Part 2 An Anchor For The Storms: Hearts For Teaching Blog Post

by lclarcq on August 26th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Relationships, Starting The Year, Using Student Ideas

This year I decided to add a second poster option for my Spanish 2 students (primarily 7th graders).  About 1/3rd had had me as a teacher last year and I didn’t want them to have to do the same poster over again! Also, it was so successful that I wanted to see if it also worked with our Goals !

In Our Class We Try To…

Respect

Include

Communicate

Understand

Think

Improve

This week we focused on Respect and Understand as we began to get to know each other and how the class would run.  Next week we’ll add Communicate.

These goals, like the statement in the previous post, serve as a touchpoint for us all year long.  I was able to use them over and over again just this week.

Check out some of their work above and below!

with love,

Laurie

PS  I’ve invited the principal and two assistant principals to come in and choose their favorite poster (from both options)  I will color copy and frame them to be hung in their offices!!

An Anchor For The Storms P

by lclarcq on August 26th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Relationships, Starting The Year, Using Student Ideas

The first weeks of school seem “easy” to some teachers.  In their rooms, students seem to follow the rules and do what is expected.  It is sometimes referred to as the “honeymoon” period, when everything is sweet and wonderful.

I don’t usually experience that, and maybe many language teachers do not.  Our expectations are different than the expectations of other teachers.  Our rooms are set up differently than the rooms of other teachers.  Our relationships with students are often different than those of other teachers.  For those reasons, it is extremely important to set the boundaries.   What are the parameters of behavior?  What is acceptable?  What isn’t?

Because I teach using TPRS® (thank you Bryce Hedstrom for this!) my students are going to be in a highly-participatory, interactive classroom.   This is new for many of them and it takes some time for us to work it out!!   So for me, the first few weeks are very, very important and my brain is highly alert for ways to time,  orchestrate and/or take advantage of the first and best opportunities to share HOW this class will work.  Once we get things rolling, then I relax a little bit!

For the last decade or so, I have started students with the following statement (or something very similar!_:

The purpose of communication is to put a picture into the mind, and/or heart, of another person. 

It is not a quote;  it’s one of my belief statements….in the classroom and in life.  I use it to “anchor” the classroom.

What do I mean by “anchor”?   

Well, teaching can sometimes feel as if you are out on the high seas in the middle of a hurricane.   It’s hard, with all that is going on and all that is required, to keep upright and to keep going in the right direction.   Sometimes you need an anchor to keep you from blasting off in the wrong direction without meaning to.   

So I use all or parts of this statement to come back to over and over again.

It is an introduction to the concept of visualization.  I want students to visualize what they hear and read.  

It is a reminder that clarity is important.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

It is a reminder that words have power.  We should use them wisely.  

It is commitment to not only communicate with the minds, but also the hearts, of everyone in the class. 

But most of all, it gives me the starting point for checking for understanding?  Is the meaning (the picture) clear?

I ask students to create a poster (8″x10″ minimum) with that statement.  They keep them in the front of their folders and I post copies of many of them around the room.   As always….students blow me away with their work!!  (Check out samples from some of this year’s 6th graders above and below!)

with love,

Laurie







Creating Community

by lclarcq on August 24th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Engagement, Relationships, Starting The Year

Creating community is more than a series of activities…..it is a commitment to finding ways for students to support each other.  That is not always easy!  Supporting and encouraging others is not a part of every community that we teach and live in.  It isn’t always a part of our family history, nor the dynamic of our students’ home lives.  

Like everything else we do, it requires patience and a constant series of safe opportunities for student to be a part of.  Once students begin to experience what being part of a community really means, they begin to buy in and often lead the way…..but that can take some time.

My first period class (so far!) seems to be a group that is willing to step up, so I asked them to start something this morning that blossomed throughout the day.   It was the day of our first quiz.  (I try to give some sort of assessment each Thursday because it helps me to plan for the next week.)    The first period group was a little nervous, but no surprise, they felt good about their answers.  

