I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say “I am not good at math”. This is from students, parents, friends, and colleagues, many if not all, I believe to have normal to well above average intelligence. On the flip side, no one really freely admits, “ I can’t read, or comprehend text well.” Why is that? Why is it so easy to admit we don’t understand or like math? Don’t get me wrong, there are many people out there that love math and are making great strides in mathematical thinking. But for many of us, something went wrong and math is not our “thing”.
We have a name for this propensity for not liking math, it is called, "Math Phobia” and it is at epidemic proportions. Math phobia is actually defined in a medical dictionary as a feeling of tension, apprehension or fear about one’s ability to do math, which subsequently interferes with the performance thereof.
This phobia is present everywhere in our society and has prompted an entire industry of memes and graphic T-shirts that promote the idea that math is hard and scary. (Underlying message, so it’s ok not to be good at it or to even try.) When we believe something to be too difficult to master, this attitude stops us from focusing on the problem we are trying to solve.
So what went wrong, why do so many lack confidence in our math skills?
Research suggests that for many of us it was the way we were taught. Math was taught to most strictly through the study of arithmetic and computation. We were led to believe math was a list of rules and specific algorithms that could only be memorized and procedures done specific ways to get to the one correct answer. You were considered smart if you could compute quickly. Thinking about math this way is boring, stressful and/or unproductive. In his article, Why Do Students Fear Math, Pradeep Kumar states;
Another reason that many people feel they are not good at math is that they were lead to believe you are either born to be good at math or you were not. The truth is that we are not predestined to be good or bad at math, although the attitude that you are a math person or you are not continues to prevail. Stanford University Professor Jo Boaler says,
How does our own attitude about math affect how we teach math and more importantly, how does it impact our student's success rates?
Research suggests that parents and teachers with anxiety about algebra and equations transmit those feelings to their children and students, who then perform worse on math. Math anxiety has been recognized as an impediment to math achievement. As teachers, our attitude and confidence with math skills have a direct impact on our student's achievement rates in math.
In a recent study, Boaler and her fellow researchers recruited 40 5th-grade teachers from the Central Valley to take a 12-hour online math course she and her team created. The course, “How to Learn Math for Teachers,” covers perceptions about math, how anyone — with enough practice — can develop the brain skills to understand complex math problems, and how math is used in everyday life. The course also covers basic math concepts, such as number patterns and reasoning, and offers tips for teaching those concepts.
When commenting about the impact of the Stanford study, published in the journal Education Sciences, Jo Boaler said,
For our students to do well in math, many of us need to change our own attitudes and understanding of mathematical concepts and ideas.
Changing perceptions and skill sets is difficult. Where do we begin? The first step is to adopt a growth mindset. A growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. If you have not read it already, I highly recommend you read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.d. This philosophy has been a game changer for many. (This one, in my opinion, is also worth a second look even if you have already read it).
About a decade later, Dweck’s Stanford University colleague Jo Boaler piggy-backed off these ideas and applied it to mathematics. Mathematical Mindsets was published in 2016 applying advanced neurological research to how students best learn mathematical concepts. This book sparked an international resurgence in mathematical best practices. This is a must read for any teacher of mathematics. In it, Jo Boaler explores the power of mistakes and struggle, the concept that there are creativity and beauty in mathematics, (A concept I did not get at any time during my math education), the importance of developing flexibility with numbers and how mathematics is a path to equity.
When I first read Mathematical Mindsets, the greatest take away for me was there are creativity and beauty in math. What?!?! As a recovering mathophob myself, I was led to believe math was all about speed and (this one is from my dad who would sit with me as I cried through my math homework) you only get the right answer if you have a sharp pencil. In the book, you are introduced to Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman to win the Fields Medal (equivalent to the Nobel Prize for Mathematics). If you have not heard of her before, her amazing and tragic story is worth looking up. Born in Iran, Maryam was a mathematician at Stanford who studied hyperbolic surfaces and who had in 2016 produced what has been called the “theory of the decade”. Surprisingly, Mirzakhani described herself as a "slow" mathematician, saying that "you have to spend some energy and effort to see the beauty of math." To solve problems, Mirzakhani would draw doodles on sheets of paper and write mathematical formulas around the drawings. Her daughter described her mother's work as "painting". In Mathematical Mindsets Maryam is quoted as saying:
For many of us, math was taught strictly through the study of arithmetic and computation. The reality is that mathematics is so much more than that. We need to make the study of mathematics more meaningful and engaging for the next generation. We need to take that leap of faith and believe that even as adults we have the ability to learn more about math concepts and with a growth mindset promote positive attitudes towards the discovery of math for ourselves and the future generations we serve. Be the teacher that promotes this T-shirt.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Best Way to Change Scores is to Change Teachers Attitudes
Challenging Myths About Learning
Jo Boaler Ted Talk: How you can be good at math and other surprising facts about learning.
