The Teacher Stare
This is the first of the 10 days of classroom management help for teachers! We are starting with a famous strategy that has been effective for centuries. Even the brightest of students shudder when they see…the teacher stare. (Insert daunting music here.)
You will see throughout our posts that we focus on creating a positive classroom environment and a culture of high expectations. We want you to love your students.
When we talk about the teacher stare, this is not an ugly look to a student. It a look that says, “I mean business. Get it together.” The teacher stare can actually help a student by correcting them without making a scene.
So here’s how it works. And yes, it helps to practice it in the mirror. Just don’t freak out your own children.
Lift your eyebrows. Do not smile. Have a very straight, serious face. And stare them down. Do not break eye contact until you have clearly gotten your message across. You don’t even have to say anything. Silence makes it even better. You can even cross your arms for the full effect. Now, don’t squint your eyes. That makes you look mean. Keep them wide open. Also, don’t force a student to look you in the eyes during the stare due to cultural norms.
Usually when you do this, if you stop what you are doing, just for a moment, the class will stop what they are doing and try to figure out what’s going on. Use the teacher stare sparingly, as you don’t want to lose the effectiveness.
Seasoned teachers, this is not new for you. But, do you remember those first few months of school as a new teacher? Yeah. I should have practiced my teacher stare beforehand.
P.S. - Share this post with educators only. We don't want to give the whole world the secret to the teacher stare! ha!
Here are our teacher stares! It was a bit hard to take these pictures without laughing.
Along with some awesome educators from across the state, Erin and I had the opportunity to attend the Teacher Leader Conference in New Orleans this past week. Several of you in Louisiana may have been there with us! The conference included a variety of topics, with something for everyone regardless of their content area or grade level. I attended several sessions, which provided great information that will help me in my job this year.
When Erin and I go to conferences, we love to keep notes and share the most valuable information with others. After spending time at this conference, I think the most interesting take-away was learning how educational reform is beginning to pay off in Louisiana’s education system.
Of course, we want to acknowledge that reform in Louisiana certainly has not been easy. Many of you who have been teaching the last 10 years know how utterly frustrating it has been to continually change with the whims of politics. In fact, many of you may have experienced an all-time low in morale in your schools. But we also wanted to acknowledge those of you who stuck it out instead of quitting under pressure. And it has definitely paid off!
You may or may not agree with the Superintendent or the politics surrounding education, but we can all admit that it was because of the teachers’ efforts that our state is moving in the right direction.
This came to light at the opening ceremony. The session began with a precious group of children performing a few songs for the large crowd of teachers attending the conference. The students from Encore Academy played ukuleles and sang. It was impressive! Next, we heard an inspiring message from the reigning Teacher of the Year. And finally, John White, our State Superintendent spoke.
Now, we have to be honest. We’ve both attended the Teacher Leader conference every year. And we remember the year that the air was very tense during Superintendent White’s speech. This year everyone was breathing a bit easier.
However, our sweat and tears over the last several years haven’t been unnoticed. During John White's Keynote Address at the 2016 Teacher Leader Summit, he said:
It is no secret that you have achieved what you have achieved with our students amidst a period of some turbulence in public education. Our profession has been politicized, and the tools of our craft – curriculum, standards, assessment – have on occasion been used as the fodder for campaigns and agendas that have little to do with children.
I think it’s finally time to celebrate what we’ve accomplished and look forward to the future. Here are some statistics that are worth celebrating:
For more information on Louisiana's high school performance, click here.
Obviously, there is still much work to be done! However, I believe we are on a positive trajectory in the State of Louisiana and am hopeful that this is only the beginning of more progress to come!
The path leading to reform in Louisiana has been troubled and difficult. But Louisiana teachers, hold your head up high and be proud of the differences you are making in the lives of our most precious commodity... our children!
