The Four Rules of Praise

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It’s a warm mid-summer day in muddy Swynnerton, England. I’m at an army base for Summer Camp. I’m a 15-year-old army cadet.

The Territorial Army had some of their boys in to inspire and help us. They needed a cadet to help with the radio and signals work during night exercises. I can’t remember if I volunteered or if I was chosen, but I very quickly found myself listening in on the radio transmissions, recording the call signs and messages in the log book and taking action where needed to pass on vital information about group movements and conditions, along with any emergencies.

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I loved it. It was ace!

I just immersed myself in the process and did the best job I could. I was told what to do by the T.A. lads and I just got on with it.

Later that night, they all shook my hand and told me I had done a good job.

The next day came and I was approached by my home platoon sergeant. I can still remember her words, two decades later: “Corporal Rogers I’m hearing brilliant things about you from the T.A. Keep it up! You’re doing Flint Platoon proud”.

That felt amazing, and it spurred me on to work harder.

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Praise only works when it is used properly

The Army Cadets were an excellent model of good teaching. To be honest, I really think they turned my life around. I went from a shy, weak and rather timid boy to a confident and rather ambitious young man in the space of about three years, thanks to their help.

Giving feedback

I’m going to summarise what I’ve found to be the very best ways to use praise to empower and push our students forward. They worked for me when I was being taught as a kid, and they’ve worked for thousands of students that I’ve helped in my twelve years as a high school teacher.

Rule #1: Praise must be sincere

If you don’t mean it, then don’t say it. Kids are not easily tricked. Praise is only ever effective when the teacher saying the nice words of encouragement truly means it.

Rule #2: Praise must be specific

Does the student know exactly why they’ve done a great job? Does the student know what they did well?

Be specific. Here are some examples:

“Well done, John, for drawing your diagrams with a ruler. They look really neat and tidy, and I can tell that you’ve put time and effort into this work. I am very pleased. Keep it up”

“I’m so pleased with the excellent progress you have made this term, Rosie! Just look at these results: You’ve gone from a level 5 in test 1, then to a level 6 and now you’re working at a level 7. That’s very impressive, Thank you for your hard work and commitment”

Rule #3: Praise must be recorded and remembered by the teacher

Try keeping a professional intelligence journal.

woman-reading

I’ve written about the power of this technique before, but I’ll go through the process again for clarity.

Basically, at the start of every academic year you should purchase a new notebook. Make sure there are enough pages in it for every student. Every student gets a page.

On each page write down and record any significant interactions with the student. Record their birthdays, hobbies they have, times when they were praised, significant achievements in extra-curricular activities, etc.

Once this information has been recorded, it can be effectively reinforced (please see my post on subtle reinforcement for more info about this powerful technique).

Rule #4: Reinforce the praise at significant points in the future

Did you notice that my platoon sergeant praised me the next day? That was powerful, because she wasn’t actually there when I did the signals work, but someone had spoken with her.

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Praise must be collective if it is to be truly effective. When a student does a great piece of work, tell your colleagues and your line manager. Ask them to reinforce your praise by giving their own praise to the student.

Reinforcement should also be self-driven – remind your students of previous achievements in order to empower their momentum.

“I remember the excellent Chemistry student who built the atomic structure model in Term 1. She said ‘I’ll find a way to suspend the protons in the middle’. Jessica, you’ve already shown me what a hard-working, committed student you are. This is your moment to shine once again. Put your best effort into this, I believe in you. I know you can do this!”

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Can Sympathy and Empathy be Taught?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Today is a remarkable and unique day. The suspense and the emotion fills the air. It surrounds us. We can even taste it.

A daring and incredibly dangerous rescue mission has been given the green light to go ahead. Today is the day that Royal Thai Navy Seal divers will begin the attempt to rescue the 12 schoolboys and their 25-year-old coach who’ve been trapped in the Tham Luang cave complex, Chiang Rai, for two weeks.

Thai Cave Rescue
The boys and their coach inside the cave, accompanied by a Thai Navy Seal diver. Image courtesy of the Royal Thai Navy Seal Facebook page.

Being based in Bangkok, Thailand, I have a close association with Thai people from all walks of life. This event has truly gripped the nation, and the world.

Before I talk about today’s subject matter, I’d like to ask all of my readers to please join me and all Thai people by praying for the safe rescue of all 12 boys and their coach (and the safe return of the rescuers).

Humans are natural carers

This cave rescue in Thailand has given me a fresh perspective on the topic of empathy. It’s made me ask the question: do children really need to be taught how to care for one another?

The outpouring of help for these trapped boys and their coach has been truly inspirational. I won’t even begin to attempt to write a list of all of those who have helped because that list would be so huge it would take months, maybe years, to research and collate. But it has been remarkable. People from all over the world have literally sacrificed their time, money, health and energy to do everything possible to help these boys.

One man even sacrificed his life: Petty Officer Saman Gunan, who fell unconscious and died shortly after delivering oxygen tanks in the cave complex.

When times are at their worst, humans will do everything they can to help. Mr Saman Gunan is a true hero who selflessly did the best he could to help people who were in desperate need.

Surely this is our highest and most prized quality as humans – selflessness. Few people, however, are both incredibly brave and selfless, as Mr Gunan was.

He will forever be remembered, and missed.

Teaching kids to care

I personally believe that the vast majority of people are natural carers. We empathise naturally – it’s part of who we are.

Colorful classroom without student with board,books and globe - rendering

According to Samantha Rodman (Clinical Psychologist and Author), however, there are six keys ways in which we can teach kids empathy. This would seem important in a world where youngsters are being increasingly detached from physical interactions with one another by the barriers of mobile technology.

Materialism also doesn’t escape the jury’s verdict.

According to research conducted by psychologists at Northwestern University, materialism is socially destructive. It is associated with depression, anxiety and broken relationships.

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To further compound this issue a more startling picture of human empathy is portrayed by the research conducted by Sara H. Konrath and colleagues of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and published in Personality and Social Psychology Review. Her team conducted a 30-year study between 1979 and 2009 and discovered that Emphatic Concern and Perspective Talking is declining rapidly in college students. 

Maybe we do need to teach kids how to care, after all. 

So what are the six ways to teach empathy?

