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Teaching can feel like a thankless job at times, and it’s amazing how the simplest recognition can make a big difference. A quick word of encouragement from a colleague, student, or parent, can turn your entire day around.

I remember many years ago when the amazing teacher next door to me was feeling really discouraged. She was actually doing a lot better than she gave herself credit for, but as a new-ish teacher, she felt overwhelmed with all the things she still had to learn about how to best support her students.

On a whim, I decided to put a sticky note in her mailbox that said, “I see the work you’re putting in, and it’s paying off for your kids. I promise.”

That choice took just a moment of my time, but she and I are friends to this day, and she STILL talks about how that note gave her the confidence and motivation to keep going. She laminated that note, and it hangs on her bulletin board to remind her she’s appreciated and is making a difference.

If something as simple as writing a note to a colleague can be that encouraging…imagine what could happen if you spent just a few moments recognizing him or her in a contest for a massive amount of free tech for the classroom.

If you know an extraordinary colleague who inspires you and others, here’s your chance to help him or her expand that impact even further…and you can BOTH win big!

SMART Tech, the creator of the SMART Board and SMART Learning Suite, is launching their Give Greatness contest. The contest aims to recognize inspiring educators who go to great lengths to help their students, families, and fellow educators, and who make a real difference in the community.

To nominate someone from your school, all you have to do is to go to the Give Greatness contest page share his or her story in 250-500 words.

If chosen for the grand prize, the winning teacher AND the person who nominated him or her will have a full SMART Tech classroom technology package worth over $40,000 installed in their classrooms.

The package includes a:

  • 30 Chromebooks
  • SMART Board interactive display
  • SMART Learning Suite software subscription
  • SMART Document Camera
  • SMART audio classroom amplification
  • SMART training and implementation support to help you fully utilize the system

Enter no later than August 31st. The grand prize winner will be announced in November 2018.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to nominate a fellow educator. The nomination alone can be a tremendous encouragement, and if s/he wins, you can BOTH achieve more breakthroughs in the classroom and make an even bigger impact through your work.

The post Give Greatness Contest: Win $40,000 worth of classroom tech from SMART appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast: What should you do this summer to get rejuvenated and ready to tackle the new school year in the fall?

The first few weeks of summer are almost always blissful, and the time seems to stretch ahead endlessly. We have plenty of days off in which we can afford to take it easy and not worry about getting things done.

But in the back of your mind, you always know what’s coming. That first back-to-school ad in July just takes all the wind out of your sails, and you’re hit with that sudden moment of panic that the summer is going by way too fast.

You might be like many teachers, who start off the summer with a list of 500 things they hope to get done. I’ve been there, and I know it’s far too easy to write the whole thing off and go hang out by the pool. You’ve earned a break, you know you deserve to relax, you need to relax, but you can’t fully because in the back of your mind is this long list of stuff that needs to be done. So you’re stuck in that horrible place of procrastination limbo, where you’re not motivated enough to get things done but you’re also not fully relaxing. And at the end of the day, you haven’t really enjoyed yourself AND you also haven’t gotten anything done.

Here’s the solution, in 5 simple steps.

Want to listen instead of read? Download the audio, and listen on the go!

Even if you’re not ordinarily a “planning person,” I encourage you to set aside around a half an hour at the beginning of your summer break and think about what you’d like to accomplish and experience during the coming weeks.

I started doing this years ago for my summers, and liked it so much that I regularly plan my year in 90-day (quarterly) blocks now. So this is a process that I use four times a year to decide what I need to get done in the upcoming season. It generally takes me about 30-45 minutes to create a vision, list of priorities, and calendar with themes for each week.

This 30 minutes of reflecting does more to help me feel productive, focused, and balanced than ANY other planning strategy I’ve tried. It helps me:

  • Ensure my time is aligned with how I want my life to be and what’s most important.
  • Avoid wondering what I should be doing each day or if I’m on track to meet long-term goals.
  • Prevent wasting time on things that really aren’t that important to me.
  • Get motivated to push past procrastination and do things I don’t feel like doing, because I know the vision that the task is helping me accomplish.

Here are the five steps I follow. These can help you be more intentional about how you use your summer break so you’re not left wondering, “Where did the whole summer go??”

Get your summer game plan together!
Enter your email address below to get a free copy of the summer planning guide sent to your inbox now:

1) Decide what you want your life to look like when summer is over.

Think about what you can invest time in now in order to free up more time once school starts again. What would really give you a deep sense of satisfaction in the fall?

  • 3x/week exercise routines in place so you’ll have more energy and be in better shape
  • Meal prep routines in place so school night dinners will be less hectic
  • Easy-to-maintain organizational systems at home so you have less tidying up to do each day
  • All family wellness checkups complete so you have fewer appointments after school
  • First quarter lesson plans sketched out so your fall workload is lightened
  • Lots of great memories with the people you love so you feel more comfortable devoting long hours to school work in August and September

Enter your email in the form above to get the free template to help you figure out your end-of-summer vision. There are places for you to reflect on your goals for different aspects of your life, from health and wellness to family, work, and household tasks.

Use this form to set your vision, but make sure it is a realistic vision. Think about how much you can accomplish in a few short weeks with your current energy levels and commitments.  

Remember, it’s always better to under plan and feel good about achieving above and beyond your goal than it is to over plan and feel like you were unsuccessful.

2) List out your priorities.

Let’s say that part of your end-of-summer vision is to feel prepared for back-to-school. Rather than creating a mile-long to-do list of things that need to be done to accomplish that goal, you’re going to create a prioritized to-do list.

Section your list into three columns: high, medium, and low priorities.

The highest priority goals are things which will make your End of Summer Vision a reality.  They are things that MUST get done before school starts and that you are committed to doing, no matter what.

Medium priority items are things you WANT to get done before school starts.

Low priority items are things you’d like to get done IF you have time for them.

Jot down anything you can think of now, and continue to add to the list whenever you think of new things throughout the summer.

Notice that these items are not written on a daily or weekly to-do list. The priorities list is just a holding place for your ideas and goals. That way, you don’t have to try to hold everything in your head, and you also don’t have to look through dozens of choices each day to try to figure out what you should do. This is just a running list of priorities.

3) Write non-negotiable dates on your calendar so you can see your busy times at a glance.

Any trips, appointments, or other set-in-stone events should be written on your calendar. This will help you get an overview of when your busy times are. You’ll be able to see at a glance when the best times are for tackling your priorities without having too many obligations too close together.

Additionally, having non-negotiable dates on your calendar will help you ensure you have time for rest and relaxation in between your most demanding, productive days. You’ll be able to see when you’re likely to need a break, and you can plan for that.

As you look over your calendar, you’ll see clear ways to …

4) Choose a theme or focus for each week of the summer, based on your highest summer priorities.

If you’re already taking a trip to visit your extended family on July 12-15, why not just take that whole week off and make it a family time? That can be your focus for the week: Taking a true break from work and enjoying time with family.

If you have a doctor’s appointment on July 27th and the garage door replacement scheduled for July 28th, why not make your focus for that week on Appointments and Repairs, and schedule other similar tasks in for that time period?

You can have more than one focus each week if needed. The idea is to batch similar tasks so you can get yourself in the appropriate mindset and focus on them without feeling pulled in too many different directions.

This is the last step you need to do for right now. You can relax while knowing that the most important things WILL get done this summer, and everything will happen at a manageable pace.

5) At the start of each week, look at your focus and create a realistic to-do list.

Let’s say that part of your end-of-summer vision is to feel prepared for back-to-school, and you’ve set aside a week of your summer break to focus on that. Take a look at your items on your high priorities list, and break them down into actionable steps.

For example, if one of your high priorities is organizing your digital files, you don’t want to put “organize files” on your to-do list for Monday. You’ll wake up that morning, look at the list and want to go back to bed and hide under the covers.

Instead, you’re going to write down what exactly needs to be done for your files to be organized, and space those tasks out in a realistic time period. Maybe you want to first do a quick Google search to see how other teachers organize their files, then decide on a system, then organize your materials for each subject area.

Choose just one or two of those steps to tackle each day, and add them to your daily to-do list. So maybe on Monday, you just get ideas for digital organization and set up some folders for your system, and that’s it. Tuesday, you organize your files just for the first two units you’ll teach, and so on.

Each day, you’ll tackle a couple more steps which will move you toward your goal of having all your files organized. You’ll start to get some momentum, and that will give you more motivation to keep pushing through.

At the end of the week, your digital files will be organized, and you’ll be one step closer to your end-of-summer vision of feeling prepared for back-to-school.

Your end-of-summer vision is what will guide the way: Glance over it at least once every other week and make sure it’s aligned with how you’re spending your time on a daily basis. This will allow you to feel better about those days when you weren’t able to get much done, or you had unexpected interruptions because overall, you’re regularly making progress toward creating the life you want to have when school starts again.

Get your summer game plan together!
Enter your email address below to get a free copy of the summer planning guide sent to your inbox now:

The post How to make a (realistic) plan for summer that will leave you feeling rejuvenated appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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Teaching can feel like a thankless job at times, and it’s amazing how the simplest recognition can make a big difference. A quick word of encouragement from a colleague, student, or parent, can turn your entire day around.

I remember many years ago when the amazing teacher next door to me was feeling really discouraged. She was actually doing a lot better than she gave herself credit for, but as a new-ish teacher, she felt overwhelmed with all the things she still had to learn about how to best support her students.

On a whim, I decided to put a sticky note in her mailbox that said, “I see the work you’re putting in, and it’s paying off for your kids. I promise.”

