4 Tips for Strengthening Relationships Between School Employees

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There are plenty of articles on the web about how to strengthen teacher/student relationships. The relationship between a teacher and student is inherently vital to education; being a good educator means your students trust you and you can all work together well to learn. However, it’s also important to cultivate strong relationships between school employees, whether teachers, administration, or other professionals. Teaching is often a solitary job, especially during the day as teachers work with their individual classes and maybe have time to bond with the other professionals over lunch. We should make it a priority to begin cultivating relationships between school employees, as well as those with the students.

Provide networking opportunities

Many professionals regularly attend networking opportunities and are encouraged to by their employers. For teachers, there are not nearly as many chances to network with coworkers or even meet new people in the community. It’s time for schools to provide their own networking opportunities and also provide employees the resources to seek out networking events in the local community. Send emails and post information about upcoming networking events and consider planning an event in the evening for teachers to attend in order to get to know one another batter. For newer teachers, this opportunity can be especially helpful, since it’s likely they do not know anyone working at their new school.

Encourage professional development

Much like networking, general professional development is a good way for school officials to strengthen their connections. Encourage employees to attend classes together and host your own professional development opportunities during inservice days. Getting educators to work together and with people they may not have normally collaborated with is a great opportunity.

Create a relaxing space

Many schools fail to create a welcoming space for educators to go during their planning period or for lunch. A lot of school officials eat lunch in their classrooms or offices or in a drab break room. Make the effort to revitalize your teacher’s lounge and make it a place any school employee feels comfortable relaxing in. Create a true space for employees to take breaks and connect with one another. Decorate it in a pleasing manner, make sure appliances are up-to-date and working, and consider setting out snacks. Get comfortable furniture and make it a space where people feel encouraged to talk to each other.

Consider co-teaching

A few places have already implemented this technique and it seems to work well. This strategy can be used amongst any school officials, not just teachers. A principal or guidance counselor could visit a specific classroom and talk to students about what they specifically do at the school and encourage the students to talk to them. This method helps students get to know others who work at the school and also helps school employees to connect with each other. Co-teaching allows collaboration between teaching and also better manage the classroom.

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How to Talk to Your Students About National Tragedies

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Recently, it seems as though we’ve had our fair share of national tragedies. Whether it’s an intense hurricane or a horrible shooting, it’s impossible for your students to not be aware of what’s happening in the world around them. Some students are even very directly affected by these tragedies. It would be difficult to avoid mentioning these tragedies at all in the classroom and it’s important that students understand how to talk about these serious topics. Ignoring national tragedies doesn’t make them go away and can often lead to students repressing their thoughts and feelings. While it is an incredibly sensitive topic, here are some tips for educators when speaking to their students about national tragedies.

Acknowledge the event

Sometimes, students won’t know how to bring up a national event. In your role as an educator, it’s appropriate for you to acknowledge the event and see if students want to continue the discussion. If your students are very young or seem reluctant to talk about what happened, continue on with your lesson and consider approaching it at another time. However, many times students bring up the tragedy themselves, so be ready to discuss.

Gauge their thoughts

Before beginning the discussion, see how your students are feeling and what they’re thinking. You might feel a very different way from them and they could be concerned about something you haven’t even considered. Ask how they feel and what they’re concerned about and then let them talk so you have an idea of where they’re coming from.

Avoid personal politics

While it’s okay to share a general idea of your feelings, avoid getting too personal about your views on the tragedy or any extreme emotional reactions. Your students will have a variety of thoughts and feelings, so use this time to let them talk about how they feel and what their opinions are. Aggressively discussing your opinions could discourage students from speaking and it’s important to focus on them during this time.

Encourage communication

During and after the conversation, encourage your students to share their thoughts and concerns. Let them ask questions and offer opinions and talk to one another. Then, let them know you’re there for them to speak with if they continue to feel concerned. Refer them to the school psychologist if you think it’s appropriate and would help them sort through their feelings.

Reinforce safety precautions

No matter what the tragedy was, reinforce the safety precautions in school for a similar situation. Make sure your students know what to do if there’s a school lockdown, where to go during a weather emergency, or who to contact if one of them experiences a medical emergency. Knowing what to do can make them feel safer and more comfortable. Reassure them that they are safe and measures are being taken to keep it that way. It may also be appropriate to discuss what to do outside of school if an emergency would occur.

