Bernard Pierorazio

Leader, Educator, Activist

Back to School Teacher Tips

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With summer coming to a close, the joys and jitters of back-to-school are continuing to build up within the hearts of all teachers. Whether you are a veteran in the classroom or a novice to the educational field, the first day back into the arena of the classroom will always be an exciting time. Because of this, it is absolutely imperative that you refine and perfect all of the classroom logistics so that your students are ready to learn right out of the gate.

Now, the overall success of a teacher depends on the arrangement and organization of their classroom. To establish particular procedures that allot for a more conducive learning environment, you will need to put in the necessary grunt work before the first day of class. This will require to you have a stronger internal understanding of your overall classroom management and classroom design from the get-go.

Classroom Management

Classroom management is the overall heart and soul of a classroom. In order for teachers to be effective in their trades and students to be passionate about their learning, it is imperative that an educator irons out the necessary logistics in dealing with particular classroom disruptions. Believe it or not, the overall success really comes down to the first six-weeks of your class. Because of this, you want to ensure that any questions or concerns about the operations of your class are learned and understood so that your lessons can run smoothly throughout the day. For this to happen, make sure you understand the following factors:

Vision and Goals

As much as we can preach 80% or higher, having strong, challenging, and tangible goals for your classroom will play a crucial part in the overall investment piece for your students. In many ways, your students will be relatively new to your style, even after the six-weeks. To ensure academic success, it will be your job to develop a class vision and student goals for your students to strive to each and every day. By establishing that process, especially on the first day, you are allowing your students to choose where they want to go in school and what they want to achieve when they leave your classroom. By having a greater understanding of what they want to achieve, you will be able to concentrate and strategize on particular areas of improvement, especially when it comes down to your lesson plans. To do this effectively, make sure you review the student data from the year before. Understand the level of students that are walking into your class and establish specific benchmarks that they can hit on a quarterly basis.

Classroom Procedures

The secret to warding off unfavorable behavioral problems is simply done by establishing positive classroom procedures for the daily tasks and activities. When it comes to the more operational side of your class, you want to make sure your students truly understand the day-to-day routines of your classroom. Refining the overall logistics will provide a level of consistency so that you can deliver your lessons in a more smooth and beneficial manner. As for classroom procedures, think of all of the little things you want your students to do the minute the walk into your classroom. By thinking in that holistic manner, you will be able to devise a strategic plan that can benefit the behavior and respect of the class. The things to consider are the following: entering the room, leaving the room, handing in homework, taking out / putting away classroom supplies, cleanliness of desk, when to use the bathroom/drinking fountain, classroom jobs and task, how to act in groups, procedures for fire drills, signaling for attention, and copying notes. 

Classroom Rules

One thing to keep in mind is that your classroom procedures will always be different from your classroom rules. Your rules will tell how students are expected to behave on a daily basis. A quick rule of thumbs, make sure you establish only three to six umbrella rules. Anything more or less can lead to various misunderstandings or complications with your students. In addition, make sure these rules are accompanied by negative consequences. Allowing students to understand the consequence system of your rules will play greatly in how much they will abide by them. Now for this to truly be effective, it will be your job for the next six-weeks to remain consistent with your rules and consequences. Oftentimes, students will try and test you on your rules. Any sense of leniency can be incredibly disruptive to your flow as a teacher. Be consistent.

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Classroom Design

The classroom environment will play a very important role in complementing your classroom procedures and expectations for your students. To ensure academic success, make sure that every part of your classroom serves a role. With different factors to consider such as student desk, tables, shelves, computers, learning centers, etc., your job will be to figure out not just where they go, but also their overall purpose for your students. To do this effectively, start by arranging the desk strategically. Many teachers make the mistakes of creating convoluted groups for their students to work in. What they should be thinking of is how to best optimize the space given that can ensure easy flow of traffic and congestion. Once you have unraveled that puzzle, begin determining the placement for additional tables, shelves, computers, and learning centers within your room. This is especially important for homework bins and group sessions. Once you do that, the rest is left to the overall aesthetics of your classroom theme.