(2008) Foundations for Success: The Final Report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, National Mathematics Advisory Panel (U.S. Department of Education, Washington, DC).
St.Myers, Andrew; Carey, Bjorn (15 July 2017). "Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford mathematician and Fields Medal winner, dies". Stanford News. Retrieved 17 July 2017
Jacobson, Howard (29 July 2017). "The world has lost a great artist in mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 October 2017.
Well, we are officially rolling with the school year! The new supplies are in their places, new routines are being solidified, and classrooms are buzzing with new learning. We’ve introduced ourselves to our students and had them introduce themselves to us. There have been all sorts of ice breakers and “get to know you” activities. We know that this student loves dogs, this other one loves to dance, another one loves music, and this one over here loves to read science fiction. Our traditional “get to know you” activities are really great tools to gather information about our students. We talk about them a lot at the beginning of the year, but I’m proposing we DON’T stop doing them once the shine wears off of those new school supplies.
This time of year, when I reflect on the different ways we get to know our students after the first few days of school, I often think of my 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Anderson. Our first assignment of the year was to write our own obituary (yeah…super morbid, right?). I wrote the required one page of “She was loved by her family…” “She was preceded in death by…” “She did this and that…”. I turned it in and a few days later, it came back to me, dripping in red ink. I was convinced I had completely failed. As I started to read the comments on my paper though, my anxiety lifted. All along the margins, I read comments like, “No way! Your grandpa was my bus driver when I was a kid!” and “Your cousin is my best friend!”. Awkward and anxious me suddenly knew I had someone in my corner. Mr. Anderson was making connections with me that went beyond my favorite color or which sports I play, and I suddenly cared much more about my English class than I ever imagined I would. Throughout the year in that English class, every writing assignment came back with Mr. Anderson’s commentary along the margins, forcing me to rethink my thesis or supporting arguments, or cracking a joke about a silly spelling error. Every once in a while, I would find a post it on my desk, introducing me to authors like Jane Smiley or Toni Morrison (who is, to this day, my favorite). Mr. Anderson had taken the time throughout the year to get to know me both as a learner and as a person who had a life outside of his classroom.
This year, you are going to hear a lot about the district’s continued work around culturally and linguistically responsive teaching practices, or CLR. We know we need to think about culture and bias. We know how important it is to understand who our students are culturally and the cultural nuances they bring to our classrooms every day. That is why I’d like to provide a few “get to know you” strategies that can be used throughout the year, multiple times, to continue to build relationships and connections with your students and get to know them as cultural beings.
- Six Word Memoir -
Invite students to reflect on how they see themselves; as learners, as third graders, as members of the community or members of their families, etc. The options are endless. Then, have them summarize themselves in 6 words. For example, here is one of my own: Farm girl, city girl, indecisive girl.
The beauty of this strategy is that is can be used multiple times throughout the year. As students feel more and more comfortable, watch their memoirs change. For more examples, look here.
- Group It -
This one is quick, fun, AND it gets students moving around the room. (CLR strategy, yo!)
Round one: Choose a category (such as favorite colors) and tell students to divide themselves into only 4 groups. The students have to work together to determine which 4 colors will be represented. Those whose favorite may not be listed will have to get creative about which group they will belong to.
Round two: Tell students they will now have to divide themselves into 3 groups. Give them another category. Again, students will have to work together and get creative to determine how they will group themselves.
Round three: Now tell students they will have to divide into only 2 groups. Give them a category and let them decide how to split themselves.
This activity helps students find commonalities and make connections with their classmates. They also have to practice problem solving and language skills while they communicate with you and their classmates. You can make the categories more or less complex, depending on your students.
