Posted in Differentiated instruction, Special ed, Student engagement, Success, Teachable moments, Winning

Chapter 53: Community Policing

A few weeks ago, a pair of sheriff’s deputies paid a visit to our campus. Visits from LEOs aren’t unheard of, but they’re not super common, either, and the sight of two uniformed officers walking into my classroom startled a student who is still learning some social skills and isn’t comfortable with surprises.

I told him the deputies were just there because they were hoping he’d read them a story. (He’s been working on his fluency a lot lately, so I hoped he’d take the bait.) I asked the deputies to sit down and give him a little space while he processed the situation, which they kindly did. Right about then, his mom arrived to pick him up from school, but the deputies stuck around for a bit, and before they left, I got their names and a mailing address for the sheriff’s office.

The next day, my student wrote a letter inviting them back to hear him read, and when I saw one of the deputies at a school event a few days later, I asked him to give me a heads-up before their next visit so I could be sure my student wasn’t caught off-guard.

I got a text from him yesterday morning, saying they were going to be on campus later. I was out sick but immediately notified my boss, who ensured my student was prepared.

This morning, when I returned to school, my student greeted me with the news that he’d read to his new friends, and they had promised to return with patches for him and his classmates one day soon. He even got out his iPod and proudly showed me a video someone had taken of him reading and joking with them.

I’ve worked for newspapers in three states. I’ve spent a lot of time at crime scenes. I’ve met some pretty great cops. And I think I speak with authority when I say: This is EXACTLY how community policing is supposed to work.

Thanks to the patience of two friendly deputies, my student’s perception of law enforcement has changed from one of fear (which could lead to potentially dangerous misunderstandings when he is older) to one of camaraderie. Bonus: He got to practice reading and socializing a little bit in the process. And he is hella excited about that patch.

I hope he made their day as much as they made his.


Posted in Common Core, Student engagement, Tools, Whimsy

Chapter 44: A New Hope


OMG, you guys. I just found THEEEEEEEE most ridiculous way to display my Common Core objectives on the Promethean board next fall: the Star Wars Crawl Creator.

It won’t let me save text I enter, so I’ll have to put the daily objectives in a Word file and just copy and paste them in on the fly, but I am HOWLING as I imagine my hilarious incoming sophomores sitting down, looking up at the board, and seeing their objectives scroll up the screen in George Lucas style while John Williams’ famous theme song plays dramatically in the background.

Three days into summer, and I’m already nerding it up. I don’t even know what to say for myself.


Posted in Exit tickets, Student engagement

Chapter 40: Vandalism

A few years ago, “exit tickets” were all the rage. Not a workshop, conference, or mandatory professional development session went by without a consultant breaking out forms, sticky notes, or giant Post-It pads and demanding that attendees write down something they’d learned before they were allowed to leave.

These well-intentioned assignments were largely useless, because the consultants invariably waited until the last minute to announce that they would be required. If I’m attending a mandatory activity that is scheduled to end at noon, there’s likely to be a long line for lunch, and you wait until 11:59 a.m. to tell me I have to fill out an exit ticket before I can leave, I’m probably not going to give your last-minute assignment a whole lot of thought.

Unfortunately, exit tickets were so popular at conferences and training sessions that administrators picked up on them and began demanding that teachers use them.

The first time I did this, it worked exactly as well as you’d expect. Kids, as it turns out, have even less patience with last-minute busywork than professional educators do, and they were even less inclined to make any real effort to complete the assignment, so I added exit tickets to the list of party tricks I’d ignore most of the time but break out on days when the brass was visiting and I needed to put on a good dog-and-pony show.

Still, when the brass did visit, I needed the kids to give the illusion that they were all in for exit tickets. One of the fastest ways to get students on board with an activity is to let them think they’re being terribly subversive by doing it — so instead of handing out sticky notes or preprinted forms, I handed out dry-erase markers and told the kids to write their exit tickets directly on their smooth-topped desks.

We were doing an assignment over connotation and denotation, so five minutes before the end of class, I asked the kids to clear their desks and write a definition for the word “connotation” in their own words.

They were all in. Why?

First, I was asking them to do the assignment on my time, not theirs.  Second, and more importantly: Writing on paper is work. Writing on a desk is vandalism. How often do you get carte blanche to vandalize school property?

Bonus: If you teach multiple sections of the same subject, this hour’s exit ticket can serve as next hour’s anticipatory set.