Keep your routine

After you’ve talked to your students about the national tragedy, attempt to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. Familiar tasks and routines are important for healing from the tragedy and can make moving forward easier. Also make sure you’re taking care of yourself. While your focus is your students as an educator, it’s important to get the help you need in order to sort through your thoughts and emotions.

3 Ways to Prevent Bullying in Your Classroom

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Bullying can happen at any time and in any place. Because it is something that could escalate into a very unfavorable situation, it shouldn’t be written off as simply childhood teasing. As educators, we need to take bullying seriously and take measures to prevent it. Bullying could be detrimental to one’s emotional health, mental health, and physical health. It could even threaten a life.

While no one can be around every student at every moment of the day, there are a few key things that can be done to better ensure that bullying is minimized in the classroom. Controlling bullying is as simple as knowing what it is, how it looks, and where it happens.

Know what bullying actually is

Bullying shouldn’t be written off as teasing. While teasing is done merely to irritate or annoy another individual, bullying is much different. According to Sweeting and West, bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power.

Bullying can be excessive teasing, threats, or name calling. It could also be anything that makes an individual feel uncomfortable going where he needs or wants to go. Bullying can be verbal, nonverbal, or physical. If a students seems hurt or uncomfortable with something another student student did or said, ask them about it. If the student is seriously upset and you feel the need to intervene, do so. However, it may be better to first address the situation with the upset student.

Know the warning signs

Children who are being bullied often show signs. While no child exhibits the exact same signs as another, educating oneself in the signs of a person who is being bullied could prevent further bullying. It is also helpful to know the common signs of an actual bully. Knowing what to look out for could prevent a child from being bullied or from bullying others.

Children who are being bullied often have random bruises. They could also have low-self esteem, a decreased interest in school, or could be getting their personal belongings damaged. Children who bully others often get into a great deal of fights or have friends who are bullies. There are lots of other warning signs to watch out for, so educate yourself.

Know where bullying happens

Statistics show that most bullying happens in areas where adults aren’t usually present, such as on the playground, on the school bus, and in hallways. Bullying can also occur when kids are walking to and from school, in the cafeteria, and online.

Staff should do their best to monitor these locations. However, since it is impossible to keep an eye on all students at all times, it is critical that it is communicated to students the importance of reaching out to an adult when he or she is being bullied or suspects bullying. Remember to educate your kids on the seriousness of bullying and where they can go for help if they’re a victim of bullying or witness it happening.

How to Keep Your Students Focused During the Holidays

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The holidays can be a wonderful chance to indulge in festivities, cultural experiences and more, but it can be difficult to keep your students focused on learning with all this excitement and their anticipation of the holidays. Many times, students of all ages and grade-levels are starting to tune-out and look towards the coming holidays and having some time off of school. These feelings are totally natural; you’re probably looking forward to the holidays too.

It’s important to remember that your students are children and budding young-adults, not robots. By recognizing this fact, and accepting that you cannot change it, it becomes much easier to instead tailor your teaching and lessons to this development. Now, let’s talk about some ways you can use the holiday spirit to keep your students engaged, focused, and progressing in their educations!

Maintain classroom structure

Don’t throw your rules and established expectations out the window. You can’t expect your students to not be distracted during the holidays, but students thrive on stability. Everyone, yourself included, performs better when previously established norms are followed.

Continue to assign your regular weekly or bi-weekly assignments, have homework due at the normal dates, etc. Don’t abandon classroom structure you’ve established, use it! Keeping with the same routine can help students stay focused because they know what’s expected of them.

Tailor your lessons to the season

The easiest way to keep your students focused and working hard is to tailor your lessons to the holiday at hand. Don’t ignore the fact that Christmas is right around the corner, embrace it!

Regardless of your subject-matter, you can find a way to tie it into the season’s festivities into at least some lessons. Your students will appreciate the much-needed break from “hard content”, and the creativity these assignments usually employ. Try to incorporate some fun activities that are relevant to the holidays that the students will enjoy while also learning something new.

Keep your pace, don’t overwork

It’s important to continue teaching at your normal pace. Don’t suddenly pile on two-weeks worth of work and expect your students to actually do it over their winter break — it’s called a break for a reason. They’ll only be miserable before and after break and you’ll have to deal with this attitude.

Keep this idea in mind during the rest of the school year. Make sure you get through key chapters and lessons with enough time to spare so you’re not cramming before the holiday!

