Posts Tagged ‘Classroom’

How Restraint in the Classroom Can Transform You as a Person

January 6, 2020

In the classroom, we are tested beyond comprehension. It can be quite a challenge to keep one’s cool and it often involves sucking in some pride.

But, if you can overcome the urge to lose it and maintain a calm and considered approach to dealing with bad behaviour, disruption and rudeness, think about what you have achieved! And the respect that you are likely to get from your students cannot be understated. They realise when they have given as good as they got and haven’t been able to break you that they have a teacher who possesses self-control and resilience.

But it goes beyond that.

If you can withstand a hectic and unruly classroom situation, resisting all temptation to blow up and completely lose it, think about how much easier it becomes to deal with stressful situations at home. If you can leave the classroom with your voicebox intact and your reputation restored, you should surely be able to duplicate the act when it comes to dealing with your partner, children and mother-in-law.

Keeping your emotions in check in the classroom is as challenging as it gets. If you can achieve it, you can do just about anything!


Michael Grossman is the author of the hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.


Allowing Children to Stand Out From the Pack

February 24, 2014



Not everyone can be a leader.

In every community there are natural leaders and people more comfortable with following. That doesn’t mean that the followers are blind. Their mission is to find the right person or persons to follow.

And even within the system of leaders and followers, it is vital for all concerned to realise that they all have unique gifts and characteristics which they need to harness, even at the cost of seeming different.

But people don’t like being different. They feel it makes them stand out in a negative way and it reduces their opportunities for gaining respect and acceptance from their peers.

In the classroom this is depicted by the academically gifted student who tones down their effort levels so as not to stand out. Commonly classified as a form of peer pressure, it makes children feel like they need to be seen to have the same tastes in movies, clothes, songs and interests as the pack, just to fit in.

I look at the picture above and I feel sad that doing something different looks odd or uncomfortable. Surely, as teachers, we should be working towards creating a classroom environment where each child is made aware of their unique skills and qualities and is able to express themselves without risk of excommunication.


Click on the link to read Hilarious Examples of Kids Telling It As It Is

Click on the link to read Kids Can Operate an iPad but Can’t Tie their Shoelaces

Click on the link to read What is the Difference Between Over-Praising Children and Lying to Them?

Click on the link to read The Skills Kids Can Learn from Traditional Board Games

Click on the link to read Our Impressionable Children are Desperately Looking for Positive Rolemodels


20 Questions Teachers Should Be Asking Themselves

December 10, 2012


Courtesy of

    1. What are some things you accomplished this year that you are proud of?
    2. What is something you tried in your classroom this year for the first time? How did it go?
    3. What is something you found particularly frustrating this year?
    4. Which student in your class do you think showed the most improvement? Why do you think this student did so well?
    5. What is something you would change about this year if you could?
    6. What is one way that you grew professionally this year?
    7. Who amongst your colleagues was the most helpful to you?
    8. What has caused you the most stress this year?
    9. When was a time this year when you felt joyful and/or inspired about the work that you do?
    10. What do you hope your students remember most about you as a teacher?
    11. In what ways were you helpful to your colleagues this year?
    12. What was the most valuable thing you learned this year?
    13. What was the biggest mistake you made this year? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?
    14. What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?
    15. What part of the school day is your favorite? Why?
    16. What were your biggest organizational challenges this year?
    17. Who was your most challenging student? Why?
    18. In what ways did you change the lives of your students this year?
    19. Pretend that you get to set your own salary for this past year based on the job that you did. How much do you feel that you earned (the number you come up with should be in no way based on your current salary – rather, come up with a number that truly reflects how you should be compensated for your work this year)?
    20. Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to be a teacher if you could go back in time and make the choice again? If the answer is “no,”  is there a way for you to choose a different path now?

