Teaching Tips to Try Newsletter

January 17, 2020 From Linda The Math Coach Go Beyond the Theory. Apply the Research. Make it work!

T he Class Fr om Hell Par t II

Mor e ideas for a class make-over
Your “Class from Hell.” Rome was not built in a day. Don’t expect your Class From Hell make-over to do so either. It takes time, and you will sometimes experience relapses into past behavior patterns. If you remind yourself that you are trying to form new habits of thinking and doing, it’s easier to take it in stride and continue on with faith that you can eliminate old patterns and establish new ones. This goes for you and your students. Also, the less you focus on what you do not want, the sooner it will fade away and give you time to focus on what you do want. Take a minute to remind yourself of these principles of transformation: Transformation Principles: Principle A Your current situation with any class is the result of your past thinking which determined your past actions. Principle B Your past actions caused or allowed your current situation to develop. Principle C You have the power to change your current thinking, your current actions, and therefore your current and future results. Principle D If you don’t accept Principles A, B, and C, then you are powerless to transform your current situation.

Forging Ahead To Model and Employ Your New Protocol Last week I gave you some steps to take for transforming your class. You can read here if you want to review or if you missed it. This week we are going to focus on step 3 and 4. I am going to give you some practical tips on how to make these steps work for you.

Remember these are your new rules we now refer to as protocols. 1. What we say and do is always positive and learning focused. 2. We always view mistakes as opportunities to learn and grow. 3. We always give 100% of our effort to help ourselves and others learn and grow.

Here are some tips for modeling these protocols. Affirm the Protocols Daily Be different and make your class feel different from the start. Begin each class by pointing to these rules and reading them aloud as a class as you would read affirmations.

Greet students with positive comments. Stand at your door and make a positive comment to each student who enters your door. Make it a personal game to reach 100%. I have even tried it where I told my students my goal. I kept a tally on the board of the days I was successful. I told the students that when the tally reached 30, I would have a surprise for them. It was amazing how they began to make it a point to greet me at the door and wait to hear their comment. It really began to get fun, and I even started looking forward to the coming of this former CFH! I still have to chuckle when I remember Devonte H. who would actually supply me with his own comment about what he had done positive. “You can tell me how I have my homework today, Ms. Cordes,” or “ You can tell me that I look ready to learn today, Ms. Cordes.” Some students even began to come and tell me what their more infamous classmates were up to so I would be sure not to run out of things to say. Do you see how this could really begin to build a “community” of learners? After we reached our 30 days we would celebrate with a class treat and music

while we worked our practice problems. Then we would start all over again. I couldn’t help but wonder if the very practice of this one simple routine made my students become more consciously aware of their own behavior choices. I hope it does this for you!

Remember to Welcome Tardy Students I remember having lots of tardy students and stopping my lesson to fuss at them. I stopped doing that. Protocol 1 made it necessary to greet tardy students in a more productive and learning focused manner. I learned to acknowledge them with a “Welcome, I’m glad you made it here.” (sincere, not sarcastic) If I was in the middle of instruction when they arrived, my acknowledgment was nonverbal, but I would make it a point to meet the tardy student at their desk with the necessary materials as I continued talking to the class. The funny thing is when I started putting these ideas into place, the former big deal disruptions that I was all ready for just seemed to melt away into no big deal at all.

Apply Protocols to Diffuse Fights I also remember having to separate students who were “fix’n to fight.” I even had to break up a few classroom fights. Those are not fond memories! I learned to use the protocols to diffuse and resolve these disruptive conflicts. First of all, when you start creating this positive class environment, any negativity that does enter is much more noticeable. In the past it would have gone unnoticed among all the other mess floating around. You will find that students will even come to you and give you a heads up notice of oncoming conflict. They prefer the positive climate you are trying to establish and trust you to maintain it. So use the conflict situations to your advantage by turning them into a learning situation. I told my math classes that math was all about solving problems, any problems. I told them that their real life problems could be solved just like the problems in the textbook. We made it a point to apply the problem solving method to the situation which otherwise would have broken into a fight. Yeah, right! Get real! Stay with me here. Remember, this didn’t happen on day one of transformation. I think the reason why this worked so well was because I was jolting them out of the “fight or flight” part of their brain and into the logical reasoning portion. (I didn’t know all that brain research mumbo jumbo at the time, I just knew that it worked!) Anyway, it goes something like this: Step 1 Understand the Problem. Each person states their side of the story in appropriate language. You ask them what they want to happen to solve the problem. What do they want the

other person to do and what are they willing to do? Step 2 Select a strategy to solve the problem. Have both parties state what they are willing to do. This works better if you have a suggested list of strategies on a poster somewhere. Some strategies might be:  

Agree to disagree and respect each other for doing so. Shake and agree to let it drop. Set an appointment to talk it out further with an administrator or counselor or you. Write a letter of apology.

Step 3 Work out the problem using the strategy. Step 4 Check your answer. Just like in math, this step is often skipped. Don’t skip it. Sometimes the answer doesn’t work or there is a mistake in “working it out.” Make sure that you follow up with students at a later time to make sure that they are carrying out their plan successfully and that the conflict is truly resolved.

This method mentioned above works best when you catch a conflict in its brewing stage. I wouldn’t try to break up a fight among students who do not know you well and with whom you have not previously built a positive rapport.

Though it may seem odd to you that you would stop and deal with a classroom conflict in this way, try it. Think what it tells your students when you walk your talk. I know it might be much easier to just write them up and send them off. You can’t do this if you want to establish yourself as the facilitator of your transformed class. Backing down and sending your problems away is weak. Allowing your students to resolve the issue among themselves is empowering and demonstrates your trust that they are capable. This further strengthens your position as head of your transformed class and paves the way to future cooperation.

Next Week: Ideas for applying the protocols to instruction for improved achievement.

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