While there is no real statistical evidence that an aesthetically beautified classroom will lead to student success, a strong and vibrant classroom theme does create an atmosphere for inspiration and motivation. In the grand scheme of things, your theme will develop that rich and inviting learning culture that will be vital for your students, especially during the dog days of October/November and March/April. As you design your theme, think of particular posters, objects, and quotes that embody your vision and your personality. In addition, make sure your theme and design complement the idea of ‘student success’ with student trackers and class makers.  

Leadership in the Classroom

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With many educators hitting the halfway point of their summer break, it is imperative that first-year teachers and veteran educators reflect and internalize the importance of strong leadership within the classroom. When we talk about leadership, especially within the education sector, it is vital that teachers understand the need to cultivate and manage the social-emotional support and academic development on a day-to-day basis. Let’s put it in this perspective; strong and effective classes can only be achieved if there is a high level of respect and responsibility between the teacher and the student. For this to happen, various teaching methods and skills will be needed in order to demonstrate an overall ethic of care. Once that mentality is established, a teacher will be able to motivate and inspire their students for that necessary academic success within their educational careers.

So what defines leadership within the classroom? What embodies educational leadership?

In many ways, the definition is simple. What defines and embodies leadership within a school is the ability to create action. For any group to be successful, even outside of the education world, both inspirational leadership and group management will be necessary in order to create the necessary action for movement. In the classroom, a teacher will hold a plethora of responsibilities. Of these responsibilities, they need to understand the underlying goal of developing their students to learn, grow, and act as their own leaders within their community. To establish that presence, an educator needs to refine and perfect his or her own skills within the classroom. For first year teachers, this task may be difficult because of the lack of experience. But to understand core specific skills such as communication and management, you will be able to cultivate your classrooms into entities of change.

To start, every teacher needs to establish a strong foundation for communication. In the grand scheme of things, communication is the first step building your classrooms. From your rules to your homework worksheets, you want to make sure you students have a crystal clear understanding of what you want them to accomplish. Because of this, you want to make sure any and all ideas, especially your lesson plans, are explicit and unambiguous. Having that level of communication and language will allow your students to understand the various messages, verbal and nonverbal interactions, and ideas that you are trying to communicate with them during the operations within the class.

To help you with this, make sure you students understand his or her personal goals. The idea of providing your students a sense of purpose and responsibility will give them value to their work. In addition, it will also give value to your overall lessons. Having these goals such as hitting 80% on the test or 90% or higher on an exit ticket for a particular lesson will help inspire action for your students as well as motivational growth within your classrooms.

Now, one of the most important factors of being a teacher is building and maintaining trust with your students. Like it or not, this relationship will be one of the most pinnacle factors in how your students will work in your class. To do this, continue to establish that level of communication. Show them that you are their support system. Provide them that help when they needed. But most importantly, listen to them when they want to be heard. We have heard this so many times. A teacher is not simply a teacher. They are a mentor, a coach, a parent, and a role model to their students. Once you have established that relationship, there is nothing that can stop you from pushing and driving your students to their best.

Last but not least, understand that you are the teacher within the classroom. As much as you want to let your kids be kids, you need to understand that it will be your job to manage conflict. In reality, conflict is simply inevitable. The one thing that you can do is to learn how to manage these controversies in a positive and constructive manner. Be sure to approach each controversial situation in a holistic manner. Listen to each point of view and recognize the different ideas and viewpoints that come your way. Once that is all said and done, it will be your job to find a solution that works for the betterment of the class. One of the biggest challenges every teacher will have will always be classroom management. By controlling the situation, especially in this manner, you will be able to provide your students with the authoritative support they need to move on and grow as future scholars.

Summer Reading for Teachers: Four Educational Leadership Books

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Anyone who says teachers have the summers off has probably never met a teacher. With the two and a half months of summer break, many educators usually spend this time cultivating their profession through graduate schoolwork, lesson plan and curriculum design preps, professional development seminars, and, of course professional development and educational leadership reading.

For the summer time, these months provide educators with the much-needed free time to recharge their batteries and practice, inform, and enlighten their spirit for the education sector. To help with this, I have highlighted four incredible educational leadership books that you should read over the summer. These books will provide you with the necessary education pedagogies and educational leadership tactics that you can utilize and implement into your classroom for next year. Remember, education is a constant and ever-evolving entity. In order to provide your scholars with the best set of education, you as a professional need to invest and learn in acquiring the best practices and approaches that can shape your classes for the better.

