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Archive for the ‘Behavior Management’ Category

Pro-teacher tips: People engage in communities when they feel a sense of belonging, significance, and fun. (Crosspost from Candaceopinion)

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I wrote this post for my new blog that has a digital community management focus.

Ryan Arndt’s post 7 Ways to Put LOVE Back Into Your Community Management has great advice for community managers AND teachers (it turns out Ryan used to be a teacher! Go figure.). This post made me wonder which elements of my teaching philosophy and practice I apply to new community management roles.

I’m lucky enough to teach at a school that has a social-emotional approach to education. All classrooms use a community-building model called Responsive Classroom. The end goal of Responsive Classroom is to create  engaging communities of intrinsically motivated learners who care for the social, intellectual, and emotional health of their classmates. I can (and will) write many posts about how my classroom management plan is similar to my community management plans. The focus of this blog post is the core belief of Responsive Classroom. In order for learning to happen, people must be engaged. For people to engage in a community setting, they must feel a sense of belonging, significance, and fun. Belonging is the feeling that we are important to our community. Significance is the feeling that what we say matters to our community. Fun is when we experience joy with our community.

In my experience, most brands go for the joy factor first. Schwag, booze, and food are thrown at potential community members in the hope that they will engage. The Responsive Classroom framework helps us understand that this approach is superficial. Slightly better brands combine social opportunities with joy: exclusive and intimate networking events (with booze, schwag, and food). This is better but not sufficient. Brands tend to forget that people will not engage in a community if what they say or do isn’t significant. In the past few years, we’ve seen brands start to tackle significance with their customer service outreach (JetBlue, for example). In the past year, I’ve noticed brands take this a step further and create opportunities for community feedback to change brand operations. Mashable’s article 5 Fitness Brands Kicking Butt on Social Media gives a case study of a contest by Under Armor that ended in users being crowned social media experts for five weeks.

What are the innovative ways your brand (or brands you love) make you feel significant? (Please comment!)


Written by TeacherC

17 February 2012 at 5:30 pm

My classroom management plan on Scribd

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A few months ago I had to submit a classroom management plan for one of my graduate classes. As I’ve switched grades, had new classroom experiences, and read more information, I’ve tweaked my outlook. The first draft of my classroom management plan is on Scribd. I have seen a few educators post their plans and hope to see others do so as well. As I update my plan, I’ll post those drafts.

Elementary Classroom Management Plan

Publish at Scribd or explore others: How-to-Guides & Manu children learning

When is inequality constructive?

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In the Boston Review article Inequality matters: Why globalization doesn’t lift all boats (via thickculture), Nancy Birdsall clarifies the distinction between constructive inequality and deconstructive inequality:

Distinguishing between constructive and destructive inequality is useful. To clarify the distinction: inequality is constructive when it creates positive incentives at the micro level. Such inequality reflects differences in individuals’ responses to equal opportunities and is consistent with efficient allocation of resources in an economy. In contrast, destructive inequality reflects privileges for the already rich and blocks potential for productive contributions of the less rich.

I’m used to thinking about issues of inequality and social justice on the macro-level. Inequality of social, economic, and political opportunity is one of the reasons why I teach and advocate for the rights of children.  What about at the level of my classroom? When does inequality constructive or deconstructive in the context of pedagogies and learning environments? The most pervasive example of inequality teachers and administrators construct is grades. Although many schools try to make grades a reflection of how students are progressing on standards, the reality for many schools, is that grades both reflect and institutionalize tracks and hierarchies. Students with relatively higher grades have access to different pathways and resources than students who have relatively higher grades. There are different reasons why decision-makers at the classroom, school, and district level choose to have grades. In the classroom, I have noticed many teachers believe grades are an incentive structure: students and parents, on the whole, want higher grades rather than lower grades. Many are willing and able to change their behaviors to reflect this incentive.

