Thursday, August 22, 2013

Connecting with Students

Bill Daggett always promoted rigor, relevance and relationships. As a new teacher that certainly appealed to me; but I have often found academic rigor to be inauthentic, driven by excess workloads rather than deeper understanding, analysis, real skills, and creative applications of learning.  Worse, that rigor was reinforced by artificial grading policies based on strange point systems developed by people who would struggle if you asked, "What exactly does your grade mean?" 

But this blog post reminded of Ray McNulty in promoting Project-based Learning:  if you emphasize relevance and relationships, the students themselves help create the rigor, and nearly everyone enjoys and benefits from that kind of learning environment.
- Jim E.


Reposted from the JD 24/7 blog:

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Jeff Delp

60 Ways to Connect with Your Students

Coming to school each day can become a hopeless task for some children unless they succeed at what they do. We teachers are the sentries against that hopelessness.  ~ Robert DeBruyn

If you know me, or you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that I have a passion for working with challenging students, and that I place an extremely high degree of importance on the “human element” of the education profession.  I certainly do not discount the value of content knowledge, but I am a true believer in the power of educators to build hope in those students who may have lost it, and generate the sparks that ignite the flames of lifelong learners.

In order to do that, it is imperative that we know our students (see We Need to Know), and do everything within our power to develop meaningful connections.  This doesn’t have to be an elaborate, or time consuming process.  In fact, it is often the the little things that have the most significant impact.  Here is a list of sixty ideas to get you started on the road to building strong connections with your students (in no particular order).
  1. Learn their names
  2. Call them by their name...every chance you get
  3. Leave a positive message on voicemail (so the parent, and the student can listen)
  4. Ask them to help with something in the classroom, or run an errand
  5. Call on them when you know they have the answer
  6. Smile frequently
  7. Take an interest in the little things - “I notice that you…”
  8. Write a note of encouragement
  9. Eat lunch with them
  10. Attend an event in which they are participating (i.e. concert, athletics, etc.)
  11. Post-It note positivity -- drop a note on as their desk (a smiley face, “great job,” etc.)
  12. Sponsor a club, or extracurricular activity
  13. Share about yourself
  14. Show appreciation - say “thank you” and “please”
  15. Involve them in classroom decision making
  16. Laugh with them
  17. Be willing to laugh at yourself
  18. Spend time outside of your classroom before, during, and after school
  19. Heap on the praise and encouragement
  20. Call home when a they are absent -- let them know you are concerned, and that they are missed
  21. Give up some control (I know...that makes you nervous)
  22. Find ways to let them see that they can make a difference
  23. Give them opportunities to pursue their personal interests
  24. Admit your mistakes
  25. Tell them “I’m sorry,” when it’s called for
  26. Demonstrate empathy and compassion
  27. Learn about your their home/family situation
  28. Share your frustrations, and model how to handle them appropriately
  29. Keep Jolly Ranchers on hand (I’s a bribe...but it can be a conversation starter)
  30. Point out, and celebrate, small victories
  31. Help them set attainable goals
  32. Go out of your way to give them a quick hello -- when they aren’t in your class
  33. Greet students at your classroom door
  34. Say, “I believe in you. I know you can do it.”
  35. Have high expectations, and back it up with a high level of support
  36. Build grit -- tell them to “keep trying”
  37. Be patient
  38. Be persistent
  39. Show grace
  40. Model respectful interactions
  41. Give a sincere compliment
  42. Ask them about their weekend
  43. Intentionally plan for opportunities for them to experience success (write it in a lesson plan)
  44. Address concerns in a way that maintains their dignity
  45. Say, “You are someone. You are going places.”
  46. Recognize when students are having a tough day, and give them a break - it happens to all of us
  47. Hold them accountable for what they say they will do
  48. Follow through on what you say you will do
  49. Give meaningful feedback
  50. Praise effort
  51. Don't make assumptions (or Assume the Best)
  52. Make relationships a priority
  53. Tell students you are proud of them
  54. Slow down, be present, listen
  55. High fives, fist bumps and handshakes
  56. Stay away from your desk, or out of the office
  57. Be an advocate
  58. Find something you have in common
  59. Talk about their future as a definitive - “When you get to high school…”, etc.
  60. Tell students, “you matter!"
I challenge you to pick two, or three, of these ideas from the list and be intentional about putting them into practice on a daily basis. Continue to add to your strategies throughout the school year. If something isn’t working, try something else.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gourd Math and Science

Reposted from Mary Van Dyke's Green STEM Learning Blog at

 Back to School: ideas for play, math, science and design with gourds, pumpkins and squash

Here for K- 5 educators - ideas for play, math, science and design with gourds, pumpkins and squash.

Gourd Math from MaryVanDyke

Check out planting, growing and harvesting details for gourd family plants in your zone.
Here in VA, gourds, pumpkins and squash are easy to plant in May and June.
The plants can then look after themselves over the summer vacation...and will be ready to harvest when kids go back to school in the fall.