Transformational Leadership by Gary Vurnum

In Gary Vurnum’s book, Transformational Leadership, Gary uncovers ninety-two tips in developing your leadership strengths in an easily digestible format. This comprehensive read talks about different leadership traits that a person can possess and develop each and everyday and how to apply them throughout a multitude of scenarios. By learning and recognizing these different traits, you will be able to apply specific tactics, especially with your students, in a more transformative and effective way. This, in turn, will allow you to increase motivation and morale while also enhancing your own personal awareness to any mistakes and flaws preventing you from success.

Educational Leadership: A Bridge to Improved Practice by William G. Cunningham and Paula A. Corderio

Educational Leadership describes how successful and effective schools and administrators operate in an increasingly challenging and fast-pace academic environment. In this text, Cunningham and Corderio discuss various leadership theories and best practices that are implemented in the present conditions and operations within American schools. For education, teachers are constantly demanded to know and perfect the concept of leadership and management on a daily basis. But for many novice, and even veteran teachers, this skill can be hard to develop, especially without the knowledge or practice to do so. For Cunningham and Corderio, they provide an overall crash course on leadership theory, school management, community relations, and instructional and curriculum leadership.  

Cultivating Leadership in Schools: Connecting People, Purpose, & Practice by Gordon A. Donaldson, Jr.

Gordon Donaldson provides his readers with excellent tips and practical models for teachers, principals, and school teams to utilize within their schools. He establishes the idea of culture and shared-leadership amongst teachers and school administrators and gives various insights into how school-leaders can better internalize and execute at their jobs more effectively with strong and purposeful management. But what makes this book a truly impactful read are the tangible model-based tactics that can be implemented within the realities of a school and its overall school culture. This book is, of course, realistic about the ups-and-downs and frustrations with the job, but still provides helpful tips in how to overcome these obstacles in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Teaching As Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap by Steven Farr

Steven Farr and Teach For America share what the organization has learned about effective teachers over the last twenty years in their work to close the academic achievement gap in under-privileged and under-resourced areas in the United States. The book includes a framework that explains the traits of some of the most effective and successful Teach For America corps members and breaks down leadership into six different principles:

  1. Set Ambitious Goals for Student Achievement
  2. Invest Students and Families in Working Hard to Achieve the Goals
  3. Purposeful planning to Achieve the Vision of Student Success
  4. Execute Plans with Judgment and Adjustments
  5. Continuously Increase Effectiveness to Accelerate Student Learning
  6. Work Relentlessly to Navigate Challenges

Much of these principles highlight the daunting battle many Teach For America Corps members undergo every day. With these principles, young educators are able to implement the best approaches in giving their students an excellent set of tools to complement their education.

End of the Year Reflection

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As we enter the last few weeks of the academic calendar, I would advise teachers and educational professionals alike to spend the time and reflect on their experience within the classroom.

Over the course of the year, teachers face a myriad of daily choices: classroom management, classroom expectations, students goals, and, of course, student achievement. Many of these choices involve matters that are so ingrained within the day-to-day of the classroom that we tend to overlook the implications and transformative change we make on a daily basis. But as much as we can focus on the operations within the day-to-day, it is imperative for your development as an educator to think, address and reflect on the choices you have made during this academic calendar year. Self-reflection will not only highlight the strengths and achievements you have accomplished with your students, but it also address the flaws and weaknesses you can work to improve within your trade. This type of intense reflection will also allow you to identify and revise best practices and avoid inferior lessons for your next group of students.

To do this effectively, begin by dispositioning yourself away from the expectations set by your superiors. This suspension of judgment will allow you to holistically view your work in a more meaningful way. To get you started in a more positive direction, begin by thinking about your strengths and overall accomplishments you have achieved during this year. Think about those impactful lessons that will resonate with your students for the next up and coming year. Ask yourself what you were most proud of and what areas you grew within the field. For example, if you were able to devise a lesson that incorporated research, writing, and public speaking, make a note of that collaborative achievement. Not many teachers can get this type of engagement from their students, let alone all three in one lesson.

