Bernard Pierorazio

Leader, Educator, Activist

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Management Tips for First Year Teachers

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While many people can argue this, classroom management is essentially the bread and butter for student success. To put it simply, effective teaching and learning cannot take place if a classroom is poorly managed. In fact, research has shown that teacher’s actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies, student assessment, and community involvement.

Even with this importance, many teachers are ill prepared to handle the task of managing a group of 20 to 30+ students. To go even further, many first year teachers have reportedly stated that classroom management is one of their biggest challenges preventing them from teaching.

To help alleviate this problem, I have listed five key tips in improving a teacher’s classroom management. By making these small changes, even in the middle of the year, you will be able to establish a well-managed environment that welcomes students and observers the opportunity to learn and flourish on a daily basis.

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1. Create Classroom Rules, Stay Simple

No matter what class you enter, there will always be rules and procedures that establish the overall tone of the class. As a first year teacher, you may be setting your sights on preconceived notions of how students will act when they enter your classroom. My advice is to prepare for the worst-case scenario. When it comes to your rules, start off by creating behavior-style rules that dictate how they should act in your class. These rules can be something like, ‘Do not speak when the teacher is speaking,’ or  ‘Raise your hand if you want to stand up.’ After every rule, make sure you have a reason to why you have that rule. At times, kids are unable to comprehend the simplicity of your rules. Make sure there is no misunderstanding and explain it to the fullest. Last but not least, keep it simple. There is no point in having more than five rules. Anything more than five will eventually get lost in translation.

2. Speak in a Normal Voice

This is usually developed when you find your sweet spot later on in the year. As a teacher, we have a tendency to raise our voices, especially when we are reprimanding a student. Rather than giving the students a show and yelling your brains out, stay calm, cool, and collected. By utilizing your normal voice, you are gaining control of a bad situation and showing the student who is in charge. For there you can raise your voice or stay calm. Either way, the misbehaved student will receive the message.

3. Speak Only When Students are Quiet

This is a mistake all first year teachers make when they enter the classroom. Trust me, I have also done it myself. But no matter what, you should never let your students speak over you. Any instances of this can give them the idea that this type of negative behavior is accepted in the classroom. If it happens, make sure you point it out and negative that behavior.

4. Use Hand Signals

To help aid with your management, try and use certain hand signals to hand a student’s behavior. This can even be associated with specific phrases. This is a type of managing technique that takes time. But the more consistent you are with using it, the stronger it can play for your classroom.

5. Address ANY Negative Behavior

Do not let any slip through the crack! If there is any negative behavior from any student, make sure you address the situation, even if it takes time out of your lesson. At the end of the day, it is better to set off a few minutes to adjust a student’s behavior than a few minutes each day seeing the behavior pop up all throughout the year.

What Makes a Great Teacher?

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Though I am no longer in the classroom, I constantly reminisce about the times when I was a soldier in the fight for education equity. Within my four walls of my class, I saw hope, pain, failure, love, passion, and most importantly success. With all of the undergoing changes that we are seeing within the education sector, such as the move to deviate away from Common Core and assimilate of Obama’s ‘Race to the Top’ agenda, I have to ask myself one important question: What makes a great teacher?

At the end of it, No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and Race to the Top were not merely meant to shape the minds of our students and bridge the gap for education equity. Rather, it was meant for teachers to become true thought-leaders and academic professionals within their field. Though there has been a wide range of backlash by teachers themselves for the change within the new teaching standards, a majority of it does make sense. As educators, we need to understand that teaching is dynamic by nature. It is a constant entity that depends on the consistency of change. For example, your best lesson for your first period will always be altered and manipulated by the end of the day to cater to both the class periods and the individual student. It is that simple dynamic change that continues to challenge us then and now because, at the end of the day, our goal is to make our students become movers and game changers within their communities. It is our job to give them the foundation to read well, analyze word problems, and speak knowledgably so that they can be the voice and forces of change within their communities. For this to happen, we as teachers need to be leaders.

When it comes to leadership, leadership and teaching often becomes synonymous with one another. Though the concepts for both apply in different ways, for a teacher to be great, they need to have leadership in order to excel within the classroom. Below, you will see how leadership plays a role within a classroom:

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Management

As a leader, your job begins with management. No matter how great your lessons are or how prepared you can be at the beginning of the year, if you do not have management, you do not have a classroom. With leadership, you are the individual that creates an ecosystem of learning through rules and logistics so that your classroom and run smoothly and efficiently. Any type of weak management can hinder your efforts in becoming a strong teacher.

Belief & Purpose

Beyond management, a leader provides a sense of purpose and value within the field. These principles eventually become the overall class culture that will drive that movement of success within every student.

Respect, Justice, and Temperance

As a leader, you must strive to maintain the proper balance of emotion and respect for your colleagues and students. This mutual respect will ensure your students to treat each other with the admiration and kindness that they deserve. I have seen this specific instance countless times where students will mirror the respect and behavior of their teacher to their own individual peers. Remember, your classroom is a safe zone for your students. As a leader it is your job to create that community and culture.

Confidence

No matter what industry or field you are in, confidence will always play a large role in leadership. In the classroom, you need to exude confidence on all different fronts. Show your students the direction to emerge as game changers and movers within the class. Yes, at times we can often question ourselves, especially after a difficult evaluation from our administration. Do not let that deter you from being the leader of your class. Accept their notes and push on through!

