Closing the Year With ‘Class’

Closing the school year is rewarding and challenging, but you can increase the potential of a rewarding close to school with purposeful planning of year-end activities. Good planning, as well as the flexibility to seize teachable moments, sets the stage for meaningful closure and celebration.

Plan deliberately.

Prioritize and schedule your tasks and remaining lessons for students. Allow time for year-end necessities such as cleaning out files, washing down tables and chairs, and sorting materials. Recruit students to help. Keep a tablet handy during the final weeks to jot down your wish list of To Do’s. Expect end-of-the-year excitement and rising outdoor temperatures to elicit restlessness among your students. Capitalize on their extra energy by continuing relevant learning and creating new challenges. Let students teach part of a lesson, perform applied research in a content area, or design assessments for a study unit. Maintain order by reminding students of routines and their personal responsibility to the learning environment. Keeping them accountable academically and behaviorally is crucial for maximum enjoyment of the school year’s end.

Teach flexibly.

Inherently, the end of the school year brings extra tasks. To enjoy the process of teaching and learning until the last day, proactively maintain professional balance through cooperation with students and colleagues, organization, prioritized goals, and flexibility. In addition, remind yourself to view each student as an individual—a special person who benefits from eye contact and a smile, belief in his or her abilities, and seeing your enjoyment in learning.

Reward the class.

Celebrate accomplishments as students learn. Students may create a document, laminated poster, or bound booklet that showcases their work and identifies future goals. Draw a timeline of growth in knowledge and skills. Play a special game. Throw a party! Bring in balloons and popcorn. Have each student write his or her name as an acrostic, and ask the other students to write encouraging words or phrases for each letter describing the student or his or her contributions to the class. Commend your students for their yearlong efforts and achievements.

Reflect to renew.

During the last few weeks of school, reflect on your teaching and set goals for the future. Describe your practice, analyze it, and launch new objectives. Capture your reflective process to show evidence of improved teaching competencies—via entries in a spiral notebook, scribbles by lesson plans, or adjustments to a behavior log. Structure your self-assessment with an evaluation tool or a teaching-standards document. When evaluating, don’t forget to celebrate your accomplishments!

Set specific goals.

Choose one or more professional-development goals to accomplish during the break. You might take a class, research an aspect of teaching, plan a new unit, or upgrade current documents. Select personal goals as well! Making time to walk in the park, read a book for pleasure, or finish a home project also is important. Enjoyable “life moments” renew your energy and restore your focus personally and professionally.

Try these ideas to keep your classroom a place for achievement and success until the final bell. When that bell rings, you’ll be the teacher who ended the year with “class”!

Self-Assessment

In a simple three-column table, document the following: Teaching Competency, Evidence in Practice, Future Goals. When completed, add this professional artifact to your portfolio.

 

 

Author: Sharon A. Kortman

Positive Parent Partnerships for Student Success

Parental Involvement

In one of my college teaching courses, I received a piece of advice that I always implemented in my teaching practice: “Make your first contact with parents a positive one!”

So, I sent out a letter at the start of the year to develop a positive relationship with my students’ parents.

As a new teacher, I felt my introductory letter set a tone of caring and concern and demonstrated that I had their child’s best interest at heart. However, I learned that sending a letter was not enough. Fostering a positive partnership means developing a respectful relationship when working with parents, especially when addressing student concerns.

Make your First Verbal Contact Count

Often the first meaningful verbal contact with parents is when a concern arises about their child. If an initial contact addresses a concern, start the conversation by sharing one genuine positive comment about the student. For example, I had a fifth-grade student who was not doing his classwork, and I knew his parents had not received many encouraging phone calls from school over the years. His mom’s first response to my call was, “What now?” I shared how I enjoyed her son’s sense of humor and told her he could get the whole class laughing. Her demeanor changed and we talked for a few minutes. Then I told her I was worried about her son not completing his classwork and that I needed her help. That was the start of a successful partnership, and her son ended up doing very well in my class.

Another strategy is to make positive phone calls home to share good news whenever possible. This is particularly important for students who struggle. Let them know you are watching for something good to share with parents.

Tell It Like You Want to Be Told

Before talking to a parent, think about the child you care about most in the world. Then think about how you would want to receive the information you are about to share. When you put yourself in the parent’s place, it helps you to be empathetic and diplomatic about how you discuss the concern.

