I remember sitting in one of my first education classes hearing the statement, ‘the only constant in education is change’. At that at time, the statement stuck with me, I was going through many personal changes in my life. I remember thinking that is how life is, constantly changing. After more than 25 years in education, it is so, change is the constant. One of the most challenging changes in education is the change in our world. With the significant increase in poverty, our students come to us with such different needs than they did at the beginning of my career. I am back in the elementary school where I started, the change in student needs is so evident.
As a teacher leader, I am fortunate to experience both the classroom challenges as well as the leadership insights. This summer we were asked to read Eric Jensen’s newest book Poor Student, Rich Teaching: Mindsets for Change, 2016. I love that this book gives the why teachers need to their mindset regarding student needs, but more importantly, takes you to the how to make practical, research-based changes that will make a difference for students. Not only does Eric Jensen give practical solutions but he connects the suggestions to Hattie’s (2009) research on effective strategies so that you know the effect the strategies can have on your student’s success. One important point he makes is that a teacher mindset is important. He asks readers to identify their mindset, from two choices: “Parents, schools, policies, and laws are all changing. Why can’t things be like they used to be?” or “Change is a constant, especially in education, and it’s only going to accelerate. I will grow and change myself.” I have always been of the latter mindset. I have faced many personal changes in my personal life, professionally I volunteer to look at new curriculum and programs. I believe we have the power to make a difference by making the best choice for the students we have in front of us today.
Part one of Poor Student, Rich Teaching: Mindsets for Change, 2016 addresses creating effective relationships with your students. As an elementary teacher, I think we work hard to create relationships early in the year with our students, however, Jensen’s ideas took my thinking even deeper. He suggests 3 questions:
• How can I show my students that I care about their home life, as well as their classroom success?
• How do I connect first as a person (and ally) and second as a teacher?
• How do I put students first, and everything else second?
Establishing effective relationships with your students can be done with just a few activities. One way Jensen suggests learning their names by having students write a word that describes them that starts with the first letter of their first name. I have a freebie here. Along with that, he has several practical suggestions building relationships, such as, All About Me Bags, sharing your goals as a teacher, sharing an everyday problem and having students suggest solutions, cooperative learning groups, study buddies, showing and teaching empathy. For the full resource click here.
In subsequent posts I will summarize Jensen’s next three parts for achievement mindset, classroom climate mindset and engagement mindset.
Until then, happy teaching!