Bernard Pierorazio

Leader, Educator, Activist

Tag: classroom

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.

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.

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.

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