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What’s it like teaching in a high-performing school?

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By popular demand, we feature a teacher this month, not an entire school. After all, teachers make the difference. This teacher works at an “Extreme School.” Her high school is one of many underperforming schools in this low-performing district, within a high-poverty area. Another teacher in her place might feel like she has the deck stacked against her and every excuse to give up on her kids. Every other teacher at her school already has their excuses lined up, but this teacher doesn’t give up. In fact, the achievement scores that HER kids get are.

THE TEACHER

“In fact, the achievement scores that HER kids get are… so awesome that 100 percent of her students passed their state-mandated, end-of-course exams despite data from the state’s predictive model suggesting that over a third would not.” In short, she out-teaches every other teacher in her district.

Her school, Ben Smith High School, has 1,200 kids and 80% of its kids are from poverty. Academically, the school performed worse than 75% of the schools in North Carolina, meaning that Ben Smith is in the bottom 25%. About 96% are children of color. As a school, it struggles. But, is the problem with the kids or the staff?

First a bit of background about HOW this teacher succeeds… Read more

Over Half of all Teachers Make These 2 Mistakes.

Brain based teacherWe could focus on all the “holiday” stuff (like how to help you “navigate the holidays without adding inches to your figure”), but it’s the school year and we turn to how to affect one of the “Big Four.”

The first mistake (over 50% of all teachers make) is selling yourself short. You have far more influence than you think. The “Big Four” in teaching are: effort, behavior, cognitive capacity and attitude. When you strengthen these four, your students improve dramatically. The good news is that every one of these is teachable.

I’ll illuminate just one way you can influence a student’s attitude. The second mistake (over 50% of all teachers make) is to talk about a student’s “attitude” as if it was a fixed entity. Attitude is NOT fixed. In fact, new research shows how much teachers can influence a student’s attitude. For example… Read more

Should you be in to Brainwashing?

Brainwashing Students

Let’s focus on how to get off to a fresh start…by brainwashing others. Whether you work with adults or younger students directly, this month’s issue may change your approach forever. You’ll learn why you should be in the business of brainwashing. Here’s what the research tells us…

The Research

Brainwashing is the altering of beliefs, knowledge or attitudes in the mind of another. The first of your two questions is, “Should I do brainwashing?” The answer is an emphatic, “Yes!” Second, “Why?” Humans live their lives and take actions based on their narratives. Our own narrative is the aggregate of our daily routines, habits and predictive decisions, actions, values and conversations we engage in. Humans are remarkably true to their own “story”. At school, the story that students create and identify with is especially important. Read more

Brain-Based Learning: Practical Applications For Teachers

Let’s pop all these ingredients in our “brain-compatible classroom activity generator” and let it help us get practical. We want to combine the science behind emotions, physical movement and socialization. Presto! It just so happens that one of the brain-based learning strategies I use is the engagement of rituals.

Here are the five ingredients of a quality classroom ritual. If you do anything less than ALL five, it will dramatically degrade your results.

  1. The ritual must solve a recurring problem.
  2. It must include and engage everyone.
  3. The ritual must be simple and easy to do.
  4. It must be highly predictable and the students know when it’s going to happen.
  5. The actual event must end up in a positive emotional state.

The use of rituals can make your life easier. If rituals don’t actually solve a problem, kids will lose interest, because there’s no point in doing them. Let’s use, as an example, the problem of starting class, on time, with a good attitude, every single day, for weeks and months on end.

That means you need a ritual, so let’s create one and then we’ll break it down.

Problem to solve: You need to start class.

Ritual name: “Startup response”

When it’s used: Use when students arrive at school from home, or back from recess or lunch.

What do I do: I play a pre-designated “call-back song” and the second it’s over, I say, “If you made it back on time, raise your hand please and say, ‘Yes!'” I also role model the behavior and raise my own hand, saying, “Yes!” Then I say, “Now turn to your neighbor and say, ‘Happy Monday to you!'” (Or, if they’re getting back from recess, it’s, “Welcome back!”)

What the students do: They raise their hand and say, “Yes!” Then they turn to the person nearest himself or herself and say “Happy Monday to you!” (or “Welcome back”.) This silly little process solved a critical problem: to get students quiet, to remind them of the social conditions and get into a positive state. It took 4 seconds and cost you nothing.

I use 10-15 rituals in the “Teaching with the Brain in Mind” 6-Day workshop. This is the best place for you to learn about brain-based learning rituals and other strategies, because you get to experience them live! The best book on rituals is Super Teaching (2008), available from Corwin Press.

This process of integrating brain-based learning rituals into your school (macro) and the classroom (micro) reminds us to cut to the chase: everything you do in your classroom is likely to have SOME effect on the brain.

Brain-based education says, “Be purposeful about it.” Now, go have some fun and make another miracle happen!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Polska Zielona Sieć