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An Effective Educator

Being an effective teacher takes a lot of work, dedication, patience, and a willingness to learn and grow. In addition to these traits, some key elements will contribute to being an effective teacher. These elements include careful and precise goal-oriented planning, focus on student-centered learning, and incorporating technology into lessons and assignments.

“A plan should be made for everything from baking a cake to total world domination.” (1) Teaching a lesson falls in that spectrum and the more detailed the plan, the more effective the lesson. Goal-oriented planning will ensure that students are meeting the specific achievements they need in order to be successful in their academic career. In addition to the basic plan, a back-up plan should be made to cover any technology failures, a plan should be made for students who finish early, a plan should be made for students who struggle to understand the material, and emergency plans should be made for a substitute in case of an un-planned absence.

Including technology in the planning and execution of the lesson allows for easier collaboration with peers, streamlines organization, and makes the lesson more relatable to students. Teaching students to search for information on the web is a skill that will translate to all aspects of their education. Allowing students to use apps to complete assignment will get them more engaged and expand their technology savviness – something that is becoming crucial in today’s workforce. Entering in data in excel or google sheets and depicting the data as a graph, for example, will help students learn two importation skills: how to read graphs and how to summarize and show large amounts of data. Technology is something students use every day, making it essential to incorporate in the classroom.

It is important to present information to students in ways that will deepen their understand and allow them to retain the information. Traditional lectures are outdated. While some of the information will stick with many of my students, most of the information will not, and I will have several students that don’t retain any of that information.  It should be a teacher’s goal to empower students to take control of their own learning so they can succeed in any learning environment and become life-long learners. Many methods can be used to help students have more power over their own learning, including project based learning, mastery-based grading, self-pacing, student voice & choice in how they either obtain or practice information, blended instruction, and reflection on learning.

Although these elements do not alone make an effective teacher, it is impossible to be an effective teacher without them. Teachers are learners – we are constantly honing our strengths and learning to incorporate essential elements into our classes. We research, plan, and execute based on what works and what is best for our students. These elements are the foundation for effective teaching and once established, can be built upon for even better results.

1 – “Tinker” by Wen Spencer


Step Three: Correction Plan For Misbehavior – Part 1

This is step three in my summer goal to create a comprehensive classroom management plan.

Yes, I know, I’m running out of summer. It’s okay. I’ve got this. (please help)

This is probably the hardest step for me. The reason this is “part 1” is that I will only be covering consequences for my classroom rules. I will need a part 2 for consequences for violating other rules and regulations. And there’s so much literature on the subject, it’s hard to fit all my ideas from them in one post. A large part of my knowledge is coming from the “CHAMPS” book that I have, but I will also be pulling from “The First Days of School” by Harry & Rosemary Wong.

The first thing I think I should do is assign specific consequences to my 6 classroom rules:

  1. Always try.
  2. Compliment and encourage yourself and others.
  3. Listen to listen, not to respond.
  4. Keep track of missed work.
  5. Be prepared for class before the bell rings.
  6. Pick up supplies only when needed, use appropriately, and put away when done.

Rule 1: Always try. I am going to be implementing Standards Based Grading in my classes this year (ideally). This means that if the students don’t try, they don’t get credit. Trying and showing that they have learned a concept will be how they get their grade. Without doing so, they cannot improve their grade. I can simply remind them of this fact. If it becomes too much of a habit I will start keeping a record with infraction cards, an improvement plan, and followed by a parent conference (either on the phone or in person).

Rule 2: Compliment and encourage yourself and others. Obviously, I can’t really enforce them doing this specifically, but I can give them infractions if they discourage or insult themselves or others. And I will. I am thinking a combination of restitution and positive practice. The student will have to first apologize to the person he or she insulted or discouraged and then practice saying something positive instead. If the student refuses, it will be a write-up, a call home, and s/he will have to sign a slip of paper stating s/he said something rude and refused to correct the behavior. This two-step process may have to be separated so the student has time to calm down between the insincere apology and the fake compliment.

