Classy is Behaving “Purposefully”

Before school the other day, I was called to the office to help with something or other. The bell rang while I was there. When I went to walk up to my room, it was a little late, and I was joined by one of my students who eats breakfast in the cafeteria. This student isn’t a fast walker, but he kept up with me as I quickly maneuvered between and past meanderers.

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Purposeful Writing: Students Provide Examples of Purposeful Behaviors

As I lead this student to walk faster than he would have, I thought about how I typically walk, and how that differs from most students. I walk purposefully. After the announcements and taking lunch count, I explained this to my class. To do something purposefully means to do it with a cause, meaning, or reason in mind. You have a purpose for doing it, and that goal drives you to act a certain way. Acting purposefully is classy.

“To an observer, it may simply look as though I walk speedily, but there is more to it than that,” I explained to my class. I was moving quickly in order to get to the classroom as soon as possible, because I wanted to see my students. It is common for me to walk quickly because I interpret moving from one location to another as down-time; unproductive time. “Finally,” I concluded, “I wanted to model for my breakfaster how one might maintain a pace that will enable him to have enough time to unpack, fill in his Assignment Book Page, and begin a morning work choice… all before the announcements.” They chuckled because the boy from my story is often seen finishing these tasks during my introductory lesson of the morning.

The antonym of purposefully would be “lazily” or behaving as though your task was meaningless. If teachers want well-behaved, classy kids, we will need to make sure that our lessons are full of meaning and purpose. Following this logic, it can be expected that a group of students performing a task that has no or little value, would not do it purposefully. Rote  repetition breeds misbehavior. By definition, repetition is UNthinkingly doing something over and over; like a machine. Give students something to think about, and you are giving them purpose.

Also, in order for this to work, students must comprehend the purpose of the task they are given. I constantly tell my students to sit up straight, but I give them several reasons, none of which contain the phrase, “Because I said so.” Did you know that standing straight, in addition to looking classy, promoting health, clearing airways, etc., actually makes you more “Powerful” (Cooper, 2013)? What kid doesn’t like that idea?! Even when I occasionally have my students practice something that might require repetition, I supply a reason that encourages them to try to improve upon the task with each successive attempt.

After explaining this concept to my class, I asked them to come up with their own examples of doing things purposefully. Discussion included brushing one’s teeth. You can just run the toothbrush over your teeth and use up enough time, so that your parents think you did a thorough job, or you can actually brush them in such a way that you relieve them of  debris and plaque. Gingivitis is a painful, expensive gum disease that 60% of 15-year-olds should have prevented, but didn’t (Dowshen, 2015).

A funny example that I related to was eating. There was a slight misunderstanding of purposeful activity when a girl suggested eating the right food. I re explained the concept of behaving purposefully, before telling the students that I often find myself so engrossed in my work that I don’t realize my hunger until I am famished. Then I get angry that I have to stop and consume some nutrients. It is irritating because, as an adult, I have to find food, which means putting my project on hold, going to a restaurant or store, finding what I want, paying for it… You get the idea! This takes up valuable time; The time is only as valuable as what it was being used for, however. It is important to participate in activities that have meaning, purpose, and hold value. When I finally have my food, I devour it like a Velociraptor.

I had my students write down their examples and draw pictures of someone behaving purposefully. They also drew a picture of what it would look like if someone performed the same task purposelessly. We had fun sharing those with each other to close the lesson.

Two things in closing: First, sometimes it is classy to walk slowly. The classiness comes from the reason for the behavior. It would not be classy to speed walk through a museum. This is a place where you should take your time to ponder artwork. You cannot do that quickly. Secondly, I am often struck by the paradox that I am supposedly a classy person, who writes rather sloppily on the dry erase board. Isn’t messy penmanship unclassy? Not necessarily. If my purpose was to model perfect handwriting, then, yes, my scrawl would be less than classy, to say the least. However, I am usually modeling taking notes, when I write on the board. I only write what I think students should take down in their spiral notebooks. The speed I use, which prohibits beautifully crafted letters, demonstrates what it is like to jot down ideas while listening. Along these lines, I rarely ever write complete sentences on the board. Parents often complain about their child’s penmanship. This is the last thing that I would focus on as a teacher. Why do doctors messily fill in prescriptions? Is it because that is what doctors do, or is it because they fill in a million, as long as the pharmacy can read it, it works, and their time is used better speaking with and looking at patients? So, parents, would you rather a creative composer, or a very neat transposer?

