Stating the obvious

I just crawled through an article on WebMD, intended to help parents guide their ADHD children to develop better study habits. The URL is http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/ss/slideshow-adhd-study-habits?ecd=wnl_day_083015&ctr=wnl-day-083015_nsl-ld-stry&mb=UT0EfRiJlerLe8Nl%2f6BrJGdEpmNqbUHLZTN%2fwNIxCow%3d and I would suggest you might use this to create a cheat sheet for parents. If nothing else, you can pass along the URL.

One screen struck me as especially useful for new teachers. Screen 14 of 15, titled “Mention the Obvious,” can be applied to students in classrooms everywhere.

“When helping your child do her homework, include steps that might seem obvious to you. For instance, the last two steps should always be “put your homework in your folder” and “put your folder in your backpack.” The more specific you are when giving instructions, the better.

Eduhonesty: At the end of the hour, you may assume students will automatically put their homework in places where they will be able to locate it later. That’s a bold assumption. Some students will, but others won’t. It never hurts to say, “Now put that homework in your folder and put your folder in your backpack. Put the folder in a location where you will be able to find it when you get home. Do not forget to take your Fungus book home. You will need that book to do the homework.” If you see those students at the end of the day, check that they did as instructed.

“Is your homework in your backpack in your folder? Along with the fungus book?”

You will never be the worse for giving “extra” instructions. Spelling out all the little details step-by-step will simplify your life.

Openers, bell ringers and to-dos

The above title lists three names for the same activity. Educational jargon is a moving target. I don’t understand how we teachers all suddenly seemed to know that an opener had become a to-do, but we did. Maybe the aliens used the techno-ray on us, as my young daughter might have said. In any case, your school will have a name for that 5-10 minute opening activity.

To-dos matter. The government is tracking student attendance. Low numbers invite scrutiny and even sanctions. There’s $$ in those numbers, too. Many administrations are keeping close watch over attendance figures. You want to put attendance in within the first ten minutes of class. I recommend against the first two or three minutes. Too soon and you will have to remember to fix the tardies you have marked absent. You definitely don’t want to get attendance wrong.

The right opener makes taking attendance easy. Conventional wisdom now seems to push five-minute openers, probably because of our feverish preoccupation with maximizing text scores and increasing available time for bell-to-bell instruction, but I personally prefer to run a little longer sometimes. As long as students are productively engaged, why not give yourself 7, 8 or even 10 minutes? The problem with the five-minute opener — oops, to-do — lies in the increasing time demands that are being placed on teachers. I am convinced that science experiments declined in my district last year due to these demands. Our prep periods always ended up being filled with meetings and attempts to enter student data into new spreadsheets, creating a tendency to avoid activities in lesson plans that might require a possibly nonexistent prep period.

Let the lesson plan determine the to-do. Slightly-longer to-dos may allow you to set up more complex lessons involving manipulatives, for example. Your target should be to use the shortest time you can get away with while still gracefully getting ready for class. As time and content expectations grow ever more demanding, teachers can sometimes end up seeming rushed or even frantic. Students don’t respond well to rushed or frantic, at least not as a regular occurrence.

Take the time you need to get set up and still enjoy your students. You want a minute or two to ask Daisy how her new, little brother is doing, for example. You want to be able to help Travis get organized. The first few minutes of a class set the tone for that class. Yes, you need to do the attendance piece, but you also want to create a class ready for learning.

Eduhonesty: That said, if administration turns up, you need to get out of your to-do quickly. The short to-do has become a best practice and you mess with best practices at your peril. Best practices will affect or even be used to determine your evaluation numbers.

To-dos should always be activities students can do without you. If students come up to you for help, find classmates to fill in the gaps. The right seating chart can help, allowing you to pair helpful and struggling students. If too many students come up for help, a to-do should be dropped or turned into an exit slip instead.

I have been known to holler, “Abandon ship!” and pass out a back-up opener. If you misjudged class readiness, you don’t need to slog through the growing confusion. Make a joke or two, pass out something easier and come back to the failed opener later.

