How A Well-Run Classroom is Like a Well-Run Safe Routes to School Program

Last week, I came across this tweet from Amy Fast:

We cannot change human behavior by solely providing consequences & discipline. You also cannot change human behavior by solely empathizing & supporting. It’s often the combination of hope AND discomfort that ultimately compels us to change. This is true in education & in society.— Amy Fast, Ed.D. (@fastcrayon) April 5, 2019

Immediately, my mind went to my efforts over this school year with Safe Routes to School. One of the very first things we learned is that a successful SRTS program requires comprehensive efforts from all of the 6 E’s: Engineering, Enforcement, Encouragement, Education, Evaluation, & Equity.

When school leaders are frustrated that parents are disregarding their Safe Routes programs or policies, it’s likely the answer lies not in “entitlement” or “laziness,” but in a need for further support & guidance.

The National Partnership for Safe Routes to School has provided an excellent online guide that shares strategies and case studies for each of the 6 E’s. If you have any connection to Safe Routes at your school, I highly recommend digging in!

Back to the classroom. As Amy Fast described in the tweet above, we need a mix of strategies in order to affect human behavior. Here are my connections for each of the SRTS strategies to the classroom. Especially as some students struggle with the adjustment in coming back from Spring Break, I hope this is a timely post for anyone looking for ways to bolster their classroom culture!

Engineering: In Safe Routes, this is design. It might be crosswalks, bulb-outs, flashing lights. In our classrooms, it is how we construct that “third teacher” for learning & appropriate behavior.

Enforcement: In Safe Routes, this is police or safety patrol monitoring. In our classrooms, this comes back to our classroom expectations.

  • Do you hold regular class meetings to help reinforce expectations? Key here is regular; if they only happen to lecture students for poor behavior, they will not be as effective as meetings that students know they can always depend on for housekeeping outlets & community-building.
  • Do you emphasize and purposefully work on developing self-regulation skills?

Encouragement: In Safe Routes, this is fun, excitement, & interest. In our classrooms, this is the way we celebrate together & make our classrooms places to look forward to being in.

Education: In Safe Routes, this is providing safety training & spreading awareness of SRTS goals. In our classrooms, this is ongoing efforts to work toward the why & how of learning & behavior (and not just the what).

Evaluation: In Safe Routes, this is assessing our effectiveness & program course-correction. In our classrooms, this is assessments for our content, yes, but it’s also assessing the culture in our classroom.

Equity: In Safe Routes, this is accessibility, normalization, & stakeholder voices. In our classrooms, it’s the same thing!

This is not intended as a comprehensive or a condemnatory list. Just as a Safe Routes program is always tinkering and working toward stronger strategies, so, too, will we tinker & experiment with our teaching and learning. What are other strategies you would bring to the table?

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My #OneWord2019: Power in Flexibility

Take a minute to watch this artful video by RC Cone called, “trees, they move.”

Equally thought-provoking was the description added:

“Riding my bike home on these dark, windy nights has helped me realize that trees move more than our opinions, beliefs, fashions, discriminations, and judgements but still stay firmly rooted. They’re REALLY flexible.”

~RC Cone

I learned so much from my 2018 one word goal of power. It was incredible to engage with my community and learn that we all have so much more influence than we realize, especially when we find others who share our passions (see my mid-year reflection here).

It feels like a very natural progression to take all that passion and funnel it into my 2019 one word goal: flexible. No matter how sure we feel about our positions and crusades, we are always stronger when we seek understanding and empathy, and that takes a lot of flexibility.

I also need this one word in a literal sense. I still remember a P.E. teacher telling me that I was the most inflexible kid she had ever seen, and for some reason, things haven’t spontaneously improved over the last 20 years. And my back is especially starting to pay the price. I hope that as I work physical stretching into my daily routine, I will have a natural reminder to find ways to be flexible in all circumstances.

Just as those powerful trees stay firmly rooted, so will I. But I look forward to finding out how flexible I can become!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

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Top 20 Posts That YOU Wrote in 2018

Over the last week, I’ve shared my favorite books from 2018

…my most-read posts I published in 2018

…and today, I share my favorite blog posts that you wrote in 2018. 

