Showing posts with label engaging students. Show all posts
Showing posts with label engaging students. Show all posts

Friday, January 8, 2021

Locus of control

My daughter does Karate.  She was finding some of it a bit hard, and I didn't have enough knowledge to help her. So I signed up.  Immediately I was put into a position where I had to follow instruction and do as I was told.  It was weird and uncomfortable.  Thankfully I injured my achilles tendon walking on soft sand and have had to stop for now as the cardio was killing me.  I'm an old, unfit Maths teacher.. What was I thinking?

A child returning to school after a prolonged absence is in this position.  They have had a locus of control at home - they might be looking after siblings, roaming the streets with friends, getting into minor mischief, defying their parents/experiencing poor parenting/with high levels of conflict, be from a refugee background, have a culture where students take responsibility from a young age, lack support for education from home.  All of a sudden they are placed into a role where they have to do as they are told.  They can't get help when they want it and it's all your fault that they are misbehaving, bored, late to class, have irregular attendance, mental health issues and can't do the work.

If this is not acted upon, this can go very badly and instantly create an oppositional environment.  There are a number of ways that this can be dealt with.

1. Give the child responsibility

This is commonly the "go to" response. It doesn't address the problem and leaves the student with the feeling that they are still in control.  In their mind, "I'll do this for you as it fulfils my need to be in control".  The "Why should I?" comes out and the child has little reason to cooperate.  It tends to work with low level cases. 

2. Retrain the behaviour (when are behaviours occurring, what is needed to change)

Explicitly identify the behaviours that are undesirable, provide encouragement for changing the behaviours and consequences when the behaviours occur.  This requires a contract with the child, contact with the parent and a level of consistency across classes.  This is time consuming, allowing the child to increase their influence, creates an oppositional environment, but works eventually, especially if paired with someone (like the HOLA or Deputy) that can step in when they overstep the mark.

3. Understand who they are (who are they)

Seek to understand the environment from which they come.  Talk to student services and get an understanding of their background.  Have a talk with their parents.  Talk to them about how they feel.  Talk to them about their impact in the classroom.  This is an adult conversation so it will be awkward and filled with silences.

3. Develop a rapport (why is change required)

Talk about what you need from them as a student. How would a class perform if students could do whatever they want, whenever they want?  With 30 students, that's two minutes per student during an hour lesson.  When they are late, they miss the 7 minutes of instruction that results in them not being able to work.  Being absent leaves holes in their education.  No one has a right to disrupt another's education - it's the role of a teacher to ensure that this does not happen. When the time is right, they will be able to take an instruction and give up control - and it's ok.  Add in some positive reinforcement (implicit/explicit depending on developmental level). They have a lifetime to be in charge, it's a release to let someone else do it for a change.  

4. Success (how to make into ongoing success)

Get them to success as soon as possible.  Something needs to replace the need for control.  If it is success you are on the road to ongoing improvement in behaviour.  Suggest strategies that you think will work (moving them away from disruptive peers, give them resources (pens, paper, calculator), a high five for being on time etc) and create a lesson where they will be able to do the work and explicitly make a direct connection with the change in locus of control.  Gradually the change in behaviour through rapport needs to be a change in behaviour through desire for success.  Change the locus of control from behaviour (I do what I want because I have the right to do so) to seeking success (I choose to do the work the teacher asks because it helps me find success).   

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Disengaged and defiant students

Sometimes you take along hard look at how you are doing things and look again at how it can be improved.  This time of year is traditionally a good time to examine your teaching practices and see if there are things that you can do to improve things.

We're doing performance management at the moment and one of the things I am asking is "what are some of the successes you have had in re-engaging students?"  It's one of those big questions in education as some people are decidedly better at engaging students than others.

The main theme seems to be that there is no one solution for all, but there are solutions that work for pockets of students.

  • Low literacy students in mathematics benefit from reduced content and increased opportunities to seek mastery (meaning that these students require opportunities for extra classes to keep up with the mainstream).  They also benefit from alternate grading strategies to ensure motivation remains high (rather than being pounded with E's semester after semester).
  • Students like explicit grading.  Putting an A on a paper is a big motivator to try harder.  Sending this information home via note or email can also be a big motivator.
  • Developing a rapport with students can hide a wide range of issues with teaching practices.  If a student believes in you, they will try harder regardless of the teaching technique used.
  • Deal with the defiant and disengaged students using any help at hand that is available.  Allowing them to potato (sit and hide under the radar) in your classes is not a solution that will re-engage students.
  • Set high but realistic expectations.
  • Encourage students at every opportunity.  
  • Be consistent in your attempts to re-engage students.  Every day is a new day, but repeated and escalating poor performance needs to be dealt with.
  • Seek assistance from parents as soon as possible.  Call them in to discuss matters with you.  Send test papers home.
  • Engage in discussions about futures of students.  Two of my biggest successes of 2014 related to students that opened up about their career prospects and then helping them see how education could lead them there.  This re-opened dialogue about their behaviour and recreated rapports between the students and teachers.
  • Competition is not always a bad thing.  A bit of friendly rivalry can invigorate a stale classroom environment.
  • Take time to plan.  A little preparation in advance can give you breathing space that allows you get your head above water when you are drowning.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Teacher well being vs Student benefit

I have argued on occasion that teacher well being is as important as student benefit.  There are times that putting teachers first maintains teaching standards.