Help me find newbies?

This has been the “top-secret blog of gloom and doom,” as I sometimes call it, for a long time. I don’t advertise. I am only now beginning to hand out the URL somewhat freely. I actually pay a software company to make me hard to find. To someone who long ago received a graduate degree in marketing, this blog seems pretty silly sometimes. It costs ME money. But the idea behind my low profile was not to get fired, a reasonable goal, I’m sure readers will agree.

However, since my latest posts are intended to help new teachers, I would like to reach some new teachers. Do you know a new teacher? Or a weary teacher? I am writing for the weary, too. Please pass on this URL if you do. I want to help.

I worked too hard

This post is for newbies and the weary. Especially the weary.

A few years ago, my father-in-law was placed in a convalescent facility. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for many years and he had reached the point where he could no longer eat. He was tube-fed and miserable. Dementia was beginning to set in. He would try to do long division and become upset when he could no longer remember the steps. He kept seeking out his deficits and then railing against them. I visited sometimes, but I did not visit enough. At the end of the day, I was tired, sometimes even exhausted, and I just went home.

I am reminded of that old saying by Rabbi Harold Kushner: “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office.'”

Those missed visits are a genuine regret. My father-in-law was a fascinating man, a teacher who had risen from a childhood in South Chicago as a poor, immigrant child of a single mother to become a textbook author and President of the Illinois Foreign Language Teachers Association. I wish I had sat at his bedside more often, breaking up his boredom on a more regular basis.

Eduhonesty: In many schools now, teaching can suck up every waking hour if you let it. Government and administrative requirements get piled on top of the work itself, while preparation time gets stolen by new data demands. The rapid pace required to keep classes flowing well without available preparation time adds stress as teachers become inundated by tasks on lengthening to-do lists.

I am going to add another recommendation for new teachers, a recommendation that should be helpful to all teachers who are hungry for time: Put family and personal time specifically on your calendar. Years ago, I did that in graduate school. My classes at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University were overwhelming me. I was never caught up. I never could catch up. In the interests of sanity, I declared most of Saturday a work and study-free zone, a time for relaxation.

I suggest teachers who are feeling swamped do the same. Put your personal and family time specifically into your calendar. Depending on where you are working, you may never catch up. If you consistently have 18 hours of work per day but only 16 waking hours available, you will be triaging. Many teachers are, along with professionals in other fields. When this country passed Japan to earn the dubious honor of longest work-week in the world, alarms should have been going off all over the place, but somehow U.S. workers just kept slogging along.

I would like to spare my fellow educators regrets about missed childhood and eldercare opportunities. Put family on the calendar. Then stick to your calendar. Take the kids to the local ice cream shop. Make them stash the phones and pads when you do. Email Aunt Doris. Call grandpa. And take time to pamper yourself a little. You will burn out if you don’t.

Put the work down. Go to a beer and cheese tasting with a friend. Take your spouse out on a pizza and movie date. Spare an hour to talk about Tom Cruise, Oktoberfest, or anything else that does not relate to education.

Not only will you be happier, you will be a better teacher. Too much work becomes drudgery and kids will sense when your energy is flagging. The best teachers bring passion to their work. That passion will be stronger if you allow yourself fun and family time. In a nutshell, on the seventh day, carve out time to rest.

When to write a referral

Continuing posts for the newbies, mostly at the middle school and high school level:

New teachers often hesitate to seek outside help with disciplinary issues. They understandably worry about making a bad first impression. For any teachers out there who are afraid to call in the cavalry, this post is for you.