  1. Teach kids about emotions: Children need to know what emotions are, and how to identify them. Once kids have identified those emotions, they can then learn how to manage them. Progress in this area has been heavily fueled by the Mindfulness in Schools strategy, which teaches the importance of observing one’s thoughts and emotions, rather than reacting by reflex-action. Check out their website – it’s well worth a look!
  2. Read and watch TV with your children: I guess this could work in a parent-student, teacher-student and student-student dynamic. The key is to get the kids thinking about and discussing how the characters feel in different parts of the story. It still amazes me when I watch a movie in the cinema and people laugh when some character gets killed or something bad happens. Movies are strange entities because in some cases they play on human emotion positively by creating more empathy, but in some genres repeated watching can lead to desensitization. 
  3. After conflicts, have a reflection: This is a classic tried-and-tested technique, and it works well. “How do you think Sarah felt about what you said? How would you feel if someone said that about you?”. Getting young people to reflect on the emotional consequences of their actions can have profound, long-term effects on their character and personality.
  4. Set an example by resolving conflicts in your own life: Probably more applicable to parents than teachers, or teacher-parents, but well-worth mentioning. If you have an argument with your wife in front of your kids, for example, you must also make-up in front of them too. With your students in school, you could get them to shake hands after an argument and get them to say sorry to one another.
  5. Express feelings on behalf of those who cannot speak: Babies, pets and, in some cases, disabled people, cannot express their emotions verbally or through other means. Discuss with your students or children what the feelings of these individuals might be when the opportunity arises. 
  6. Be a good role-model of respect and decency: Show courtesy. Be respectful of people who have different opinions or beliefs than you do (unless those beliefs threaten life, health or safety – then you’ll have to take action in a sensible, emotionally-detached way). Let your students see you showing respect for those around you who may have a different religious belief system, or political opinion, than you do. It’s very sad to see politicians arguing on TV, for example, when they should show greater respect for one another. 

Conclusion

  • Research has shown that empathy is decreasing in young people
  • Materialism is associated with anxiety, depression and the breakdown of relationships
  • There is a case to be made for the rigorous and broad teaching of empathy to kids in schools
  • There are ways to deliberately teach empathy to children, and six have been identified here

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Digital Disaster: Screen Time is Destroying Childrens’ Health

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It was 1988. I was five-years-old.

I wasn’t a particularly ‘good’ kid in early primary school. I tried to follow instructions, but things didn’t really ‘click’ for me until later in life. One day, however, I must have been a good student because my teacher rewarded me by letting me use the computer.

I was led by hand to a small room adjacent to the classroom. Nestled in the corner on a wheely truck was a BBC Micro computer. It came complete with a huge floppy disk drive and some kind of touch-pad which I didn’t understand how to use.

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It all looked very high-tech and cool to me.

For thirty minutes I was allowed to play vocabulary and maths games. The black screen whirled with green text and pong balls as I tried to solve the problems. The bleeps and 8-bit sounds were awesome.

Later that year my family would buy a far-superior computer and a legendary gaming console – the Atari 520 ST.

If I was lucky I’d get an hour to play on that computer each day. The games were aimed at kids and the themes were vivid and colourful. The Atari machine taught me hand-eye coordination and the basics of using a mouse, floppy disk drive and operating a basic computer. I think it also made me a bit of a dreamer and aided my imagination.

Double Dragon
‘Double Dragon’ – A game I used to play on the Atari 520 ST back in 1988

My life back then was very-much centred on the outdoors. The Atari was a nice addition to my life, but I still preferred running though streams and burying my toy cars in the garden.

Fast Forward to 2018

I can’t believe that thirty whole years have passed since 1988. My generation has seen so much change in such a short space of time.

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Some technological developments over the past three decades have been revolutionary and beneficial to mankind. The creation of the mainstream internet in 1993, for example, opened peoples’ homes, libraries, offices and schools to a whole new era of possibilities and opportunities in learning, business, entertainment, communication, research and e-commerce. 

Along with this sudden treasure trove have come some shocking and extreme societal changes which pose new challenges for all of us. 

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Take a report published by the Telegraph this week, for example. The headline is enough to stun any parent or teacher: 

Children spend up to 10 hours a day ‘mindlessly swiping’ their mobiles, study finds

The article summarizes the findings of technological research into what young people actually do online. It’s thought to be the first time that technology has been used to analyse the mobile-device usage habits of children.

The findings are alarming:

  • Behavior is compulsive, with young people typically spending no longer than one-minute looking at any particular page of content before swiping to something else
  • Social media takes up hours and hours of teenagers’ free time
  • Children from ‘low-income’ households seem more prone to compulsive use of social media than others
  • Many children in the study admitted to falling asleep at night whilst on their phones
  • Many children admitted that they felt that their compulsions were “mindless” and “pointless”, but felt compelled to use their smartphones on a near-constant basis anyway because there’s a feeling of incompleteness or ‘losing out’ when the phone is not being checked.
  • Some children in the study felt the need to check their phones whilst actually being interviewed by the research panel

In many cases, children are spending up to 12 hours on their phones per day! Take this shocking example for instance (quoted from the Telegraph article):

Typical was Olympia, aged 17, who in one 24-hour period spent 3.3 hours on Snapchat, 2.5 hours on Instagram, 2 hours on Face Time, 2.4 hours on What’s App and 1.8 hours on Safari – a total of 12 hours.

But I thought that technology was good for kids!

As teachers, we’ve pinned our colours to the ‘Technology Troop’ so much that as soon as people start speaking up about the dangers of widespread and pervasive technological encroachment into peoples’ lives they are often shunned; sometimes disgraced and can be seen as ‘old-fashioned’ or not ‘with the times’.

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I once remember a fashionable post and picture from a friend on LinkedIn in which he said “When faced with a steam-rolling technology you either become part of the steam-roller, or part of the road”.

I remember thinking ‘How about you just move out of the way of the steam-roller’?

It didn’t take long before the reflex-action barrage of indignation was fired my way.

But the dangers of compulsive and widespread association with our mobile devices are real – very real:

  • A Dutch study involving 10,000 participants in Rotterdam concluded that smartphones are causing nearsightedness in children. This has also been backed up by studies and observations in Canada, America and Ireland.
  • The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health caused shockwaves in 2016 with the conclusion of its study: that smartphone and tablet use correlates strongly with obesity in teens. Similar findings have come from a number of respectable sources, including a massive, global joint study between Stanford University and the American National Institutes of Health which was concluded in 2015.
  • Sleep-deprivation is a common side-effect of smartphone and tablet addiction. Research from the Division of Cardiology at the University of California (San Francisco), for example, has found that the use of mobile devices near bedtime is connected with low-quality sleep. 

PC activity with mouse pen

Conclusion

As teachers and parents we are facing a global health crisis of epic proportions.

