Teacher’s Lounge Blog

Learn more about teacher preparation, test tips, online learning, professional development, and a variety of other valuable teacher topics.

Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year

August 1st, 2019 | Comments Off on Evaluate, Emphasize, & Establish Better Behavior Management This Year | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

It’s at that point in the summer when teachers are checking out sales on school and classroom supplies and finishing professional development sessions in preparation for the new year. Whether you’ve taught for decades in the same grade or classroom or you have moved to a different school or subject area, it can be overwhelming to think about 2019-2020.

Here are three simple ways to make a substantial difference in your classroom climate, maintain your sanity, and ensure student success. Focusing on behavior at the outset of the school year leads to a more productive year for everyone – you, the administration, the students, and their parents.

  1. Evaluate your expectations for behavior management and adjust, as necessary, for the grade level. Let your students (and parents) know exactly what behaviors are appropriate and which ones are not with a clear set of guidelines that you can discuss with them. This allows each family to be invested in the process, and explicitly defines right and wrong and what happens when rules are broken.
  2. Emphasize relationships with your students. This is one of the best behavior management tools you can utilize. When students realize that you really care about them, they are more eager to learn and cooperate. Get to know your students on a personal level, what interests them, and their past school experiences. On the flip side, let students and parents know more about you, too. In addition, start building a favorable relationship with parents from the first day of school so that you have a connection before problems have a chance to develop.
  3. Establish classroom procedures that support your efforts for behavior management and prevent off-task behavior before it begins. Determine exact routines for everything from entering the room to homework to end-of-day actions. Teach the routines to students and emphasize them heavily during the first few weeks of school.

While it does take extra time and effort to launch a composed, positive classroom, you will have a more successful, enjoyable, and productive year.

What is Contributing to Our Nation’s Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-Poverty Schools?

July 11th, 2019 | Comments Off on What is Contributing to Our Nation’s Teacher Shortage, Particularly in High-Poverty Schools? | Certification Prep, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Teacher shortages are felt in both urban and rural districts across the U.S., but according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the impact is unevenly distributed along socioeconomic lines. Schools that are in high-poverty areas have a bigger problem with attracting certified teachers with experience in the subject(s) they teach. This problem undermines teacher effectiveness, threatens the students’ ability to learn, and leads to greater teacher turnover.

The study is the first in a series that examines the causes, consequences, and possible solutions in the volatile teacher labor market. Not only is the deficit real, it is worse than originally thought.

When the economy recovered after the recession and school budgets increased, districts started looking for teachers again. However, they found that it was more challenging to fill those positions than they had expected. The effects have been long-reaching and continue today. Of particular concern is finding qualified teachers in special education, science, and mathematics.

Many reports from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) indicate that the teacher shortage is not only alarming but that there are just not enough educators in specialty fields with the current wages offered. While there are many highly qualified teachers scattered throughout the country, not all educators have the certification, experience, and education requirements to meet those guidelines.

The EPI report indicates that there is an unequal distribution of highly qualified educators in schools for low-income students, and the problem is more severe than previously believed. California is especially hard-hit, according to a 2017 report from LPI where 2/3 of principals in poverty-stricken schools hired less than qualified teachers or simply left positions unfilled because they were unable to hire teachers with the required skills.

Of the open teacher positions in Illinois in 2017, 90% were in school districts with less than adequate funding. Low-income districts had 81% of the vacancies, and 74% were in majority-minority school districts.

Schools with high-poverty levels are more likely than schools in traditional districts to have educators with fewer credentials and less experience, as well as lacking significant knowledge in the subject matter they teach. These teachers are more apt to leave the education field, as well.

The relationship between having strong credentials and remaining in a school or district weakens in high poverty schools (EPI study). Richard Ingersoll reports that half of teacher attrition occurs in 25% of public schools in mostly high-poverty rural and urban locations.

There are no indications that the teacher shortage issue is lessening, particularly in impoverished schools and districts. The problem will only get better when leaders understand that this lack of credentialed teachers is due to increased job stress, the teacher pay gap, and demoralization, as well as a lack of training, mentoring, and suitable professional development programs. EPI plans to investigate these challenges and possible solutions in future studies.