That choice took just a moment of my time, but she and I are friends to this day, and she STILL talks about how that note gave her the confidence and motivation to keep going. She laminated that note, and it hangs on her bulletin board to remind her she’s appreciated and is making a difference.

If something as simple as writing a note to a colleague can be that encouraging…imagine what could happen if you spent just a few moments recognizing him or her in a contest for a massive amount of free tech for the classroom.

If you know an extraordinary colleague who inspires you and others, here’s your chance to help him or her expand that impact even further…and you can BOTH win big!

SMART Tech, the creator of the SMART Board and SMART Learning Suite, is launching their Give Greatness contest. The contest aims to recognize inspiring educators who go to great lengths to help their students, families, and fellow educators, and who make a real difference in the community.

To nominate someone from your school, all you have to do is to go to the Give Greatness contest page share his or her story in 250-500 words.

If chosen for the grand prize, the winning teacher AND the person who nominated him or her will have a full SMART Tech classroom technology package worth over $40,000 installed in their classrooms.

The package includes a:

  • 30 Chromebooks
  • SMART Board interactive display
  • SMART Learning Suite software subscription
  • SMART Document Camera
  • SMART audio classroom amplification
  • SMART training and implementation support to help you fully utilize the system

Enter no later than August 31st. The grand prize winner will be announced in November 2018.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to nominate a fellow educator. The nomination alone can be a tremendous encouragement, and if s/he wins, you can BOTH achieve more breakthroughs in the classroom and make an even bigger impact through your work.

The post Give Greatness Contest appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast: How to make time rather than hope to find it; invest time rather than spend it; and create a budget for your time the way you’d budget your money.

Want to listen instead of read? 

Click the player below to download and listen on the go!

I was an elementary teacher for 11 years before becoming an instructional coach. And like most teachers, I had a substantial amount of materials I’d drag to and from school on a regular basis: treats for a class party, organizers I’d found at Target, materials for science experiments, and of course, tons of papers to grade.

Naturally, I purchased that quintessential teacher item: the collapsible rolling cart, often known as “the cart of shame” because of the feelings it induces when you roll that same cart back into school the next day completely untouched with all of your papers still ungraded.

My “cart of shame” collapsed after a few years of heavy use, and I needed a replacement badly. I ran a quick search on Amazon, and sure enough, they had the cart in stock.

However, it was $34.99, which seemed a bit steep. Surely I could find it cheaper.

So, I spent some time combing through the listings on eBay. Aha! I found an auction beginning at 99 cents. I placed my bid. Now all I had to do was wait a week for the auction to end (although I’d spend that week checking it obsessively to see if I’d been outbid). I lost.

I decided to turn to an online group of teachers who sold used materials. I searched through the listings there but didn’t see any rolling carts currently for sale. When I asked, a couple of people made some suggestions, but nothing ever panned out.

I continued to comparison shop online, and eventually, I discovered a teacher store about a half an hour away which had the cart on sale. Finally! My perfect rolling cart and it was only $29.99! At last, I could check this item off my to-do list, feeling 100% confident I had achieved my goal of purchasing the cart for the lowest possible price.

As I got in my car to drive over to the teacher store, I paused. A thought suddenly struck me:

I had tackled this task repeatedly over a two-week time period, spending around two hours hunting for this cart, and now I was about to drive 30 minutes out of my way (and 30 minutes back home) in order to save myself … a whopping five bucks.

I was incredibly intentional about that five dollars but never even thought to count the cost of my time.

And so I had traded three hours of my time (a finite resource, which can never be recovered) to preserve the tiniest bit of money (which is infinite, because more can always be earned or received).

Maybe you’re thinking, Wait, money is infinite? Really, Angela? You remember the pay scale for teachers, right? There’s definitely a limit to what I can earn.

But don’t miss this: That salary scale is evidence that you will continue to earn money each year. Regardless of what happens in life, it’s a pretty solid bet that more money will come to you in the future.

Your time, on the other hand, is not promised, and it’s running out. You have less and less of it every day, and you can’t ever get more.

Why we don’t value our time the way we value our money

I’m guessing you’re very much like me in that story I shared, and you, too, watch your money very closely.

Even if you’re not strict about budgeting, you know the price of everything you buy. You count the cost before making financial commitments. You mentally weigh your options before taking the plunge to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary.

Almost all of us treat money like it’s a precious, scarce resource that must be closely guarded. And yet money is far from the most valuable asset we have.

You can always make more money. You can never make more time.

What if we gave the same level of thought and consideration to the way we spent our time as to the way we spend our money?

It’s common sense to create a financial budget so you know where your money is going and can make sure you have enough allocated for everything that’s important.

But have you ever created a budget for your time?

Have you ever thought to create a schedule where you map out how much time each week you are willing to allocate to various aspects of your life to ensure you are spending your time on things that matter?

If you’re like most people, the answer is no. Most of us simply wake up each day and try to cram in as many things as possible. Whatever is most urgent is where our time and attention goes. The things that are really important in life, but perhaps less demanding (such as nurturing our relationships with a spouse or parents, or taking care of our bodies) get whatever time is leftover, which is never very much.

But don’t beat yourself up about it. You were simply never taught to think about your time in this way.

Stop spending time. Start investing it.

When we take money more seriously than time, we tend to fritter time away in pursuit of the money. We’ll drive thirty minutes out of our way to save $5 on an item at a store, or spend an hour hunting down that 25 cent coupon we’re positive we saw the other day in one of these piles of papers.

Living the “fewer things, better” way means that you invest your time the same way you’d like to invest your money.

You see, time (like money) can be spent, or it can be invested. You can spend your time and money on things that are gone quickly, or invest them in things that will pay you back dividends later on.

The time you’ve put into listening to this episode or reading the blog post version wasn’t spent. It’s not gone now — it’s going to return to you later on, in the form of better work/life balance. That time was invested.

For each minute you invest in reading how to simplify and streamline your life, you will get back dividends later on: more focus, time, and energy.

Plan to make time, not hope to find time

People who manage their money well tend to make choices with the long-term plan in mind. They don’t just buy whatever feels good in the moment, if they know that means they won’t be able to save up for a vacation or whatever else they need the money for.

People who manage their time well do the same.

Allowing an hour to escape you while you scroll through Instagram is a time expense you just cannot afford if you feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep. Put down the phone (I know it’s hard), get your work done, and then relax.

When we don’t plan our time (just like when we don’t have a plan for our money), it slips away from us very quickly, and we often don’t even realize it. “Didn’t I just get paid? Where did the whole paycheck go already?” isn’t much different from “Wasn’t it just 8 pm? How is it midnight already?”

When you need more money, you don’t just hope for it, or try to “find it” someplace. The most reliable way to get more money is to look for ways to make it.

So, don’t try to find time; make time for the things that matter.

Do you REALLY value your own time (and insist others do, too)?

I hope you’re nodding along here, agreeing with me on a theoretical level that time is as important a consideration as money.

But let’s make this personal. It’s YOUR time that is valuable, not just time in general.

See if you can relate to any of these statements:

  • The things I’m doing help others: I don’t want to let them down by saying no.
  • I’m afraid people won’t like me or won’t think I’m a team player if I protect my time.
  • I don’t like conflict, and it’s uncomfortable for me to set boundaries with others.

These feelings are all very common amongst teachers, and they’re a big reason why we have trouble saying NO.

Here’s what I want you to know, not just on a theoretical level, but to really internalize and live your life by:

Your wants and needs matter just as much as everyone else’s.

You are no more important and no less important than anyone else. Therefore, your goals and priorities deserve equal weight and consideration. You deserve to have time for things that matter to you and which help you stay healthy mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Your beliefs about the value of time will teach people how to treat you

When you begin to respect your time as much as you respect your money, the way you interact with people around you will change.

You will see your own needs as being just as important as the things others need from you. Your sense of purpose and vision for how you want to spend your time will give you the confidence to prioritize your goals.

That confidence will make you feel much more comfortable in saying, “I can’t do that today because I have other commitments.”

And I think you’ll be amazed at how others respond.

There are so few people who are truly intentional about their time, so the people who ARE tend to garner tremendous respect. Having the ability to evaluate priorities thoughtfully and say “no” with confidence when needed is almost like a superpower in this day and age.

People may not like the fact that you are less available to cater to their every whim, but they will admire the way you set boundaries because it’s something they wish they could do, too.

They will begin to ASK rather than TELL you what they need.

They will stop depending on you to pick up all the slack and take more initiative themselves (or ask other people to pull their weight, too).

When you consistently demonstrate to others that you value your own time, you will find yourself experiencing a new freedom that you never thought was possible. You’ll realize that you have the power to question the status quo and let go of expectations that aren’t working for you.

I hope this post has helped you understand a little bit more about why I am so passionate about helping teachers be intentional with their time. I want teachers to know that your time is valuable because YOU are valuable. This is why I created the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club: To help teachers find ways to do the job they love, and do an awesome job for kids, WITHOUT wearing themselves down to the bone in the process, WITHOUT sacrificing their health or family.

If you’re interested in joining the club so you can have support, resources, and community around this goal, we’re going to be opening up for early bird access beginning June 5th. The summer cohort begins July 1st. You can go to 40htw.com to get on the waitlist, and I’ll send you some free resources to help you start figuring out ways now to be more intentional with your time. 

The post What would life look like if you valued your time as much as you value your money? appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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Do you have any students who are passionate about taking photos, or are all about curating the perfect Instagram feed?

Photography is such a great medium for young people to express their creativity, whether it’s for the yearbook, social media, or a personal project. And now, the Getty Museum has a new platform for supporting kids in expressing themselves.

The Getty Museum recently launched Unshuttered, an online community created for young photographers. Unshuttered is specifically designed for teens who are interested in exploring photography as a hobby or a profession.