Today’s quiz was really more about teaching them the logistics of taking a test/quiz in a deskless classroom, and to build their confidence about quizzes in the weeks to come.  After the quiz was over, I asked them to share their thoughts about how it went.  They were relieved that it wasn’t too difficult and some of them admitted that they had been pretty worried about it.

So….

I asked them to write “Good luck!” to the next class on the whiteboards that we keep under the chairs to write on.    When the next period came in, each student had a note saying ‘GOOD LUCK!” on the white board under his/her seat.   At first, they were puzzled.  Why did they wish me good luck?  Who wrote it?  Do they know me?  But after a few moments, they began to share their messages with the students nearby and several took pictures to save and send.  

Then they erased the messages and took their own quiz.   Towards the end of the period, a student asked, “Aren’t we going to make Good Luck boards too?”  Of course we were, but I was waiting to see if they would ask…..and they did!!

The last period of the day wrote “Good morning” on their boards and emphatically informed me that next Wednesday they needed to write “Good luck” for the 1st period class to see Thursday morning.

Just a quick, easy, safe way to build community….and yes…I took a quick look at each board before they left the room…..just to be sure all of the messages/drawings were appropriate. :0)  It is middle school after all!

Check out the pictures below! (I wish the one of all 31 of them had turned out!)

with love,

Laurie

Chair Guy For The Win!!

by lclarcq on August 22nd, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Engagement, Starting The Year, Tough Students

Note:  For the next two weeks, the Hearts For Teaching Blog posts will appear here on this site.  I will move them over when the Hearts For Teaching Blog is up and running well again!! (probably Sept. 1st)

I’m really focusing on my “hard to win” students these first few days.  The sooner I can get them on board, the sooner they start making progress.  Once that happens, there is no stopping them.  It’s getting them started that is the challenge!

Right now, these students fall into two categories (mostly): a. students who have been asked to repeat a level and b. students who have had more success with being obnoxious and funny than with classwork.

Some of my sweetest moments this week have come from these kids…..so I wanted to share my “chair guy” story with you.   Chair Guy started Day #1 by being the loudest, smart-mouthed and most vocal kid in Spanish 2…..and of course, all in English.  On the second day of class a new student entered just as we were about to start the first activity.   All of the chairs were full.  The student looked around for a seat, and in a split second it was obvious that no chairs were readily available.  

“Sucks to be you!”, yells out Chair Guy.  The entire class looks at him, and then at me.  Chair Guy isn’t even aware that he has said/done anything questionable.   I go over to my desk and picked up a Wildcat Way (the school’s recognition rewards that can be turned in for prizes etc.)

“Hmmmm”, I say to Chair Guy, slowly waving the Wildcat Way, “I think you meant to say–I’ll find you a chair.”   

Chair Guy looks at me for a second, puzzled, and then he gets it.   He stands up, goes to the corner of the room, picks up a chair from a few that are stacked in a corner.  “Where would you like to sit?, “he asks the girl, “I’ll put it anywhere you would like.”   She points, he puts the chair down, and I hand him the Wildcat Way with a thank you.

Not 10 seconds later ANOTHER student enters the room.  Chair Guy is on his feet in a second.  “WELCOME!!, ” he yells, “I’ll get you a seat!  Where would you like to sit?”  The student gets a personally-chosen seat and Chair Guy gets another Wildcat Way.

Now, the next day, a student comes in late.  Chair Guy jumps up and says, “Welcome!  There’s a chair for you over there!”  No kidding.  I don’t know who is happier, me or Chair Guy!!  

On the way out he says to me, “You know, I’ve never gotten any of these before.  It’s easier than I thought to do the right thing.”  

Welcome to the class Chair Guy!!!!  So glad he’s here.

with love,

Laurie

Day #2: Winning Them Over One By One!

by lclarcq on August 20th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Relationships, Starting Class, Starting The Year, Uncategorized

So, on Day #2 the students walk in and sit down.  Four out of six classes totally forgot about the names in the back of the room until the bell rang….and then….someone said, “Oh!  Our cards!”.   But once everyone remembered, all went well.

Ok….not all.

