(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 »

The “Secret” of Intrinsic Motivation

What constitutes a rewarding life?  What spurs some people to pursue their interests actively, while others remain passive observers?  Motivation is a crucial factor for achievement in personal and professional pursuits.  Yet, working for some extrinsic reward, whether tangible like money, or intangible, like fame, may not provide a deep sense of fulfillment even after one does achieve the pinnacle of “success.” One need only glance at headlines to realize the hollow success of many cases of celebrity. On the other hand, working at something for the sheer enjoyment is the hallmark of intrinsic motivation:  Intrinsic motivation is defined as performing an action or behavior because you enjoy the activity itself . .  . the inspiration for acting on intrinsic motivation can be found in the action itself. Shouldn’t the goal of education be much more than the recitation of facts for content areas? Wouldn’t helping students find their passion provide them with a pathway to a fulfilling life? To quote Maya Angelou: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them . . .” The lesson here is that learning for its own sake can be enormously rewarding. It  can perpetuate a sustained desire to become proficient in an an academic subject, a skill, or a talent.  Couldn’t the development of the intrinsic motivation to learn help to decrease the drop-out rate in some of our nation’s communities?  Is it well worth attempting, as the world becomes increasingly dependent on knowledge workers? While research studies point to the importance of intrinsic motivation, few actually provide the “how to.”  Teachers can… 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 »

Soft Skills and Mindsets-Essential for Learning

How a person approaches life  certainly says a great deal about him or  her.  In fact, history provides many examples of individuals who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to surpass everyone’s expectations.  One such historical example is currently being lionized  on the Broadway stage: Alexander Hamilton. This West Indian orphan  abandoned at an early age, sailed across the Caribbean to became the right hand man of George Washington and  the first Secretary of the US Treasury. What accounted for this seemingly miraculous transformation? The many documents he  left behind, demonstrate that he had an almost insatiable appetite for learning. Furthermore, he appeared to embody personal  traits such as Work ethic, attitude, communication skills, emotional intelligence, and a whole host of other personal attributes that are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.  In short, he appears to have possessed a “growth mindset.” What is a mindset?  In her book by the same name, Carol Dweck defines it as “the view that (a person) adopts of himself.”(Dweck p. 25)  People can exhibit either a fixed or  growth mindset.  Students who believe that they are born with a certain ability that nothing can change, being either smart or dumb, have a fixed mindset. The fixed mindset appears to be quite detrimental to learning.  These individuals have labeled themselves and may avoid learning anything that interferes with this perception. Thus, children who are labeled as “smart” often refuse to work on challenging material.  The task may be “dumb,” so they throw up their hands and walk away. they don’t learn. On the other hand, a growth mindset allows people to believe that they can… Read More »

Reducing Stress and Increasing Instruction

Teaching is a helping profession and an art. People enter the profession hoping to make a difference in their students’ lives. Yet they face a host of social challenges that negatively affect instruction. The outside world constantly impinges on the classroom. Children come to school carrying the burdens of failing families. Teachers are expected to address the psycho-social needs of their students while imparting quality academic instruction. Stress is one of the major reasons that many new teachers leave within the first few years of entering the profession. The Journal of Stress Management maintains “80% of teachers report being severely stressed at work and we’re constantly hearing about teachers who get so stressed that they end up having to quit their jobs – or that they end up having mental breakdowns.  The Christian Science Monitor listed the five most stressful jobs in the country. In ascending order, they are : 5) medical interns 4)air traffic controllers 3)miners  2)police officers  1)inner city high school teachers.  Yes, they rated teaching at the TOP of the list. So, who is helping teachers?  The challenges are daunting but not insurmountable. Establishing a positive classroom environment that includes positive regard for each student is a first step to maintaining order and providing quality instructional time.  Moreover, educators who understand that “conflict is an essential part of growing up will provide a predictable environment with clear limits and expectations, consistency and effective discipline, and adequate supervision.” In doing so they will have more Time to Teach! As a former public school administrator (assistant principal and principal) I have witnessed many instances in which conflict escalated because a student was disrespectful to a teacher, and that teacher’s response escalated the situation.… 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.