A final word on holidays

Remember that holidays are a special time in every culture. Embrace this, and use it as a break from the factory-like routine of schooling. Enhance your lesson plans, ask your students what their plans are and share yours, and remember – you deserve a break, too. Use this time to recharge and revitalize, the year isn’t over yet!

Why Cell Phones Should Be Allowed in Schools

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Should cell phones be allowed in schools? This question has existed for almost as long as cell phones have been around. Many schools outright ban the technology and tell students not to use their phones at all during the school day. While many districts have relaxed this stance, there is still the question of whether or not students should be allowed to use cell phones during class. Many argue that there are great benefits to using phones and various apps can be used that enhance the learning experience. Others argue that the distraction of using phones outweighs any benefits and there are no ways to monitor what students are doing on their phones. Here are some of the many benefits to allowing students to use cell phones for educational reasons and I think these outweigh any potential issues.

Educational apps

The largest benefit of using phones in class is that students can download educational apps or look up information while working on a project. Students can also take pictures to send to other classmates or to reference later or even video chat with an absent student. There are many apps available for specific subjects that serve as study aids, such as making flashcards or learning a language. Even if you don’t want to use cell phones in your classroom, educate students about apps they can use on their own to facilitate deeper learning.

Students feel less rebellious

When students are told that under no circumstances are they allowed to use their phones, it often leads to rebellion and resentful feelings. While you should hold your position of authority and not give in to students’ whims, you can certainly allow them some time to use their phone which makes for more satisfied students.

Useful for emergencies

Whether or not you let students use their cell phones in class, it’s incredibly helpful to have them at school. Students can easily contact their parents if an emergency arises or reach out for help. If there’s an emergency at home, parents can reach their children through a simple call or text. Let your students know that if there is a reason they must use their phone, it’s okay to let you know there’s an emergency.

Preparation for the real world

Students certainly change between their teenage years and when they enter the workforce, but they’ll still have cell phones. For many jobs, you’re able (and often encouraged) to use your phone whenever and can check it as often as you like. It’s important that students learn self control and do not always have to check their phones, but also know how to utilize it in ways that benefit their current task, whether in the classroom or the workplace.

How to avoid issues

Even though I believe cell phones should be utilized in the classroom, there are certainly risks, such as students becoming too distracted. Experiment by only allowing phones out during a certain portion of class and require that students use them for the task at hand. Make sure they know if they’re not using their phones to further class, you’ll stop allowing them to have their phones out at all. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to allow students to use cell phones in your class and how you plan to monitor the use of them.

6 Ways to Teach Students Professional Skills

We often see articles about developing professionalism in teachers and how important it is to conduct yourself in a professional manner. Cultivating professionalism in teachers is incredibly important, but so is teaching students the value of professionalism. Many students likely do not understand what professionalism is and haven’t ever thought of cultivating it. Professionalism is learned once students begin looking for jobs after finishing school, which can lead to significant amounts of stress and a sense of unpreparedness for the students. Here are some ways teachers can teach their students professional skills and prepare them for life after school.

Do a resume workshop together

Depending how old your students are, it might be the perfect time in their lives to work on a resume with them. Most students are not taught how to craft an attractive resume and resort to learning this skill on their own from conducting online research. Simply taking one or two days over the course of the year to work on a resume with them can leave them with something tangible they’ll benefit from later on in life. Remind them to regularly update it and note any new formatting guidelines.

Have students conduct mock interviews

Your students might not be excited about this prospect, but if you think it could benefit them, hold some mock interviews. Consider starting a professional development club and offer after school meetings for interested students to work on their interviewing skills. Create lists of questions for students to ask each other or even be the interviewer yourself. Give students feedback on their answers and how they can do even better.

Share your professional development

A huge part of being a teacher is participating in professional development, so share your journey and experiences. Tell students about opportunities you’ve had and even a time you messed up or some aspect of professionalism that you didn’t know for a long time. Students want to hear about your learning experiences and will likely connect more with you afterwards.

Work on time management techniques

A huge hurdle for many people is their time management skills. Few people have completely mastered time management, so consider taking time to offer tips to your students on how they can improve theirs. Advise them to use a planner or calendar, especially if your school gives them out at the beginning of the year. There are also plenty of smartphone apps or Google extensions for time management and productivity that students can take a look at.

Be a professional role model

One of the best steps you can take to teach your students professionalism is by practicing it yourself. Always remain professional and lead by example. Avoid losing your temper or becoming too close to students. Be professional toward coworkers and everyone else you work with so your students see what professionalism looks like.

