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Why We Need Montessori

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How do children best learn? It’s a question we often ask and continue to research. Montessori education focuses on many of the answers.

Most teachers agree about the effectiveness of kinesthetic learning. Children learn by doing. Whether exploring with their senses or practicing life skills, children in Montessori schools actively learn.

Montessori classrooms encourage cooperative learning with peers. Students benefit from discussions, reciprocal teaching, and working together. Student engagement often increases with the opportunity to work with peers.

Students take charge of their own learning when they are given choice. The freedom to choose where they want to sit, which activity to do, and which topic to explore leads to motivated learners. Teachers might be surprised by how well the students are able to self-assess and master concepts.

But does the Montessori model work for everyone? Does it have the same results regardless of socio-economic status? Researchers believe Montessori education can potentially close the achievement gap! The challenge, however, lies in the availability and accessibility of Montessori schools in low-income areas.

Interested in learning more? Take a Cognitive Engagement course with College Credit Connection and customize it explore all things Montessori. Receive graduate units for reading a book such as Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius and viewing experts like Judi Bauerlein.

What has been your experience with Montessori? Leave a comment below!

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Celebrating Teachers!

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Teacher Appreciation Week is observed each year on the first full week in May (and National Teacher Appreciation Day is celebrated on Tuesday of that same week). Teachers seldom hear the thanks and appreciation they so dearly deserve. So this day and week in May provides an excellent opportunity to encourage those hard working and dedicated educators. Thank you!!

So what are the traits of a great teacher? In the process of conducting research for my doctoral dissertation at UCLA, I discovered the qualities and characteristics of teachers who were true leaders. The three major themes that rose to the top indicated that these teachers were 1) life-long learners, 2) problem solvers, and 3) visionary dreamers. And, by definition, these characteristics all describe a leader . . . a teacher-leader!

Life-Long Learners

A teacher I interviewed for my research explained the advantage of being a life-long learner by saying, “I was open to learning. I think it is important for new teachers to not be afraid to not know. You need to be willing to allow someone to share—to acknowledge other people for their experience. They may not have gotten the most recent education and know all the latest techniques, but they have the experience of dealing with those kids. And that’s very valuable.”

In their book “Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge”, Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus confirm this important factor, stating that, “Learning is the essential fuel for the leader, the source of high-octane that keeps up the momentum by continually sparking new understanding, new ideas and new challenges. It is absolutely indispensable under today’s conditions of rapid change and complexity. Very simply, those who do not learn do not long survive as leaders” (Bennis & Nanus, 2007, p.176).

Problem Solvers

Three researchers state in a journal article that one of the primary factors for teacher success and retention has to do with those who solve instructional problems by seeking specific resources to improve pedagogy.

“The power to reframe is vital for modern leaders. The ability to see new possibilities and to create new opportunities enables leaders to . . . discover alternatives when options seem severely constrained” (Bolman & Deal, 1997, p. 380).

“Managers [unlike leaders] have not learned how to reframe, using multiple lenses to get a better reading of what they’re up against and what they might do about it. Leaders need to find new ways to see things . . . learn to shift perspectives . . . the ability to use multiple frames. Multiframe thinking requires movement beyond narrow and mechanical thinking . . . a more expressive, artistic conception that encourages flexibility, creativity, and interpretation. The leader as artist relies on images as well as memos . . . and reframing as well as refitting” (Bolman & Deal, 1997, pp. xiv, 12, 16-17). 

Visionary Dreamers (A Calling)

A blog by CU-Portland says “many teachers chose their profession for a simple reason: They were born to do it. They can’t ignore how much they love working with kids and how they feel at home in the classroom, facilitating discussions, and helping them grow!”

For dreamers, vision and mission work together: Mission gives purpose; vision gives direction. Many teachers call this synergy a “calling”. Bennis and Nanus assert that “Vision animates, inspirits, and transforms purpose [mission] into action” (Bennis & Nanus, 1997, p. 29).

