I would not be exaggerating if I said EVERYWHERE that I go educators are complaining about not having enough TIME. Here’s what it sounds like…
From the principal: I would LOOOOOVE to get into the classrooms more often, but I have so many behavioral issues that take up my time!
From the coach: I would LOOOOOVE to get in a debrief within 24 hours but I have to finish up paperwork and go to so many trainings that I often end up giving feedback to teachers a week later!
From teachers and teams: We would LOOOOOVE to spend more time prepping for those lessons, but all of the other stuff that we have to do take so much time that the preparation and planning is my last step each week and I’m exhausted by the time I get there!
What’s the common denominator? They all would LOOOOOVE to do something!
Well, here’s the deal: I LOOOOOVE to go get my nails done. In fact I did it yesterday! I love taking my book that has nothing to do with work. I love that they don’t allow cell phones so there are no rings or pings or interruptions. I love to come out of the nail salon all shiny and new. I love the choices of colors. I just love it. (I know some of you are reading this and thinking…is she REALLY going to talk manicures? Yes, she REALLY is, but she’ll get to a bigger point, so hang in there…)
And because I love it, I make sure I don’t miss my appointment.
Let’s take for example yesterday. I had an appointment at 5:00 p.m. It takes 15 minutes to drive to this particular nail place and sometimes parking is a challenge, so I knew I needed to leave at 4:30 from my house to get there in plenty of time.
So I backtracked my tasks so that I was done at 4:30 on the dot.
Because my nail appointment was important to me and I didn’t want to miss it and have it overwhelmed by everything else.
I put my phone calls on my calendar at SPECIFIC times – not just on a to-do list.
I put my email answering at a SPECIFIC time – not just on a to-do list.
I put my writing projects at SPECIFIC times – not just on a to-do list.
I even put in a couple of 15 minute breaks at SPECIFIC TIMES – not just on a to-do list.
The thing is, I LOOOOOOVE a good to-do list, but I find that when I don’t schedule my tasks out, the list gets a few things crossed off, but most of them remain at the bottom…especially the ones I don’t want to do!
So what does this have to do with putting out fires and manicures and all this mess?
If most educators site TIME as a #1 or #2 inhibitor of getting things done that they know they should get done AND we know that we aren’t going to just magically create more time, then the answer to being frenzied and out of time all the time is managing our time differently.
Managing our time, I’ve found and seen in excellent and productive educators, is the difference between running around and putting out fires and PURPOSEFUL work in our schools. Let me give you an example:
Say that you’ve SCHEDULED your prep time for 7:00 a.m. – 7:45 a.m. (of course I know you need more time than this, but this is one chunk of time you’ve scheduled). You’ve actually WRITTEN IT INTO your calendar – so it’s a date! And along comes Suzy Q and she LOOOOVES to talk…and talk…and talk. Typically you shoot the breeze with Suzy Q and when you’re done, you think, “Ugh! I just wasted all of that time and I got nothing done!”. (Does this sound at all familiar?)
You are now behind – and in “putting out fires” mode…you’re in reactionary mode because now you feel under the gun.
(On a side note: “putting out fires” and “under the gun” – -neither SOUND real fun, do they?)
So let’s rewrite this scenario:
You have scheduled time from 7:00 – 7:45 a.m. to prep for your upcoming lessons tomorrow and Wednesday. Suzy Q comes in and says, “Hey girl/guy! What’s up?” and settles in for a nice, long chat…about NOTHING!
You can now say, “Hey Suz! Whew – I’m really busy! I’ve scheduled myself for some prep right now…go grab your books and come prep with me!” or “Hey Suz! You know, my schedule is really hounding me right now…I’ve got my prep time for tomorrow and Wednesday right now – let’s sit together at lunch and get all caught up!”
It’s these kinds of conversations that not only allow US to stay on track, but put other time-wasters (people and tasks) on notice that we aren’t messing around anymore!
When we’re under the gun and pushing the envelope, we are REACTING. And oftentimes our most important tasks get pushed to the bottom of the list. And both of these things make us feel like we’re being managed, not managing.
And I don’t know about you, but I want to be THE MANAGER, not THE MANAGED!
So…what is this all about?
- It’s about taking control of the time you have and getting down to business on the things that are important to our delivery of excellent instruction
- It’s about not being in reactionary, “putting out fires” mode – because that mode means we’re not doing our best work
- It’s about organizing our environment so that we are optimized for doing our best, being our best and producing our best WITH THE TIME WE’RE GIVEN
- It’s about having a life where the bag of grading doesn’t come home with you every single night because you’ve managed time poorly
The cool thing? Time management is also contagious for your kids! They need to see it too!