Tips for Writing, Homework, and Other Grad School Demands
Warning: This is not your cutesy, “pinteresty” blog here. This post is for those teachers who, although are amazing during the school year, do not have any more cute, colored paper or money left! (Or time!) Some of these ideas may require a little bit of planning, but they are mostly simple and cheap. Best of all, though, is that these ideas aren’t just a cute-candy-bar-wrapper giveaway, but meaningful things that kids may treasure forever. Also, keep in mind that a middle school teacher is writing this post. I couldn’t afford to buy my students something because I taught over 100 kids. Plus, I wanted to give them something meaningful. Words are so much more powerful than gifts.
1. Give them a picture of their classmates and write a simple note on the back that’s personalized for them.
2. Have a moment of recognition for each kid and their role in the classroom. Print out a certificate that’s different for each one. Ex. Friendliest, Class Jokester, Neatest Desk, Most Polite, Most Likely to Trip Over something, etc.
3. Have a serious moment with the class where you talk personally to each student and tell what you see them doing in 10-15 years. Kids LOVE this. It’s amazing how well and how long they pay attention to you, even when you are addressing other kids.
4. Write in each of their yearbooks. Something personal. And take up space. They love that. They will keep that forever! For those who didn’t buy yearbooks, I wrote in the back of their notebooks for my class.
5. Review over their data with them, highlighting the growth they’ve seen. And celebrate!! Send a copy of it home for them to keep.
6. Use the big sticky chart paper (you can always cut it in half top-to-bottom in order to save paper) to make a chart with each student’s name on it. Then have the students do a gallery walk to say something positive about each classmate.
7. Create funny acrostics with each of their names.
8. Give them a book (you know, a good cheap one from Scholastic) with a short note from you in it. You could copy a printable book tag and glue it in with your signature at the bottom.
9. Have the kids reflect on the year through writing. You can give them different modes to do this. Here are some examples. (1) They can write a letter to themselves to be mailed over the summer. (2) They can write a list describing “How to Survive Mrs. Smith’s Class.” (3) They can write a letter to you. (4) They can evaluate your class for you. (5) They can write about where they see themselves in ten years and how they can work toward their goals.
10. Look on Pinterest! If you don’t know what Pinterest is, then this post is worth it simply for number 10! ha!
Feel free to comment in order to add to the list!
We get to see amazing teachers from all different types of schools. And, yes, amazing is the word to use--especially at this time of the year! Grades, field day, rambunctious kids, forms to fill out, lesson plans (still), and summer around the corner...what's not to stress about during May?
So here's to you, teachers! We hope that these not-so-welcome phrases make you smile!
And let us end this post with...
Three Things Teachers Need to Hear:
1. Thank you.
2. I will miss you.
3. I love you.
Doug Fisher on Close Reading
Different understandings of close reading exist. For example, how many times should you read and/or reread a text? Fisher clarified some of these misconceptions. After learning from Fisher (the “close reading guru”), we couldn’t wait to share this with our teacher friends and even teach a close reading lesson!
Most important close reading take-aways from the most awesome Doug Fisher:
1) Close reading involves the following:
2) The number of times you read a text depends on student understanding. This is often accomplished in 3-5 readings, although it may demand more or less.
3) Don’t introduce books/text by making personal connections and sharing personal experiences. WHAT?! Yep, research says this will actually cause students to add details that are not in the text.
4) Fisher suggests the following close reading phases:
SUCCESS TIP: Linger longer at the 2nd phase (what authors do and why they do it). Why? Students will actually start writing more like the author. WOW! Right?
5) ANNOTATIONS – use minimal annotation symbols. Fisher suggests using ONLY THREE at first. These include:
Be sure to let students update their annotations after several readings.
6) More about annotations….
Annotations are EXCELLENT formative assessment data. Keep them daily and review them. Teachers can easily determine while students are still reading the text (as opposed to an assessment at the end) what still needs to be taught.
7) Text Dependent Questions (TDQs) MUST-HAVES:
8) More About TDQs:
TDQs should go in an order that is scaffolded for kids. The following types of TDQs increase in complexity from simplest (key ideas and details) to most complex (integration of knowledge and ideas).
9) When developing text dependent questions, use these as a guide.
Do the questions require the reader to return to the text?