You must ask for help with some issues. Actions at the start of the year establish precedents. That kid who curses at you has to be taken down. His or her fellow students need to see that you are not a pushover. The misbehaviors on the following list call for immediate referral to the Dean or other administrators working in the disciplinary pipeline:

♦ Drugs
♦ Fighting — this includes serious verbal altercations as well as physical assaults
♦ Harrassment, intimidation or bullying of other students
♦ Horseplay meant to disrupt class or horseplay that does not stop when you say stop
♦ Some forms of insubordination
♦ Possession of weapons or look-alike weapons
♦ Profanity or serious verbal disrespect toward the teacher
♦ Refusing to identify yourself (This tends to be hallway issue.)
♦ Skipping class or extreme tardiness
♦ Smoking
♦ Vandalism

Beyond the items on this list, disciplinary referrals become more discretionary. One five-minute tardy will not be not worth the paperwork, especially since administrators tend to be too busy to manage what they perceive as trivial problems. Three tardies in a week make a different story, though. Attitude should be a determining factor in the referral process. Was the behavior deliberately disruptive? That’s probably a referral, but you might want to handle disruptive behavior yourself. Did the student intend to swear? Sometimes words just slip out. Did the horseplay spill over into class from the passing period? You may be able to address that with a short reminder about the rules and a small consequence such as cleaning the classroom before school. Littering and pencil doodles on desks call for natural consequences such as desk-cleaning duty. Afterschool and lunch detentions act as deterrents for other behaviors.

Misbehaviors which you should try to tackle on your own before issuing referrals include the following:

♦ Academic dishonesty
♦ Bothering other students short of bullying
♦ Breaking school rules (a few rules call for immediate referrals, especially when safety issues are in play)
♦ Cursing not directed toward you that is not bullying
♦ Disruptive behavior that continues after you bring the behavior to a student’s attention
♦ Horseplay
♦ Huggy kissy stuff — PDAs
♦ Littering
♦ Property misuse
♦ Tardiness

Defiance, disrespect and insubordination create their own gray area in deciding on disciplinary interventions. Technically, these behaviors probably ought to call for an immediate referral to administration. Writing that referral on the spot makes perfect sense. If Ozzie refused to do his classwork, told you he did not have to listen to you, and then ripped up his paper, no one will think badly of you for referring Ozzie. A student who acts that far off the chain almost always has racked up a long paperwork trail behind him. The administration already knows Ozzie. If not, his last school most likely warned them he was coming.

Still, I probably would not write that referral in August or September or even October. Ideally, I want to convince Ozzie to join my class. I’d rather start by giving him a detention with me. I might meet him in the library after school. It’s better not to be alone with students after school, troubled students in particular, so I recommend libraries or other public places. While in the library, I would try to talk with Ozzie, try to find out why he had ripped up that paper. I might do the paper with him. Lots of Ozzies are acting out because they have fallen so far behind that they prefer to get in trouble rather than be embarrassed. I would probably call home, but I might let that first incident pass without calling, letting Ozzie know that I chose to give him a second chance rather than calling parents immediately.

Those defiant, insubordinate students are often leaders within their peer groups. If a teacher can convince them to buy into the program, they can bring other students in with them. You may not be able to pull an Ozzie in, but when you can, the results are worth the struggle. These students can be top-notch first officers as you captain your classroom, helping to keep routines and disciplinary procedures running smoothly. The truth is, I love my Ozzies and I think they sense that. Rebels appeal to me. This country and most of the world was built by rebels.

I’ll admit that some kids just want to mess with you. The argument for trying to manage that disrespect and insubordination before asking for back-up is simple: Those kids are testing you. When you refer too quickly, you show weakness. You might as well say, “Just wait until your dad comes home!” I suggest issuing a detention instead. Call home. If those actions don’t work, then write the referral, including the missed detention.

Eduhonesty: Referrals are tricky. You will learn the climate of your school with time and that climate will affect your choices. Some administrations manage disciplinary issues much more efficiently than others. Talk to your coworkers about this issue. How do they handle the issues that are troubling you? When do they refer? How supportive is the administration? How many referrals are too many referrals? Will the administration view too many referrals as a reflection of your management skills?

