Where did eight years go? After serving two four-year terms, ending June 30th, I feel that no time at all has passed, but according to my calendar, a significant portion of my lifetime has indeed gone by.
My fellow retiring Board member John Peterson and I left behind some unfinished business that I will address in subsequent posts on my local ed blog, but in spite of the seemingly glacial pace of change in [local] education, the Board has posted some significant gains for the District, which I will also deal with later.
Right now I’m interested to see how the new Board will function. Seven individuals have to learn to function as one.
But the Board is currently — as it has been for the last two years — a mixture of independent thinkers and ideologues. The thinkers are independent learners and respect the expertise of fellow Board members. The ideologues follow partisan party and/or special interest lines, and seem incapable of accommodating wisdom offered by fellow Board members if it diverges from the “party line.”
If you’re local, check in with me once in a while at Straight Talk, and you’ll get stories that are beyond the purview of The Oregonian or the Hillsboro Argus.
A spammer going by the handle “hemp” sent me this comment that is a broken-mirror reflection of a post I recently made. Not sure what the deal is, but I’d bet money that my post was fed to a content generator and got spit back as this nonesense:
At the start of the school year when I talk to my students about the classroom and the school and hopefully by extension everywhere they go being a respect zone I tell them that I cannot manage and maintain the learning environment all by myself but that I need their help too. Mutual respect is the only rule I deal with outside the handbook and its corollary The Golden Rule. Asking them for help opens the door for some judiciously applied peer pressure if the learning environment is disturbed in any way.
Needless to say, I tagged it as spam and sent it away.
Anyone else seeing this type of internet junk mail?
Educational Leadership is doing an upcoming issue on Promoting Respectful Schools (September 2011). We’re looking for stories about creating respect among teachers and students. Selected responses will appear in the September issue.
Contributions need to be under 200 words…not much for such a worthy subject.
Here’s what I wrote (198 words):
Displayed on my classroom wall and in the window of my classroom door was a sign that said, “Respect Zone/Zona de Respeto.” I talked about this when I briefly introduced myself to a class.
After telling students who I am (and why I was there in the case of post-retirement substitute teaching), I explained “The Respect Zone” like this: “Unlike a lot of teachers you know, I only have one rule in my classroom. I respect you. You respect me. All the rest of the rules are in your student handbook.” Lots of surprised and attentive faces greeted that announcement.
I further explained that The Respect Zone extended beyond the classroom…in fact, everywhere.
If a student disrespected a peer, or challenged me, I gently reminded them of The Respect Zone. Often other students offered verbal support for the idea of mutual respect, something we all crave.
If a student needed to pay more attention to mutual respect, I invited them into the hall for a private conference and explained that teaching is a difficult job and I can’t do it alone. “I need your help too,” I told them. I usually made an ally that day.
Paring the subject down to 200 or less words required some thought. But here on my blog, I’m free to include all my rough draft thoughts on student-teacher respect...the key to effective classroom management and augmented student achievement.
Respect in the Classroom (rough draft)
As a middle school social studies teacher, and after retirement as an occasional secondary substitute, I would introduce students to the concept of “The Respect Zone.”
Prominently displayed on my classroom wall and in the window of my classroom door was a bilingual sign that said, “Respect Zone/Zona de Respeto.” Both as a regular teacher and as a substitute I would talk about this when I briefly introduced myself to a class.
Keys to The Respect Zone: After telling students who I am (and why I was there in the case of substitute teacher), to give them a connection to a fellow human being, I would explain The Respect Zone like this: “Unlike a lot of teachers you know, I only have one rule in my classroom. I respect you. You respect me. All the rest of the rules are in your student handbook.” I would further explain that The Respect Zone extended beyond the classroom…in fact everywhere.
If a student disrespected a peer or challenged me, I would gently remind them of The Respect Zone. Often other students would offer verbal support for the idea of mutual respect, something we all crave.
If a particular student acted out and needed to pay more attention to mutual respect, I would invite them into the hall for a private conference and explain that teaching is a difficult job and I can’t do it alone.” I need your help too,” I would tell them. “Come on, let’s go back inside and make it work for everybody.” Besides avoiding a public confrontation, I usually made an ally out of the previously recalcitrant student because they felt the respect I was giving to them.
This isn’t a foolproof “fix” or system. It sometimes fails and I have had to issue a behavior referral, but I never averaged more than five referrals in a school year (and that included mandatory referrals for the occasional hallway fight I had to break up).
The Respect Zone requires a large degree of humility on the part of the teacher, which means, not being perfect myself, that if I ever spoke sharply to a student, I would apologize to them in front of the entire class. But encouraging respect in this fashion pays off for me because it results in more instructional time and less time devoted to behavioral intervention. And, did I mention, way less stress.
What do retired teachers do for fun and enjoyment after three decades in the classroom?
A couple of weeks ago, my wife, Linda, and I went steelhead fishing with my son Chris O’Donnell, owner of River Runner Outfitters, and his fiancee on a north coast river. In fact, we went through a spot on a different river, but similar to what you’ll see in this short video (that’s Chris on the oars…his passenger is doing the filming). It’s only 27 seconds. Look for the boat — a dark spot — in the upper left quadrant of the frame. (It’s a 17′ McKenzie River drift boat, especially designed — evolved actually — for running rivers without power.)
Christopher and Cairn caught a steelhead apiece the day we all went. Linda and I will have to try again. (We release the wild ones. Hatchery fish, identified by a clipped adipose fin, are kept for the barbecue.)
…Bill Gates tells us what to do? (How come you abandoned Small Schools, Bill?)
The real question is, should billionaires be telling education professionals what to do when the billionaires are throwing money at their pet projects?
We know what to do, Bill. We just need superintendents and boards to man and woman up and get it done, without your interference.