Posts Tagged: Student Engagement

In the Classroom
Teaching the Former You
December 17, 2018
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Teaching the Former You

Ashley Corey

@ms_corey8

Every teacher can attest that there are going to be students in each class that are tougher to teach than others. There will be students who are not fully on board with every teacher that they have, and teachers who may not make meaningful connections with every student that they have. There is beauty in this. Our students are unique people that vary wildly. Some personalities click and others simply do not. I do not believe it is our place to try and bend students to our will and make them “likable,” particularly when the most strong willed of them oftentimes have some of the most brilliant moments.
In the Classroom
10 Things Teachers Should Remember as They Begin Another School Year
August 8, 2018
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10 Things Teachers Should Remember as They Begin Another School Year

Lynnsey Metcalf
@sterchimetcalf

10. Restart your attitude every day! Some days are rough. Things go wrong. Always start your day with a positive attitude. Forget about the negative things that happened in the past and focus on the amazing opportunities in front of you.
In the Classroom Professional Learning
Targeting Academic Success: How They Hit the Bullseye And How I (Almost) Missed It
July 24, 2018
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Targeting Academic Success: How They Hit the Bullseye And How I (Almost) Missed It

Amy Crawford
@AmyKCrawford

Over spring break, I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua with a group of eight high school seniors. While many of their peers were frolicking on beaches, guzzling beer through funnels, and striking provocative poses in barely-there bikinis, these kids were serving, leading, sacrificing, sharing, and loving. What makes this group even more unique is that all of them are graduating high school with GPAs north of 4.0 and an average ACT score of 32. Two of the students attend a private school, and six attend public high schools. 
 
In the Classroom Uncategorized
Each School Year Is a Fresh Start
July 14, 2018
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Each School Year Is a Fresh Start

Al Feldblum
@afeldblum 

Have you seen the commercial with the parents gleefully riding on shopping carts while their two children watch with sad, remorseful faces? The background music lyrics are “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The family is back-to-school shopping.
In the Classroom
Six Ways to Incorporate Student Voice in Your Classroom
June 2, 2018
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Six Ways to Incorporate Student Voice in Your Classroom

Erin Glenn
@erin_glenn_edu

``So why do I have to do this….Because I said so!” Unfortunately, this type of conversation may occur all too often when students do not see the benefit or purpose of what they have been asked to do. Providing opportunities for students to have a voice in their classroom practices allows them to help shape their class environment and increases the likelihood they’ll follow outlined procedures and protocols. There are many ways to incorporate student voice in your class. Six of my personal favorites are found below:
In the Classroom Policy
Students Are Compelled to Attend School, But Is School Compelling?
May 30, 2018
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Students Are Compelled to Attend School, But Is School Compelling?

Casey Ward
@caseytward

“The right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school” - Ivan Illich from Deschooling Society “From the moment I could talk, I was ordered to listen” - Cat Stevens from “Father and Son”
In the Classroom Policy
Full-Immersion Work-Based Learning
February 7, 2018
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Full-Immersion Work-Based Learning

Heidi King
@heidikingking

Patrick’s alarm goes off at 5:30 am.  He rolls out of bed and gets dressed.  He has to clock in at Gestamp by 7am, which he’s learned means arriving no later than 6:45.  Patrick is saving for a car, but for now he pays Uber $20 a day to get to and from work.  This is not the easiest life for an 18 year old high school senior to face, but this experience has changed the course of Patrick’s life for the better.  
In the Classroom Leadership
Find Your Mrs. P
October 22, 2017
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Find Your Mrs. P

Jeff Gray
@iteachushistory

My experience as a first year teacher is not unlike many others in the teaching profession. I was fresh out of school, ready to change the world. My first teaching job found me in a large southern city with a sordid, but progressive history in public education. I was assigned to teach 8th grade social studies in a large middle school located physically in a solid middle class suburb. However, our student population was anything but solid middle class. Through the then constitutional busing policy, our student population was majority minority with a high percentage of free and reduced lunch. Our faculty was full of “newbies” just like me, trying to change the world.
In the Classroom
How Project-Based Learning Revolutionized My Teaching
October 6, 2017
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How Project-Based Learning Revolutionized My Teaching

Mary-Owen Holmes
@MsHolmesTeach 

Over the past few years, Tennessee has been committed to making bold changes to our educational landscape. We’ve seen shifts in what our students are learning, and are striving to ensure all students receive a high-quality education. Project-based learning (PBL) is a natural extension of our state’s focus on reform. A renewed emphasis on college and career readiness has encouraged teachers and schools to incorporate strategies such as problem-based learning and technology integration, while also providing more opportunities for early-work experience. Across Tennessee students are learning to broadcast news, lead research efforts, build websites, code programs, and analyze data, while embedding math and literacy into their work. PBL has allowed me to better connect the past to the present, as well as bring fun back into history class. When we connect our classroom learning to real-world examples, as well as necessary critical thinking and problem-solving skills, everyone wins.
In the Classroom Leadership
Change the Language, Change the Mindset
December 19, 2016
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Change the Language, Change the Mindset

Marc Walls
@variableleader

This is the first in a four-part series dedicated to the effects of the words and phrases teachers and education officials use and how they shape the culture of schools and student learning.

