Let’s Add One Hour of Instruction Time to Everyone’s School Day

Research shows when teachers spend time greeting students as they walk into the classroom, it can improve student behavior. There was higher academic engagement with the students, as well as less disruptive behavior. It increased their learning time by one hour. Teachers also commented on how easy the effort was for such a great outcome. 

One key point that I find very interesting in this study is the simplicity of human engagement and interaction. Students may come to school for an education, but long for relationships and trust to be built before real learning can happen. Another way I have observed this in my teaching is the use of personal storytelling to connect concepts. I often retold stories of my childhood to my first-grade students that would assist them in understanding concepts, which helped them feel connected to me in a new way by knowing me on a personal level. I truly believe that relationships are key in teaching, and research now shows that it is, even by simply standing at the door to greet students. 

Another aspect I find very interesting is the ratio of time spent to time earned. How long does it take to stand at the door to greet students? Maybe five to seven minutes max? In return, the study suggests that because of increased student engagement and decreased disruptive behaviors, a full hour was added in instruction time. 7 minutes: 1 hour seems to be a very fair ratio to me! 

Less disruptive behavior is appealing to any educator. Time spent redirecting and keeping students on track is not only unprofitable to the classroom but can also be wearing on the teacher over time, causing both the teacher and the students more stress. Spending a few minutes every day standing near the doorway to greet students truly can be very lucrative.     

Applying this to the classroom may look simple at first, however, once put into action, it can also seem too time-consuming. How often are you running through your classroom sorting last-minute papers, or writing up information on the whiteboard as students walk in? It can be so easy to use these last few minutes to finish up work before the day must begin. 

When we check our expectations of ourselves and remember that relationships must come before learning can happen, spending a few minutes greeting students will come before that last-minute work. It also does not happen in one day. This happens over time and with consistency. 

I challenge you to give it a try for a few weeks and let me know what you find. Do you have less disruptive behavior in your classroom? Are your students more actively engaged in the learning process? Was it hard to give up that time in order to greet students, or did you find it easy? 

Photo Credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

Helicopter Mom

It was a beautiful summer night and I was outside spending time with my family. My two-year-old with less than perfect gross motor skills walked toward the playset in our backyard, looking at the rope ladder with a light in her eyes like she was about to accomplish something monumental. We spent time practicing this rope ladder with her often, however, this would be the first solo trip she would take on it. 

The second her foot hit the rope, I ran to her. 

I immediately stood directly behind her, putting my hands close to her without touching because obviously I would never be a helicopter mom. “Be careful! Be careful!” I kept telling her. All while her feet never left the ground. 

“Your blades are turning,” my husband said from across the lawn. That’s our code for me to take a step back and stop letting my “helicopter blades” do the parenting for me. I always promised myself I wouldn’t become a helicopter parent, but after becoming a mom I quickly realized it was much harder than I initially believed. I’ve come to realize this is a common story for many parents. Why is this? 

It is so hard to watch someone, especially a loved one, fail or hurt themselves. If we can help our kids avoid pain or failure, why wouldn’t we stop it from happening for them? I know that if we all stepped back and analyzed it, the answer is clear. We shouldn’t intervene because mistakes are how we learn and grow. This video shows this concept perfectly. 

So how do we put ourselves out of a job as a parent? Here are a few ways. 

-Watch and wait. When your son is struggling to dismantle his new, bigger bike and you’re ready to run over and help, watch and wait. You may end up needing to help, or he may surprise you.  

-Remember that failing is learning. When you’re in full-on “lifesaver” mode, running your child’s forgotten history report to school minutes before she needs to turn it, take a split second to remember that maybe just maybe if you don’t bring it to her and she receives a poor grade this one time, maybe she will remember her English paper tomorrow. 

-Realize that we cannot protect our kids from the world. Bad things will happen, but good things will happen too. 

-Trust your child. Really trust them. 

-Scaffolding doesn’t make you a helicopter parent. Do it for them, do it with them, watch, let them do it alone. This process will look different with every task and every kid. 

-They will not solve problems or handle situations the same way you do, and that’s okay. Let them. 

-Most importantly, remember that YOU are the mom these kids need. There is no better mom than you, and you are doing an incredible job.  

I took a step back after I was reminded that my helicopter blades were turning, I watched and waited to be absolutely amazed by my daughter. I was convinced she couldn’t do it and that she would end up falling, I didn’t have trust in her. Once I presented her with the opportunity to prove me wrong, she did. She climbed that rope ladder with confidence and grace, one step after the next, showing me just how capable she was, putting me out of my “rope ladder spotter” job. 

How do you promote independence in your children or students? Do you find yourself being a helicopter mom too? How do you handle it? 