I deeply enjoy all three annual reflections for different reasons. This one is a celebration of learning, which means it might be my favorite. As most readers here know, I am presently away from the classroom to be at home with my very small students. It has been 4 ½ years now, and while I am grateful for this precious opportunity, I feel profoundly indebted to the many teachers across the world who have taken the time to share their learning, thinking, and questions. It has allowed me to continue to grow as a professional, and it keeps me feeling excited for the day I will jump back in!

So here are 20 posts, in no particular order, that most provoked my thinking this year. Thank you very much, and please keep sharing your learning!

#1: Adventures in Unveiling: Critical Pedagogy & Imagination by Sean Michael Morris

 #2: No More Cookie Cutter Teaching by Deb Frazier

#3: A Shift Toward Student Self-Reporting by Abe Moore

#4: Teaching While Parenting: Facing Struggle by Kristine Mraz

#5: We Don’t Need Saviors, We Need Leaders Who Are Ready to Form True Partnerships with Families and Communities by Kaya Henderson

#6: Timetables — The Enemy of Creativity by Michael BondClegg

#7: Getting the Mix Right: Teacher Guidance & Inquiry Learning by Kath Murdoch

#8: Be a Reader Leader – What Administrators Can Do to Promote a Reading Culture by Pernille Ripp

#9: Being Human by Will Richardson

#10: The Importance of Documentation by David Gostelow

#11: It’s Not Complicated by Donalyn Miller

#12: Building a Culture of Agency by Edna Sackson

#13: Armed with Books by Russ Walsh

#14: Why Teachers Are Walking Out by Seth Nichols

#15: Letting Students Teach by Mindy Slaughter

#16: Work’s Worth by Monte Syrie

#17: What Could An Agency-Supportive First Week of School Look Like? by Taryn BondClegg

#18: Step Away from the Stickers by Lisa Cranston

#19: Writers, Not Just for Workshop by Kelsey Corter

#20: Supporting English Language Learners: Using Technology to Increase Classroom Participation and Creativity by Jen McCreight

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My Most-Read Posts of 2018

Identifying which posts were most read each year is always an interesting reflective process for me a I look for patterns and why’s. For instance, it’s clear that this year, people were drawn to my most status-quo-questioning posts. Meanwhile, I’m also working on my other annual post in which I share my favorite posts written by other educational bloggers, so stay tuned for that soon!

#8: 7 Ways to Communicate We Care About at-home reading–without Reading Logs

What this post’s popularity tells me: I think many of us are searching for better ways to communicate with families about at-home learning. We worry about practices like reading logs because of how micromanaging they can feel, but we also worry about simply abandoning them because of how important reading is. This post offers specific ideas addressing both concerns.

#7: 7 Ways for Promoting More Choice Within “Compulsory Learning”

What this post’s popularity tells me: It is much easier to throw out the now-common advice, “offer students more choice,” than it is to put it in practice. Especially when it feels like we ourselves are suffocated by mandates upon mandates. The fact that this one was read so often tells me that people welcome explicit ideas of how we might find ways to provide choices even within a compulsory environment.

#6: Inquiry Into Skills: Self-Management

What this post’s popularity tells me: Lack of self-control has historically been a top criticism of youth. But self-management is really a much more universally needed skill.  Resources to help students develop self management skills are thus in high demand.

#5: Strategies to trust students when they seem uninterested

What this post’s popularity tells me: No matter how much teachers supports student agency and choice, there will always be a student who makes them scratch their heads and wonder how best to reach him or her.  

#4: 18 Best Videos to Get to Know Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators

What this post’s popularity tells me: Simply put, we love to get to know our heroes on more of a personal level. 

#3: Student Agency: 5 Steps for Beginners

What this post’s popularity tells me: As agency becomes more commonly discussed across the education world, many are looking for where to start: what it means and how we can take some significant initial steps. 

