Thursday, December 18, 2014

Teachers and Administrators: Six Thoughts about what to do during the Break!

Getting ready for the holiday break always has an amazing effect on all staff and students. 

There are gifts exchanged and smiles everywhere. 

Well, maybe not everywhere...in high school the kids are taking exams but I digress...

The thoughts about having a break from classes and each other (believe me everyone has thoughts like these including the principal) are rampant! 

Here are my suggestions for using the time during the holiday wisely!

Six thoughts about what to do during the break!

1. Spend Time with Family!




Play ping pong, go for a walk, tell stories, have many dinners together, go to the zoo, play a board game, play sports, go fishing...so many ideas 

2. Watch a great holiday show!

One of my favorites...A Charlie Brown Christmas!





Or how about How the Grinch Stole Christmas!


or how about watch some old comedy with your family and have fun watching them laugh at Abbott and Costello figuring out math or Carol Burnett...especially, a show with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway like the dentist skit.

3. Write a letter to someone you haven't talked to in a long time!



4. Go see a movie

This one is on my must see list! Night at the Museum:Secret of the Tomb



If you haven't seen the newest penguin movie ...well worth your time...funny..! Great one-liners! Penguins of Madagascar



5. Read a good book!

Two on my plate....
Personal by Lee Child


and Star Trek: Seekers 1 and 2


6. Reflect on all that you have to be thankful for and get some sleep.

Doing these things will help you to recharge your batteries so that you are ready to take on the world when January rolls around!

So make the time...and take the time to have fun!

Enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thoughts from a former high school administrator: The School Bus--10 Lessons Learned


A Tale of Two Bus Drivers

On a wet, fall morning in Daytona Beach, Florida… the sun was just coming up… the rain was constant and just a little bit cool…I was sitting in the car with my mom waiting on the school bus. 

Ok…so this was a while ago but wait you’ll understand…I was in 7th grade. We were early. Shortly, other kids started arriving and were either in cars or hanging out under a couple of palm trees. One of the kids noticed that the bus was on its way…because of the rain nobody moved closer to the road…the bus didn’t stop. She kept going…! Later she would tell the school that no one was standing at the corner so she didn’t stop.

The kids on this bus had no love for the driver. She didn’t speak to us except to tell us to stop talking. She never used our names. She didn’t smile. She seemed to take great joy in singling someone out to be her target for the week even if that rider hadn’t been doing anything wrong.

 Later that same year a couple of high school seniors decided to say good bye in a unique way…when they got off the bus on the last day to ride…they moved to the front of the bus and laid down on the road and refused to move. She yelled! She threatened. But the bus didn’t move. Cars were lined up for about two blocks behind the bus. This little two lane road was at a standstill. Eventually, the two seniors got up laughing and ran away.

My turn to be a target came the next school year, when I was getting on the bus to leave school. You see I was in band and that meant that I had to take my trumpet home to practice. The trumpet case was the correct size and was allowed on the bus. I had been riding this same bus for the last couple of years, and yet for some reason it was not an issue until this particular Friday afternoon. The event went something like this… “You can’t get on the bus.” What? (I didn’t ask why…I was taught to not question adults.) “You can’t bring that on the bus.” But… “Get off my bus!” But… That was not fun…by the way no cell phones then…a teacher on bus duty took me to the office to call someone. I was stranded at school about 12 miles from home until about 5:30 to 6:00PM. This was the last time I rode her bus. My parents had my bus changed.

The next driver was amazing! He smiled. He learned your name and he used it! He also learned that I sometimes was running late on Monday mornings. He asked me to tell him when I would be visiting with my dad so that he would know to wait or not on those Mondays. He waited for me and others. He took time to get to know parents. No problem with the trumpet here. No seniors lying in the road. Happy times! I would have gone to the end of the world and back for him! The kids actually gave him gifts at Christmas and the end of the year. What a difference!

Over the years I have worked with many different adults who drove buses. Some of these individuals were amazing with kids others not so much. I dreaded the days and evenings when we would get a phone call telling us that Bus 4 needed an administrator when it arrived or that Bus 35 was returning to the school and needed assistance. Too many times it was always the same buses that needed help.



10 Lessons Learned

As a former high school administrator I learned quite a bit about school bus discipline and working with drivers. Here are my ten lessons learned:

1.      Bus Drivers are paid little but have an enormous responsibility. They need support and training.

2.      Training for bus drivers usually focuses on driver operation of the bus and improving their driving skills. Additional training needs to be added on working with children and parents. Learning the skills that are required to de-escalate problems and challenges is a must.

a.      Teach the drivers how to …

                                                              i.      Self-reflect (Know what makes them angry. Know what kid behaviors push their buttons, like eye rolling, moving slowly, clicking sounds, and direct defiance. Help them develop the skills to control themselves. Teach them to be the adult.)

