Rethinking Rewards by Building Respectful Relationships

Guest Blog post by Erica Pecorale

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How do teachers get to the most meaningful work in their classrooms every day? When we answer this question, all students thrive in an environment that is engaging and that promotes responsibility within all members of the learning community.

On January 21, 2016 #G2Great chat focused on creating nurturing learning environments. In Chapter 4 of Good to Great, Mary Howard reflects on what highly effective teachers do. She echoes Ellin Keene, who notes that these teachers are extremely focused in “acknowledging that excellence in classrooms is a never ending process of professional learning”. Mary elaborates on how highly effective teachers learn from research by synthesizing ideas into practices that meet the needs and experiences of their current students. When teachers integrate what they know about their students with what they have learned about best practices and the research they have examined, it comes together to create organic and authentic spaces for all students to flourish and to get to the work that really matters.

On a recent visit to a second grade classroom’s literacy block, I noticed a behavior system being utilized that I have seen in many other rooms. Each time the students transitioned into a new activity, the teacher gave out little green stickers to each child, which were then taken by students to a wall chart where they waited in a line to place their sticker next to their name. Each transition took six minutes!

When debriefing afterward, the teacher made a point of saying how well behaved her class is this year. In fact, we discussed how the only time there were even the slightest bit of behavior problems was when the stickers were being handed out and children were awaiting the completion of this process. She wondered aloud that perhaps the reason they behaved so wonderfully was because of the stickers. We reflected together on it again. We decided that perhaps these students don’t need this kind of monitoring. The only time they were disengaged, seemed bored or started interacting negatively with one another was when the stickers were being distributed. After some discussion, the teacher realized her students didn’t really need this system. However, they were required to have a behavior modification system in place in every classroom.

When initiatives are mandated without allowing teachers time to deconstruct the purposes for putting them in place, systems are created that don’t always make sense for the setting. When teachers are searching for ways to find more time for interactive read aloud, independent reading and writing, they do not need to be spending six minutes each time they transition to hand out tokens.

How do teachers find effective ways for students to feel engaged with their learning without compromising the ideals about what it means to be an integral part of a community? Rather than teaching students about what material objects they will get for behaving, we must model, discuss and promote what we each bring to our classroom environment.  We do this by preserving the precious limited time we have by focusing on the work that really matters.  

 

For more thoughts on this topic please see Trevor Bryan’s post about awards and sharing at   http://fouroclockfaculty.com/2016/01/awards-vs-sharing/

Erica Pecorale is a literacy educator, coach and consultant to school districts on Long Island. She is the Director of Teacher Education and is an Assistant Professor at Long Island University at Riverhead.

Standing Tall on the Mountain, Together

By Amy Brennan

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“The Courage Rules” was the topic of our twitter chat  on January 14, 2016 with guest host Kari Yates, author of Simple Starts.  Kari is among the many others who stand tall on the mountain with me and give me the courage to push ahead and persevere.  They give me the courage to shout from the mountaintop about what is right for students — what means the most to teaching and learning.  

Reflecting on the chat archive I realize just how fortunate I am to join together on our #G2Great mountaintop each week.  If that mountaintop was not enough, I also have support from the #G2Great Voxer group that goes on practically 24/7 across multiple time zones where we share and grow ideas together.  It helps to practice The Courage Rules with the strength of my friends who stand beside me each week in my professional learning network.  All educators deserve a professional learning network like this one.  All educators benefit from thinking in the company of others where they can lean in for learning and grow ideas through thoughtful discussions.  In reflecting on this particular chat it feels like two of these rules for courage especially spoke to me this week. 

Rule #4 Reflect, learn and adjust
Question 4 (How do you consistently build this cycle into your professional life?) focused on Rule #4, reflecting, learning and adjusting.  As I read through the answers and discussion that followed the common thread seemed to involve the reflection becoming more than just a thought in one’s own mind in order to effectively learn and adj
ust. The common thread was in creating something else with that thought. It could be either a written account or a spoken account of that reflection.  Both of these approaches enable us to commit to the reflection either in the actual written word that can be reread or in a discussion with someone else, usually a PLN or colleagues in person.  It is after that next step that our reflection allows us to grow and then adjust.  It takes courage to reflect in the company of others or even in the written word but this is what make the learning and adjusting possible.
fran q4jennifer jones q4Kari Q4daniburtsfieldA4

Rule # 6 Don’t give up when things get tough

Question #6 (Why is this rule so essential to our change efforts?) in the chat focused on rule #6, don’t give up when things get tough.  Perseverance was a common word in many of the responses to this question, it feels like this is when we are just on the edge of glory.  It is difficult, we want to turn back but if we just push ahead we push past that edge.  It takes courage to push beyond that edge.  I for one am grateful for finding my people, my tribe, my gang at #G2Great.  When I am at the edge and it seems too much to bear, it is the collective learning of my PLN that helps me break through.  

jennifer s q6julieanne A6kari q6trevor q6 As we stand tall on the mountain together, we can find the courage to push ahead and persevere, to shout from the mountaintop about what is right for students — what means the most to teaching and learning.

