Be Supportive - Touchstones 5-8 / by Tyler Wood

Item 5 - I engage student interest with every lesson

Higher expectations are great but without the students being engaged with the material it is asking too much, or students might feel it's asking too much. A "high school in Washington D.C. enrolled all its students in AP courses, its pass rate was a dismal 2 percent" (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 5, para 2). Having the expectations alone doesn't translate into success. 

Another study by "Ronald Fryer Jr., a researcher at Harvard University, offered 18,000 students in four cities a total of $6.3 million in rewards to show up to school, behave better, or get better grades" (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 5, para 5) but had no effects. It was speculated that it didn't improve performance because the students didn't know what the "better" meant or how to get there. 

Many people will tell you ways to engage students, but it doesn't have to be standing on desks, a la Dead Poets Society. It can be simple things like asking an engaging question that hangs over the class all lesson, mixing desks up, or even pacing. Offering the students choices is another way to pique their interest because it can become more interactive. 

The essential idea is the 'why'. What is a child's favorite question? Why, of course. Let's not force them somewhere else, let's take the learning to their interests. Asking essential questions about the 'why' or 'how' is building their critical thinking skills and engaging them with the topic at hand. Click the button below for more information on essential questions.

 

Item 6 - I interact meaningfully with every student

Several surveys (Yazzie-Mintz, 2010, and Quaglia Institute, 2011) found that one of the contributing factors to student boredom in class is lack of teacher interaction (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 6, para 3). As Rita Pierson stated in the video in my introduction, "every child needs a champion" that will be supportive in school. Not just a few of your favorite students, but all of the students. Many students have parents or other family members who are champions for them, but some, unfortunately, do not. School should be a place of acceptance and growth.  

Research shows that students that feel connected to at least one teacher in school have much better success in the long-term. Knowing that is important, but what do we do about it?

 - It can be as simple as saying 'hello' every morning as the children come into the class. The students knowing that you are seeing them as people is important.

 - Ask everyone questions, not just the students that always raise their hands. It may be uncomfortable for some students at first, but it sends the message that you want to hear their ideas and views and encourages them to engage with each other and be a part of class. 

 - Smile. Seems obvious, but these subtle non-verbal cues can have an impact on students morale in class. Click the button below for more about the unspoken language we speak to our students everyday.

 - Learn names quickly. Students want you to know their names because they want to feel like you care. We tend to feel good when someone remembers our name, especially a person we didn't think ever knew it. That feeling can occur with students if you are quick enough with learning their names. 

- Let your guard down. I like to go 'off topic' now and again to let the kids get to know me and so I can get to know them more - "not every waking moment in the classroom must be dedicated to learning" (Goodwin and Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 6, para 31). Having some personal time helps build that relationship with the students that helps their learning success in the future.

 - Don't be so serious. How many people that thought of their favorite teacher thought of a teacher that was always serious? Be honest. Probably not many, or dare I say, zero of you. Serious can be useful, but not all the time. Make a joke, let the kids have some fun, learning can be fun, if you let it be. 

Click the link below for more information on how to establish a positive classroom climate.

 

Item 7 - I use feedback to encourage effort

Students are bored in school. Is that a surprising statement? If it is, you must have gone to an amazing school. Sure we had our great teachers, but that wasn't every teacher all the time. And even our great teachers might not have been great to a classmate of ours. So what is going on here? Why are students bored? "The top two reasons they cite for being bored are that classroom material is uninteresting (82 percent) and that it is not personally relevant to them (41 percent), Yazzie-Mintz" (as quoted by Goodwin &Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 6, para 2).

One way that is really interesting for solving this problem is "flipping" a classroom. The Khan Academy has been working with teachers in California to try this method and it seems like it has been working wonderfully. The video makes many good points about how technology can actually help with feedback and also help get more teacher time with each student.

I have also been engaging in the idea of gamification in my classroom with rewards and points. It is, basically, an updated sticker board that utilizes the research video games have done for us about rewards, feedback, and keeping someone engaged. If you can't beat'em join'em.  

 

Item 8 - I create an oasis of safety and respect in my classroom

If there is an elephant in the room, it doesn't matter how great of a teacher you are or how interesting your classes are, kids will be distracted. One disruptive child, or even worse, bully, can bring a whole class off it's focus. Having well thought out classroom management can be a life-saver in a classroom. Any current or former teacher will probably attest, that is the one skill many people struggle with the most when they start teaching. 

What I have found in my classes is that children respond to consistency and fairness. This may seem obvious, but it is something to really sit down and figure out for a classroom. Having set rules for behavior, especially behavior you involve students in creating, will go a long way with letting the class settle in and focus. 

Using positive language is helpful in encouraging good behavior, rather than discouraging bad. And to go along with that, rewarding those doing a good job, not just punishing those that don't. Keep consistent and, over time, the kids will be able to police themselves. By the end of my last year, I rarely had to give any negative feedback because I encouraged the children to help each other be good behavior monitors for each other. They went from telling on each other for minor things, to setting good examples and helping each other stay on-task. 

Don't let small things escalate to bigger things. We can uproot an oak tree with our bare hands if we pull it up when it's a seedling. Click the button below for techniques on how to deal with bullying. Every school should be safe for students to learn.

It also helps to not connect their personality to the behavior, let the children know that it's the behavior that is the problem, not them. On the flip side, don't take the students outburst as a personal affront to you, the teacher. Usually, "student misbehavior...has nothing to do with us as individuals. Rather, it reflects other motives, such as resisting authority, shirking responsibility, or seeking attention" (Goodwin & Hubbell, "Be Supportive: Item 8", para 41).


References

Goodwin, Bryan & Hubbell, Elizabeth R. (2013) The 12 Touchstones of Good Teaching: A 

     Checklist For Staying Focused Every Day [E-reader version]. Retrieved from 

     http://www.amazon.com/The-Touchstones-Good-Teaching-Checklist/dp/1416616012

 

National Center on Time & Learning. (2014, March). Why Time Matters.

    Retrieved from http://timeandlearning.org/why-time-matters

 

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2014). Respond to Bullying.

    Retrieved from http://www.stopbullying.gov/respond/index.html

 

Wiggins, G. (2007). What is an Essential Question? Big Ideas: An Authentic Education e-Journal,

    1. Retrieved from https://www.authenticeducation.org/ae_bigideas/article.lasso?artid=53