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Cooper, B. (2013, November 21). The Science Of Posture: Why Sitting Up Straight Makes You Happier And More Productive. Retrieved May 25, 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3021985/the-science-of-posture-why-sitting-up-straight-makes-you-happier-and-more-product

Dowshen, S., Dr. (Ed.). (2015, January). Taking Care of Your Teeth. Retrieved May 25, 2018, from https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/teeth.html

Restraint is Classy

I have class; I’ll pass.

I had a professor in college who taught a generic introductory counseling course. I’ve always remembered one lesson that he taught: “Do not overreact.” When a kid tells you something, don’t show your cognitive cards; hide your inner thoughts until you have all of the facts.

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The Captain of Class Models Calm-ness During Evacuation Drill

A kid tells you that another kid did something hideous; An unclassy person would jump to conclusions before all of the facts were gathered. It would not show class to start yelling or become accusatory. This would shut down the road of communication between you and the one sharing information. If you fly off the handle and begin bashing the behavior, the spicket of information will surely close and you won’t be able to effectively help the youth.

It is very possible that the kid telling you about his/her “friend” doing something inappropriate was in fact talking about him/herself. The student might just be feeling you out; What would my teacher’s reaction be if he/she learned I did this? I have had kids say they did outrageous things that they hadn’t, just to gage my reaction. If you don’t give them a reaction, they know that they can tell you anything.

One of the most common bad behaviors in elementary school that this could be applied to is stealing. When students come up to me and tell me about something that was “stolen”, my first reaction is to lessen the accusation. “Is it possible that the object is just lost?”

Student: “I just had my pencil on my desk; No, it was STOLEN!”

Me: “Could someone have thought that the pencil was theirs; Was the pencil unique to you? Would you be able to easily identify it?”

Student: “Oh, yes. I know my pencil!”

Me: “Before we begin accusing people of being thieves, lets just do one  more sweep of your work area; Also, we can ask your neighbors if they have seen a random pencil floating around.”

Student: (sometimes reluctantly, but usually calm) “Fine.”

Nine times out of ten, the object turns up having NOT been stolen. The pencil or other object was completely unidentifiable as THAT student’s, and someone else was using it. It is always a hoot when it is right on the floor under the student’s work area.

Some more examples:

Kid: “So and so kicked me”/Me: “Is it possible they were just swinging their feet, and they accidentallyScreen Shot 2018-04-08 at 11.38.36 PM touched you?”

Kid: “That person said something inappropriate. They said ‘hell’.”/Me: “You know, in some families and cultures, that isn’t a hugely awful expression…”

Kid: “My partner deleted my whole document!”/Me: “Do you think that he/she did it because they were mad at you, or is it possible that this was simply an accident?”

Find out the whole story, learn all of the facts, empathize with the rationale as best you can or is appropriate, then act. Throughout all of that, do not let emotions muddle your investigation. Also, don’t project your prejudices. You just found out someone did something considered very bad. Perhaps the person even confesses it to you. Do not even look alarmed. Pretend you hear this all of the time. Chances are, it happens all of the time, all over the place, whether you have experienced it, or not.

Out-of-the-Box Thinking Requires a Box

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The Captain of Class serves students salsa that was made in class.

It usually takes a few minutes for people to “get” the shirt that I am wearing in this picture. In my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to encourage plain old thinking. But, stick a box under it, and now we have something clever.