Many schools are considering moving the school year start to term three to overcome the issues caused by moving the ATAR exams closer to the term 3 boundary.  Couple this with many classes in year 11/12 being combined, it's an idea that has merit.

When it was floated at our school, I was very much against the idea - to the point that I raised concerns of teachers at school council (I was a council member at the time).  I was concerned that teachers that were tired after getting kids through ATAR exams would not have time to prepare courses in time for the early start and that reporting deadlines would become more onerous.  There was some concern that load was being shifted to senior school staff as year 8 classes would not run until the new year.

In the end, it was not an issue for the mathematics department.
a) The early start reduced the pressure on teachers delivering combined 11/12 courses by adding 8 weeks to the year long course (typically combined 11/12 courses with ATAR exams finish early).
b) The early finish provided extra time for students in year 11 that required re-tests or for collecting late assignments providing extra time for preparing reports (typically stage 1 students).
c) It did prompt us to start programming earlier.
d) It reduced delivery pressure on year 11 courses in other learning areas that were not combined (as they were able to run their exams later in the usually year 11 exam slot week 6 if they with reduced pressure on students as they had completed math exams).
e) Students appreciated the extra time for completing year 12 courses.
f) It reduced behavioural issues typically found in the final weeks of the year and increased attendance.

We finished the year 11/12 courses in term 4 week two this year and started new courses.  This was time typically lost to learning where students were sent home after exams. One stage 3 course is already over half way through the text leaving time for deeper exploration of topics.

This year the majority of teachers are strongly resistant to finishing early and starting the 2013 timetable in 2012.  There are issues with it:

a) Teachers that are joining the school only do so at the start of 2013 (thus classes have temporary teachers).
b) There is insufficient time to plan 2013 courses (it would normally be done in the holidays)
c) Small groups are not operating until 2013 (resulting in difficulties running assessment in 2012)
d) Teachers are tired.
e) It doesn't work for VET subjects (the preferred option is to send them home) because there is only make-do work available.
f) Puts considerable stress on administration to prepare timetables and complete course counselling.
g) Budgets are not accessible for resources required for 2013 programmes of work.

I suppose the only issue I have with the counter arguments is that none of them relate to issues of low student performance or raising attendance.  Many of the issues relate to a lack of planning and preparation time during the year.  I noticed a few teachers had booked planning time (and asked to be kept off the relief time) which seemed a sensible idea.

I doubt the school will continue with the early finish, but mathematics will continue finishing math courses week 2, term 4 if at all possible.  If that can be done without affecting other learning areas that would be great.  If it is deemed that the effect on other learning area and timetabling is too great that will be very unfortunate.

Since mathematics started finishing yr 11 in week 2, year 12 courses have been completed on time, with revision time available (something we had not achieved prior) and results have improved despite an increase in combined courses.  I maintain that we need to find creative ways to provide teaching time to students that typically mature academically later than in higher socio-economic schools and have lower levels of home support.  The earlier year end is something that clearly has made a difference to our mathematics teaching programme.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Attacking a subject

I always tell my students to attack a subject and it worries me when I get a class of passive students - especially in stage three courses.

Students that are attacking a course:

a) come in bright eyed and bushy tailed
b) are on time
c) have all of their resources (books, calculators, pens ...) ready on day 1
d) attend regularly
e) have pre-read the chapters
f) get stuck into their coursework and are not afraid to have a go
g) natter about their current question with other students

Students that wait to be prompted and expect to be spoonfed, wait for you to find that they are stuck and look like deers in headlights make me concerned. Students that seek personal information from the teacher, natter during instruction, dawdle in late, are disrupting the whole class with nonsense annoy me. They make me think "Is this student in the right place?". This is after all senior school, the pointy end of education.

My 9's, 10's and 2C course are going gangbusters. They demand notes on everything. They attempt questions that I haven't asked them to do as well as the ones I have. They are working on revision books. They are playing with their calculators. Good for them.

My 1B's and 3A courses are another story. Where's the ego? Where's the work ethic? Where is the focus? Hopefullly they're more awake next lesson.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Advice for kids in a new year


So it's a new year.. new teachers.. new situations.

What can a student do to fare well in a new year.

1. Come with a great attitude.

I don't mean suck up. Mainly I mean come ready to work. A new teacher has no expectations of you, even if you have had them in a previous year or have known another sibling. If you are willing to work, you will be noticed. If a teacher sees that you are working hard, and need some extra help, they will always be more willing if they can see if you have tried.