The community at Unshuttered provides power tips to help young people take their photos to another level, and tell their stories in a compelling way that is unique to them.

Take, for instance, Josh, who uses candid photography to correct the misrepresentation of young black people in the media. He hopes that through his photographs, he can show how he and his peers are truly alike on a day-to-day basis, while also highlighting their individuality. Check out Josh’s video here: 

Candid Photo Challenge - Getty Unshuttered - YouTube

Here’s a photography project by a student named Melissa. Through her images, she wants to destroy the belief that women, especially women of color, don’t do real work. So, she captures her subjects from different perspectives in their working environment, drawing the audience into understanding the value of what they do.

Perspective Photo Challenge - Getty Unshuttered - YouTube

Every week, Getty Unshuttered features a challenge to develop young photographers’ artistry. Here are some of the challenges posted in recent weeks:

The weekly challenges and candid photography tips will help them improve their craft while connecting with other students who are interested in photography, too.

Encourage the shutterbugs in your class to go to unshuttered.org or download the app for free in the App Store, and start building their portfolio online. 

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by WeAreTeachers and Getty Unshuttered.

The post Getty Unshuttered: A new photo community for teens to build photography skills and tell their stories, their way appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast: The Productivity Roundtable talks about time-saving tech tips and tricks for digital organization for teachers.

I’ve always thought it would be really cool to get a group of master teachers together to hash out some of their toughest challenges and also to share what’s working. So, I’ve gathered a group of educators to create a Productivity Roundtable.

Joining me are 5 members of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club’s graduate program. These are teachers who have completed the full year of the club and are now in year 2 or 3 of taking those results to the next level and continuing to streamline. They have done a tremendous amount of work in experimenting with various productivity strategies in their classrooms and creating systems and routines that work well for them and their students. They teach at different grade levels and subject areas, in different types of school settings and communities, in a diverse set of locations throughout the United States. So you’re going to hear what works with a variety of teaching contexts and teaching styles.

This time around, we’re talking about how to use tech to actually save time instead of letting it create more work for you. During the roundtable, we’ll discuss how to keep track of and organize the teaching ideas and resources you find online, email management and digital communication, and their favorite tech tools for saving time as a teacher AND the tools they help them organize their personal lives at home. So, let’s jump in.

Click play to listen to the discussion, or download the episode to listen later offline.

How do you keep track of and organize the teaching ideas and resources you find online? 
  • (Osa) I’m Osa, and I teach first grade in New York City. I use Pinterest a lot. I’ve created boards for specific skills so I don’t have to waste time searching for the resources. Materials that I’m certain that I’ll use in the near future get downloaded and saved to my Google Drive, where I have digital resources saved under subject/skill/age or grade, if necessary. Keeping my Google Drive organized is essential to finding resources quickly, and I try to name them in a way that makes them even easier to find.
  • (Desirae) My name is Desirae, and I teach 4th grade in California. I don’t keep any hard copies of resources. I save everything on Google Drive. Most of my folders are organized by subject, standards, and/or unit in our curriculum. I do have a Pinterest that I occasionally use, which is also organized by standards. I bookmark websites I like and/or want to check out, and those are organized by subject.
  • (Nicole) I’m Nicole Guzman and I teach 5th grade in Provo, Utah. I rarely print a resource and put in my permanent files, until I’ve successfully used it. Otherwise, it ends up becoming clutter. Instead, I use the Kami extension to easily add files to my Google Drive, organized by subject and subtopic. I also bookmark websites organized by subject and topic. (I will admit, Pinterest just ends up overwhelming me, clicking through all the pins!) Then, when I am planning, I can see the options I’ve saved, but they aren’t cluttering up my files.
  • (Kevin) I’m Kevin O’Shaughnessy and I teach history and AP Psychology in York, Maine. I have a course website on Google websites.  I have a day-by-day calendar posted for each unit. Each resource is linked to the day that it will be used. If I don’t want it to be public right away, I change the share settings until it’s ready to go public. I use Google slides for my presentations (I use the speaker notes for links or lesson activity reminders) and after I present, those are public too. I still have a file cabinet but I’ve purged much of what I used to keep (using one of Angela’s podcasts as the impetus and inspiration). I keep the bulk of my student work on Google Classroom unless it’s art, and even then, I’ve been much more ruthless about what I keep.
  • (Erin) Hi, I’m Erin Palazzo and I teach high school English in Shrewsbury, MA. This is probably one of the biggest changes I’ve made since our school transitioned to 1:1 iPad use around the same time I joined the club. I’ve slowly but surely purged about 90% of the paper copies I was keeping. I also sorted, purged, and organized all my digital information to be off of folders on my school laptop and all in Google Drive folders. Someone in the club shared a great tip during one of my first months: I added numbers to the start of folders so that they’d appear in the order I wanted, and I changed the folder colors so that like folders were the same color. It’s so much faster for me to skim through my layers of folders and find exactly what I need now! As an English teacher, I’m constantly collecting exemplars of writing to use as models for next year or as a mini-lesson in the near future. That work is all collected in Notability, which is my favorite app for combining text, highlighting, and handwritten notes in one place. Aside from that, I rely on Chrome’s accessibility across devices to access bookmarked sites and to utilize Extensions such as Clean Save, which allows you to get a clean PDF copy of any website page or news article by deleting ads or pictures you don’t want to clutter the PDF or printed copy.
One of the tech tools that is supposed to save time but can actually be a time suck is email. Do you have any tips for managing email and digital communication?
  • (Osa) I check e-mails first thing in the morning on most days, and if I don’t have time, right after school. Parents know that my preferred mode of communication is Bloomz and most of them write to me on there. I have used Boomerang to help organize my e-mails for about three years now. What’s great about it is that I can schedule messages to be returned to my inbox — I tend to do this with messages that I don’t have to deal with right away. This helps me get rid of the clutter of too many new messages that create that overwhelming feeling. I also use labels to categorize messages in my Gmail account. For example, I may create a label using a student’s name so that I can find all related messages easily, or I may save an e-mail about teaching a particular skill, and I can later search and retrieve it, quickly. The best way I save time on e-mail is to never respond outside of work hours. This is especially important to do with parents. I have quiet hours set on Bloomz so that parents know that they will not receive a response after 6:00pm on weekdays or not at all on weekends. The only time I break this rule is in the case of an emergency.
  • (Kevin) I try to do email at the beginning and the end of the day. I am infamous amongst my coworkers for not responding to emails if I don’t have to … I’m a people person. I’d rather walk down the hall and talk to you rather than start a long email chain that usually can be handled with a 2-5 minute conversation. Parent emails have a high priority. If I start to get behind on my email, I click the button that selects the entire page of emails and only unselect the ones I know I need to read or respond to. If it’s really important they will send another email or come and find you. I have no trouble apologizing for this if someone is upset and even have an opener for this situation: “I apologize for my delayed response… .” I’m not proud but email is a time suck that never should replace face to face conversations — especially among colleagues.
  • (Erin) A big shift I made this year was to stop using the email app on my MacBook so that I wasn’t constantly bombarded by pop-up notifications, and that little red number dot telling me how many emails were waiting for me to pay attention to them. Now I check my email at key points in the day (morning, prep, and after school) and address immediate/urgent emails then, and save less urgent ones to work through in a batch every few days. I try to keep my inbox as close to zero as possible. I write anything important down in my planner so I can delete those emails. Emails I need to save to reference later are filed away in folders (one for each grade level), a staff folder, and a student folder (for personal information about IEPs, notes from the nurses, parent communication I want to save, etc.).  I go through those folders at the end of each summer & purge the emails that are no longer relevant.
  • (Des) I check my work e-mails once a day. This is part of my morning routine. I bring my e-mail box down to zero. This is my first year being able to accomplish this and I did so by using Angela’s tips. I use unroll.me to rollup all the e-mails I get from sites I use, and I have a To-Do folder where I can save e-mails I’m not ready to delete. Moving them to another folder helps me be more organized and less overwhelmed. I go through the To-Do folder weekly. As I go through those e-mails I ask myself if an action needs to happen this week, or if it can wait until next week. This strategy is from the podcast Organize 365 and described using paper. Now if I could only get ahold of my personal e-mails.
  • (Nicole) My goal with my email is to keep my inbox at zero. It doesn’t always happen, but even when it doesn’t, it is a quick fix. I have the following folders/labels at the top of my list (tip: if you put an @ sign in front of it, then it will stay at the top of your list of folders): Immediate Action, Important Action, Incubation, Print, Someday, and Waiting. As emails come in, deal with ones that can be dealt with in less than two minutes. For the rest: Immediate Action is for emails that need follow-up within the next few days. I then sit down at a scheduled time and do all of those tasks at once. (Yay for batching!) Important action is for emails that just need to be dealt with in the next week or two. Emails that have something I need to print go in the Print folder, and I can print them all at once. Incubation is for emails that don’t require action on my part but have information I might want to look at later. The Someday folder is for things in the future that I’m not going to act on anytime soon. Waiting is the folder I use when I have replied to an email, but the issue isn’t resolved yet because I’m waiting for a response from someone else. These folders are my main folders that keep my inbox flowing because everything has a place.
What’s a strategy, tip, or tech tool that has saved you tons of time as a teacher?
  • (Osa) Bloomz! I just love it! The biggest difference between using this app and having a class website is parent engagement. All of my parents are aware of what’s going on in my classroom because I can send quick updates with photos and video. There’s a student timeline (portfolio) function which I use to share individual student work with parents, and asking for chaperones for field trips is a piece of cake. I simply put the trip on the calendar, as well as the number of chaperones needed, and parents sign up on their own. It’s been by far the best communication tool I’ve used in years and the parents love it as much as I do.
  • (Nicole) Nearpod. Nearpod is an interactive learning tool that allows teachers to create powerpoint-like presentations. However, you can incorporate videos, polls, questions, quizzes, student drawings, and bulletin board type collaborative responses. The time-saving part of Nearpod for me has been all of the pre-made lessons. I can find a pre-made lesson on just about any topic I need to teach, and if it doesn’t fit my needs exactly, I can edit it for my use.
  • (Kevin) Jupiter Grades! It was “discovered” by an English teacher on the Freshman team nearly 10 years ago and spread like wildfire through our school. We had a great principal who immediately saw the value in the program and bought a school-wide license. It is constantly upgraded and is still the most fluid, intuitive grading and communication program I have encountered. It’s very easy to batch log grading assignments, toggle between classes, individual students, and check in how they are doing in other classes. If our school didn’t pay for it I would get it anyway — it’s that good. The assessment/assignment component is called Juno and that is pretty incredible, too. It automatically grades multiple choice questions and gives great analytics — you can allow the kids to see the correct answers and do test or quiz corrections. It also allows for you to paste in written feedback to the student. I also love the fact that you grade blindly — you can click on something to see the student’s name but the default is to blind assessment. It makes it so much quicker — and fairer.
  • (Des) Using Google Classroom is my number one tool! All other sites and resources I use are all pushed through Google Classroom. I love how quickly and easily I can see who has completed an assignment, the ability to provide feedback and return it for improvements, and grading all in one place.
  • (Erin) Honestly, our school’s adoption of Schoology and Google have been the biggest game changers for me. I realize those aren’t options for everyone, but the principle behind what has made them successful for me is, I think. What they forced me to see the value in was planning with the future in mind.  Yes, my plans will change from year to year as my teaching evolves and my students change, but there are many routines, assignments, and collections of information that stay the same. By being proactive in collecting resources in Google Drive, gathering exemplars, curating folders of resources in Schoology for my students now and archiving/saving them, it’s that much easier for me to simply copy and paste with little to no alteration for next year. It’s that balance between refining my teaching and not reinventing the wheel every single year. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the cool apps and bells and whistles and lose sight of the really simple but really important work that I need to be doing as an educator. I have a few key apps, tools, and methods that work really well in harmony with how I teach, and I stick with those. 
What’s a strategy, tip, or tech tool that has saved you tons of time in your non-teaching life?
  • (Nicole) I use the same system I described for my email as my system for both digital and paper in my home. An app my family loves is Cozi. It is a calendar app that is meant to help busy families. We use the free version, but it allows us to easily keep track of everyone’s schedules, to-do lists, and shopping lists.
  • (Osa) This year, I transitioned to using a bullet journal for both my professional and personal lives. I wanted to have one way of tracking everything that I needed to keep track of — meetings, appointments, lessons, you name it. What’s great about my bullet journal is that I can make of it what I want. I have sections for my teaching schedule, anecdotal records, collecting ideas, projects, to-do list, spending log, grocery list, sightseeing, etc. Any and everything that used to go into two separate agendas or digital lists have now been combined in a beautiful format of my own making. Bullet journals work well for people who love paper and find any excuse to write. I find the process of creating and using one to be very calming.
  • (Des) I love eMeals and Walmart Grocery Pick-up. Together, these two things save me a lot of time! I can find meals through AllRecipes and saved websites, but I love the convenience of eMeals putting together a meal plan based on the topic I’ve chosen (i.e. health, budget-friendly). I was already pairing with the grocery pick-up at Walmart, but they are linked so it’s even easier. I have a toddler and a baby on the way, so this is all especially helpful during this stage of life.
  • (Erin) One of the biggest time savers that the Club has helped me tackle at home is meal planning. We keep our family calendar on Google Calendar, and everyone in the family has a separate “calendar”/color (plus one for the family as a whole) to help us easily see what’s going on for the month at a glance. I keep a list of favorite dinners and ideas for lunches for the kids and myself in Google Drive and I have a blank calendar template I print out each month. With the family calendar open, I can plug in dinners for a month at a time. I’ll also pull from that rotating list of lunches each week, and those two papers will get posted up on our fridge. It makes it so much easier to throw together a grocery list each week with less decision-making. When you consider how many decisions we educators make on an average day, it’s a huge stress relief to have one more thing become automated!
  • (Kevin) June, July, and August are your friends! My content partner and I make a to-do list in late May/early June. I like doing it then because all of the mistakes, wounds, and scars are still fresh — so we have a better sense of what we need to do differently or chuck out. I don’t go in a ton in the summer but I will pick a rainy day in July to purge files and play with the layout of my room. Almost all of my major changes to instruction or assessment are made in the summer — you have time to reflect and prepare that most working people don’t get! Take advantage! During the school year, I pack my work out clothes bag in my car each week so I can drive straight to the YMCA after school! I try to buy or make meals/lunches each weekend for the week. I schedule fun things in my weekly planner because you have to do something fun every day. One of my favorite law professors gave me the following advice “Work hard but play harder!” I try to stick to that.
About the Productivity Roundtable participants

