Teachers SHINE!!

A resource for new teachers and mentors

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The Voice

The reality show “The Voice” offers vocal contestants the opportunity to sing for four popular musical entertainment artists in a blind audition. The coaches’ chairs are faced towards the audience during rookie artists’ performances; those interested in an artist press their button. .

What if in education we had “the lesson?” What if there was only a auditory recording of the teacher in classroom? What would you hope to hear? Based on the words used, expression, tone, and volume-what qualities would you use to pick your teacher artist?

Use the link below to share what you would want to hear.
Share here

Entertainment, in many forms , thrives on the sensationalizing of struggle and then success. The culture of error is not always as entertaining when we are a part of it. However, feedback and learning are strongest in the presence of error. Making it safe to be wrong is one of the most powerful gifts a teacher can provide students in his or her classroom. Here is a link to an example of a classroom for which time to think, process and support errors are valued.

Culture of Error

Teachers must plan the classroom to be alert to learning failures (“error”) as soon as it begins occurring. This is why designing formative assessments toward your target and goal are critical. Like a driver using a rear-view mirror–good drivers check them every five seconds. Click here to connect to 56 examples of formative assessments. Having a plan after providing the formative assessment is important for being responsive to student errors.
Students have a part of in the culture of error process, too. They can work to hide their errors from their teacher (most are skilled at this), in which case they are much harder to see, or they can willingly expose their errors without fear of embarrassment. Knowing the learning targets and learning goal, knowing what it looks like to hit the target and having this insight to share exactly which part difficult is a a great start to creating the positive culture of error.

Mentors-Talk with your mentee about dignifying errors and helping students with think time. I like to use the acronym of 3 R’s when a student answers a question wrong-Restate the question, Reduce the question (go back a step) or help the student to Relearn. Using wait time is a skill that has to be practiced. How can students be held accountable for responding to the learning if they don’t know or are confused?


What Do Your Assignments Say About You?


8 Minutes that Matter

The primacy and recency effect states that you remember best the first and last thing you hear. It makes sense then that opening and closing of your lessons need to be powerful to stick. How much time during lesson planning do you consider these components?

Think about a time when you were so captured by something that you didn’t realize how much time had passed. Maybe it was a book you were reading, a movie you were watching or a stimulating conversation. Maybe it was even a video game. Why did this happen? How can we create moments like this for our students? Two recent article on Edutopia provide great insight and ideas on the most 8 minute of teaching that matter most and why stimulating curiosity enhances learning.

It is so easy to get wrapped up in the daily tasks of paperwork, meeting deadlines and assessments to lose focus on what matters most. We didn’t go into teaching for those things. We became educators to help students learn what is necessary for tomorrow,  a year from now and ten years from now. When you pursue your own learning “for fun,” it is not because a worksheet is awaiting you or for a score on a test. We as humans learn naturally because we have a purpose or are curious. We have a need to fill in the blanks (clozentrophy is the actual name for this-see Marzano.)

As you think about how you spend your time lesson planning, do you stop to consider the first four and last four minutes as critical? It can make a huge difference in student engagement and learning.

Mentors: Guiding questions to share with your mentee:

Tell me your approach to lesson planning and what you think about as you plan.

How will you “hook” students for learning in each lesson?

How will you know where students are with their learning after a lesson?

When you think about lessons that captured your attention as a student, what do you remember?

Think about a lesson that went well this year. What might be some factors? How did you know it went well?

Just a thought…

At the end of the day when you are exhausted, frustrated or doubting yourself as a teacher, just remember-what really counts can’t be measured. Excited to teach teacher have excited to learn learners.

Perspective and Parent Support (or lack thereof)

What if at open house at the beginning of the school year, a parent pulled you aside and said this?:

“I need you to know from day one, I am unable to read at home with my child or help with homework this year. I cannot share with you why, but it is a serious situation. Please know, I love my child and want him/her to do better at school than I did.”

What would you think and do? How would you view this student-through lenses of compassion or frustration? What would you say and do differently for this child? How would this affect your lesson planning and use of time?

What if you assumed none of your students had support for school at home, but when you learned they did, you viewed as a bonus and great discovery for that day?

Perspective and mind set shape what we say and do. It influences how we interact with our students and colleagues. There is only one person for which you have ultimate control to change-YOU! You cannot change your student or their parents. You may influence them-positively or negatively.  The true change agent for which you will have the most impact is yourself. Only then will the opportunity to influence others in a positive way start to happen.

I hear teachers often complain about parents and what little support they provide for their child with school. How would it be different if they had told you day one in the conversation described?

Over what does the teacher control? This is where to spend your time and energy for your student.

WHY? An important word in MOTIVATION

A common question is “What do you do with students who just don’t care or won’t do anything?” Well, the simple answer is “if we knew, there wouldn’t be students who challenge us.” It is usually not a single issue, but layers  built over the years and through experiences and events  we may never know or understand. The magic wand of solutions can’t always be waved to fix it immediately, however, Hanging In is important.