Highlight important professional traits

If you feel like your students would be interested, consider purchasing books on etiquette or professionalism for the classroom. It’s likely that the school library has some as well. Teaching students from a young age how to properly conduct themselves in a professional setting and appear mature and confident can benefit them in all areas of their lives.

Understanding the Different Types of Learning in Your Classroom

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As a teacher, you are bound to come across a variety of students in your classroom with different backgrounds, tastes, abilities, etc. Inevitably, you will also find that your students receive information differently. Being able to recognize these varying learning styles is so important because you don’t want to teach everyone the same way and you must be able to adapt the way you teach to accommodate everyone and give them the best chance at succeeding. Take a look at the different learning types in the classroom and best practices to work with them.

 
Visual Learning

Someone who is a visual learner best receives information when they can see it in front of them. They might ask for a demonstration to see how something is done before they feel comfortable to dive into it themselves. They learn best with the use of maps, charts, and diagrams to better understand what is presented before them. Here are some things to do when working with visual learners:

 

  • Using flowcharts, webs, and charts to organize information

 

  • Use highlighted or color-coded notes to relate material better

 

  • Write checklists for formulas and commonly misspelled words

 

Auditory Learning

These students learn best through listening whether it be from spoken word or various sounds and noises. Some of these students might be very musically talented, so they may sing, or play in the school band. While your lesson may not be based on music, there are still many ways to accommodate these learners so that they can also feel part of the lesson. Best practices when dealing with auditory learners include:

 

  • Strike up a conversation with the student about the particular lesson

 

  • While in class have the students recite the information by asking questions for students to answer out loud

 

  • Get creative and have them put the material to a tune or rhythm for them to go over with you later

 

Kinesthetic Learning

Kinesthetic learners are going to want a more hands-on and physical experience with the material. Simply put, they learn best by doing. They enjoy actively going through the motions and feel the material within their body. Unlike visual learners who want to see something before they give it a shot, kinesthetic learners will want to dive right in and pick things up as they go along. Some best practices for working with kinesthetic learners are:

 

  • Having them write down notes on paper while they listen to the lesson

 

  • Maybe dramatize different concepts and have the students move objects around to act it out for themselves

 

  • Use some body movement while explaining something such as finger snapping, foot tapping, or even just mouthing ideas.

 

Honorable Mentions: Social and Solitary Learners

There are also some types of learners that are not as common as the three listed above but are still worth being aware of. Social Learners are the ones who work great in group settings. They are the students who are active in the school participating in clubs and sports and have no problem working with others. Solitary Learners are students who take to themselves more often than not. They typically come off as shy because they aren’t quick to raise their hand to ask/answer a question. They will usually try to figure things out on their own before deciding to come to you for help.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming an Educator

Becoming an educator is a major decision because it places a lot of responsibility on you. You aren’t just a teacher; you’re an educator, though the considerations for the two positions are similar. Check out my previous blog to learn more about the differences between being an educator and being a teacher. When you choose to become an educator, you’re committing to helping students work toward their dreams and accomplish goals with your help and support.

Are you willing to commit all of your time?

Ask any educator and they will tell you: working in this industry is a full-time job and will keep you occupied outside of regular work hours. Some people go into teaching and education for the early afternoons and summers off or the incredible benefits. While these are all great perks, you need to realize that being an educator is a huge time commitment. You need to work with dozens, likely hundreds, of students who all have their unique issues. Planning out lesson plans and how to interact and manage different students takes significant time. If you’re seriously committed to becoming an educator, you also need to take time to continue learning and taking classes.

Can you deal with difficult people?

As an educator, you’ll spend a significant amount of time around students and their families. Sometimes, you’ll have difficult students (or parents) who just don’t understand your position or your mission. You might have to work with negative teachers or administrators. It’s important that you know how to work with these difficult and negative people to accomplish common goals.

Do you have a positive and patient attitude?

Being an educator can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with difficult people. Sometimes you’ll be tired, have a million things to accomplish before the end of the day, or will feel discouraged about what you’re doing. It’s important that you have a positive outlook and a decent amount of patience to keep the big picture in focus and work through whatever obstacles are in your way.

Can you manage your time well?

Since you’ll be busy as an educator and constantly have various tasks to complete, it’s vital that you’re organized and have incredible time management skills. Luckily, you can teach yourself time management skills and conquer this specific block in your path toward success as an educator.