                                                            ii.      Build Relationships (They need to learn and use the kids’ names. They need to make riding the bus a pleasure by creating opportunities for fun like dressing up at holidays. Connect with the kids by talking with the kids…Good Morning, Steve…Have a great evening Francine. Take time to reach out to the kids…never pass up an opportunity to say something nice to someone and use that opportunity to learn their names.)


                                                          iii.      De-escalation (Be Calm. Be Objective. Be Proactive. Pay attention to student behaviors and attitudes. Recognize the signs when kids are different. Pull them aside as they get on and ask… “Is everything, ok?” Make sure that others can’t hear the question. Remember that you are the adult; don’t get caught up in student behaviors to where you will be sorry for making an inappropriate comment. Teach the drivers not to make comments that are not enforceable… “I’m going to suspend you from the bus forever!” Teach them to stay consistent…if you say it then do it. Teach them how to talk with kids and to eliminate negative body language like pointing at the student, standing with your arms crossed, glaring, and standing with your hands on your hips.

3.      Bus drivers need to know that they have someone who supports what they do. Someone to go to. This needs to be from within their bus shop and/or from within the schools. The support person or network provides them someone to get advice from and who might be able to help them in times of a jam. This might also be that person who rides the bus once in a while to assist the driver. This is especially effective on last days of the year or just before a holiday. As an administrator I would offer to ride the bus (I always rode in the back, not in the front….you know why…that’s where the trouble usually starts.) with the stipulation that the driver needed to bring me back to the school.

4.      A bus driver who connects with the kids and understands how to work with people is worth her weight in gold!!!!

5.      Bus Drivers who learn the kids’ names have fewer issues.


6.      Bus Drivers who take time to connect with the parents, kids, and administration at each school have fewer issues.

7.      The driver who teaches the kids how to ride the bus (rules, routines, and procedures) in the beginning and reminds the kids without making it a whirlwind of negativity will be successful as a driver.


8.      If you have a driver who struggles with discipline. Don’t isolate and talk about how bad she is…instead, provide training in working with kids and create a coaching or mentor relationship to help the driver develop the skills.

9.      Teach the drivers how to determine what an emergency is and what to do in case of one. Teach them how to follow through on the school/system procedures for disciplining kids. (Has the driver contacted the parent? Has the child been spoken with by the driver? Has the form been filled out correctly and submitted through the proper channels?)

10.  Celebrate the drivers! Buy them breakfast and or dinner. They will appreciate it!

Ok…I kind of snuck in more than 10 and could easily expand the list to more lessons, but it’s not necessary. These are my main thoughts and I hope that you will take a look at your buses and figure out how to support your drivers. Take care of the drivers and coach those who struggle and you will be rewarded with fewer bus discipline issues, happier drivers, happier students, and happier families!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Stickies: The Magic Tool of Formative Assessment


Ok... so the real name is not stickie…

The copyrighted 3M brand is Post-it Notes. 

Here is a picture of what I am talking about…



They come in all sizes, shapes, and colors…




I am sure that when they were created that no one envisioned the many uses that teachers would develop for them.

They are incredible devices for checking for understanding…

You know..
For finding out whether the kids get the content or not…

It so important to do this…because after all if you just ask…

“Are there any questions?”
Or
“Does everyone understand?”

The typical answers are going to be no and yes…in that order…

Kids want you to move on…many don’t want you to call on them..so they follow the path of least resistance…agree or disagree with whatever gets the teacher to move on the quickest without discovering a lack of knowledge and ability to demonstrate understanding…

With the stickie…you can avoid all of that…



Have them write what they know, what they need help with, what they get…

Have them post the stickie with a question that they still have…

Have them answer a question and then place it on a board so that you can check later…



There are so many uses…

Below are some great, useful links for finding ways to use stickies to get feedback...

This first link is maintained by 3M…and is just an incredible resource of so many different ways to use stickies in the classroom…all posted and created by teachers


Check out these other different links for more information…




By the way, I constantly look for more ways to use stickies…

You can always follow my board on Pinterest  called Assessment Strategies at this link…



Be careful…you may just have fun trying to create a new way of using the Amazing , Magical Stickie!!!!

Monday, November 3, 2014

I've Voted...Have You?!


Today is too important to ignore...
November 4th...

It is time to vote...

In the state of Georgia there are very important races... Senate, state superintendent, and of course the Governor's office...

Don't make excuses about voting...take time to look at the issues and vote...

As a note...

Here is a link to a recording of the State Superintendent candidates speaking and follow this link to recordings of the Candidates for Governor talking...

Also, look here for more information about the candidates.... for Governor.


Take it to heart...

Your vote does matter...

But don't cast a vote without looking at the issues and the stances of the candidates...