Part 1: The Language of Deflation and Motivation

“Easy” is a venomous word in the classroom.  Nothing positive ever occurs from referring to a task or a problem in that capacity.  In seven years of teaching, I have made mistakes and coached students through their frustrations with their teachers, themselves, and even me.  I make a commitment with my students at the beginning of each school year.   The promise I make to them is that I will never refer to any assignment, assessment, or accomplishment as “easy.”  This is typically met with the same look of confusion I receive when I assign homework on Fridays.   However, when I start to explain myself, the students typically relate in some way from personal experience.  Referring to tasks as “easy” will only create recurring problems involving students’ motivation and deflation.

Motivation

There is an estimated 40 percent high school students who are chronically disengaged, according to a 2003 National Research Council report on motivation.  Motivating students, particularly struggling learners, is often one of the most challenging jobs for a teacher.  Once a student is hooked, a supreme accomplishment has taken place.  The quest to maintain that motivation begins at this point.  It can be very tempting for a teacher to want to encourage a student to attempt a problem by reassuring him or her that it can be accomplished.  

“I know you can do it; just try, it’s an easy problem.”

The teacher who makes this statement is very often making every effort to hold on to the progress that has been achieved.  The intentions can be positive, but the result is not.  Two possible outcomes will occur from this exchange and both are negative.  First, if the there was any desire to attempt the problem before, the student certainly is not going to waste his time with something you have determined to be simple.  But what if that student was engaged and worked diligently to arrive at the right answer?  What if the student applied those skills the teacher taught, was incredibly proud, and finally connected the dots between hard work and their achievement?  The teacher walks by and follows with the comment from above.  “See, it was easy.”  It was not easy for the student.  In fact, it was difficult, but the student solved the problem correctly.  The teacher has just destroyed the progress the student has made academically as well as ruined the self-esteem that was built from solving a complex problem.  Who cares that the student got it correct; it was easy.

Deflation

Motivating our students becomes increasingly difficult each year, but so does determining which students are actually motivated and engaged.  The very last thing any of us ever wants to do is deflate the efforts or progress that a hard working student is making.  Using the word “easy” loosely in the classroom is one way that can happen quickly.  Refer back to the previous scenario.  A student is sitting in a desk and might or might not be disengaged from the day’s assignment.  The teacher, looking to use level of difficulty as a bargaining tool to coax what appears to be an inactive learner, reassures the student in the hope of getting some work out of the student.

“Come on, this is an easy one.  Just give it a try.”

The only problem is, it is not easy, and the student is not inactive, he is struggling.  That phrase now permeates in the mind of the child as he continues to sit there, gazing pointlessly at a problem that may be too abstract or use vocabulary he does not recognize.  Learning is difficult enough.  Learning things that are supposed to be easy?  That is deflating to any person, adult or child.  The teacher, regardless of his or her best intentions, makes the student feel stupid.

Commit to your Kids

Students know every concept they learn is challenging, so there is value in every target that is achieved.  I never have to address the topic of relevancy with my classes because the relevance lies in learning something of great difficulty.  So reflect on the way you provide formative feedback to your students.  Have you diminished any accomplishments lately?  Changing the language by removing a small word makes such an impact in improving the daily learning climate of a classroom.

Marc Walls has taught science at Northeast High School for two years. He has served as a leader in STEM integration, facilitating in services during the summer and serving as a mentor to elementary and middle school teachers. Marc worked with a team of colleagues to rewrite the physical science curriculum used in his school system. He is a graduate of his district’s Leadership Development course and was accepted into the Aspiring Administrator’s Academy. Marc was selected for the Partners in Policymaking Leadership Institute as an advocate for Autism awareness and active volunteer in his community. He is a graduate of Austin Peay State University and hold’s a Master of School Administration from Bethel University. He also serves as a Hope Street Group Tennessee Teacher Fellow, engaging his colleagues in providing classroom feedback to the Tennessee Department of Education on public education policy issues.