 

The SAMR Model presents a hierarchy for technology use in the classroom. To “Substitute” regular “oldschool” teaching methods with an iPad is the least creative way to use technology. Instead of typing on a typewriter, we use a computer that spits the document out of a printer. This is deep-inside-the-box-thinking.

There is minimal enhancement of learning when “Augmentation” occurs; Technology improves upon instruction through substitution in slightly creative ways. There is an App called “Tape Measure” that uses augmented reality to measure the lengths of items that you see on your iPad screen. This is pretty awesome tech, but you could just use a plain old tape measure. The thinking is feeling the walls of the box for weaknesses.

Transformation takes place through “Modification” and “Redefinition”. When an instructor redesigns a lesson with the use of technology, she “Modifies” the box of traditional teaching. It is like walking through C.S. Lewis’s wardrobe to a land of fantasy when kids use Nearpod.com to visit places around the world. Sitting at a desk, they can virtually hike mountains, explore Machu Picchu, and visit the Louvre.

The ultimate transformative activity technology can offer comes when “tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable” (SAMR, n.d.). This “Redefines” the box.

The SAMR model is great for understanding and evaluating technology use in the classroom, but I have found myself feeling badly if a lesson doesn’t “redefine” something. Creativity doesn’t work that way, though. In order for a sphere to stand out, there needs to be a collection of cubes surrounding it. You can only bend the rules if there are rules in the first place.  

Classroom management… This blog is supposed to have something to do with managing the classroom. The following image shows my class behaving outside of the box.

IMG_2333 I showed up to collect my students from physical education with Mrs. Krajcir, and told them to put their left foot on the black line. What happened cracked me up. My “Number 1” guy (They line up in number order.) did not see all of the out of the box-ness that was happening behind him! Originally, I snapped the shot to show everyone how classy Mr. One was, and plenty of people were shown. But, on further reflection, I am just as fond of the rest of my class for thinking/behaving so creatively. Look at their left feet. Nearly every single one is on the black line!!

Even though I love to have fun and fool around in class, teasing my students and kiddingly giving them all a hard time, I have very strict rules and guidelines. My expectations are extremely demanding. Just look at the leader of the line. That is the “box” everyone else is “Thinking outside of.” (Yeah, I ended with a preposition; Think outside the box;)

 

Kihn, M. (2005, June 1). “Outside the Box”: The Inside Story. Retrieved April 21, 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/53187/outside-box-inside-story

SAMR. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2018, from http://www.schrockguide.net/samr.html

Tape Measure. (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2018, from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tape-measure/id1271546805?mt=8

Instructional design/SAMR Model/What is the SAMR Model? (n.d.). Retrieved April 21, 2018, from https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Instructional_design/SAMR_Model/What_is_the_SAMR_Model%3F

When Hardly Working Is Classy

Working hard is not nearly as classy as being a “hard worker”.

Probably every teacher has seen a writing assignment where a kid has written the same phrase or sentence over and over in order to make his writing look longer. A shorter, better-written response is much more valuable. We have seen the student who writes numbers all over a math assignment, but clearly the kid has no idea what to do with them. These kids may be working hard, but what would be better is listening to instruction, studying, and following directions. Yes, it is harder to take fifteen minutes and really figure out a difficult problem.

You have to be a hard worker to want to do this. If you put on a show of toiling, but everything that you are doing is wrong or low-quality, you will end up working harder in the long run.

I have been using Google tools for a few years, but this year Google Forms has transformed my teaching. I feel like I had been the one working hard, and my teaching has turned into the classy hard worker for me. Through Google classroom I assign “quizzes” that I create in Google Forms. It took a little fooling around to get the forms just right, but some of my most recent quizzes have graded student work automatically, provided students with scores and explanations (I populated the quiz with these), inspired self reflection, and even taught data analysis. Let me explain the last two concepts: I have my quizzes programmed to allow students to see other students’ responses. When a kid finishes taking his quiz and “submits” it, he clicks on “see previous responses”. This provides pie graphs for each multiple choice question displaying the percentage of students’ choices. Also, it shows every written response, minus any names. In this way, students can weigh what they wrote against what they see their peers producing. This has greatly benefited all of my students. The hard workers are going crazy to outshine each other, and the struggling writers are reading exceptional paragraphs produced by peers. Parents can see all of this, too. They can assess their child’s standing in writing ability.

