Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Power of the Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Teachers sometimes joke, "I had a great class last year, so I guess this is my year to have the class from you know where." Everyone laughs, but how might those subconscious beliefs affect a teacher's actions . . . and maybe their entire school year?

Think about the yearly "roster ritual" - that defining moment when an administrator hands us our new rosters and we quickly scan them to see who's in our class. We see names that we recognize, and we frantically try to remember what we've heard about these students. "Oh no . . . Johnny's the one who was always clowning around in Mr. C's class" or "Tameka is that nice quiet girl who helps Mrs. D after school." We've already begun to make judgments about students we haven't even met!

What if statements like these are no more than self-fulfilling prophecies? It that's true, then perhaps we have far more impact on the type of class we get than we ever imagined!

Every year I say the same thing on the first day, "Class, I have to tell you that I had a really awesome group last year, and I'll miss them. But the amazing thing is that every year, my new class is even better than the one before! I don't know how it's possible, but it's true. I can't even begin to imagine how amazing this class is going to be! I know we are going to have a great year together!" I say this with absolute sincerity because it's true! Maybe I just keep getting more effective as a teacher, or maybe this statement makes them want to be the best class ever, but it works!

My friend and colleague Pat Calfee used to say something similar to her students every year. Her statement was something to the effect that she's not sure how it happens, but every year the principal seems to put the smartest and best students in her class. Of course they sit a little taller when they hear this . . . and they act like the smartest and best kids in the school!

What do you think about your new students when you see their names on your roster? What do you tell your class on the first day of school? What subtle messages do you convey about their worth and their future success in your classroom?

When you scan your roster, be encouraged by the thought that another teacher's "problem child" may turn out to be one whom you cherish the most!  That quirky sense of humor or that restless, inquisitive spirit is finally appreciated and the student just blossoms under your attention.

If the self-fulfilling prophecy is really at work in the universe, let's make sure it's working in our favor! Tell your students that you know they are going to be the most amazing class ever, and that's exactly what they'll become!

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Earn 6,000 Scholastic Bonus Points

What would you do with 6,000 Scholastic Bonus points? Buy a class set of your favorite novel? Order sets of books for Literature Circles? Increase your classroom nonfiction collection? Order needed materials and supplies? Only a teacher would understand how we much we love those points! To us, the idea of earning 6,000 points with a single order sounds like hitting the jackpot in Vegas or winning the lottery! But believe it or not, with a little persistence and a plan, you can earn 6,000 points for your classroom this year!

How can you cash in on this bonanza? Just compile one $200 order from a single September 2010 book club catalog. As impossible as it seems, putting together a large order is really quite easy if you have a plan. Last year I posted a step-by-step method for earning over 4,000 points, but amazingly, this year's deal is even better! A $200 order will now earn you over 6,000 points to spend any way you wish. Whether you teach at a high poverty school or an affluent one, you might be surprised at how easy this is to accomplish. When you let your students and parents know about your goal and why you want their support, you'll be astonished at the results!

To download the step-by-step plan for earning 6,000 Bonus Points, go to my Back to School page on the  Teaching Resources website (www.lauracandler.com). You'll find a set of directions as well as a customizable parent letter and other helpful printables. All of these materials are free and ready to download right away.

Skeptical? During the month of September last year, many teachers emailed me about their amazing success with this plan, and some of those teachers had never even put together a $20 order. Some of them were veteran teachers while others were brand-new to the classroom, but all were excited to start the year with thousands of bonus points to spend!

And no, I'm not affiliated with Scholastic. I just love their books and materials, and I enjoy sharing strategies that help others make the most of Scholastic's back-to-school offer. I invite you to share your own strategies and experiences as well. Just leave a comment below or visit the Teaching Resources page on Facebook. Let me know about your success and all the goodies you buy with your bonus points! :-)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do You Ever Sleep?