To find an equitable resolution to the teacher shortage crisis, it is necessary to recognize why it is occurring and the unique nature of the teacher labor market. Only then will there be a solution that benefits the districts, schools, teachers, and students.

 

 

 

Is Positive Reinforcement an Effective Strategy for Students with Learning Disabilities?

July 2nd, 2019 | Comments Off on Is Positive Reinforcement an Effective Strategy for Students with Learning Disabilities? | Inclusive Teaching, Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Although any child can exhibit behavior issues in the classroom, individuals with learning disabilities often have more conduct problems than their peers. Knowing that he has a learning disability sometimes causes a child to “act out” at home, in class, or other situations. Positive reinforcement is often used to help these students reach desired behaviors. Does it work?

Positive reinforcement, rather than negative reinforcement, can motivate students to stop acting in unacceptable ways. As part of an individually designed behavior intervention plan, positive reinforcement can be used to make specific changes to the environment to alter unwanted behavior. Where negative reinforcement usually involves some punitive discipline, positive reinforcement is a group of techniques that adults can use to aid students with behavior or academic issues to increase favorable behaviors.

Positive reinforcers aid students in learning behaviors necessary to have both social and academic success and increase targeted behaviors. While they are like a reward system, they are not just given one time as a “good job” type of prize. Positive reinforcement increases wanted behaviors over a specific period.

Positive Reinforcement Examples

Any consequence, reward, or action that increases the desired behavior for a particular student can be a positive reinforcer. It is important to get to know the child, as this provides clues as to what will work for the individual. What may be a great reinforcer for one child may not be a motivator for another. Privileges and rewards like free time, a snack, school supplies, books, gold stars, a note from the teacher, etc., can all be effective positive reinforcers depending on the child and his interests.

When Positive Reinforcement Doesn’t Work

Sometimes positive reinforcement doesn’t work to change student’s behavior. In these cases, other options may be necessary. It is important to note that if positive reinforcement doesn’t work, then negative reinforcement like taking away privileges or a coveted object like a cell phone may get better results.

 

PrepForward offers a course on teaching students with disabilities. For each disability, the course includes approaches for lesson planning, effective teaching, classroom management, assessment, strategies for outside the classroom, and technical support tools.

Effective Teaching – Measuring the Immeasurable

December 5th, 2018 | Comments Off on Effective Teaching – Measuring the Immeasurable | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Article from the Series: Essentials for Effective New Teachers

“Development of effective teachers” has become a common goal in education—I would even say, it is a catchphrase. Internet lists of teacher qualities inspire us; merit pay motivates us; mentorships instruct us; administrators inspect and evaluate us. Responsibility for and expectations of “effectiveness” have been heaped upon us teachers.

When we turn the calendar page to June and reflect on the school year, would any of us be so bold as to say, “I was an effective teacher this year”? The ageless question haunts— “How would I even know if I had achieved this enigmatic quality of ‘effectiveness’?”

As an educator, I have wrangled with how to gauge my own effectiveness against the measuring rods of the stakeholders—the students’ expectations vs. the research.

When Pearson surveyed students ages 15-19, they found that students value a teacher’s “ability to develop relationships with their students; patient, caring and kind personality; knowledge of learners; dedication to teaching” etc. https://www.pearsoned.com/top-five-qualities-effective-teachers/ Educational research indicates that effective teachers have a broad base of knowledge, plan, communicate, measure learning, create an environment for learning, and behave as professionals. http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Qualities-of-Effective-Teachers-3rd-Edition.aspx

Caring, understanding, and dedication are hard to measure; so, I’ve started looking at what I can measure.

Is it possible that the most loving, most caring thing I can do for my students is to start class on time all 180 days?

When I’ve required and evaluated weekly milestones that led up to a synthesized final project, have I demonstrated my knowledge of learners?

Does my ability to avoid getting sidetracked demonstrate that I love teaching and I love my subject matter too much to surrender my class time for an inferior cause.

Does my strict adherence to the highest standards of ethics show students the proper boundaries of the teacher/student relationship?

When I hear out my students without over talking with my agenda, have I demonstrated that communication is both speaking and listening?

