Archive for

Home Schooling – What I Wish I Knew About Our Family Zoo

Home schooling was a natural choice. I love books, I love to learn and I’m not happy until I have shared my discoveries with someone else. However, my home school experience was not as positive as I hoped it would be and by the end of my children’s educational journey, I did not feel I had been successful.

So what happened?

Initially our oldest child was in the public school system. As a male, born in November – delaying entrance into the educational system would not have harmed him; he was almost a year younger than many in his class and had not reached the appropriate level of maturity. If you’ve seen the movie, Uncle Buck, and his visit to the Principal’s office, you have a good idea of what we faced. Hank’s teacher told me he was digging himself a hole he would not easily get out of (what could that possibly mean for a five year old?) He could barely read a word. We transferred him to a private faith-based school in September where he was taught to read phonetically and received the Highest Grade Average award by the end of that year.

We followed suit with the other four children and enrolled them in a private school as well. Living in a small town, the schools were small and sometimes appeared and disappeared on one person’s decision. We consequently changed schools three times although used the same curriculum. We eventually lost confidence in the system (or lack of) and decided to home school. A pattern of inconsistency and change had emerged and became the norm.

It was also fueled by my behavioral style – solving problems aggressively; and although in some circumstances that is exactly what is called for, more reflection upon the impact of the decision beforehand would have been helpful. Some children are able to adapt to change quite readily and even find it stimulating and invigorating. Others manage change differently; they do not want to change things unless the reason for change makes sense to them. It takes them longer to adjust. The trauma of change could have been minimized by remaining with the same curriculum throughout their educational experience – it would have provided much needed continuity and stability for all of us. Being dazzled by bright shiny things – new and different curricula falling into that category most likely caused confusion and disorientation for some of my children.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and as mother used to say, “You can’t put an old head on young shoulders,” meaning that youth is inexperienced by nature. Because homeschooling was in its infancy back in the ’70′s, (they were threatening truancy and arrest in British Columbia for parents who home schooled) there was no one who went before us who could serve as a mentor. How things have changed! There are many successful homeschooling parents who have much wisdom to offer those embarking on this rewarding and challenging journey. Finding a mentor to help you stay the course and make wise choices in the midst of family crises will pay great dividends and prevent knee-jerk decisions that you may regret.

Besides finding a mentor and being more reflective in decision- making, what else would I do differently? I would become students of my behavior as well as my children’s and find out the answers to the following four areas of conflict that we all face daily:

1. How do they solve problems – aggressive or reflective? 2. How do they process new information – optimistic or realistic? 3. How do they manage change – dynamic or stable? And, 4. How do they assess risk – pioneering or structured?

Knowing this about us would have helped. Sage advice of a successful homeschooling mentor would have helped create and maintain a stable atmosphere so where learning was a joy.

So you ask, how did it all turn out? Four out of five graduated from high school, two went on to higher education and one has become a heavy-duty mechanic. Recently, our oldest son said, “I know you’ll laugh, Mum, but I’m thinking of homeschooling Katie!” As you can imagine, that did my heart good!

Discover 3 Top Tips for Dealing with Classroom Management Issues in a Secondary School

The classroom management issues that your face in a secondary school are often very different to what you experience in a primary classroom. But whatever the age range of the students that you teach, the underlying principles of effective classroom management remains the same.

But how does classroom management differ in a secondary school from a primary school. Well, the most obvious difference is that the poor behavior of students in a secondary classroom is often more exaggerated than in a primary classroom. Students often behave poorly whatever their age, it’s just that in a secondary classroom that poor behavior is often worse, and so harder to deal with.

1. Always be clear in your expectations

Students at secondary school differ from pupils in a primary school in that they have different lessons with different teachers. Because the students that you teach have different lessons with different teachers, they also become accustomed to different rules and expectations. Make your expectations very clear from the moment that the students enter your classroom and you will reduce your secondary classroom management issues.

2. Communicate frequently with other teachers

Inappropriate behavior in a secondary school is often the result of poor communication between teachers. In order to reduce your secondary school classroom management issues, you must communicate the other teachers within your school. Often, students think that there are no consequences of poor behavior in a large secondary school due to teachers not communicating with each other. If a child behaves poorly in your lesson, you must communicate with other relevant teachers. Doing so will ensure that the student knows that his behavior carries consequences.

3. Always follow up your threats

When working in a large secondary school, classroom management is often made more difficult by the sheer number of students that we teach on a daily basis. This makes it very difficult to keep track of issues such as skipped detentions, and forgotten homework. Despite these hurdles, you must always follow through with the sanctions that were imposed. Failing to do so will almost guarantee and increase in classroom management problems within your classroom.

Whether you teach in a secondary school or a primary school, the principle of effective classroom management remains the same. If you work in a secondary school though, there are ways to improve even further the classroom behavior of the students that you teach. Follow the three top tips above and you will notice and almost immediate improvement in the classroom management issues that you experience in your secondary classroom.

Applying Change Management Strategy in Educational Settings

Changing Our Thinking

Over the years the hierarchy of education has evolved into an unchanging leadership formula that has managed to survive without adopting change management strategies to meet the changing goals and needs of their customers. As more mandates have been passed to encourage schools and teachers to perform at a higher level, and expectations for student success have increased, we have not seen leadership evolve and grow to meet those demands. The result has been that school systems are attempting to reach 21st century goals using 19th century concepts. The passage of “No Child Left Behind” and the broad “highly qualified” teacher designation has simply highlighted the inability of most school leaders to adapt proactively by aligning their techniques and attitudes with successful business models.

