Bright Future Campaign – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 5 Continued – Week 29

If you want to review the past couple of weeks or are still searching for the time to sit down and begin the powerful reflection, you can find the past posts at the link below.

Chapter 5 – Environment for Learning – Do I Provide My Students with an Environment of Excellence?

Before we begin, take a look in your mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:

Do I provide them with a learning environment of learning?
Do I have our classroom mission and vision statements posted?
Do I have our classroom academic excellence criteria posted?
Do I have our student goals and strategies posted?
Do I have a “Wall-of-Fame” posted?
Do I have motivational quotes and affirmations posted?
Do I have historical images that reflect my students posted?
Do I have the names and pictures if colleges and universities posted?
Do I have the names of careers and their descriptions posted?

Picking up where we ended last week, we will continue with one of my favorite parts of Chapter 5. 
Posting a Wall of Fame 

Principal Kafele and I have one thing in common for sure, we are both huge sports fans. Sports analogies can be made in regards to education all day long as there is so much in sports that is applicable to what happens in classrooms every day. In sports, fans and athletes celebrate a big play, a run or point scored regardless if their team is wining or losing. The same should occur in the classroom. We must find the smallest excuses to celebrate students and their accomplishments. Too many students simply never hear prize directed at them; they hear criticisms, condemnations, and put downs, bit hardly ever hear someone say, “Excellent!” or “Great Job!” or “You are brilliant!” It makes sense, when children are told they are doing something well, they are more likely to continue what they are doing. However, of they become  accustomed to a steady stream of criticism, they are not as likely to change what they are doing. 
Post a wall of fame in your classroom to celebrate your students’ accomplishments. This is your students’ wall; it’s about them. There are many things you could focus on, but hers is a list of five suitable for a Wall of Fame. 
Honor Roll
Subject Area: student of the month 
Homework: student of the month 
Attendance: student of the month 
Samples of outstanding student work 
Of course, add other items and even acknowledge your students as frequently as you deem beneficial and appropriate. The bottom line is that you want to ensure that your classroom environment is student centered and that celebrating your students’ accomplishments is f paramount importance. 
Honor Roll  
Some schools post their honor roll on a wall and Principal Kafele agrees with this initiative. The school’s honor roll should be prominently displayed. He also believes that the names of students who make honor roll should be displayed in those students’ classrooms; such recognition gives them a sense of pride in their accomplishments and serves as an incentive for students who are not on the honor roll. 
Subject Area “Students of the Month” 
Typically these programs acknowledge a very small number of students who are practically competing against each other, so he decided to expand his program by including the top students in each subject area. This way they do not compete against each other, they simply have to meet the criteria developed for recognition in each subject area. In doing so, students who struggle in most areas, may still be able to find one subject they can excel in and find something to be celebrated. There is not limit to the number of students who cannot recognized as a subject area “student of the month.” 
He recommends the same for you and your students. Develop criteria that are challenging but attainable. Here are some examples: 
Receives As or Bs on all tests and quizzes
Receives As or Bs on all classroom projects 
Completes all homework assignments 
Displays excellent classroom behavior
Participates extensively in class
At the end of each month, students will love seeing their name posted and will literally stand in awe of the names being posted. 
Homework “Student of the Month”   
On another section of the wall, post certificates for students who have completed all of their homework for the month. Such recognition is an incentive for all students to complete all homework assignments every month. 
Attendance “Student of the Month”   
Another section of your wall could be reserved for attendance. Here you might post certificates or a list of all students who attended school everyday in the past month. 
Samples of Outstanding Student Work
As a consultant one of the first things Kafele looks for is student work and the second is, are the dates on the work. He wants to see work that is current; it disappoints him to see work that is more than a month old. When the samples are continuously updated students are likelier to strive to do superior work, knowing it may get displayed. 
So, check out the work on your rooms, grade level halls or bulletin boards. Has it been updated within the last month? 
Ceremony
On the first day of each month you should lead your students through a short, informal ceremony at some designated time of the day; perhaps at the start or end of class. This time is used to recognize students who have met your criteria for having their name or work displayed on the “Wall of Fame.” This ceremony sends a message to all of your students that you value them, their work, and you value their academic growth and development. 
Again, there are many students sitting in your room who are unaccustomed to praise and recognition. The go days without hearing something nice or positive about themselves. It’s up to us to make sure our students know hoe important they are. 
I like how he unpacked this information. Nothing earth shattering, but one of those, stop and make you think moments. We all want the effort our students give to increase. We want their best each and every day. What if you could make small changes within your room to increase the chances of them giving their all? Would you do it? 
We will close out Chapter 5 next week focusing on motivational quotes, historical images that reflect our students, posting names and pictures of colleges and universities and posting names and descriptions of careers. 
Matt Arend 