This principle can be applied to classroom management, also. Kids that work hard to impress the teacher, but goof around when they can get away with it are not classy. The kids whom the teacher can count on; the ones that may not work extra at getting attention, but do everything exceptionally; they’re the classy ones. More than quantity, quality has class. Would you rather half the class making shushing sounds to help quiet the class, or two kids who communicate to the rest that the faster they all quiet down the quicker they can get to recess. The hard workers don’t have to work hard. Their “hardly working” shows class.

“An Open Door to Class” 

When I first began teaching, I experienced a paradox of parental push and pull that almost killed my career. Teachers in the previous grade had allowed parents of my students to visit their classrooms almost daily to help with centers, management, and classroom activities. To make a long, painful story incredibly short, these parents were unhappy with how little I had them come in. They pushed me to have parties when I did not want to; Then visibly and audibly bad-mouthed me right inside my own classroom!

The next year, I did not do what you might have guessed. I went ahead and told my new parents that I was going to have an “Open-Door Policy”. One of the main complaints the year before was that parents felt like they did not know what was happening in the classroom. Now they would have as much access as they wanted. One of my families had moved to the school from out of state and really appreciated being able to walk in whenever she wanted to check on her daughter. I tried not to let on, but this was not a comfortable experience all of the time. I used joking and banter to shake off the nerves. 

A school shooting brought more and tighter security limiting my classroom’s “open door” on the following year. When parents were already in the building, helping with other classrooms, though, they would pop into my room to say “hi”. This has persisted, and I have grown to love the feeling of excitement that comes from the unexpected visits. It keeps me on my toes.

Looking back at that early time of my teaching, when I wrestled with having parents visit my classroom, I can admit that part of my reason for not wanting the visits was my insecurity. I was afraid the students would not listen to me. When I told my parents the next year that they could visit any time they pleased, I was telling myself, “this class better behave.” I was holding myself accountable. Each time a parent was in my room and it was a positive experience, it made me feel more and more secure in my behavior management. I came to realize that kids will not always behave perfectly when parents are around, but if I showed strength, understanding, and leadership it exuded security that parents and students alike respected.

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Today is a new era in “Open-Door-Ness”: Video Conferencing. Many teachers are video taping their lessons in order to flip their classrooms. What if, in addition to that, we live-streamed our rooms? Put a link on the classroom website for a Google Hangout that anyone who logs into the school district’s Google account can use to access a stream to the classroom. If a kid is sick, he/she can still be part of the class. That student can leave comments in Google docs, slideshows, and Google classroom. I have done this when I am out of school, sick for a day. When I assign an online activity, I can watch my students complete it and comment on their progress. They feel like I am there and love it.

This is more than just breaking down the walls; It is spreading the light of education into nooks and crannies.

Classy is Impressive

You tell a group of students that you want them to be “Classy.” What is this elusive character trait, and how can a teacher easily communicate it to kids?

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There is getting into line, and then there is…

My school district uses a standards-based grading system of one through four when it comes to communicating conceptual understanding. This is how I explain it to my students: If you do exactly what I ask on an assignment, just right, you get a three. This means you have completed the task satisfactorily. If there were some mistakes or the work makes it seem like you don’t fully understand the concept, you get a two. This means that there is room for improvement, which is okay, as long as you step it up and work at getting better. A one is when there are so many errors that it is obvious you are lost or not trying. You see that when the work screams, “Whoa! I need serious help and attention over here.” And then, there are fours. These are the gems that students earn when they have exceeded expectations. When a student follows the parameters of an assignment, and then some. I am not looking for a sixth paragraph tacked onto a five-paragraph essay. A four would be awarded to a student who included a quote from a notable expert on the topic and referenced the site where it was found.IMG_6173

Fine, Mr. Weimann, but what does this have to do with classroom management? Well, this rubric can be applied to every aspect of the students’ activity at school. In the same way that I will use these principles to grade an assignment, I can use them to grade the way in which a student completes the assignment.

