April 2011 Archives

Some teachers greet tardy students with shame: "That's your third time this week, Charles!" Others prefer sarcasm: "Nice to see Erica has decided to join us." Then there are those who are welcoming: "Good morning, Mario. Take off your jacket, and please join us." And in many cases, teachers follow up their greetings--regardless of tone--by catching latecomers up on what they've missed. So, which approach is best? None of them. In fact, the best way to greet tardy students is to not greet them at all. One reason for this is that when you draw attention to kids who are ...


A common yet misguided motivational tactic involves praising some students for the purpose of redirecting other students. A classic example of this is when teachers call out, "I love the way Groups 1 and 4 are sitting," when what they really mean is "I hate the way Groups 2, 3, and 5 are stirring." This not only has little chance of compelling students in Groups 2, 3, and 5 to get their acts together; it's also unlikely to reinforce the behavior of students in Groups 1 and 4. In fact, by the time the teacher coaxes Groups 2, 3, and ...


I may not have survived my first year in the classroom if it hadn't been for basketball. Many of my students lived and breathed it (this was the west side of Chicago during Michael Jordan's heyday), and I was pretty good at it. So when I was unable to connect with kids in the classroom, I tried to connect with them on the court. With the principal's and parents' permission, I invited students to join me in the gym after school when the team had away games. The only catch was that if they wanted to shoot hoops with me ...


A lot of students begin by finding a common denominator for the dividend and divisor when dividing by a fraction. And a lot of teachers intervene by saying, "Remember, you only need a common denominator for addition and subtraction. For division, just flip and multiply." Technically these teachers are right: you don't need a common denominator when dividing by a fraction. At the same time, the common denominator approach is in fact a viable alternative to flipping and multiplying. Take, for example, the expression 1/2 ÷ 1/8, for which flipping and multiplying yields 1/2 x 8/1, ...


"The reality of education is that people learn from people they love," says New York Times columnist David Brooks in a recent National Public Radio interview discussing his new book, The Social Animal. "We've spent all this time with big schools, small schools," Brooks later says. "But what really matters is how good people are at relating to one another." How cool is that?! A respected journalist and bestselling author--and a non-educator at that--drawing attention to an often-overlooked hallmark of great teachers: strong relationships with their students. At the same time, if we as educators react to Mr. Brooks' comments ...


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