April 10, 2023
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching
Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students.
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Last week I shared several activities teachers can undertake to ensure our students know they are not alone. Such activities are important, but how they are carried out is even more important. The how has a lot to do with our mindset.
Throughout your studies as a teacher you have no doubt seen the “social discipline window” which is often used to describe discipline approaches employed by schools that are shifting to a restorative model. If you want to ensure your students know they are not alone – WITH is the mindset to adopt – in approaching instruction, as well as discipline.
A WITH approach to teaching is both supportive and grounded in clear expectations. When we use a with approach we’re shifting from “It’s my job to do things for students,” to “It’s my job to engage with students because I truly value what they bring to our community.”
See how that can make students feel like they’re not alone?
Society expects adults to spend a lot of time in the “to” and “for” quadrants of this window when relating to children. Adults are supposed to be the experts on all things, the ones who teach children to conform to societal expectations and respect adult authority without question. But we’re also supposed to be the nurturers who fix problems for them because, as the experts, we know how. Such approaches don’t build independence though, and they don’t inspire the kind of creative thought our children are going to need when they grow up to deal with the challenges of the world.
A WITH approach requires us as adults to engage our own curiosity (knowing that curiosity = respect!) and look for ways to help our students grow their own expertise. This looks like asking about their experience solving a math problem, or whether they felt the feedback they received on their essay was helpful, or how they’d recommend managing traffic flow in the lunchroom. It looks like asking students for their ideas and recommendations when we are trying to solve problems large and small, and not always jumping in with our own solutions.
If we regularly took this approach with our students, imagine how connected they would feel! This shift in mindset elevates “strengthen belonging” to the same level as “teach reading and math,” and will go a long way toward making our students feel safe and valued.
As you consider your plans for the week ahead, look for the places where you can learn WITH your students. The benefits to this approach when it comes to community go both ways. See how connected this makes you feel as well!
What We’re Curious About
Each week a member of the Inspired Teaching community shares something that’s currently piquing their curiosity. Maybe it will spark yours too!
Monica Brady-Myerov, Inspired Teaching Board Member, and Ed Tech Entrepreneur
Soon after I graduated from college, I lived overseas, primarily working as a journalist. I also taught English as a second language to advanced students.
Teaching English helped me meet Brazilians when I was in Rio de Janeiro and taught me how little I knew about my own first language. Since then, I’ve been curious about the rules of English and thought about learning more. I finally had the opportunity this fall when I decided to go back to school to get my certificate to teach English to speakers of other languages, better known as TESOL.
When I enrolled in online courses at the University of Massachusetts, I was prepared to learn the best approaches to making engaging lessons. What I didn’t realize is that I would be required to take two linguistics classes that would focus on sentence structure and grammar.
This curiosity about English is really challenging me!
English is my first language and if you are like me, you think you speak your first language pretty well (or should it be good?). But I quickly learned I didn’t know anything about how English is structured grammatically or how you could explain it to someone learning English as a new language.
Here’s an example you can challenge yourself with. Listen to these phrases from Ron Cowan’s book “The Teacher’s Grammar of English” and then explain how and why they are all slightly different and what rules govern the use of the definite, indefinite or zero article.
- He always eats breakfast in the kitchen.
- The breakfast was delicious!
- They serve a fantastic breakfast at that diner!
I’m enjoying learning how I can use grammar to explain the differences in these sentences:
- the first is a custom
- the second is a particular meal known to the listener
- and the third is a particular kind of meal served
It makes me appreciate how hard it is for others to learn English and respect anyone who is learning another language.
This Edutopia article by Miriam Plotinsky explores how student-driven learning doesn't mean teacher-absent learning. "Rather, we develop the dexterity to meet a number of ever-shifting demands with students who we intentionally prepare to meet new challenges."
When we are sensitive to how our students are feeling and respond to what we learn we demonstrate respect for who they are and what they bring to the learning environment. These activities create the space for us to do that and share how we are feeling too.
This series of warm-up activities activates the mind and body but it also offers the opportunity for students to feel seen and heard right as class begins. Apply that WITH approach by doing each activity right alongside them.