One of the teachers I interviewed from an urban public school discussed his mission as a calling (Ternes, 2001). He stated:

Once you’re locked in—once you begin to understand the whole picture—it left me in a position where I sensed a purpose higher than myself and didn’t feel I had a choice. This was a calling. It’s an internal drive. It was like, if you know there are hungry people, you feel bad. But if you look at somebody starving, you’re going to feed them. And you don’t have a choice at that point.”

A teacher at another school in the same district put it this way:

God sent me here to help these young people. I perceive what I am doing as a calling—a destiny. And everything I did in life drove me closer and closer to where it is that I am now. And I recognize that God delivered me here at this moment on this day to be here with these students. I know this to be a fact spoken to my heart and I tell my students this. I teach from my heart. That’s primarily why teaching is not a job for me, even though I have a tremendous workload in terms of my assignments.

Teaching is a tremendous challenge, opportunity and responsibility. Encourage a fellow teacher today. On behalf of the faculty and staff at College Credit Connection, THANK YOU!!

Learn more

If you want to become a better teacher-leader, consider enrolling in a professional development course that addresses leadership.

Do you have any tips for becoming a better teacher-leader?  Leave some advice for another teacher or parent in the comments below!

 

References

Bennis, W., & Nanus, B. (2007). Leaders: Strategies for taking charge (2nd ed.). New

York: HarperBusiness.

Bolman, L. G., & Deal, T. E. (1997). Reframing organizations: Artistry, choice, and

leadership (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Ternes, J. B. (2001). Why They Stay: A Qualitative Look at Secondary Teachers Persisting in an Urban School District. Doctoral dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.

Tattle tamers

Confession time: I did my second half of student teaching in kindergarten and found myself physically exhausted every single day.   My first assignment had been in 7th grade with students who could work independently and actively participate in critical (and often humorous!) discussions.  In the kindergarten classroom, I found myself working with little ones who desperately needed me every moment of the day to tie their shoes, help them cut out shapes, and listen to them tattle about everything they just witnessed during recess.  I quickly learned that my ideal classroom was not in the primary grades.  And so, it is with great respect and admiration for primary elementary teachers that I write this post!

If you feel like tattling has disrupted one too many lessons this year, you are not alone!  Consider trying these tips for taming the tattling:

Classroom Discussion

A post by Responsive Classroom, suggests writing down on index cards a few of the typical common incidents that have been reported to you.  Then, as a class, discuss if the proper response to each situation should be “Tell An Adult,” “Handle It Yourself,” or “Let it Go.”  You can make a chart and keep it posted in your classroom to remind students of the proper response.  You can also add to it or change the response throughout the year. Discuss the chart with parents and talk about your approach at parent meetings, in your weekly newsletter, and on your school or class website.

Be careful with student responsibilities

A well-organized classroom often includes student jobs and putting students in charge of certain responsibilities.  However, if you want to limit tattling, Dr. Ken Shore warns not to put students in charge of their classmates.  When a student is in authority over another student, it often will lead to a student telling you that someone is not following directions or being difficult.  To avoid this conflict, do not put students in charge of their classmates.

Deal with each student individually

Some students are looking for validation or attention.  Others might be being bullied.  Still others might not understand socially acceptable behaviors.  Help your students grow.   One teacher found it was necessary to have a student repeat the following: “It is not your job to enforce the playground rules. All you have to do is follow the rules. The playground supervisors can handle the rest of the kids in the way they see fit.”

Stop using the term “tattling”

Specifically, when we discourage “tattling” with our students, we might unintentionally send the wrong message.  After all, we do want students to report harmful behavior!  Students need to know that we are listening and take their concerns seriously.  Valerie Reiss encourages teachers to keep the lines of communication open and to remember that students will tattle less as they grow older and develop social skills.

Use it as a teachable moment

Help the student control their tattletale behavior by asking them questions such as:

Are you ok?

Did you ask the person to stop?

What are you hoping will happen?

What can I do to help the situation?

You can also have the students role-play with a caveat: Have them reenact the scenario with what every member involved should have done.  Have them practice the right thing to do in the situation.