Once you have fully analyzed the positive achievement, take time to examine your own personal and professional weaknesses you may have experienced during the year. For some teachers, this could be specific lessons such as an unachieved Common Core standard or a particular lesson involving a higher-level text. For others, this could just simply be a specific trade skill like research or lesson planning. Whatever is the case, make sure you examine them deeply. Internalize those mistakes and ask yourself what you could have done to improve and build up for those skills or lessons for the betterment of your students. Having that type of awareness will allow you to hone in on specific skills and approaches for next year. The worst thing you can do for yourself is to ignore these weaknesses. Remember, no one is perfect. In fact, the only time this can be a problem is if you think there is no room for improvement. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new. Use this reflective thinking to think about what you can do to further better yourself for not just your career, but also for your students.

To fully analyze these weaknesses in a more beneficial and positive way, try evaluating your students based on their academic gain. Begin with those overarching goals you have set for yourself and your students. Ask yourself if your scholars were able to hit their targeted academic goals. If they were, great! If not, dive deeper and question what you could have done that year to possibly see success. To aid you with the process, make sure you utilize the student data in a more active and powerful way. Expert teachers adapt their reflective thinking to the situation and recognize each level of the data that could have changed this. If you see that your students were collectively weak on one Common Core standard, ask yourself questions about those specific lessons such as: What troubles did you see with those lessons? Why did your students struggle with that particular standard? What could you have done to break down the information in a more accessible way? These questions will not only identify your flaws, but also shape your lessons for next year.

Now the last thing you should look into is the situational portion of teaching. Whether you like it or not, teachers and educators are more than just individuals equipped with a textbook. They are the parents, coaches, mentors, and game-changers that can positively impact the aspiration and goals of a student. While there will always be difficult and arduous moments within a teacher’s day, it is important to think of areas where you can build a stronger relationship and classroom culture for your students.

The only way to get the best out of your students is if they can invest in your vision and goals for their future. Continue to think about ways where you can enhance your management and classroom culture in a more driven and invested environment. Remember, our students do not care what you know. They just want to know you are there for them. Take this time to refine those moments so that you can give your students the excellent education that they deserve.

Why do Teachers Quit?

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Teachers enter the education sector for a multitude of reasons: the experience to make a difference, the continuity to be a lifelong learner, the advocacy in improving a broken system, or the belief and guidance of a chosen mentor. As inspiring as it is to see these incredible individuals assume the responsibilities of shaping and developing our future leaders of tomorrow, many educators have been noted to leave the field at an incredibly alarming rate. With the statistics going as high as 40 to 50 percent of teachers leaving the field with the first five years of the profession, we have to ourselves a challenging question: Why do teachers quit?

To begin, educators are faced with a plethora of problems, some of which are the following: unrealistic expectations set upon them by the Common Core State Standards, oversized classrooms, classroom management, lack of resources, low wages, etc. But regardless of it all, they continued to persevere until they cross that finish line of the end of the year. While it is great to see them stepping into the frontlines of education in order to bridge the education inequities that exist within the nation today, the countless burden and lack of support educators face are negatively impacting their want and desire to stay within the field. In fact, many educators, especially those retiring, have utilized social media to highlight and deliberate the disruptive and toxic events occurring within the education sector.

But what are these hurdles that are preventing teachers from staying within the field? How have we allowed it to come to this extreme where the turnover rate is simply at an all time high?

To start, salary has become one of the biggest definers within our society today. It dictates the work you contribute to your job and the overall value you contribute to society directly. According to the National Education Association, the national average starting salary for teachers in 2012 to 2013 was $35,141. While this figure may seem fine to some people, for many educators this figure is just simply too low for the workload they do each and everyday. If you look at what is expected from a teacher both in and out of the classroom, you would realize that the lesson planning, grading, meetings, and extracurricular activities force them to go beyond the 9-to-4 hours of the day. That in turn also provides an emotional and mental toll that forces many teachers to ‘burn out’ during the middle and end of the year. When you take all of the hours they invest for their students into consideration, that salary is not sustainable.

Outside of the salary, one of the other bigger issues teachers face is the ever-evolving dynamics within the classroom. As much as we can picture an ideal class setting with eighteen well-behaved students and a personally written lesson plan ready to execute, this is, in many cases, not reality. In fact, depending on the district, curriculum, and subject you are assigned to teach, you may be faced with a wide variety of obstacles that are only meant for you to fail. To explore this further, we have to go beyond the generic complaints of classroom management and disruptive students, and look further into the lack of autonomy and freedom teachers have with their lesson plans. At the end of the day, teachers do not call the shots. In fact, they have very much little to say when it come to their lesson plans. This type of overbearing culture is not only disempowering, but also frankly quite toxic.