- Walk and Talk -
Pose a question to your students and have them pair up with a classmate (or the teacher) and go on a short walk around the school to discuss the question. You could do this as often as you’d like, having students pair up with someone new each time.
This activity is so versatile. You can use it as a “get to know you” activity or you can have students reflect on class content. Once again, the options are endless. If you need help thinking of questions, check out this website.
Getting to know our students never really ends and when they know we care about them beyond our classroom, they are more likely to be present and stay engaged, well beyond their days with us. We are all on this journey together and even small steps, like making connections with our students, can help pave our way to more meaningful connections and deeper learning. If you would like more ideas, or if you have any you would like to share, please email me any time!
Minnesota standards require us to teach about the indigenous people to our state. From that point, it is our responsibility to ensure that what we are teaching is accurate. Minnesota state standards require that our students encounter different teachings about Dakota and Ojibwe people throughout their K-12 experience. Learning about Indigenous People and the history of our area before America’s colonization is fundamental to understanding the relationships between people and place. We cannot truly understand the dynamics of our area if we do not include a long and multi-perspective history. Teaching accurately about Indigenous People benefits not just our Native students, but also all students.
In my short time working for the school district, I have noticed there is never enough time in a day to teach all the things that need to be taught and there is an ever-present desire to find new resources. I have also noted the increasing number of blogs and information hubs, such as Pinterest, that have easy ready to use ideas.
Unfortunately, by using these resources, what ends up happening is an overload of information that often times isn’t well researched or vetted through any credible sources. Inadvertently, this can lead to activities that perpetuate stereotypes, keep Native Americans in the past, and demote native culture to cute crafts.
Something we want to work to avoid is only exposing students to historical views of Native Americans. Today there are 572 federally recognized tribes, 11 of which are located in our state. We want students to understand the sacrifice these tribes have made at the benefit of our country, as well as learn about tribes that have called Minnesota home for 100s and thousands of years to help build well-rounded learners.
An example of how we can begin to do that is to help students make connections and understand the differences between the various Native tribes. Many people know southwest Indians use adobe dwellings to stay cool, but let’s not stop there. We should build on understanding that each tribe has its own traditions, clothing, types of dwellings, etc. dependent on the region they inhabited. It is important to learn about tribes from around the country, but Minnesota state standards require us to place an emphasis on learning about our tribes here in Minnesota.
As educators, we can be better equipped to teach our students about Indigenous people by taking advantage of events and professional learning opportunities provided by various education associations and societies. Here are some of the great upcoming opportunities, most of which happen on an annual or even more frequent basis.
As we approach summer and think about professional development in our upcoming year, I encourage everyone to consider one of these amazing opportunities. Let us all strive to teach Native American content in the humanizing manner with which we teach all other subjects. As always, I am here to help in whatever way I can.
With the tragedy of the latest school shooting weighing heavily on many of our minds and social media, congress and the courts taking up the arguments of what should be done, teachers may be asking themselves, “What can I do today, that would make a difference?”
As a nation, we will need to address the issue of keeping our students safe at school. There are no easy answers and it will take time. For today, I believe that the one thing that many of us can agree on is that all children, from early childhood through high school graduation, need to feel safe and have a deep sense of belonging in our schools.
We can build that sense of belonging and community into our classroom and school culture by carving out a very important 20 minutes at the beginning of each day for a morning meeting; the purpose of which is to focus on building relationships. Relationships between teachers and students and relationships among the students; relationships that will build solid friendships, develop empathy, create greater understanding, foster confidence and deepen that important sense of self-worth and belonging. "People who have a sense of belonging are less likely to want to hurt themselves or others" (Oliker 2012).
Teachers who incorporate morning meetings take dedicated time to focus on building a safe and comfortable community in the classroom where every student is heard and held responsible for his/her actions. It is a time to encourage kids to care for one another. According to Responsive Classroom, a morning meeting done well should:
Take a moment to watch and listen to what Huntsville Elementary staff and students have to say about morning meeting.
