ASCD Wants You!

From the ASCD website:

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.

40% of Teachers Unhappy? Natural Selection At Work Or Can We Improve Teacher Support?

teacher image

Read “State of Mind,” an article about teacher job satisfaction that appeared yesterday online in Education Week.

Are you happy with your profession? Why or why not? What’s to be done?

What would you like to tell your Superintendent or local Board of Ed about the state of teaching in your district/school?

Classroom Management 101

I’d planned to write about grading today, but got distracted because I made the mistake of checking a local newspaper forum (about three thousand miles from me) that had an irresistible thread about a student who got about the worst treatment grade-wise from a teacher that I’d ever heard about. Long story short, after exhausting all district appeal options, the family sued the county school district and the teacher. I intend to reconstruct that conversation later because it’s truly enlightening.

The really sad thing is that the state has a law (I verified this) that says a teacher’s grade, for a single assignment or for a report card, cannot be changed unless there is a mathematical error. The judge dismissed the case, and the educational merits of the case were never discussed.

I thought I was talked out, and the forum thread had forked into other questions regarding teachers and discipline. I tried to stay away, but failed. A question came up that may be worth putting out here. Besides, it gave me a chance to vent in a somewhat civilized manner. (That danged Billy-Bob — and Rufus, who didn’t make the cut on this blog — didn’t agree with me that the student had gotten the very short end of the stick. Martinets, both of ’em.)

START


Billy-Bob:
I have one question for you, Repairman. What is your discipline procedure for your class and your students?

Repairman: That’s easy, Billy-Bob. It’s called mutual respect. If a teacher needs kick-butt disciplinary procedures in his or her class, they have a problem. In most years I could count the number of disciplinary office referrals I wrote on one hand. Some teachers at my school broke a thousand by several hundred. Disgusting.

I never dinged a kid’s grade for a behavior problem. And virtually every kid who turned in an assignment late had a good reason and did not make a habit of it. The mythical stack of forgiven late papers never appeared on my desk.

When teachers justify dinging kids’ grades for reasons like “teaching real world responsibility,” I have to laugh. The real world doesn’t function like that, only desperate little people clinging to the illusion of control. In the real world, real people with real values and real smarts seek the best in achievement, functionality, and profitability.

It’s a small minority of parents who buy into punitive grading, based on my experience over the many years of “back to school” nights, and parents are usually darned glad to hear a sane and humane educational philosophy from their child’s teacher. One, I might add, that is based on research not a personality disorder.

Billy-Bob: I’m a huge fan of respect Repairman. I think it can go a long way in diffusing a lot of problems. However, that doesn’t change the fact that no matter how respectful you are, every organization with more than 1 person HAS to have disciplinary procedures. You’re telling me you’ve never had disciplinary problems with a student or is it you’ve never had one you couldn’t handle?

Repairman: Billy-Bob, if I have written even one referral, it means I could not deal with the situation on my own — like when a student commits a Class A offense in my presence. Example, starting a fight. If I didn’t report it, I’d get in trouble with admin.

But you’d be amazed how much inappropriate behavior can be headed off by putting expectations in place at the very beginning of the year. And then you follow through with respect, firmness, understanding, appropriate social distance, and even vulnerability without weakness (letting students know you don’t take yourself too seriously, apologizing for mistakes, being able to laugh at yourself if you do something dumb like cause a roll-up map to jump off the wall…).

To avoid writing a complete book, here and in subsequent posts, on what I believe are good teaching practices, I’m going to list some great books with links. Every teacher should read them, and other folks interested in education will find them illuminating.

The first — and this should answer a great many of your questions, Billy-Bob, is The First Day of School: How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong. We give this to all new teachers and expect them not just to read it, but to internalize the principles and ideas, and use them as a jumping off point to develop their own student-friendly classroom management and grading policies.

Second — and this could raise another whole controversy, is The End of Homework by Etta Kralovek and John Buell. This book challenges the notion that every teacher should assign lots of homework every night.

Third — a book on education in general, The Right to Learn by Linda Darling-Hamilton. It will make you think about education.

With that for background, you should be ready for the upper level list:

Classroom Assessment for Learning from ATI/ETS, and Ken O’Connor’s two excellent books on grading that are essential reading for teachers who wish to maximize their effectiveness, Grading for Learning, and A Repair Kit for Broken Grades.

That’s a substantial investment in books, but perhaps the county library would responds to some suggestions for titles, and you might even be able to borrow from the Chippewa County Schools Curriculum and Instruction library.

In any case, if you consult those books, I can avoid calluses on my fingertips like I seem to be developing as I type.

If you want to revisit my own guidelines, they’re on post #298 of this thread.

As with any other occupation or profession, the learning’s never over, so all those recommendations are just a start.

END