Rule 3: Listen to listen, not to respond. The best way I know this rule has been broken is if a student interrupts either me or another student. I can’t always catch it, but I can try. I think the best consequence for this would be time owed. By interrupting someone, even if it is immediately caught and the person is allowed to continue, time is wasted by the interruption, correction, and thought to recall where the conversation broke off and what was next. I would guess about 10 to 15 seconds. This means every time it happens, the student would owe 10 seconds after class. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but for a teenager who is waiting to gain access to his/her phone and see his/her friends, it can be. My biggest issue would be keeping up with it. Teenagers forget things quicker than I do, so I don’t really expect them to remember either. I would need a system in place to keep a record and remind them at the end of class during my end-of-class report. Perhaps I can use $10 poker chips. I can hand them to students when they interrupt someone and they have to return them to me at the end of class once their time has been completed. If they try to pocket them and run out the door, it’s a write-up, a parent conference, and a signature acknowledging the infraction. This still means I need to record it somewhere. Probably on the clipboard I will have to carry around to keep track of their academic progress.

Rule 4: Keep track of missed work. This is also something that will directly affect their grade as a consequence. In addition to having a specific place for them to pick it up, I think I will also attach a half-slip that acknowledges they picked up the work and take responsibility for completing it on their own time. That should be signed and picked up by me that day. This will require me to keep track of when someone was absent and needs to pick up the work so I can go and get the slip from them. If they forget, I think a 10 second time infraction would be appropriate since they will be wasting 10 seconds of class time getting the work they should have gotten before class started.

Rule 5: Be prepared for class before the bell rings. This will mean having all materials on their desk and ready to go as well as having read the opening question and began thinking of a response. When a student is absent, it will also mean grabbing the work s/he missed and signing the acknowledgment slip. If a student has to get up to get their notebook or borrow a writing utensil, it’s another 10-second infraction. I am really going to have to have a good system down for these time infractions.

Rule 6: Pick up supplies only when needed, use appropriately, and put away when done. This rule is to teach responsibility while minimizing distractions and off-task behavior. It can also be potentially dangerous depending on what the supply is (a corrosive chemical, for example). Therefore it will start out with 10-second time infractions but will escalate to a behavior improvement report, then a parent conference if it continues, and finally an office referral if the behavior does not stop. This is a particularly important rule to me that I have a low tolerance for so I may need a way to keep track of how often it is violated per student so I can be consistent with escalating the consequences. Additionally, if they break something as a result of inappropriate use, they will get a call home and be asked to fix or replace the item (provided it something small like a pair of scissors and not a beaker). Unless, of course, it was a legitimate accident while they were trying to handle the material appropriately.

Other rules and regulations will exist that I will have to have consequences for. CHAMPS (rules/guidelines) for specific activities, breaking school-wide rules, having their phone, not participating, lab rules, etc. Those will be in my next post.

For now, I need something other than a poker chip (something more difficult to slide into a pocket) to use for the time infractions, pre-written slips for students to sign based on different types of misconduct, a behavior correction plan outline/form, and a system for keeping up with it all. Please share any and all suggestions for these items.

I would love your opinion on this discipline plan. It’s my first one (though my 2nd year of teaching). What ideas for improvement do you have? What do you see not working or being difficult to implement and why?

Classroom Goals

It’s difficult to create a classroom management plan and comprehensive lesson plans if you don’t have a clear set of classroom goals. Which is what I will be working on today. CHAMPS by Randy Sprick recommends four to seven major goals that are instructional, behavioral, or a mix of both. I will be doing a mix of both and will have a separate set of goals for the two different classes that I am teaching: Algebraic Reasoning and Chemistry.