Photo credit: https://deathtothestockphoto.com/

Great Advice that Led to Great Planning

When I found out I was able to write for this blog, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions. First, excitement! I finally have a window back into the education world, one where I could stay updated on the latest trends and write while I’m researching and learning. Once the excitement faded, I quickly became overwhelmed. How in the world would I come up with enough content to write about? Writer’s block was bound to happen. 

I was gifted the best advice on how to combat this. I needed to come up with a weekly schedule on the topics I would write about, giving me a starting point with each post. Brilliant! Answer me this- What teacher doesn’t love themselves a great outline? I spent a few days brainstorming the three topics I wanted to cover, fine-tuned them, and came to a decision. The three categories I landed on are easy for me because I’m still new to this. My hope is to let these topics be fluid and change based on my comfort levels as I continue. I have plenty of other topics I would love to write about in the future, but confidence needs to build before I am willing to jump in and write about them. So without further ado, here is my less than perfect outline. 

Monday- Play is a Child’s Work: Writing in my Realm 

My current students are a two-year-old and one month old. I am choosing not to teach in a classroom setting right now because I have the wonderful opportunity to be home with my kids to raise and teach them instead. We learn every day through play, whether it’s them doing the learning, or myself doing the learning through their actions, we’re all growing. 

Wednesday- Research Shows 

I have often read articles or participated in conversations that state “Research shows…..” followed by a fairly bold statement. What is this research? Where was it done? How was it conducted? And how can we best apply it in our teaching? These are the questions I would like to explore and analyze in my writing, with the hope of using my findings to have a more solid idea of what research shows, how to find the real research, and what exactly the research means in the classroom setting. 

Friday- Using Books in Teaching 

Confession: I may have graduated with a degree in Elementary Education with every intention of using it to teach K-6 someday. (More on this in my introduction post) However, if you were to ask me what my dream job is, like what I really, really would love to spend my days doing, it would be a librarian in an elementary setting. I love reading and I love using books to teach, just like *almost* every other teacher out there. Fridays are my day to choose a book, or books, that have helped me in my teaching profession and share them with you on how to use and apply it in the classroom. 

I am eager to work on each of these topics and share it with you. My hope is that they will direct but not limit me. I am going in with complete fluidity, changing where needed, and expanding when possible, and my hope is that you will come along on this journey with me. 

What are some ways you have overcome writer’s block? Has a writing schedule benefited you in your writing, or limited you? 

Photo Credit: https://deathtothestockphoto.com/

An Introduction to Me- McKenzie Ross

My name is McKenzie Ross and I graduated from Utah State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education and an emphasis in Language Arts. 

Hi. I’ve just been waiting three years for the opportunity to say that. I spent a good chunk of my life going to school to study education and how to become the best teacher possible, only to quickly become a stay at home mom soon after. It’s not exactly how I planned my life to go, but alas, it’s how it happened and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. 

Here I am now, with the opportunity to finally say those words in a meaningful space. My name is McKenzie Ross and I graduated from Utah State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Science degree in Elementary Education and an emphasis in Language Arts. 

Gosh, that feels so good. 

Let me give you some background on me. My teaching experience started in my parents’ basement out in the sticks in Idaho at just six years old. I would sit at our little white desk making worksheets and coloring pages for my sister to do. I would sit her down at the desk and say, “this is the letter A. It says a like a-a-apple. Now draw A’s on your paper and color this apple.” 

Thank goodness my teaching has improved since then. 

I knew early on that teaching was my calling in life. In fact, I don’t remember a single time that I didn’t want to be a teacher. In high school I took an Early Childhood Development class that helped me obtain my CDA- Child Development Associates. Basically I could run a daycare if I wanted to. Not much of an accomplishment, but it was one step closer to where I wanted to be, and that was exciting! 

Later on in high school I did a volunteer project teaching a second grade class music twice a week, because at the time in Idaho, music classes had been cut. Although I spent countless afternoons making my sister color pages and learn from me, I truly do attribute teaching music as my first real ”teaching” experience. While I do feel like it was a great start, I am still so glad I went on to continue my learning to become an educator and improve my skills.  

I attended school at quite possibly the best university in the nation (okay, maybe I’m biased). Utah State University will always be near and dear to my heart and I will forever teach my kids to say “Go Aggies!” because I believe in teaching them important values in life, like which school is the best. While attending school there, I volunteered in a 4th grade classroom grading papers and reading with kids for a semester because I longed to be back in the school system and working in a classroom while I was still in my general studies. 

Later on, I found a job working in an after school club tutoring elementary aged kids. A year into this job, I was bumped up to supervisor of the after school club, which was an incredible opportunity for me to run an entire kids program at the age of 19. Once my school work started interfering with this position, I went back to nannying two kids that I had been working with on and off since I had initially moved to Logan for school. 