Principal
Sigler Elementary

Bright Future Campaign – Week 28 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 5

Bright Future Campaign – Week 28 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 5
While searching through Twitter this morning I found this tweet that clearly connects with our focus over the last several weeks in regards to closing the attitude gap and the climate and culture at Sigler.

Something to ponder:

“You don’t build a great climate/culture–you build people– and then people build the climate/culture.

Hopefully you have found that the climate and culture we are ultimately seeking is up to us.

Chapter 5 – Environment for Learning – Do I Provide My Students with an Environment of Excellence?

Before we begin, take a look in your mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:

Do I provide them with a learning environment of learning?
Do I have our classroom mission and vision statements posted?
Do I have our classroom academic excellence criteria posted?
Do I have our student goals and strategies posted?
Do I have a “Wall-of-Fame” posted?
Do I have motivational quotes and affirmations posted?
Do I have historical images that reflect my students posted?
Do I have the names and pictures if colleges and universities posted?
Do I have the names of careers and their descriptions posted?

In the opening pages of this chapter Principal Kafele reflects on the design of his classroom while he was a 5th grade teacher. He describes different areas of his classroom for:

A list of subject-area “students of the week”
A list of homework “students of the week”
A list of attendance “students of the week”
Goal-setting charts
Student work samples

Throughout the room were posters of universities and colleges; motivational quotes and affirmations; the classroom mission and vision statements; historical images that reflected his students’ backgrounds and the names and descriptions of different careers and occupations. His goal was to create an environment that was stimulating and engaging for his students. He used his walls to create a classroom climate and culture that shaped his students’ attitudes.

Fisher, Frey & Pumpian (2012) ask, “Can our school be so welcoming, so inviting, and so comfortable that every person who walks through our doors believes they are about to have an amazing g experience? Quiet simply, can our stakeholders (our visitors, vendors, parents, staff and students) feel welcomed?

There must be one simple answer to these questions, and that is an emphatic yes!”

Providing Students with a Learning Environment of Excellence

What does your classroom environment look like? Does it encourage students to strive to achieve excellence? Does it encourage them to maximize their potential? Does it make your students want to return to it every day? Is it neat, clean & organized? Is it stocked with reading material and other books?

Your classroom learning environment must communicate to students, “Come on in! This is the place to be!” Your role is to create an alternate environment for students. An environment different then their home in many cases.  A special environment of hope and promise, one that makes a child with low self-esteem feel as though she can become president of the United States if she works hard and applies herself.

A learning environment of excellence is neat, clean, and organized throughout the course of the day.

Posting Classroom Mission and Vision Statements

When Principal Kafele walks into a building the first thing he looks for is how clean the outside grounds and front lobby are. He also focuses on how he is being greeted as he enters the building, and by whom. (Which is why our ladies in the office play such a significant role in what we do. Of a parent walks in and is greeted with a warm smile and a hello, they know their experience will be that much better.) His next priority is to identify the posted school mission and vision statements. The mission tells him what the school is and what it is about; it gives him a sense if the school’s identity and it’s purpose. The vision tells him where the school if going. Staff and students should know the statements and recite then daily. Classrooms ought to post statements of their own as well, particularly at the elementary and middle school level. Each classroom has it’s own unique characteristics that its mission and vision should address while remaining consistent with the overall school mission and vision.

In your own classroom, do you have mission and vision statements? Are they visible? Are students required to recite then daily? Were students allowed input into their development giving them a greater sense of ownership and empowerment?