Since I teach sophomores and juniors, it’s fair to say that will be in school at least another year or two – more if they go to college. Whether they continue on to higher education or jump into the workforce, it would benefit them greatly to be life long learners. Which means they need to know how to learn, even when the information isn’t presented in an easy way for them. My goal would be for them to understand and apply how they learn to any learning situation. This means when I’m doing my lessons, I need to keep in mind to explain how certain learners can modify how they are taking in information to make it better suited for them. For example, a visual leaner might learn better from a lecture if they draw pictures of what is being said.

I recently learned of several skills that are desired in the workforce, such as the four C’s (critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication). I would like to have goals centered around at least two of these things. I want to make sure I save some goals to be based on academic content.

In science, it is important to be able to effectively communicate the scientific process and results of every experiment. Often scientists will need to be creative in how to come up with an experiment to test their ideas. Actually, that second one might be too advance for me. I know they will need to work well with others to complete experiments effectively in a timely manner. They can accomplish these goals by doing the labs in various groups, recording all information in their journals, and writing a short report on the experiment and results.

In math, it is key to be able to think critically about a problem and how to solve it. For students, it can be helpful to be able to communicate the process of solving a problem in order to deepen understanding and help others. The second part can be done by having students practice explaining a process at the beginning and end of class. Thinking critically about a problem is something they will practice with a variety of algebra practice problems – especially word problems.

Algebraic Reasoning is a class designed to take students who passed Algebra I, but don’t yet possess the skills to be successful in Algebra II. My job is to strengthen those skills necessary for students to be successful in Algebra II. Each class has standards of what I need to teach, so I will look at those standards to come up with about three academic goals.

Chemistry also has a set of standards of what needs to be taught. Since many students take physics after chemistry, I will want to look at the standards for both classes and use any overlapping standards to create my academic goals for chemistry.

What are some learning goals that you wish you had in high school?

Teachers, what goals do you have set for your classes this fall (please include grade and subject if appropriate)?

Chemistry Goals:

  1. Understand and apply my style of learning to any learning situation.
  2. Collaborate with others to complete experiments effectively in a timely manner.
  3. Effectively communicate the scientific process and results of every experiment.
  4. Describe how temperature, specific heat, and pressure are related to the kinetic or potential energy of atoms.
  5. Understand the difference between acid-base reactions, precipitation reactions, and oxidation-reduction reactions.
  6. Perform calculations involving heat, mass, temperature change, and specific heat

Algebraic Reasoning Goals:

  1. Understand and apply my style of learning to any learning situation.
  2. Think critically about a problem and how to solve it.
  3. Effectively communicate the process of solving a problem.
  4. Determine the patterns that identify the relationship between a function and its common ratio.
  5. Compare and contrast the key attributes, including domain, range, maxima, minima, and intercepts of a set of functions.

Step Two: Classroom Rules

This is step two in my summer goal to create a comprehensive classroom management plan.

Something I never thought I would have to say as a high school teacher: “Stop playing with the scissors/glue.” Yikes. Other things I had to say a lot were, “get off your cell phone,” “stop talking,” and “pay attention.” All of which would fall under ‘off-task behaviors.’ I had students drawing and writing and playing games and doing work for other classes. All of which comes down to them being off-task. I suppose I never thought I needed to communicate the expectation of being on-task because they are high schoolers and should know better. These are teens who are close to adulthood, so I had the idea to treat them like adults. I should not have done this. They have no idea how to be adults. My goal should be to teach them how to be adults.

The first step is to think of traits I value in others. Then possibly get more specific and turn the traits into a guideline for success. Last is to identify a behavior – what does that trait look like to me – and turn that behavior into a rule.

I value when others are respectful. More specifically, I want my students to have mutual respect and understanding with each other. To me, that means complimenting and encouraging others, no matter what. It also means when someone else is talking, it’s important to “listen to listen, not to respond.”

I value when others are patient. Not just with others, but when themselves too. To me, this looks like saying things like “I can do this,” and “I will get there,” when starting to feel discouraged. A simpler rule might be “Always Try,” instead of getting so lengthy with the rule. I’ll have to get input on this one.

