During my college years, I remember always thinking about school. What my classroom would look like, how I would teach a certain topic, how good it would feel to go to extra-curricular events and see the students. I also remember dreaming about being able to use new pieces of technology or a new technique for teaching. It seemed like every time my mind had a spare moment, I was dreaming about how to make things better, more exciting, more interesting. Just plain more enjoyable and effective.
This constant dreaming continued into the early years of my career. Dream, Dream, Dream. Like the old song by the Everly Brothers “All I Have To Do Is Dream” (note: this song was popular before I was born). That was me. Constantly focused on the visions in my head about school and students and teaching and everything related.
I think as time goes on, educators tend to lose this feeling. They begin to dream less and less. That vision of why they went into teaching begins to fade. There is less dreaming and more concentration on getting things done. I feel a big part of longevity in this profession is the ability to keep dreaming. Don’t forget why this is still the greatest profession. Don’t forget how important this job is. Don’t forget that most students are really cool kids to be around. Don’t forget that if we want students to grow up to be good people, then we have to show them what good people look like.
Is this as easy as it sounds? No way. It is the type of profession that will beat you down and bring you to your knees if you let it. But good people get back up and that is what teachers are and that is what teachers do. They get back up. They keep moving forward. They keep dreaming!
When a school year begins, it is fairly standard practice by nearly every educator to spend time getting to know their students. Some teachers play games while others have their students fill out a questionnaire about themselves. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you have any pets? How long have you been going to this school? These are just a few of the basic questions that are asked.
Asking students these types of questions as well as having conversations with them that are not school related is called Non-Contingent Interactions. Contingent Interactions is what our students get from us all the time. They hear us when we tell them to open up their books, copy down notes or watch a certain video.
It is also during this time that very little discipline is handed out. Many people refer to this as the Honeymoon Period. The common belief is that this is because everything is new and boredom hasn’t set in yet. This very well contribute to it, but research is showing that a greater reason is because of the amount of Non-Contingent Interaction that is taking place verses the Contingent. You want to try to keep the so called Honeymoon Period going as long as possible. The schools with the least amount of discipline issues, tend to have the highest amount of Non-Contingent Interaction taking place on a regular basis with the optimal ratio being 50-50.
Some of you at the MS/HS levels may immediately think this is not possible. You may have anywhere from 120 to 160 students a day. How are you going to talk to each student about topics other than school just as much as you do related to school? This can be done in some very simple ways. For example, greet each class with a welcome statement such as “Good Morning” or “Glad you are here today”. You can do the same when you end each class with a “See everyone tomorrow” or “Have a great weekend”. These little phrases can have a huge impact when combined over time.
As you travel around the classroom, be sure to make the little observations such as a new haircut, new shoes, a good drawing (that isn’t part of an assignment), ask what they are doing after school, if they have plans for the weekend, mention the previous nights extra-curricular event. You might slip as many as 100 of these in a day without that much additional effort.
Little connections made regularly can add up to something very significant over an entire school year. Then if you happen to have some of the same students again, it makes the relationship that much easier to establish and/or maintain.
There are still some of us around that started our teaching careers when computers were not the norm. Ditto machines, typewriters and non-digital clocks described our world. Even if you weren’t teaching, some of you may remember these types of items from when you were a student. It was a little shocking when a recent new teacher announced she was born the same year I started my career. Never thought I would see that day.
Now when you walk into most schools, you see laptops, tablets with touch screens and fewer and fewer actual books. All of this comes with their own set of needs. After the initial purchase of the various technology, the greatest need is people to provide support. If you have been in a school recently and the internet goes down, it is catastrophic. Attendance can’t be taken, the lessons the teachers had planned for the day have to be scrapped as well as student lunches have to be recorded with paper and pencil and entered later into the system for each account to be charged. Everything comes to a screaming stop!
At these times, there is no more important person than anyone from the technology department. They are the true modern day superhero when something is not working. There is no such thing as a no big deal breakdown when it comes to technology. It is crucial that any organization maintain a solid technology department to provide the support as well as the forethought to put the pieces in place to handle the change that is always happening.
You always want to make sure there is a back up plan in regards to personnel when it comes to technology support. If you only have one person that is handling most of your technology and that person is no longer their, it is guaranteed you will have chaos and chaos is never good.
Now there are different levels of comfort when it comes to technology, but I would encourage everyone to attempt to learn all they can about the technology they use. Tech support may not be able to help you the instant you need it. Many times with a little problem solving skill, you can do quite a bit yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask the people from your technology department to show you basic trouble shooting. If it is going to save them time and future headaches, I am sure they will be more than willing to help.
A final word of advice that has worked well for me…be sure to always read any information you get from them carefully. Their phones and email inbox’s are always blowing up. When they try to make things easier by giving step-by-step instructions of how to do things yourself, do your best to follow them. Not being on their good side is like being on the dark side of the moon.