My first and third period classes looked something like this as they brought up their cards:

Student in the front of the line hands me the card.   I smile, and say, brightly, BUENOS DIAS!.  The student looks at the floor and trudges back to his or her seat.   This repeated itself 31 times!!!!!!!!   

Once everyone had gone through the process, I looked at the class and said, “Clase, hay un problema.”  And then explained in English that having your heart broken 31 times in a row is no way to start the day.

So…..they all got up again….I greeted them with a smile, a HIGH FIVE and a BUENOS DIAS!.   In the first period class, right about the middle of the line, one boy deliberately “missed” the high five.  (Ay!)  So, when everyone was done I invited him up front.  He gladly came (if not I would have gone over to stand next to him.)   I explained to the class in Spanish (these are level 2 students) that everyone gave me a high five except for “Alberto.’  Why?  Because Alberto and I had a very special handshake that was way more complicated than a high five and he was going to teach it to them right now.  

“Albert” whispered to me, “I don’t know what to do.”  I whispered back, ‘Just miss my high five and then we’ll do a fist bump.”  So “Albert” demonstrated the more complicated and special high five and I asked 3 or 4 other students if they wanted to try it.  There was about 25 hands in the air so I let them do it with a neighbor and then we went on.  “Albert” got the message, and so did the rest of them.  

:o)

with love,

Laurie

The Heart of the Matter

by lclarcq on August 12th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Curriculum and Planning, Starting The Year

I’ve been thinking….

What’s the one thing I really need to communicate to my students? The thing that everything else stands on and revolves around. The thing I can always go back to whether I am planning, evaluating, reacting or even treading water.

My students are important to me.

More important than the curriculum, the grading system, the behavior point system, the school’s reputation, the department’s success record, than anything else I can think of in the educational venue.

Because of that, my classes are important to me.

Each student is part of a class. Each class has its own chemistry and behaviors that not only affect the students in it, but also is created by the students in it.

So I put a great deal of importance on how we interact in each class.

I want to set up each class so that it is clear what we are doing, and why.

What are we doing?
We are interacting, using the Spanish language whenever possible, so that we can know and understand the world better, starting with each other.

Why?
Language acquisition happens when the language is comprehensible, the message has value, and the people involved know that they matter.

Oh wait. That isn’t in the right order.

I want my students to know that they matter, that the world they live in matters, and that we can use more than one language to explore and appreciate those things.

And I only have a few precious minutes every day to do that.

with love,
Laurie

Being The Space

by lclarcq on March 10th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Musings, Not So Good Days

It’s a tough week here. It is the end of the trimester and sadly, even middle school students feel the stress. We are also two weeks into an eight-week stretch without a break. With 10 more students per class than I’m accustomed to, I’ve also learned that I’m absorbing more stress from them as well. Sometimes I feel as if I am in the room in the center of a house fire when the room is full. And it is about to ex/implode at any moment.

That’s not what kids deserve. And frankly, I’ve feel like I’m not what the kids deserve this week either. But I’m what they have. So I’ve been looking for a way to stay calm.

I have tried to see myself as a tennis racket this week. Weird I know, but bear with me.

The tennis racket doesn’t get to sit still during a practice or a game. Even when the other player is dealing with the ball….the racket is poised and just slightly in motion…ready to return the play.

I realized that I did not have to be the entire racket…and that I could chose, at any, or every moment, which part of the racket I could be.

Professionally, and personally, I often have to be the strings. I have to catch the boll. I have to return the ball so that the players can hit it back to me.

But this week…..I’m trying to be the spaces between the strings. The spaces don’t have to do anything. They just have to be there. They let everything go by. They let the racket move and the strings do the work when necessary.

So when the tension heated up and the ‘little things” felt like they would explode into big things I kept saying to myself…”I’m the space. I’m the space. I’m the space.” (If you couldn’t tell, I am a big fan of mantras!!)

It helped me so much. There is a time to be the strings….but it was a good week to be the space. I hope it helped the kids as much as it helped me.

with love,
Laurie

No, Every Day Is Not A Winner

by lclarcq on February 15th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Not So Good Days

and I don’t seem to be able to predict them in advance.