Best wishes!!!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pumpkins, STEM, and Higher Order Thinking



So what could you do with pumpkins? No matter what grade level...

...They are everywhere this time of the year...

Could you connect pumpkins with a higher order thinking science activity?

Watch this video clip that shows from seed to plant to pumpkin ...the process of growing pumpkins...
What ideas does this give you?




There is a book (actually several) which involve stories based upon the life cycle of pumpkins...

Here is one...



Could you create some higher order thinking activities that might engage the kids to speculate on how you could create a better yield of pumpkins, larger pumpkins or ...?

How about taking a look at this teacher's blog about using pumpkins as a central thought to many classroom activities...

http://fortheloveoffirst.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-great-pumpkin-investigation.html

Pumpkins can be so engaging!  

So what are you waiting on...let's have fun igniting young minds with pumpkins and their life cycle....

Enjoy!

The kids will...while they learn!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pumpkins, Candy, Costumes, My Top 5 Halloween Songs and My Top 10 Halloween Movies

I'm not into gross and yuck...but simple chills and laughter...
There is nothing like carving a pumpkin...trying to make a cool face...of course mine looked more like this...



than this...


or this...




Gotta love the treats...
Nothing like small versions of my favorite candy bars...Butterfingers, Milkyway, and Three Musketeers (After all they really aren't full of calories if they are small...right?)



Costumes...yea...monsters, superheroes, video game characters, fish tanks, garbage cans, 70's Rock Bands...you name it they are out there...




And now the lists...

I must warn you...my lists are just cool songs and movies that I always like to hear or see at this time of year...maybe not really scary...okay not scary but just some cool stuff that I like...


My Top 5 Halloween Songs

5. The Legend of Wooley Swamp 
(The Charlie Daniel's Band)


4. Don't Pay the Ferryman
(Chris DeBurgh)


3. Thriller 
(Michael Jackson)


2. Jump in the Line 
(Harry Belafonte)

1. Grim Grinning Ghosts 
(Disney) 



My Top 10 Halloween Movies 

(Not too scary...okay...not scary at all, but I like them...)

10. The Mummy (1999)


9. Trick or Treat (Donald Duck)

8. Witch Hazel's Vanity (Bugs Bunny)

7. It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown


6. Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein


5. Beetlejuice

4. Disney's The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad


3. Ghostbusters


2. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein


1. The Ghost and Mr. Chicken




Have a wonderful and safe night of fun!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Recollections of a Former High School Administrator: Supervision in the Cafeteria and Bathrooms


It was a cool, brisk fall day (pretty sure it wasn’t spring). Someone had given me one of those awesome sour apple blow pops that were covered in caramel. I was watching the cafeteria while standing in close proximity to the boy’s bathroom. This was so I could keep an ear and a nose open…just in case extracurricular activities began in the restroom or nicotine desires hit. That day a student came up to me and asked, “How many years did you go to college?” I inquired, “Where is this going?” He quipped, “Just wondered how much money you spent so that you could watch us eat and keep us from smoking in the bathroom.  Insightful…young’in.

 I took my job seriously …after all I had been hired to be bad cop. There had been some issues with discipline in previous years so good cop and bad cop were extended their missions: send a message that things are different.


This was a high school that had four lunch periods and just about 600 kids ate during each session. 
That’s a lot of kids. They ate in the cafeteria, in the commons area outside, and in a courtyard that was even further from the main part of the cafeteria. There were so many places to be.  As a result, we had teachers on duty with the administrators. (Some actually didn't mind having the duty because they got a chance to interact with the kids.)

This was a calm school, relatively, but it still had its share of issues from time to time. You know, kids wanting to try to leave campus, wandering into the woods to smoke,  arguing, throwing food, leaving trays or garbage, flaring tempers because someone looked at someone else in a bad way, and______________(fill in the blank…you probably will be right). Too often adults take lunch time for granted. It’s easy to. You have had a busy day, after all you would like some time to take a deep breath and just go…whew…but lunch…if you have duty is not the time.


Bathrooms are the biggest irritation. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not a good thing to lock the bathroom doors and say…”Tough”.  But…the bathroom creates issues, therefore some lucky adult is going to get bathroom duty (How many corporate big shots or elected officials have to do that…huh?!)


I have had numerous experiences with the bathrooms…for example, the soap dispensers that somehow offended someone and that person exacted revenge by punching a hole in the terrible soap container. There was the mysterious “let’s see how many paper towels it takes to cover every inch of the floor” phantom (Really…I’m not making this up!) and of course my all-time favorite the “I just had to write something profound on the wall” ghost.


No matter the school, no matter the age, no matter whether it is public or private…supervision is required. Kids can get bored and for some reason the bathroom is the appropriate place for losing their minds. I mean, after-all if you were in a good frame of mind would you want to hang-out in the bathroom?

So here is the point…

1.       Supervision is Important.

2.       Restrooms and the cafeteria or courtyards can attract issues.

3.       Have staff stop in restrooms when they are simply walking across campus.

4.       During lunch don’t get predictable and stay in one place or have enough staff participate in supervision that it allows you to be in more than one place at a time.

5.        Ask yourself, if I wanted to get away from the adults where would I go…then go there…

6.       We have so much to do, but we have to make time to be dad and mom before, during, and after school.

7.       Supervision is important

Just some thoughts about your daily routines as a school administrator….


So…have you checked the restrooms or behind the cafeteria, lately?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Vocabulary: The Secret Ingredient for Student Success


According to E.D. Hirsch, Jr., “Words don’t speak their own meaning.” (Interview on Turnitin; The Wealth in Words; October 6, 2014, Student Success Week 2014)

Robert Marzano notes, “Direct teaching of vocabulary might be one of the most underused instructional activities in K-12 education.” (A Handbook for Classroom Instruction that Works, 2001, p. 293)



Mr. Smith used to create lists of 25 words that we had to memorize their spelling and definitions. The words were not connected to the context of the subject matter…they were just words that he thought would do us good to know. Not sure where he got them from, but I am sure that he thought he was doing something that was good for us. Unfortunately, we memorized the words for the test and then quickly did a brain dump…oh, come on you know what I am talking about…you leave the classroom…tilt your head at a 45 degree angle and tap slightly on your head not too far from your ear to cause those words to spill out of your brain…There you go…that is a brain dump!
The kids need help understanding the academic words of their classes. It does not come simply because the teacher talks about the words or because the kids may have memorized a few words (or mess of words) for a test.















(Robert Marzano)

Let’s take a look at Marzano’s Six Steps for Teaching Vocabulary:

1.     The teacher provides a description, explanation, or example of the new term.  
2.     The teacher asks students to restate the description, explanation, or example in their own words.
3.     The teacher asks students to construct a picture, picto- graph, or symbolic representation of the term. 
4.     The teacher engages students periodically in activities that help them add to their knowledge of the terms in their vocabulary notebooks.
5.     The teacher periodically asks students to discuss the terms with one another.
6.     The teacher involves students periodically in games that enable them to play with terms.

Go to this link for some excellent examples and descriptions of this process…


Here are a couple more links for the same process…



For more ideas on Teaching Vocabulary take a look at my Pinterest Boards…

http://www.pinterest.com/smiletto/teaching-vocabulary/

Also, take a look at resources on vocabulary instruction from Marzano Labs



Take a close look at what you are doing with the academic vocabulary in your classes….

Are you spending time working with the words?

Remember even your high level kids need help with understanding the words of the content.

So what are you waiting for?


…take a close look at Marzano’s 6 Steps and start making plans to engage kids with content academic vocabulary!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

October 6th...Last Day to Register to Vote in Georgia


Don't forget....!!!!

If you are going to vote in the November election in the State of Georgia...

You have to register no later than today...

October 6th!

If you are not from Georgia...what about in your state...?
Are you registered to vote?!

Elections are too important to ignore!
Take time and Register!

Check out an earlier post about this as well as my podcast episode about the candidates for state superintendent.

Have an awesome day!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blocking or Chunking Class Time


One of the techniques that separate teaching skills is the ability to block or chunk time in the class. 

When creating your lesson plans make sure that you are paying attention to the amount of time that you spend on each segment. Instead of thinking of the class as an a hour or 90 minutes or what-ever version you have, think of it in terms of the amount of time that you can work without losing the kids.


No matter what their age (this works just as much with adults as with kids), attention only lasts so long.

I have heard many people say that computers and handheld games as well as the internet are to blame for the kids losing their ability to concentrate for more than 10 minutes at a time…for my age group, television was the excuse…maybe instead it really has to do with kids never needing to entertain themselves for a long time without something electronic…I’ll save that subject for the researchers and experts.


What I do know is that you will lose the kids if you talk too long, have them work extensively on an activity, watch a whole movie, and so on…

You need to block or chunk the time of your class.


Look at the amount of time that you have….here is an example of what I am talking about: 5 minutes for a sponge activity, 15 minutes for whole group instruction, 10 minutes for a reinforcement activity, a 10 minute academic vocabulary lesson, 5 minutes for a quick, ungraded formative assessment, 5 minutes for summarizing what was learned, and 5 minutes for previewing for tomorrow. 

This is an example of blocking or chunking.

There are so many different ways of blocking/chunking the time.

What is most important though is that you do it! 

It will help with the kids understanding and learning the content.

Here are some links to examples of blocking/chunking class time …






Have fun!


Enjoy!