I’d suggest managing as much as you can by yourself once you know how your particular school works. We learn by doing. We learn by practicing our craft and fine-tuning our responses. We want to become accomplished disciplinarians. No content-oriented presentation matters as much as classroom discipline. By teaching discipline, compassion, and appropriate behavior, we benefit our students for the rest of their lives.

Glub glub glub

For the newbies, taken from an old voice memo:

“Schoology, Sarah at Teaching Channel, Brian at Hero, Education Weekly, the nice lady from the recent professional development who created a Dropbox for me, the various district newsletters we are publishing on the internet. I have all of this to look at, not to mention the real stuff. I need to look at my students notes, lesson plans, suggestions for materials from colleagues. I need to look at tests that are being sent to me so I can give feedback. I need to evaluate study guides. A colleague sent me four videos from a presenter of a past professional development that I really liked. I’ve got information on tests, on trainings, on websites. I have a new math resource program for which I still don’t have much information. I have to find out about it. I have a bunch of weird stuff from the Board Office which probably needs to be dealt with.”

This short snippet captures teaching life in a time when sometimes teachers have almost no prep time available because of data requirements and meetings. Some new teachers will be able to dictate their own versions of this voice memo soon. The amount of work can quickly reach the overwhelming stage.

I recommend a version of the medical system of triage. Leave the stuff that will fix itself alone. Get to work as fast as you can on emergencies that will benefit from your help. And let those problems that are beyond help go, offering palliative care to manage the pain. What matters? Student learning matters. Assisting colleagues matters. Keeping administration happy matters. I’d triage using a personal list that went in that order: students, colleagues, administration. If you are new to the field, you might want to bump administration up to the front. Scratch exploring great new ideas from professional developments unless you can apply them immediately. Scratch going out to find new software or pre-prepared lesson plans that will have to be adapted to match Common Core or state standards. If you have to do much adapting, you are probably better off writing your own plan. You’ll understand that plan better.

With the above list, I let Sarah go. No time. Ditto Brian. I may have listened to them briefly, but I did not have time to use them as resources. I did read articles in Education Weekly, but only if those articles were pertinent to my immediate situation. I never did use the Dropbox since Google Docs were the district preference. I scanned the newsletters. District happenings can have a large and fast impact on individual schools. I evaluated tests and study guides, emailing colleagues with my thoughts. I skipped the four videos. No time. I studied more tests, so many tests. I would end up spending over 10% of my year in standardized and benchmark testing, not including my own quizzes and grade-wide unit tests. I let the guy across the hall recommend professional development. I ignored the world wide web for the most part, since I had enough software to keep my classes busy for the next five years at least. That math resource program proved to be a time-suck and years above the actual learning level of almost every single one of my students, but the program was nonetheless required. Students put in at least an hour each week. My higher-scoring students benefited from the program. The others were lost and mostly guessed or got help from friends, who were often guessing as well. I tried to help. While the computer groups were hacking away at the required math program, though, someone had to be introducing new material somewhere. I’m sure I did the weird stuff from the Board Office, whatever that was.

Eduhonesty: The greatest challenge in teaching today is finding time to teach. We are inundated with data and testing demands and tools to use to push up the numbers, when sometimes what we most need is simply to be left alone. Left alone, we can teach Layla fractions and Alex polynomial equations. Left alone, we can find out what our students know and prepare materials that are one step or even giant leap above that level. Finding those materials and identifying student interests takes time, however, and time seems to be the one commodity that is often in gruesomely short supply.

I’ll make three recommendations for new teachers here:

1) Don’t let work pile up. Don’t let the grading go. You can be buried in papers by the week-end. Blam! There goes your whole week-end, Saturday to grading and Sunday to preparing next week’s lessons.
2) Ask colleagues for help. If you don’t know the new math resource program, someone else probably does. Even when frazzled by their own time demands, most experienced teachers will find time to help a new colleague. Teachers teach. It’s coded in their DNA, I think. If you are lucky, you will have a colleague who can lend you his or her own PowerPoints, activity sheets and lesson plans from the past. Borrow any freebies that will work.
3) Buy lecture materials when you must. Teachers Pay Teachers may have exactly the PowerPoint on the Revolutionary War that your class needs to see.