Now, one of the last reasons teachers leave the education sector is because of respect, or lack thereof. Unlike the field of finance or medicine, education is not romanticized. Instead, it is seen as a simpler path that is simply one step ahead of babysitting. As much as the general public can criticize the profession, teachers and educational experts are the true backbone of the country. For educators, they are the planners, the consultants, the strategist, the parent, the mentor, the coach, the bad guy, the motivator, and the expert in giving our children an excellent set of education. If it was not for their strong efforts, many of these doctors, lawyers, and business owners will not be where they are today. But even with this investment, teachers are still not appreciated for all of their hard work.

If we want to keep our talents within the classroom, we as a nation need to make the necessary changes within the profession. If we do not, teachers and educational professionals will continue to leave. Remember, a world without teachers is a world without a future.

Testing Anxiety and Tips to Handle It

o-STRESSED-KIDS-facebookContrary to popular belief, high achievement isn’t merely testing gains and testing results. In fact, the product of talent comes down to our internal belief about our own abilities, skills, and overall potential for succeed. While foundational skills and standard knowledge plays a significant factor for our student’s achievement, we also have to be aware of how confidence plays a role within the day-to-day operations within our classrooms.

During the wake of testing season, everyone feels some type of nervousness and anxiety about their own personal performance on an exam. Much of this can be attributed to the rising expectation and standards for the new 2016 Common Core state examination. For some schools, this isn’t a big deal. But for a majority of public and charter schools across the United States, these exams, especially their outcomes, are strong indicators for the overall success rate for the students, the teachers, and finally, the schools themselves. As much as we can press on the idea that data can have a significant impact on student achievement, we also have to be cognizant about the negative ramifications testing, especially testing anxiety, can have on our students today.

When we talk about testing anxiety, we are essentially talking about performance anxiety. Performance anxiety, by definition, this type of nervousness is the feeling someone has in a particular situation where the pressure for performing well negatively hinders his or her ability to execute. While we usually associate performance anxiety with situations like public speeches or ‘big’ athletic games, testing, especially with state mandated examinations, can also fall within this category. For many extreme situations, testing can lead children to endure negative physical and mental stressors such as lack of confidence, depression, and other various breakdowns like anxiety, crying, or worse. Because of this, it is our jobs to recognize the ever-growing problem testing can have on our student and their future.

To alleviate the pressures, we first and foremost need to understand what the pressures of testing can do for our students. Think about it. A person with a fixed negative mindset will and will always believe that his or her intelligence is static. In comparison, a person with a growing and optimistic mindset will believe that their intelligence, and performance, can develop into something greater. Understanding the distinction between these two extremes can have a tremendous implication for motivation and confidence, especially during test day.

So how can we boost the morale of our students, especially for those future leaders of tomorrow who have focused on the negative ramifications of not performing?

To prevent your students from derailing their own success, it is imperative that you continue to cultivate a positive and safe working environment within your classroom. Even if it is days before the exam, you as an educator have the power to change the overall atmosphere of how they can approach the exam. To better prepare them, be sure to plan a well-executed study review session. For many students, they automatically feel that anxiety because they feel ill prepared for the topics on the test. To ease that tension, make sure you consolidate an entire review plan that hit the main points for the state test (Note: this may require multiple days). Be sure to provide them plenty of time to review. One of the biggest mistakes you can do for your students is to try and cram every bit of material before the examination. Rather than do this and build more anxiety, try and focus on the main points. Go as far as to combine relatable Common Core standards that can be leveraged within just one lesson.

In addition to a study review, make sure you can leverage the stress of the test as a motivator for success. While stress can have damaging affects on our student’s performance, we as educational leaders can utilize that feeling as a positive motivator. For some schools they hold rallies. For others, the teachers themselves use positive speeches and optimistic discussions to build up each student’s confidence. Whatever you do, make sure you are showing your students that you are rooting for them. That support can go a long way.

Last but not least, constantly remind your students to eat well, sleep, and relax before the exam. For any test, inopportune situations such as an empty stomach or lack of sleep can directly impact a student’s performance. Reiterate to your students to get a good night’s rest and have a healthy filling breakfast.