Click on the link to read School Official Allegedly told a Teacher to Train her Breasts to not Make Milk at Work

Click on the link to read 12 Tips for Managing Time in the Classroom

Click on the link to read If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One

Click on the link to read Different Professions, Same Experiences

Click on the link to read Our Pay Isn’t the Problem

12 Tips for Managing Time in the Classroom

October 5, 2012

Courtesy of Susan Fitzell from

1. Keep students on task during activities: Use visual timers during class activities such as think-pair-shares, group work, timed individual assignments, etc. A visual timer is one that enables students to “see” time.

2. Save class time by using efficient note-taking practices: For example, rather than have students spend valuable class time copying notes that the teacher writes on an overhead projector, whiteboard, chalk board or LCD Screen, give students a copy of linear notes as well as a blank graphic organizer based on those notes. Rather than copy notes, students fill in the words of the graphic organizer. This not only saves tremendous class time, it presents the notes in a linear as well as graphic mode and still requires students to pay attention because they have to fill in the missing words.

3. Get students to class on time: Choose a ‘gripping’ novel, or a short educational game (Around the World, Vocabulary Hang Man, etc. One that would only take about five minutes to complete.). Every day, exactly as the bell rings, start reading or playing the game. Students will rush to class to avoid missing the ‘fun’.

4. Use song clips or cell phone ring tones as timers: Sort them by how long they take to play through and use them as auditory timers for the students. Whether it’s a transition or a non-reading activity (Avoid playing music while students are reading.) the music will cue students in to the ‘time’ and keep them hopping.

5. Keep lengthy group work activities on target:  When giving students a good chunk of time to work on a project, for example, twenty minutes; tell students that you will do a ‘check-in’ every 3 min and 22 seconds. (Or some other odd time) Why not five minutes? Because the brain likes novelty and they are more likely to pay attention to something like 3:22.  Then set your visual timer for that amount of time. When the time’s up, stop the action and do a “check-in” with each group.  This should only take a minute or two. Have students whip around the room with a quick report.  This allows you to zero in on the students that are struggling to get started and stay abreast of the students who are barreling ahead and may finish early.

6. Get through your lesson plan with minimal distraction:  Summarize what must be accomplished in a period of time in a bulleted list. Try to keep it to four or five bullets. List the bullets on a flip chart pad or white/chalk board.  Draw check boxes next to each bullet.  As the class completes each bullet, ask a student to check off the completed item.  If the bullets are checked off before the end of the allotted time, students are rewarded with ‘talk time’, an educational game that they love to play, or another incentive. Say, “When we finish these bullets early, we have time to do something fun!”

7. Provide an environment that makes writing more efficient AND saves time: When assigning students a writing assignment, structure 10+ minutes (or more) for students to create a mind map of their ideas. When assigning students a project, structure time during class for students to create a plan. When students start projects with a ‘map’ of where they are going, the quality of their end product not only improves, they work more effectively and efficiently, thus saving time.

8. Give students clear directions so the need for repetition is minimized: Write your directions, assignments, sequences of activities, etc. on the chalk/white board or PowerPoint screen. Have one or two students paraphrase the instructions out loud for the class. Paraphrasing not only allows the teacher to determine how clear the directions are, but it provides the directions once again with a different voice.

9. Say it so all can hear it: If all students could hear what teachers said, or were listening, class activities would move along faster. If possible, use a wireless microphone and a speaker in your classroom.  Teachers who use such a system for ‘one’ student in the class who needs it as an accommodation report that they notice a marked difference in the class; all students hear and respond better. This step saves time because teachers repeat and re-teach less.

10. Allow students to contribute to managing THEIR class: Assign them jobs, or if appropriate, have them come up with a fair system of assigning jobs. Students can not only help with taking attendance, and collecting and passing papers; they can contribute to creating memory devices (mnemonics), songs for learning, vocabulary cartoons, flow charts and graphic organizers. Find out what strengths students bring to the class and use those strengths to differentiate lesson plans and learning materials.

11. Students who take time away from class must give time back: Restitution: When students caused the class to lose time because of poor behavior and disruption, I require them to make it up to the class. Students might have to prepare and present a 20 minute lesson, come after school to tutor another student for 7 minutes, work on the computer to create a crossword puzzle worksheet, etc. They must give back for what they took away.  This is not only an effective deterrent to wasted time; it can be a positive experience for the student and an opportunity for you to build rapport and relationship with the student.