I love to make PowerPoints. My PowerPoints are filled with pictures, memes and critical-thinking questions. But for standard topics, reinventing the wheel consumes chunks of time that may not exist. Do yourself a favor. In a time-crunch, go to Teachers Pay Teachers and give Sally Ann Smith in Omaha a few dollars for her own brainchild. You can adapt a newly purchased PowerPoint to meet your classes’ content requirements in minutes usually, leaving hours free to catch up on your grading, student data requirements, etc.

When you absolutely must have a helicopter to get off the mountain

Regular readers of this blog know that I often tend toward the speculative and theoretical. I want to go sideways on my posts for newbies and comment instead on an interesting article at NPR about the overparenting crisis. (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/08/28/434350484/how-schools-are-handling-an-overparenting-crisis) I’d like to observe that I’ve mostly worked in academically and financially-disadvantaged schools so overparenting as a phenomenon has seldom impacted my work life. In my last district, we were working to decrease the drop-out rate, not increase the percentage of admissions to Ivy League schools. We viewed any high school graduate who chose to go to any college as a success story. In addition, in my experience, bilingual students are seldom overparented. Their parents may help land them jobs, but they don’t expect to attend any job interviews. Those parents don’t do science projects for their children. Often, they can’t do science projects for their children because their children speak better English than they do.

In any case, NPR interviewed two authors, Julie Lythcott-Haims and Jessica Lahey. I offer up the following for thought:

Lahey: Teachers and administrators complain about parents, but we helped create this frenzy.

One mother told me she was willing to step back, but felt like she could not because the standards have moved for what constitutes an A on a science project. Teachers have come to accept that parents interfere and co-opt school projects, and have begun to take that for granted when grading.

Lythcott-Haims: The other way in which high schools in particular play into the dynamic is during the college admission process, where they feel judged based on the brand names of the colleges their seniors get into, and their incentive is to brag about that.

Eduhonesty: As we raise standards and increase the emphasis on test scores as measures of life success, I can see why parents might rush into the gap between our expectations and what can realistically be expected. We don’t want to let our children fail. The article observes that letting students do their own work, and possibly fail to get that high grade, will prove beneficial to those students. I’d like to ask a couple of questions, though.

How did we come to this? How did we reach the point where a “B” became dubious and a “C” became unacceptable? When did we decide grades mattered more than learning? When a parent does Jackie’s homework, that effort costs Jackie learning even as it raises her grade. Many parents now believe that their child needs an “A” average to get into an acceptable college and they also believe that only certain colleges measure up in terms of prestige and future earning power. How did we become this frantic? The cost of our data and grade-obsession may be much higher than many educational bureaucrats and leaders realize.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Jessica Lahey, who said it as well as I ever could: “As long as we continue to worship grades over learning, scores over intellectual bravery and testable facts over the application of knowledge, kids will never believe us when we tell them that learning is valuable in and of itself.”

Rolling those ADHD dice

(Still posting mostly for the newbies as they try to figure out what’s going on in their first year.)

From the http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic#2 article on the rising rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among America’s children:

Cases and diagnoses of ADHD have been increasing dramatically in the past few years. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) says that 5 percent of American children have ADHD. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the number at more than double the APA’s number. The CDC says that 11 percent of American children, ages 4 to 17, have the attention disorder. That’s an increase of 42 percent in just eight years.

ADHD & Other Conditions
ADHD doesn’t increase a person’s risk for other conditions or diseases. But some people with ADHD — especially children — are more likely to experience a range of co-existing conditions. They can sometimes make social situations more difficult or school more challenging.

Some co-existing conditions include:

learning disabilities
conduct disorders and difficulties, including antisocial behavior, fighting, and oppositional defiant disorder
anxiety disorder
depression
bipolar disorder
Tourette’s syndrome
substance abuse
bed-wetting problems
sleep disorders
– See more at: http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic#5

I strongly suggest reading this article.