Do the questions require the reader to use evidence to support his or her ideas or claims?
Do the questions move from text-explicit to text-implicit knowledge?
Are there questions that require the reader to analyze, evaluate, and create?
10) Close reading should be scaffolded for student success! This is perhaps the best visual on the gradual release model we have seen. It also corresponds to the process for using the close reading strategy.
DOUG FISHER - SESSION #1
Doug Fisher is an authority on close reading. Even though we have both taught close reading lessons and helped other teachers implement this reading strategy in their classrooms, we learned A LOT from his sessions. More info can be accessed at his website at http://fisherandfrey.com/.
Important take-aways from the awesome Doug Fisher:
1. Students need different reading strategies and instruction at any given time. Some, not all, need more instruction in phonics, fluency practice, comprehension strategies. Although challenging, teachers should be responsive to the specific needs of their students and adjust instruction accordingly.
2. The research is clear….close reading increases student achievement! Keeping in mind that an effect size greater than 0.4 results in more than a year’s growth in a year’s time, effect sizes related to close reading are as follows: repeated reading 0.67, study skills 0.59.
3. The most popular types of reading instruction include: Focused reading (read-aloud with modeling), guided reading (reading with teacher), and independent (alone).
Fisher says that thinking is invisible. For students to know how to process, analyze and think deeply about reading, we MUST model our thinking, especially during focused reading.
4. When kids work together, they can successfully work on more complex, rigorous tasks.
5. In purpose drive instruction, students should know the purpose AND the success criteria. (Consider posting success criteria along with or instead of daily learning objectives.)
6. Leaders, during walkthrough observations, do not ask students “What are you doing?” rather ask, “What are you learning?”
7. Rigor can be an elusive, ill-defined “edu-speak” word. Fisher says rigor is a balance between difficulty (which requires effort) and complexity (which requires thinking).
8. Fisher says that children do not learn from teachers they do not like. And research supports this. Teacher-student relationships have an effect size of 0.72.
Erin and I had the opportunity to attend this year’s Plain Talk Conference in New Orleans, which was packed with famous researchers, consultants, and influential practitioners in the field of education. We know it's tough to get away from the classroom, so we thought it would be a good idea to share some of the highlights of our learning at the conference. So here goes!
John Hattie – Part 1 – His research has revolutionized teacher practice across this country, and really around the world. Using many different high quality research studies, he has isolated the influence of teaching practices on student achievement. Hattie’s work is based on 10,000+ studies and 157 effects from about 12-16 million students. (You should check out his book!)
He continues to conduct research and is in the process of updating his latest findings. On his list of most effective influences, collective efficacy now tops the list. That means when a group of teachers believe that as a group they can impact student learning and achievement, their students perform better across the board. Pretty amazing!
Memorable thoughts from the wise John Hattie...
Most policymakers begin with the assumption teachers are all bad. This is flawed!
Most everything we do as teachers works….mostly. I have 20 years of evidence to prove it. Most everything we do enhances learning, but what makes the most impact?
The worst thing you can say is "Do your best." Sometimes their perceptions of "best" is not as good as it could be!
Bottom line…teachers should be looking at the IMPACT they are having on student learning.
Confidence helps students achieve…AND confidence can be taught.
John Hattie – Part 2
Latest Research – Top 10 List of Influences on Student Achievement
* Project-based learning, discovery learning, inquiry-based tasks don’t work when introduced before students have adequate knowledge of the content.
You must teach some surface learning in order to get to deep learning.
Michael Fullan – Michael Fullan is the “guru” of change theory. He has written many books and articles about improving educational systems. His session focused on collaboration, and WOW, collaboration and lateral learning is POWERFUL!
Fullan also discussed the concept of drivers. The “right” drivers include: capacity building, collaborative work, pedagogy, and systemness (awareness that you are part of a bigger system purpose…..wherever you are in system).
The “wrong” drivers include: accountability, individual teacher and leadership qualities, technology (although technology is not a “driver” it can be a strong “accelerator”), and fragmented strategies.
