Sunday, March 5, 2017

Classroom Control - Building Rapport With Secondary Students to Avoid A ...

An out-of-control class is a nightmare!  I've had several throughout my career. So, how can you reclaim your sanity; or at least have more positive days than negative days? 
I created this video in response to a video meme by BoredTeachers and Nicholas Ferroni.  The video made me laugh, however, as I scrolled through the Facebook comments, I had noticed that the clip made other people uneasy.  I also noticed that were several people that had requested advice for how to deal with a situation similar to the meme. I responded in the comments, but then decided to create a response video after recalling my 5th-period class during my first year as a teacher. 

In the video, I share strategies that I've employed over the years to help me combat a disruptive class (as displayed in the Facebook meme).  If you have any questions, then please leave them in the comment section here or the video YouTube channel

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Teacher Interview - 5 Tips to Prepare for the Teacher Interview Process

This is the time of year when my district begins sending out emails concerning teacher summer school positions and school transfer opportunities.   Whether you're a novice or veteran teacher, it is always a great idea to prepare for an upcoming interview.   In this post, I share 5 tips - in video and writing - that you can immediately implement to help you toward your goal of obtaining a teaching position.  I share these teacher interview tips based on my expertise as a teacher and as a former district-level specialist and a high school campus assistant principal.
Want to fast forward? See the time stamps below the video.
Here are the time stamps to fast foward... (non-linked)
0:24  Tip #1: Devote time to learning about the campus
1:50  Tip #2: Speak about your experience in education
2:59  Tip #3: General classroom framework
4:05  Tip #4: Avoid the negativity
4:44  Tip #5: Highlight your strengths

Tip #1: Devote time to learning about the campus
If you've taken the time to apply to a campus, then you should also take some time to research information about it.  Some districts have a district-wide application process where individuals select campuses they're interested in rather than applying to the campus directly.  If you decided to select a bunch of campuses, then be prepared to spend some time researching each campus. 

I was always baffled with candidates that would show up for an interview and then confess to the committee that they knew nothing about the school.  Use Google (it's your friend) to find the campus website or other news about it.  Most campuses have general information such as who the current administrators are, the bell schedule, and news for parents. 

As stated in the video, you do not need to memorize every single detail; however, having some general knowledge about the school shows that you're at least interested in the possibility of becoming a member of the faculty. You also will not be caught off guard concerning certain facts if you're hired and show up on Day 1 of the job (such as the instructional time frame, demographics, school achievement status, etc.). 

Furthermore, researching information about the campus may provide insight to potential questions that the interviewer or committee might ask you. For example, if you notice the campus has a high ELL (English Language Learner) population, you could prepare yourself to receive potential questions about ELLs.  Moreover, that information may at least provide you with information to speak to about at another time during the interview (refer to Tip #5).

A few things to research (not a complete list):
- student demographics 
     --ethnicity vs targeted groups [ELLs, SpEd, GT, At-Risk, etc.]
- academic ratings 
     --state exams, AP scores, etc.
     --compare the data among student demographics (do you notice any trends)
- academic initiatives or programs
     --AVID campus, literacy (reading/writing) programs, interactive 
      notebooks, etc.
- instructional core
     --bell schedule (meet with students every day or every other day, the length 
        of classes, etc.)
     --common planning with PLC (content area team)
     --opportunities to attend professional development 
     --layout of the school or future classroom

Tip #2: Speak about your experience in education
Usually, the interview will begin with the interviewer/committee asking you to talk a little bit about yourself. This is a generic, yet open-ended question.  As I mentioned in the video, I recommend talking about your higher education experience and your teaching background.  You are not required to share personal information with the committee. In fact, this is where I have seen a lot of interviews go completely off the tracks because the candidate was too revealing in his or her personal life (sometimes on the verge of being inappropriate). 

If you stick to your own schooling and teaching experience, then very little can go wrong.  Keep it short, simple, and sweet.  Don't panic if you're looking for your first teaching job - speak to your student teaching experience and your enthusiasm to start your journey as an educator.  Share personal information only if you can connect it to your career as an educator. 

Tip #3: General classroom framework
Develop an idea of your instructional framework, policies and procedures, and classroom climate. Most teachers were taught to develop lesson plans using a specific model, for example, the 5E Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend, and Evaluate).  You could reference the 5E sequence, or another model, to talk about what an administrator might observe as s/he enters your classroom for an observation.  Highlight what the students, as well as yourself, are doing throughout a sample lesson (this will also help those that have to present a sample lesson during the interview).

If you're asked to talk about a weakness, then speak to something that many people struggle with.  For example, I sometimes participate in multiple campus-related events and spread myself thin. I have to continually remind myself that I cannot do it all.  However, in the process of sharing a "weakness", I have also spun it around to highlight an effective teacher characteristic - being a collaborative faculty member.  As a former administrator, I appreciated teachers that assisted the admin team or their colleagues in various ways. 