These statements should be no more than two sentences long and posted in a highly visible location. The statements should be concise yet powerful, so that the point if each is clearly made.

Posting Criteria for Academic Excellence

If we asked students, “What does it mean to be excellent in school?” Although the generic answers students provide are acceptable, they do not speak to the specific expectations of their school or teachers. If we want students to perform at the highest level of proficiency, we must actually explain to then exactly what that is. At minimum, criteria for academic excellence should include the following:

Academic expectations
Homework expectations
Behavioral expectations

Academic Excellence

Students should be held accountable for striving to achieve academic distinction every marking period, similar your honor roll and the end of each nine weeks. Principal Kafele adds that the criteria for making this distinction should be posted and students can access it and refer to it frequently.

Homework Expectations

It’s not enough to tell students and parents that homework is due the day after it is assigned or every Friday. Your approach must be much more systematic. Students must understand homework is designed to reinforce the day’s lesson and it’s completion reflects the high expectations you have set in your classroom. Be sure to post your homework expectations. Here are a few possible criteria:

Writing on front side of paper only.
Black or dark blue in only (except math, where a pencil is required)
Proper headings
No folded work
No wrinkled work
No torn work
No smudges or smears
Minimal grammatical errors
Due on time

Putting this policy in writing and posting it on your classroom wall once again reinforces the expectations you have for your students. It also reminds students the work they submit is a reflection of who they are.

Behavioral Expectations

Students must be able to internalize classroom behavioral expectations, not rules, but expectations. Rules define what students can and cannot due; expectations by contrast speak to the standards you have set for students’ behavior. Rules do not change attitudes, expectations do. The best way for students to know how you expect them to behave is to post your expectations in a visible area and discuss then with your students regularly.

Posting Student Goals and Strategies

Raise your hand if you require students to set academic goals for a given marking period, write a strategy for how they will achieve their goals (both at home and at school), and post both the goals and strategy on the classroom walls?

Typically Kafele asks this and just a few hands go up. His response:

“Are you telling me you expect excellence from your students but you don’t require them to set goals in order to achieve it? If students don’t have targets to aim for, they are essentially just wandering aimlessly throughout the day, every day.”

Your objective is to close the attitude gap and, eventually, the achievement gap. The climate and culture must encourage students to put forth maximum effort to be successful. One way to do this is to teach students how to set specific goals and decide a plan to achieve them. As Jackson (2011) notes, “Goal setting and tracking progress toward those goals makes the idea and successful investment more tangible”.

Creating a Goal Chart

Goals must be made concrete by writing them down. You may need a goal chart where students can write their goals for each nine weeks along with strategies to meet them.

Example:

Goal Chart Section 1: Current Standing
Where am I now? This becomes the starting point or the base for the rest of the process. Under current standing you would list all of the subjects students are taking in your classroom. If it is the first nine weeks assume each student is currently reviewing an “A”.
Goal Chart Section 2: Goals
Where am I going? This where students project the grade they will achieve in each of the classes listed above. The goals students set for each marking period should be:
Challenging: unless they are already getting an “A” students should strive to improve on the grades listed in the current standing section. 
Realistic: if a student currently has a “D” it’s probably unrealistic to write a goal of getting an “A” as the student probably needs to brush up on some foundational skills. 
Attainable: achieving a goal is an accomplishment and therefore an incentive to do even better the next marking period. If goals are not within reach, however students are deprived of the opportunity to experience this short-term accomplishment that is also a stepping stone to long-range success. 
Strategy 
This is the hardest part of goal setting. How will I get there? A two part plan is always best for each subject area, one for school and one for home. Students write what they need to do in class and what they need to do at home to be successful. At our level (elementary) we need to help students devise and compose a strategy. 
Once the charts are complete they should be posted in a section of the classroom. At the conclusion of the marking period students should be given the opportunity to compare their grades with the goals on their chart followed up with discussion with the teacher (whole group or one-on-one) to discuss next steps. Goal charts for the next nine weeks go right in top of the previous so ongoing comparisons can be made. 

