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Thursday / December 1

Practical Advice for New Teachers and Education Leaders

Take Stock of Your Classroom Culture

by Serena Pariser

Every teacher and student want and deserve a positive classroom culture where learning can thrive. Now is a great time to check in with how your classroom culture is going. A good rule of thumb to remember is that when the leaves are falling, the classroom climate we had in the beginning of the year can sometimes also begin to fall a bit. Perhaps it’s just one class—the group that comes in with a cloud over their head, or a class that is dominated by the energy of one or two students. If this is the case, the good news is that it’s still early enough in the school year to turn things around, but the effort starts with us, the teachers. To improve classroom culture, we may need to make changes in what we are doing in the classroom. Here’s a quick check in to see how your classes are doing and what you can do to improve classroom culture.

Ask Yourself Why and what can you do?
Do students in the class all know each other’s names? To effectively build a community of collaborative learners, students should know and often rely on other students in the classroom. Take time in lessons to do quick get to know me activities, teambuilding, or mix up groups from time to time.
As a teacher, am I giving more praise or more redirection? Keep in mind that to build strong relationships with a classroom of students, the ratio of positive comments to redirection should be about 5:1. As simple as it seems, this shows the students you really like them. If the ratio is a bit off balanced (as it easily can become) do a quick self-check in and remember: you are the energetic leader of your classes.
Do students raise their hands often and want to participate in lessons? Teaching is more effective if students are participating and we are not constantly asking ourselves, “Is this thing on?” after we ask a question. To spark participation, add a layer of competition in your lessons or unit by arranging students in collaborative groups where each group has a chance of “winning.” Competition can be an easy and fast way to add in some fun and engagement.
Are there one or two students who frequently hold back the learning for an entire class? If classroom consequences aren’t working for students, consider placing these one to two students on a behavior contract with structured incentives and rewards to temporarily motivate them to stay on task and engaged.
Do students see relevance in what is being taught and how it is being taught? It’s important that we hear every student’s voice. You may consider giving students an opportunity to answer an anonymous survey.

To effectively build a community of collaborative learners, students should know and often rely on other students in the classroom.

Replace Show-and-Tell Teaching with a Launch-Explore-Discuss Sequence

by Kimberly Rimbey

Show-and-tell teaching dominates many math classrooms in our schools. You know what this looks like: The teacher shows the students how to do the math, explaining as they go, and the students watch as the teacher performs the mathematics. There are two problems with this model. First, it puts students into a passive mode, simply watching and hopefully listening. In some classrooms, the students take notes, but they are still non-participants in the thinking. Second, we assume that just because students are looking at the teacher, they are listening, thinking, and processing what they are seeing and hearing. Do not be deceived—watching is not the same thing as listening, and listening is not the same thing as learning.

So, what can you do to shift from students as watchers to students as thinkers and learners? A Launch-Explore-Discuss (LED) sequence might be the exact answer you never knew you always needed.

Launch-Explore-Discuss Sequence

In math class, the use of gradual release methods, or direct instruction, robs students of the opportunity to think as teachers talk and students mimic. This approach reduces mathematics to sets of processes and procedures rather than opportunities to solve problems and describing the world around them. The LED sequence helps remedy the issues introduced by a direct-instruction approach. When you use the LED sequence, you ask the children to think and work first, and then the math is gradually revealed through your prompting and probing questions and group discussions.

Once I made the shift to the LED sequence in my whole- and small-group instruction, I became the facilitator of learning as the world of thinking opened up for my students. Instead of simply watching me do the math, my students were doing the thinking, the understanding, and the learning.

When you use the LED sequence, you ask the children to think and work first, and then the math is gradually revealed through your prompting and probing questions and group discussions.

Five Tips for New Principals

by Daniel Bauer

Embrace the suck. You will make mistakes. It’s going to happen. Bad principals sweep their mistakes under the rug and do not reflect on them.

Reflect on every failure — not to beat yourself up — but to consider what you learned and how learning that lesson actually made you a better leader.

Practice gratitude. When you are stuck, overwhelmed, or in another negative space the answer is always gratitude. Something magical happens when you sit and consider all the reasons to be thankful.

Take five minutes to write down a list of all the reasons you can be grateful. If that is a struggle, be thankful you are alive!

Honor your boundaries. Now is the best time to establish boundaries. Establish when you want to be at work and when you want to go home. Prioritize time to do “deep work.” Make sure you eat lunch everyday. Protect time for observations. Meetings and email are necessary and sometimes important. Rarely are they significant. Model healthy boundaries to your community.

The answer is WHO not HOW. High achievers love to make plans and get to work. That style of leadership, however, doesn’t scale and is not sustainable.

The answer to every problem you have is surrounding yourself with the right WHO, not figuring out HOW to solve your problem. Find the genius who can help!

Make time for world class professional development. Your development is your responsibility. Take charge of your professional growth. Go to conferences. Join a mastermind. Learn more about a model changing the landscape of professional development for school leaders, check out Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader.

Reflect on every failure — not to beat yourself up — but to consider what you learned and how learning that lesson actually made you a better leader.

Written by

Serena Pariser, M.A., has twelve years classroom experience in public and charter schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. She is the author of the recently released Five to Thrive: Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Creating a Dynamic Classroom and the bestsellers Real Talk About Classroom Management: 50 Best Practices That Work And Show You Believe In Your Students and Real Talk About Time Management: 35 Best Practices for Educators.

Kimberly Rimbey serves as the Chief Learning Officer at KP® Mathematics. A life-long teacher and learner, her heart’s work centers on equipping teachers and helping them fall in love with teaching and learning over and over again. She is the author of the recently released Meaningful Small Groups in Math, Grades K-5, and Mastering Math Manipulatives, Grades K-3 and Grades 4-8.

Daniel Bauer is the Chief Ruckus Maker at Better Leaders Better Schools (BLBS). He launched his BLBS podcast in September 2015. With over one million downloads, the BLBS show is the most influential podcast available for educational leaders. He is the author of the bestselling book Mastermind: Unlocking Talent Within Every School Leader.

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