(203) 453-5067 Laura@HandleEducation.com

Facing Potential Combat? De-Fuse it with Diffusers!

  The best selling author Max Lucado stated, “Conflict is inevitable. Combat is optional.”  This is true in all realms, whether personal or professional. And nowhere is it more obvious than when dealing with adolescents and teenagers. Their major objective at home and at school appears to be to challenge authority.  However, adults can choose a response to these provocations that can avoid combat.  One expert in conflict resolution provides the following advice: “Remembering that we have the option to avoid combat, that we are in control, should strengthen us to be more assertive when confronted with conflict. Being aggressive and combative in conflict (or using complete avoidance tactics) is only hiding our intention to ‘win’ the battle and so force the other party to lose.” In a classroom, where the adult is certainly outnumbered by at least 20 to 1, the temptation for the teacher can be to return a sarcastic or flippant remark in kind. And that would be a mistake! Staying calm and objective in the face of a potentially contentious interaction can de-fuse the situation and maintain a warm classroom climate that is conducive to instruction. Consider the following scenario: A high school English teacher assigns the students several Shakespearean sonnets to read and explain. One student yells out, “I hate Shakespeare. This is so boring!” Instead of engaging in combat by replying negatively. (“Just shut up and do it.”) and allowing the disruptive student to play to his audience, the teacher can calmly use a diffuser. Here are a few alternatives: “Wait Wait, there’s more!” “Nevertheless, we will continue.” “I hear you.” “Oh, well!” According to Rick Dahlgren,… Read More »

Student Engagement: Tips for any Level

  Student engagement refers to the degree of attention, curiosity, interest, optimism, and passion that students show when they are learning or being taught, which extends to the level of motivation they have to learn and progress in their education. It is the essential ingredient for learning to occur. Student engagement is the province of every classroom from pre-kindergarten through graduate school. Obviously, the first step a teacher must take to assure that learning occurs is to provide a safe, orderly environment. In working with educators at levels from pre-school through college, I offer three essential components of classroom management they must develop before they begin to think about presenting content instruction: Caring, Rules, Practice Caring: A truism in education states,“Students don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” So HOW do students know a teacher cares? A first step is learning each student’s name as soon as possible, optimally at the first meeting. Taking the time and effort to identify each student yields benefits for the future. Teachers can utilize seating charts and a variety of mnemonic strategies to help them accomplish name recognition as soon as possible. Students are people, too!  Engage the students in brief but meaningful written or oral discussions about their interests and activities. These types of interactions are known as non-contingent. This means that the students need not perform a particular task or activity to receive attention from the teacher. These interactions can occur before or after class, in hallways, at lunch, at recess, etc.  Some examples: What’s your favorite pastime? What was the best thing you did over the… Read More »

Make Mistakes and Learn!

  Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human . . . ” Making mistakes is inherently human, so people can take the opportunity to grow and learn from their errors. In her book, Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz explains. “Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition.  Far from being a moral flaw. it is inextricable from some of our most human and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage . . . wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change.” When people share their mistakes, they can adjust their behavior and learn.  In an Edutopia article, Dr. Richard Curwin addresses the positive aspect of educators sharing mistakes: “When a teacher forms strong relationships with another teacher or two, they share their problems freely, ask for and give advice, and learn from each other.  . . . An important side effect of discussing mistakes might be to change the perception of mistakes, not only for teachers, but for students as well. When teachers learn from their mistakes, they might be more willing to let students learn from theirs.” Teachers can promote a positive learning environment by demonstrating that mistakes are an integral part of the learning process. Admitting mistakes provides the opportunity to practice an open mind-set.  In order to engender positive thinking, teachers can embrace the chances for “teachable moments” in a variety of ways.  First of all, they can share their own mistakes, thus demonstrating that the classroom is a safe environment for learning. They can explain what mistakes students made and allow them to correct and re-do their work.… Read More »

Attending to Attention: Providing “Brain Breaks”