I value when others are open-minded. In the classroom, I specifically value students being open-minded about what they learn, how they learn, and how others learn. This looks like changing your thinking based on learning new information. It also means researching something on your own that you’re not sure about. It means understanding that others learn differently from you and that doesn’t make them wrong.

I value a sense of responsibility. Not just with work, but also with improving yourself. Being responsible in the classroom looks like keeping up with missed work and being prepared for class before the bell. Which means having all materials on your desk and ready to work. It also means you only pick up supplies when using them and put them away when done. As in, don’t play with the glue, just use it and then put it away. Self-improvement in the classroom means staying persistent when you don’t understand something the first time.

I value when people are focused. Specifically, I think successful people are able to be focused on where they are and what they are doing. This looks like putting away distractions, such as cell phones. Since I will have a policy for where to put phones that will be part of a routine, I don’t think I need to list it as a rule. This will keep my list of rules shorter for students to remember. Listen to listen and not to respond also falls under staying focused.

  1. Listen to listen, not to respond.
  2. Always try
  3. Compliment and encourage yourself and others daily.
  4. Keep track of missed work.
  5. Be prepared for class before the bell rings.
  6. Pick up supplies only when needed and put away when done.

Notice that none of these specific behaviors are negative – as in none of them say “No __________.” I won’t say “no cellphones” as a rule, I’ll say “put cellphones away.” I won’t say “don’t insult one another,” I’ll say “compliment and encourage others.” It’s important to me that my rules be in a positive tone instead of a negative one. Easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar and whatnot. I want to promote a positive and encouraging atmosphere, and that starts with the rules I set.

What are some traits that you value in others?

What does that look like?

What is one (or more) of your personal guidelines for success?

I would love to read any thoughts, inputs, or reflections that you have on positive traits, what helps a person be successful, and what rules help promote those traits. I would also love feedback on the rules I have drafted here.

Parents, what rules do you want to be enforced in the classroom?

Teachers, what rules do you have in place that have worked well for you?

Short Thoughts on the 4 C’s

In order for our students to be ready for life after school, they need to build certain skills. In addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, they need the 4 C’s: creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. That’s what needs to be taught in the classroom. Each class subject can teach these skills and have it all be chemistry related or algebra related or English related or history related or whatever the academic subject. All the while, students need to be figuring out their passions and talents in order to have an idea of a career in mind. That way, they can know whether they can go straight into the workforce, need an associates degree, need to go to a trade school, or need a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Idea: One day a week have the Chromebooks for students to get on khan academy and work on their personal progress – solving problems or watching videos or anything they need to work on to progress. Possibly have a videogame day as well. Use Google Classroom to show them ways to collaborate online.

What are some ideas you have on teaching the 4 C’s?

Strength 5: Intellection

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

Intellection means that I am a deep thinker and introspective (129 Rath). Makes sense. My brain never seems to stop running and I frequently need alone time to process events, conversations, and ideas. I also day-dream a lot, making it hard to pay attention to any one thing. Probably why I focus better when there is music or some kind of background noise. This video on Intellection helped me understand that this strength is the reason I work better alone – that’s where a lot my ideas develop. This can pair nicely with my analytical strength because after I have an idea, I can start forming a plan for data collection, data analysis, and/or implementation of the idea.

Next year I will be teaching two different classes in two different departments. That’s two different groups to plan with. I need to be sure to set up a schedule for what days I plan with what teachers and what days I plan alone and be sure to set those boundaries and expectations with the other teachers. Without this, I could easily see spending both my off periods planning with each department instead of having time on my own to plan.

One suggestion that Liesveld and Miller had is to ask important questions and “keep track of the questions that have stimulated the most discussion and generated the most learning” (138). They are right in that I do come up with some pretty good questions when I have time and space to think. Perhaps I should include whole-class discussions as a regular activity in my instruction. Or at least small group purposeful talk. Maybe I should have the students start out with small group discussions and turn into a while class discussion, once students have had the opportunity to develop and voice their ideas in a less-intimidating setting.