Remove the Emotion

When talking to parents about an incident or behavioral concern, it is easy to become emotional. Before speaking to a parent, take a deep breath and remember that the student is likely acting a certain way to obtain something (e.g., attention) or avoid something (e.g., a difficult task), and it is not personal. Once you can have the conversation without feeling emotional, then discuss the concern.

Ask for Advice

Sometimes, no matter what we try, we cannot help students improve the choices they make. Ask parents how they handle the behavior. They may share a strategy that will work in the classroom. Working with parents is a partnership in which both parties have something to share, and parents know their children better than anyone else.

Actively Listen to Parents

When discussing concerns with parents, listen to what they have to say. This validates their feelings, and the information they share can provide valuable input in helping to support their child.

Let Parents Know About Concerns ASAP

We often let parents know about behavioral concerns right away, but sometimes we are slow to discuss academic concerns. Make parents aware of academic concerns as soon as a pattern emerges (e.g., turning in homework late). Then both of you can address concerns with the child, with no surprises when report cards come out.

Share Concerns When Student Behavior Changes

If a student starts acting out of character, contact the parents to see whether they have noticed a change as well. Sometimes major life changes will affect students in school, and the parents can let you know whether something important is going on. They may not need to share the exact issue, but knowing there is a reason for the change will help you support the child.

Resistant Parents: Do Not Assume the Worst

Unfortunately, developing a positive parent partnership does not work 100% of the time. Some parents are resistant to a partnership. Do not assume they do not care about their child. One of my former students cried because his parent could not take phone calls from school. Taking a phone call meant leaving the production line and losing wages. Parents have a lot of responsibilities to consider; refusing a phone call or missing an event may be the better choice to make.

If you work with resistant parents, talk with your school social worker or psychologist for guidance in forming partnerships. Sometimes those professionals have additional insight into families that can help you form connections and ensure that the student’s needs are being met.

Creating a positive partnership with parents takes time and commitment. You develop this partnership by treating parents with respect. You strengthen it by sharing good news as well as concerns. You achieve it when you recognize everything that the parents bring to the relationship.

Resources

For some additional help with building strong relationships with parents, check out these resources:

  • Nurturing Positive Relationships with Parents (bit.ly/ParentRelationships)
  • Getting Derailed Parent–Teacher Relationships Back on Track (bit.ly/NEABackonTrack)
  • New Teachers: Working with Parents (bit.ly/edutopia_Parents)

Image result for barbara meier university of wisconsin-eau claireDr. Meier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Clair. She teaches courses on reading for students with special needs, technology integration, and inclusion for elementary educators.

Teachers Are So Much More Than Teachers

Hi, I’m Katelynd Dreger. This is #WhyITeach.

Simply put, I am in it for the kids.

I go to school each day knowing that my kids need me. I am not just a teacher; I am a safe person, I am a parent, I am a counselor, I am a nurse. I enjoy helping others.

After graduating with my BA in Elementary Education, I spent a year and a half substitute teaching. I enjoyed being able to help so many kids. Some days it was obvious that I was able to help a kid, or maybe two, beyond simply teaching and filling the role of ‘teacher’ for the day. While on other days, it wasn’t so clear.

I eventually moved to Southwest Kansas to teach first grade. I was amazed that I had to teach my students to put toilet paper in the toilet and flush it because some of them did not have working toilets at home. This was also my first experience with a large number of students learning to speak English as a second language. While in Kansas, I made some strides with many students, which was incredibly rewarding.

One student, with whom I had a strong connection, required my help after he had gone to second grade, and his teacher passed away in the fall. He was a very loving and caring kid, so this hit him pretty hard. His mom came to me when he started acting out at school. He and I spent some time together during my planning period the following day. We talked about what was bothering him; we cried together, and we read a favorite story. Things started going better for him after that.

I know I am not a magician. But I also know how much relationships matter. Taking time to listen matters.

Another student I had while in Kansas struggled with his anger and was a reluctant reader. We were able to work on a system together to help him control his anger. Further, through an author study on Ezra Jack Keats, I was able to get him interested in reading. I’m not sure if it was the activities we did with the books or if it was just the right thing for him or a combination. He was particularly enamored with “Peter’s Chair.” His mom shared that they had that book at home and he’s never been interested in it. Sometimes it’s all about timing. Sometimes it’s all about the relationship. Sometimes it’s both.