Next week we will continue with chapter 5 before beginning chapter 6. This books is full of great ideas that I hope you are finding beneficial to your professional growth and reflection. The book has planted many seeds for me as to what we do next year and what we can begin to do now, to end the final nine weeks on the highest note possible. 

Bright Future Campaign – Week 27 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 4 – Part II

If you want to review the past couple of weeks or are still searching for the time to sit down and begin the powerful reflection, you can find the past posts at the link below. http://matthewarend.blogspot.com/

As you recall, Chapter 4 of “Closing the Attitude Gap” is Compassion for Students – Do I Care About Them? 

I know it’s been a couple of weeks, so it may be time to look into your mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:

1. Do they perceive that I care about them? 
2. Do they perceive that I like them? 3. Do they perceive that I appreciate them? 
4. Do they perceive that I respect them? 
5. Do they perceive that I understand them?
6. Do they perceive that I have empathy toward them? 
7. Do they perceive that I am patient with them? 
8. Do they perceive that I treat them equally and fairly? 
9. Do they perceive that i am committed to them? 
10. Do they perceive that I fear them? 

As you will see as we work through chapter 4, it is not about what YOU think! It is about the perception YOUR students have about YOU! 
Showing Your Students That You Empathize with Them
Empathy is closely related with understanding. We can not simply ignore the life challenges that many of our students face. These challenges affect their ability to learn and to be successful in our classrooms, but more importantly, their desire to even want to learn! 
We all sit down at the end of the day in our homes a bring with us he stories of our students. They are with us 24/7. We cry when hearing some of them and constantly wonder what can we do. 
There is a fine line between empathy and sympathy. We cannot and should not feel sorry for any of our students. Sympathy is not going to help them maximize their potential. Our students need us to understand, identify with, and relate to them, not to feel sorry for them. They need us to know their plight, but also to push them hard so they may successfully overcome it. They need us to listen because they need to be heard. Hart and Kindle Hodson (2004) note, “If we want our students to think for themselves, to be honest and authentic, we need to be reflective, honest and authentic ourselves. If we want our students to know that their thoughts and feelings matter to us, we will take the time to listen to them and to consider their points of view.” (P.25)
The bottom line, to get our students to reach their I imagined heights, we must understands and empathize, but never sympathize. 
Showing Students That You’re Patient with Them
In today’s times of high stakes testing (11 days away) there are enormous pressures on teachers and students to perform. With these pressures, it’s so easy to lose sight of our fundamental purpose of education: to learn. If our students are going to perform well on standardized tests as well as strive for excellence in all their educational endeavors, we must demonstrate patience with them throughout the process. Students do not all learn alike, think alike, or behave alike, it is vital that you appreciate their differences and demonstrate patience with them all. Students will not achieve success at the same time, and any failure to demonstrate patience can discourage those who learn at a slower pace – and discouragement translates into low performance. 
Showing Students That You Treat Them Equally and Fairly 
How do you treat your students? Do you treat them equally? Do you treat them fairly? How do your students perceive your treatment of them? You cannot get the most out of your students if they perceive you treat them unequally or unfairly. They want to be valued, feel appreciated, feel respected. When differential treatment exists, resentment sets I among students, leading to unnecessary tension in your room. Avoid this by taking action to ensure your students perceive you as treating them all in a fair and equal manner. 
Showing Students That You’re Committed to Them:
When all is said and done, our students have to be convinced that we are committed to their educational growth and development. They have to feel and perceive our purpose for reporting to work everyday is to help them soar. They must know we are there for them.
One day when our students are gone and grown, what would they say if they were specifically asked about you as their teacher? Would they articulate how much you cared for them? Would they share how committed you were to them?
We must demonstrate an obvious commitment to our students’ overall educational growth and development. We must consistently demonstrate to them that they matter, that they are important, and that you will do whatever it takes to ensure their success, no matter the challenges. 
Showing Students That You Don’t Fear Them
Do you fear any of your students? Do they perceive that you fear them? 
Kafele shared a story of him being a consultant and walking down the hallway with a principal. On their walk a student was walking towards them with a hat on, sagging pants, and was deeply engrossed in a cell phone conversation. As they passed in the hallway, the principal said nothing.  Kafele asked if he was going to address it and the principal said the behavior was typical and too far out of control to correct. 
Clearly there were some culture and climate issues at this school and fear was in the air. The principal was too afraid to address either the student on the phone or the other students in the hallways. 
We can’t motivate, educate, and empower students if we fear them. We can’t transform attitudes if we fear them, either. Once student perceive teachers fear them, making positive connections becomes virtually impossible. You cannot fear any student in your classroom. Demonstrating a fear of your students completely undermines authority as the teacher and renders us incapable of closing the attitude gap. From day one, we must establish authority as the teacher. You can’t effectively teach and inspire if you are not perceived as the respected authority figure in your classroom. 

