The lesson in a lesson plan…

Today I was reminded of my first few years of teaching.

My students and I were learning about 12 advertising techniques used in commercials.

I had planned to discuss each technique, first by reading the technique out loud and then posing the question “what does this mean to you?”. I planned to have a discussion about each one and wanted to ask students to provide examples of commercials they had seen that displayed the technique.

There were 12 techniques that I wanted to teach, and we got through 4.

Now if I were a first year teacher I may have seen this as a failed lesson. Instead, I can positively say it was a lesson/reminder for me.

Sometimes the best lesson plan is to go with your gut.

It was during the 2nd and 3rd technique that I realized how excited my kids were about this. These kids have grown up (some more than others) in front of the TV and have ALL kinds of stories to share!

They were so involved that it was hard to keep track of the conversation at times but that was ok. It let them be spontaneous. And that my friends is what many classrooms these days are missing.

Sometimes as teachers we get so wrapped up in the lesson plan that we forget that kids need to be kids. That sometimes what the kids want to share is far MORE important than what WE want to teach.

For the most part today was a total success. Sure the kids talked over one another from time to time. Some were even interrupting each other, but they were excited about learning…and that was far more important of a lesson for me to relearn.

Being excited about learning is the best lesson I can get from my students.

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Some extra funnies:

One of my kids made me laugh so hard I believe I scared him a bit.

When I asked the kids what it meant to have a celebrity endorse a product one of my awesome boys shared that Katy Perry was a CoverGirl. Afterwards he raised his hand, batted his eyelashes and said Mrs. Nornock, do I have what it takes to be a CoverGirl? LOL oh how I love their innocence and sense of humour. I immediately replied that yes he did and could be whatever he set his mind to!

Another one of my kids INSISTED on watching the POO-pourri commercial because poo is still funny in the 5th grade 😉

Trauma – Reminders for all of us…

Trauma Approach in the Classroom

trauma

It has been a few years since I have had a child who comes from a traumatic background. Having taught at an inner-city school for 4 years a couple of years ago, a lot of the training rushes back to the forefront of my memory when I have to make decisions about a child who is in crisis.

Two weeks ago, one of my students, we’ll call him Eric, started acting out. On top of being adopted, Eric has lived in foster care and groups home for the majority of his school life. Recently he has gone home full time with his mother.

It started with swearing under his breath, then at a substitute teacher (indirectly). Next it was walking away from one of the specialists in our school. Then throwing a chair, then making other kids (his best friends) cry. Then it finally came down to walking away from me, which up until that point he had NEVER displayed defiant behaviour with me.

Within a week he went from a well functioning child to a misbehaving and semi-violent child.

It was clear after the first few accounts of bad choices that we needed to call mom. Which we did. She replied that she was experiencing similar behaviour at home but could not pinpoint what triggered his new behaviour.

We spoke about changes in his recent routine and how lately he had been arriving to school late and therefore received a detention. I offered to remove detentions since it appeared that they were having some difficulty getting out of the house in morning. Eric was happy, mom was relieved and I felt that I took the first step to getting this kid to hopefully stop acting out.

It worked for a day.

On Monday he came in, was in “shut down” mode and refused to do any work. Finally my teaching partner brought him to me. I played soft music, offered him a tangle, play doh, mandalas and my cosy couch corner with heaps of pillows to attempt to get him back on the right track.

It worked, he got through the rest of the day without any upsets.

Jump to the next day and he’s back and angrier than ever. He ends up throwing a chair at another student during lunch break.

This is when my I know that each and every step we take from now on is even more important than ever.

This kid needs to know we care.

He needs to know we are not going to give up on him.

He needs to know he matters. Even when he is acting like a complete basket case…he matters.

So here’s our new game plan.

When there is an issue with any adult in the building, come see me. Try not to intervene with the behaviour that he is displaying.

When he acts inappropriately with another kid, make sure that kid he swears at or belittles get some forum to express their unhappiness with Eric’s behaviour.

When he makes a bad choice, give him options.

Try NOT to tell ever. Be extremely clear in your instructions. Do not exaggerate any behaviour when describing what he has done wrong.

And more important, always remind him that he is cared for and we want him to be safe.

Now I am not saying that this will solve anything.

There are already many things that I do in my classroom that makes is so that kids who come in know what to expect and kids who have faced trauma need structure and routine more than most kids.

I have a visual schedule, I do breathing break at least twice a day. We do brain gym and yoga to become more mindful. We colour in mandalas to give our brains quiet time to refocus. I use a lot of non-verbal cues to help make transitions easier. I have a safe space in my class and loads of “tools” to calm down when one is feeling angry, agitated, sad or happy.

All of these things that are in place definitely help.

But when a kid is in crisis, knowing that their immediate care givers (parents, teachers, principal, family etc….) are there for them is so incredibly important.

When a child acts out it is rarely because they are bad kids. They are sad kids.

They need to be hugged, not yelled at.

They need time to recognize their symptoms when they are angry, not punished for acting out.

Kids who come from trauma need guidance when they are in crisis. They need us to be patient and kind.

It was important for me to remind myself of all of these things these past few weeks.

This kid needs me. At the end of the day, it is more important that his heart mends rather than doing the fractions test.

