Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Top Ten Ways to Take Your Classroom from Good to Great

Last summer, as I was planning out my classroom layout for the year, I realized that I wanted to model my teaching style off of good business leadership. After all, a great classroom is like a creative business. What do creatives do for a living? They learn things at an impressive rate, they produce content, and they share with as large a market as they can. Students in a great classroom do the same thing. They learn impressively, they create content, and they share with as large of a market as possible. Because of this, I’ve been trolling business leadership blogs and sites for teaching ideas. I came across this article by Peter Economy The Leadership Guy, @bizzwriter at Inc. online, Top 10 Ways to Take Your Leadership From Good to Great. I thought that I’d take all ten ideas and apply them to my class.

So often, as a profession, we treat our students as though they’re less than us. Sure, we know more than them, and we have the tools they need to advance, but they’re people too. I’m not always perfect at it, but I try to see my students as small coworkers, and myself as the project manager. Sure I need to keep them moving on the project, but we all work in the same office. If you click back to Peter’s original article, you’ll see that I’ve made very few changes. At first that made me a little nervous. Am I publishing my own ideas here? But with Peter’s blessing, and some more thought, I think that just highlights my point even more. Enjoy:

1. Create a culture that is open, trusting, and fun
Be sure to do what you say you are going to do, and to be honest and open with everyone. Encourage your students to make suggestions, to try new approaches to old problems, and to take risks. If someone makes a mistake, encourage your students to learn from it rather than punishing them.

2. Take the time to meet with and listen to your students
Don't put a limit on these meetings--engage your students as much as they want or need.

3. Personally thank students for doing a good job
Catch kids doing things right, and thank them for their good work. Thank them often, in a timely way, and sincerely--one on one, in writing, or both.

4. Teach your students how your classroom succeeds and fails
Ensure that your students know how what they do in class makes for a successful year, and how they have an effect on how the classroom looks when people have a negative opinion. Encourage your students to do more of the former and less of the latter.

5. Involve your students in decisions
When you involve your students in decisions that have a direct effect on them or their classroom, you will gain their commitment to the resulting solutions.

6. Provide students with a sense of ownership in their work
When your students feel like owners, they will act like owners. Ownership can be symbolic and simple (for example, giving students business cards), or it can be very real by providing employees with opportunities to earn rewards, extra responsibilities, and choices.

7. Provide your class with feedback
Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Make feedback on the performance of your students specific and frequent, and then support them in improving it.

8. Reward and promote high performers
Be sure you know who your high performers are, and then reward them for their high performance.

9. Train and encourage those who need help
Every classroom has students who aren't performing as well as their peers. Provide them with additional training, coaching, and attention until they are able to bring their performance up to standard--or above.

10. Celebrate successes
Take time to celebrate the success of your classroom, your class teams, and the individuals within it. Be fresh and innovative with your ideas, and make it fun and inspiring.

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