So…where will you start? Leave a comment below and inspire someone else to get started NOW!
Okay, so I’m obsessed. (Not an unusual thing, but we’ll get to that later…much much later…)
I heard Michael Kamil speak at a conference last year and what he said was “We get kids to do difficult things by getting them to do difficult things”.
I can’t stop thinking about this and the impact that it has on what we do in the classrooms everyday – especially with those kids who struggle to read.
It’s been about 9 months since I wrote “We get kids to do difficult things by getting them to do difficult things” in my notes. I keep referring back to what this means for us – and for our kids.
Here’s what I’ve got rolling around in my brain about this:
- As teachers, we cannot shy away from giving kids tasks that they struggle with – – – I mean after all, if they knew everything from the get-go, wouldn’t that eliminate the need for school?
- As teachers, we need to teach persistence and stick-to-it-ive-ness (which is a HUGE life skill!). How do we do it? By giving kids the tools and support and encouragement that they need when they encounter tough skills. When they fail or struggle with a task, we stand alongside them and SHOW them how to take another step.
- As teachers of reading, we need to not immediately solve a decoding or comprehension struggle by giving kids lower-leveled text. When we quickly default to the below-level text, that’s what we get kids used to: below-level text. It’s actually a set-up for future struggle, I believe!
- As teachers of reading, we need not always pair kids with an “able” counter-part – – – this is enabling for a lot of kids and we KNOW that many on-level kids have little to no patience for supporting a struggling partner and they end up doing most of the work anyway.
- As teachers of reading, we need to focus on pre-teaching and rehearsing tough spots with kids who struggle or who give up easily. I have found that rehearsing answers or responses is a great intervention actually! It’s worth checking into.
But the bottom line of it all? As teachers, we need to switch our perspective from “Oh no! They’re not getting it! I must be a bad teacher! I better simplify this task…STAT!”
“Yes! They’re struggling a bit with this – what a great opportunity for me to provide on-the-ground guided support for my kids AND build their stick-to-it-ive-ness at the same time!”
The confidence-building of learners is in the doing of difficult things…and living to tell the tale!
Hi guys! Here’s a quick tip for you for this week….take LESS THAN A MINUTE to transform your comprehension instruction from
STICK-IN-THE-MUD TO SENSATIONAL!
Have you ever googled “How to engage students?” out of desperation or curiosity?
I have….and what I found was a lot of quick tips and how-tos. The problem is, I think that looking at engaging students comes from a deeper well than just trying some new techniques. Let’s be real – – if it were about a simple technique, wouldn’t we ALL be doing it and reaping the benefits right now?
While I don’t have the silver, magic bullet for you (Sorry!), I do know what you need to do to engage your students – or engage them in a bigger way this school year.
The secret? It’s all about you. I know it, you wanted me to make it about the students, but it’s really not.
Here are 7-Quick-Steps for you to implement RIGHT NOW to engage students in a way that you haven’t before:
- Realize that engagement starts with expectation. Treat students like they already ARE engaged…and they usually follow!
- Know that increasing student engagement is a habit. Don’t give up – if you expect it and then reinforce, reinforce and reinforce, you WILL see improvement in engagement. Don’t give up!
- When you see low levels of engagement or general apathy to the lesson, check yourself first. It might be that your energy isn’t very high or that you’re “phoning it in” without even knowing it! There is POWER in “acting as if”…as if you are pumped! As if you are ecstatic about the content! Put your acting game face on!
- Engagement isn’t natural – If you are using a new engagement technique, realize that you must teach it, model it and tell students when they’re going to use it – and then practice, practice, practice before you expect it to be done. Set kids up for success!
- Student engagement is built simultaneously on habitual use of engagement techniques AND keeping things interesting! Find a balance between using techniques that students are confident in, but switching it up periodically so they don’t become stale and “phoned in”. If you tune into your kids, you’ll know the exact point that you need to switch it up.
- Plan ahead for engagement. While you might catch a break periodically with some bird-walking or “teachable moments”, 95% of your engagement should be planned for. Ask yourself “Where do I need my kids to be super charged and into the content?” And then work to teach them what it looks like to be engaged.
- Don’t assume that students know what engagement looks like and feels like. I see that a lot of kids are struggling to engage because they don’t know what it is to be engaged! If you’d unlock the secret for them, I bet they’d be raring to go.