There are several models of morning meetings from which teachers can get ideas. The Responsive Classroom model is based on the idea that students' social-emotional growth is just as important as their academic growth. The Responsive Classroom approach is informed by the work of educational theorists and the experiences of exemplary classroom teachers. Six principles guide this approach:
Responsive Classroom offers a template for morning meetings that has four key components:
Research supports that establishing a morning meeting in your classroom can positively impact the social emotional learning of your students. (Kriete & Bechtel, 2002) & Gardner (2012). There are several sites in our district who are currently using morning meetings and are seeing positive results. If you would like to visit a site and talk to staff who are already implementing morning meetings, please contact me and I can help to make arrangements.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Oliker, Ditta M (2012). On Being the Outsider-the lasting effects of being excluded, Psychology Today Nov. 9 2012
Gardner, C. (2012). Morning meeting and science -- a winning combination. Science & Children, 50(1), 60-64.
Kriete, R., & Bechtel, L. (2002). The morning meeting book. Greenfield, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children.
How many times has a student pushed your buttons or tried to get into a power struggle with you? Low breathing and smiling keeps a teacher’s body and heart rate calm, which in turn keeps the students calm and prevents verbal challenges. So, do you want to build even better relationships with your students with an even greater focus on content?
It is essential, that as teachers, we give students fair and consistent boundaries, while at the same time, maintaining and preserving relationships. A majority of our students are motivated to learn and behave when we operate from a base of INFLUENCE instead of POWER.
In our work as ENVoY coaches, we have seen teachers consistently use Educational Non-Verbal Yardsticks (ENVoY) GEMS to build more meaningful relationships with all students, focus even more on content, and increase student independence.
Some may think using ENVoY means misbehavior is ignored but that is not the case. ENVoY is not void of discipline. It is more importantly, a set of solid culturally responsive routines used to influence students to increase their on-task independence. When discipline is needed, staff should utilize their building-wide processes and procedures.
According to ENVoY’s author, Michael Grinder, adults who systematically utilize the full range of nonverbal management skills reinforce consistent and fair parameters with all students, regardless of unique learning styles or cultural backgrounds.
Think of it like this: If you purposely tried to use words mostly for content and relationships, and used non-verbal signs, gestures, or signals to manage behavior/transitions, how would that impact your classroom? Coaches can help you identify the balance and art of managing behaviors by influence rather than power.
These practices are not only for classrooms, but media centers, hallways, gyms, computer labs, special education rooms, and main offices can also feel the positive impact of ENVoY.
ENVoy strategies- are identified by 4 phases of teaching and include the following GEMS:
Getting Attention: Freeze Body, Above Pause Whisper
Teaching: Raise Your Hand/Speak Out
Transition to Seat Work: Exit Directions, M.I.T.S. (Most Important Twenty Seconds)
Seatwork: Off/Neutral /On, Influence Approach
Below are some ideas and examples of how teachers tailor ENVoY fit their personal teaching style:
Above (said 2 levels above that of the group) Pause (for silence and attention) Whisper (to begin the content)
The value of the routine affords any guest teacher the opportunity to gather students efficiently with their own Above Pause Whisper as well.
Exit Directions (visual list of what students Need, Do, When, How, and Then)
ENVoY recommends routines for students to manage their own learning. After group instruction, teachers go through Exit Directions then allow students a moment to process, ask questions for clarification, then move into work time. The teacher can use the visuals to NONVERBALLY direct students who may need additional help getting started. Exit Directions also ease transitions for students and adults entering the room at various times. They quickly read what the class is working on and are able to begin with minimal direction/distraction.
Silent Select (written names for student selection)
ENVoY recommends silent select for least disturbance when requesting students from classrooms. Support teachers could write students names on whiteboards or have printed lists and smile and stand silently at the door.
Developing ENVoY routines and management strategies help students feel safe and experience structure and expectations that support their learning. Contact an ENVoY Resident Coach to increase your ENVoY capacity!
This post brought to you by Paula Kuisle, Instructional/ENVoY Coach, Elton Hills Elementary
and Angie Ellsworth, Behavior/ENVoY Coach, Pinewood Elementary
Feel free to connect with Paula via her email or Angie via her email
Supporting our students who are not looking forward to winter break.
For many of us the holiday season is truly like the Andy Williams tune the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Many of our Rochester Public School students are anxiously anticipating the ten-day winter break from classes. They have holiday plans, will participate in family traditions, festive meals and parties, visit relatives, attend seasonal events, travel and have time to just play with friends and possibly new toys they have received. Looking forward to these things can be exciting. However, as teachers with classrooms of diverse students, we need to be mindful that for some students this is not the case.