After teaching in Kansas, I moved back to Southwest Michigan where I taught in a small private school for a few years. While there, I had a student who moved to Michigan from out of state when his father died in a car accident. On top of all of the emotional baggage he was carrying, he also struggled to be understood due to speech troubles. Some days, he needed extra love. Some days, he needed space and a chance to sit at our calm down spot (a classroom staple, inspired by him). Some days, he needed a break from the classroom. It was challenging every day to know which of these he needed, but it was so rewarding to know when we got it right.

Now, I am in a public school again. My kids need me every day. Many of them are going through life in ways that 8-year-old should not have to.

I’ve found that relationships are critical in all settings, but they mean so much more to the learners in my current environment.

Finally, while my title is classroom TEACHER, I am so much more than that. I teach for many reasons.

  • I teach to help kids learn to read and do math.
  • I teach to help kids learn to be successful citizens.
  • I teach to help kids learn to be true to themselves.
  • I teach to help kids through their problems, both at home and at school.
  • I teach to make a difference in the lives of kids.
  • I teach to make a difference in my community.
  • I teach to make a difference in my state.
  • I teach to make a difference in my country.
  • I teach to make a difference in the world.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Teaching Is An Expression Of My Authentic Self

Hi, I’m Mischelle Duranleau. This is #WhyITeach.

The question, “Why do you teach?” is still one that makes me pause even after 20 years as a classroom instructor.

I teach because I must. This is my best answer.

As an elective teacher in a small high school, I wear many hats. I have taught every level and form of art common in schools, psychology, sociology, health. and even home economics. No matter the specific subject and projects, I am blessed to teach much more than that. I teach students to believe in themselves, to celebrate failure, to build relationships that have a lasting impression.

It is difficult to draw one story from my memory banks that stands out as the pivotal “Aha!” moment. In twenty years, I have chosen to be open and honest with my students so that they could see how to face challenges with integrity and grit.

My true purpose is to teach the skills of embracing uncertainty and learning to be brave. When I was diagnosed with stage two, uterine sarcoma, my students shared in the emotional and physical transformation which was chemotherapy. Even though I was exhausted, bald, and frail, I made the choice to continue teaching during treatments. If I am to be completely honest, my students gave me their strength when I felt empty.

We talked openly about courage, fear, and embracing life just as it shows up.

Several years later, my school was rocked by the unexpected death of a very popular senior student months before he was supposed to graduate. His suicide rocked me to my knees. I questioned, “Was my presence of any value? Was I really making a difference?” The answer was clear when I came into the building the next day to a classroom full of students looking to me to help them navigate the unimaginable.

At that moment, I knew that teaching was more than information delivery.

Teaching is the courage to care, cry, and be human with my students. I must teach hope, integrity, and the skills needed to know that life will continue. To impart the ability to perceive and rise above to each occasion, knowing that we are in this together.

My room is a place of belonging, is safe to fail, feel vulnerable and to face life’s challenges with bravery.

I teach because it is an expression of my authentic self, essential as breathing.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Paying It Forward: Celebrating The Impact Of Teachers On Me

Hi, I’m Jasmine Bush. This is #WhyITeach.

Currently, I am the seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Esperanza Charter School within New Orleans, Louisiana.

I teach because it is truly my passion! I am in love with instilling knowledge, confidence, and overall motivation within my kids.

I teach because of the great impact my teachers had on my life. My teachers were more than teachers; they filled the spaces left unfulfilled in my homelife, and that helped me grow into who I am today.

I teach because I feel as if it’s something that I am made to do. The work is hard and not free from stress, but I do it for our future.

I teach because it’s truly who I am; I am not just a teacher. I often act as a caregiver, social worker, parent, mentor, therapist, etc. I teach in an urban setting and my students are faced with many opportunity gaps that interfere with their academic success. I teach because I can offer a bridge for those students to overcome those gaps. I plan lessons that expose my kids to many different experiences. I teach my kids and my kids also teach me. We are together in this as a team!