In abstract terms, these numbers suggest that a teacher with 30 kids in a class on average will have around 3 students who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In practical terms, every class, every year will be another roll of the dice. You may walk in to find four kids with ADHD in your homeroom of 22 kids. The conventional wisdom has this condition growing more prevalent in the population, like autism. I believe that wisdom. The numbers of kids bouncing off the walls does seem to be increasing. How much of the ADHD increase results from increasing diagnoses, rather than genuine change, I don’t know, but the numbers of kids on meds has unquestionably been increasing.

I want to throw in one more set of observations from the article with the caveat that these are generalizations and some girls manifest ADHD exactly like boys do. I dislike gender generalizations, but I am adding these because atypical symptoms of ADHD do not receive enough focus. In particular, inattentiveness often results in classroom struggles between student and teacher. Teachers can take inattentiveness personally when that inattentiveness has little, or nothing, to do with them.

Boys tend to display externalized symptoms that most people think of when they think of ADHD behavior, for example:

impulsivity or “acting out”
hyperactivity, such as running and hitting
lack of focus, including inattentiveness
physical aggression
ADHD in girls is often easy to overlook because it’s not “typical” ADHD behavior. The symptoms aren’t as obvious as they are in boys. They can include:

being withdrawn
low self-esteem and anxiety
intellectual impairment and difficulty with academic achievement
inattentiveness or a tendency to “daydream”
verbal aggression: teasing, taunting, or name-calling
– See more at: http://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/facts-statistics-infographic#6

Eduhonesty: I recently wrote a post asking for kindness and understanding for the quiet students. This post is for the ADHD kids. They tend to be loud. They leap out of their seats or fidget endlessly. They cause fights. They interrupt and then interrupt your speech about not interrupting. In the middle of math, they will pipe up to say, “I saw a fire engine yesterday.” When you are explaining the procedures for the assembly, they will ask, “How old is the oldest tree in the world?” Frequently they make the class laugh, not always intentionally. They often fall behind academically, although not always. ADHD runs in my family but my kids and I have been “A” students despite this fact.

The movie “Talladega Nights” has a great line: “I don’t know what to do with my hands.” Ricky Bobby was speaking for kids everywhere when he said that line, and for a lot of adults, too. Part of managing ADHD students is understanding that, yes, our ADHD students truly don’t know what to do with their hands since they don’t know how to keep those hands still. They don’t know how to sit attentively listening for more than a few minutes. Some kids are daydreamers and they slip into those dreams like Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole, alighting far from that lesson on fractions droning on in the background.

I suspect the acting out, physical aggression, low self-esteem, anxiety and verbal aggression listed above stem in part from that sense of failure that comes from not meeting expectations. Stress alone may account for more than a sliver of the uptick in ADHD diagnoses. Stress levels are rising. As testing takes up more class time and becomes more heavily emphasized, teachers need to be clear that we are making some challenged students feel like failures far too often.

On a practical level, I’d like to offer some suggestions to help with ADHD students.

Teach students to make and keep a to-do list. Teaching them how to use phones for this purpose will help them enormously. The sooner they learn to use smartphones and apps to remind the of appointments and deadlines, the better. Setting reminders can be problematic — beep, beep, beep. Still, reminder rules can be agreed upon, allowing for the occasional beep in unusual times.
alexis
For students who don’t have smartphones, agendas and notebooks work fine. If your school issues agendas, great. If not, buy a few cheap notebooks (or actual agendas if they have them) at the Dollar Store and give these to students who need help organizing themselves. Check written agendas before and after school. Help your students to make a daily to-do list and remind them to read that list later. Enlisting parents in this effort will improve the odds that lists get read as well as written.