Most teachers are very aware of the cultural diversity within their classroom and try to address the holiday season with cultural sensitivity by not promoting one holiday over another. Nevertheless, how can we support the students that are just not looking forward to being away from school for such an extended period? As Trevor Muir wrote in his blog: Not All Students Look Forward to the Holidays:
“While most kids (and teachers!) flee from the school gleefully on the last day, [there are some] that dread the break from school. They miss the structure of the school day; the stability of the classroom: the presence of friends; the free food in the cafeteria; and the love their teachers give them.”
If we take a moment to pause and think about it, it is my guess that each teacher could think of students they work with that will have these feelings of dread for the approaching break. These students do not have family events to look forward to, they will not be receiving gifts, some will wonder who will care for them and others will wonder from where they will get their next meal.
So how can we best support these students? The following is a list (compiled from suggestions from the resources cited below) of ways we can support our most vulnerable students during this time.
Be the listener your students need
Talk privately with your students about what they might be doing over the break so you know which students may need emotional support or help with resources to get them through this time.
Be aware of how you talk about winter break
In his blog, Trevor Muir has excellent advice about how to be sensitive to all students when you talk about winter break. Change the conversation from “What are you excited about?” and “What are you going to get?” to challenge them about what they might accomplish or who they might be able to help out.
Give students the opportunity to serve
As a class brainstorm a list of ways students could help or serve others during the time off. There is always that good feeling you get when you know you have helped or made a difference for someone else.
Provide resources for our students with the greatest needs
If you have a student(s) with resource needs, connect with your school social workers as they may be aware of a more comprehensive list of community resources. Below are some of our local organizations that provide resources for students and families in need.
As much as we would like to, we cannot make this the most wonderful time of the year for all our students, but with a little thoughtfulness we may be able to make it a little less difficult for those that are struggling.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Not All Students Look forward to the Holidays, Trevor Muir, https://www.weareteachers.com/supporting-students-winter-break/ Dec. 14, 2017
Parenting Kids As much as we would like to, we cannot make this the most wonderful time of the year for all our students, but with a little thoughtfulness we may be able to make it a little less difficult for those that are struggling.
Who Sabotage the Holidays, https://www.thechaosandtheclutter.com/archives/parenting-kids-who-sabotage-holidays
5 Reasons You might NOT Look Forward to the Holidays, http://wisestressmastery.com/5-reasons-holidays/ December 3, 2015
As educators, we often acknowledge that this time of year is stressful for many of our students. A long break during which schools are closed is often not a joyful thing for students who don’t know where they will be getting food during this time or worry about who will be taking care of them while adults in the family work. While it is important that we recognize the stress our students may be feeling, it is also important to recognize the stress we are under at this time of year. Many educators are hanging on the edge by their fingertips hoping they can make it to that magical event we call “winter break”.
Did you know that behavior referrals tend to spike in late November and the month of December? Is that because students suddenly become that much more difficult to deal with or is it possible we as teachers simply run out of patience for things we have been able to work through up to this point in the year? I don’t have a definitive answer but I do know that teacher stress is very real and can have a very negative impact on students. When we as educators are stressed and not fully engaged in our work, we inadvertently cause our students to become disengaged as well. A disengaged student is often one that then misbehaves, which would help explain our behavior referral spikes.
So what can we do? Here are some tips that may help you not just “hang on” until winter break, but reach it feeling good about the profession you chose and the job you do each day.
1. Identify what is stressing you out
Get out a pen and paper and write it down. Sometimes writing things down helps reduce the enormity of the situation you have created in your mind. It also allows you to systematically tackle the issues before you.
2. Interrupt negativity
Your thoughts can swirl out of control and spill over into your physical world. Stop them in their tracks. Don’t let your thoughts barrel down the tracks of your mind and drive your decisions.
3. Keep a joy journal
Take a minute each day to write down something that day that made you happy/smile/laugh. If you are struggling with a particular student, set a goal in the morning to focus on that one student all day until you find the thing that makes you smile regarding that child.
4. Make time to sleep
We get so overwhelmed with all the things there are that need doing that sleep is often the thing we reduce first, when it is probably the thing we should be increasing first. Get good sleep. Everything seems less daunting when you aren’t exhausted.