Memorable thoughts from the wise Michael Fullan...
Shift has occurred when teachers think, "Our kids...our school.." not "my kids...my classroom."
Coherence involves a shared depth of understanding about the nature of the work. This is SUBJECTIVE! And, we only get coherence through purposeful interaction. Trust is critically important!
Leaders are in the business of reducing variability (of practice and skill) among teachers.
In a collaborative culture, everyone learns together.
When the sense of collective efficacy and actions are high, individual effects also tend to zoom up.
Talented schools improve weak teachers.
Principals’ top priority should be improving collaboration among staff and developing leadership.
11 Misconceptions and a Few Reflections from my Own Classroom
What exactly is a student-centered classroom? If you were to ask ten different educators, chances are you would get ten different responses. While opinions vary, you can be certain of what student-centered learning is not.
Student-centered learning is NOT…
1) Utter chaos.
Truly student-centered classrooms require much planning by the teacher--even in the area of classroom management. These classroom are often very structured, with students understanding their expectations and the proper procedures for running the classroom. Students are often required to reflect on their own behavior throughout the day. Teachers communicate expectations, follow through on discipline procedures, model the behaviors, and require students to not only emulate the proper behaviors, but to help monitor classroom behavior. Grouping students strategically will help cut down on the chaos.
2) Doing worksheets.
Oh, those worksheets. They seem like a necessary evil. Ok, not even that evil. However, students in a student-centered classroom move beyond the piece of paper and discuss the text or the problem. They ask (and answer) why and how questions. They project what will happen in the future. They apply it to their daily lives. They make connections with the curriculum. Student-centered teachers aspire for authentic, intellectual engagement.
3) About compliance
“Do I have to do this?” will be a thing of the past. Instead, students will say, “Is it time to go already?” I promise; it can happen. Active learning and problem-solving are terms that student-centered teachers use. In many classrooms around the country, students are passively learning in class. In other words, they are sitting and letting the teacher think for them. (See the next point.) The harder the students' brains are working, the more quickly the time will pass! I remember one of the first times this happened in my own classroom--the bell rang and not one of my junior high students had been keeping up with the time! Their heads swiveled toward the clock with a very surprised look on their faces, like, “How did we forget to look at the clock?” ha!
4) Students copying notes
Unfortunately, students will not copy notes very often in a student-centered classroom. This is a bit harder for secondary teachers to grasp. Remember, these days, students can google just about anything. (At what point did google become a verb? Ha!) Knowledge is a commonality instead of a commodity. But there are things that students just really need to know, right? Give the students a text, such as a primary document, and have them grapple with the big ideas that they will carry throughout their lives. Does this mean that notes are never written? Not at all! Students are just more involved in the process. Think about this: when students copy notes from a powerpoint, even if you are discussing it, there is little thinking involved for the students. The teacher did all of the thinking--summarizing the original text, selecting overarching themes, and the communication of the concept. The kids just sat and wrote. And some of them listened. Maybe.
5) Always student-led
Teachers have said to me, “How will they ever learn anything if they are leading but they don’t know where they are going? Some things just need to be taught.” Agreed. A great strategy for student-led classrooms is the gradual release method. Some people call it “I do; we do; you do.” Interestingly, every part of that the gradual release, though, can be student-centered. Remember to ask yourself, “Who is doing the thinking?”
6) Assessment through bubble sheets
Bubble sheet, bubble sheet, wherefore art thou bubble sheet? If I were a full-time teacher today, I would still use bubble sheets. (Don’t judge me yet!) Unfortunately, our society still uses them to assess skills! I’m sure you know someone who’s taken the ACT lately. However, I would use them much less. I want to understand the reasoning behind the answers my kids choose. As their teacher, how will I know if they blindly guessed or actually mastered a specific skill? So, how do we change this? Ask them questions that make them write. Student-centered learning is all about those open-ended assessments.
Students who are not asked to think--really think--get bored. Even the students who struggle with basic concepts are bored because many times they are not asked to think deeply about those basic concepts. If your students have to ask, “How does this apply to my life?” then maybe they are bored and haven’t made the connection. Student-centered teachers use student interests to guide their lessons--and even their content, when appropriate.