Showing students how to organize themselves requires an extra time commitment on your part, but students (usually) appreciate the extra attention. Many also need the help. Part of the reason why some students suddenly suffer a precipitous academic decline when they enter middle school lies in organizational issues. When one elementary teacher laid out what to do and when to do it, these kids were fine, but that first year of six teachers with six different assignments can blow kids right out of the water, whether they have attention deficit issues or not. Many students can’t compartmentalize six sets of expectations with four different worksheets and three reading assignments, not in their heads anyway. Without help, some kids will begin stuffing books and assignments randomly into their locker, never taking them out of that locker, and never looking back. A few will do the assignments, stuff the completed assignments in their locker, lose them, and never turn them in.

Tips for managing that ADHD component of any classroom:

♦ Help your students get organized.
♦ Make them write out daily to-do lists.
♦ Don’t take inattentiveness personally. Some kids just live in a field of rabbit holes.
♦ Learn techniques to reclaim the attention of drifting kids. Do something out of the ordinary. Bells work. Singing works.
♦ Find fidget toys or activities to keep wandering hands occupied. If you type “fidget toys” into google, you will find numerous options, many of them inexpensive.
♦ Don’t get upset about the “blurts” that pop up. If my assembly instructions were interrupted, I’d say something like, “Right now, we have to go over the assembly rules. If you want, we can look up the oldest tree after school or at lunch.” Then I’d look up the tree. (The tree is named Methuselah. At 4,846 years old, this ancient, bristlecone pine can be found in the Inyo National Forest in California, but the forest service doesn’t let people know Methulelah’s specific location for the tree’s protection.)
♦ Encourage ADHD students — and all students — to exercise. Push them to join the soccer team if possible. Sinking excess energy into sports helps kids focus later.
♦ Encourage ADHD students — and all students — to eat well. I’m not sure if a diet of Flamin Hot Red Squiggly Things makes behavior worse, but I can’t see the remotest benefit to living on spicy-hot, squiggly things. Fruits and vegetables may help. They can’t hurt.
♦ Appreciate your ADHD students. I would never have known about the world’s oldest tree if not for one boy who was a joy to have in class despite his many interruptions.
♦ Empathize with the struggles of ADHD students. When they say, “I try, Ms. Q, I really do, but then I just forget to take the homework home,” believe them. Then try to come up with a system that will help them to remember the homework.
♦ Let your ADHD kids know you are on their side. You want them to succeed. Then work together with them to find the individual plans that will help with their particular issues. “I can’t do the work and then I get mad” requires a different plan than “I have to get out of my seat. I hate to sit.”
♦ Get help. Find out if your ADHD student has a social worker. Talk to counselors and social workers for advice.
♦ Have students bring all books and materials every day.
♦ Regular routines help ADHD and other students. Don’t vary your routines too often.

This last tip always proved hard for me. I am ADHD enough so that routines don’t appeal to me and sudden inspirations can make me change course in the middle of the river. As time went by, though, I realized that certain kids needed regular routines. Those routines helped them manage stress and helped them manage classroom procedures.

Simplifying procedures improves everyone’s life. If all students have to bring all materials every day, then students won’t forget to bring the fungus textbook or their markers. Class can start without supply issues. Students don’t have to feel that they messed up again when they missed the previous day’s instructions on the fungus book and markers. Anything that can be a routine, should be a routine. Routines free class time for learning and decrease the stress and challenges that students, especially ADHD students, face daily.

(I read my last paragraph and I think, “ooh, that sounds boring.” But especially for new teachers, routines are your friend. If the kids always pick up the opener from a table by the door and know what to do with that opener from previous practice, you have freed 5-10 minutes to take attendance and handle individual student issues. Students can settle down. You can complete clerical tasks. Routines free us to work on content, rather than classroom management, and content’s almost always much more fun than management.)

If you can handle the heels

shoe

A couple of years ago, I sat quietly through an honest discussion in the social studies office of a large, suburban high school.

“I have natural advantage because I’m a guy,” a colleague said to the group. “It’s harder for women. I walk into the room and they know to be quiet.”