TedTalks Education: Rita Pierson, Every Kid Needs a Champion

In this particular TedTalk, we are joined with Rita Pierson, an educator who has been in the classroom for over forty years. The passion, drive, and desire she personifies for the field is an absolutely inspiring. With her comical anecdotes and playful demeanor, Rita does highlight some important influencers that impact the classroom on a daily basis. One of her biggest topics in this eight minute video is her push for teacher-student relationship. She discusses how she once heard a colleague say that, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.'” In the classroom, an educator cannot be successful at their job if they are not willing to invest in their students. This investment, while difficult at times, is the true game changer in transforming and molding a child’s future.

 

How to Implement Technology-Based Projects in the Classroom

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Integrating technology in the classroom can oftentimes be a hectic and stressful process, especially with the objectives you are required to get through each and every day. To help optimize this in the most seamless way possible, you need to be thoughtful about how you want your students to utilize classroom computers and iPads with their assignments. Doing this in such a backward-planning manner can not only engage your students into the material, but also shape their responsibilities of their own learning. Eventually, this process can give rise to thoughtful classroom dynamics such as student-centered learning and research-based projects.

To start off, begin internalizing how you currently utilize technology with your students. Ask yourself a series of questions such as: Are you employing technology on a daily basis? If not, what is holding you back (lack of resources or lack of knowledge)? What assignments, other than testing, have your students been exposed to with the computers? What foundational skills do they need before using the computers (note taking skills, knowing how to research, etc.)? These questions will provide you with an introductory starting point when creating your lesson plans for the month(s). The biggest mistake you can do is assume that your students already know how to utilize these technological resources for an assignment. Think of this as a clean slate. They need to learn how to crawl before they can run.

Once you have conceptualized the basics, start thinking of the end goal for your lesson plans. For some teachers, this can be a classroom debate. For others, this can be a research paper. Whatever the case, you need to be absolutely clear what you are looking for them to accomplish from these series of lessons. This overarching end-goal will allow you identify the Common Core standards, technological mini-lesson, and overall timeframe when your lesson plans. Once you have that vision in your mind, now you are ready to create a strong and effective curriculum.

When creating your lesson plan, think of the various both the hardcore skills and Common Core standards your students should know before interacting with the computers. For example, if you are looking for your students to debate on a specific topic, make sure they know how to take notes (try Cornell Notes), the difference between fact and opinion, how to utilize evidence to support their statement, etc. These core skills can be spread across the weeks. While this is happen, try and leverage extra class time, such as Differentiated Instructions, to expose your students to the computers. These miniature assignments will allow them to build a strong foundation before the actual research timeline.

There will be a point where your students will no longer be focusing their attention on you. Instead, their focus will be on their research and the technology at hand. When this happens, think of this autonomy as a good sign. Rather than play the lead role, assume the helping hand and hover around the classroom. These miniature check-ins will allow the students to both interact with the technology and assume responsibility and ownership of their own work. To make this process more effective, try utilizing 30 to 45 minutes for two to three class periods. This is especially beneficial for students who do not have access to this type of technology at home.

Once you have hit your end-goal, understand that this is not the last step. Instead, look at this as the beginning. To continue this momentum, try incorporating new and innovative lessons and assignments that require technology assistance. Remember, the more practice they have with these resources, the stronger they will get in the long run.

To learn more, please visit educationworld.com. They provide various lesson plans, assignments, and tips in how you can best leverage technology and technology-based projects for your scholars.

How to Implement Differentiated Instruction Within the Classroom

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Albert Einstein said it best that, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Similar to having your own unique fingerprint, when it comes to teaching, we need to internalize the fact that every child has his or her own style of learning. The antiquated mentality of teaching a ‘one-size-fits-all’ lesson is no longer looked at as the standard for our future leaders of tomorrow. Instead, every lesson, every subject, and every classroom needs to be tailored for our students’ needs. Just ask yourself how many times you’ve had to restructure a lesson or change your style of teaching just so your students could hit their daily objectives? The answer itself solidifies that we as educators need to be adaptive and welcoming to change. Because of this, it will be incredibly beneficial for teachers to incorporate the strategy ‘differentiated instructions’ into their lesson plan.