Nicole Guzman is a 5th-grade teacher, wife, and mom of five in Provo, Utah. She has taught kindergarten through 5th grades, and her favorite part of teaching is the fun, laughing, and learning with her students. She loves flexible seating, workshop-style instruction, project-based learning, and technology integration. After a year in the 40HTW Club, she has freed up enough time to start sharing her ideas at elevatingelementary.com.

Osa Oyegun is an elementary school teacher who has worked in independent schools for 11 years. After teaching in Turkey, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates for seven years, she returned to the U.S., teaching in Washington, D.C. for two years. She now teaches 1st grade in Manhattan, New York. When not teaching, she likes to read, sing, travel, and host dinner parties for her friends. Osa blogs at www.thegoodeapple.com.

Desirae Nüñez lives near Modesto, California, and is in her fourth year of teaching 4th grade. She enjoys spending time with her husband and kids, playing soccer, traveling, being with friends, and experiencing new things.

Kevin O’Shaughnessy lives in York, Maine and is originally from Buffalo, New York. He began his teaching career at age 39. Kevin has two sons (ages 23 and 21) and has been married to a pediatrician for 26 years. He has spent his entire 16-year career at Wells High School, and currently teaches a required sophomore history course, “The World After 1945” and a senior elective “AP Psychology.” Kevin enjoys yoga, golf, swimming, biking, bowling, and is a big fan of the movie “The Big Lebowski” as you can tell by his photo.

Erin Palazzo is a self-proclaimed bookworm who set her heart on teaching in the 1st grade. For the past 13 years, she has been sharing her love of language in her English classrooms, working with a wide range of student ages and abilities. She completed her Master’s of Education in Curriculum & Instruction and Teacher Leadership through Penn State’s online World Campus. Currently, she teaches Advanced Placement English Language and Composition as well as sophomore English at Shrewsbury High School in Massachusetts. She loves working with her students to help them find their passions, develop their skills in communication, and to provide balance and perspective into their often overbooked and over-stressed lives. When she’s not teaching or reading, Erin loves spending time with her husband, two kids, and family and friends. A lifelong New Englander, she feels lucky to call this beautiful landscape, rich in history and culture, her home.

This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is like a free talk radio show you can listen to online, or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new short episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section!

See blog posts/transcripts for all episodes

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This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast: I’m talking to “Take Charge of Your Teaching Evaluation” author Jennifer Ansbach about what a healthy teacher evaluation looks like, and the three things you can do to take charge of yours.

Teaching observations are stressful, but you can do more than just survive them, and actually take charge of your teaching evaluation.

My guest on the Truth For Teachers podcast today is Jennifer Ansbach, a National Board Certified English teacher. She is currently in the classroom teaching high school, and she’s also the author of the new book Take Charge of Your Teacher Evaluation.

Jennifer shared with me before the recording began that the book grew out of her work helping colleagues and the research she was doing as her local union’s PD chair in New Jersey. Her hope is that the book will help teachers overcome the feeling of powerlessness that evaluations create and finally be recognized for the effectiveness of their daily practice. Jennifer is a true advocate for teachers and I think you’re going to love her practical and encouraging advice here.

 

Click play to listen to the interview, or read the summary below.

Why teachers are feeling so anxious about the evaluation process

ANSBACH: Since we’ve moved to this evaluation model that is supposed to be more objective, in my conversations with people, they feel it’s more subjective than ever because it comes down to a lot of minutiae. In an attempt to remove the bias, they’ve just sort of split it into much smaller portions. One teacher I spoke to said it comes down to who evaluates you, or it comes down to that principal who only looks at one thing, and that’s not really what the intention of the model was.

Charlotte Danielson originally conceived her model as a way of giving feedback to teachers to consider where they might be able to strengthen their lessons, but not as a judgment of who they are as people. Anytime we change things it’s stressful. But in this circumstance, because it used to be such a simple process and now there’s so much work to it and so much preparation for the post-conference, they’re feeling like it’s less out of their control. 

Some of the models are measuring 67 different things, and that’s just not realistic. In fact, I have some research that shows, including Marzano, that that’s too many things to target. So a lot of districts, including my own, pared down how many things to think about to try to focus people more, but it’s still really overwhelming. It is a change from the way things used to be, and I think that that’s contributing to the anxiety. It’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of things to think about.