I did not disagree. The ability to project authority remains an underexplored aspect of teaching, That little Greek woman I wrote about a few posts back? No one would have stuck gum in her hair — certainly not two or three times — if she had been a 6′ 2″ guy. Not that being a guy necessarily provides protection. My graduate school teaching cohort had two older men in it, both imposing in terms of size. I remember a discussion with one of the two. We were talking about the fact that our third cohort member appeared to be having trouble finding his place in the educational world.

“I hear he has trouble controlling his classes,” my colleague said, voice whispery and low, as if he were imparting a disgraceful secret.

My colleague was working and coaching in one of the toughest schools in the area. Classroom management came easily to him. Being the patriarch of a large, Irish Catholic family had prepared him to take control of his classes and he did not seem to understand why his graduate-school classmate might be struggling.

So much goes into projecting authority. Small women as a group may be at a disadvantage, but many learn to manage classes with little difficulty. Some are obvious naturals. Physical appearance has much less to do with projecting authority than attitude. A 100 pound woman can hush students by walking into a room if she knows in her bones that she has the conn.

Eduhonesty: YOUR classroom, your rules. Internalizing that fact will make life much easier.

Having made these observations, I’m going to go out on a slightly controversial limb here. If you are not that big guy who naturally knows what to do, not a patriarch or matriarch, and are feeling some lack of respect in the classroom, then you might want to pay attention to your wardrobe. Fair or not, looking sloppy can undercut authority. More tailored clothing helps to create an authoritative image. One of the best teachers I know stands only a little over 5′ 2″, but you might never realize that. In addition to a tendency to automatically try to take command of just about any situation, she dresses up in coordinated casual wear, often with a tailored jacket, and wears shoes that add three or more inches to her height. If you wear can those heels gracefully, you might benefit by adding a few pairs to your wardrobe. Extra inches never hurt, at least if you can wear them without wobbling. I’d advise men to ditch the t-shirts and keep facial hair trimmed, but not fussy.

I’ll end with a short list of clothing that should mostly be avoided, although these aren’t rules as much as guidelines. If you are wearing skinny jeans to class and your classes seem to be going great, then I personally can’t see a reason to change out of those jeans and your My Little Pony t-shirt, assuming no one in administration has complained. This post is for new teachers who are finding the classroom management piece daunting. How you look will affect how your students see you.

I suggest you save the following for the week-end:

♦ Jeans with glitter or holes in them — no matter how artfully the fabric may have been ripped
♦ Super tight skinny jeans, even if they fit
♦ Low V-necks
♦ T-shirts with sayings across the chest
♦ See-through fabrics
♦ Super-short skirts

Make it bright, make it YOU

Are you decorating your first classroom?

I always loved setting up my room. A good classroom becomes a bit battered by year’s end, as student work goes up and down, school events are posted, and poster paper inside shiny, paper borders gets nicked or ripped in the process. No doubt some teachers replace that poster paper. I usually just covered the holes with yet more original student creations. My planning periods were always sucked up by meetings and other demands. Poster paper replacement never had a chance to make it onto the to-do list. Every August, though, I got my chance to set the world right again.

Classrooms are highly personal so I don’t intend to offer much advice.

♦ If you are short of money, ask Facebook friends, as well as teachers around you, if they have any extra posters or classroom décor.
♦ Buy those bright, shiny borders. In terms of bang for your buck, store-bought borders add pizzazz that construction paper simply cannot match.
bordersforblog
♦ Do you like superheroes? Some interests are natural connection points with kids. An Ironman motivational poster is a win. Minions may be on the way out, but I have gotten a lot of mileage from little yellow creatures with masks and goggles.
♦ Students were intrigued by my Black Jack Pershing poster when I taught social studies. A few quirks never hurt.

For more tips, see my June 15, 2015 post.

Last eduhonesty observation: When administration walks in, they will be looking for student work on the walls. Don’t neglect this step. Your evaluation will consist of a series of snapshots taken over far too short a time period. Student work can help prejudice that process in your favor.