Let’s start off by defining differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction, also known as differentiated learning, is a framework and philosophy for effective teaching that involves individualized aid and support through a more personalized one-on-one student learning environment. The method itself, often executed during the end of the class, is designed to deliver instructional information that can best reach each student’s learning abilities.

While differentiated instruction adds additional effort to a teacher’s schedule, educators have to understand the benefit this can have for the success of their students. To put it simply, students will be able to grasp the knowledge and lessons taught in their classroom through revisited lessons and specialized instructions depending on their academic status. This is crucial for those students who have a consistent history of underperforming, especially in the areas of Reading or Mathematics.

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So what does it look like? How do teachers incorporate differentiated instructions into their classes?

First and foremost, a teacher needs to conceptualize the overall layout of their day. If time management is a problem, make sure that is addressed before incorporating differentiated instruction into the daily schedule. Any type of change without fixing time management can hinder the success of a teacher’s objectives and student achievement. Once a teacher has holistically framed their day, block out thirty to forty minutes for differentiated learning. During this time, the students will be split into three groups. To effectively impact the student achievement, break up the class into three groups based off of the standardize test scores. These groups will allow an educator to see their high performing students and their low performing scholars. In these three groups, each of these students will be required to hit a planned objective that will enhance their individual learning. To enhance this process, create three different centers in your classroom:

  • Teacher Led (one-on-one individualized teaching)
  • Group Work
  • Independent Work

To best optimize these groups and instructional strategies, pinpoint areas of weakness based on student performance surrounding instructional lessons or standardized testing. Then create various mini-lessons or assessments to test student learning. While a teacher is essentially planning three different mini-lessons, try to create material and modules similar to one another so there is not miscommunication about the overall information.

Now with differentiated instruction lessons try and incorporate new and exciting lessons. These lessons could give an educator the insight of what style of teaching works for each student and inevitably shape and alter the future instructional planning of a class.

The Problems with Abusive Teaching

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When we think of education, we think of a system that cultivates a foundation for new age learning, creative thinking, and most importantly, academic success. However, over the past few decades education has undergone a fundamental shift from student achievement to student test scores.

As much as we can praise high-test scores or quantified student gains, we cannot have that success come at a cost of what it means to be a teacher. In a New York Times article, At Success Academy Schools, a Stumble in Math and a Teacher’s Anger, we see the darker side of teaching where a kindergarten teacher. Here, Ms. Dial goes to the extremes to reprimand her student,  replacing the passion and love that is usually found within teaching with something more punitive. While there are of course instances where an educator will lose their cool, we need to realize the negative impact teachers can have on our youth with this type of conduct.

In the video, we see a teacher use negative sarcastic comments and aggressive behavior to shame a child for not doing her work. The video itself is difficult to watch and, quite frankly, eye opening to the abusive culture that has been implemented within many teachers’ management systems across the nation. While test scores are great, the foundational groundwork for our students is absolutely more important. In the article, Joseph P. McDonald, a professor of teaching and learning at New York University’s School of Education, describes this negative management as ‘abusive teaching.’

Abusive teaching is defined as educational training that uses aggressive scare tactics as a motivational method for student achievement. No matter what the situation is, this type of abusive teaching should not be acceptable in the classroom. When an organization uses negative management and oppressive structures for student learning, we have to question the entire system. This type of structure will only persist if we continue to make excuses for the positivity it brings in the form of standardized test scores.

But for some teachers, they see other classroom management styles as a challenge when handling unruly or extreme situation. Many of them, even the parents, have come forward to question what are the long-lasting effects of this style of teaching can have on their children.

While students will eventually learn the material that they need to in order to avoid the consequences associated with this style of teaching, the immediate effects of shame and humiliation of a student create an educational environment that values submission and compliance. This negative style of teaching disempowers young learners, and often discourages creative thinking. This in turn celebrates the creation of high performing classrooms but kills creative culture.

Not only that, but also this system forces our students to fear failure and simply accept what authority figures tell them.

Many educators and social justice leaders have immediately reprimanded this style of learning, especially after the New York Times article and video. Teachers and educators are changers, movers, and motivators within an unjust system. The only way we can bridge that gap of inequality is to develop a foundation for students to be academically successful, critically conscious, and forces of change within their communities.

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