Marzano’s approach is very different. He embraces a lot of direct instruction. His work is very similar to Hattie’s in that it uses a lot of meta-analysis. Whereas Danielson was using a constructivist model of education, and it was a constructivist philosophy. So right there you have some conflict between how people approach, how children learn, and then how they’re being measured. Because now districts have to choose one size fits all, we have a lot of places where there’s a conflict between the way the educator perceives student learning and the way they’re being measured. When in reality, Danielson especially was just looking for a way to give people feedback on areas to consider for improvement. She never intended it to be that one score on that one lesson was supposed to be something that you owned.

We wouldn’t let our students own that score that we put on their paper or that they earn on a standardized test. We wouldn’t have them think of themselves as that number, and yet I find colleagues and people around the country do that to themselves and kind of internalize, like, “I’m not highly effective,” or “I’m only effective,” or “I’m not effective,” and that, I think, is really damaging. We should never let outside judgment be the measure of who we are.

Don’t cede the narrative of what it means to be a teacher

Teachers are getting tired, in general, of being told what our classrooms are like, what our students are like, and what our day is like. Heartbreakingly, when we saw the Parkland shooting, it really showed the contrast between our everyday lives in a classroom and the general perception of what we do all day. When people are posting their concerns at seeing what the world looks like sitting on the floor huddled in a corner and not realizing that we practice those drills several times a year, that’s not what was different for those children.

I think that we need to stop letting other people determine what education is, determine what our lives are like, what our classes are like, and what our students are like. We need to take that over, both on the larger stage in ed policy, in conversations about what education could be, and on national platforms.

I think that the days of the fiefdom where you closed your door and didn’t worry about policy and just taught your own kids are over. Policy has come more and more intrusively into our classrooms, and we really need to start pushing back on that. As educators, we owe it to our students and to ourselves to start talking about what our profession is and what our students can do, and that comes down to when someone comes into our classroom.

So they don’t necessarily get to tell us what just happened. We’re allowed to frame that narrative and talk about what’s been happening before that happened and then what that might lead to later in terms of goals or expectations or consequences.

We can talk about those things, and we don’t have to sit back and wait for someone else to tell us what that is. The story of our classroom is the story of our classroom, and it’s not someone else’s story to tell.

What a healthy teacher evaluation process looks like

In a healthy situation, a teacher evaluation is a conversation among colleagues. It is not a top-down model. It is not someone coming in and passing judgment or dictating what is going on. It’s a conversation. It’s a coaching of what’s happening. Even if you’re struggling, that person should be coaching you on how to get better and not just passing judgment on what’s good or bad.

In the best scenarios, when it’s healthy, the teacher has an equal voice in what’s happening in their classroom. The teacher is able to say, This is what you’re looking at, this is what my goals were, and that’s not being dictated to them. Not everybody has that kind of relationship in their school district.

For example, I encourage people to email their administrator and say: This is going on in my classroom, or I went to this workshop, or I got this certificate. A lot of times administrators are very busy. They’ve got a lot on their plate, and they can’t possibly memorize all of that and a lot of times we forget to share those things.

It’s so important that we take that responsibility as professionals and say: This is what I’m working on, this is what I’m doing. That’s really vital, and I think that’s something that a lot of teachers are afraid to do. They’re hesitant to put themselves out there and claim their professionalism, but it’s really an important part of the process.

Rather than sitting back and hoping someone notices, we can be advocating for ourselves and saying: This is who I am. This is what I’m doing.

3 things any teacher can do to take charge of his/her own evaluation

1) Unpack the rubric and get a clear understanding of what you’re really being evaluated on. 

I would say the first thing that teachers need to do is unpack the rubric and really look at what you’re being evaluated on because as I had mentioned earlier, there’s sometimes a disconnect between the way the teacher sees student learning and the way the model perceives student learning.

So going through and looking at the differences between a three and a four, for example, and really thinking about how you can get students to where the model would like them to be is really important. Using that language in your pre-conference or post-conference documents, or in your conference when you’re talking to the person observing you so that they can easily align that, is all in your benefit. That’s really going to help you feel like this is something you’re in control of. 

2) Look for systematic ways to collect more information about your students to make it easier to document that you know your kids well. 

The second thing that you can do is really know your students well and think about finding more systematic ways to collect information about them. So I, for example, send home a questionnaire to parents asking them for more information about their child and goals. I teach high school, so sometimes it’s really interesting to see the gaps between what the student thinks their life is and what the parent thinks their life is, what the student sees as their strengths versus what the parent sees as their strengths. But it gives me really good information that a child wouldn’t be forthcoming with, and I always end with, “What else do you want me to know about your child?” And I get really powerful information just from asking that question.

It’s amazing how sometimes people think that we don’t care, or we don’t want to know, or it’s not relevant when the fact is we just didn’t ask the question. Finding a systematic way to collect that information about students is very important, whether you’re taking inventories on their skills and their past experiences or their interests and then using that information to help tailor lessons to them and pull them into things that might be a challenge.

3) Spend time reflecting on what your next goal is for your students, how you know that’s the goal, and how you know what they know.

The last thing you could do is spend time really being reflective and thinking about: What’s my next goal for my students, and how do I know that’s my goal? How do I know what they know?

And being reflective in: How am I gathering information? When I’m designing lessons, even if I’m having them play games, what artifacts am I letting my students hold onto from that to keep their memories refreshed about this activity we did? How am I helping them memorialize their learning in that way? What am I gathering for myself to help measure their learning? 

Those are three things that teachers could do right away that would make a really big difference in their instruction because in all of the models when you keep students first with your focus on student learning and growth, you’re going to be fine. 

What to do if you get a negative evaluation

Unfortunately, that happens more than we think. And if you belong to an association or you have a local union, I would go to them because they’re going to have people who are trained in how to respond to that and can coach you.

If you don’t have that situation, I would definitely go to a trusted mentor and talk it through. I always recommend writing down how you’re feeling and not sharing it with anybody else but getting the initial hurt and anger out so that you can work through it — it’s kind of shocking to see that you felt you were achieving something and it still hurts to see that evaluation not meet your own expectations for yourself.

Then, I would sit down and go back through the rubric and look at the evidence and notes that you took after the observation, and then see where it aligns and make an appointment to go back in and say: I really need to discuss this with you. I need more information.

Put it in a way that’s non-confrontational like, I notice that you gave me a three here, but when I look at the rubric, it says that I needed to do this, this, and this to be a four. Can we talk about this?

A lot of times, when you can produce that evidence, it can be reconsidered or you can have a conversation so that even if it doesn’t get changed, you know what you need to do the next time for that evaluator.

How to avoid taking the evaluation personally

WATSON: How do you avoid taking an evaluation personally? Because I think you’re touching on something that a lot of teachers struggle with, which is feeling like: OK, if the principal says this is what it is, then this is what it is, and he or she doesn’t think that I’m a “good teacher.” That’s sort of the conclusion you draw when you don’t get to the level of effectiveness that you believe you are. And so it becomes this thing where you almost sort of question your own value as a teacher. I thought I was pretty good at this thing. I thought my kids were learning, I thought I had a good rapport with my kids. It can really create a lot of self-doubt and it can really cause you to feel differently about yourself as a teacher. Have you seen that too with educators that you’ve talked to?

ANSBACH: Definitely. You know, the difference is the shift to the new evaluation systems, which was spurred by a federal mandate for Race to the Top, which said that states had to adopt these evaluation procedures. They had some flexibility, but there had to be this new evaluation. It boils your score down to a judgment, and in the past when I would get evaluations, it would say I was excellent at this, and I was good at this, and then there might be some notes from the person who observed me listing some of the great things that I was doing in my classroom or as part of this school community. It then might have had some notes about a conversation we had about what I’m going to work on next and that was the sum of it.

Now it actually boils down to a number, and that number is assigned a descriptor, like distinguished or effective or highly effective. That’s what people are internalizing. But I never let my students internalize a score they get on a test or a report card or a standardized measure as who they are as people, and we have to talk to ourselves the same way we talk to our students. If you wouldn’t allow your student to talk to themselves that way, then don’t do it to yourself.

When you look at the rubric you see that in their attempts to become really objective, they’ve really just made it super difficult to distinguish. No one’s expecting children to be perfect, no one’s expecting teachers to be perfect, and we all know that teachers make a squillion decisions, large and small, in a single class period. We need to cut ourselves a break in understanding that we’re now being forced to be measured in a system that we weren’t raised in, or based on how that person is interpreting the model, or how the evaluator is interpreting the model.

It becomes a source of stress when it doesn’t need to be. And the best thing I can tell you is not to own that, to understand that this is one person’s judgment on one day, on one lesson. If you measure out how many minutes you spend in a classroom per year and you look at how many minutes they were in there interacting with you, watching you with your children, it is such a small, small measure of what you are and who you are and what you do.

WATSON: That’s right. And we have to resist those labels. I love that comparison to talking to ourselves the same way that we would talk to our students or we would want our students to talk to themselves, and I think a lot of times we’re our own harshest critics. If we had a friend who had a bad evaluation, we would speak kindly to them and encourage them and lift them up. But when it’s ourselves, we tend to get down on ourselves and think of all the ways that that is true and think about all the times that we did fall short and we didn’t measure up. I think that’s such a good perspective to remember that this is one person’s evaluation, one person’s subjective opinion in a lot of ways based on this one moment, and that we can’t extrapolate that into our self-image and allow that to determine how we feel about ourselves. 

How administrators can empower teachers to take charge of their evaluations

ANSBACH: Your perception is your reality, and so I think making sure that you are present in those pre-observation and post-observation conferences, making sure that your body language is open, that you are interested in a collegial conversation.

It’s important that you’re not holding yourself up as the grand arbiter of all things education, but that you’re offering some tips based on your experience. Making sure that people understand that there’s a dialogue there, making sure that people understand that you’re there to support them and to coach them is so important.