The dangers of excessive mobile-device usage are well-researched, fully-supported and very real. Also: ‘excessive’ has become the new ‘normal’.

If we do not take action now, when this problem is in it’s relative infancy, then who’s imagination can predict the problems that are waiting to manifest?

We must no longer subscribe to the notion that technology is amazing and that anyone who criticizes or questions its value in an educational setting is to be shunned or belittled. There are legitimate reasons for being concerned about the encroachment of screen time into childrens’ lives. 

Next week, I’ll be exploring ways in which adults can reduce the screen time of their children and students. We all must help. We all must take action now. 

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Don’t Be A ‘Mediocre’ Teacher

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

They stood at the front of the audience: seemingly ready to dazzle us all. They were all 18 years old and in the final term of high school. I was much younger then too – 26 years old and in my third year of teaching.

It was a Biology revision presentation. I’d invited my colleague to come along to watch (also a Biology teacher).

The presenters began their talk.

When it was over, I needed to take a paracetamol tablet. I was rather perplexed.

I let my colleague chirp in with some feedback first, thinking she would cover most of the points I wanted to raise.

“A great presentation. I loved the level of detail and research. Well done”

That was it?

studying with com

Now I found myself clenching my fist. I thought back to the late 90s when my dad received a ‘stress reliever’ doll one Christmas. It was basically a squishy, red, head-shaped rubbery thing in a pot that you could squeeze when you got a bit mad. It was joke gift of course: designed to cause a giggle or two; but I wished I had one right now.

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“Mr. Rogers. What are your thoughts?” Asks my colleague.

After a barrage of questions which the students responded to with nervous looks and blank stares, I decided to give my merciless, but honest, feedback:

“Whilst I agree with my colleague that your research skills were good, there are still a few issues I’d like to address.

I’ll start with the negatives, then share my thoughts on what, if anything, was positive. All of you were reading directly off the slides and not making eye-contact with the audience. We can all read, so your method of presentation was not only boring but it was also patronizing. There was too much text on each slide. The material had not been properly referenced and the images you did use, though few, were of very low quality. You also superficially skimmed the surface of the topic, and didn’t even touch on issues such as splicing, introns and transposable elements.

On the positive side, you showed us all that you are very good at copying and pasting. You were also able to describe some of the concepts in some detail.

Please speak with me tomorrow morning during registration so that we can arrange a time to do this again”

Giving feedback

The ‘respect’ factor

Unfortunately, many of us in the teaching profession have been conditioned to dish out praise all day long for the most minuscule of things. A kid hands in a complete dog’s dinner of a homework and it’s “Well done for handing this in on time. Meeting deadlines is important”. 

I could go on with the spectrum of ‘non-confrontational’, politically correct garbage that I was conditioned to spew for another 1000 words, but I think that would be tedious.

I used to be one of those ‘praise everything’ teachers. Guess what I found out:

  • Praise only works when it is sincere
  • Praise only works when it recognises significant, meaningful achievements that have taken some work to accomplish
  • Praise is extra effective when preceded (NOT followed by) points for improvement

And guess what else I’ve found out – students respect us more when we are honest. They respect us when we tell them that they need to improve. They respect us when we are vigilant.

Explaining

Lots of research supports these findings. Here are two good examples:

  • A 2016 summary by Vanderbilt University found that praise works well when it is behavior-specific, and that a ratio of 4 praise statements to one reprimand works well for improving performance (if 4 praise statements are available for the work being assessed). Here are some examples of language changes we can make to turn praise into a kind of ‘disguised reprimand’ or ‘behavior enforcer”:
BSP Vanderbilt
Behavior Specific Praise. Courtesy of Vanderbilt University, 2016. See the publication entitled ‘Behavior Specific Praise in the Classroom’. Tennessee Behavior Supports Project.

Whilst this table is useful, I think it’s important to remember that reprimands must be specific and direct. “We don’t take other people’s property, because that causes suffering to another person. When you’re older, you can also get into big trouble with the police for that. You’ll need to write a letter of apology to Simon for what you did.”

  • A 2015 blog post by Brian Gatens at the University of Portland made the point that when teachers show honesty and compassion, they build trust with their students. Compassion doesn’t mean making kids feel good all the time – it means letting them know when they’ve under-performed, and caring enough to do something about it! It also involves celebrating and recognising significant progress, performance and attainment.

‘Mediocre’ Versus ‘Vigilant’

Here are some statements I’ve come up with which sum up the ‘Mediocre’ teacher, versus the ‘Vigilant’ teacher. I don’t mean to offend anyone here – I was once the Mediocre Teacher. I share my findings as a means of self-reflection for all of us. I still get a bit ‘mediocre’ at times, but at least I’m aware of how to spot that now:

  • Mediocre teachers record attainment and progress. Vigilant teachers record attainment and progress, quickly identify under-performance and then intervene to improve that.
  • Mediocre teachers praise the smallest of things. Vigilant teachers reserve their praise for significant, meaningful displays of effort, attainment and progress.
  • Mediocre teachers sometimes bring up points for improvement with their students. Vigilant teachers leave ‘no stone unturned’, and relentlessly monitor their students’ weaknesses and do the best they can to improve those.
  • Mediocre teachers don’t feel the need to be a ‘role-model’ for their students. Vigilant teachers understand that their words, actions and subliminal cues will act as points of reference for their students for many years to come.
  • Mediocre teachers mark their students work. Vigilant teachers provide feedback that’s meaningful and specific. 

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Should We Set Homework for the Summer Vacation?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It won’t be long until our students (and us) will enjoy a long summer vacation. Sand, sea, sleep-ins and more time with the family. Sounds great!

sit n talk

In the UK, schools will close around mid-late July and reopen in early September. In America the summer holiday is much longer. Take New York, for example: Schools there will have their last day on June 26th, with students returning on September 5th. 

Some teachers and parents would say that young people need this summer vacation to rest, have fun and basically enjoy being a kid. Others would say it’s too long to be away from school work entirely, and some learning should still be taking place.

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I say that it all depends on the age and needs of the individual students. 

Start planning now!

During this article I hope to convince you that the summer vacation can be used to our advantage. Effective teachers have used the summer vacation for decades to act as a ‘buffer’ – a chance for slower students to catch up; for able, gifted and talented students to be pushed even more; and generally for getting a little more material covered so that the new academic year can start a little bit ahead. 

talk n walk

However, in order for me and you to effectively make use of the summer vacation (so that our students benefit), we must start planning now!

Case #1: The exam-preparation class

Let’s say that you’re taking a group of students through a two-year course (such as the IB Diploma, IGCSEs or ‘A’ – Levels). 

