Random Reflections

I normally write rather long and detailed posts about topics that I’ve been thinking about as well as possibly writing drafts about for some time.  I’d like to change pace a bit with this new page called ‘Random Reflections’.  My objective is to write less in detail but more frequently about things that are on my mind.

Do something scary!

As teachers we’re always trying to encourage our learners to participate, to not be afraid to make mistakes and to do things that may be a bit frightening for them.  I think it’s important that teachers push themselves to do the same.  There are lots of ways for teachers to step up their game and do something scary.

In the classroom, you might try a few activities that you wouldn’t normally attempt.  They may be activities that involve a bit more noise and moving around or a slight sense of loss of control.  It’s good to change things up, not only for the students but also for the teacher.  I try to do this once in a while to keep me on my toes.

Blogging is one of my ‘scary things’.  Writing is not my strongest skill and publishing my thoughts in the blogosphere was downright terrifying at the beginning; however, with every post I share I feel more confident about my writing.

Workshops and presentations are also on my ‘scary’ list.  I started doing small workshops with the parents of my students a couple years ago with the idea of easing into the how and why of presenting.  So far so good and I’ve sent in a proposal for a teachers’ conference in November.  The thought of my session getting accepted makes me a little panicky but I really think I’ll enjoy presenting once I get over the nerves of the first few times.  This will be a work in progress over the next few months.

What kind of scary things do you do as a teacher?  How important is it to reach outside our comfort zones and do something that may be a bit intimidating?

 

Ways to promote a positive learning environment:

1.  Smile!

2.  Try to keep your emotions in check.  Young learners (and learners at any age) can be frustrating at times but try not to show it.  It’s important to keep an even tone of voice and a neutral attitude.  This helps diffuse the situation and puts the focus on how they can improve their behavior- not on you.

3. When students misbehave, remind them of the rules and the consequences (lower mark for the day, time in the thinking chair, their paper fish spends time with the shark, etc) AND stress the importance of doing better next time making it a teachable moment.

4. Encourage students to talk about problems amongst themselves and to try to find a solution.  The teacher can intervene if necessary but sometimes they just need a nudge in the direction of collaboration and problem-solving.

5. If there is any blatant negative behavior (bullying, mocking, refusing to share, etc) nip it in the bud immediately and talk about it as a class.  Discuss how to behave appropriately and treat each other with respect.

6. Stress that students are responsible for their own behavior.  It’s essential that they understand that the consequences of their behavior depend on them, not on the whim of the teacher.

7. Set an example in the classroom.  Speak to students with a respectful and caring tone even when they’re misbehaving.

8.  Criticism should be CONSTRUCTIVE. It’s important to build them up instead of shaming them and bringing them down. Point out what they should have done better and ways for them to improve or ask them directly what they could have done better.

These are some of my ideas for promoting a positive atmosphere.  Can you can any more to the list?  If so, please do so in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!

Expectations

The first topic I’d like to talk about here is expectations with young learners.  First let me say that my lesson plans tend to be jam-packed.  I only have two hours per week with each of my classes so I try to take advantage of every single minute of class.  When planning lessons, I consider all sorts of details about staging, seating, giving out and collecting books, etc so that we can best use the class time we have.  I also have activities ready for fast finishers and for the rare occasion when we complete our lesson aims ahead of time.  My classes tend to be rather fast-paced and full of energy.  When I’m monitoring I’m also encouraging them to stay focused on the task at hand so that we can finish and move on to the next stage.  For years my classroom mantra was: ‘maximize class time’ and at times that made lessons feel rushed and a bit overwhelming.  I noticed that my frustration levels were often high as I tried to push students toward completing tasks so we could go on to the next part of the lesson.  I began to think that if I wasn’t enjoying our class time then my students probably weren’t either.  I also wondered how well they were absorbing the information if I was always rushing them on to the next thing.

Through mindfulness and reflection I started to realize that I needed to change my expectations.  I want to be clear that I’m not talking about lowering expectations but rather changing them. Young learners (and students of all ages) need time to take in and think about new information, they get frustrated when they’re rushed through activities and they easily disconnect from a teacher who is often trying to push them too hard.  My new classroom mantra is: ‘enjoy and utilize class time’.  My lesson plans are still jam-packed but my expectations are much more flexible about how much we’ll do in the time we have.  I still encourage my students to stay focused and I’ve always got my eye on the next stage in the lesson, but I’m now a lot more present and trying to take advantage of all the learning that can happen in the task at hand.  I’ve learned that if we don’t have time for an activity, we can do it another day.  The important thing is that we’ve used the time well and enjoyed learning together.

 

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