It doesn’t mean my expectations have changed, it is how I react that is now more flexible.

 

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ronipothead/4633829922

Non-Verbal Language in the Classroom

My class and I are about to embark on yet another Unit of Inquiry. We will be learning about non-verbal communication.

This is by far one of my favourite things to teach.

There are so many teachable moments I don’t know where to begin!

First of all, I always use myself as an example. I have the tendency to have a resting face that some would call unpleasant. It appears that when I am content, concentrating, thinking or relaxing my face appears to display extreme angst, anger, frustration, agitation, displeasure and yes sometimes even disgust. EVEN when I am perfectly fine my face says otherwise.

I use this example because it is something I have to be extremely conscious of, particularly when working with my students and colleagues at school.

I use my face as a way to get kids to realize that sometimes peoples’ non-verbal language shows the opposite of what a person may be feeling and that often we need to look at the context to understand the person more.

I find this moment so incredibly important for kids. They all of a sudden see life with fresh eyes and are excited to learn about non-verbal cues, social norms as well as social expectations. We sometimes wander into discussions about non-verbal communication in sports: how does someone show pride, shame, frustration? Are there any non-verbal cues that are universal? Are there different interpretations in other cultures?

There questions are endless and it is exciting.

Using yourself as an example in any way shape or form is always one of the best teachable moments. It allows your students to see you in a new way. It gives them a window into who you are as a person; and not just their teacher.

When teachers use themselves as the lesson the students learn far more.

#IB #nonverbal #teachablemoments

Accountability and Bad Choices

Last week I had a student pull a pretty sneaky move.

Normally, this kid is well behaved.

But as kids do, he made a bad choice.

Now, recently some colleagues and I were discussing how we handle these bad choices that our students make (which as we all know is a daily occurrence in our classrooms!).

Some felt that instant consequences work best ie. you are late for school, you receive a recess detention.

Others felt that waiting until the next day to discuss the issue is sometimes a better strategy because it allows for reflection.

I was on the fence, I believe a bit of both is the best way to deal with bad choices made by our little ones.

Now, unfortunately, teachers are cooped up in their classrooms on a daily basis without life lines hanging around or a colleague to consult with. And we all know for sure that if we do not address the bad choice, the likelihood of it reoccurring would be higher.

So I made a decision. I was going to hold this well-behaved child accountable.

Here’s how it went down.

Me – …on page 3 you see number lines, please do not make your own lines, they are already made for you
I happen to notice that Mario*** is not following along and is in fact writing what appears to be a note and/or something other than what is expected of him.

Me – … on the next page (here is where I walk over to his desk and take the paper without saying a word and place it on a nearby table without given it a second glance) you will need to show all of your work to receive full marks.

I purposefully do not draw attention to this action. Most kids are still following along and the only kids who happen to notice were already distracted by him not paying attention to my instructions. Also, I have learned over the years that to call out a behaviour in front of a child’s peers can be pretty detrimental so I try to avoid it as much as possible (I’m definitely not perfect though)

Now, Mario is flushed and quickly begins following along. Meanwhile his paper sits on the table away from his attention until I have time to see what he was up to.

Here’s the bad choice, while I am working one-on-one with another child, Mario decides to grab the paper, and stick in underneath a bunch of papers in my recycling bin.

It takes me about 10 seconds to react, I quietly but sternly ask him to go outside and wait for me.

His eyes pop out of his head (he didn’t think I saw) and stumbles out mumbling something along the lines of “Oh…ok…sure…ahhh….”

In the two minutes I have before I face him I make another decision. This is a teachable moment. He needs to learn that bad choices need to be talked about so that we can both move forward.

So, I walk out with the recycling bin and request that he please look for the paper he has just buried in it. Now he is ashamed, I can see it on his face, his cheeks are red, he is wringing his hands and he will not look me in the eye.

I go back inside and wait a full minute before going back out. Now a minute may seem short to some, but for a 10 year old who just got caught, it can seem like an eternity.

When I get back out, I see Mario rummaging frantically for his paper, he looks up and says “Ms. Nornock I can’t find it” now tears are brimming in his eyes.

Here is where the teachable moment happens.

First, I get down on my knees so that we are at the same level. I do not want to intimidate him, I want to console him through this process as it is a hard pill to swallow (it took me a couple of years teaching to recognize that most kids prefer being eye level with adults)

Next, I reassure him that I am not angry, and that I want him to understand that what is most important here is that he understand why I have asked him to step outside.

I take his hands in mine and I tell him that making bad choices are a part of life. I tell him we need to be held accountable for our actions and that sometimes it is hard for us to do this.

I also tell him that I care about him and that I want him to know that after our conversation we are going to move forward from this. That I will not hold this against him nor will I be given him a consequence.

I tell him that recognizing his mistake and being accountable is more important sometimes then getting a consequence. And to be fair, having to look through a recycling bin is consequence enough.

We briefly talk about how he is normally well behave and that it’s natural to sometimes not follow along in class but that it is important to try to as often as possible.

I then tell him to go splash some water on his face (he has since cried a few tears) and come back into class when he is ready.

When he comes back in I know that I made the right decision. He walks up to me, give me a true apology and hugs me.

As he walks back to his desk, I look around at my students hard at work on their math test and realize the biggest test today has already been passed.