5. Spend time with friends who make you happy
While many of us like to commiserate together, it is more important than ever to avoid this type of interaction during high stress times. Instead, treat yourself to time with people who make you laugh until it hurts!
6. Commit to being in the moment
When you catch yourself caught up in rehashing something that has already happened, or worrying over what might happen in future days, pause and bring yourself back to the moment you are currently in and focus on just that moment and the person/people with whom you are spending it.
As we navigate through each of our individual stresses and glance at the calendar to count down the days until we reach that magical “winter break”, I encourage you to remember this; our profession may be stressful but it is never boring. When you reach what you think is the end of your rope, remind yourself why you chose this profession in the first place and grasp that rope with renewed energy.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
I am no expert on mindfulness, let me be clear; however, I do find joy in reading blogs and articles around the power of the mind and the impact of one’s attitude. At a leadership meeting, Superintendent Muñoz asked us each to name three positive things that happened the day before. I will be honest, it took me a bit to identify three things! I decided right then and there I need to get into the habit of reflecting at the end of my day. I intentionally identify three positive things from the day before I go to bed each night. This has made a difference both in how I sleep at night and how I feel in the morning when I wake up.
Blogger Leo Babauta of Zen Habits writes the way to change our mental habits is “with awareness, with honesty, with an open heart, and with appreciation of the immense joy of life in the midst of chaos.” I find this exceptionally helpful, empowering even, to know that during the busy holiday season, during hectic times at work, when I feel pulled in too many directions to count, I can find joy in my life.
Images taken by Heather Lyke
As you prepare for your winter break, let me encourage a few simple mindful activities that you may try (shared from ‘6 Mindfullness Exercises You Can Try Today’ published by Pocket Mindfulness). I like this list as the activities are simple, can be done quickly and anywhere, while yet having the potential to make a big difference!
Be well. Be good to yourself and others. And remember, you make a difference.
This post brought to you by Jayne Gibson, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Rochester Public Schools
Connect with Jayne Gibson via email or by calling 507.328.4301
f you’d like to explore mindfullness more fully, consider starting the new year off strong by joining one of these two upcoming PD Express courses:
Both begin in January. Connect with facilitator Laura Lenz if you have further questions.
Originally posted on the Secondary C&I website on 2/10/2017
I have two children who are students in the Rochester Public Schools system. My simultaneously shy, but social daughter struggles to balance a busy schedule and homework. My sweet, bright son does well academically, but needs extra guidance when it comes to social situations. Both of my children have a mom and dad cheering them on, advocating endlessly, and fighting the fights they are unable to find the courage to tackle. What I mean to say is my kids are lucky. Really lucky.
Despite the social and academic challenges they face as individuals, my children have everything they need to face the school day with success. They sleep in warm beds at night, have access to food on a daily basis, are provided with reliable transportation, and have available to them all the comforts of home—including a place to do homework. If one is a student who is not as lucky as my children—if one is a student who might not have access to a place to sleep, food, or a home—how do students face the challenges of a school day? How do students do homework when you have no home?
The McKinney-Vento Law is legislation that helps to guide school districts in the process of identifying and serving students who may be experiencing homelessness. At of the date of this post, more than 400 students in Rochester Public Schools have been identified as living in unstable housing situations. These students live in one of our three local shelters, stay in low-cost local hotels, or live with relatives because of an economic hardship. They often lack access to the internet and do not have a reliable device on which to check Moodle, Google Classroom, or Skyward. Beyond the traditional electronic struggles, students experiencing homelessness may not have the basic supplies (like notebooks, backpacks, and art supplies) or a place to keep the items they need to complete the daily work assigned.
As the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator, I work to provide school stability for students whose living situation may not be stable. Through the Transitions Program we can provide transportation to a student’s school of origin, access to free breakfast and lunch at school, access to community resources, assistance with school supplies, and a connection to a student’s school social worker. In addition, RPS works collaboratively with many community resources and organizations that assist with housing, medical and dental needs, food resources, and much more.
In order to provide these resources though, identification is key. There are a few ways that each school professional can help identify students who might be experiencing homelessness. Here are a few tips for educators from the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY):
Through identification, we are able to provide support. Through support, we may be able to provide the only stability a student knows. My children have what they need to face the challenges of the school day, imagine what is possible if all students were to have access to what they needed!
