Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Remove the Barriers to Peer Acceptance in Your Classroom

It is important for teachers to make it easy for their students to work well together—an undertaking requiring diplomacy as well as dedicated effort. Social inclusion is such a vital aspect of any student’s life that the effort often results in beneficial dividends. What are some of the most common barriers to social acceptance in school? Many students could feel excluded because they do not know their classmates. It is a mistake to assume that students know each other well. Even students who have attended school together for several years may not know much about their classmates.

Another barrier is that your students may live in different neighborhoods. If you teach in a school where students may live at a distance or come from very diverse neighborhoods, it is likely that they have not had many opportunities to interact with each other outside of school.

In addition, students who have not been taught how to behave courteously or who have not learned socially acceptable ways to resolve conflict often struggle to form appropriate relationships with their peers.

Perhaps the greatest barrier that you will have to help your students overcome is the perception that they may not have much in common with a classmate whom they do not know well. With effort and persistence, you can assist students in learning to recognize their commonalities so that they can learn to accept and support each other. Use the tips in the list that follows to guide you as you work to help students remove the barriers to peer acceptance.

  • Make sure that each student’s strengths are well known to the rest of the class.
  • If a student has an unpleasant history of failure or misbehavior, make it clear that it is time for a fresh start.
  • Show your students the correct ways to interact with each other. They need plenty of models and monitoring until they have learned to cooperate productively.
  • Let each student shine. Every student should believe that he or she is really your favorite.
  • Be sensitive to the differences that divide your students and to the potential for conflict that those differences can cause.
  • Make it a point to recognize students who work well with others. Whenever possible, praise the entire class for its cooperative attitude.
  • Provide opportunities for students to get to know each other. These do not have to take up a great deal of time, but can be done in brief activities scattered throughout the year.
  • Plan enough work for your students to do so that they are focused on school and don’t have time to discover their classmates’ negative character traits.
  • Promote tolerance and acceptance with a display of posters and encouraging mottoes.
  • Encourage students to share experiences and personal information about their family, culture, and goals while working together.
  • Make it very easy for students to understand class routines and procedures and to follow directions well. Students who know what to do are less likely to make embarrassing mistakes for which they can be teased or excluded later.
  • Be careful that you model appropriate behavior, thereby encouraging your students to do the same.
  • Don’t give in to the temptation of rolling your eyes or losing your patience when a student blunders in front of classmates. Your actions could set that student up for social exclusion later.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Fifty-seven Freebies to Help You Organize Your School Paperwork

According to the old joke, the three best reasons to teach are June, July, and August. Although parts of these three months can be more relaxed than the other months when we spend so much time at school or thinking about school, summer is a great time to reflect, to look ahead to the upcoming year, and to plan.

One of the most important traits that great teachers share is that they are very organized. It is just impossible to teach in chaos--whether that chaos is caused by students or by an unprepared teacher. There are simply too many things that we need to do all at once for teachers to be successfully unorganized.

In addition, being well-organized is an important way to be a role model for students. It's simply not fair to ask students to keep their notebooks straight, their desks neat, and to show up with the necessary materials if we have piles of folders and papers scattered all over the classroom.

Being an organized teacher also means that we are less likely to run out of handouts or other materials needed for class. When we are organized, we can be on top of the things that we need to do so that we can focus on our students and their needs instead of having to look for a missing book or pen or set of notes.

There are as many ways to organize our professional lives as there are teachers. What works for one classroom teacher will not necessarily work for another. The key is to find a workable system to manage all of the various components of the day and tweak it until it works for you.

One way that I have found to keep much of my school organized is to use a large three-ring binder as my catch-all Professional Binder. In this binder, I store the documents that I need often: student rosters, contact information, contact logs, hall passes, discipline records, lesson plans, and other useful information.

If you would like to consider a similar organization plan for yourself, I have posted fifty-seven documents that are ones that I use during the school year. You can access them by clicking on the "Professional Binder" page at my website: www.juliagthompson.com. Many of these forms are ones that I have already published in my books, The First-Year Teacher's Survival Guide and Discipline Survival Guide for the Secondary Teacher,  but here you will find an electronic version that you can adjust for your own use. 

Feel free to download and print the forms that you need to make your own professional life easier, less chaotic, and more organized. If the forms you find at my website can help you be the kind of teacher you want to be, I will be glad!

Just go to www.juliagthompson.com and click on the "Professional Binder" page at www.juliagthompson.com.