The most important thing every teacher should know about teacher evaluations

I think the most important thing for every teacher to understand is that this is just one piece of who you are. It is not the sum total of who you are, and if you use the tools the right way, it can really become a place for you to grow regardless of someone else’s input. It can really be an opportunity to become more reflective and really think about what you’re doing and how you can improve student learning in your classroom.

This post is based on the latest episode of my weekly podcast, Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers. A podcast is like a free talk radio show you can listen to online, or download and take with you wherever you go. I release a new short episode each Sunday and feature it here on the blog to help you get energized and motivated for the week ahead. I’d love to hear your thoughts below in the comment section!

See blog posts/transcripts for all episodes

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes

Subscribe to the podcast in Google Play

The post How to take charge of your teaching evaluation appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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This week on Truth for Teachers: I’m helping one teacher make over her daily schedule so she can maximize her time in school and work less at home.

Have you ever wondered how time slips away from you and the entire day is gone?

If so, this is totally normal, and I think you’ll enjoy listening in on this daily routines makeover. It’s based on a coaching call that I conducted with a graduate of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club.

Her name is Amara, and she teaches grades 3 and 4 French Immersion in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her teaching context might be very different from yours, but I promise you are going to be able to relate to her challenges because they’re common to almost all teachers:

  • How to maximize the time before school starts in the morning
  • How to get things done during your planning time when you only have 20 minutes
  • How to wrap up the day when you’ve got 30 things that need to get done and you’re completely exhausted

Amara and I are going to walk through each element of her non-instructional time and look for ways that she can streamline and simplify. As you listen in, I encourage you to ask yourself the same questions I’m asking Amara and use her responses as a springboard so you can figure out how to maximize your time, as well.

Want to listen instead of read? Click on the podcast player above and listen on the go! Current morning routine at home

6:05: Wake up, force myself out of bed, then spend 20 minutes “waking up” more on my phone.

6:25 – 7:30ish: Get ready for work.

7:30 – 7:40: Drive to work. I would like to get to work earlier but find it really tough to get up and ready early enough. The school opens at 7.

Streamlined morning routine at home

Amara is going to establish a new, more motivating habit when she first wakes up. She plans to read a devotional book rather than just scrolling through social media. And, she’ll physically get out of bed and move to the couch or a chair while she reads, in order to help herself wake up without moving immediately into “go mode.”

She’ll also try setting an additional phone alarm for 10-15 minutes after the first one goes off, to signify that reading time is over, and now it’s really time to get moving.

Current morning routine at school

7:40 – 8:50: Check email/Class Dojo messages, check mailbox for notes for students, take out materials for the morning, etc. I am trying to schedule my mornings so that some mornings are marking, some are dealing with my to-do file and other papers from the paper system, etc. I find that some mornings I am moving much more slowly, and sometimes I get wrapped up in conversations with coworkers. These conversations are work-related and often feel very necessary, but it makes it hard to predict how much working time I will have.

Streamlined morning routine at school

Amara plans to write out a list of everything she has to do once she’s at school. Many of these things are recurring tasks, so they can be automated and she should be able to accomplish them on autopilot. This frees up mental energy she can invest in more important projects.

She is also trying to have a theme for each morning: One day she will grade papers, one day she will catch up on paperwork, etc. I suggested that she stick with this routine, but keep it flexible enough so that if another more urgent task comes up, or she gets sidetracked, she won’t feel frustrated about not getting through that day’s tasks.

Also, it’s important that she use some of her before-school time to make sure she is completely prepped and ready for all of that day’s lessons, since there may not be another chance that day to do so.

Current planning/prep time and lunch routine

8:50 – 11:45: Instructional time with students. I typically have a 35-minute prep in there somewhere. I sometimes make a bathroom stop, then often end up kind of puttering around my class — by the time I get back to class, it feels like if I start on a task I will just barely get into it before I have to go get my students again. Sometimes I am tidying the room, dealing with materials that were left out, etc. I do use the scheduled to-do list and try to schedule short things into the “during the day” slot, but it still feels like I am not using the time terribly well.

11:45 – 12:45: Lunch, though some days I do student supervision from 12:15 – 12:45. I usually spend the first 10 minutes of lunch talking with students, etc. After I make it down to the staff room and eat, I always intend to go back to the classroom and get some stuff done, but I find myself wanting to stay in the staff room and relax, talk with friends, etc. I’m not sure if this is because I am craving a moment of rest or if it is just “inertia.”

12:45 – 3:30: Instructional time with students

Streamlined planning/prep time and lunch routine

For these shorter periods where Amara won’t have time to really get involved in anything major, she will still use the time for miscellaneous tasks that don’t have to be ready when students come back to the room. This could include paperwork, emails, straightening up her desk and materials, etc.

At lunchtime, Amara has felt guilty at times for not going back to her classroom to work after she’s finished eating with colleagues. Since she obviously needs this time to rest and recharge, she will reframe this time period as scheduled downtime. By giving herself permission to relax, she will be less likely to second-guess her decision later or feel pressured to stay in motion throughout the whole day.

Current after-school routine

3:30 – 4:30 (my goal) or 5 or 5:30 (reality): Working in my classroom after students leave. Here’s what I’m hoping will turn into my end-of-day routine: make or go over plan for tomorrow; prepare materials; write up behavior reports (happens daily in my class this year for two students in particular); send “three stars and a wish” email to one family as per the student’s Behaviour Intervention Plan, etc. Right now I am still planning fairly day-by-day. I’m scheduling blocks of planning time over the next few weekends in hopes to have more plans done ahead of time.

4:30 (ideally) – 6:00: I made myself a schedule over the break to help decide which days I would stay later (Wednesday and Friday.)

Streamlined after-school routine

To make sure she leaves school at a reasonable time and doesn’t bring work home every night, Amara will predetermine a certain number of hours as her weekly limit and commit to leaving when that time is up. This is with the understanding that some weeks may not work out that way, such as if report cards are due or parent conferences are scheduled. Flexibility is key.

But, if Amara can practice stopping when her allocation of work hours are up for the day, she may make better use of this time. Knowing that she HAS to stop soon will help her stay focused and productive.

She also plans to bring closure to the workday by using her commute home to reflect on the day and focus on positive events and accomplishments.

Current evening routine

6:00 – 8:30: (My schedule varies) Monday: Work time at home (planning). Tuesday: Yoga. Wednesday: Go home. Eat. Relax. Date night if my husband is home, too. Thursday: Church group. Friday: Time at home.

8:30 – 9:30: Think about how I should clean the kitchen/do some laundry/get to bed early. Feel tired. Don’t want to get up. Inertia (objects at rest tend to stay at rest!) sets in. Get distracted by Netflix or social media or the book I’m reading. Stay sitting down.

9:30 or 10:00 or later: Realize how late it is. Panic. Madly try to do 30 minutes worth of cleaning in 5 minutes. Feel guilty. Get lunch and clothes ready for tomorrow. Walk the dog if my husband is out. Get ready for bed.

10:00 or 11:00: Finally go to bed. Promise myself that I will go to bed earlier tomorrow.

Streamlined evening routine

Amara has a lot going on in the evenings, but she finds it all useful and doesn’t want to eliminate. So to ensure she’s using her time as productively as possible, she will give herself a set amount of time to rest when she gets home if she’s really tired.

At a pre-determined time (often right after dinner), she’ll get up and do the things she’d previously been putting off until late in the evening, such as picking up around the house, doing laundry, and prepping for the next day. Trying to do these tasks late at night meant she wasn’t able to truly relax earlier in the evening because the tasks were hanging over her head, and often they didn’t get done since she was too tired by late night to finish them. 

By taking care of end-of-day tasks earlier in the evening, Amara will be able to use that half hour or so before bed to truly relax and watch Netflix or TV, or read a book. And since she got ready for bed before this “me time,” she’ll be more likely to meet her goal of getting more sleep.

Amara’s biggest takeaways
  • “I really liked the overall theme of scheduling what my time is going to be used for and setting definite boundaries around that time.”
  • Understanding that it’s okay if a task isn’t completely done, and just moving on to the next thing.
  • “Being intentional about what my time is for will really make a big difference for me.”
  • Allowing myself time to rest and take breaks, because “the more I plan in my rest, the more productive I’ll be later, and the more efficiently I’ll be able to work.”

The post Daily routines makeover: How to maximize your time at school so you can work less at home appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast: A simple 4-step system for closing out and deconstructing your room in a single day!

The end of the school year can feel super crazy because it means lots of close out tasks for the teacher. We’ve got tons of paperwork, plus bulletin boards to remove, supplies to label and pack away, cleaning, and more.

You as the TEACHER have plenty of things to do. But often, the kids don’t.

Standardized tests are done, gradebooks have been closed out for the year, and often our students feel like they’re just biding their time until summer break. Kids are perceptive — they know when we’re distracted and are just trying to get them out of our hair, and we end up spending the whole day trying to keep them on-task, and the close out tasks just keep piling up.

Here’s a simple 4-step system I created for closing out and deconstructing your room in a single day, and pace yourself so the rest of your end-of-year tasks don’t feel so unmanageable.

Want to listen instead of read? Subscribe to the podcast and listen on the go! #1 Do everything BUT room deconstruction in advance.

The final weeks of school are when you’ll complete your end of year paperwork, return materials, start organizing/decluttering, and all the other types of close out tasks. You can begin this process 2-4 weeks in advance, depending on how much you have to do and how much you like to work ahead.

But, don’t confuse deconstructing the room with closing out your classroom. Avoid the trap of closing up your classroom library, centers, packing up textbooks, and so on a full month in advance.