I just finished a great read and currently working on reading an educational journal about Motivation. Hanging In: Strategies for Teaching Students Who Challenge Us the Most by Jeffrey Benson is one of the best book s I have read lately in the education realm. The book has keen insight and provides tools and common sense ideas and considerations when working with challenging students. I will highlight the book and my take away’s in future posts.

Back to the “WHY” word. For all the articles and books I have read on motivating students, planning engaging lessons, and reaching the hard to reach students, this word keeps popping up. If you have every been around 3-6 year olds, this is a commonly heard (and sometimes exhausting) word. However, it demonstrates a very pure and innate desire for understanding and the captivating essence of curiosity. Then, much like the bug crawling doing his bug job in life, it gets squished. Having to give reasons and justify why the sky is blue , why the wind blows and why we can’t see God becomes exhausting, and dare I suggest annoying?

If students know the “why” behind what they are learning in lessons each day, the opportunity for motivation is greater.  “You will need to know this someday” is not a reason. When is “someday” this week? This word is illusive to students. If I don’t want carpet in my house, a pool or to build a fence, do I need to know geometry? Sometimes the “why” might be because knowledge is power.  Power can be having a conversation and speaking with knowledge and confidence that lands you respect, a job, a great impression that leads to opportunities. Knowing perimeter and area can also help you fit your books in your locker, find the right size phone or tablet case, and measure enough ribbon for the Pinterest project. The more you know, the better you understand the world around you….and put carpet in your house.

Each lesson and activity you do with your students should have a clear WHY for the students….even calendar time in Kindergarten. Create purpose for learning by helping your students to engage in learning, not just comply. Embrace and motivate with the simple three letters of WHY.

Mentors-Look through the day or week’s lesson plan with your mentee. Find out if your mentee has a strong grasp of the “why” for the lessons. This may be their first experience with this curriculum. How can you help them to see how it fits in the bigger picture for the unit or year?

Guiding questions:

  • What about the lesson is most clear and most confusing for you?
  • How might this lesson be important for your students 1 week, 1 month and 1 year from now?
  • What is most important for your students to know, understand or be able to do as a result of this lesson?
  • If someone walked in the room and asked your student “What are you learning today and why?” what might they say?








A Mulligan Day…or two

Many schools return from break on Monday. For many beginning teachers, this has been the extended break much needed to catch a breath and recharge for the months ahead. As beginning teachers reflect back upon the start of school, they realize there are some procedures and routines they wish they had implemented differently when starting the school year. A little more experience has afforded the opportunity to now understand the need for continued practice of classroom procedures and  very explicit modeling and directions. A beginning teacher may have a few more strategies and insight now for quickly addressing students who continue to need more practice or individual attention to help meet the expectations. So, alas, it is MULLIGAN time!

The first few days back to school are great opportunity for a do over from the beginning of school, but needs to start on Day 1. Often, the first day back to school, and maybe the second one, too, will find students somewhat more subdued, but only briefly. The beginning of school you may have had a few days of the honeymoon. Now,  you get may get a day or two. But that only means they students are comfortable with their teacher and adore him or her enough to be themselves sooner, right?

Consider: What behaviors or procedures are taking up the most learning time in my classroom? If I could redo the beginning of school, what would I spend more time focusing on with regard to classroom management?

Some common issues might be students raising their hand or getting out of seats, turning in or handing out papers, quiet work time expectations, organizing folders, working with partner/group expectations, lining up, entering or leaving the classroom, keeping the room clean or getting missing work from absences.

Choose only one to three fix ups to really be intentional about the first month back. Students may have to unlearn and relearn new behaviors, so it could take up to 28 times for some to “get it right.” Be persistent and consistent if you really want it to work. Remember to provide modeling of what it should “look like” and “sound like,” then practice and practice some more.  Have positive expectations for your students and tell them not only the how the new plan is going to work by why it is needed. Let them know you are excited to watch their success and be a part of making it happen. Great managers of stores and businesses motivate those for whom they lead and you can, too!



Work with your mentee to identify the 1-3 “persistent and consistent” do-overs they are willing to invest in.

Talk through a plan and what it will “look and sound like” when the plan is going as planned…and not as planned.

Ask: How will you know when you and your students are on the right track?What will you need to be very intentional about as you go forward with this plan?



Taking the Leap in 2015

We encourage students to take risks, discover, and try new things. When speaking with students or colleagues it sometimes sounds like “go ahead and see what happens,” “inquiry learning,” “We have to teach students to take risks for deep learning to occur,” and so on. So, this is my practice what you preach leap of faith-a blog.  You have to be a learner to teach learners, right?!

My “About” page gives my overview. I hope to use this blog as a way to resource and think tank for beginning teachers, mentors and some things that are just plain good for all teachers, too. I spend most of my days working with beginning teacher, mentors and then as those beginning teachers become more experienced through the years, rich conversations continue. Of course, my colleagues and PLN further enrich my learning and have inspired me to take this leap. So here’s to jumping in…..


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