That morning went well. It was a block day and the second block went well too. I’m not even sure that it was going so badly when I lost it. It seemed like it at the time, but looking back, it is hard to tell.

One minute I was tolerating the minor chaos of 30 students working in 10 groups of 3. Some groups were still working and some were done. Some students were passing back papers for me. I figured those still working needed about 5 more minutes and I could round everyone up and we could end the class on a focused note. And then…it all crossed over the edge. I had mis-timed things and the ones that were done were DONE and then I was DONE and well…that was that.

It was lights out, heads down on the desk and total silence. I was able to take deep breaths (although it was a little tough not to flash back to 5th grade when my teacher did the same thing to us…..and I got yelled at because I couldn’t stop giggling)

They apologized. Some quite sincerely and one who felt righteously wronged because although she admitted that she hadn’t been doing what she was supposed to the rest of the period, at the moment I got angry she was doing what she was supposed to and how dare I ask her to put her head down and be quiet? :o) The next day I apologized. (I needed a little time…) And life went on.

I wasn’t the world’s worst teacher. They weren’t the world’s worst students. And the next day went very well. Up and down. As long as we keep coming back and starting over, it’s all good.

with love,
Laurie

No Longer Strangers

by lclarcq on February 13th, 2017

filed under Archived Posts 2017, Classroom Management, Encouragment, Engagement, Personalizing Instruction

It’s been three months. Days that sometimes seemed very long but months that have been very short. I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but recently there has been a change in my room. It feels like we are no longer strangers. This is so much better. I really was worried it wouldn’t happen.

I know, maybe everyone doesn’t really work this way, but I like knowing who the kids are in my room. I know their names. I know when one has new shoes. I’m learning who is always hungry and who never has anything to write with. I know whose family can afford a trip to Cozumel this spring and who wants to hang out after school and not go home. I know who will paint their face, wear feathers and paint their nails for Rally Day. I know who stays home on Rally Day because the energy level all day before the rally is too much to handle. I know who thinks they are old enough to be in high school and who still keeps a stuffed animal in their backpack every day. I know some things I am grateful to know, and other things that punch me in the gut when I think about them.

I don’t know something about everyone. But we have gotten to know each other. It’s a wonderful thing. I really didn’t enjoy working with strangers.

Middle schoolers are both a tough and a fragile bunch. Their tears are very real and they are often started by something that is only a big deal from the perspective of a middle schooler. One thing I have remembered is that middle school isn’t always fun to remember. But, the best way to connect with my middle schoolers has been to reconnect with my middle school self.

So, she and I are no longer strangers either.

She sometimes rode her bike to school…and sometimes took the bus.
On the days she rode her bike, her hair was even more of a complete disaster than usual.
On the days she took the bus, the high school boys pinched her on the butt and snapped her bra and she was mortified….but never told anyone.

She wanted very badly to be a cheerleader but just couldn’t jump. And her glasses fell off.
She thought she was smarter than the teachers some days and smarter than the other kids most days. And so she was a smart mouth sometimes. And then she cried because it felt mean.

She doesn’t have 7th grade pictures because her family of 7 were all living in a one-bedroom apartment transition housing and there probably wasn’t enough money……even if her mom did say that it was because the pictures were too ugly. That was less scary for her mom to say, but not less hard for her daughter to hear.

She fell desperately in love for minutes at a time with boys she absolutely did not know at all and totally ignored the ones she did. Or teased them unmercifully.

She daydreamed in class EVERY SINGLE DAY, often all period long.

She felt like she had to save the world and yet had absolutely no power at all.

Every, single, thing…..was changing.
Every, single, thing…..made no sense anymore.
Every, single, thing…..was desperately frightening.

On the inside.

On the outside she was a greasy-haired, four-eyed, smart-mouthed, desperately shy, passionate, closet-romance-reading, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, got-detention-for-laughing-in-class child having to deal with womanly issues and a great big world. And most of the time she didn’t do it very well. I guess that was the point. :o)

I was everything and nothing that I wanted to be. Getting to know her again has really helped me to get to know them. Loving her, for the first time, has helped me to love them too.

with love,
Laurie

What Works For One…

by lclarcq on December 7th, 2016

filed under Archived Posts 2016, Classroom Management, Engagement, Musings, Not So Good Days, Personalizing Instruction

I have three 6th grade/Level 1 classes and like most teachers, I’d like to think that I can have one basic plan for that level. I know better, but I don’t really KNOW better!! I’m trying to get to know not only individual students better, but also the makeup of each class better. It would really help me with my planning. :o)

All three classes need a lot of work with the basics. The first class was able to arrange itself in a circle without too much fuss and I led a series of questions/directed a conversation around several of the students.

There is a boy in the class. His name is ________. He is very, very famous in Spanish class. He has a lot of friends. One of them is also in Spanish class. His name is ___________. He is very, very intelligent. ___________is another student in class. He is very athletic. He likes football. Many students in the class like football. ____________ has a football jersey. Her favorite team is __________.

and then one of the kids ran to his backpack, pulled out a Seattle Seahawks jersey and put it on!! Great class. We are still pausing (often) so they can settle down, focus, stop talking, etc….but it was progress.

We transitioned into a conversation (with pictures) about Prince Royce. They understood, they were interested, and although we are still working on behaving like a class….I was pretty happy. We watched a 3 minute video about Prince Royce in English. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBHdga54kik) I could follow with a number of questions in Spanish using the “Super Seven” verbs. (Google Dr.Terry Waltz and Super 7…tons of great stuff!). They had some questions in English about Prince Royce that were interesting to hear. Questions about what he was wearing and how he wore his hair. I was able to use their emerging Spanish to talk about Prince Royce the person and Prince Royce the singer. (and to remind myself how important it is to FIT IN in middle school!)

Then we watched a clip from La Voz Kids where Prince Royce is a judge and a young man sings one of Prince Royce’s songs and talked about that using the same basic questions. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buIs7yqT5jE)

I felt pretty good about how that went!

The next class? Ummm. Different story. They could not handle a change in the seating arrangement. When I tried to start the conversation about the class, we could barely get started. The social make up of this group is a study in middle school insecurity. Everyone is trying to be cool and the socially acceptable way to be cool is to make sure that everyone in the class knows that you are cooler than they are. Cliques, sarcasm, eye-rolling, snorts…you get the idea. Lovely individuals on their own. Toxic when together.

So…..back to the drawing board. In the middle of class. Ok…twenty minutes into a 90 minute block. Desks in rows. Take out a sheet of paper. I write a sentence about Prince Royce (on the computer, projected onto the screen). The students write the sentence in Spanish. I ask individual students comprehension questions. No one else is allowed to speak. On the outside I am neutral, calm, maybe even cold. On the inside I am frustrated and fired up!!!! This is BORING. SUPER, SUPER BORING.

But….the class itself was under control. The individuals in the class could each employ self-control. The language was comprehensible.

When we transitioned to the interview they couldn’t contain their reactions. After calming the storm of remarks, followed by the smiling stare of death for 45 seconds, I had to state in English that

a) Prince Royce is an actual human being and I wouldn’t let them mock him, or anyone else, in my presence.

b) Prince Royce is a professional. He has a job. He might be told what to wear and how to cut his hair, etc. etc. It is not our job to do either of those things.

And then we went back to the video. What color is his shirt? What color are his shoes? Do the shoes cost a lot of money? Do his fans like his shoes? Using the same, one student at a time, no one else is answering, and we write the answer on the screen and they write it in their notebooks scenario.

The same material. Completely different lessons.

The hard part? Not putting my own personal label on either one. I was totally miserable during the second lesson….but truthfully…it was probably the right lesson for that group. If I had tried to keep pushing 5th period’s lesson on 7th period, it would have gotten very, very ugly.

Tomorrow I meet with the third 6th grade class. It’s the most challenging one!!!! I’ll keep you posted. Right now I know the material, but I haven’t yet nailed down the lesson plan….

with love,
Laurie