#2: Inquiry into Being a Writer

What this post’s popularity tells me: So many students feel like writing is only something “real” writers do. They do not self-identify because it seems beyond their reach for one or several reasons. I hope this inquiry has led to more kids starting to think about themselves as real writers, too!

#1: Instead of Keeping them in from Recess, What If

What this post’s popularity tells me: As a teacher who has kept in too many kids from too many recesses myself, we just get to a point where we wonder if that’s really our only choice. I think this one was my most read post published in 2018 because we want to find alternatives that get to the root of the behavior and relationships. 

What were your most-read posts of 2018? Why do you think that was?

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Inquiry into Attitudes: Integrity

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

This is the last post in this series! However, I hope it will continue to grow via comments as readers add their own ideas.

Most students go straight to honesty and moral uprightness when it comes to defining integrity. But I also really like the secondary definition,

“the state of being whole and undivided.”

So much to unpack and explore with this concept, especially for those teachers working to set the stage for a new school year.

Resource #1: Alike by Pepe School 

Resource #2: Bill Watterson: A Cartoonist’s Advice (comic by Zen Pencils featuring a speech by Bill Watterson)

by Zen Pencils, speech from Bill Watterson

Resource #3: Buster Keaton: Art of the Gag via The Kid Should See This (if you’re short on time, just watch 6:30-end)

Resource #4: Dove Real Beauty Sketches (at first I debated including this one, but the more I ponder, the more I think this kind of integrity to self is an essential part of the discussion).

Resource #5: Picture Books! (at first I thought about only including strong “moral of the story” books–and Strega Nona is one example of that–but then I thought about the many options that explore the concept of integrity with a bit more exploration, including with that idea of “being whole & undivided” (Extra Yarn) or even when honesty is a question up for debate (True Story of the 3 Little Pigs & This is Not My Hat).

Provocation Questions:

  • How does having integrity impact the lives of people around you?
  • How does having integrity impact your own life?
  • What are the different perspectives on what integrity means?
  • What responsibility to have integrity do we have for our communities? For ourselves?

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Inquiry into Attitudes: Tolerance

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

Sometimes it seems like our world today is overcome with notions of in-group/out-group. But what if we can help our students find their common ground? This week’s provocation is centered on the PYP attitude of tolerance, which involves “work[ing] towards feeling sensitivity towards differences and diversity in the world and being responsive to the needs of others.”

Resource #1: Us Vs Them: Immigration, Empathy, & Psychology via The Kid Should See This

Resource #2: Charter for Compassion by Ben Kaufman

Resource #3: Day & Night by Pixar

Resource #4: What is Public Life?

Resource #5: Most People by Michael Lennah & Jennifer E. Morris

Provocation Questions: 

  • What does it mean to have tolerance?
  • What is the connection between tolerance and empathy?
  • How does tolerance impact a diverse community? How does tolerance impact a community that seems alike?
  • What is our responsibility to cultivate tolerance?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

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Inquiry into Attitudes: Cooperation

This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP and the Learner Profile. For more, click here.

As with many other character traits, cooperation is one we clearly value, but how well do our students understand it? For them, is it just the absence of fighting? Or is it something more? This week’s provocation is meant to help students investigate it further for themselves.

Resource #1: What Is Sustainable Development? by World’s Largest Lesson (I plan to begin SDGs provocations after I finish the PYP ones!)

#2: Head Up by Film Bilder

#3: This Too Shall Pass Rube Goldberg Machine by OK Go

#4: Simon Senek on Intensity vs Consistency by The RSA

Resource #5: Flora & the Peacocks by Molly Idle

Resource #6: Officer Buckle & Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

#7: It’s Mine! by Leo Lionni

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Provocation Questions:

  • How does cooperation work?
  • In what ways must we depend on each other in order to cooperate?
  • Why is cooperation sometimes hard? How do we overcome obstacles?
  • How do cooperation and sustainability connect?
  • What is our responsibility to cooperate with one another as families? As communities? As a planet?
  • How is creativity enhanced when we can cooperate?
  • How is productivity enhanced when we cooperate?
  • How is cooperation connected to relationships? To vulnerability & trust?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

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