So here it is, it’s been proven again and again and yet again.  There’s no denying it.  We have to embrace it: Education and New Orleans have a lot in common.

There, I said it.  Don’t believe me?

Check out what we’ve learned about New Orleans this past week and how it reminds us of what’s important in education…

The food is spicy.
So are the kids…they aren’t boring, they need us to meet their energy with even more energy.

When you’re planning for a lesson, do you have the mindset that the kids should be well-behaved or do you have the mindset that you can use their excitement and engagement to “spice up” your lessons?  Energy and engagement within a lesson is the teacher’s job.  When I visit a classroom where the kids are bored out of their minds and the teacher is going through the motions, even I want to get the heck out of there…and I’m paid to be there!

So…what do you do about low engagement?  Ask yourself: are there parts of the lesson that I can anticipate will drag?  Well then, plan to speed up the pace or get the kids up and moving or make a connection to something that excites them.  Variety is the spice of New Orleans…and it’s your job to bring the spice to your classroom.

The culture is alive and kicking.
When we were walking down Bourbon street in and out of alleys and side-streets, we heard so many different languages!  It was so cool!  Some were so different (Creole!) that I had to listen really carefully to be able to understand.  Others were more familiar but different to my Los Angeles ears.  Our classrooms are just like this – they are full of different experiences, different dialects, different backgrounds and different perspectives.

We have to plan our lessons to incorporate the background knowledge that our kids bring to the lessons.  As I prep, I think:

  • What leaps do the materials require my kids to learn?  What “holes” do I have to fill in order for them to access the content?
  • What simple background info do I need to give my kids so that they can get the rest as they dive into the content?
  • What pre-teaching of vocabulary words do I need to do quickly?  Which words should I teach?  Which should I just tell so that they can get quickly into the content?

The party lasts all night long.
So we can’t exactly party on school grounds like they do on Bourbon Street, BUT we can keep the learning going well beyond the school day or past the end of the lesson.  How do we do this?

  • Focus on the quality of responses that you require students to give.  For example, instead of asking kids to respond with the “correct” answer…make sure they have the “complete” answer – this will help them to use the academic language more frequently.
  • Challenge students to use the target vocabulary in multiple settings across content areas so that it becomes part of their speech, not just something they memorize to “pass the test” – have them keep a tally of how many times they’ve used the words – this makes way for long term storage of the vocabulary.

Here’s my mantra for this week:  Great teaching happens on purpose…as does poor teaching.