Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Work Your Proper Duty Day, Phase 1

For a thing at work, I've been asked to write an essay "describing the innovations, inspirations, and impacts your teaching practices have on your students and the school community."

Naturally I thought - This is my platform for Work Your Proper Duty Day!  YES!

So here's my essay.  (And for the record, I can't take any credit whatsoever for the referenced youtube video.  But I'm proud to be associated with the colleagues who are responsible!)

Impacts of Teaching Practices - Heather Reynolds                  1-5-16               Work Your Proper Duty Day

I’ll start with a list of top 5 techniques I use that impact my teaching practices.  I’ll conclude with some ideas on how I believe every teacher can directly impact their teaching effectiveness and unlock their greatest strengths.
1. Narrate Correct Behaviors.  The day I started using this technique, the climate changed in my room.  It shut down almost all opportunities for a student to argue with the teacher.  Example:  Jack is up out of his seat without permission.  The teacher narrates the desired behavior:  “Jack IS going directly to his seat.”  9 times out of 10, Jack proceeds directly to his seat.  That other 1 out of 10 times, Jack’s situation is quickly resolved with the teacher commenting, “I’m agreeing with you”, followed by Jack owning up to his word and completing the desired action.   
2.  Do What I Say I’m Going To Do.  I strive to never ever waver from my classroom management plan.  No amount of arguing, deflecting, or crying will sway me from remaining true to my previously prescribed steps.  The result:  students follow directions the first time.    In the event a student doesn’t follow directions, they revealed themselves as having CHOSEN to be a problem and it’s not a matter of miscommunication or confusion.  This clarification is so important when moving forward past the issue.
3. Types of Praise.  I subscribe to the philosophy of drawing attention to hard work and effort, not talent and intelligence.  In fact, there is a book entitled “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin, which elaborates on the concept that 10 years or 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is what separates world-class performers from everybody else.  This reminds me of the Growth Mindset model.
4.  Give the option to go above and beyond.  If you want students to shoot for the moon, you need to show them what’s beyond the ceiling.  I’m usually prepared with activities on hand for those students ready to extend their learning or help others.  My rubrics always have a category entitled “Exemplary” or “Exceeds”.
5.  Frequent Self-Reflection.  I never enter a lesson without a plan, and I rarely exit a lesson without reflecting on how that plan went.   Aside from teacher reflection, frequent opportunities are offered for the students to reflect on their own learning, and also for them to give feedback on their experience.   My ultimate goal:  To be their Learning Facilitator.  They are capable of teaching themselves and teaching others.  I like to step back and let them do all the work!
In Conclusion.  This final idea, I call:  Work Your Proper Duty Day.   Last spring, I was diagnosed with cancer.  Totally random, no genetic predisposition, under the age of 35, no risk factors to speak of.  For the first time in my teaching career, I was forced to put my needs first.  My one and only task for 9 months:  Stay Alive.  I reflected on the previous 8 years of pouring my time and heart into my teaching career.  I remember a time when my calendar looked like a pen had exploded all over it.   My personal time was dominated by work.  My summers were spent curriculum mapping (which I enjoy more than the average person).  On the weekend, I would spend a 6+hour lesson planning session just to be prepared for the coming week. I would stay at work past 6pm most days organizing, copying, documenting, collaborating, prepping, communicating, labeling, etc.  Back to not having any known cancer risk factors, I now believe I actually did have one big risk factor: STRESS.  Repeated, unending, year-after-year stress.
[Cue Music.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdpwMv648ls Inspiring Excellence Music Video.]
The politicians these days are giving education less but demanding more.  All of the teachers who love their students and [Inspiring Excellence] work harder, longer, faster, higher, and louder. 
If [Every Grownup] worked our proper duty day, putting 100% into teaching [Every Child] during our contracted work hours, do you realize how quickly it would become obvious how LITTLE we have been given to achieve [our hope and dream for every child we see]?  Not only are teachers teaching, but we are, and with pride, filling the role of ALL THE THINGS:  counseling, police enforcing, IT support, fashion consulting, paperwork, entertaining, volunteering, nursing, advising, managing, mediating, fundraising, etc.
This approach is allowing our politicians to think that this is the bar.  And we wonder why there's a health epidemic in our country?
After my cancer treatments ended, and my schedule and energy returned to normalcy, I decided to continue a different form of “treatment”.   Start on time/Leave on time.  Be more active.  Frequent yoga classes.  Take my dogs for walks.  Read more books, FOR FUN.  Spend more time with my family.  Sleep more.  Eat better.  It’s amazing how prioritizing eliminated tasks from my self-imposed to-do list that were unnecessary and not at all essential to the mission.  I found that I am (working less but) TEACHING BETTER and MORE EFFICIENTLY. I am fulfilling my own needs, and more able to meet the needs of my students, with a clear head and focused purpose. (And improved health!!!! #cancerfree)

The politicians aren't yet giving education more resources because my Work Your Proper Duty Day campaign has about 2 followers. But maybe after today, I'll get the opportunity to gain some more. [Every Grown-up.  Every Child.  Every Day…. in KCK…. We do BELIEVE.]                [Fade Music…]

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