Learn more

If tattling is taking over your classroom, consider enrolling in a professional development course that addresses classroom management

Do you have any tips for taming the tattling?  Leave some advice for another teacher or parent in the comments below!

To Assign or Not to Assign… Homework

Teaching middle school math and science in the inner city of Los Angeles, I wrestled with my previously formed opinion of assigning homework.  Was it fair to assign homework to adolescents who went home after school to take care of their younger siblings while their parents were both at work?  How many problems needed to be completed for sufficient practice?  Could the students master concepts and skills without the homework?  If I gave homework students, I wanted to give the appropriate amount and quality of homework to reap the benefits without causing stress, fatigue, boredom, or frustration.

I thought back to my days as a student, when classmates would “slack off” yet would ace the test.  They proved their learning on the summative assessments without completing the homework.  Would their grade in their class reflect their knowledge and skills or would it reflect the fact that they didn’t complete their daily assignments?  Some schools have completely abolished homework!

I considered what my personal desire was for my students when I assigned homework.  Was my motive drill and kill or did I want to deepen my students’ understanding?  Did everyone need to complete the same thing or could I give my students choice based on their learning level, interests, or learning style?  If you are looking for ways to engage your students, consider trying one of these 20 creative homework ideas.

Finally, many teachers know all to well how the piles of homework needed to be graded grow exponentially!  What type of feedback would best help the student?  Did I need to input it into the grade book or could the students be accountable in another way?  Taking all of these things into consideration, I decided to greatly reduce the amount of homework I assigned.  Homework no longer had a sufficient weight on the students’ academic grades, but was considered when assigning grades for things such as effort.  Whenever possible, I would offer student choice. 

What is your homework policy?  Has it changed over the years?  Let us know in the comment section below!

Terrific Teacher YouTube Channels

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When I wanted to introduce my students to different colleges and universities, I often turned to the treasure trove of YouTube to expose my students to campuses without the hassle of permission slips, transportation, and coordinating field trips! When I needed to show students examples of symbiotic relationships, I went to YouTube. When I….well, you get the picture. Even so, I barely scratched the surface of the vast resources available to teachers. Here are some of the YouTube channels you might find helpful as a teacher:

Edutopia

Stay on top of current topics in education by watching short clips by Edutopia! Most of the videos are between 2 to 4 minutes and cover topics such as mindfulness, Socratic circles, parent workshops, and creating student norms in the classroom. Find out what is working in K-12 education today!

Buck Institute of Education

If you want to learn more about Project Based Learning, check out the Buck Institute of Education for helpful videos! The content includes successful ideas to implement and suggestions to help align projects to standards, design and plan projects, and to engage students in learning. If you are interested in receiving graduate units for learning and implementing Project Based Learning in your classroom, you can enroll in EDUX 7635: PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: AN OVERVIEW.

Bozeman Science

Make your science lesson come alive with a clip from Bozeman Science! These videos include easy-to-understand diagrams, demonstrations, and models. Created by a high school teacher, the content covers everything from renewable energy to neurons!

Richard Byrne

Improve your lessons with a little help from Richard Byrne! Get tips and tricks in technology to engage your students. Imagine what you can learn and do with his tutorials!

TED-Ed

The TED-Ed YouTube channel topped the list of many educators (if you’re not already one of the 8.4 million subscribers, you will probably become one after checking out their videos!). Many of the 4 or 5 minute videos grab the attention of students and engage them in history, culture, science, math, literature, geography, and more! These high-quality videos will greatly enrich any classroom.

Here are some links of additional lists of top educational YouTube channels:

Great YouTube Channels for Teachers

Top 100 Teacher Youtube Channels on Educational Videos, Tutorials, Lessons & Courses

8 Excellent Educational YouTube Channels for Today’s Teachers

10 inspiring YouTube channels for teachers

If you are interested in receiving graduate units for professional development in technology, click here.

Which YouTube channels do you enjoy incorporating into your lessons? How and when do you use the videos? Leave a comment below!

