How to Maximize Student Success This School Year

Some young people know exactly what they want to be or do when they grow up. In so doing, they identify goals they may work towards for years. But many students can’t imagine life that far down the road. They have plenty of challenges in the here and now!

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Regardless of which category your students fall in, four do–able steps can help arrange order out of student chaos. You will note that each reinforces healthy self–discipline and constructive life habits. They collectively set up cumulative win–wins. They also provide opportunity for the school to partner with parents on obtainable goals.

It’s Apparent . . . You’re a Parent!

Authored by John Lehman, It’s Apparent . . . You’re a Parent! is a short but compelling read for parents or those that may yet become parents.  The author identifies the book as a help in “raising Godly children in today’s [ungodly] world.”

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There are several points that the author makes that resonated as I read and re-read the book.  Though not a complete overview of the book, let me share with you some important take-aways as I read the book.

Wow, I Don’t Agree!

Michael Fullan is an internationally recognized authority on educational reform.  His ideas have informed the thinking of thousands of educators in many countries.  His long list of published works includes The New Meaning of Educational Change, published in its 4th edition in 2007.  This summer, while reading Chapter 3, “Insights Into the Change Process,” I scribbled in the margin of my book “Wow, I don’t agree!”  Let’s take a look at the statement in Fullan’s book that caused me to write that and a connection that I believe exists to an issue we are discussing often today, the Common Core Standards.

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In Chapter 3, Mr. Fullan (2007) lists ten “elements of successful change.”  He expands each of the ten elements with explanation that is often insightful and challenging.  My copy of the book is filled with highlights and my personal notes, most in agreement.  What, then, prompted me to write “Wow, I don’t agree!”

Teaching in HD

My husband and I are tennis fans.  In fact, we plan our yearly vacation around the Wimbledon schedule so that we can watch the iconic tournament on the large flat screen television at the beach house.  What a treat! But last year, we encountered something that revolutionized our tennis viewing forever:  hi-definition television!

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We arrived at our vacation destination to discover that our accommodations had HDTV.   I clicked on ESPN and felt like I was the ball boy standing behind Roger Federer as he served.  I could see every hair on his arm as he tossed the ball.  I could feel the rush of air as he swung the racket to rip a 130 mph serve.  Okay, well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point – the hi-definition picture made everything bigger and brighter and brought into focus those things that we might otherwise not notice at all.

Incorporating PowerPoint in the Elementary Classroom

Using technology can make a vast difference in the effectiveness of your classroom instruction. Many teachers fail to use technology simply because they are not aware of the potential it offers to enhance learning. Granted, some classroom technology today is very complex and often too expensive to be practical in a small Christian school. However, much can be accomplished with a simple setup of a digital projector and a computer, with internet access and PowerPoint or Keynote.

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PowerPoint is an excellent tool to improve classroom instruction and help create interesting lessons. A well-made presentation will captivate students and increase their enthusiasm for learning. Visual learners will benefit greatly from being able to see key facts, pictures, and diagrams.

Open Doors for Your Students

One spring I offered to teach a group of students a Creative Writing course. Some of my students wrote about hobbies or pets.  Some of the boys wrote about their Civil War battle reenactments. Regardless of topic, each student was intrigued by the course’s end product––an actual printed and bound book, authored by them! The students then entered their finished books in our state fair. They were delighted when most were awarded either blue or red ribbons.

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My girls had been just 12 and 10 when we left public education. As we prepared for our new type of learning, we happened upon what we felt was a brilliant idea! As a business owner/operator, I recognized the value of an adult’s work résumé. We then reasoned, why not have the girls create a similar educational résumé? Soon, with appropriate modifications, we were doing exactly that.

Recipe for Great Teaching

While reading Anita Turner’s book, Recipe for Great Teaching (2006), I was challenged to check my own teaching style for all the right ingredients. Great teaching is an art. Just like a chef has to mix all the correct ingredients in the right way to create a delicious dish, a teacher must incorporate all the essential ingredients into the classroom to produce great teaching.

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Anita reminded me that “Each ingredient is essential to achieving the goal of being a great teacher, but the recipe for excellent teaching requires the right mixture of all the ingredients.”

Asking the Right Questions About Professional Development

Professional development or continuing education is part of the culture of teaching, as it is a part of the culture of many other professions. Doctors, accountants, and automobile mechanics all regularly “go back to school” to stay current with changes in their field and to hone their craft. We expect that they will do so and we would not trust our surgery to a doctor who didn’t keep up with advances in medicine or trust our automobile repair to a mechanic who didn’t stay current with changes in under-the-hood technology.

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Teachers, perhaps even more than those in other professions, should understand the importance of lifelong learning and professional development. We value education. It is essential that teachers develop their skills and model learning for their students by engaging continually in professional development activities. But it is not sufficient to engage in activities merely for the purposes of renewing certification or checking off a requirement assigned by an administrator. Teachers and school leaders must ask the right questions about professional development.