I teach because I truly care about and respect offering students quality education no matter their location or economic status. I grew up in a rural small city in southwest Georgia where resources were limited. Most students went to school, graduated, and went back to work on the family farm. My teachers gave me the notion and confidence to dream bigger and that I could achieve whatever goals I aspired. I teach so I can offer these ideas, notions, and goals to my children who are also faced with the idea that they can’t reach their goals because of who they are or where they live.

I am a first-generation college graduate, and I am completing my Masters in Teaching on May 11th.

So why do I teach?

I teach because I am an example of the outcome of having compassionate, understanding, confident, and knowledgeable teachers like me can offer in developing minds to facilitate student achievement and success in life.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

Growing Up, I Needed Someone To Tell Me It Was Going To Be Okay. Now, I Get To Be That Person

Hi, I’m Joshua Case. This is #WhyITeach.

As a child, I was diagnosed early on with both ADHD and Aspergers Syndrome. The Aspergers diagnosis was later changed to PDD-NOS, and I still suffer from both as an adult.

Today, as a 28 year old married man, I still struggle to keep my composure at loud social situations such as banquets, and my wife often has to repeat anything she tells me.

It’s hard to even sit down for a video game or a movie, no matter how much interest I have.

However, it could have been much worse.

I still remember every milestone as I got older. At age 12, I watched my first fireworks without running away. At age 14, I made the first friend that I kept for more than a year or two. At age 18, I had my first romantic relationship. At age 20, after confiding in a friend about my disabilities, they told me they could never tell. And at age 24, defying expectations, I earned an MAT and started teaching. This was the moment where I felt like a real civilized human for the first time, and I earned that MAT so I could help other children feel the same.

Today, I have a wide array of experiences, which I have tried to use in order to achieve that goal.

I started as a middle school science teacher in a high-needs school, where 99% of students were eligible for free lunch. Despite my difficulties growing up, I recognize my privilege as a white, Jewish boy from one of the best school districts in the state. This teaching placement was an adjustment.

But in each student, I saw potential and knew I was drawn to that location to play a role. I became as much of a counselor as I was a teacher and was able to apply what I’ve learned in my own situation(s) to help them succeed in a world that worked against them.

Some of them keep in touch, telling me how I prepared them well for high school and the goals they have for life.

Today, I am a special education teacher. I still teach pull-out environmental science classes and plug into a variety of subjects, but my focus is on working with students like me. Many of my students have the same disabilities as me, some have others, but they’re all beneficiaries of my support. I feel proud of each and every one of them for all of their milestones—showing up to class, turning in an assignment on time, opening up to someone, and whatever else they struggle to accomplish.

I teach because, when I was growing up, I needed someone like me to tell me I was okay. Now I get to be that person.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!

My Teaching Inspiration Is My Brother, My First Pupil

Hi, I’m Ilana Rashba. This is #WhyITeach.

For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed learning and teaching others.

When I first found out that I was going to be a sister, at four years old, I was ecstatic to have a “real student” other than my stuffed animals.

Little did my brother know at that time, he was my very first pupil and is now the reason why I do what I do.

I was always “that student” who absolutely loved school since academics came easily to me. I look back on my own schooling experience and I am truly filled with wonderful memories. I can pinpoint exactly which teachers challenged me, encouraged me, and shaped me into being the person I am today. I am one of the lucky ones.  I loved school and school loved me.

I couldn’t imagine anyone not loving school in the way I did—except there was one; my brother had a very different relationship with school than I did. Sure, he never really put up a fight about going, but I know that for him school was challenging and a place where he didn’t feel good about himself.

As the older sister, I tried to help him and show him the ways that helped me, convinced that my way of learning would be successful for him. When they weren’t, I felt so defeated. I kept looking for different ways that would allow him to understand multiplication.

I realized that my brother, like many students, just needed the information presented in a different way. I thought about what my brother liked and suddenly it came to me.

The best way for my brother to understand the 7’s times tables was through thinking in terms of football touchdowns; a connection worked and stuck like glue! 9 years late, he now has a great relationship with school and is about to graduate from college—possibly with honors!

I teach to make a difference in all my students’ lives.

I teach to make connections with my students that will enhance their relationship with school.

I teach to make students excited about school and learning because I’ve personally seen the difference it can make.

Connect with me on KDP’s Educator Learning Network!