Saving Money as an Educator

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Teachers give generously of their time, and more than often, their money. With school budget cuts and limited funds, teachers have to find ways to save money and be resourceful.   Here are some great ways to get the most bang for your buck and provide your students with an optimal learning environment.

 

Books

Looking to expand your classroom library? Thrift stores, garage sales, public library bookstores (Friends of the Library) and used books stores are treasure troves of good deals to help develop a love of literacy in your students.

 

Science Labs

Need to purchase equipment for science labs and experiments? An article on TeachHub gives you tips on where to shop, how to minimize and simplify your supply list, and who to ask for donations! Flex your creative muscle as you find ways to pinch the pennies and stock your classroom.

 

Furniture and Supplies

Before you go buy furniture, craft supplies, or anything else for your classroom check Freecycle, Craigslist or Ebay! Or ask your friends and family if they have the item(s) and are willing to donate to your classroom.

 

Graduate Units

Are you in need of more graduate units to move over your district’s pay scale? Making more money every year sounds good, doesn’t it? If you want to save money for your professional development, check out the affordable courses at College Credit Connection! Read the testimonials of teachers like yourself who have found the courses to be a great value and beneficial to their classrooms.

 

More ideas

These lists of the 20 Best Money-Saving Tips for Teachers and Teaching Strategies: How to Save Money have great ideas ranging from applying for grants to getting teacher discounts! They include links and great resources for the frugal educator.

 

Do you have a great money-saving idea to share? Are you inspired by one of these ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

Teacher Burnout and What to Do About It

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Walk into any coffee shop and you can almost immediate recognize a fellow teacher. They probably aren’t wearing scrubs, an official uniform, or have a certain hairstyle. No, you recognize them because they are grading papers and possibly look a little discouraged because the students did not perform well on the last assessment.

You recognize that look and empathize. The demands on a teacher are never ending. The hats teachers wear are too numerous to count. Your school just rolled out a new curriculum and changed the grading system. Parents want to discuss their children’s grades and behavior. You lost your temper right before lunch today. Administration did not handle that last disciplinary situation well. Colleagues complain about other incompetent teachers. Last week’s teacher meeting went on forever while you thought about all of the bulletin boards that needed updating, progress reports you needed to finish, and parent calls you needed to make.

Teacher burnout is nothing new, but the conversation might be shifting. In an article by Tim Walker, he discusses with Doris Santoro ways that morale can be revitalized. When teachers are constantly being told what they are doing wrong without being told the correct way, it is demoralizing. Santoro suggests school leadership bring teachers together to problem solve for the well-being of the students. She also suggests looking to unions for community and collaboration.

So what does a teacher do in the midst of discouragement, fatigue, and demoralization?

  1. Change your mood

You’ve probably heard the saying that laughter is the best medicine. An intense power struggle with a student can often crumble with a joke (especially if you teach middle school!). Recognize your frustration and deliberately choose to shift the mood. Try to find the humor in the situation! Check out Bored Teachers for inspiration.

  1. Try something new

If you are having fun, your students probably will, too. If you are passionate about the content, share it with them. If you are not passionate about the lesson, go on a quest to make it more fun. The internet has so many ideas! Attend a conference, take a professional development course, or ask a fellow teacher how they approach the subject. Make the learning meaningful for the students by using real-world examples.

  1. Hold students responsible

Give your students choice. Help them chart their learning levels and set goals for themselves. Revisit those goals and progress regularly.

  1. Take care of yourself.

Exercise (take a walk in the outdoors! You know…that place outside the walls of your classroom and home). Give yourself a bedtime and stick to it. Eat your veggies and fruit. Drink water. Each healthy step will help you tackle the bigger problems inside and outside of the classroom.

Dear teacher, here’s a well-deserved virtual high five. Your dedication to your students makes all the difference. You invest in the future before and after the bell rings. Thank you for all that you do!

Do you have any advice to deal with teacher burnout? Comment below with your suggestions!