According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, the ability to focus is imperative to mastering cognitively demanding tasks. Certainly, absorbing challenging academic content requires deep work. Trying to do so in an environment that provides a multitude of distractions such as a classroom can be a daunting undertaking.  The first step a teacher can take to optimizing the classroom environment involves communicating clear and fair behavior guidelines before content instruction begins.  Once the teacher establishes and reinforces desired classroom decorum, students can pay attention, and the essential work of instruction can begin. A recent article in Edutopia by Dr. Desautels, a professor of education, highlights the importance of attention, because students need to be calm and focused in order to absorb new material. Breaking content into smaller segments is an effective means to absorb content.  When instructing students on time management at home,  I suggest that they spend no more than 45 minutes on any particular task without taking a short three to five minute break. Physical movement like stretching or going to the kitchen for a drink of water can help avoid fatigue. It can also avoid overstimulating the brain, which can lead to a loss of attention. Dr. Desautels suggests providing brief “brain breaks” in a classroom. “We can use brain breaks and focused-attention practices to positively impact our emotional states and learning. They refocus our neural circuitry with either stimulating or quieting practices that generate increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, where problem solving and emotional regulation occur.”  This short break can actually help process the information. Incorporating brain breaks… Read More »

The “Old MacDonald’s” approach to teaching

Teaching, a crucial profession, entrusts educators with developing not only their students’ academic skills but their interpersonal competence as well.   Few experiences rival a teacher’s excitement witnessing the expansion of minds eager to learn. It is a truism that individuals learn best from people they like. As Madeline Hunter stated: “Teaching is not telling and learning is not having been told. Thus, engaging young minds in meaningful activities provides them with experiences that will endure far beyond their time in a classroom. I like ascribe to what I’ve coined as the “Old MacDonald’s” approach to the teaching profession. The chorus,”e-i-e-i-o” provides a framework to traits that can enhance both teaching and learning. E- EMPATHIC  Teaching is personal.  Teachers who  relate well to their students demonstrate that they value them as individuals. They take a special interest in each student. They engage in both contingent and non-contingent interactions with them.  Contingent interactions are reactive. They provide valuable  feedback to students. For instance, if a student performs well on an assignment or is is attentive in class, the teacher responds appropriately. Non-contingent interactions are pro-active: they promote personal relationships. Asking students about their interests outside of school shows them that the teacher cares. Teachers can show students that they are valued for who they are rather than how they behave. I-INSPRIING   Teachers who stimulate curiosity impart much more than content.  They should be experts in their subject matter. They also realize that they provide a springboard for independent learning far beyond the classroom experience.  Teachers who  inspire students are role models. E-ENTHUSIASTC Teachers who demonstrate that they enjoy their chosen profession… Read More »

Invasive Technology in the Classroom

As early as 2004, teachers were concerned about the distraction that cell phones posed during instruction. An abstract in ERIC, the educational journal, presented recommendations for cell phone use school. The situation has only worsened, as the use of cell phones has proliferated among the teens, adolescents, and children.  Having recently taught at a community college, I can attest to the ubiquity of the cell phone in the classroom. A 2011 article in Classroom Teaching documented a study on cell phone use at the college level. Researchers “surveyed 269 college students from 21 academic majors at a small northeastern university . . . 95% of students bring their phones to class every day, 92% use their phones to text message during class time, and 10% admit they have texted during an exam on at least one occasion.” Naturally, considering school tragedies of the past decades, parents want to have immediate access to their school-aged children.  But the technology has advanced so far that the phone has become a hand-held computer.  Smart phones have become an addiction. Students are using them everywhere for almost everything BUT talking. They’re consumed with social media, texting, sexting, surfing the web, etc.  Thus, mobile devices are impeding learning. The Classroom Teaching abstract discussed the implications of cell phone “for issues of classroom management and academic dishonesty.” Educators must provide very clear guidelines for the presence of cell phones in the classroom. According to Common Sense Media, “Every school is different, but most allow students to bring phones so long as they turn them off during class.” When students break that rule, they are not learning; they are distracting others and being disrespectful to… Read More »

If schools were permitted to have just one training, this is the one!

This training will help to raise test scores for your students, decrease discipline challenges, and improve classroom rapport. You will learn how to meet students where they are and lead them where they need to be, capture attention, and promote deeper learning.