Wednesday, August 26, 2009

When one door closes ...

... another door opens.

Many thanks to Gazette for picking up my article on teaching silent children for their October 2009 issue.

October is Selective Mutism Awareness month! Have a student who can't answer you, cannot even look you in the eye? He or she may suffer from an anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism. Read my experience teaching a selectively mute child in the October issue of Gazette. For gobs of great information, visit

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Selective Mutism, Silent and Misunderstood

A teaching publication rejected an article about how to identify, understand, and work with students with Selective Mutism ... on the grounds that they only publish articles about teachers. Insert huffy breath here. Aren't students of interest to teachers? Aren't strategies to reach and teach students of interest to teachers? I am a little miffed.

Perhaps I should be grateful he didn't say, "No thanks; your writing rots." Perhaps I should be glad about that.

I'm not. Now *I* am "Silent and Misunderstood."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thank you Ann Marie, Julia, and Eagle Hill Institute!

What a wonderful time at Eagle Hill last week.

In truth, I was almost paralyzed with fear at the thought of speaking before 70 teachers on EH's spectacular new stage. I not-so-silently cursed the girls for pulling me into this. However, once I began delivering profound musings on pencil and paper management, I realize how critical a service we were providing (I'd insert a winky face here, but I am too old to know how).

The teachers in training were terrific (alliteration!), and it was so good to catch up the Eric, Michael, and Becky.

Thanks, all!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rules, expectations, strong suggestions

Much of what I've read this summer eschews classroom rules. My favorite is from Fay & Funk, who offer: You can do anything you like, providing it doesn't bother anyone else in the class. (Teach with Love & Logic, p 108).

I've always had too many classroom rules. Wong told me no more than 3-5, but I went up to 9!

Kids tend to take each rule as a challenge. They test your limits. They look for the loopholes. They try your patience.

After much thought, I have decided to adopt a modified version of the Whole Brain Teaching (formerly Power Teaching) rules. I intend to tell the class there is only one rule -- keep me happy. I offer the rest as suggestions for those who might be stumped as to how to keep me happy.

Other than this adjustment, I tweaked the wording a bit. "Raise your hand when you'd like to speak" implies (I hope!) that the student must wait for permission. The original "~ before you speak" leads, I know, to simultaneous raised hands and voices. I also changed "when you want to leave your seat" to "walk" just for simplicity. We'll see.

Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) is another new - and better, I hope -- idea I plan to adopt this year. More later. The graphics on the poster (again, my version of WBT concepts) are meant to be both visuals and reminders on associated hand-motions.

Searching for a better class management model

I am fairly skilled in managing my classes. My classes are quiet when I need them quiet, working when I need them working, and there are no major disruptions that I can't handle.

Still ... things could be better.

Students are out of control in hallways. Students do not recognize teacher authority in the lunchroom. And some few students take advantage of my reminder-warning-detention policy by making sure they earn their reminder and warning each and every day. I am getting worn out.

My policies worked inside the classroom, but ended there. I am not satisfied. This summer, I read several books, seeking a better idea.

I found excellent ideas in many books, but the one I intend to follow is from Marvin Marshall. In a nutshell, he posits that people act on one of four levels, only two of which are acceptable in the classroom. My very succinct poster sums these up. In his system, students are taught the levels and acknowledge that only levels C and D are desirable.

Here is the beauty of the plan. Should a student act up, the teacher simply asks, "On what level is your behavior right now?" The student is thus made aware, owns the problem, and is encouraged to make better choices. The teacher does not label, does not impose consequences. The point is to help the student recognize inappropriate behavior and self-correct. The focus is not on whether or not to give Johnny his umpteenth detention, but on how to help Johnny own and improve his behavior.

There is so much more -- interested? Read the book, hit the website, ... or check back in a month or two, when I weigh in on how well this is working in my classroom!