The way the education department is set up at USU, by the time I was graduating I had already worked in five different classrooms, all in different grades, each in a different school. Along with two seperate P.E. classes at, yet again, another school. Just from my schooling, I was exposed to six different elementary schools in Cache Valley, with different principals, teachers, and styles at each of them. Not to mention the after school program I ran and the volunteer work I did. 

I graduated from school in December of 2016, and in an area so saturated with teachers, that finding a teaching job mid school year was not an option. I signed up to become a substitute teacher, then exposing myself to the secondary education world. While I did enjoy being in these classrooms for a day, it reassured me that as far as long term goes, elementary is where I needed to be. 

During my time subbing, I was given an incredible, life changing opportunity to become a long term sub in a first grade classroom. I spent the last nine weeks of school (which we all know are the hardest weeks of school!) with these 27 kids. Yes, you read that right. My first grade class had TWENTY-SEVEN kids. This was the bulk of my teaching exposure, and something I will write about later on. 

Shortly after that school year ended, my daughter, Emersyn, was born. I made the decision to stay home with her instead of working, however, I couldn’t COMPLETELY rid myself of the school system. So I found a job as a crossing guard, stuck my tiny baby in a backpack carrier every morning and afternoon, and became best friends with the 50 or so kids that would cross my cross walk every day. Also during this time I attended conferences and seminars to keep up my teaching licence and continue my networking in the education system. Later when she was older I started substitute teaching again.  

She is now two years old, and I just had my second baby one month ago, so no more subbing for awhile. My son Easton was born at the beginning of August, and now I teach the two cutest students I’ve ever taught. Staying home with them has been the biggest blessing (challenge?) for me, and I am so lucky to do so. 

When I heard that Mary had a job option that allowed me to still stay home, but also still be connected to teaching, I knew I had to look into it. It all happened so fast, and I’m still a little blown away that they would choose me to do this. 

I have only known Mary for about a year now, but she is still one of the most inspiring people I know. The more I’ve learned about her, the more I’ve realized we have a lot in common. Often times I’ve read her #teachermom posts and thought to myself, “Okay, how did Mary read my mind, and who gave her permission to write about it and claim it as her own?!” 

She’s an incredible woman, and the reason I have this incredible opportunity. I cannot promise to write as amazing of content as she did, but by golly I am going to try! I am so excited for this little platform to give me a window back into the educator world while I am stepped away for now. My goal is to raise my family and go back to teaching once they are in school themselves. 

I dream of the day I have my own classroom that my kiddos run to once school is over. I long to be back in the trenches of grading papers and writing notes home to parents about field trips and movie days. I so badly look forward to the fresh smell of crayons and pencils at the beginning of the school year. Weirdly enough, I long for those frustrating days with students that misbehave and make the day plain hard, because I know deep down it’ll be rewarding somehow. But until then, I’ll just be right here, happily teaching my two little students and writing blog posts. 

Inquiry Into SDGs: Clean Water & Sanitation

This is a series of provocations designed to provide resources for students to inquire into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. For more, click here

The first challenge in helping students inquire into the need to provide clean water and sanitation is to recognize what a privilege it is to have! These resources are intended to help them consider this global goal and how they might help.

Resource #1: G R A N T E D by Michele Guieu

Resource #2: Why Water by CharityWater

Resource #3: Global Citizen – Water & Sanitation by BRIKK

#Resource #4: Water Stewardship by Nice & Serious & WWF

Resource #5: The Water Princess by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel & Peter Reynolds

Provocation Questions:

  • How is clean water important to humans?
  • How is sanitation important to humans?
  • Why is clean water scarce for so many people? How does this scarcity impact an individual? A family? A community?
  • What is our responsibility to manage water well?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

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?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Inquiry into Attitudes: Respect

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

Respect. It seems to be a character trait frequently invoked when describing another generation (usually not in a very complimentary light). But as with all these provocations, how often do we give our students the opportunity to construct meaning for such traits for themselves?

This week’s provocation is meant to help students investigate the attitude of respect for themselves.

Resource #1: Respect Mother Nature by Jon Rawlinson

Resource #2: Day & Night by Pixar

Resource #3: For the Birds by Pixar

Resource #4: Celebrating Mr. Rogers by GoogleDoodles via The Kid Should See This

Resource #5: A Boy & A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz & Catia Chien


Resource #6: Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

Provocation Questions:

  • What is the role of noticing and appreciating differences when it comes to respect?
  • How does respect impact relationships with friends and family? Strangers?
  • What is our responsibility to respect our environment?
  • How is kindness similar to respect? How is it different?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto