Starting the Year Like an Olympian

The new school year can seem a little daunting as we meet some of our new students–stony faces with downcast eyes and unmoving mouths. We can’t blame them for their silence or their reluctance, however, especially since a lot of our ELL students have faced “not in my classroom” attitudes from other teachers. They probably expect that this year will be like any other, sliding and sinking into the background unnoticed. That’s why we have to show them—right off the bat—that it’s not going to be that way.

(Free!) Traveling Opportunities for Teachers

Want the opportunity to travel, research, and share your learning experiences with others? And do it without spending a dime? As an educator, you have the opportunity to apply for a variety of scholarships, grants, and service programs that allow you to do all of that and more. With so many places to visit, subjects to study, and people to serve, you’ll be sure to find a program that best suits you.


The 17th Century Classroom–A Thing of the Present?

photo credit: University of Colorado News Center

photo credit: University of Colorado News Center

Carl Wieman, a physics professor at Stanford University, is on a mission to revolutionize the student learning experience. Weiman is a champion of personalized learning. In a recent interview with NPR he shared how he’s achieved success in his own classrooms. Students lead their own discussions, work through problems, and then report their findings through iclicker questions. Weiman considers himself a “cognitive coach”, a guide and help for his students in their own learning. His students come to class prepared, alert, and eager to participate.

Weiman has had so much success in his classrooms, he can’t imagine teaching any other way. In fact, he compared traditional lecture-style teaching to blood-letting, the two-hundred-year-old medical practice that still gives us the shivers. However extreme his comparison may seem, his data backs him up: grades improved by 20%, test performance increased by almost 50%, and course failure decreased by 12%.

Sometimes, advances in education seem to come as slowly as a school bus making it up a hill. Luckily, we already have part of the new advances in our hands. Technology is making the personalized learning that Weiman advocates a reality. Teachers have the capability to better monitor their students, understand their individual needs, and assign them supplementary materials. Weiman uses iclickers to keep students engaged, and using the results he can adjust his lessons quicker than a traditional classroom. Sounds a lot better than losing blood to me.


A Bright Idea

As you send your students off this summer, send them with a challenge! Encourage reading and beat the “summer slide” with a rocking booklist sure to captivate the imaginations of all your students- even the reluctant readers.

Print off a list of books, like this list of top 100 books by Scholastic, and let them set a goal of how many they will read throughout the summer. Coordinate with teachers they will have next year to verify and reward those that achieve their goals.


The Real Solution to Cyberbullying

Bullying, unfortunately, is not anything new; however, the constant access students have to each others’ personal information is. With constant, disruptive text messages, hacked Facebook accounts, and offensives tweets, it’s tempting to place the blame on technology and ban it altogether from classrooms. However, experts say that powering off is not the answer; rather, we need to empower our students to be good citizens—on and offline.

FIrst of all, students need to be educated about cyberbullying. Many are unaware of where the boundaries are drawn between harmless jokes, teasing, and cyberbullying, leading to under-reporting and stagnating conflict resolution. Help your students better understand what cyberbullying is by initiating a conversation in your classroom. Ask a couple of thought-provoking questions, share experiences, and try to get the students as involved as possible. As they answer questions, discuss, and ask questions they will come to the conclusion themselves about the dangers of cyberbullying. However, if they are bored, they might just jump right back on their phone.

This conversations should help students understand the consequences of cyberbullying. Online interactions remove a feeling of responsibility; making us prone to do or say things that we never would in person. However, if students are educated about the dangers of cyberbullying, they can cultivate an “online conscience.” Empower your students by helping them realize the influence that their words and actions can have on others, and the responsibility that they have to use it for good.

However, this responsibility should not rest on teachers’ shoulders alone. Online etiquette needs to be taught in schools and at home. Update parents about the school’s initiatives and what they can do to improve their student’s learning and internet use.

Technology is not simply an important influence in children’s lives, but as co-director of the Cyberbully Research Center stated: “ is their lives.” Tech-centered schools and workplaces are already the way of the world today, so it is our duty as teachers and parents to help them enter this constantly-growing world, courteously and graciously.