Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How to Survive the Last Few Weeks of School

Here is a post that I did a very long time ago for a wonderful, but vanished site called theapple.com. Monster.com runs it now...still full of great advice on all sorts of topics for educators everywhere. Here is what I suggest to help all of us enjoy the last few weeks or days of school this year!

As the end of the school year approaches, students of all ages and ability levels become increasingly restless and distracted. Even the most studious scholars seem to lose interest in material that fascinated them just a few weeks ago. The result can be enormous frustration for the teachers of these fidgety and disengaged students.
Veteran teachers know about this unfortunate phenomenon and take measures to combat its negative effects. If you have noticed a recent change in your students and find yourself checking a calendar to count off just how many school days you have left until summer vacation, the list below just may help you resolve to end the school year with the best and most professional attitude possible.
The first part of this list suggests some attitudes that may remind you of coping skills you may have forgotten. The second part contains some useful strategies that you may have forgotten, but that can energize your teaching and make school more enjoyable and productive for your students and yourself.

60 Helpful Attitudes

1. Be moderate in your approach. You do not have to be the world’s best teacher all the time. You just have to be a very good one.
2. Spend your energy on large problems first and allot less of your energy for the small ones. Choose to deal with the problems that will give you the greatest benefit right away.
3. Problems can move you forward when you choose to work to solve them. Use your creative strengths to make your classroom well-disciplined and productive.
4. Make room for more emotional energy. Ask for help when you have a problem.
5. Learn to see problems as challenges that you can overcome.
6. Don’t underestimate your students. They are capable of much more than you think they are.
7. Avoid negative people. Better yet, try not to be one of those negative people you are supposed to avoid.
8. Being optimistic doesn’t mean that you don’t have problems. A positive attitude means that you are working on a solution.
9. Make sure you have something fun to look forward to. Reward yourself when you achieve a goal.
10. You don’t teach a class. You teach complex, living, breathing people.
11. Cherish your students. Even the worst-behaved ones have redeeming qualities.
12. Carpe Diem! When a teachable moment comes along, TEACH!
13. Don’t forget that small attitude changes often create bigger patterns of success. What small attitude change can you make today?
14. When a task seems impossible, remind yourself of the teachers who made a difference in your life. You can do the same for your students.
15. The fun you have goofing around during your planning period is equal to the misery you’ll experience trying to catch up later.
16. Be proactive! Plan what you are going to do if…
17. Discard something you’re doing that is not productive. Figure out how to do just one thing more efficiently.
18. Practice deep breathing. You’ll be glad you know how to calm yourself when a student is defiant, disrespectful, or just cranky.
19. Make it your goal that every student will leave your class with a positive attitude every day.
20. Use your strengths. Focus on your positive attributes to maximize the potential for success in your classroom.
21. Keep things in perspective. Ask yourself if the problems you have today will be important next year.
Try Some Strategies You May Have Forgotten
22. Talk less and listen more to your students.
23. Change the pace. Try three new activities this week.
24. Break large tasks into small, manageable ones.
25. Plan to ignore the small stuff.
26. Get to work a little early and stay a little late.
27. Stop trying to rely on your memory! You have too much to do to recall everything. Write it down in an organized fashion.
28. Be sure to plan for the last few minutes of class.
29. Empower your students by designing assignments that allow for limited student options. Give them innocuous choices such as the even or odd problems, essay topics, group tasks, or the best day to take a test.
30. You probably need to model more for your students. Most teachers do. And don’t forget to show them what you don’t want them to do, also.
31. Ask students to justify their answers on a test to encourage deeper thinking.
32. Let your students know what activities lie ahead of them so that they have something to look forward to. Try a little countdown to an exciting event to focus them on the positive.
33. Encourage independence! Tell your students that they must “See three before me” to find answers to questions.
34. At the end of a lesson, encourage reflection (and positive attitudes) by asking students to tell you what went well during class.
35. Build in wiggle breaks. Even seniors need a break now and then.
36. When students are engaged in learning new material, periodically ask them to stop and write about these three topics: what they think about the subject so far, what they understand about the subject, and any questions they still may have.
37. Don’t work against the nature of your students. Make the material compelling by incorporating their interests and goals. When you were a teenager, you thought the world revolved around you, too.
38. Stimulate student curiosity by making your lessons as suspenseful and novel as possible. Ask students to solve puzzles or create solutions to problems.
39. Put some color in your classroom world. Break out the crayons or highlighters to help students pay attention to what’s important in their notes.
40. Lower your voice. Your students will be more likely to lower theirs than if you shout.
41. Avoid problems when students finish work early by having other activities for them to complete. Students with nothing to do will amuse themselves by annoying nearby adults.
42. Increase the frequency of the positive recognition you give students.
43. Display student work. Rewarding students in this way is worth the time it takes to arrange it.
44. Put a list of terms or facts on the board and ask your students to determine what they have in common. If you include unlikely names or items, the class discussion could be lively.
45. At the end of a unit of study, give students a sheet with the alphabet in a column on the left. To review, they need to tell you one important fact from the lesson is related to a letter of the alphabet.
46. Show a movie. Be sure to teach good movie viewing behavior before you do. Better yet, have your students make a movie or slide show.
47. Avoid acting in anger no matter how frustrated you feel. Manage the discipline problems in your class with a problem-solving approach instead.
48. Set a concrete goal with your students: 100% on every quiz, everyone on time for a week, all homework complete… Use a bar graph to illustrate their progress.
49. Graphic organizers are wonderful ways to engage students. Busy students are happy students and happy students make happy teachers.
50. Use a variety of media to capture your audience—movies, art, wikis, songs, podcasts, television, interactive game sites, magazines, advertisements, cartoons, and slogans are just a few of the ways that you can capture attention.
51. When they ask, “Why do we have to do this?” be sure to have an excellent answer ready.
52. Use your student’s competitive instincts to your advantage. Create teams to compete against other teams. Best of all, challenge your students to compete against themselves by working to improve their own best performance.
53. Center instruction around essential questions.
54. Ask students to demonstrate the best way to do something.
55. Make abstract ideas concrete. Ask students to produce a final product as the result of their work. This makes their effort visible.
56. Assign a set of questions to a group of students. Each student selects one question and becomes the expert about it. They can share with the entire class or with teams.
57. Your part of the workload should not always be greater than your students’ part. Hold them accountable for setting goals, monitoring their own progress, and self-evaluation.
58. Ask your students to invent a game for a review activity.
59. Take photographs of your students. Be thrifty and print them on paper. Your students just want to see themselves on the classroom wall.
60. Schedule in some fun every day—for you and for your students. Smile together and misbehavior will decrease.