Oh! Maybe I could have a big question that I pose to students at the beginning of class for them to keep in mind the entire class. Then at the end of class, after clean-up time, they can partner up or group up and discuss that question until time to leave class. I like it.

What other ways do you suggest I implement deeper thinking into the classroom? I would love your suggestions on ways to make class discussion more successful. I haven’t done many of them, so this will be fairly new territory for me.

Strength 4: Responsibility

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

Responsibility basically means that I take pride in my work. I will volunteer for task after task and feel personally responsible for the success or failure of whatever I take on. Others can rely on me that if I say I will do something, I will. If something goes wrong, I feel like I have to fix it or make it up to the person, rather than just apologizing. (149 Rath) I learned in college that I have to be careful to not put too much on my plate. I would volunteer for things left and right and would have to drop the ball on something. I learned to look at what I already had to do and if I could realistically take on another thing and get everything done without skimping quality.

I am honestly not sure how to apply this one in the classroom. I burnt myself out in my first semester because of this trait. I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure everyone learned, even the ones that didn’t try or care. That meant that I was constantly stressing about how to help certain students that didn’t want help. I even put extra work on myself to help them succeed even though they didn’t care and didn’t do it anyway. It was a frustrating nightmare for me and I had to learn to let go.

Maybe I can use this strength to help divide out responsibility in the classroom. These high school students are about to be adults and have no idea what that means. Maybe I should find a way to incorporate responsibility into my lessons and/or classroom management. One idea would be to have students tidy the classroom before they leave. I could put a timer on for 1 minute where they have to pack up, put things away, tidy up, and throw away any trash they find. I can also help them divide up the various responsibilities of group work.

Liesveld and Miller say that my “heightened awareness of right and wrong could position and prepare you to make significant contributions to the ethical and moral development of students,” (153). I’m not entirely sure how I could tie that in other than just making moral choices and letting the students see that.

What suggestions do you have on making “significant contributions to the ethical and moral development of students”? I would also love to read your ideas on how I can bestow a sense of responsibility on my students. What other ways do you think I can utilize this strength in the classroom?

Strength 3: Individualization

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

This strength involves my ability to see people as individuals rather than a group. I don’t like generalizations and I have the ability to see what’s unique about a person, including their strengths (121 Rath). It may seem like I have high patience, but really I have high understanding (which leads to having patience). According to this video on individualization, “it is the ability to personalize and customize.” Rath asks the question “What is your best method for building relationships?” (122) For me, it’s games. Depending on the game, I can get to know certain things about a person, or in a game of chance that doesn’t involve a lot of thought, I can get to know whatever I want through conversation. Having fun together builds relationships and playing co-op games can really build relationships.

Maybe one of my reward systems can involve getting to play a game with the teacher instead of doing whatever review the rest of the class is doing. These would have to be students that understand the current material well enough that I’m not worried about them reviewing – so I will have to be careful that everyone gets included somehow. I’ll also need to be selective that the games accomplish my goal – for us to get to know each other better in some way, build our relationship, and encourage teamwork.

I’ll also need be sure to explain to my students that it is completely fair to treat everyone differently (123 Rath). They need to know that I will treat them fairly, but not equally because they are all unique individuals. I should incorporate a way to remind them of this regularly – perhaps in my lesson or in an activity that shows how equal does not mean fair.

When I lecture (yuck), I should try and relate what we are learning to my individual students (123 Rath). This would probably work best by asking them “has anyone ever _____?” and maybe having one or two share a story, then explain how that was related to the subject.

The most obvious way I can utilize this strength is by differentiation. However, I’m not quite at that point yet. I am hoping I will be able to at least figure out three different levels that students are at and have different assignments based on their level of understanding, but we will see. I definitely plan on incorporating more differentiation in the future, but for now I have enough to focus on.

What suggestions do you have for incorporating games into the classroom? I would also love to read your suggestions on enforcing that idea that fair doesn’t mean equal or how to relate lessons to individual students.

