The Impact of Morning Meetings

A few years ago my school introduced a room full of reluctant and overwhelmed classroom teachers to the concept of Morning Meetings.  I was not alone in the visualization of schedule changes and incomplete lessons that may come with this new initiative. I thought to my self, “Not another book to read while cooking dinner for my family”.

A “Morning Meeting” is a whole class gathering.  The rationale behind the concept is that it builds community and provides the opportunity for character education.  It serves as a positive springboard to the Day. There are 4 components to the meeting ; greeting, share, activity, and morning message. The meeting should be between 15 and 20 minutes in duration.

After months of trial and error and successes and a few failures, the benefits of Morning Meetings began to take shape in my classroom.  One huge benefits is that it provides students the opportunity to develop social skills necessary to navigate our ever changing world. Character Building is necessary for creating a classroom climate conducive to learning.  There is no time in most academic curriculums solely dedicated to model and develop positive character traits in students .  Teachers often lament  about the lack of manners and social skills in their students.  Morning Meetings provides an opportunity to nurture positive  behavioral traits.

In the meetings students greet each other. They may shake hands or smile. It gives students a moment to focus on their behavior in social situations. During the share session, students often share about their lives outside of the classroom.  This provides students insight to the commonalities we all share as humans.  Students listen, ask questions and sometimes compliment and connect with the speaker.   The activity aspect of the meeting serves as a great opportunity to build classroom community. Students interact and connect together as a team. Students learn the acceptable  behaviors necessary to work with others.  The teacher can also participate in the activity.  This fosters a positive teacher-student relationship. The last aspect  of the meeting is the message.  It can be used to inform students of the days events.  The message can also be an opportunity to share new concept that might be explored that day.

There are so many benefits of having Morning Meeting with your students. It builds better relationships between students. It also foster a positive relationship between the teacher and students .  In order for students to meet the behavioral and academic expectations put forth, relationships needs to exist.  Another great benefit, it allows students time to develop important social skills necessary to be successful in the 21st century.  Give Morning Meetings a try it will change the tone of your classroom.

Click link to read more about Morning Meetings:

Click link below for Morning Meeting games and activities.

What’s the Problem with Teacher Observations?

Anxiety and fear are some of the emotions that are aroused in many teachers of the mere mention of  the words “Teacher Observation”. While for others, observations are just another day in the life of a teacher.  Nothing to stress about.

Every teacher can recall an observation where all the dots connected and the lesson ran smoothly. Then there are those memories of students zoning out, and a change of plans mid execution.  There are always surprises!

Observations usually range from 15 minutes to an hour depending on school, and model adopted. Teacher observations usually take two forms. They are either formal or informal.  In the formal model the observation is scheduled and the administrator observing is aware of the lesson plan prior to witnessing.  This model has its advantages. The teacher can highlight certain strengths and tailor the lesson for effectiveness.  A major objection to this model is that it is usually rehearsed, and lacks authenticity .  The other model is the Informal observation.  The observation is a total surprise.  The administrator walks in and observe exactly what is happening at that moment.  Many administrators prefer this model.  It is unrehearsed and gives a real snapshot.  The problem with this model is that it gives a snapshot.  Lessons have a sequence and the snapshot may be at the beginning, middle, or end of the lesson. The observation may occur at at time when active teaching is not occurring. This model may give a skewed view depending on the sequence.

There are a few problems I find with teacher observations. Being judge by someone else can cause fear and anxiety in many. Why are teachers fearful?  Observations are high stakes. This is a teacher’s rating for the whole school year. Usually there isn’t an opportunity for a do over.  It is your one shot at a satisfactory rating.  This in itself is problematic.  One view should not account for 10 months of work.  Often after an observation, the feedback given is not useful. There is usually limited opportunities given to teachers for development based on the observers feedback.

Then, what is the answer!  I believe there should be more visits from Administrators. I think many visits are necessary to fully understand a teacher’s style and execution.  There should be an open door policy everywhere.  This will reduce the anxiety and fear felt by many teachers.  Visiting often with an authentic interest in developing strengths in teachers will eventually lead to trust. Teachers need to feel that administrators are there for support and guidance.  Administrators need to view themselves as Educational Leaders, with a hands on approach to curriculum and learning.  There should be no questions of what is happening in every classroom.

Observations are necessary, they provide vital information necessary for growth.  Growth in student and teacher learning potential. What’s needed is more conversations and collaboration among all stakeholders.

The Curriculum Shuffle

The landscape of education is ever changing. We live in a dynamic world, and education is one of the many industries in a constant whirlpool. When is change too much?  The education system is plagued with failing schools, failing students, charter schools and reform, reform, reform!  Despite all the changes, many things still remain the same. The Education Gap is widening, Charter Schools are growing exponentially, and Public Education is constantly the topic of political debate.