Are grading I’ve seen examples of constructive or deconstructive inequality? On one hand, they are deconstructive because students are receiving marks on a scale without having access to the same academic and socioeconomic opportunities as their peers. Over time, students who fit into the culture of power and continue to have experiences that are valued by the school get higher grades, while students who do not have these opportunities get lower. The grades of students are compared and opportunities are doled out accordingly. This is deconstructive – the “potential for productive contributions” of struggling students is blocked. On the other hand, I have seen grading practices where the function and reason is feedback. When students are presented with qualitative and quantitative feedback about their performance, and have access to resources to improve, this feedback might alter micro-level incentives for them to engage in the process. This is more constructive  than the case given above because the quality of resources and environments we offer children are not a function of their perceived level in academic hierarchies. Other examples of inequalities we construct are our classroom management schemes. They often feature preferred behaviors paired to positive and negative consequences that change a students’ academic and social reality.

Constructive and deconstructive inequalities exist in learning environments. Teachers have control over some of these inequalities, especially classroom management and community building structures. Administrators have more control over grading, curriculum, and tracking. Students also create their own inequalities via social hierarchies that are based on perceived intelligence, beauty, and other factors. Although teachers do not have complete control over the inequalities that manifest themselves in a classroom space, when it comes to the choices we make, we have to ask: “Am I generating inequality? If so, is this inequality constructive or deconstructive?”.

What are your thoughts? Does this distinction hold or does it rely too heavily on capitalist constructions?

Not your grandmother’s time capsule.

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I’m always looking for new ways to show my students how we have grown over time intellectually and socially (community building). Capzules (via angelamaiers on twitter) seems like an innovative new way to do that. Capzules says you can “combine your videos, photos, blogs, and mp3s into rich, multimedia story lines”.

I’m brainstorming uses for my 5th grade class:

– Making our class time capsule during our last morning meeting of the week. Keeping track of our class goals, celebrations, favorite lessons, etc.

– Digital storytelling in language arts, social studies, and science: having students tell stories using digital media.

– Portfolios: uploading student work into a digital portfolio they can keep forever.

– Better teaching: keeping a portfolio of my lessons and contributions of the class. This is a cool way to track professional growth.


You don’t have to bury this time capsule in the playground.

Microeconomic life lessons: Is handraising a race to the bottom?

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Imagine a race where everyone is trying to lose. Races to the bottom are a bit more complex than this scenario but the outcome is the same: instead of competition yielding the best outcomes, competition clamors around second-rate outcomes. Races to the bottom occur when the perception is that sub-par outcomes can yield benefits or when the voices of those who experience costs are left out of decision-making.

Most economics and political science textbooks give examples from competition surrounding international workers rights or environmental laws. When one country eliminates or decreases the penalties for violations of these laws, a competition ensues between countries to do the same, because business flows to countries with less regulations, transaction costs, and taxes. This leads to a situation where countries are vying to have less protections for the environment and their workers – they are racing to the bottom.

There are many school-based examples of races to the bottom I could talk about in this post (No Child Left Behind, Teach for America, etc). I’m going to focus on handraising because I’ve been thinking about it for awhile.

A few days ago, I was sitting in a class about policies and practices of English language learners. We were having a discussion about equitable participation in class. My instructor asked “what is the definition of engagement you use in your classroom?”. One of my colleagues had a brilliant (and slightly terrifying) answer. She said: “Engagement is when students care about the direction and process of their own learning“. I believe her definition because I’m a constructivist: I think that children construct their own knowledge when they encounter experiences that intrigue and challenge them. My colleague’s idea is brilliant and terrifying because of the standards many of us use to measure engagement and learning in our classrooms. We ask questions and look for raised hands. I’ve observed many elementary classrooms over the past few months. Teachers are nervous when no one raises their hand to answer questions and satisfied when students do. I’m not entirely sure how raised hands and spoken answers correlate to learning. Did the student already know the answer? Does it help students to listen to the answers of their peers when the teacher determines truth? It seems like there is a dual race to the bottom happening. Many teachers settle for raised hands at the expense of allowing learning processes to occur that are less teacher-controlled and have less “obvious” evidence of outcomes. Students create norms and power structures of their own. Some try to have the right answer to please the teacher. Many assign “smart” and “dumb” labels based on their peers’ handraising. They see handraising as part of the game of school rather than part of their learning process.