Here is how I communicate what that fourth level of behavior looks like. Students have all played with playdough or clay before. What happens when you push a penny or any other object down onto some playdough? “It makes an indent,” a student answers. “Correct,” I reply, “But, what is that indent called? What is a vocabulary word for that; something synonymous?” There are some thoughtful ideas. With only the sound of “im-” several students complete the word, “impression”. The object makes an impression of itself onto the soft material.

Mrs. Hulmes teaches first grade at my school. When Mrs. Hulmes’s line of students exit their classroom they not only walk in a straight line without talking or touching, but they hold their hands behind their backs. Not one or two of the students, but every single one of them. And, not once in a while, but every single time they are in line, they do this. When there is a substitute for Mrs. Hulmes, her class lines up and moves from location to location this way. You can probably picture it in your head, while reading this text, but if you saw it in person, it would leave an impression on your mind that you would never forget. I have never seen a nicer looking line in my life. It is so classy.IMG_6178

To be classy is to be impressive. Students can sit on the carpet and listen to me while I explain this, and that might be a three. The students that are sitting up straight, making eye contact with me when possible, smiling, and raising their hands to either share connections or ask pertinent questions to deepen their’s and their peers’ understanding are impressing me. This is four behavior. That is classy, and I am their captain.

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“International Talk Like a Pirate Day” is Sept. 19th

From “Control” to Classy

Positive behavior management is the opposite of trying to keep your classroom “under control.” Attempting to rein in student misbehavior is more managerial than visionary. I think of the Stephen Covey’s story from “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: A manager is the person organizing groups of people cutting down trees in a forest. This person has flow charts and graphs. He has incentive programs and awards the hardest workers. The workers need people like this to motivate and corral effort so that things get done. But, there is one person who climbs the tallest tree before it is timbered. This person gets to the top and yells down to the managers and workers, alike, “Wrong forest!” This is the visionary, the true leader, the person who should be in charge.

I see positive behavior management as creating goals for performance that is lofty, idyllic, and visionary. This vision is extremely abstract for the third graders whom I teach. For that reason, I have adapted a word for it that is both elusive, but also seemingly tangible: “classy”. At the beginning of every year I discuss the school rules and classroom expectations with my students, just like every teacher. But then, I bring them from the typical everyday behavior that all students should practice into the clouds… “That normal niceness might ensure that you don’t get into trouble, but my students are much more than that: You are classy.” While a student may not be allowed to lay his head on his desk in another classroom, my classroom is filled with bodies that are sitting up straight, with shoulders back and heads up, because they are proud to be there, excited to learn, and


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 hard-working, listening students. That is classy. The best part about this philosophy is that it isn’t hard. Also, most teachers are and model classy behavior. Why not expect it from students? Why don’t teachers touch the walls, running their fingers along the tiles and lockers as they walk down the halls? Not because the principal told them not to; Not even because they don’t want to catch germs/sickness from collecting the dirt onto their fingertips (this is the general rationale); It is because it is “unclassy” to touch stuff that isn’t yours, period. I make nearly everything BIG PICTURE classy. I want my students to see the world from the tippedy top of the classiest tree. Don’t just identify the fact that we are cutting down the “wrong forest”; figure out which one is correct. Where are you heading? Perhaps getting to the top of the tallest tree shows you the ocean, beyond the woods. Maybe, you can finally view the moon and stars.

Covey, S. (2013). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (25th Anniversary Edition). Place of publication not identified: RosettaBooks.