Commitment

When it comes to teaching, a leader is not just a person who looks to polish their resume. Rather they look to make a change. For this to happen, a great teacher needs to be deeply committed in the work that they are doing both in and out of the classroom. Understanding and internalizing the mission for you and your students will play a key role in how impactful you can be with your students.

 

Steps to Plan a Tiered Activity

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Day in the Life: Arkansas Teacher of the Year

How to Map out Your D.I. Lessons

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Differentiated Instructions in Practice

The New Age of Teaching: Bell-To-Bell

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Unlike the antiquated style of teaching where in the past a teacher can stand in front of a classroom and lecture for an entire hour, the new supportive instructional delivery has taken a more interactive stance of what is required by both the teacher and their students. A lot of this is shaped by the new Common Core State Standards that require teachers to rethink and reflect the way in which they support their student each and every day. But with this new style of teaching, we have to ask ourselves if the new instructional deliveries are beneficial to the teachers and their students.

While many educators may disagree with the style and concepts of the Common Core State Standard initiatives, we need to take into consideration that the world has changed. And with that change, we also need to view holistically the evolution of education. Where we were and what we learned five years ago, ten years ago is completely different to what our students are learning today. Because of that simple reason, we as educators need to make a shift within our system and succumb to the concept of change in order to improve the lifestyle and learning for the betterment of our students. If we do not, we are not just hurting the academic profession, but the future leaders of tomorrow.

So how does it work? What do these new teaching initiatives look like on a day-to-day basis?

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When creating your lesson plan, you need to think of the overall bigger picture. Simply put it, plan out your goals. To do this, you need to look at the entire curriculum and what you want to accomplish at the end of each academic quarter. This is what we call, backwards planning. Backwards planning, also referred to as backwards mapping, is the process that an educator uses to design instructional techniques and lesson plans in order to achieve a specific learning goal. By conceptualizing and framing your day-to-day lessons as necessary building blocks, you will be able to truly transform the impact you can have on your students in just a few months. In addition, backwards planning allows you to foresee any future problems such as difficult lessons or challenging concepts that will be necessary for the growth of your students. By planning strategically, you will be able to accommodate for any speed bumps you can see down around the road. This will thus, in turn provide you with stronger lessons so that you and your students can reach your academic objectives.

Once you develop your goals (quarterly, weekly, and daily), you will be able to begin planning your day-to-day instructions. With the new instructional initiatives, you will see your day broken down into five parts:

  1. Bell Ringer: review or preview
  2. I-DO: teacher led instructions
  3. We Do: group work and class work
  4. You Do: Independent work
  5. D.I.: differentiated instructional groups

While these concepts may seem foreign, do not be intimidated. These parts, once mastered, will allow you to deliver your lesson plans and work independently with each student each and every day.

Bell Ringer: Review or Preview

To begin the day, start by giving your students a quick assignment that can be easily accomplished within a five to seven minute span. While essentially you can provide any type of assignment, you want to make sure you pick a task that is beneficial and strategic to your lesson and your objectives. You can do this by either optimizing a review assignment or previewing a task for your current lesson. Keep in mind, this is not your lesson. This portion should only take a couple of minutes. Any bell ringer that is more than ten minutes can compromise your goals for that day.

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I-Do – Teacher Led Discussion

While we do want to move away from the antiquated style of teaching, that does not mean we want to completely eliminating it from the field. For this portion, you will be doing most of the talking. As you lecture, make sure you provide easily understood information and examples so that your students can comprehend and replicate for the later sections. To enhance engagement, try and utilize visual tactics throughout your presentation such as teacher modeling, gestures, and teacher examples. In addition, provide your students with the necessary notes that they will utilize later on in the day or course. Lastly, be cognizant of your time. The biggest mistake teachers’ make is going over time with their teacher led discussions. Try to keep this to around 15 to 20 minutes. If you happen to go over time, note that you will have to cut some of the other sections so that you stay on pace.

We-Do – Group Work – Team Work

With the ‘We Do’ portion, group your students in either pairs or table groups so that they can collaborate and discuss with one another. This is the portion where students are able to interact and learn from one another. One helpful hint is to keep your ‘teacher-led’ example up on the board so that they can reference your example if they are having any troubles. While the students are working together, move around the classroom. Sit in on some groups and discuss a variety of ideas and how they came about with that answer. Afterwards, bring the class together and give them the opportunity to share their group answers with the rest of the class.

You-DO – Independent Work

Once you have finished the ‘We-Do’ portion of the class, have the students attempt the assignment quietly and independently. Provide them with a new problem or topic. While they are working by themselves, continue to walk around the room and work with students you saw struggling throughout the lesson. This will give you an opportunity to provide them with that necessary one-on-one time to truly learn the material.

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Differentiated Instructions Group

This is often the section where many teachers overlook. As much as they can cut this out of their lessons, you need to understand the importance and benefit that this can have on your students. A differentiated instruction begins with students moving into their specific groups, usually based on their statewide scores. By meeting with these groups, you will be able to work with the students who most need the help. Remember, the students entering your classroom are not all on the same level. To make that a reality, you need to provide the extra time, dedication, and support to get them to where they need to be.

The Staggering Cost of Teacher Attrition

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Culturally Responsive Teaching by Demetrius Lancaster

Education Reform Infograph: Back to School Statistics

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