In an ideal scenario, those two years would be broken up as follows:

Year 1: Cover as much content as possible (at least 60% of the syllabus). Complete all coursework if the timetable permits.

Year 2: Finish off any remaining content. Allow as much time as possible for revision and past-paper practice.  

I believe that a good way to get our kids to be ahead of the game before Year 2 is to set them a significant piece of summer homework that is achievable, but not too onerous. 

I’ve found the following tasks to be effective (sometimes I combine them both together):

  • Provide a booklet of notes and questions covering a topic that the students haven’t studied yet. When they get back to school after the summer, collect the booklets in. Check those booklets to make sure they are completed. Peer assess them and provide a one-week condensed summary of the topic in your lessons. Keep a record of who has and hasn’t scored well on the content, and intervene where necessary (e.g. with some after-school classes).
  • Give students a test on a topic they learned over the summer. Provide notes for the students to revise from. Analyse the grades and help out any students who haven’t performed well.

When both of these techniques are combined together powerful and deep learning can take place over the summer. This can give our students a head-start in Year 2, giving them more time to do revision and past-papers. 

card games

Case #2: Able, Gifted and Talented Students

These are students who we really want to push and encourage.

The summer vacation is a long-time to be away from formal education, and we don’t want these students to lose momentum or interest.

I’ve found that project work is particularly useful for these types of students. I usually set work based on the following procedure:

  • Find out what the student is really interested in. What does she have a passion for? (For example: hip hop dancing)
  • Think of ways that you can link your subject area to the student’s area of interest (For example: A project about vector mathematics as a model for the movement of a hip hop dancer during a routine)
  • Discuss the project with the student. Make sure it’s relevant and deep. Ask the student to come up with ways to process the information and present the final output. Perhaps a stop-motion animation will work well. Maybe the student prefers to do a performance. Maybe a project portfolio will work well.
  • Offer some kind of significant reward and recognition for the effort. Discuss the benefits (e.g. how this project will improve subject knowledge in a particular area). Speak with senior management about any material rewards that can be given (e.g. book tokens, medals, certificates or a trophy).
  • Follow through and keep our promises: We must make sure that we honour our promises to these students. If we’ve promised a medal, then we must damn well make sure that the kid gets a medal. If we’ve set the work, then we must fulfill our professional duty by giving feedback. 

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Case #3: Students who are falling behind

I’ve reached a stage in my career now where I just cannot allow poor performance to go unnoticed or unchallenged. It just bugs me too much.

For kids who haven’t been performing well, a good sit-down and chat with the students and their parents is an absolute essential before the summer, in my honest opinion.

Let’s say that you’ve had a biology student for one year and she just didn’t understand cells, human body systems and plant reproduction. Let’s say that this student failed all three tests for these topics.

If this student has not been given the opportunity to re-sit tests in these topics throughout the academic year, then it is our duty, I believe, to ensure that this material is covered over the summer. The student will have more time and, provided that the parents are aware and involved too, this should result in regular, productive revision and an increase in subject knowledge.

out-of-control

I’ve found the following techniques to work well for students who are falling behind:

  • Analyse the assessment data for the whole academic year. Identify the area or areas in which the student is performing poorly.
  • Look through all of the student’s work that you have to-hand. Is there any particular method or output that the student is really good at (e.g. website creation, drawing diagrams, making infographics, etc)?
  • Meet with the student and his/her parents. Discuss a way forward over the summer that involves the student completing meaningful work on the topics of weakness through an output that appeals to the student’s preferred learning style.
  • Check that the quantity of work is neither too much, nor too little
  • Decide on a way to assess the work

When planned properly, our summer holidays can become times when our under-performing students really turn their lives around and gain a renewed sense of purpose and confidence. 

Conclusion

Schools not ‘out for summer’ (sorry).

The summer vacation offers a powerful way for us all to push our students forward, allow our students to cover extra material and address weaknesses for those students who are struggling. 

This all involves some planning, though. 

I don’t know about you, but when my students break up for the summer in one month’s time, I’ll be ready. I’ll have had my conversations with parents, kids and SLT and my students will know exactly what to do in the months approaching the new academic year.

We owe them that. 

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Subtle Reinforcement: Techniques to Gradually Build Confidence and Character in our Students

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

He pulled me aside at the end of class as we were getting ready to go home. I had tremendous respect for my sensei, and his words, though few, always hit-home hard.

“You a look a mess, Richard. Why isn’t your gi ironed”

“My mum didn’t have time to iron it today”

“Your mum shouldn’t have to iron it for you. What are you: a man or a weasel? Take responsibility for your own life. Iron your own flippin’ gi and make sure you look tidy next lesson!”

A ‘gi’ is a karate suit, just in case you didn’t know. It’s made typically of heavy cotton drill and it’s plain white. Easy to get dirty; hard to clean. Even harder to iron.

But I wanted to win my sensei’s approval. I wanted to ‘be a man’ and take responsibility for my own karate, my own personal dress and personal presentation.

box seats

Short conversations

It’s funny when I think about it now, but that short conversation with my sensei totally changed my life. It felt like I’d gone down a peg or two in his sight and opinion.

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I worked harder than ever before to train and to be the ‘perfect’ student: My gi was freshly washed and ironed every time (I asked my mum not to help – I was 11 years old and my sensei wanted me to ‘man up’). 

Years later, when I went to a local karate shop to buy a new karate suit, I happened to bump into my old sensei there that same day. 

“Richard, it’s flippin’ great to see you!”

“Me too, how you doing”

“I’m good. You still training?”

“Yeah I joined a Shotokan Club at uni”

“That’s flippin’ great. You know, I remember the kid who didn’t iron his gi and was very clumsy. Remember that conversation we had in the changing rooms that day?”

“Wow! Yes, sure. I remember you telling me off”

“Haha, yes. Well, I noticed a massive difference in you after that day. I was sorry to lose you when you left for uni – you were the best brown belt in the dojo”

Wow!!!

Clay class

That felt good. The fact that my old sensei remembered me, and remembered our conversation. That he genuinely took an interest in me – that was inspirational.

It reminded me of who I was, which brings me to my first tip of Subtle Reinforcement.

Subtle reinforcement tip 1: Remind your students of who they are

This is different to reminding students of their achievements – it involves reminding students of their character.

As an NQT I was full of enthusiasm, as we all are. I wanted to change the world ‘one student at a time’.

Suddenly, my chance came like a clap of thunder.

