Monday, January 5, 2009

A Teacher's Bag of Tricks!

I am currently undergoing a professional development course that is actually a book study of the author, Todd Whitaker. The book is " What Great Teachers Do Differently." Once I received the book and syllabus, I opened the book and slipped the syllabus inside. That was about three weeks ago before Christmas Break. I just picked the book back up because now the class is starting and I wanted to read ahead a little. The page that was marked by the syllabus struck a chord with me. I now know why we are studying this author's works. He is phenomenal. I also feel like me, my colleagues, and friends who are also teachers can benefit from this excerpt of his book that I am about to post....

A Teacher's Bag of Tricks
Support from the administrator may matter a great deal, but here are some questions an excellent teacher may ask himself/herself when problems arise:
  • What can teachers do when students misbehave?

Most teachers respond with "eye contact, proximity, redirect the student, send them to the office, put them in timeout, argue with the student, sit the student in the hall, yell, ignore, praise another student for positive behavior, embarrass the misbehaving student, and so on."

Most of you probably flinch at some of these behaviors or nod at others. However, the point here is quantity. After the list is generated, switch to quality.

Now answer this question:

  • Which of these strategies always work?

The answer is simple: "None of them." Of course there is no one approach that always works. If it were, we would do it all the time. These options are a teacher's bag of tricks. Ask yourself,

  • Does every teacher have the same options?

The answer is yes. Every teacher does have the same options. Every teacher has the same tools in their bag of tricks. Every teacher can use eye contact or proximity, send the student to the office, praise, argue, or yell. Not every teacher does, but every teacher could do everything on your list.

What is the difference between good classroom managers and poor classroom managers? It's not what is in your bag of tricks, since every one's tricks are the same. It's the variables.

One variable, of course, is how often teachers reach into their bag of tricks. A great teacher rarely reaches in, maybe once or twice a day. A poor teacher, however, grabs several times within an hour; if we reach into our bags often enough, we will pull out ugly tricks.

This brings us to another variable-----quality. Some options that appear on teachers' lists of behavior/classroom management are "yelling, arguing, and humiliating (sarcasm)."

Ask yourself, "When is sarcasm appropriate in the classrooms?" The answer is NEVER! So, let's never use sarcasm in the classroom.

"Who decides how many arguments occur in a week?"

The answer, of course, is the teachers. We never win an argument with a student. As soon as it starts, we have lost. If their peers are watching, they cannot afford to give in. We would like to win the argument, but they have to win it. Anyway, there needs to be at least one adult in student and teacher interaction-----let that be you!

Outside of a true emergency, when is the appropriate time for yelling?

Again, we know the answer: NEVER! The students we are tempted to yell at have been yelled at so much, why on Earth would we think this would be effective on them?

Therefore, we do not yell at our students.

Effective Teachers Choose Wisely From Their Bag Of Tricks!!!!!

This has been an abridged excerpt from Todd Whitaker's book, "What Great Teachers Do Differently: 14 Things That Matter Most." 2004, Eye on Education, Inc.

I would suggest all teachers, new and veteran, pick this one up!


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