Education is a business. At one time the failure of a school to reach goals was not published, made public or available to anyone with a computer. Now, before families move to a new area they check the numbers on the schools that their children may attend and choose their home based on the location of the school with the highest scores. Students, who must pass competency examinations at virtually every facet of their education in order to move through the system are falling further behind as they are caught between schools trying to increase their own scores and teachers trying to accommodate mandates presented them by leadership to increase school scores.

Once schools and educators in leadership positions realize that the success of any business, including their own, depends on their ability to adapt to the needs of their customers, they will find that numbers, both for schools and students will rise with each change that is successfully implemented.

Identifying Gaps

Leaders in the academic arena face many challenges. The foremost being that they usually do not have a business background and have been in education for their entire career. (Except for that stint they did at Pizza Hut while getting through college). These individuals are usually excellent educators who enter leadership in a school with great ideas for how to make the system better. Many of these individuals have some great ideas. But, as with all businesses, leaders are not only involved in operations, but also in budget and politics. This is true of any business, the difference though, is that business leaders are trained in operations, budget and politics. While, leaders in schools often go from teacher to vice-principal, to principal with little or no business training added to their toolkit for success. In addition, what may make a wonderful educator in one classroom, may not work in another, so the ability to motivate and give incentive to others must be accomplished as any other change management method. In most schools change management is a foreign concept, or something that was studied while getting the first of many degrees and certifications that are necessary to teach. Many times, in order to develop successful programs that meet the needs of our customers we must return to the library and learn an entirely new subject. Many books have been written on change management, how to build teams, how to motivate groups. It is vital in implementing change in your school that you have a true understanding of these concepts and methods.

Profitable Adaptability

Businesses make good customers and profit greatly by creating a proactive adaptability to change. Schools also profit by this same action. However, when identifying gaps, and establishing where to start your change management program it may be wise to look at how your students, community and staff are treated. Are they treated as customers or are they treated as people who just have to be there. If you went to a restaurant and the meat was undercooked, you would not hesitate to say ”take it back, I want it well done.” But, what happens when a teacher comes to you because her classroom is not adequately ventilated, or a student has a problem with a certain subject. If the auto-response is “that’s the way it is,” or, “that’s the way it’s always been,” then this is a gap that a change management program can address. While businesses take great pains to assure that their vision and goals are clearly understood, spend countless hours assuring that their staff are well trained in conveying those visions and goals, and work very hard at exuding great customer service. Schools have reacted to mandates. This is a costly endeavor instead of a proactive approach, we start the “blame game.” The gaps, when addressed proactively, are much easier to manage than to wait until the state or federal government pronounce on the Internet how bad your school is and you start losing students before families even move into the area.

School leaders, teachers, students and parents must become business partners for positive change to take place and be sustained. Proactive leaders utilize change management in every aspect of their enterprise. And, school is an enterprise. Unless a drastic assessment and change takes place in most schools, the money lost in terms of drop-outs, low scores, fines, take-overs, etc., will negatively impact not only the school, and students, but the community as well. So, let’s discuss some steps for change management that leadership can use to start improving their standing in the educational community.

Collaboration Beyond the Classroom

Teacher training days are already built into the school year. Most of the teachers will attend these training days. Can you imagine what would happen in students homes if parents and teachers participated together in a teacher training day? Parents would suddenly find themselves part of the solution instead of being blamed for the problem. There would be an opportunity to teach communication skills and collaboration to a gymnasium of people who deal daily with the students. Imagine a student taking homework home and a parent actually understanding what the teacher is trying to do ahead of time. The reason that parents do not participate in parent-teacher nights and other activities at school is because most are working parents. They have neither the time or energy to go to a school on a Wednesday night after work and walk around a classroom. Teachers are tired, parents are tired, kids are hyped up because they’ve been getting ready for weeks. The result of parent-teacher night is that everyone is disappointed. Teachers, because most of the parents don’t show up (which just proves they don’t care), parents because they had to drive to school with screaming kids to basically stand around for fifteen minutes and pick up their students homework, and students because the subject they really do like was not discussed enough and they didn’t have time to really be noticed in the commotion.

What if parent-teacher night were parent-teacher “day” on a Saturday afternoon. What if each class sat up booths on the playing field and it was actually a carnival like atmosphere where parents and teachers really could talk and students really could man booths and show their special projects. Would this cost more? No, Would it take more time to set up? No, Would more parents and students show up? You bet, there is nothing like a student with a place to go on a Saturday that is all about them and very few parents say no. In addition, for those students who have parents that don’t participate, could still come because it’s during the day and they could still feel that they were important and needed.  Isn’t that what we are really trying to instill in students in the first place, to be better members of our communities?

Final Thoughts – Where to start?

Start with a simple survey sent to teachers, parents and students. Make sure that they are totally non-threatening and ask for honest answers. If you school is on the low end of the scale a simple survey will give you all of the information you need to start raising those scores. And, you will be surprised to learn that the teachers, students and parents are pretty aligned on identifying gaps and giving ideas for filling those gaps.

In our next series of articles we will be discussing some of the possible gaps you may be facing and some cost-effective alternatives to making small changes that have a big impact.