Strength 2: Analytical

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

This strength explains why I plan on doing so much research with each step for my summer goal. And why I get all “ga-ga” over someone showing me methods of collecting and tracking data. Basically, I love evidence, data, getting down to the root cause of a problem, and questioning ideas (49 Rath). This isn’t to say I don’t have wishful thinking type ideas, it just means that I do the research to turn the wishful thinking into a more realistic plan. And then I can share those ideas with others and satisfy my relator strength. I need to be careful that I don’t just analyze and collect data – that I actually follow through with action. If need be, I should find someone who pushes me into action. A good person to partner with would be someone with the Activator strength. (51 Rath)

Things I can help do for my students with this strength include pointing out cause-and-effect, being the “voice of reason” when students get “emotionally charged,” explain my thinking process when figuring things out, and help my students see the path they need to be on to succeed (77-78 Liesveld & Miller). One thing I want to try to get better at is teaching my students to use their learning styles to help them learn in any environment. My analytical strength can help with that by talking through the process of what I do to learn in an environment that doesn’t automatically meet my learning style. I can also give them data and examples of how to do this in all kinds of situations with all different styles of learning.

Perhaps I should explain my reasoning behind each rule/routine to my students which could allow them to benefit and perhaps even be more invested in following them. Or at least know that the rule isn’t for nothing, even if they don’t agree with the reasoning. I’ve been reading a book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek that so far talks about the importance of starting with the reasoning behind something, then the how, then the what, instead of the other way around. This strength could make it easy for me to do that in the classroom.

What suggestions do you have for applying the analytical strength in the classroom? I can see how it can be used to research classroom management techniques and lesson planning idea, but I would love to read your ideas on how I can use it in the actual classroom as I design my classroom management plan.

Strength 1: Relator

This is part of a series where I explore my top five strengths in detail and think of ways I can utilize them in the classroom. Check out the intro post hereThe two books I reference in this post are “Strengths Finder 2.0” by Tom Rath and “Teach With Your Strengths” by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller.

The relator is all about building up close relationships (145 Rath). These are the people that are more happy having a few close friends than a bunch of casual friends. This means that I am comfortable with intimacy, only value genuine relationships, excel at building lasting trust, and have a desire to really get to know the people I interact with regularly (145 Rath). In my case, those people would be my students. This means I need to make sure to implement a system where I can get to know my students and they can get to know me – just not too much. I need to have firm boundaries going in of off-limits topics or I know I will be open about anything and everything. I need to know what these limits are beforehand. I like the idea of encouraging others to also make deeper connections with each other, so I need a system in place that encourages my students to make that connection with one another, but also allows me to spend one-on-one time with students to get to know them better. I also want to incorporate a way for students to get to know me, within the limits that I set. I may want to think about making this system more informal than formal, if I can. (149-151 Liesveld & Miller) Although I know that structure is absolutely necessary in a classroom, looking back, I do believe that I enjoyed having some informal systems in my classroom. As long as I can find a way to keep them well-managed.

Watching this video on relators has helped me realized more about my relator-self. I am not a shy person, I’m just not as good with interacting with people on a casual level as I am on a deeper level. Once I pass that threshold, I’m good. A good trick would be to have others introduce me to people (which I actually do that sometimes). I think another good trick would be to ask questions that show an interest in their lives and find a window to open up about my own life. I don’t want to ask too many questions, because that can push others away, but I also want to be able to show an interest.

An idea that the video gave me is to do frequent check-ins with my students. He used to do weekly check-ins with his employees on a one-on-one basis, and I really like that idea. I probably wouldn’t try to do them weekly for every student, but maybe I could make monthly work or just once every 6 weeks. We can look at personal progress in class and with their goals and behavior. It would also be a good check-in to make sure their needs are getting met.

What are your suggestions on how I can incorporate some of these systems in the classroom? I would love to read your ideas on how to let my relator talent shine, but still make sure that everyone is getting the attention they need.