Welcome! It seems like you are here for the first time, so you may want to check out the About page. If you like what you see, be sure to subscribe to my RSS feed!

Get off my bus!

May 20, 2009 | First days | RSS 2.0

I know we’re wrapping up the school year… dreams of summer vacation… thoughts of curriculum revisions… worries of no paychecks for eight weeks… what better time to start thinking about the start of the fall term?

If you’ve seen a military movie that involves trainees, you’ve probably seen the drill instructor get on the bus and speak loudly and clearly things like “the last thing out of your mouth will be sir” (or “Drill Sergeant” in the Army), and the recruits are quickly formed up, yelled at, “forward, march”-ed, yelled at some more, etc.  At Army BCT, recruits go through Red, White, and Blue phases, earning free time and privileges as they progress through their nine weeks.  During Red phase, every aspect of the soldiers’ lives are under the specific direction of an instructor.

That initial contact with clear expectations and directions in vital in the formative days of a trainee.  Imagine what our men and women in uniform would be like if the first thing their instructors did was play a “get to know everybody” ice-breaker.  Granted we’re not training future warriors, but I think the principle is the same.  Your classroom is a place of instruction.  If you are good you’ll be able to make it fun as well, but your first job is instruction in your subject (and humanity in general).

When students arrive the first day, there should already be a seating chart ready and students should be directed to where they sit before the bell (none of this up-and-moving-around confusion).  Your policies on everything from A to Z should be spelled out in your start-of-course handout and gone over.  If there are procedures to follow daily like checking a certain section of the board for homework, getting books from a shelf, etc – start them on the first day.  Discipline issues are dealt with quickly (although make sure you’re doing discipline and not punishment)

I have colleagues whose rule is “I don’t smile until Thanksgiving.”  I think that takes the idea a bit too far – Red Phase at Basic Training is typically two weeks.  It won’t be too long before you can banter with your students, but in the beginning it’s important to be a Drill Sergeant.

1 Comment »

Recognize good performance as well as bad

April 29, 2009 | Assessment, Motivating students | RSS 2.0

In my teaching career, there have been times when I’ve been so focused on correcting poor performance or behavior that I have missed recognizing those who do well.

If you make a minor screw-up in the military, you’ll probably get a counseling statement rather than a formal letter of reprimand.  It’s for things like missing a formation, failing a PT test, etc.  But at PLDC (a.k.a. sergeants’ school) we were taught that you need to counsel good performance as well as bad.  Formally recognizing a job well done encourages more good work in the future.

We need to make sure that we applaud and recognize our kids when they do well, especially for the kids who drive us nuts.  I recall a case of a young lady who regularly drove me nuts in class with her behavior.  She got a B on her end-of-term project, so I called home to let dad know and encourage her to keep it up.  She came in the next day and said “Mr. W – I don’t know what you said to my dad but he gave me the biggest hug after school yesterday…”  It wasn’t a cure all, but it helped let her know that I wasn’t the enemy.

Similarly, if a paper is important enough to grade, it’s important enough to comment on.  For most kids a number grade by itself is not much of a motivating factor; if a kid scores a 75% on a test, give a little message like “let’s work together after school to get an 85 next time!”  In the long run it will have more impact.

No Comments »

The three most dangerous things to hear in the military

April 3, 2009 | Humor | RSS 2.0

The three most dangerous things to hear in the military:

  1. A Second Lieutenant who says “Based on my experience…”
  2. A Captain who says “I have a good idea…”
  3. A crusty old Chief Warrant Officer who says “Hey, check this s%!t out!”

1 Comment »