I’m not sure…

Becoming “effective” can feel unattainable; however, I can start class on time; I can give assignments that set students up to succeed; I can keep class engaging and fast paced; and I can behave ethically. I can learn effective teaching practices.

When I measure my effectiveness as an educator by observable and the measurable practices, I can see where I’ve failed and where I’ve succeeded. Then, I become the learner and start working again on consistently demonstrating the teaching practices that work.

Have a Great Summer!

May 29th, 2018 | Comments Off on Have a Great Summer! | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Summer Break

“Have a great summer!” I love those words. They hold the promise of quiet, travel, and a break from the daily monotony of scheduled everything. But, can I tell you a secret? I also love teaching.

Despite feared transitions in the U.S. Department of Education, the staggering emphasis on testing, and teacher walkouts in multiple states, university students still flock to education majors. Why? Because surreptitiously behind closed doors, so many of us know that teaching is the profession where we belong—the profession where we find happiness.

Since teaching is in my heart and soul, here’s what I’ll find myself doing this summer….

I’ll pin classroom ideas. When I’m on Pinterest, looking for travel journal ideas, I’ll inevitably stray to education boards and start pinning ideas for my classroom in the fall. I’ll remember Dee Dee and how she struggled. I’ll come across another teacher’s strategy for empowering young readers, and I’ll pin her ideas.

I’ll shop for supplies. I’ll remember May when only my red dry erase marker still worked, when not one student had a pencil longer than his finger, and when coloring a world map was a group activity because each student had only 2-3 broken crayons. I’ll have a little stash of supplies so that when next May rolls around I can awe my students with a new box of crayons.

I’ll talk shop with my teacher friends. Some of my closest friends are my colleagues. We understand each other. We have the same interests that drove us to the same career. Now, we’re bound together as survivors; so, when we get together, we’ll share our passion.

I’ll rejuvenate. I won’t deny that teaching is exhausting—physically, but more so, emotionally. I’m so very responsible for the students. It takes a toll on my family, as I work long hours and short change family dinner. This summer, we’ll grill and picnic, and I’ll look long into their eyes, and I’ll find new energy.

Don’t get me wrong, I laugh at and connect with all the teacher summer vacation memes. I’m guilty of everything that is mocked. But, let’s own it. We have a great life. To my teacher friends everywhere, “Have a great summer!”

The Teacher That Students Appreciate

May 10th, 2018 | Comments Off on The Teacher That Students Appreciate | Teacher's Lounge Blog, Teaching Licenses

Education is not a thankless job. A special day has been designated as “Teacher Appreciation Day.” With our own calendar event, it’s worth asking, “What do students (and parents) appreciate in teachers? What merits appreciation?”

I’ve read some comments of students and thought about my favorite teachers. For starters, students appreciate teachers who…

Affirm Values
Teachers are trained to lead. Wise teachers recognize their power to mold the thinking of their students. They find a way to keep their classroom from being a place to push their own agenda, and they affirm wholesome values in others. They challenge their students to evaluate their positions fairly; then they empower those students to live out their values in real life.

Love the Subject
Even those students who could win an Olympic medal in scholastic avoidance appreciate a teacher who understands the nuances of the subject area. Who hasn’t fallen under the spell of a teacher who found his own subject area so engaging that he couldn’t help connecting every student-led attempt to get the lesson off track back to math…or literature…or finance?

Teach Till They Learn
By middle school, and arguably earlier, students recognize that learning comes easier to some kids than others. Students appreciate that teachers who can patiently come alongside the slow learner and at the same time facilitate genius. There are those teachers who make sure the lesson has something for the kinesthetic learner, the verbal learner, and that quiet introspective one. This teacher models hard work, commitment, and creativity through the mundane of the daily.

See the Potential
The distinguishing act that immortalizes teachers in the heart of a student is that ability to see the individual. Students and teachers alike spend a lot of time filling in circles, clicking boxes, and entering passwords. It’s easy to feel less than human. Students remember that teacher who made eye contact and then stopped to inspire the skilled hands, the quick mind, or the never-give-up heart.

This week, we haven’t celebrated “school appreciation” or “education appreciation.” We’ve celebrated teachers–the people who faithfully affirm, empower, and come alongside. Let’s remember who breathed life into us and aspire to use our position for the good of others.