Cultivating Positive School Relationships

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I always looked forward to Tuesdays. It’s a day of the week that may seem a bit ho-hum, but it was the day that Mr. Rickeman, the English and History teacher, and I , the Math and Science teacher, found each other for a “High-Five Tuesday.” Such a simple human interaction boosted my spirit and gave me the encouragement I needed to face my 4th period class that day.

Are we as teachers competing or collaborating? Does more gossip or more encouragement come out of your mouth? An insight from one teacher compares our attitude and actions to fuel, and the type of fuel we consume will ultimately manifest in our own morale and our school culture. Some great advice comes from an article by Derrick Meador. He encourages teachers to be sensitive to others, and, at the same time, do not take things personally. Give people the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. Be quick to give credit to others, and don’t concern yourself with getting credit yourself. Keep the students’ best interest in mind and the success of the school as a whole.

Natalie Snyders, a Speech Language Pathologist, shares some ways she has cultivated a positive school relationship at her school. Starting with the staff, she has everyone draw a name of another staff member and write them a short note of encouragement. Students also get involved and write thank you notes to their teachers, often focusing on a particular grammar lesson or skill in their own writing. Finally, Snyders recognizes the occasional need for a bathroom break and adult supervision, offering the teacher a brief relief.

Connect face-to-face with your colleagues! Start with a walk down the hall to their classroom to check on how their day was, ask for advice about a student or an upcoming lesson, or spend time outside of the school building. Adult conversation after a day of teaching can lift your spirit and set the tone for your school campus!

Are you in need of a morale boost and a High-Five Tuesday? Consider enrolling in What Works in Schools: Translating Research into Action. Participants will discover how schools can create an environment that affects student achievement and maximizes the capacity of all learners.

What have you done to develop a positive culture on campus? Leave us a comment below!


Step up the Salary Scale

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For most teachers, their yearly salary does not reflect their effectiveness in the classroom, the demands of the job, or the subject matter that they teach. Instead, most salary schedules reward “teachers for doing two things: teaching longer and taking courses.” While some districts may reconsider how they attract and keep quality teachers, most still use a salary scale.

A study done by Paul Bruno reflects the many different factors that can contribute to teacher salary such as years spent teaching, years taught in the same district, “furlough days” (insert shiver down your spine here), class sizes, and education. It is interesting to note that one teacher performing the exact same duties as another might be paid twice as much due to the factors mentioned above (namely education and years of teaching).   Bruno also points out that the economy and politics play important parts in determining salary schedules in each state and district.

Have you ever wondered if you could make more money as a teacher without leaving the job you love? While a teacher’s salary varies from state to state and district to district, the cost of living seems to continually rise. An article on states “obtaining additional post secondary education credits is a crucial step in maximizing salary benefits.”   They “highly recommend taking these additional classes to earn the additional credits necessary” to jump into the next tier. “You’ll substantially increase your lifetime earnings by focusing on increasing credits early on in your career.”

Some unions have gone so far as to help teachers calculate how and when to complete salary points for the maximum financial benefit. They point out that moving across the salary schedule has more than immediate effects. It can affect your retirement!

If you are ready to take the next step to move across the salary schedule and earn graduate units, be sure to take this advice from, “Be sure to check your contract and plan accordingly so you can make sure you’re earning those credits and qualifying for the associated pay raise. Also be sure that you know what documentation you need to provide to your superintendent’s office in order to get your raise.”

College Credit Connection offers teachers and other professionals the opportunity to earn graduate-level credits through Vanguard University of Southern California, which is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). Learn in the format you like, at your own pace, and at an affordable cost (as low as $89/unit). Click here to browse the courses CCC currently offers!


Common Core: Where Are We Now?

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It’s hard to believe that the effort to begin developing the Common Core State Standards started 10 years ago. Now, after five or more years of implementation, what have we seen?

In June of 2019, an article in a Florida newspaper stated that while almost everyone polled in Florida said that they did not want yet another change in standards, government officials decided to move away from the Common Core and create a new set of standards. Many feel that this will not favor the public schools with a constantly changing target. However, there is a growing concern over the quality and effectiveness of the Common Core standards and the assessments.

One of the concerns of the Common Core assessments is the content. While there are some significant things missing, such as dramatic literature, there is perhaps an oversaturation of short, non-fictional snippets. Other concerns include which experts were consulted and how the results are interpreted. Finally, the level of math and reading on the text is not very high.

Some studies have shown that instead of the promised student achievement gains, there have been significant negative effects on student education. In her article, Joy Pullman points out that this decline in academic performance could even affect our country’s economy. The only people who have seemed to benefit from this were those who created and pushed the Common Core Standards.

Why were the effects possibly negative? An article in Chalkbeat suggests that several challenges could have lead to the negative effects, including a lack of quality teacher training. Others think that the problem might lie in the Common Core standards themselves.

To address the training issue, College Credit Connection, in partnership with Vanguard University, currently offers more than 30 graduate-level courses on the topic of Common Core. The courses benefit both new teachers and veteran teachers. With custom assignments at an affordable price, many teachers find these courses to benefit their instruction while also helping them move across the salary schedule. Consider taking a course to brush up on techniques for teaching the Common Core or browse the more than 300 other courses offered.

What has your experience been with the Common Core?






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!

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!



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.