Here’s what I know for sure: If you invite students to be engaged or more engaged, there’s a possibility that they won’t choose to join you! BUT, if you structure your lessons so that they’re required to engage, you’re MUCH MORE LIKELY to see a big leap in engagement level. It’s up to you!
What is scaffolding instruction? These are the kind of questions people ask me…and they say educators aren’t interesting!!!! Well, I got to thinking about it and here’s what went through my head…
I remember when I first started teaching, when I would go to staff meetings or professional development trainings, there would be so many terms and acronyms that folks would throw around as if EVERYONE knew what they meant.
Kind of like “DUH! You don’t know what YPJENSOF stands for? Everyone’s doing it!” (By the way, it doesn’t stand for anything, but didn’t you just wonder what it was…just for a second?)
I had a seasoned teacher friend that would translate for me during breaks and after the meetings so that I had some semblance of understanding of what we were supposed to do next! Thank goodness for friends who have a clue!
But what I’ve really come to figure out is that sometimes we KNOW what some teaching or education terms MEAN and we often nod our heads like, “Oh yeah, I do that every day…” but when it comes down to it, we use the term without really knowing what it means. The problem with that is, if we don’t know how to DO or USE it, then the teaching skill isn’t translating into the classroom for the kids’ benefit. I know I’ve been guilty of it!
The term “scaffolding” is one of those terms.
I mean really – I bet you can explain it, but if I were to come into your classroom and ask you where, when and why you’re going to scaffold today, would you be able to be super specific with me? The key is super specific…
So, let’s clean this up ONCE AND FOR ALL – and get started using scaffolding instruction to benefit your kids right NOW!
Scaffolding is the process of GRADUALLY RELEASING RESPONSIBILITY and GRADUALLY DECREASING SUPPORT during a lesson or series of lessons so that kids are fully supported throughout the explicit teaching model.
It is built on the idea that as the teacher releases responsibility, the students take more control. So when you see scaffolded instruction work beautifully, there is a PLANNED and SEAMLESS transition from the teacher doing most of the work (through direct explanation and modeling) to guided practice (the teacher and the students are doing the work with the teacher giving a TON OF FEEDBACK) to eventually the students working to apply, apply, apply correctly their skill with the least amount of teacher support.
Here’s the cool thing: even if you’re using a scripted reading program or intervention program, you can still have fidelity to the program AND scaffold at the same time. In fact, that’s what good teachers do!
They organize the instruction around what their students know how to do and what they’re still learning how to do and what they’re brand new at doing. They don’t skip parts of the lessons that students have mastered or spend forever and a day working to mastery and avoiding other content.
Excellent teachers that get great results have this kind of script going through their minds:
“Hmm…when I think of teaching this skill, even though the program tells me to assign this book to my students for a second read, I know they’re not quite ready for that because they made lots of errors in yesterday’s reading.
So, what I need to do is a bit of hand holding and scaffolding here – I’ll start off reading the text WITH them and then, depending on how well they’re taking over the reading of the text and the number of errors they’re reading while they discuss the response questions, I’ll give them bigger and bigger chunks of the text to read on their own.”
It’s really that simple – BUT YOU MUST PLAN AHEAD. Successful scaffolding is planned, not incidental!
So, where do you start?
- Look at the lesson ahead of time
- Ask yourself if the students are mastered, getting mastered or totally un-mastered at the skills
- Based upon your thoughts about the above questions, you’ll know where to start with scaffolding
- If the students are mastered at the skill, you know that you can assign longer, more difficult tasks with fewer interruptions
- If the students are getting mastered, you know that you need to structure the lesson with lots of student engagement and tons of opportunities for you to give big, academic based feedback before you have students work in small groups or independently for application of the skill
- If the students are un-mastered or the skill is brand new, you know that you will be doing lots of super tight hand-holding and not throwing the kids to guided or independent practice because you know they don’t have a clue what that would look like! In fact, this stage of scaffolding is a lot about YOU!
Here’s what I do: I look at my lesson and highlight in green where I am doing lots of observing as they’re doing the work – student control, less teacher control. Then I’m highlighting in my lesson plan in yellow where I’m going to need to do some hand-holding but gradually move them to serious guided practice. Finally in pink I’m doing the model, model, model kind of work – lots of teacher control and super major hand-holding.
Question for you: Would you come over to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/jacksonconsulting) and post WHERE your students will benefit most from your scaffolding? I’ll see ya there!