Walking down the corridor one day I passed one of my Science students. He was looking very depressed, and divulged to me that his girlfriend had just dumped him.

High five

“John, I know how you’re feeling right now. Trust me, I’ve been there. But see this as your baptism by fire. This is the moment where you realise how strong you are. This is the moment where you gain back control and focus on what you’ve been letting slide in your life. It’s her loss and your gain – now you have more time to perfect your BMX biking and become the best geographer in the whole school”

We part as men – his fist punches mine in a sign of solidarity. The lighting begins to fork in his soul. Already his mind is tuned in to my words. Already he starts to fight back.

He comes to class extra early, and gives 110% to each lesson. There’s a renewed respect for me as his teacher – he knows that I actually care. 

Five months later his final exams are approaching and he’s getting stressed out. I ask him how his revision is going.

“To be honest, sir, it’s going badly. I’m just so stressed with it all”

To which I reciprocate: “I remember the man who who didn’t let life beat him down when his girlfriend decided to walk away. I remember the man who achieved grade As and Bs across the board and impressed everyone in school with his complete turnaround.”

Then I lower my voice.

“I remember the man who came second place in the BMX  showdown at Westminster Park” 

“You know about that?”

“Your mum told me”

He walks away trying his best to hide a grin that cannot be hidden. He remembers who he is. He remembers how all it took was a change of focus to create vastly different results in his life.

He went on to get 96% in his End of Year Science exam: the highest in his year group.

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Reminding our students of who they are renews their faith in themselves. This can have a dramatic impact on their lives.

Subtle Reinforcement tip 2: Remind your students of their skills and achievements

We sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the skills and achievements that students display outside of our subject areas are not relevant to us.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Benjamin was struggling in Science class. He found experimental work difficult because his fine motor skills were limited. His Special Educational Needs also affected his retention of written information in class. 

I started an ECA at school one year – website design. It was a very simple and easy ECA – the kids picked topics they loved and basically made websites about them. Each week they would update their content and share what they had done with the group.

Benjamin signed up for that ECA and absolutely took to it like a duck to water. I was actually quite surprised – his website was by far the best in the class. He just happened to have a ‘knack’ for it. 

Chapter 5 - drones and hacking

After the Christmas break I gave Benjamin a unique task:

“Benjamin – you are now my class Online Learning Chief. This is an important responsibility which I have not handed out lightly”

“Wow. Me? Why?”

“Because you are brilliant at web design. I’ve seen your great images on your site. I remember your portfolio of Minecraft tactics that you wrote in such a comprehensive way. From now on, I want you to do all of your homework online. When you’ve built up your website to a sufficient quantity, we’ll share it with the rest of the class as a revision resource. Deal?”

“Wow. Deal”

I follow through. For once in his school life, Benjamin actually gets recognised for something valuable. This wasn’t a participation medal for turning up on Sports Day. This was recognition of something significant that Benjamin actually possesses.

He goes on to raise his achievement by two grades that year – from an E to a C. This amounts to his biggest step-up in progress he has made in school, ever. 

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By reminding our students of their skills and achievements, we offer them solutions to daily problems. In a similar mission to that of differentiation, we aim to inspire the inner genius through methods that appeal to each student’s learning style.

Subtle Reinforcement Tip 3: Take the time to discuss progress

A quick two minute chat is all it takes. Bring the student to your computer and show him his grades for the year thus far.

Use this to congratulate or to offer advice for improvement.

This shows each student that you are ‘on the ball’: that you are alert to their progress and that you care about their grades. 

This approach is guaranteed to have positive outcomes, if dealt with in the mood of ‘passing on information’ rather than dishing out criticism. 

Subtle Reinforcement Tip 4: Be the person you want your students to be

This is the part of the article where I must try my best not to sound like a patronizing ignoramus. I’ll have a go.

Kids notice things about us. 

They notice the things we do, the way we look and the things we say, even when not spoken directly to the students who are listening.

Drawing upon our own life experiences can be a great way to get our students focussed on the right path.

The Science teacher who pulls out his vitamin box to show the students his daily supplementation for good health – this teacher is ‘living’ the subject. 

The maths teacher who takes part in World Maths Day along with the students shows that maths is fun – not just something for kids to do.

The P.E. teacher who genuinely stays in shape by hitting the gym a few times per week sets an excellent example for her students to follow, and respect. 

I want the very best for my students, but if my mouth is saying one thing whilst I do the exact opposite then I’ll end up becoming a laughing stock. 

That’s not a good place to be.

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Student Reinforcement Tip 5: Be there when they need you to be there

My IB Chemistry students were an amazing cohort of hard-working individuals. 

They needed my help a lot though.

It was not uncommon for random students to turn up at my room at lunch times and after school to seek help with questions, homework and coursework.

I could have chosen the easy option and made myself unavailable – I would certainly have gained more time and less work that way. But what’s the point in living like that?

I wanted my students to do well. I was happy to help when I could. 

There was a limit, of course, and they knew that. I wasn’t prepared to stay all night and help them – I had a life of my own too. But I was prepared to stay for a significant and suitable amount of time to help them out when needed.

The results were profound – they worked harder, enjoyed the subject more and made better progress. 

To be honest, I also felt a sense of satisfaction too. To me that’s the best reward of teaching – the knowledge that you’ve touched someone else’s heart. The knowledge that you’ve really made a difference. 

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The Effective Use of Detentions

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names and, in some
instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’
privacy.

He opened his laptop and started playing around, again. I hadn’t quite noticed until I’d gotten the rest of this Year 7 class to get their books open and start completing the questions that were on the whiteboard.

It took a good five minutes for them all to settle down.

They’d just been learning about the human body in the best way I could think of: They took apart a life-sized model of a human female (filled with plastic, life-sized organs) and completely rebuilt it.

It had gotten them quite excited; especially the boys, who thought that the mammary glands inside a female breast were completely hilarious!

The class then had to cut and stick a paper human body together – organs included. But he was taking too long.

mess around in class

Christopher was a happy and talkative kid, but his work-rate was slow. On two occasions that lesson I walked over to his desk to help out and remind him to speed up, as everyone else was ahead of where he was. He should have been able to get that work done quickly. He had no Special Educational Needs and his English proficiency had increased so much in three months that he had graduated from the E.L.D. programme.

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The only thing slowing him down was his chattiness.

I should have moved him sooner in the lesson – my mistake. 15  minutes before the end of the class I moved him to the front to sit next to me, where he couldn’t chat with friends and be distracted.

It wasn’t enough time.

I pondered the idea of giving him a detention. Break-time was straight after this lesson, so it would be easy for me to keep him behind for ten minutes to get that work done. 