At this point we are more than half way through Closing the Attitude Gap. I sincerely hope you have or will find the time to reflect or begin the process. This is real and applicable to our daily work at Sigler. It’s the foundation of what we do and without being together as one, our foundation will not be as strong as it needs to be. Let’s work on strengthening our foundation and finishing these final nine weeks strong, building momentum for our students Bright Future.

Bright Future Campaign – Week 26 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 4





Bright Future Campaign – Week 26 – Closing the Attitude Gap – Chapter 4

How are you challenging yourself to the messages delivered each week during our review of “Closing the Attitude Gap” by, Principal Kafele? Are you finding the reflection powerful? Are you finding time to do it? Are you discussing it with others? 

Maybe you are interested in learning more from Principal Kafele or are interested in sharing his work with others. He can be found on:

Youtube: Search Principal Kafele as he has video messages for Young Men, Parents, Teachers and Aspiring Principals

If you want to review the past couple of weeks or are still searching for the time to sit down and begin the powerful reflection, you can find the past posts at the link below. 


Chapter 4 of “Closing the Attitude Gap” is Compassion for Students – Do I Care About Them? 

Before reviewing chapter 4, look into your mirror and ask yourself the following questions about your students:

1. Do they perceive that I care about them? 
2. Do they perceive that I like them? 
3. Do they perceive that I appreciate them? 
4. Do they perceive that I respect them?
5. Do they perceive that I understand them?
6. Do they perceive that I have empathy toward them? 
7. Do they perceive that I am patient with them? 
8. Do they perceive that I treat them equally and fairly? 
9. Do they perceive that i am committed to them? 
10. Do they perceive that I fear them? 

As you will see as we work through chapter 4, it is not about what YOU think! It is about the perception YOUR students have about YOU! 

Principal Kafele stands on the foundation that we must express compassion for students and its given far too little attention by the education community. Students must feel and know that their teachers care about them if they are to succeed. As his book states, developing compassion for students requires building a relationship with them. (The reverse is true as well: Relationships without compassion are like plants without water – they wont last very long.) Your students must know they have a teacher who truly cares about them, who is in their corner, and who does not believe that quitting on them is ever an option. 

Showing Students That You Care About Them

​Principal Kafele speaks to educators around the world and one of the questions he asks is, “Raise your hand if they care about their students?” Of course, all the hands go up. He then proceeds to explore the question of perception. He reminds the audience we can claim to care about our students all we want, but the true test is whether or not they preceive that we care. Studetns will work hard and give their best when they know that their teachers care about them and their progress, because they are motivated to make their teachers proud. 

When Principal Kafele speaks with students in small groups, he likes to ask whether or not they feel their teachers are about them. It is astounding how many students respond that they do not feel their teachers care about them. Its painful to hear from so many students who do not feel their teachers are in their corner, regardless of how accurate their perceptions are. 

What would your students say about you? 

Showing Students That You Like Them

Do you like your students? Do you like them all? Are there any students in your classroom you do not particulary like? 

One question Principal Kafele is asked an overwhelming number of times is, “Can nonblack teachers effectively teach black students?” I would certainly add nonhispanic and hispanic students to that same equation at Sigler. His reposnse, “A teacher’s race or ethnicity is NOT the issue. Effective teachers must, above all, like children – ALL children! 

Children know when they are not liked. Teachers may in fact like a given student very much, but the students perception is differnt and perception is what matters. 

Pay attention to the way your studnets react to you. Guage their percetions of whehter not not you like them. Studnets formulate an optionon as to whether or not you lie tmne based on how you trem them in the clssrooms. Do you demonstrate appreciate for them? Your actual interactiosn communicate more than your intended meaning. What you say and how you say it lets your sutdnets know exactly how you feel about them. 

Can I repeat that: What you say and how you say it lets your students know exactly how you feel about them. 

Lets take a real example we are walking through now at Sigler. BREAKFAST

I understand breakfast can be inconvenient for our teachers in their classrooms as students enter in after the bell and have yet to eat. It takes away from time in the classroom, but how can you argue with the research? When your student/s arrive late with breakfast in their hands, what perception does the student have about their teacher at that given moment? Do they feel they are a burden or do we make them feel welcome? Do students feel like we are about them? 

Thank you for making sure you care about your students! Care about them enough to make sure they get to eat breakfast each morning! 

Showing Students That You Appreciate Them

​Each student in your classroom brings his or her own special and unique characteristics, talents and challenges. Each student is different, but all of them are special. Each come with the ability to maximize their potential, based in large part on your ability to make solid connections with them. One way to do this is to show students you appreciate them. Easy to do with students who have ideal home lives and are already self-motivated, but what about the students who challenges outside of school manifest themselves in the classroom? What about the students who come to school unappreciated? We must pay regular attention to these students and show them through your interactions that you appreciate them for the work they do in the classroom as well as simply for being who they are. 

​If there is a student who poses a particular challenge for you, it is incumbent upon you to identify his good qualities and exploit them. You want to find excuses for letting the student know you appreciate him/her. Chances are that he hears more than enough criticism about this poor grades or behavior, he doesnt needs more of the same from you. Our role is to counter your criticisms of his negative behaviors with expressions of appreciate toward him. Speak to him in a way that makes him feel good about himself so that he begins to feel that his inappropriateness has no place in your classroom. Speak to him in a way that allows him to develop trust in his relationship with you and to know that he always has your support. Remember, what’s key here is attitude transformation – closing the attitude gap in your classroom.
Showing Students That You Respect Them

Do you respect your students? Do your students respect you? Often times when students are misbehaving in the classroom one of these two questions, if not both are playing into the problem. We must be mindful of the interactions with our students. Anytime you shout at students, for example, you run the risk of alienating them and making them feel as though you do not respect them. Students want to feel respected, particularly by you in the presence of their peers; it is important for many of them to “save face” in front of classmates. 

Again, it is not what we say, it is what they perceive. In your interactions, you must demonstrate your respect for students through what you say and how you say it. 

Showing Students That You Understand Them

Principal Kafele is quick to remind his audience that life in urban environments is real. It is not some television show that resolves itself in an hour. It’s real – this is students’ lives. There is no switch that students can turn on and off. 

Do you understand your students’ reality? Do they perceive that you understand them? 

I believe we have all encountered a student or two who we would consider an “angry” student. Kafele reminds us that some of our students return to neighborhoods and homes that we our selves could never imagine enduring. Of course they are angry! Who wouldn’t be? Imagine what happens when angry children come into a classroom led by a teacher who doesn’t understand the extent of their anger or where they anger is coming from. Your role is to make your classroom an oasis where students can temporarily remove themselves from their outside realities – where they can focus on their education so they can one day permanently escape those realities. You have to demonstrate to your students that despite the obstacles them may face every day, and despite the challenges that these obstacles pose for you and your mission as a teacher, you genuinely understand what they are dealing with inside and outside of school on a regular basis.

In closing out this week and showing you that the work Principal Kafele is sharing is just not his own understanding of the importance of connecting with students, I wanted to share an article with you that was shared with me via twitter. 

It was written by a 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, whose name is Pernille Ripp. @pernilleripp for those of you on twitter; she is worth the follow. The name of the article is “I Don’t Know What It Means to Be My Student”. 


Let’s work hard this week on creating an oasis in the building for our students to escape the outside world and then on Thursday night, be ready to showcase our oasis to the parents who drop of their children each day. 


Matt Arend
Principal
Sigler Elementary