My very first job was in Mrs. Morris’ first grade classroom at Lindbergh Elementary School. Mrs. Morris gave me the best job of all -cleaning the chalkboard erasers! I was thrilled to have the opportunity to go outside for two minutes, bang the erasers together, watch the cloud of dust go up in the air, and wait until it lessened to know when they were officially “clean”. Looking back, that probably was not the cleanest job, but it gave me a small sense of purpose and leadership that I longed for in the classroom.
As a teacher, I want my students to have that same feeling of purpose and leadership in my classroom. When I was at an elementary school, I had the privilege to provide a group of students the opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills through running a school store. Students had to complete an application and go through an interview. Seeing these students feel empowered at their interview as they answered questions such as “what has been your proudest moment this year” or “how would working at the school store help you achieve your goals” made me smile. These interviews provided them a time to talk about themselves and let them dream of their future. Students received training in their job duties and then mentored the “new employees”. I witnessed these students transfer their leadership skills back into the classroom and with their peers.
Creating student leadership opportunities in the classroom can also assist teachers in the daily struggle of juggling all the daily tasks. These opportunities provide students a sense of purpose, belonging, and leadership all while helping you maintain your sanity throughout the course of the day.
Here are leadership opportunities you may want to consider implementing into your classroom:
Are you ready to launch leadership opportunities in your classroom? Try these tips and tricks to help you get started:
Take a minute to check out the video below to see student workers in action!
If you would like more ideas or to help you implement some classroom leadership opportunities, please feel free to reach out to me anytime!
This post brought to you by Katie Miller, K-12 EL Implementation Associate
There is no sugar coating it, implementing anything new, including new curriculum, in the first few years can be a challenging and stressful time for teachers. Statistics tell us that if you have been teaching for at least three years you have probably been a part of a new curriculum implementation. So, whether you are implementing a new idea, a new approach or a new curriculum, here are some tips to help you along as you begin this journey.
1. Approach it with a Growth Mindset
If we chose to approach a challenge as an opportunity to improve our instruction and have a greater impact on student learning that, in the end, is what is most likely to happen. A collective belief of an entire staff in their ability to positively affect students is called Collective Teacher Efficacy (CTE). In his most recent publication, John Hattie cites Collect Teacher Efficacy as having the greatest affect size or positive impact on student success. Individual belief is good, a common shared belief is even better. Believe you can achieve, and you will. Believe you will fail, and you will.
"We all do better when we all do better." – Sen. Paul Wellstone
2. Be Up for the Challenge
Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin’s’ Research and Development Center for Teacher Education tells us that “real and meaningful change takes time and always comes with challenges. Build in space for setbacks. Anticipate obstacles and meet them with a cool head. One of the most difficult aspects of adopting new curriculum (or anything new for that matter) and instituting real change is the fear of failure that comes with it. Understand there is room for failure as long as there is a commitment to learning from it.” Give yourself permission to try something and know if it does not work as anticipated, you can reset and try approaching it a different way.
"To create a new standard, you have to be up for that
challenge and really enjoy it." -Shigeru Miyamoto
3. Be kind to yourself
Celebrate the success as you go along. Don’t be afraid to say, “This is going well!” and share that success with colleagues. On the flip side, don’t be too discouraged when something doesn’t go well. It is all part of the process. Remember there is a great deal of work to be done in this process, but do not give up that important “me and/or family time”. This is what energizes us to sustain the effort in the long run.
"If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me." - Maya D’Angelo
4. Don’t work too hard on the unimportant things
Sometimes we can get caught up in the “bells and whistles” and spend too much time on the unimportant things like fancy bulletin boards. In her blog, Nancy Flanagan reminds us, “The most important thing you can do before schools starts is think about the curriculum and the kids you are teaching” Keep your focus on best instructional practices. Your time is precious, as you do your unit and daily planning ask yourself, “What is it I want my students to learn today and what is most effective way to get there?” Remember, cute worksheets do not develop conceptual understanding.
"You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple." -Steve Jobs
5. Don’t be afraid to let some things go
Change is the opportunity for a fresh start. Try new things. Rejuvenate. It is OK to let the old files go. (Even if it is your favorite). Change is difficult for many reasons. Sometimes it is because we believe we are losing something of value. Some teachers may share these sentiments: “I liked the old curriculum, it worked for me” or “I have spent a great deal of time developing resources for (insert initiative here), now I have to start over”. Or it might be that we fear that we will not be able to adapt to something new… again. Stepping out of our comfort zone is how we grow and improve.