And, most importantly:

Do you want to help children succeed?

At the end of the day, the real goal of being an educator is to help children succeed. Leading children on a path toward success is the purpose of all educational institutions and it should also be the end goal of the people who work at these places. If you have a passion for education and truly want to help mold the leaders of tomorrow, you’ll be able to overcome any other issue you encounter throughout your career as an educator. Keep your mission in the forefront of your mind and you’ll be able to make it through the more challenging aspects of being an educator.

The Difference Between a Teacher and an Educator

Before getting into the more minute differences between a teacher and an educator, I’d like to start with a simple dictionary definition of the two terms. The definition of a teacher is “one that teaches; especially: one whose occupation is to instruct,” while an educator is defined asa person who gives intellectual, moral, and social instructions.” There is a clear difference between these two words, which indicates that there’s a clear difference to the people we apply them to. Many use the two words interchangeably, but that isn’t completely accurate. As I’ve stated in another blog, you can be a teacher and not be an educator, you can be an educator and not be a teacher, or you can be both.

Educating vs. teaching

There’s a difference between teaching a child a list of facts and helping them sincerely understand a lesson. Educators make it their goal to ensure that students fully understand the lesson, while teachers who are not educators merely get through their lesson and hope the students took enough away to pass the class. Educators seek to instill deep understanding in students, the kind of learning that they’ll carry with them the rest of their lives.

Inspiring vs. telling

When a teacher merely focuses on teaching their students and not educating them, it usually results in telling them facts and a way of looking at topics, instead of inspiring the students to take learning onto themselves. Educators often inspire students to pursue their interests and delve deeper into certain subjects. Throughout the discovery process, educators will encourage this development and continue to cultivate any inspiration and interest.

Encouraging growth vs. meeting goals

For many teachers, it’s difficult enough to get through the daily syllabus and make sure students are sufficiently prepared for tests and are also completing their homework. An educator can take all of these goals a step further and encourage their students to grow as individuals in addition to teaching the required subjects and lessons. When working with students, an educator helps them grow in their lives outside of and beyond school, instead of only teaching them the lessons to get them to graduation. True educators teach students valuable life lessons and help them grow and become better people.

I feel confident in saying that the majority of teachers aspire to also become educators, but it can be incredibly difficult, especially in a school that doesn’t provide teachers with enough resources or training to handle a classroom full of children. Becoming an educator takes lots of studying and practice, but it’s definitely an admirable goal to strive toward.

Top Podcasts for Educators

Podcasts are a great way to work on your professional development, stay in touch with current news and trends, and come up with creative ideas for your classroom. Nearly every profession and hobby have a few podcasts about the industry and education is no exception. If you have spare time, such as during a commute, while grading papers, or when you’re cooking dinner, listening to a podcast about how to be a better educator can greatly benefit you. While there are quite a few education podcasts out there, here are some of the top ones.

Free Teaching PD

This podcast features speakers who are leaders in the education industry and each week has a different speaker. They discuss the latest ideas and innovations in teaching and help you work on your own creativity. After listening to this podcast, you’ll feel inspired to try your own hand at coming up with some great ideas to enhance education.

Talks With Teachers

Brian Sztabnik, a former English teacher and blogger, hosts this podcast. The podcast features educators who feel passionate about their profession and wish to discuss their own classrooms. A theme for 2016 was focusing on educators who also run their own blogs and what it’s like being a teacher who regularly blogs. The speakers are all from different areas and have varied work experience, so it’s always interesting to hear their insights into education.

Angela Watson’s Truth for Teachers

This podcast focuses specifically on the issue of burnout with teachers and how it can be avoided. Watson’s podcast provides a way for stressed teachers to feel understood and realize that lots of other people feel the same way they do. The podcast also offers possible solutions to issues that teachers may face in the classroom.

The Cult of Pedagogy

In this podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez features not just educators, but also parents, administrators, and students who discuss teaching and the classroom. The podcast covers a wide range of topics, from technology use in the classroom to the best ways to manage your classroom. If something is related to education, this podcast has or will feature it.

Every Classroom Matters

Vicki Davis, an incredibly influential educator, runs this podcast and focuses on incorporating technology into the classrooms and creating stronger relationships with students. Her podcast also covers how to feature STEM in the classroom more, as well as teaching students the basics of coding. She’s been ranked as a top teacher, so this podcast is definitely worth listening to.