Big Idea: Student Relationships Matter Most

Turning a classroom into a successful and productive learning environment isn’t done through just one thing, but there is one thing that I’ve seen affect it more than most: helping my students build up stronger relationships with each other. These relationships will turn a classroom full of individual students into a supportive family, one where students can be found helping one another and celebrating each other’s accomplishments on a daily basis.

There are two “big ideas” that have worked for me and I hope will for you too: The Shout Out Door and a Book Recommendation area.

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How One Teacher is Teaching Her Students to be Kind

Interview between Janice Walton (Getting Smart) and Stacy Weber (fifth-grade dual language Teacher at Westwood Elementary in Woodstock, Illinois).

Kindness is a relatively easy word to define–according to Google it means “the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate.” Easy enough, right? Then why is “kindness” often so hard to put into practice? How do we go about teaching and learning kindness? I recently spoke with Stacy Weber, a fifth-grade teacher in a dual language program in Woodstock, Illinois, to shed some light on this and understand how she’s teaching kindness.

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Four Mindful Back-to-School Questions to Build Emotional Intelligence

Picture a middle school student who we’ll call Ethan. He entered third period today with a scowl on his face. He squirms and fidgets in his chair, unable to focus. When his teacher asks him about last night’s homework, he bristles with annoyance and says he didn’t do the assignment. It’s not clear why Ethan appears angry, and chances are Ethan may be a little unsure himself.

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Give Homework an F! (or three)

Whether you follow educators on Twitter, parents on Facebook, or just talk to any student, you could get an earful about how they feel regarding homework. As a teacher and parent myself, I absolutely HATE homework. I hate it for the same reasons any working parent hates it, but I probably hate it even more because I am a teacher. It is a time suck!

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Using Technology to Build Partnerships with Parents

Building a positive classroom environment isn’t just about what happens inside a classroom, it’s about building a classroom community without walls, one that includes and engages parents and caregivers. Research has shown that students with involved parents and caregivers, regardless of background, are more likely to be successful in academics and develop better social skills.

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How To Create a Strong Teacher-Parent Team This School Year

As a teacher, I’ve been blessed to have positive relationships with parents since the first day of my career. The friendships I’ve formed with parents last far longer than a 10-month school calendar, and they are among the aspects of teaching that I cherish most.

Recently, during a camping trip, a colleague asked how I knew so many of our students’ parents by name. Developing relationships with her students’ parents was difficult for her, she admitted. She’s a good teacher and a wonderful person, but parents have not warmed up to her easily.  In speaking to other teachers, I learned she is not alone. Thankfully, there are several proactive steps teachers can take to ensure the relationships they have with their students’ parents are helpful and rewarding.

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Three Ways to Help All Children to Value Others’ Differences As Well As Their Own

Today, they would call me an introvert, but when I was a child, the label was “shy.”

I remember the challenges of wanting to demonstrate to my teacher that I was paying attention or mastering concepts but often felt intimidated by participating in class.

The classroom was an overstimulating environment. The number of people and all that surrounded me was enough to hinder my thoughts, let alone the fact that I was expected to process and interact. Unable to keep up, I would quickly shut down.

Today, I teach at first grade in the very same school where I struggled as a student. Though I now enter this building as a teacher, I still struggle as an introvert in an extrovert-dominated career. But I’m reminded of why I became a teacher.

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How ClassDojo and Responsive Classroom Work Together

You may be one of those teachers who’s thinking about how ClassDojo and Responsive Classroom can go together. I know I was! If you’re not familiar with the term, Responsive Classroom is founded on the belief that students and teachers work as a team and create the rules and expectations of the classroom together. This gives them a sense of ownership and decision making in the classroom. It can be done during a morning meeting – which is the approach I take. Only the way I do it is to incorporate ClassDojo!

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