

4)      Be an active participant in your learning: ask questions, discuss issues, and be passionate and creative with your work.

And here are my consequences:

1st Offense: Verbal warning

2nd Offense: Documented warning, conference with teacher

3rd Offense: Detention/Referral (Check school policy), Call to parent

 I haven’t printed these up for posters yet, so any comments or constructive criticism is still welcome.

 After a year and a half of telling the teacher blogosphere about my teaching methods and classroom mangement, I’m finally going to be telling students abou the, in a little over a week! Excitement and anxiety hardly cover what I feel when I try to let that sink in!

February 22, 2007

The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids

Posted in articles, classroom management at 8:09 pm by mrsmauck

I don’t know who posted a link to this article in New York Magazine, but thank you so much! It was extremely interesting. I posted a while back on my hesitation in using positive reinforcement and elaborate reward systems, a la Harry Wong, in my classroom. The above-linked article isn’t about rewards, though, it’s about the more abstract idea of praise. The gist of it is that students who believe themselves to be smart–who are told they are smart from a young age by parents, teachers, grades, and test scores–don’t have as many coping mechanisms for failure. To build up their willingness to work toward long-term rewards, instead of toward short-term praise of their natural abilities, they need to understand that the brain can grow, like a muscle. Kids who believe themselves to be naturally smart apparently believe intelligence is predetermined: they work hard at things they’re good at, and quickly abandon the things in which they can’t succeed immediately. They develop a subconscious understanding of this fact when they are praised for their processes, not their natural abilities. When we use specific praise–you know, the kind that sounds really corny when you first try it out–kids begin to formulate strategies for future success. So, instead of saying, “You’re so smart; I’m so proud of you,” say something like, “I can tell you worked really hard on these metaphors–they’re great: so creative and insightful! Keep it up!”

When we praise their intelligence in general, they are not motivated to work harder. This article points to a foundational 1969 study called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” that essentially has some faults, and has led to some ineffective parenting and teaching strategies in the last 40 years.

As a future high school teacher, I found this particularly interesting:

And teens, Meyer found, discounted praise to such an extent that they believed it’s a teacher’s criticism—not praise at all—that really conveys a positive belief in a student’s aptitude. In the opinion of cognitive scientist Daniel T. Willingham, a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve his performance even further.

Teens work harder in response to criticism, not praise! So interesting! You’re challenging them to work and try harder when you criticize them, I suppose. This bit about cheating rings true to me, as well:

Students turn to cheating because they haven’t developed a strategy for
handling failure.

Teachers, you know better than I: Do high-achievers cheat as much or more than low-achievers? This seems to mean that if students grow up hearing nothing but praise of their intellectual abilities, they’re more likely to cheat than students who have heard praise of their efforts and their processes, and even criticism.

What do the real teachers out there think? Parents are certainly more influential in this realm than teachers, but we have lots of opportunities to show students that their brains can become stronger with hard work, that trying hard is not an indicator of failure. How can we/do we do this in the classroom, consistently and sincerely?

December 18, 2006

Rewards and Positive Reinforcement no good?

Posted in classroom management, education books at 9:36 pm by mrsmauck

I’ve been meditating on my classroom management style lately, as I get closer to heading into interviews, and as I read Pat Conroy’s entertaining, inspiring teacher memoir, The Water is Wide. Browsing some lists on Amazon the other day, I came across a classroom managment book called Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I had been trying to mesh the ideas Harry Wong proclaims to be so foolproof when it comes to controlling the kiddies’ behavior with what I’ve read in The Passionate Teacher about course content being the ultimate discipline tool. Punished by Rewards seems to contest one of Wong’s chief tenets: that positive reinforcement and rewards will get students to work hard. Here’s what I finally figured out about what I think about Wong: How do his procedures and systems encourage self-discipline? I think too often, they require a lot of organization on the part of the teacher, and a bunch of memorization and Pavlovian responses from students. Anyway, this book by Kohn says these three things are what truly make students motivated, disciplined, and respectful:

  1. Content, or curriculum.
  2. Collaboration.
  3. Choices.

I think I agree with this. I’m not going to establish elaborate reward systems before I begin teaching. I think I’ll do some sort of consequences chart for students to see what could result from behavior that disrupts learning, and then focus mostly on teaching the students in a way that is motivating and challenging and requires us to work as a team, while still allowing them to make choices that suit their talents and interests.

Conroy, by the way, is keeping me in stitches! I love how he is such a great example of all these modern educational theories like mulitiple intelligences and individualized instruction, while still calling the kids punks and saying “Bullcrap” when they tell him that a rattlesnake can eat a man. I just finished reading a section when he said one of his sacred tenets of education was that the teacher should always purvey an air of insanity and eccentricity to keep the kids on their toes. Hooray! It’s finally okay to be the nut I really am!