The concept and purpose of detentions

Before we can fully understand how to use detentions effectively, we must first remind ourselves of what detentions are and, therefore, what their purpose should be. 

A detention is a period of time that is purposefully taken away from a student’s extra-curricular or non-curricular time. It may involve a teacher-supervised activity during a morning break, lunch or after school. 

Detentions are given to students for a wide-variety of reasons; some of which are more logical than others. Reasons for detentions (starting with the most logical and useful) can include:

  • Failure to complete homework or classwork
  • Poor attendance
  • Persistent lateness/lack of punctuality
  • Disruption to class activities through poor behaviour
  • Receiving a certain, set number of ‘warnings’ or ‘demerits’

Christopher’s case as an example to follow

The most logical and useful way to use detentions is time-for-time: time not spent completing homework or classwork should be compensated by time spent on detention.

Colorful classroom without student with board,books and globe - rendering

In Christopher’s case I decided to give the break-time detention. Here are the reasons for my choice:

  1. The Science lesson ended at break-time, so it was convenient for me to keep him behind in my class (I didn’t have the problem of, say, giving him a lunchtime detention for the next day and then having to remember that he is coming and maybe chase him up if he doesn’t come along). 
  2. Christopher would be exchanging his breaktime for time spent completing his classwork. He must do this, as he will fall behind if he doesn’t.
  3. The detention serves as a reinforcement of the teacher’s authority, and a stern reminder that a poor work-ethic just won’t be tolerated. It turns out that after only two such break-time detentions, Christopher pulled up his socks and began working at a reasonable pace during lessons. 

General tips for detentions that will save you many problems

Every detention must attempt to address or solve the problem that it was given for.

Consider the following:

  • Detentions eat up the teacher’s time as well as the students, so we really should only be giving out detentions when it is absolutely necessary (as in Christopher’s case above)
  • For homework that’s not done on time: call the perpetrating student or students to your desk for a quick one-to-one discussion at the end of class, or during a class activity. Express your disappointment, and why meeting deadlines is important. Relate it to the world of work, for example “If I didn’t write your reports on time, what would happen to me? That’s right, I’d be in big trouble”. Allow the students an extra day or so to get the work done. No need for conflict, no need to spend your precious lunch time giving a detention.
  • If students still don’t hand in the homework even after extending a deadline, then it is necessary to give a detention. CRUCIALLY, however, the purpose of the detention MUST be to complete that homework. Print the sheet again if necessary, provide the necessary resources and get the student to complete the work. This makes the detention less confrontational and reinforces the reason why it was given in the first place. 
  • The same goes for classwork: give students the chance to take their books home and complete classwork if it isn’t done on-time in class. Persistent slow work-rates in class, if not caused by reasonable circumstances (such as Special Educational Needs), should be met with detentions that allow the student to catch up. In almost every case you’ll find that the students will cotton-on to the fact that they can’t get away with distraction and laziness in class, and they’ll soon improve. For those that don’t improve even after focused detentions, further action will be needed and may involve parents and senior/middle management. 
  • For poor behaviour, detentions need to be planned and crafted really well. Remember: the detention should attempt to address or solve the problem that it was given for. I remember a couple of years back when two boys got involved in a bit of a scuffle in the science lab. It wasn’t anything major, but one kid said a nasty word to the other and that kid decided to punch his mate in the arm quite hard. As a Science Teacher, this is something I must absolutely nip-in-the-bud because safety in the lab is paramount, and kids just can’t scuffle or fight in there: period. I gave them both a detention for the next day at 1pm. They came, and I spent the time explaining to them why their behavior was unacceptable. They wrote letters of apology to me and each other, and left the detention understanding exactly why I had taken their time away from them. I didn’t have a problem with them again.
  • Lessons that end at break times work well for giving detentions if necessary, as you can easily retain the students when the bell rings. If you do assign detentions for the next day or at a later time, then pencil those into your diary – this will serve both as a useful reminder and as a record of who’ve you’ve given detentions to and how often. 

Recurring work 

I’m a massive believer in the power of recurring work and journaling, and have written about it in detail here and here

Learning journals are just great for giving regular recurring feedback and for consolidating and reviewing cumulative knowledge gained throughout an academic year. But did you know that Learning Journals save you many a supervised detention too?

Many schools provide homework timetables for students and teachers to follow. With the very best of intentions, these timetables aim to distribute student and teacher workload evenly and fairly. However, they can prove difficult to follow when units include different intensities of work, and when school events get in the way.

That’s where Learning Journals come in!reading

Set Learning Journals as homework each week. The basic idea is that students buy their own notebook and fill it with colorful revision notes on a weekly basis (although they can be done online too: through Google Sites, for example). Perhaps your Year 10 class could hand-in their learning journals in every Wednesday, and collect them from you (with feedback written inside, see the articles cited above) every Friday. By setting up a register of collection that the students sign, you can easily see who hasn’t handed in their journal that week.

Then……follow the guidelines given above for dealing with late or un-submitted homework. You’ll find that after a few weeks of initiating Learning Journals you’ll get a near 100% hand-in rate, because the students are really clear about what is expected each week, because it is a recurring homework. 

Whole school considerations

Many schools adopt a popular (but massively problematic) ‘mass-detention’ system of some sort, which works something like this:

  1. The student receives the requisite number of ‘warnings’ in a particular lesson which lead to a break or lunch time detention being given
  2. The student is sent to a room with other students from the school who’ve also received detentions
  3. Teachers supervise the ‘detention room’ on a rotating basis, thereby (in theory), sharing the workload across the staff body
  4. The students are given generic tasks to do during the detention time, which may include filling in a form, completing homework or in the very worst cases just sitting still and being quiet for twenty minutes or so.

The problem with systems like this is that they are not personal to the students receiving the detentions. They do not follow the ‘golden rule’: that detentions should address or solve the problem that they were given for.

What’s much more effective in the long-term is to trust individual teachers to administer their own detentions. Perhaps provide a quick training session based on good practice (feel free to use this article if you wish), and allow the teachers to then use their judgement to decide when and how detentions should be given.

Conclusion

Student detentions are only effective when they have the ‘personal touch’. When detentions address the original issue by allowing more time to complete homework or classwork, or allow for a one-on-one discussion about behaviour, the following magical things happen:

  • The detention is given from a standpoint of care and concern, not confrontation and aggression
  • Students realise the reason why the detention was given as this reason is reinforced by the activities given during the time of the detention
  • Students improve. It’s that simple. Mass detention systems rarely work because they don’t pinpoint the personal reasons behind why the student is under-performing. Detentions with the ‘personal touch’ cause students to realise their errors and most, if not all, will improve in a short space of time. 