Curriculum is always the target of reform.  Every two or three years curriculum takes center stage. How well curriculum is performing comes into question. The answer more often than not is change in some form. Either changes in the structure, the structure of the content, or the content itself. Change in itself, is not a bad thing.  The content and structure of curriculum should shift to adjust to our every changing world. With all the constant shuffling, one has to question the sufficient inquiry, that should precede such dramatic alterations. Adequate time needs to be allotted for educators to explore and define their learning of new methods and techniques. Without the proper inquiry and training, frustration can and often does occur.

With the constant changes, many questions go unanswered. What is the learning curve for students? Have students been given time to have meaningful learning experiences? When does one question effectiveness? Maybe Curriculum in itself should not be the only changes that occur. Maybe they are other factors to explore.

Keep Black History Month Alive!

As a child attending elementary school in NYC, Black History Month involved school assemblies with guest speakers, dressing up as famous performers, and singing and dancing. We would learn about Langston Hughes, and other great poets of The Harlem Renaissance. We learned about Dr. Charles Drew and Madame C.J. Walker, inventors who overcame obstacles to change the trojectory of modern society.  The celebrations provided a cultural kaleidoscope, and filled me with optimism, and a sense of pride and accomplishment.  As a result, I realized that there are options in my future and that I can achieve anything.  In recent years, as an educator I have noticed a shift in the focus of Black History Month.  Celebrations have been reduced to classroom discussions about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. The explorations of the various contributions African-Americans have made to modern society has ceased.  Many have limited their exposure to a single story! African-Americans have made countless contributions to all aspects of human society.  There are many pioneers in the Arts, Medicine, Science, and Education that can serve as great examples of cultural pride. Let’s broaden the landscape of learning. Celebrating Black History Month can also have a unifying effect. Exploring the contributions of cultures outside of your own can demonstrate the commonalities among  us.  It may even answers questions that may seem to awkward to share. Let’s keep Black History Month alive. Let’s celebrate together!

Click link for free African-American  Inventors Activity!

Share your celebrations on Instagram using the hashtag : #educators4BHM.


Multicultural Books, are they in your library?

As a child I loved to read books set in exotic locations. The books were a vehicle, transporting me to locales outside of the inner city neighborhoods of my youth. Reading about cultures outside of my own demonstrated the similarities of life we all share. I remember the first time I read, The Diary of Anne Frank.  I was awed by the similarities between The Holocaust and Slavery. It solidified my understanding that we all possess the same human emotions.  I remember reading, Esperanza Rising in a book club with a group of 10 year old girls. It is a coming of age tale set in Mexico. The family of the main character flees a life of wealth, for migrant farming in California. During the course of the book the girls discussed the pride and respect they developed for the main character.  They respected her ability to adapt to a new situation while learning about her inner strengths. Multicultural Books can dispel stereotypes and build respect. There were a couple of girls in the book club who were of Hispanic heritage. It was a prideful moment to see someone in their image over come obstacles and persevere.  Are there Multicultural Books in your library?  Be wary of Multicultural Books that tell a single story. We want to be sure the books show every aspect of the human condition.

Click link below for a list of over 200 Multicultural Books to include in your library.

Does Differentiation Work?

As a classroom teacher I’ve had my fair share of students with different learning styles and abilities. My classrooms have been a mix of struggling readers, English Language Learners, and students that have been retained. Diffentiation in recent years, has been seen as the cure all to all the challenges faced by students today. As a teacher, I’m often confused as to what am I really differentiating. Is it the instruction, the curriculum, the assessment?  There are so many expectations and mix message that it makes my head spin. A teacher is expected to differentiate for several learning abilities and styles. I can definitely understand the rationale for differentiating, but I question the quality and consistency. Not that I question the teacher’s integrity. I question the time available to prepare and the constant juggle of meeting with this student and that. I had my annual observation with my principal observing a few weeks ago. At our post observation meeting he shared his pleasure with my transitions,management and timing. His final question for me was, How do I differentiate for the advanced learner? The one sub group I had not differentiate for. My question to the administrators, coaches, coordinators, book publishers and everyone else rallying for more differentiation. Does Differentiation work?

Number Talks

As a math teacher I always encounter students who struggle with computation fluency. Number talks are a great way to increase automaticity. Number Talks are short equations that students are asked to solve mentally. They should be done daily and done alongside the current curriculum. Teacher should spend between 5 and 10 minutes on each session. My students love doing them. My number Talks precede the daily lesson and it helps with transition. Students are eager and are focused right away. Give it a try !!!

Clink links below for an article on Number Talks.

Clink link for a list of number talk for daily use.