A lot of teachers start early because they don’t want to feel overwhelmed with cleaning, organizing, and packing during the last week. Also, taking things off the walls and storing materials away in boxes or covered shelves makes a huge difference visually, so it FEELS like you’ve made a lot of progress.

However, deconstructing the room too early throws off all kids’ daily routines, and ramps up their excitement levels and behavioral issues. If you have an organized system and you’re allowed to have the kids help you, the entire classroom can be deconstructed in about two hours. So there’s no reason to do that weeks in advance. I have experimented with many different approaches and I’ve found that room deconstruction generally works best on the second-to-last day of school.

In the weeks leading up to the last day,  you’ll complete your end-of-year paperwork and return materials and start organizing/decluttering, etc. Pace yourself during the last few weeks of school so you’re doing just a bit of close out paperwork and a few tasks at a time. (If you want help figuring out what that looks like, check out the resource below.)

Want editable checklists to show you what to do during each week?
Click to get my done-for-you system on sale now.

Tackle your close out tasks slowly, but keep the classroom looking exactly the same for as long as possible so you can keep your regular routines in place. Then on the second-to-last day of school, turn your full attention to overseeing classroom deconstruction.

If you do it any sooner or try to spread the tasks out over a week or two, it will be very difficult for the kids to concentrate on academic work because the room screams, “We’re done here!”

#2 List out all deconstructing jobs that students can help with

Want to use my list to help you get started?
Click to get a free copy sent to your inbox.

I usually had a list of about 30-40 jobs, and my third graders were able to complete every task on the list in less than two hours using the process I’m about to explain. We’d start around 10 a.m. and be done by noon, with a handful of miscellaneous tasks completed after lunch.

Once you know what needs to be done and have those tasks listed, you’re going to…

#3 Pair up students so you can assign tasks to them

You can either match names on a class list you keep privately, or display the list and explain the pairs to your class. Give thoughtful consideration to students’ personalities when choosing the pairs: You want to match up kids who get along well so they can get the task done and won’t interrupt you to constantly settle arguments.

You also want to pair up kids who have similar strengths: For example, pair up your most organized students so they can do tasks like filing and library organization, and pair up students who are extremely active so they can move furniture and run errands around the school.

For secondary teachers (and others who see multiple classes each day), be sure to break down the jobs into tasks that can be completed within a single class period. It might be easier to give tasks to groups of students instead of pairs. You can also consider chunking the jobs so that each class participates to some degree, and the classes with your most responsible students are assigned the most important tasks.

Then, on the second-to-last day of school…

#4 Get the class engaged in a fun assignment while pairs of students take turns deconstructing

You’ll need meaningful, engaging independent work that the kids WANT to do so you don’t have to nag them to stay on task. Pick something fun!

While the rest of the class is working, call just a few pairs of students at a time to complete the deconstruction tasks. 

Call one pair of students over to your desk and explain the task you’ve assigned to them. Once you’re confident they understand what to do and will be successful, call over another pair and assign the next task. I usually have about 2-5 pairs of students deconstructing the classroom at any given time. If things start to feel chaotic or difficult to manage, don’t call any more pairs until another pair has finished.

Whenever a pair of helpers finishes their assigned tasks, they should automatically go back to completing the whole class assignment until you need them again. If they’re unable to do this quietly, don’t call them to help with any more tasks.

Rotate through each pair of students as many times as needed until all the jobs are finished.

And that’s it — your entire room can be taken down in less than half a day! You can adapt this process in any way that makes sense for your teaching context, of course, but keep the four core elements in place, because that’s what makes it so effective.

Here’s how this system worked for other teachers

The Stress-Free End of Year Close Out System is included in the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club materials. Hundreds of members tried this method last school year. Here are their results:

Here’s the secret to making the whole process come together …

Be 100% present with your kids — stay completely focused on them and classroom management during the room deconstruction process. 

Make sure the majority of the class is engaged in worthwhile learning activities, and periodically circulate throughout the room to interact with kids and ensure they know what they’re doing. The rest of your time should be spent overseeing the students who are assisting with various end-of-the-year tasks.

That way, the kids know you aren’t distracted with your own end-of-year tasks, and they’ll take both the assignment and deconstruction tasks seriously.

Want my list of kid-friendly tasks for deconstructing your room?
Enter your email to see the printable checklist immediately and have a copy sent to your inbox for reference later.

The post 4 steps to deconstructing your classroom in just ONE day appeared first on The Cornerstone For Teachers.

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This week on the Truth for Teachers podcast, I talked to educators about the school-to-prison pipeline and how restorative justice in the classroom (which starts with you) can change the trajectory of a child’s life.

One of the toughest parts of teaching students who enter our classrooms with a lot of personal and behavioral issues is that feeling of helplessness that comes from working with them. You might feel that there is nothing you can do to reach that student, or that you have no control over the situation at all. It might be your instinct to simply get those challenging students out of your class. Maybe you’ve thought, They clearly don’t want to learn, so why keep them here and let them disrupt everyone else’s learning?

It’s a frustrating situation for sure, but my friend, you have far more power and influence than you may think. And I don’t mean in the “savior” sense. You’re not Michelle Pfeiffer, and this isn’t Dangerous Minds. We’re not talking about saving students, nor is it your responsibility to do so.

This is about having a restorative mindset versus a punitive mindset, and about what happens when we choose as a school community to approach behavior problems through a lens that is focused on long-term solutions which restore a child to wholeness rather than punishing or criminalizing kids for their behavioral choices.

This episode will be formatted slightly differently than most of my episodes because I interviewed a lot of different people to put this episode together. You’re going to hear sound bytes from a teacher, an instructional coach, and two principals.  

It might be a challenging episode for some, but it’s one of the most important episodes I’ve ever done. I urge you to listen to this episode all the way through, even if you have to pause and come back and finish later because it might shift your perspective in a way that literally changes the trajectory of a child’s life. I have no doubt that there will be educators who will hear this message and experience that lightbulb moment, where they realize their own power to disrupt a system that is often not designed to benefit all kids. This choice on the part of a single teacher has the power to completely transform that teacher’s relationship with students. We’re going to talk about some deep stuff here, and you are going to walk away feeling not only informed but also empowered to have a positive influence on the future of your students just through your regular daily interactions with them.

Want to listen instead of read? Download the audio above!

How do “zero tolerance” and mandated punishment policies affect kids?

Let’s start with the big picture perspective. In some schools, when students break the rules or fail to meet behavioral expectations, the policy is to respond with harsh punishments and sometimes even to get the police involved. The goal of these policies is to get these kids out of the school by arresting them for classroom offenses, and then handling the kids within the carceral system instead.

In other words, these policies criminalize student behavior and push troubled kids into juvenile detention facilities, rather than working to support students in being successful in our classrooms. This process of pushing kids out of school and into the juvenile justice system is often referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.

You might be thinking: Wait, this has nothing to do with me. Especially if you’re an elementary teacher, you’re probably thinking. My students don’t get arrested.

But the disciplinary policies in elementary school classrooms are where the school-to-prison pipeline begins. We’ve all heard stories of kindergarteners being taken away in handcuffs for pretending to shoot each other on the playground during recess. This kind of thing happens when there are “zero tolerance” policies in place. Students DO get arrested in schools, even elementary schools, every single day, so even if that’s not happening in your school, I want to take just a moment to paint that picture for you so you can see what’s happening elsewhere.

In South Florida where I taught for six years, we had resource officers assigned to almost every school, and they would intervene in student altercations in the cafeteria and so on, instead of having an administrator or school counselor step in to de-escalate the situation. I have a friend whose entire class watched as an armed school resource officer, or SRO, wrestled a student to the ground after the student rolled his eyes at the officer.

In other schools, the police routinely arrest students for disorderly conduct, profanity, and insubordination, and transport them to juvenile detention centers for minor classroom misbehaviors.

What’s happening in some cases is that schools are essentially outsourcing discipline to police officers and the juvenile justice system rather than providing support to kids through school leadership, counselors, and psychologists.

When a School Resource Officer (or SRO) is assigned to a school, students are five times more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct than at a school where there is no SRO. After all, if a student is being disruptive, you might not ever dream of calling 911, but if there’s an officer right outside your door, and your school has provided you with no faculty members like a counselor who are there to help, it’s awfully easy to bring in the officer and have the kid removed from your class.

That is one example of how kids are pushed down the school-to-prison pipeline. That single decision on the part of the teacher — often given without thought, since the school disciplinary policy states that the teacher should utilize the SRO — can result in even harsher punishments in the future since the child now may be seen as a “repeat offender.” This could result in the child having a juvenile criminal record which can lead to an impact on his/her ability to find employment, and the list of potential consequences just goes on from there.

Which kids are most likely to be pushed down the school-to-prison pipeline?

All kids are not equally affected by these policies. There are two groups of students who are disproportionately represented in the school-to-prison pipeline: students of color, and kids with disabilities.

For example, the US Dept of Ed Office for Civil rights found that black students are 3.5 times more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled. To put it another way: Black children constitute 18 percent of students, but they account for 31% of arrests and 46% of those suspended more than once.

And, though only 8% of school children have been identified as having learning disabilities, 32% of youth incarcerated in juvenile detention facilities have learning disabilities.

Think about that for a moment. A third of children who are incarcerated right now have special needs which are unlikely to be met in the carceral system, pushing them further down the pipeline toward imprisonment. And race plays a role there, too: 1 in 4 black children with special needs were suspended at least once, versus 1 in 11 white students with special needs.

This outsourcing of student discipline to the juvenile justice system is perhaps more important to understand now than ever because so many schools are moving to add SROs to protect kids and teachers from mass school shooters. I urge you to keep a watchful eye on what’s happening with that so you can speak up on behalf of our students who are likely to be at a disadvantage with more officers in schools.

