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  • Teachers Really Matter! Always!​

    Posted By Janet R. Macpherson, Ph.D. | Feb 08, 2017
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    I will start with full disclosure, I started my after-college life as a teacher, teaching students with special needs for six years. I have known many teachers throughout the years. My spouse is a teacher. My current work allows me to work with district administrators and teachers. Teaching is one of the most complex and challenging professions. For the most part, individuals who can’t stand the heat will leave the profession pretty quickly, ensuring that those who make a career of teaching do so because they believe teaching is a calling. I am one who couldn't stand the heat, and partly due to that experience, I believe teachers are the best thing since sliced bread, in an educational sense.

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  • How Can We Teach if We Don’t Take Care of Ourselves First?

    Posted By Jeffrey Sprague, Ph.D. | Jan 18, 2017
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    The modern challenges of public school teaching are diverse and deep. While it is clear that academic achievement is “job one” for schools, we now are faced with a dizzying array of risks and challenges from our students, parents, and society. Some might say it’s “depressing” and it’s not a joke. Recent years have seen an explosion of, and discussion about, schools traditional use of “exclusionary discipline.” Typically, teachers have sent students to the office to see an administrator (or another person) to respond to most forms of disruption in the classroom. But a contemporary view of exclusion is that it’s harmful to students and doesn’t work in the long run. We hear about the “school to prison pipeline,” and “trauma informed care” at a time when budgets are declining, and perhaps the students we receive at school are more challenging than we remember. Most teachers and administrators I work with agree with this, and yet we are all left wondering, “What are alternatives that work?” Others (maybe you), wonder if we are in an era where there are no “consequences” and challenging students will ruin schooling for everyone. We know what we are doing is not the right thing, and yet it’s stressful to feel ineffective without understanding what else to do.

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  • Starting Over: When to Push the Reset Button on Your Classroom Management Strategy

    Posted By Josie Pack | Dec 14, 2016
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    This first-year teacher sauntered into the school year with grand plans for community building, establishing norms, and a seamless implementation of a fool-proof classroom management strategy. Well, can you guess what happened? It didn’t stick. Okay, some of it worked, but the major foundation of a successful classroom began to crumble under my feet in early October. The good news is, I quickly recognized what was happening and, with the blessing of my very supportive administrators, I enacted a plan to regain control of my classroom.

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  • Civil Discourse is Doable

    Posted By Michelle George | Oct 12, 2016
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    During a recent professional development training, I was talking with some teachers from neighboring schools, and the topic of our current contentious presidential race came up. One teacher said his school had decided to ban any sort of political campaigning or sign posting. He said the administration was concerned about inappropriate discussions and aggressive disagreements, so the decision was made to simply avoid the whole thing. I was flabbergasted. If we as educators can’t provide frameworks and processes for students to have intelligent and respectful conversations about the leadership of our country, where are our young people going to learn to be active citizens? In my mind, learning the art and practice of civil discourse is an integral responsibility of public education in the United States.

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  • The Making of a Mentor

    Posted By Michelle George | Sep 28, 2016
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    When I was a third-year teacher, I was asked to mentor a new teacher in our building. I wasn’t exactly asked; it was more like I was informed of this new opportunity for which I would receive a $150 stipend. This new teacher was brand new to the profession, and she taught in a totally different discipline. Her prep period was in the morning and mine was at the end of the day. She was upstairs, and I was downstairs. We met sporadically and commiserated a bit. I was nearly new myself and had no training for this responsibility. I did my best. I observed her classes and congratulated her on what went well. I often baked brownies for her when she was feeling particularly overwhelmed. Yet, even at the time, I realized what I offered did little to help her develop skills for teaching. The money would have been better spent buying her a few Post-it®notes and some very strong coffee. Recently, I was again offered the opportunity to mentor some new teachers, and this time, with a bit more experience and training, I hope to do a better job. Mentoring fellow teachers is important work and can be mutually rewarding, but a mentor has to be more than just a paid buddy.

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  • Community-Driven Classroom Management

    Posted By Josie Pack | Aug 24, 2016
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    The overwhelming feelings of fear and insecurity rise into my throat as I stare into my plan book, pencil tapping away at the empty space where my first week of instruction should be. When do I start with my content areas? When are the materials arriving? Will we have test scores by then to begin grouping? I’m getting ahead of myself. After several long, deep breaths, I begin to remember what these first weeks are really about. I won’t be overwhelming my students with an explicit lesson on narrative writing during day one. I won’t be diving into comprehension quizzes on day two. I must go slow to go fast. Establish norms. Build my classroom community.

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  • Top 10 Tips for Traveling with Students

    Posted By AshaLee Ortiz | Dec 16, 2015
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    In the digital age, we have the world at our fingertips. However, nothing truly compares to experiencing something firsthand. If experience is the best teacher, then there is a strong rationale for field trips. With the holiday season upon us, groups from schools across the nation will be performing in parades or at Bowl games. Spring break is just around the corner, and is a prime time to travel with students. Despite this knowledge, I have been hesitant to provide my students with the same types of rewarding experiences I had on field trips in my youth. Sure, I would take my classes to district festivals, and last year even planned a rewards trip with a partner teacher to the local amusement park, but the idea of planning a larger experience for my students seemed daunting. Where would I begin?

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  • 3 E's of Classroom Management: Engage, Empower, Encourage

    Posted By Michelle George | Nov 04, 2015
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    As we quickly approach the holidays, if you’re still going strong with your classroom management, well done! The first part of the semester was critical to classroom management success, and now the goal is to maintain that momentum throughout the year. The student teacher I mentored last year has her own classroom now, and she worked hard to start the year off right. We talked recently about how to keep her classes running smoothly. I’ve been blessed with so many great mentors and some great professional development over the years, so I’m borrowing from that wealth of experience to identify three central practices that I’m confident will see her through. I call them my smooth-sailing standards.

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  • Instructional Coaching That Gets Real Results, Part 1

    Posted By Jill Jackson | Apr 30, 2014

    There are two main components that underpin quality instruction: the context and the content. The context is the how of teaching, and the content is the what of teaching. When you look at the context of quality instruction, you see that it has two components: classroom management and student engagement. Both management and engagement are totally and completely required in order for students to master the content of any lesson. Without the context in place, you’re just “teaching the lesson” with no focus on how well students are learning or engaging with the content.

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  • Keep Calm and Think On: To Struggle Is Not To Fail

    Posted By Michelle George | Apr 23, 2014

    I was listening to public radio recently and heard an interesting program about a school classroom in Japan. The reporter was an American observing the educational system in Japan, and he was a bit dismayed. He described how students were called one at a time to the front of the room to work math problems at old-school chalkboards. Things went predictably well until one student went to the board and was clearly struggling. The student plodded through the equation and then stopped to check in with the teacher. All of the other students looked up from their desks and watched as she told him that the answer was incorrect. The young boy turned back to the board, erased his work, and began again while the other students went back to work at their desks. This happened several times. Each time the boy at the board was told he was incorrect, and he again turned back to the board to try again. The teacher made no move to correct his errors.

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