I hear this question frequently, often followed by, “teacher, author, consultant, webmaster . . . how do you do it all?” My response has always been that I love every bit of it and none of it seems like work.

However, last spring I finally realized that I can’t do everything and do it well… even if I do love my work! Over the last year, I’ve been struggling with how to be a great classroom teacher while continuing to develop high-quality materials to share on my Teaching Resources site. I had a terrific class, and we had a great year together. But my time away from the classroom was stressful as I tried to juggle everything else in my life.

So after 29 years of teaching, it’s with mixed-feelings that I’ve decide to take a year off from the classroom to devote quality time to other projects. Fortunately, I’m eligible for retirement on September 1st so I don’t have to take an unpaid leave of absence. I'm not even thinking of this as a retirement, though, because I’ll be returning to the classroom for the 2011-2012 school year.  

I know that I’ve made the right decision. but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy one. In my heart and soul, I’m a teacher and I’ll always be a teacher. I love writing books and developing lessons, but what I enjoy most is taking those materials into the classroom and using them with kids. But this year I’ll have to rely on other teachers to keep me in touch with the classroom. 

Someone asked me the other day, “So what will you do with all your free time after you retire?” I just laughed because I know that I’ll be busier than ever! I might be officially “retired” from the classroom, but I’m certainly not retiring as an educator!  Maybe I’ll get a little more sleep, but not much more! In fact, please don’t congratulate me on my retirement because I’m viewing this as a leave of absence. I’ll definitely be back in the classroom! 

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Empower Your Readers

Remember my earlier blog post in which I said I was abandoning AR? Many teachers have written to me to ask me how I'm teaching reading without AR and whether I'm happy with my decision.

My response has been that my students and I both love the way our reading classroom works, and it's proven to be very effective (based on comparisons with my grade level, school, and district quarterly reading scores). I'm using a modified Reading Workshop approach that I call the Power Reading Workshop. It combines the relaxed atmosphere of a Reading Workshop with individual accountability and goal-setting. My students love to read and actually complain when it's time for reading to end each day. "Noooo.... I'm just getting to the good part!" "Just 5 more minutes...please!" When was the last time your students begged you for more reading time?

In fact, I'm so happy with how things are working that I'm working on a book to make these strategies available to other teachers. There are many wonderful books about how on the Reading Workshop concept, such as The Book Whisperer and Igniting a Passion for Reading. However, my book will be a little different because it's a step-by-step approach to implementing a Power Reading Workshop. After much deliberation and input from other teachers, I've decided to call the book Empowering Readers: A Quick Start Guide to Reading Workshop.

Unfortunately, the book probably won't be ready until summer. I thought I could write it up in a month or two, but I'm still tweaking the strategies. I put together an email discussion group to give me feedback and test the ideas, and we've all found this project to be an exciting endeavor.

Last week I had an "ah-ha" moment about how to make this information available right now. Instead of making people wait until summer to buy the book, why not allow them to buy it now and participate in the discussion group as the book is written? It's like getting the book in advance, along with the support of an outstanding group of teachers during the implementation process. Each time I update the book with additional material, I post it to the discussion group files and make it available to all members. Our group is called the Empowering Readers Learning Community. When the book is complete, all members will have access to the final ebook.

If you are interested in discovering more about the Empowering Readers Learning Community, visit www.lauracandler.com/erlc.php. You'll be able to download a preview version of the first 10 pages of the book and find out more details about how to sign up for the Learning Community.

As you consider starting a Reading Workshop in your class, it might help to read one member's comment to the group. Rita wrote, "I started using Reading Workshop the third week of January. I used your 10 day start up lessons. Laura, I have been teaching 41 years and this is the first time that I have ever felt that a reading program really got students excited about reading. I love the fact that the Reading Workshop approach allows students to select their own good fit books and they actually spend time reading. The atmosphere in my room is wonderful during reading period."

Interested? Don't wait any longer to learn how you can inspire your students to love reading!