After teaching for several years, I finally had glimpses of student-centered learning in my own classroom, and I have memories that I will never forget--and neither will they! In my eighth grade classroom, we studied the book Flowers for Algernon. After analyzing the characters and discussing motives, my students began talking about the influence of bullies in their own lives. They researched it. They wrote about it. Then they decided to do something about it. I hate to admit that none of that was my idea, and that this next part they did completely on their own--outside of class. They collaborated with the Assistant Principal and the social worker and formed an Anti-Bullying Campaign at the middle school. They held meetings, created t-shirts, and led an assembly in front of the entire student body. By themselves. Some of those students were the “misfits” and some of them were the “popular “kids. That group of students took the entire literature unit to the next level. And they will never forget it.
10) A dead end
Student-centered classrooms are inspiring and motivating. A piece of text is where it all begins. Where the kids take it is up to you. It can become a campaign, a debate, a cause, a motive, a passion, or a life-long dream. Remember the powerful influence you possess.
She received a perfect score on her observation--my teaching partner in year 33. You may say, “Well, she’s had a lot of time to learn.” That’s true. But, teaching has drastically changed in the last 10 years, and she’s changed with it. She learned how to make her rows of desks become collaboration tables. She learned the art of questioning and discussion with middle school kids. She learned how to get eighth graders to love to read. (And I’m talking about the never-read-before, not-a-book-in-the-home type of kids.) I’m still inspired by her today. So, no matter what year you are in--even if you’ve done it the same way for 30 years, it’s not impossible!
We will write subsequent posts concerning student-centered learning. Any questions, concerns, or ideas, please contact us! We want to hear from you!
Find us on social media and hashtag #studentcenteredlearning!
A couple of my friends (now in their 30s) have considered teaching as a temporary career. I am unashamedly vocal about the value of public schools and how we need passionate teachers, so I find myself trying to recruit those who have a charisma about them. Unfortunately, charisma will only take you so far.
Teaching takes grit. That double-down, white knuckle, determination mixed with passion. That’s what teaching kids requires.
Susan recently read an article that summarized a study about grit. The author defines grit as “passion and perseverance for long-term goals.” Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, studied Ivy League undergrads, spelling bee champions, and cadets at West Point, and she found that grit was the best predictor for success--more than talent! (Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews, & Kelly, 2007).
But then I started thinking: Teaching demands even more than that!
Teaching requires selfless grit.
Those Ivy League-ers had long-term goals for themselves.
I have a hunch that grit becomes grittier when it’s not for your own success.
We teachers are very passionate people--those who aren’t passionate don’t last long--and we tend to vocally criticize policy changes and poor administrators, which is probably not always good.
But in the end, it’s always about someone else. The kids.
Few jobs in this world require you to spend large amounts of time outside of work planning, grading, going to sporting events, and decorating, while all the while creating relationships with kids, who quite often break your heart with the bad decisions they make or with the obstacles they are forced to overcome. I’ve cried many tears with students and for students. That’s grit.
Think about the people, excluding family members, in your life who made the most impact on who you are. Most likely, those people are teachers, coaches, directors, or professors. They had grit. For you.
.Should you choose to enter the most incredible profession in the world... Susan and I came up with several undeniable attributes of what “teacher grit” might look like in your classroom:
Susan Dewees, Ed.D. is an administrator at a large middle school. She also served as a Turnaround Team Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has 20 years of experience in public school education, and special education is one of her specialties.
Erin Stokes, Ed.D. is a Title I Instructional Coordinator for a public school district in Louisiana. She has over 10 years of experience as a teacher and instructional coach. She is also an adjuct professor at Louisiana College. She loves students, teachers, and most of all--learning.
Becky Pippen, Ed.D. is currently serving as principal of a large middle school in Louisiana. She has over 20 years experience in educational leadership. She is passionate about improving the teacher workforce so that all students have the quality of instruction they deserve.