 

 

Learning in the Company of Others

By, Jenn Hayhurst  

Soaring

On January 7, 2016 #G2Great took a look at the past and future when ur topic was: Looking Back So We Can Look Ahead

My hope is that more educators will make the choice to become connected in 2016.  Whenever I bring up Twitter to my colleagues who are not connected they inevitably say, “I just can’t get the hang of it.” or “I tried it but it I don’t know what I’m doing.” and the favorite “How will it help me as a teacher?” I get it.  Twitter moves quickly and it can be hard to figure out what it is, and what it really offers us.  However, Twitter’s impact on me has been profound, it has shaped 2015 into a year of daily reflection.

I’m far from perfect.  Many times I try to do something new and I fail, and then I fail again. But failure doesn’t define me because I am a learner. Now that I have Twitter in my life I can share my experiences and learn from others who embrace failure for the sake of learning. They understand that through failure we explore a better future for the students.  If we stray from students we are going in the wrong direction.  This has to be my take away reflection of 2015.

It’s been a year since we began the #G2Great chat and now more than ever I am feeling the impact of having a Professional Learning Network (PLN).  Twitter allows me to share my thinking in the company of others and for others to share theirs with me. Thinking through this plurality sharpens my lens as to the kind of teacher I have been, and the kind of teacher I aspire to become.  The teachers who join in the chat each week bring perspectives that are shaped by experiences and shared values.  They are what connected educators call my “dream faculty.”   These are people who I admire.  I wonder what would it be like to actually work in such a district, although now that I have taken Twitter to a new level it feels as though they are always with me.  Their advice and passion lingers long after the chat ends.

My Thinking After Twitter - What Matters Most (1)

Looking Back On Our Good to Great Journey

By Mary Howard

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Life journeys flamed by passion and purpose have always been at the heart of my work. On August 29, 2012 I embarked on a purposeful and passionate journey with the publication of my book, Good to Great Teaching: Focusing on the Literacy Work that Matters (Heinemann). In late 2014, the sheer magnitude of that event began to unfold when Amy Brennan and Jenn Hayhurst invited me to join a weekly Twitter chat in celebration of my book. On January 8, 2015 #G2Great was born – and my passion and purpose was reignited beyond measure!

Exactly one year later, #G2Great and my friendship with Amy & Jenn has grown stronger. Every Thursday at 8:30 EST, dedicated educators across the country enthusiastically share their joys, dreams, and ponderings that come full circle to the question posed in my book, “How do we move from good to great teaching by focusing on the literacy work that matters? Our #G2Great chat is a weekly dose of inspiration that transformed my personal journey into a collaborative exploration of unexpected twists and turns…and I am forever changed!

Over the past fifty-two weeks, #G2Great has remained true to the very spirit that ignited this shared learning venture one year ago. Our first anniversary seems like a fitting time to launch our blog, Literacy Lenses, a natural progression along a celebratory pathway we have traveled alongside passionate educators who work tirelessly to enrich the learning lives of students.

More than ever, we need shared journeys fueled by an unwavering belief in our profession and a sense of dedication to our work. Amy, Jenn, and I set the stage for the #G2Great journey, but you have been our co-collaborators and your joyful dialogue has propelled our passion and purpose to new heights. We are grateful for this willing partnership and applaud you for all you do…

  • for believing you can and must make the choices that matter
  • for refusing to let anything impede you in achieving great work
  • for acknowledging in your every action that students deserve our best
  • for embracing continued professional learning in the name of children
  • for offering your time, talents and dedication day after day, year after year
  • for saying “NO” to work that doesn’t matter to say “YES” to work that does
  • for insisting that your students are the very heart and soul of decision-making
  • for believing that we still navigate our own journey of passion and purpose

Never underestimate the role you play, secure in the knowledge that you matter; to each other, our schools, our communities, and most of all our children and the direction education can and must take us on their behalf in the future. 

And so from our heart to yours, we celebrate our shared journey with a trip down the Good to Great Memory Lane 2015…

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