12. Shorten the time it takes to prep: Use internet resources to provide ready made materials for your lesson plans. See my Dozen Internet Tips article from December 2008 for some great time saving tips for using the Internet.


Click on the link to read If Teachers Were Paid More I Wouldn’t Have Become One

Click on the link to read Different Professions, Same Experiences

Click on the link to read Our Pay Isn’t the Problemt

The Dog Eat Dog Style of Education

August 23, 2012

Classrooms are increasingly becoming a case of a battle of the fittest. The pressure to deliver individual achievement on curriculum benchmarks and standardized testing have not helped. More and more we are seeing classroom relationships fracture and a strong preference for achievement over effort.

A friend of mine discussed an issue he was having with his son’s school. He told me that his son’s teacher is rewarding some of his students for reaching a certain goal. His son, among others, are excluded from a field trip because they didn’t fully rote learn the expected material. He tried his best, but didn’t get there by the deadline. He is in Grade 4 and is already being excluded for not meeting benchmarks.

When I was doing my teaching rounds I encountered a scenario in the music room where a child had disturbed the class. The teacher was considering punishing the child by excluding him from the next activity. The teacher decided to ask the class to determine this child’s fate. The teacher gave them two options. The first was to give the boy one more chance, the second was to exclude him. I watched in amazement as the entire class voted to prevent him from taking part in the activity. The class were taught to be ruthless towards each other so that’s what they did.

When will our educators realise that a child cannot achieve their potential when they are not valued for their efforts or respected by their peers? All this talk of ‘child centered teaching’ and ‘teacher centered teaching’ is off the mark. I prefer, what I call, ‘classroom centered teaching‘ – where the needs of the group necessitate the style in which I teach. According to this method, it is my job as my first priority to ensure that each child feels valued for who they are, what skills they have and how they are treated by their peers.

This means that when there is a disagreement among students, I do not hesitate to use teaching time to work things out. The time I invest into the social environment in my class has a strong impact on academic progress. Those of you that have witnessed a rift between students or groups of students in the classroom may have noticed how hard it is to get the class to focus on classwork when the  playground politics is unresolved.

Whilst standardised testing doesn’t consider a child’s effort or the qualities and interests of a child, I can think of nothing more important. When a teacher decides to treat half the class at the expense of the other half, they are anointing winners and losers.

My students are all winners.

Click on the link to read Problem Kids, Suspensions and Revolving Doors

Click on the link to read The Solution to the Disruptive Student Has Arrived: Body Language Classes
Click on the link to read When Something Doesn’t Work – Try Again Until it Does
Click on the link to read Teachers Should Stop Blaming Parents and Start Acting

Babies Brought into Schools to Teach Kids About Empathy

May 20, 2012

To be able to teach children about empathy one has to get them to understand that the world doesn’t revolve around them. They need to know that everyone has problems, insecurities and sensitivities. Children that struggle to show empathy can get self obsessed and insular.

That’s why I am surprised that some have confused caring for a totally dependant baby, to the understanding that their fellow classmate has problems too. A young baby is simply not threatening. They are cute, fun to play with and a great distraction for any classroom. I don’t understand how caring for a baby has any bearing on a child’s capacity to feel the pain of a classmate:

Babies are set to be brought into primary schools in Cardiff to help improve pupils’ empathy levels and help reduce any bullying and aggression.

The scheme, pioneered in Canada, encourages children to interact in a nurturing manner after observing a parent and baby in the classroom.

Reports suggest children who have taken part are more likely to help others, share, and accept peers as they are.

The programme is being run by the charity Action for Children (AfC).

Around 2,000 school children will take part in Roots of Empathy, as the scheme is known, which will see a local parent and young baby visit their school nine times over the course of a school year.

Debra Ennis, the charity’s children’s services manager, said the project had been running very successfully in Scotland for two years and a Big Lottery Fund grant had enabled them to bring it to Wales.