"Let it go. Let it go." – Elsa, Disney’s Frozen
6. Give it time
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Research tells us it takes years to effectively implement a new curriculum. It can take just as long to implement other aspects of change. There is definitely a learning curve to this process. Take it one day at a time with your eye on the goal of increasing student learning.
"Patience is a key element of success." - Bill Gates
7. Know that You Are Not Alone
We can no longer teach in isolation. There is so much value in collaboration. There are many people who want to support you and to see you succeed in this endeavor. Your colleagues may be experiencing the same feelings of uncertainty and frustration as they work to make changes and try new things. Be sure to reach out and share successes and concerns. We can all learn from each other.
"The smartest person in the room, is the room." – David Weinberger
8. Take advantage of all the possible professional develop you can
In order to effectively do anything new, you need some degree of learning to occur. Take advantage of all the possible staff development opportunities you can that are offered right within your own district. The more you know about the content area, concepts being taught and best instructional practices the more success you will have in increasing your students’ learning. Look for courses to support your learning on the RPS PDexpress.
In regards to the new elementary math curriculum, you may want to organize a cohort that uses the Curriculum’s Teachers’ Edition as a Book Study for CEU’s. This gives you the opportunity to study and have professional dialogue as you “unwrap” your new curriculum together. The Office of Curriculum and Instruction will be offering as much math support and training as it possibly can. Please contact us with questions, concerns and ideas as to how we can best support your learning.
"The most effective teachers actively seek to improve their own teaching." - John Hattie
9. Have confidence in the leg-work that others have already done
Whether you are trying a new behavior plan, a new method of grading, or a new curriculum, likely you chose it because there was research to show that it was effective and produced great results. Whether you did the research or you read someone else’s research, believe and trust that of all the choices out there, this one rose to the top as being worthy of replication.
In regards to the new elementary math curriculum, trust that “great care” was given in the development and selection of this curriculum. You may or may not have been a part of the articulation or curriculum adoption process. However, if you are a staff member in the Rochester Public School system, you need to know that many of your colleagues spent a great deal of time reviewing data, current best practices in instruction and content as part of a process to select this new curriculum. Every step of this process focused on what is best for our students. Believe that the articulation committee made the best decisions possible in the selection of this curriculum.
"Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence." – Vince Lombardi
Finally, the best tip of all – believe in yourself. The biggest difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is not intelligence, opportunity, or resources. It is the belief that they can make their goals happen. We all deal with vulnerability, uncertainty, and failure. Some people trust that if we move forward anyway, then we will figure it out. If you do not believe that it has possible to make new things work, then it is hard to make any progress. It does not matter how good the ideas are, nothing will work for you if you do not believe in it. And more importantly, nothing will work if you don't believe in yourself.
"YOU GOT THIS!!!!" - The office of Curriculum and Instruction
The journey may not be easy. You will not always be successful on your first attempt. You may love some things you are trying and dislike others. You may soar high and then crash but you will soar again; Higher, father and faster than you could ever imagine.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
I love the Verizon ads that always asked that question. Perhaps it is because one of the greatest challenges I hear repeatedly from teachers across the district is in regards to parent communication. Each year as a classroom teacher, I would reflect on how effective my chosen methods of communication were over the course of a school year. I typically had frequent contact with about 25% of my families, moderate contact with about 50% of my families, and little to no contact with about the other 25% of my families. By contact, I mean two-way communication that takes place on a weekly basis.
In looking at my own practices, I realize now that I was great at one-way communication; newsletters, notes in planners, forms sent home with students, etc. However, I was not offering my families any great tools, other than email or phone, to actually converse with me about their student and how things were going at school. Therefore, this summer I set out to find what other educators are using.
What I learned is that there is a TON of apps out there specifically designed to accomplish the task of parent-teacher communication. I spent some time exploring and weeding through the plethora of options out there and have come up with a list of 5 that impressed me the most and had fantastic teacher reviews.
If you are looking to communicate in a timely manner with parents these days, some form of technology is a must. These are just 5 of a multitude of apps that are available to accomplish this task. If none of these strikes your fancy, there are much more from which to choose. Ultimately, all that matters is that our families can hear us.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
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