Also, for more information on the McKinney-Vento Act, watch this video created by Anoka-Hennepin Schools:
This post brought to you by Melissa Brandt, the Transitions and Fostering Connections Coordinator for Rochester Public Schools
Connect with Melissa Brandt via email or by calling 507.328.4230
October is the month of Halloween, often the first time in months that our students will see snow, National Sarcasm Awareness Month, National Toilet Tank Repair Month (that is actually true) and the list goes on and on yet we wonder why we may be seeing some interesting behaviors in our classrooms this time of year. Check out some of the suggestions below on how you can reduce/prevent behaviors from occurring in your classroom.
Start with yourself
Be careful that your frustration is not landing on one or two students in the classroom resulting in blaming. Don’t assume when something happens that is it a certain student and then call them out for it! Do a proper investigation and be slow to place blame.
Sometimes when behaviors increase we can easily overreact. Teaching can be stressful at times and can test our patience. If you are getting frustrated, it is easy to make a small infraction seem like a big behavior issue. Check in with yourself and make sure that you aren’t overreacting.
A lot of research has been done to show how important your room arrangement is and how it can impact the climate in your classroom. Check out these room arrangement tips:
Flexible seating: When students have choice in seating options that best fit their learning style they are able to better focus on the task at hand. Give your students the choice (within reason) of moving to an area of the room that they feel they can learn best in. Consider providing standing and sitting options within your room. If students are easily distracted, consider placing them in a spot in your classroom where they won’t be easily distracted. For example take note of who is sitting by the door and whether this is the best place for the student. The door is a high traffic area and not a good place for a student who is easily distracted.
Student misbehavior is often a sign that students are overwhelmed and are in need of a break! Learn to recognize when students need time to take a break and move. Here are some easy brain break ideas:
Physical Challenges Challenge students to do something physically difficult, such as standing on one foot with arms extended, or this one: Grab your nose with left hand, and grab your left earlobe with your right hand, and then quickly switch so that your right hand is on your nose and your left hand is grabbing your right earlobe.
Animal Pretend Younger grades will enjoy pretending to be various animals (or even objects such as lawn mowers or airplanes). Call out different examples.
Trading Places Have students stand behind their pushed-in chairs. Call out a trait, and everyone who has that trait must change places with someone else (students who do not have the trait stay where they are). Examples: “Everyone with curly hair.” “Everyone who ate cereal for breakfast.”
Never underestimate the power of a strong student-teacher relationship. Oftentimes we start the year with a focus on building relationships with our students and by October we often lose sight that it is an ongoing process. It takes time to build relationships! Don’t give up! Here are some relationship building tips:
Morning Meeting: If it has been a while since you have done a morning meeting it's time to try it again! Morning meetings have been proven to increase relationships between teachers and students but also amongst peers. Don’t be afraid to take time every morning for a morning meeting. The relationships you build will help you throughout the day. If you build the routine in every day, students will learn that it is time to connect with their school family and become more invested in supporting each other.
Greeting Students: When was the last time you greeted your students when they come in the door? Students want to know you are excited to have them in your classroom even if the day before was a tough day. Every day is a chance to start fresh! Don’t forget to greet your students as they walk in and tell them how happy you are that you get to be their teacher.
Weekly Reflections: Once a week have students share one thing that was positive about their week and one thing that was negative. In groups have students brainstorm solutions for their peers on how they can problem solve the not-so-positive event that has occurred. Students will learn to build capacity amongst themselves and will learn to rely on each other to problem solve when issues arise.
After all, don’t we want our students to be able to effectively solve issues without our support?
I leave you with two very important thoughts: “There are no bad kids. Just impressionable, conflicted young people wrestling with emotions and impulses, trying to communicate their feelings and needs they only way they know how” (Lansbury), and “Remember: everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance. 9 times out of 10, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry. It will break your heart” (Breaux).
Lansbury, Janet. “Respectful Patenting w/ “No Bad Kids” Author Janet Lansbury” The Adopting Teens & Tweens Radio Forum, March 2016.
Breaux, Annette, Education Speakers Group
This post brought to you by Kate Palmquist, Elementary Principal on Special Assignment
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