Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March Madness

As April is rapidly approaching, the warmth of spring is definitely upon us -- as is one of my favorite times of the year -- the NCAA basketball tournament (go Wildcats!). While the tournament is frequently referred to as "March Madness", I realize that March inherently brings much madness to the world of educators, as well. March means that Spring Break occurs, or is soon to occur, for most of us. This, of course, results in a frequent rise in distractions for our students. Educators have to be creative in planning lessons that build upon the known and the predictable (to keep students in a comfortable zone for learning), while continuing to seek innovative ways to add novelty and unexpected elements to lessons (to keep students attentive and engaged). Attempting to meet our students' simultaneous need for predictability and novelty is a constant balancing act that can result in teachers feeling overwhelmed.

We also look at our calendars in March and realize that there is still SO much content and SO many strategies that we want to equip our students with before the end of the school year, yet there isn't a whole lot of time left to get it accomplished. It reminds me of watching the basketball games and seeing teams who are losing a game. As the clock ticks down the remaining seconds, many teams who are losing but are still within reach of victory, often begin making careless errors in their stress. Great coaches know to call a time-out when this happens and refocus the players on their mission. Similarly, in our classrooms we must "keep our eyes on the prize" (our prize, of course, is our students -- especially when they successfully meet or surpass academic and behavioral standards).

March also means, for most of us, that our state tests have been administered to our students -- or they will be very shortly. This results in even more stress for our students and ourselves (and our students' parents, and our administrators, and ...). Let's all take time to have our own personal pep rallies and reflect on ALL that we have accomplished this school year with our students -- and all that we WILL accomplish before this school year ends!

A great book that I believe should be required reading of educators is Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov. This book explains relatively simple instruction methods (49 of them!) that put students on the path to college. If you are a relatively new teacher, or a seasoned veteran, and you're looking for ideas to implement during March Madness -- and to help you end the school year on a wonderful high note, I strongly recommend this book!

I have had another great month of working with great educators in March. The faculty of Wendell Elementary continues to impress me by the energy that is put forth for expanding the vocabularies of the students of Wendell. I spent two great days (minus the tornados -- that part wasn't so great!) working with the educators of Rutherford County on comprehension and test-taking. We explored ways to refine and expand QAR so that students truly internalize the thinking processes for answering questions and generating questions. As I write this, I'm preparing to leave to work with the educators of Medford County. During our two sessions, we'll examine meaningful, research-based methods for vocabulary instruction.

May April be a wonderful time for learning and teaching for everyone!

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