Here are a few sample questions:
  • Describe your teaching philosophy. 
  • How do you handle disruptive students?
  • You notice a student acting weird, possibly under-the-influence [of drugs or alcohol], describe how you would handle the situation.
  • Describe how you would work with a student that is not disruptive but disengaged from the learning in your classroom. 
  • Describe how you would work with a parent or guardian that has complained about your grading practices. 
  • Describe your idea of effective communication with parents and other staff members.
  • How do you maintain confidentiality between students?
  • Describe your thoughts on addressing equity in your classroom or within your department. 
  • What are some ideas that you have that would help close the achievement gap among students at the campus?
As discussed in the video, you can visit the description section in the YouTube video to download the Teacher Interview Checklist for additional questions and support. 

Tip #4: Avoid the negativity
If you had a troubling experience at a former or current campus, then it might be easy to fall into the trap of saying something that might be viewed as negative by the interviewer/committee. Try to remain neutral and as general as possible when replying to questions that might incite a negative response. For example, you might be asked to share a time when you and a colleague, or administrator, were in disagreement with one another.  You can speak in general terms regarding how you would resolve the disagreement. 

Tip #5: Highlight your strengths
Prior to going into any interview, develop a list of qualities and experiences that you believe make you the best candidate for the position. Whether you're given time at the end of the interview to share additional information, or ask questions, make sure to take a moment to highlight your strengths.  

If you did your homework (Tip #1), you might have learned some things about the campus that are aligned to your strengths.  For example, if you have experience working with English Language Learners (ELLs) and are interviewing at a campus with a large ELL population, then highlight that experience and any successful strategies during the interview.  Or if the campus is a 1-to-1 technology campus and you are a technological wiz, then talk about some of the innovative things you might use the technology for.

Don't throw buzzwords out during the interview for the sake of it; especially if you don't truly believe in or even execute the strategies.  For example, if you don't use word walls and have no interest in using word walls, then do not pretend to like them because you think that will get you bonus points during the interview.  Furthermore, if you are offered the position, then there might be an expectation that you follow through with the skills that you used to promote yourself during the interview process.  
Well, that's it! I hope you were able to take away at least 1 thing from this list (blog and/or video).  If you have a question about something you wish I would have spoken about, then make sure to a leave a comment.  

Thank you for taking time out of your day to stop by and Bond with James!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Teaching Strategy - Stop Writing Your Objectives Every Day!

Writing your teaching objectives each day, especially if you have multiple preps, takes away from other important tasks that you could be doing.  I share a quick teaching strategy that I use to save time and energy. 

If you don't have access to a poster maker, you can always write your teaching objectives on chart paper during a free period (e.g. winter or summer break). Laminate and save for future use! This teaching strategy has saved me so much time and has allowed me to focus on preparing for other daily activities. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Saturday Strategy: Anticipatory Guides

Here's an instructional strategy to help active your students prior knowledge. It also serves as a great pre-assessment tool to help inform your instruction over various concepts. This strategy may be adapted for all grade levels. 

Partial video transcript:
An anticipatory guide is a great way to activate prior knowledge for students. The way this works is, as you see here, this is an example, but I believe there are many different ways that you can do it. But the overall gist is that you give students this before they read a selected text that you've picked out. There are several statements. 

So, on this one, there six examples; some of them true, some of them false. They [students] just go through where it says your opinion and they check whether they agree with the statement or they disagree. 

Once they are finished, you give them a reading and they read through it, then they go back. And based on what they read, they will either tell me whether the reading agreed with their original opinion, or it disagreed with their original opinion. If it agreed, then they don't have to do anything. However, if the reading disagreed with their opinion, then they need to come to this little section right here, this little column, and they need to provide evidence in their own words to explain why the reading disagreed with them. 

Now, in the past, when I've done this before, they [students] would try to get out of this part by going back and trying to erase it. So what I have them do now, is I have them use either a pen, or marker, or colored pencil, and they have to color in, or shade it in. If, for example, they decide before they read something that they want to change, then they need to call me over and I will initial off so that way they can't go back and try to erase it. Initially that's what they would try to do when I first started doing it anticipatory guides - is that they wanted to get out of the work trying to find the evidence and they would try to go back and erase this. 

It's just a quick way for you to pre-assess your students to see what they know about a topic and then you can use that information to drive your instruction. So, that is an anticipatory guide. I hope you like it. If there's anything about this video that you liked, or resonated with you, make sure to LIKE, comment, or share the video. And if you haven't already subscribed, make sure to do that so that way you can "Bond with James". As always thanks for watching!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Stop Making Excuses! Podcast Interview

I had the opportunity to take part in a podcast interview with Fred and Sharon Jaravata at Teaching Bites as part of their Teacher-Author series.  I was their second interview in the series and I had a great time sharing my story. If you're interested in becoming a teacher-author - then this is for you! 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday Strategy: Counting Atoms for Interactive Notebooks (Overview)

The Counting Atoms for Interactive Notebooks is a FREE item in my store.  I wanted to take a few minutes to give a quick overview of how I utilize it in my classroom in case anyone had questions.  Feel free to leave a comment here or on the actual video. Start at the 0.15 second mark (as I had to use a filler for the Facebook LIVE intro to set up).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016