Bullying: 5 Common Responses to Avoid

While we all want to do the right thing when confronted with a bullying situation, the right response may not always be clear to us. It is clear that some strategies are more effective than others. Here we review a few strategies that researchers suggest are not effective at reducing bullying or stopping it from reoccurring. While some of these may surprise you, others will probably make sense when you consider the reasons why they are not recommended, because they either increase bullying behaviors or make the situation worse.

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Back to School: Creating a Safe Learning Environment

On the last day of my last class before beginning my first teaching job, the professor asked us if there were questions – perhaps things not addressed in class.  My determined hand shot up. “What are we to do if we ask students to do something and they refuse?”  This was not just my burning question – it was my biggest worry in the middle of the night.  I was embarking on a high school position with over 150 students in my charge– how would a young woman who looked a lot like a teenager have any credibility with these students? Would they even do what I asked of them? What were my next steps if they did not comply? How long would I last? What if things spiral out of my control? What if I get fired?

The very nice professor became a bit flummoxed, stammered a bit, but no answer came forth.  Fast forward: After teaching a jillion students, working with thousands of teachers in professional development, coaching educators, and being honored to witness fabulous work in countless classrooms, here’s what I know: It was the wrong question to ask.  Rather than ask about mechanisms to control students – an impossible task – our focus is really: How can we ignite an intrinsic joy in learning that significantly reduces the need to manage, control, or even kick out kids?

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Back to School: Learning about Students

I love the beginning of school.  August and September hold new possibilities full of hope and promise, a chance to start fresh, to learn from last year’s failures as well as successes, and to build something even better than the year before.

I didn’t always look so excitedly toward the beginning of another school year. When I was new to the field, I taught the prescribed curriculum that was handed to me.  Although I was “teaching by the book,” my students were struggling. I came to realize they were struggling precisely because I was teaching the prescribed curriculum.

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Back to School: Finding Stillness

The beginning of the school year can be stressful for students and teachers alike. What better time to introduce a calming break within the school day? By structuring a quiet minute at the start of class, after lunch, or when transitioning between activities, we offer students and faculty a chance to catch their breath, literally. By offering our students the gift of quiet, even for a moment or two, we can transform our classrooms into a zone of peace. I hope this post, composed of excerpts from my book, Classroom Yoga Breaks (2016), will inspire you to create some moments of stillness in your days at school.

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Back to School: Promoting English Learners’ Assets

The proportion of English learners (ELs) in the United States public school system has reached nearly ten percent of all students, and is on a nationwide growth trajectory1.  Along with this growth in numbers, ELs tend to experience an opportunity gap, which generally refers to the impact that factors such as students’ English proficiency, socioeconomic status, race, and ethnicity have on their achievement. For example, 79% of English fluent eighth graders scored at the basic or above reading level in 2017, while only 32% of ELs scored at those levels during that same year.2  In addition, ELs have one of the lowest graduation rates among all students on a national level, approximately 63% as compared to 82% of all students3.Gaps such as these have helped lead far too many educators to see ELs as one-dimensional, defined primarily as being lacking in areas such as English proficiency, achievement in content areas, and/or ability to graduate. Recent research4 on teachers’ perceptions of ELs in kindergarten through second grade suggests that classifying students as ELs has a “direct and negative effect on teachers’ perceptions of students’ academic skills.”

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Summer Reading: An SEL Frame of Mind

Greetings Readers!

As the days grow shorter and Labor Day approaches, most of you are preparing your minds and classrooms for the start of the school year.  Increasingly, that means not only writing or revising academic goals and lesson plans but also considering how best to foster the emotional well-being and growth of a new group of learners.  What strengths and challenges will your students bring with them?  How will you cultivate the former and meet the latter?  We thought you might be interested, in this last gasp of summer reading time, to dip into some recent books about social emotional learning and mindfulness: what better way to get into a positive mindset about the fall semester?  The dozen titles below are recommendations from two of Norton’s authors whose own work and writing focus on the social and emotional aspects of educating the whole child.

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Summer Reading: Fewer Books, Better

Blogger George Evans recently wrote a blog post called “In Defense of Slow” where he states that “many things in education are simply too fast…in this rush to cover content, to get through standards…we lose the heart and soul of what we should be there for.”

I connected with this instantly, as I’ve often thought and written about how cramming too much feedback into a single paper or too much content into a single lesson often leads to less learning. Sure, the amount covered by the teacher is more, but the amount ultimately retained by the students tends to be far less.

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Summer Reading: World Crime Fiction

Here’s a mystery: why, when I talk to teachers about what literature they teach, does crime fiction rarely if ever make the list? I can make some guesses: lurid subject matter, graphic descriptions of gore or sex, a kind of literary snobbery, anticipated parent and/or administration disapproval. However, having spent the last several years reading crime fiction—primarily from countries outside the U.S.—I could easily put together a collection of titles whose content is in no way lurid, does not truck in gore, and handles sex scenes, if any, in mature and discreet ways. That leaves the presumption that crime fiction is not serious literature and should therefore not be taught in school. Let me use the rest of my allotted word count to help us get beyond the loner, gumshoe, Sam Spade stereotypes and create an argument for those outside your classroom who would raise eyebrows or hackles or worse.

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Summer Reading: A Stack of Choices in Multiple Genres

As a high school English teacher, summer means one thing to me: reading for pleasure. Each May, I get giddy with the thought of the stack of books I plan to delve into during my two months off. Inevitably, I almost never reach my goal of getting through the whole stack. Sometimes it’s because my eyes are bigger than my timetable, sometimes it’s because I stumble upon different books throughout the summer I want to read more, and sometimes it’s because a book that seemed so promising turned out to be a slog that I can’t bear during summer days (War and Peace, I’m looking at you!). No matter the end result, at the beginning of every summer I try to build a stack that’s a mix of professional and pleasure reads that will inspire me for the coming school year, ones that span several categories aimed at broadening my horizons and challenging me as a reader and educator. Here are the categories and selections I’ve chosen for summer 2019.

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Summer Reading: Learning About Race

We have all heard that collaborating is an opportunity to stretch our thinking by hearing what others have to say, or have read, or are reading on a topic that we are exploring.  That is what is occurring as I co-write a book with Ivannia Soto; I am learning about resources from my writing partner, in addition to reading what she has to say, and the combination makes collaborating a powerful experience.  One book Ivannia recommended is Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race.  A self-proclaimed “internet yeller,” Oluo brings a fresh, current, and serious look at racism in ways that are on the one hand personal and on the other generalizable.  She helps us to see, in today’s climate, how it comes in many subtle, but no less-damaging forms than overt racism.  

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