Many people are advocating for arming school resource officers because they feel THEIR kids would be safer with armed officers or even teachers in schools, but it’s ahistorical to believe that ALL kids will be safer. These guns won’t just be present in schools when, God forbid, there’s a mass shooting. Those guns will be there when kids are arguing with a teacher, fighting with each other in the hallway, and a whole host of other situations where the presence of a deadly weapon could (either intentionally or unintentionally) escalate a situation which would otherwise be de-escalated.

When you understand how the school-to-prison pipeline functions, you understand that the presence of SROs, particularly SROs with guns, are statistically likely to make certain segments of our students LESS likely to stay safe at school on a daily basis unless we change the way we discipline.

If there is an SRO on campus, his or her role should be to protect students from outside threats rather than intervene in minor classroom disruptions and students’ interpersonal conflicts. The SRO’s primary focus when there are problems with kids should be to de-escalate the situation.

I hope this background info is helpful as you think about how your school policies might be pushing kids down the school-to-prison pipeline. According to Tolerance Magazine, ANY school policies which encourage police presence at schools, any harsh tactics including physical restraint, and any automatic punishments that result in suspensions and out-of-class time are huge contributors to the pipeline, so we need to be very cautious of these things as educators.

How can the way we respond to kids’ behavioral choices prevent them from being pushed down the pipeline?

Fortunately, a growing number of schools and teachers are recognizing the dangers of overly harsh disciplinary policies, and they are leading the way in making these changes. Let’s move into some alternative ideas and tie that into what’s happening in individual classrooms. Because ultimately, you as the teacher have tremendous power to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, probably more power than anyone else, just through the way you interact with your students and respond to kids’ behavioral choices.

Here’s what Afrika Afeni Mills, a K-12 Instructional Coach with BetterLesson, said about this in our recent conversation:

Teachers, if we’re lucky, get in-school support regarding literacy and math, but not ongoing, embedded professional development regarding culturally responsive teaching and learning. I think part of the problem is we tend to parent the way we were parented. We tend to parent by default so unless we’re intentional about changing the way we think about parenting, we will just replicate patterns, hopefully positive, but sometimes negative. I think that same thing is true of teaching, that we tend to teach the way that we were taught unless we’re intentional about changing the way we think about teaching.

We’re also not taught about alternative approaches when it comes to students engaging in behavior that makes the learning space unsafe for themselves or others. So we don’t get taught a lot of times about restorative justice approaches and alternatives to detention and suspension. And I think that if we had been equipped with those things, and if it was required for us to as teachers to be knowledgeable about how to enact things like that, it could change things so much for students.

I think that when you’re punished for things like going to the bathroom without permission, eating in class, being late to school, or not being in uniform, and your school supports things like zero tolerance policies, then school becomes an unwelcome place where the focus is on controlling students instead of the students being seen as people who deserve a welcoming learning environment.

And if like it gets to the point where school feels so unwelcoming for you that you’re no longer wanting to be there, the likelihood of being arrested increases exponentially because it’s hard to access the resources you need to take care of yourself and those you love without finishing school.

So I feel like a lot of times–instead of being pro-active and putting pedagogical and instructional approaches into place to tells students that they matter, that what they think, feel, want, who they are, where they come from, that all of that has value, and that their representation in the curriculum matters–we’re often reactive to the behaviors we see instead, and we don’t take enough time to consider and address some of the causes of disruptive behavior.

Have you ever read the poem “Cause I Ain’t Got a Pencil”?  He got to school and he was not “prepared to be in the learning environment.” But he was just like, “I got up. I got myself ready. I found the uniform clothes. I got my siblings ready. The lights weren’t on, but I made sure to get us to school on time, to get breakfast, and then my teacher was coming down on me because I didn’t have a pencil.”

We need to start thinking differently instead of just reacting to the things that we find disruptive. We need to think about what might be contributing to the disruptions in the student’s life, and how we can change those things so that they can be okay.

Why don’t punitive measures work?

I think we’ve all had experiences like the one in that poem by Joshua T. Dickerson, where we punish or reprimand kids at times when a different response would be more constructive. And it’s often because we are responding out of frustration, and a lack of resources, or a lack of alternatives. It’s understandable — but it just doesn’t work. When disciplinary measures are punitive — in other words, intended only to punish students — we end up with kids who keep getting punished over and over again. They’re in the principal’s office by 9 am every day.

Punitive measures are short-sighted in most instances because they neglect to factor in that the student will eventually be returned to class. The relationship with the teacher and other kids in that classroom will eventually need to be restored.

So when we’re focused only on making kids “pay” for what they did wrong, when we’re ignoring their needs and simply trying to get them out of the classroom so the “good kids” can learn, we run into the very inconvenient issue of having the kids we punished be returned to the classroom. They come back to our rooms and we’re still angry or bitter about what happened, and even if we’re not it’s awkward and difficult to figure out how to re-integrate a child you just suspended.

For me, it always felt like the moment after having a shouting match with your partner or spouse: You have to figure out some way to get the relationship back on track because you’re stuck with each other, but you don’t really know what to do to fix things. Often the kids who return back to the classroom are resentful or embarrassed, and the underlying needs that caused them to act out in the first place weren’t ever addressed.

What’s the alternative to a punitive mindset or approach?

The question that many educators are asking right now is, what would it look like to change our focus from the punitive model and punishing students, and instead focus on restoring that student to the classroom, restoring the relationship, making restorations to the person who was harmed by the student’s choices, and addressing the underlying problems so that the situation doesn’t happen again?

That’s how restorative justice works, and it’s an extremely effective alternative to harsh discipline policies that push kids toward the school-to-prison pipeline. Here’s Victor Small, Jr., a middle school administrator in Oakland, California, who explained it recently in an interview over on Cult of Pedagogy:

What we’re essentially teaching students is your behavior has effects, your behavior affects people, and so in order to deal with the consequence of that, you’re going to have to figure out how to make things right. And so when we talk about restorative justice, we’re talking about that, the systematic idea.

We’re talking about the things you’re doing as adults on campus to ensure that students are recognizing that they’re doing something wrong and finding a way to make it right.

If a kid gets angry and says something to another kid, and that kid gets mad, do they need detention for that or do they need to just fix the problem and not be mad at each other? Probably just fix the problem and not be mad at each other, go on about their lives.

Maybe it’s better for the student to just say, “Sorry for this one, buddy.” Maybe their written apology’s a good idea. Maybe they should reflect on this. They can handle that between the two students. You could facilitate that. It teaches them, “Hey, you have to be accountable for your actions because your actions do have an impact on other students,” without having them sit in detention.

Restorative justice is not a cut-and-dried system or a prescribed formula you follow. Each school has its own approach. But having a “restorative mindset” is the foundational element. Begin thinking about your own biases and reflecting on how you respond to student behavior from a place of empathy and understanding of the root issue, rather than just reacting from a place of wanting to punish a student for what feels like a personal attack. Here’s Victor Small Jr on that:

It’s really easy for us to think that student behavior is about us, but we know it’s not. We know psychologically they’re not even thinking about us. They’re thinking about them. Their actions aren’t happening as an intentional thing to derail our lesson that we spent, that we worked on until about midnight, you know?

Students don’t have sick days. They don’t have bereavement leave. If someone dies that’s close to us, we can take some days off and we can deal with it. They don’t have that opportunity. You gotta figure in America, with all the different variables that are happening in different households, that one of your kids just had the worst night of their lives. And they come into school because they have to. And I’m going to guarantee that you reacting in the most negative way to them might be the last straw.

Head over to Cult of Pedagogy and get episode 89 of that podcast to hear Victor speak more on how RJ practices work in his school.

No time to finish reading?

Download the audio and listen on the go:

Is there ever a scenario in which a student waives his or her right to be part of the classroom?

So you might be wondering at this point, okay, I see the benefits of restorative justice but does a student EVER waive his/her right to be part of the classroom? Is there ever a scenario in which a student needs to be removed? How do we keep teachers and kids safe at school without disregarding the rights of ALL students to be in class and get an education?

Here’s Afrika Afeni Mills again on that:

I think a student may show a need to be in a different learning setting because of, say, mental health challenges or because of behavioral challenges. When I was a teacher, I had a student in one of my classes who was terribly verbally and physically abusive to some of the other students in the class. And it really honestly broke my heart that he was going through that because I was trying to hold both things at the same time: I wanted him to be okay and be part of the learning environment, and I also wanted the rest of my students to be okay and safe from some of the things that he was doing.

Just using that as an example, I think that we should really be in a process of creating high-quality alternative schooling. And I need to say that part about quality, that’s really important to note, because there are some alternative schooling programs that are not high quality and that’s not effective either.

So if there are high-quality alternative schooling opportunities that the students could participate in instead of being suspended and expelled, where they’re not being isolated but really trying to be led back into a learning community, I think that that’s something that needs to be pursued.

It’s not an easy answer. So I’m just going to lead with that, because I feel like it’s a process that we go through, and any meaningful transformation is not going to be rapid, but I think that we could at least get on the road and start moving toward it.

I think a lot of it has to do with being less reactive and more proactive. If a student is disruptive and exhibiting challenging behaviors, if they’re doing things that make it difficult for everyone to be okay in the learning environment, then yes, there are reactions we need to have, like implementing restorative justice and creating high-quality alternative programming for students who are a lot of times maybe responding out of trauma. So that’s a whole other thing that we could have a conversation about.

But when we think about trying to be proactive, then we could say: “We’ll deal with what we’re facing right now. We have..

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