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The ‘Care Factor’: Changing Lives One Student at a Time

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

They were each given a stack of small cards as they entered the classroom. Each set was unique. No two students had the same stack of cards.

The kids were intrigued.

with-ukedchatAttached to the classroom walls were ten large diagrams of different human body systems – the digestive system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system and so on.

The kids had to stick their cards to the diagrams to effectively label the different organs.

Some cards had names, some had descriptions.

It was a lot of fun. The kids were moving, talking about the work and learning new things just by doing this activity.

Following this the students played some learning games, completed a textbook question and ended the lesson with a ‘Think, Pair, Share’ plenary activity. 

Some would say that this was a great lesson. But why?

alphabetic mat

The push protocol

Is a grade D an acceptable grade for any student?

Keep that question in mind for a minute or so.

A 2013 study by researchers at the University of California found that increased student engagement and excitement in class can, actually, lead to less effort being put into assignments and homework. In striking and surprising addition to this, increased engagement within lessons did not lead to increased results on tests and assessments. 

This study is corroborated by what I’ve found time and time again: that singing, dancing and keeping the kids entertained is just not enough (but we need to do it anyway, because it still serves an important purpose).

Teacher’s in Western pedagogical systems have unfortunately been conditioned to believe the following:

  1. That as long as the kids are engaged, well-behaved and enjoying the lesson then that’s all that matters (especially for a formal observation)
  2. That progress, not attainment, is the defining factor in a child’s success and the benchmark against which teacher-quality should be assessed. If a 16 year-old student, for example, has achieved a grade E in Term 1, and then gets a D in Term 2, then good progress has been made.

In fact, what I’ve found is that active engagement strategies coupled with effective and regular feedback and coaching/mentoring are the ingredients needed to push students to achieve top grades. 

Relentless vigilance

So for that kid who’s not on the S.E.N. register and who’s not operating with English as a second language: is moving from an E to a D in one term in the final year of IGCSE studies really acceptable?

box seats

We often try to quantify predicted grades with ‘intelligence tests’ too, such as ALIS, CAT4 and CHEM. Certainly, if a student is achieving lower than their predicted score from these tests, then that is a cause for concern. But what if a student is meeting their target: is that enough?

In my honest opinion, we can all get students to exceed their targets by genuinely showing our care for them through Relentless Vigilance. But what is that?

Imagine the kid who rushes a homework and hands in an incomplete mess, when normally he hands in good stuff. Do we let it go with just a low grade and brush it off as a ‘one-off’, or do we take more action?

How about the kid who consistently scores poorly on tests for no apparent reason? Do we just record the grades, spot any minimal progress the student might be making and leave it at that? Do we consign ourselves to the belief that’s “She’s just a low achiever”, and leave it there?

The answer to all of this is that student achievement should bug us so much that we simply cannot allow or accept poor achievement to take place at all.

Continent Investigation

Relentless Vigilance is when we follow everything up. The messy homework? – a one-on-one conversation and the chance to do it again is appropriate. If we allow the mess to happen once, then it’ll happen again. 

The kid who consistently scores poorly on tests – set up an intervention strategy. Maybe get the student to keep a learning journal every week, so that he or she absolutely must revise for the tests. Set up a weekly meeting with him to record progress and discuss learning. Set differentiated work that matches the child’s learning style (but don’t spend an unreasonable amount of time on this). Find out what his or her learning style actually is. Explain the importance of regular revision. Get the student to e-mail a paragraph to you every day to describe what they’ve revised in their own time and at home.

Professional Intelligence and The Care Factor

I’ve written about professional intelligence before but I believe its power requires a second mention.

I’ll illustrate its use with a true story.

Just the other week one of my students came to see me to show me a video of her dancing in a local dance competition. She described the people there, how long she had trained and the upcoming competitions and her future goals. I asked her questions about the whole thing. I was genuinely interested.

studying with com

Now you might be thinking “Okay, so what the hell does that have to do with her attainment in Chemistry”. Answer: everything!

  1. Why did she come to show me the video? – She saw me as an approachable teacher. She likes me. She wanted a sense of validation through praise from someone she respected (whether consciously or unconsciously). She wanted to share a life experience, and her goals for the future.
  2. How does this help with her attainment? – I have written her achievement in my Professional Intelligence Journal  – a catalogue of all of the professional things I learn about my students. In a few weeks time I’ll ask her about her dancing, using vocabulary that is specific to her context. I may even be able to use her interest in dancing in a future science lesson (e.g. by delivering a lesson on forces and motion acting on a break-dancer).

What does this all boil-down to in the end?:

Students perform well in subjects in which they like the teacher, and in which the teacher genuinely likes them and enjoys teaching them. Students respect a teacher who follows things up, provides regular feedback and is genuinely and profoundly concerned abut their future welfare and success. 

Stories personal to me

Two tales that illustrate the above emboldened proverb (okay, that’s a generous self-appraisal ;-D ):

My mathematics teacher in high school – Strict as hell and scared the living daylights out of anyone who dared to disrespect him. Excellent teacher. Gave clear and concise lessons each time, marked work quickly and spoke with you face-to-face if there was an issue. Most of his students got A’s and A*s.

Me at 22 years old – I was at a high school reunion and I boyishly wanted to tell my old teachers about my success in getting my degree and being accepted onto a PGCE course. Even in my early adulthood I was seeking validation from people who I knew would care, would listen, who I respected and, at least in my imagination, would be proud of me. 

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Actually Giving a Damn: The ONLY Thing That Matters?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names and, in some
instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’
privacy.

The aroma of coffee did little to awake the senses. For a sleepy NQT who was in his first week back at school after the Easter vacation the old routines were a sharp shock the system.

“I’ve got 9Q this morning” – pipes in one colleague.

“Don’t expect much outta them. You might as well bang your head against a brick wall for an hour.”

I stayed quiet – always the best policy in a moaning-match like this. But my silence was justified by another undercurrent.

poll everywhere

The ‘care’ factor

Surprisingly, I’d been doing really well with 9Q. Granted: they were a bit noisy and couldn’t sit still for more than ten minutes (most of them, anyway). But I liked their energy – I saw their youthful vitality as something to draw upon.

“Mr. Rogers” shouts John in a funny voice

“Your tie looks like human vomit”

To which I laughed and replied  – “Well done for bringing Biology into our lesson today”, to which there were giggles from the whole class. 