2. Follow instructions and come prepared.

This seems obvious, but a faster way is not always the better way in mathematics. If you can lay your work out properly from an early age, it's a skill you don't have to learn in year 11. Neatness is something people attribute to braininess (don't ask me why) - but don't let this be an excuse to be slow! ..and don't waste time asking for materials that could be spent working!

3. Sit with people you can work with

If you get to seat yourself, then stay with people you can work with. It can be hard, and sometimes you will need to have a quiet word with the teacher to move you elsewhere. Good students are the people that can help you when you are stuck and the teacher is with someone else that needs help. Remember to help others as what goes around...

4. The teacher is on your side unless..

Teachers are not in it for the money. They get a buzz out of seeing you learn. If you prevent others from learning you are killing their buzz. Expect to get squashed.

5. Be on time and prepared

Being on time is more than being at class when the bell goes. Homework arrives on time. Assignments arrive on time. If you know multiple assignments are due at the same time, spend some time in the library and miss that of so important TV show or MSN.

6. Do your best

Don't loaf. Ability will only take you so far, at some point you need to learn a good work ethic. It's easy to coast. Find ways to stay motivated. Race yourself. Try and get more correct answers next time. See how far you can get without asking the teacher a question. Use notes and worked examples given by the teacher. Make your next test the best result ever.

7. Failure is the path to success.

If you fail, don't give up, see it as learning what not to do. When you fail you learn about what you do not know. This is important. Identify what it is you need to learn and when you get an opportunity find out how to do it. Always, always, always do your corrections after assessment.

8. Read ahead.

Read the text book before school starts. Understand as much as you can. Know what you need to ask the teacher about. If you already know the basic stuff, it will give you time to learn it in more depth during class and with the help of the teacher.

9. Leave the playground in the playground.

Get used to putting your mind in work mode when you enter a classroom. Walking into a classroom high fiving and calling out to friends as you walk in (normally late) is a sure way to get on the wrong side of a class and teacher.

That's it!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Developing rapport with difficult students

Some students spend large amounts of time out of class. Some are ratbags that deliberately seek to be excluded, generally are of low IQ and are very difficult to help. Others purely lack social skills.

Each year the maths team adopts a few of these and attempts to help them through to graduation.

I find the students lacking social skills easier to help - sometimes a little intervention is enough to get them performing in a normal classroom. One student that fit this criteria just graduated (yay!), I lost contact with my candidates from last year (as I only taught the top year 11 classes this year). Sadly they have gone off the rails a little.

This year, my approach for the students is different. One student is being encouraged to seek approval and success from teachers in more than just my class, to learn how to tolerate negative behaviour of others and has improved out of sight from the truanting ways earlier in the year. Another, I've spent a lot of time playing games with and getting to sit still and paint miniatures for me. If I can teach how to behave in a group, be a little more patient and share an affable nature in a social way, we would of gone a long way to finding a way to integrate into society.

After all, these are the real success stories that kids remember well into later life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Graduation presents

One of the nice traditions at school is for teachers of year 12 students to purchase the subject awards.

The usual items tend to get bought: pens, shopping vouchers and the like.

This year we found one item that I loved. One of our quirky students was given as part of her package (our Discrete Mathematics subject winner), Dr Seuss' Places to Go.

The prose is remarkably apt:

Today is your day!
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!

You've brains in you head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose."

Another maths student was given Rich Dad, Poor Dad which outlines the difference in financial education parents provide based on whther they have/haven't amassed wealth. It's a great book.

Another that I thought of later was the E-Myth, a book about Entrepreneurialism. The E-Myth and Sun Tsu's Art of war heavily influenced my early business life.

Mr Men books can also be a source of inspiration as they describe so many personality types.

I like the idea of books as you can personalise them with an inscription - and they tend to be kept. One of my teachers gave me a battered copy of Catch 22, I still have it and read it from time to time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Board game tragic

Ok, I admit it.. I'm a board game tragic.  During the week I bought Space Hulk, a game I remember from my youth.. It was a game I could never afford, so when it was re-released I picked up a copy.  Reliving your youth.. that's kinda cool....

Then I started playing and became addicted.

Then I bought paint, brushes, turps, primer and then started painting all of the miniatures... and the worst thing is that I've been enjoying it.  What the hell is wrong with me????  Is it curable?

Anyhow, here are some links that lead towards the hobby:
Games Workshop
Board Game Geek
Painting Guide

It leads me to think, if I'm enjoying it (and I'm just a big kid).. could students enjoy it too.  I've been looking at creating after school programmes that could teach students (particularly boys) collaboration, return for effort, work ethic, respect.. Get kids to enjoy school and gain some leverage to encourage them to perform.. These are what I've come up with so far..

Yr 11 mathematics summer school (very successful 5 days during 2008/9 school holidays)
Yr 9 games design workshop (2008 board game/computer programming club for boys)
Yr 8-10 computer game programming in Java (still to run)
Yr 8-10 Warhammer 40k club (miniatures gaming, still to run)