This is my farewell post. Before getting to the content, I'd like to thank Scholastic for allowing me the opportunity to share the magic that occurs behind the scenes in a classroom. I'd like to thank Special Days Camp, the students of Studio 24, and the Integrity Bros. for the continued inspiration and ideas. I'd like to thank any teacher, friend, student, family member, colleague, reader, or human that ever sparked an idea in my mind. From John Medina to Spencer Kagan, and from the author of The Hunger Games series to the inventor of spray paint, I thank you for your contribution to my classroom. Lastly, I'd like to thank you, my faithful readers. Your overwhelmingly positive comments, emails, and suggestions have made me a better teacher.
Although I could write at length about the value of all of the ideas that follow, the time is short. So the CliffsNotes version appears below. Here are a last few gems, for seasoned teachers or rookies, on which you can meditate this summer.
TEN IDEAS TO PONDER
- REM — Rapport, environment, modeling. I credit my teaching successes to my original REM philosophy. I intentionally focus on REM each and every day. Build rapport with the students and parents. Create a positive and safe environment with high standards. Model the behavior you expect out of your students. What changes can you make to increase one or all three of those keys to success?
- Be Authentic and Honest — Kids can detect insincerity. Don't try to be anyone but yourself. As Oprah Winfrey has said, only you can be the best you.
- Be Reflective — Each day evaluate your actions. Think of something that went well that you want to do again. Think of an opportunity for improvement. Encourage your students to do the same. It really does move the class forward at a faster pace.
- Be Brain Friendly — John Medina boils brain research down to the basics. Start there. Sprinkle in some music to teach reading and to manage the classroom (see my sample playlists).
- Find Inspiration — Read Randy Pausch's book The Last Lecture, watch Master Class on the Oprah Winfrey Network and TED Talks on education, browse Kevin Honeycutt's and Beth Newingham's Web sites for ideas, and subscribe to Scholastic's Instructor magazine. All of these are great places to find inspiration.
- Be Efficient — Be prepared and minimize all distractions. Every minute counts! Create lessons that encourage maximum engagement. Spencer Kagan is a great place to begin.
- Try Something New — Perhaps instead of PowerPoint, try using Prezi (free) next year. You don't have to know everything about it. Just introduce it to your students, and they will be able to show you some tricks.
- Challenge ALL Students — Don't teach to the median and don't focus on the low. Challenge them all. Try Khan Academy (free) to keep all of your students in the zone of proximal development. If you feel a surge of extra energy, develop a Challenge Based Learning unit.
- Focus on One Improvement at a Time — You don't have to do it all at once. The first journey starts with one step.
- Character Education — Teach beyond the curriculum (trust, leadership, integrity, etc.). Teach the child. Teach in the moment. Be the moment.
2i2 is a trademark of Mr. Vasicek's class. It represents doing your best and doing it with integrity.