After that the class did a cut-and-stick activity on chemical reactions, and when we peer-assessed the task I said “Guess what – you’ll find a lot of carbon and hydrogen atoms in human vomit, so once again I thank John for his intuitive reference”

The class roared with laughter.

John does a little dance on his chair like some American rapper.

out-of-control

The wrong approach

These interactions just mentioned demonstrate the power a teacher can wield when he or she actually likes the kids they teach. When we care for and admire our students for the unique people they are, everything else just falls into place naturally.

With UKEdChat

I believe that teacher-training colleges and school inspectorates have been getting their emphasis fatally wrong for decades. Focusing on lesson methodologies such as differentiation techniques, feedback mechanisms and behavior management: they have missed the vital component that crucially determines student welfare and academic success – that kids need to know that the teachers actually give a damn about them. 

Over the coming two weeks I’ll be exploring this ‘care factor’ (which I believe is the only thing that actually matters when scrutinizing the fiber of a successful teacher’s character).

Let’s see this in action this week, so that a greater understanding of it’s power can be realised. 

He just doesn’t ‘get it’

In a previous school I was teaching at I had a Year 10 student who had come to me from Germany. He was quiet and compliant in class but a little lack-luster and disinterested.

He completed two Chemistry end-of-unit tests in Term 1, scoring horrendously in both (30% below the next lowest student).

I could have used the old adage many teachers find themselves using: “It just doesn’t sink in with him”, “He just doesn’t get it” and “He doesn’t do enough work at home”.

If I wanted to, I could easily have passed on this failure to the student: alleviating me from all responsibility. 

I just couldn’t do that. This bugged me too much.

“If this student carries on like this then he will surely fail. The consequences for his life choices afterwards could be enormous and who’s fault would that be? That’s right, Richard, it would be your fault, because you and you alone are responsible for this kid’s success in Chemistry.”

This is what I told myself.

The next lesson came and I took this kid aside at the end of the lesson, when it was quiet and only I and him could talk. I said to him “Hi John, let’s have a chat. Let’s take a look at these results.”

I shown him his test scores, and how low they were compared to the rest of the class.

“John, I don’t know what’s going on, but I know that you are capable of more than this. I know that you can do much better.”

“I’ve seen the great diagrams you draw in class, and I’ve heard your great responses to verbal questions. I know that you have the ability to do so well in Chemistry.”

“Help me understand, John. Help me understand why these grades are so low.”

John replies – “I guess I just don’t revise enough at home”

“Well, John. We can’t carry on like this. We just can’t. If you continue to get scores like this then you will fail this whole course. John, I cannot let that happen. I care about you too much.”

“In our next test you must get at least 60%. You must. Do you understand, John.”

Jon replies – “Okay, sir. I’ll try.”

“No. No trying. Do it! Do it because I believe in you. Do it because even though it’s difficult you know that this is the moment when you can prove to yourself just how great you are. Do it for the respect you’ll earn within yourself – self respect.”

We end with a macho display of brotherhood – I hold out my fist and he taps his fist against mine.

High five

The corridor tactic

I see John on the corridors at lunchtimes and break times. Now he knows that I’m on his case. He knows that I care about his grades.

“How’s the studying going, John” I say as I pass him by.

“Great, sir”

“That’s good, John, because I know that you are a hard-working student”

This reinforcement continues day after day, week after week until the next test comes.

The success protocol

Before John takes his test I tell him “Go for it. I know you can do this!”

He scores 64%.

I make a massive deal out of it. He gets merits, a note in his diary and a congratulatory e-mail sent to his parents to tell them of his success.

I take him to the Head of Year, and tell him how proud I am of the effort he has made.

John is beaming with pride and happiness.

be enthusiastic

The belief protocol

Now John knows, with full supportive evidence, that he can achieve anything he puts his mind too.

All it took was some effort by a teacher: directed in a way that would make him realise his full potential; his full power

John continues along this route, scoring higher and higher as the weeks go by. He comes out with a grade A in IGCSE Chemistry.

This is not a tale of fiction – it’s one of many stories I can recount over the course of my twelve years as a teacher. I have learnt that genuine, heartfelt care and concern for our students can literally and completely change their lives for the better, and forever.

From this care comes the standard teaching methodologies – all of which are great and work well, but only when they are built on the foundation of “It is my responsibility that these kids succeed. I will not let them down. I will not leave anyone behind. I will not allow any student to under-perform.”

More to follow in the next few weeks.

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How Can Teachers Earn Extra Money?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

“Opportunities don’t happen. You create them.” – Chris Gosser

Teachers are incredibly skillful individuals. We’re good communicators, we’re patient (that’s a no-brainer) and we’re good listeners.

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With ingenuity and a bit of personal drive, we can utilize these skills in a number of ways to gain some much-appreciated extra money and experience:

#1 – Private Tutoring

A teacher’s staple when it comes to cash-on-the-side. If you’ve not tried it, then you’re missing out on a massive opportunity!

High five

As a veteran of 12 years of tutoring, my top tips are as follows:

  • Become confident in teaching more than one subject: I’m a Science teacher but I’ve successfully tutored students in German, English, Science, Maths, UKCAT and BMAT over the years. Expand your skill’s portfolio and willingness to leave your comfort zone and reach a larger market!
  • Post on websites where parents are looking for tutors: Facebook groups and pages, Craigslist and Learn Pick are all good and have all generated student leads for me in the past
  • Try to find out the exact topics the student wants to learn in advance of the lesson – this will give you time to create great resources
  • Teach well! – Be yourself, be professional. Students will love your style and will tell their friends: bringing extra customers to you via referrals!
  • If the students live far away, then bring them to you – I’ve tutored at coffee shops and even at my home in the past. When students need tuition they’ll be prepared to travel.
  • Offer group classes – $70 for one student for two hours or $10 an hour per student for 5 students for two hours? Group classes can offer benefits in terms of teaching (peer-assessment and group activities) and help you to maximize revenue.

#2 – Becoming an examiner

Most exam boards recruit examiners on a yearly basis. It’s hard work and deadlines are tight (generally), but the money can be very, very good. Check out exam boards like Edexcel, CIE, the IBO, AQA and others.

Teacher-led assessment

#3 – Selling your resources

A number of platforms on the web allow you to sell your worksheets, presentations and other resources to other educators. Check out the following:

#4 – Writing

Set up a blog to inform teachers about good techniques, or even a subject-specific blog for students. After a few years or less, convert the posts into an e-book and sell your knowledge to others!

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