I’m not saying we should eliminate all questioning and handraising from our classrooms. Of course there are provocative questions, student-centered discussion formats, and other tools of our trade that resemble traditional handraising but have different outcomes.

Do you think handraising is a race to the bottom? How do you define engagement in your classroom?


Written by TeacherC

28 February 2009 at 1:41 pm

When washing their mouths out with soap isn’t an option.

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That Works…. – An EducatorBlog Comic

Forget the soap

I believe that the use of profanity is an issue that teachers should tackle. Why? First, many swear words have a derogatory history. Even if students don’t know this history, they are engaging in forces of discrimination and oppression. Second, students need to understand the words they use and strive to achieve new levels of complexity in their language. I’ve realized the occasional F-bomb gets my point across in certain situations but realize there are more sophisticated and appropriate ways of expressing myself. If students believe that they are using adult language, they may not push themselves to develop superior modes of expression. As this NPR story points out, children use profanity because they are trying to adopt adult modes of communication and behavior – they are trying to push themselves out of childhood and into adulthood. As a normal part of language acquisition, children pick up these words from parents, peers, and the media.

Third, students need to understand swearing disrupts professional environments. Students should understand that how they address peers on the playground and on the bus may not be appropriate for all social situations. Linguists call this code switching. Successful adults know how to change their manner of speech when necessary. The syntax, grammar, and content of my speech that I use to speak to a dartboard competitor at a sports bar are different than what I would use to communicate with my students.

Here are a few innovative ways that teachers can educate students about the power of their own words:

After overhearing a derogatory phrase or profanity, educate students about why the terms are inappropriate. Many teachers just tell students “DON’T DO THAT!!!” instead of creating a learning experience. Students need to understand the history of the word from a linguistic and social perspective. How has the word been used in the past? Has the meaning changed over time?  How do students use the word now?

Then, the analysis needs to go a step further – students need to understand how their use of the word connects to history. Are they promoting values of respect and social justice when they use those words? How might certain ethnic, cultural, and social groups react? On a simpler level – is it ‘nice’ or ‘mean’ to use those words?

Students need to feel like they have control over the language they use. After students learn about the history of a word and the social implications of using the word, the whole class should make an agreement that the word will not be used. Older/more advanced students can discuss the merits of using the word in art, literature, or pop culture.

There are many ways to integrate these ideas into the classroom – the discussions would look different in a middle school and a high school classroom. Maybe you have students make wordless posters about the word or how people feel when they hear the word. If you are reading controversial material that uses profanity and derogatory language (Joyce, Twain, slavery/Jim Crow narratives, the history of the Holocaust, etc) you can discuss these words as they appear in the material and debate whether or not they should be used in that way.

The key is to give students the information that they need to make better choices. This will not work in all cases – there will always be students who choose to use profanity and derogatory language. If students understand the negative history of a word (its relationship to slavery, oppression, the Holocaust, etc), maybe they will be less likely to throw it around in daily conversation. Also, students need to feel like they have a personal stake in the learning environment and understand the power that their words have on others.

Teachers should clarify policies with administrators before they tackle profanity in the classroom – are teachers aloud to teach material that has profanity? Can a teacher utter profanity in certain education contexts? Are permission slips required for these experiences?

If teachers create an environment where profanity is not an issue, we can focus on the development of sophisticated language skills.

Here are a few links:

Online Etymology Dictionary: the history of words.
Interactive Dictionary of Racial Language: An instructor of a college course on race and language has her students post entries.

“Ghetto” – The New “N Word”: Harold M. Clemens that argues that the word “ghetto” perpetuates racism.