Sunday, September 13, 2015

Back in the Saddle... How to Make this Rodeo the Best One Yet

It happens every year.  Summer winds down, and I find myself desperately longing for routine, adult conversation, and the ability to grab a meal that someone else cooks. A new school year comes with so much promise. Teachers busily prepare their rooms with all the skill of Pinterest royalty.  Fresh, clean floors.  Lockers devoid of the abomination of snow boot funk and gum residue. (Thanks to janitorial staff that deserves sainthood.) And what's more? We get this treat each and every August.  So why do we keep falling back into those same-old ruts like the thread-bare college t-shirt we swore we would throw out but never did?  Why?  Because it's comfortable.  But, I've got a lil news for ya....

Comfort isn't going to take us places, people.  It's time to dress up for the party and show up.  Really show up.

Do you find yourself hauling out the same lesson plans that you've taught for the last 5+ years? Have you set your cruise control down the "easy" road instead of designing a lesson that's truly effective? If so, stop!  Stop right there.  Put down the tattered planner and walk away.  It's time to really dig deep. 

Now before you tar and feather me like some sort of feudal colonist, we have to understand each other.  Just like any quest to get fit or learn a new skill, we have to ACT in order to change.  You see, no amount of dreaming is going to make me lose 10 pounds.  No amount of imagining is going to prepare me to run a marathon.  It seems so obvious, and yet I meet teachers from all over the country every year who really want to improve their students' learning but are unsure of how to get there. Answer is....one step at a time. Like my ongoing New Year's resolution: Every day, a little better than yesterday.

So now what? Start with tomorrow's lesson. Pick just one. Find the flaws. Can you say, without doubt, that it's the BEST it can be?  Are you doing all you can from bell-to-bell to make sure your kids are learning?  Start there. Is there a technology site or app that could enhance this learning or help students share their learning with others? (If you are unfamiliar with the SAMR model, get familiar here).
credit: Kathy Schrock

Do you waste time getting down to business due to a lack of routine or bell-ringer activity that engages kids' minds?  Find some wondrous pearls inspired by master of classroom management, Harry Wong, here.  This particular Pinterest board (If you're too "manly" for Pinterest, get over it!) contains real examples of strategies being used in rooms everywhere. It's gold!  Is there an activity that would get your kids engaged en pointe like a skilled ballerina?  Try C-Span's list for the HS History/Government classroom or these stellar cross-curricular ideas from Todd Finley that work for any grade level.

Again, find what's broken about your lesson. You already know what works. It's time to fix what doesn't. If you are struggling to locate exactly what you could focus on, talk to an instructional coach, principal, or other trusted colleague. Now, sprinkle those new plans with an extra dose of positive thinking and a changed attitude.  One of my favorite sayings is posted in our Instructional Coach office:


It's really true.  If you have never read Mindset or The Energy Bus, I highly recommend them.  The thoughts and the energy you exude can make or break not only you, but your students.  We all slip up now and then. We all have days we'd rather forget. But tomorrow we try again and try harder. We owe it to them to be our very best.  Every. Day.

Starting now.





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