“We chose Cardiff as we have a really good relationship with the local authority and already run some programmes here.

“The results in Scotland have been amazing. I was a bit sceptical at first – babies going into classrooms – but the turnaround in behaviour in children’s classrooms and drop in anti-social behaviour has been amazing.

I think this program has some value when it comes to fostering maturity and social skills, but I just don’t understand how you can teach empathy for classmates by bringing in babies to the classroom.


Standardised Testing Meets Spin City

May 15, 2012

A few weeks ago I sought to have an interview with Australia’s Education Minister regarding the upcoming NAPLAN standardised tests. I am still waiting for a reply.

Luckily, I came across his op/ed piece over the weekend, where he tries to allay the fears of the parenting community and make a case for these highly pressured, incredibly unpopular series of tests.

In his piece, he claims that:

Parents and the community should rest assured that the NAPLAN tests are simply a way of measuring how our students and our schools are performing in the three key areas of reading, writing and numeracy. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I assure you Mr. Garrett that parents of 8-years olds subjected to 4 rigorous exams in 3 days understand that these tests represent much more than just a simple way of measuring child progress.

There is nothing in any of the tests that students need to learn above and beyond what is already being taught in the classroom, namely the curriculum.

I am not sure that is true. Whilst my students are expected to write persuasive essays, there is no mention of persuasive writing in the Grade 3 curriculum.

By measuring how our students are performing as they progress through school, we can get a clear national picture, for the first time, of where we need to be directing extra attention and resources.

This is just spin. This implies that these tests exist to help direct the Government in regards to spending and programs. There is no evidence of any Governmental response whether it be financial or a simple change of priorities based on the yearly NAPLAN results. Instead, the outcome of the NAPLAN is designed to expose failing schools, inept teachers and anything and everything that can divert attention from a Government good at measuring performance but poor at performing themselves.

It needs to be made clear to schools and teachers that excessive test practising ahead of NAPLAN is unnecessary. While it helps to be familiar with the structure of the tests, carrying out endless practices should not be encouraged. NAPLAN matters, but it is not the be all and end all.

Unnecessary to whom? If you and your staff were to be tested on the performance of your portfolio wouldn’t you take the time to prepare? When a class gets appraised, so does the teacher. Are we meant to sit back and watch 8-years old kids sit for their first formal exams without preparing them for the kinds of questions and scenarios they are likely to encounter?

Mr. Garett, your opinion piece tries to win over parents, yet it completely deviates from the very issue that parents are most concerned about. Parents do not like seeing their young children exposed to so much pressure. They don’t like to see their children who may currently enjoy learning, subjected to such a negative learning experience.

Today, one of my students was so frightened by the prospect of these exams that he was reluctant to get in the car. We are talking about a child that loves learning.

I have no problem with High School children being tested. But 3rd Graders? Is it really worth it?


Six Tips For a Happy Classroom

January 6, 2012

These valuable tips come from Professor Dylan William, the inspiration behind the BBC2 series ‘The Classroom Experiment’.

* Stop students putting their hands up to ask questions – it’s the same ones doing it all the time. Instead introduce a random method of choosing which pupil answers the question, such as lollipop sticks, and thus engage the whole class.

* Use traffic-light cups in order to assess quickly and easily how much your students understand your lesson. If several desks are displaying a red cup, gather all those students around to help them at the same time.

* Mini-whiteboards, on which the whole class simultaneously writes down the answer to a question, are a quick way of gauging whether the class as a whole is getting your lesson. This method also satisfies the high-achievers who would normally stick their hands up.

* A short burst of physical exercise at the start of the school day will do wonders for students’ alertness and motivation. As any gym addict or jogger will tell you, it’s all about the chemicals released into the brain.

* Ditch the obsession with grades, so that pupils can concentrate instead on the comments that the teacher has written on written classwork.

* Allow students to assess the teachers’ teaching – they are the ones at the sharp end, after all. Letting pupils have a say is empowering and, if handled constructively, is highly enlightening.

I particularly like tip 5. We have become far too obsessed with grades. Comments from the teacher are a much better way of helping children achieve.

What ideas have you put into place that have improved the atmosphere of your classroom?

Schools Should Not Block YouTube

November 30, 2011

YouTube, in my opinion, is the hidden gem of education. It’s hidden, not because people don’t know it exists or what it can do.  On the contrary, everyone and their dog is aware of the diverse clips that YouTube contains.  It’s hidden because many schools, including until recently my own, have chosen to block it. The reason for this is fairly understandable – YouTube contains clips which are clearly unsuitable for children.

Whilst this is true, there is too much to be gained by exposing children to the wealth of educational opportunities that exist on YouTube to justify blocking it.

The other day I wanted to buy a phone.  I had a few in mind, but didn’t posses the technological nous to help me find something that would best give me value for money and fulfill my practical needs. So I did what many do when they can’t make their mind up about something – I asked YouTube.  On YouTube I watched clips on the various phones, was given a run through of their features, advantages, design and reliability issues etc.

This helped me settle on a phone.  But my education didn’t stop there.  As I am a visual learner, I require more than just a booklet to follow.  To set up my phone and navigate my way through the different functions I turned to my dear friend, YouTube, who again, didn’t let me down.

YouTube is the modern-day instructive tool. It clearly and carefully teaches people practical skills in language they can understand. It plays the part of teacher.

At the moment I am teaching my 5th Graders about finding the lowest common denominator before adding and subtracting fractions. As a test, before writing this blog post, I typed some key words into a YouTube search and came up with many fine online tutorials on this very skill that kids can readily access.  It shouldn’t replace the teacher, but it can certainly help a child pick up a concept.

And it’s not just academic skills that can be developed through YouTube.  If my school hadn’t relaxed its position on YouTube, I wouldn’t have had the chance to show my students the best anti-bullying film going around. I have come across so many lame and unconvincing films about bullying in my time. So to first find Mike Feurstein’s masterful film, and then get the chance to show the movie to my appreciative class, was a major coup for my ongoing efforts in trying to keep my classroom bully free.  The film, posted below is as good a reason as any to allow teachers to use YouTube in the classroom.

Sure teachers have to be on the lookout for students who may exploit this privilege, but ultimately that is our job. If we banned everything that has possible risks or negative outcomes, we wouldn’t have much to work with at all.



The Classroom Can Be So Unnatural

June 26, 2011

It mystified me how in the modern era that we live in, we still haven’t properly addressed some fundamental issues effecting the comfort of our students.  The following are three examples:

1.  The Mat – The mat serves a clear purpose.  There are times when the mat is ideal for teaching a new concept or skill or for giving opportunities for students to present their work to the class.  But it must be used in short spurts because it is so uncomfortable.  Sitting in a confined space, without a back rest is not fun at all.  Once, whilst teaching a mat session, I tried it.  I sat on the floor with the kids/ In no time, I’d had enough.  Teachers who use the mat for long, drawn out periods of time should not be frustrated at the child that can’t sit still.  It is to be expected that a naturally restless person will find the challenge just too difficult.

2.  The Chair – Even sitting in a chair for long periods of time is too much to expect.  Why is education often so dormant?  Surely the best forms of teaching allow students to move around.

3.  Lack of Engagement – Currently, there is a strong push to bring back traditional teaching.  This involves lines of handwriting practise, together with pages of maths algorithms followed by reading with comprehension questions.  There are always going to be certain students who will enjoy the safe, predictable, routine side to rote learning.  But on the whole, this methods is nothing short of tedious.  It lacks creativity, energy and critical thinking.  It is unimaginative, noninteractive and downright boring.

I hear teachers complain all the time about how poor attention spans are nowadays.  It makes me wonder whether teachers realise that we are partly to blame.  I can’t concentrate unless I’m engaged  and comfortable in my chair.  I need time to move and stretch and I need to feel as if I am able to express myself.

Why should my students feel any differently?


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