Tag: student voice



It was awesome to recently hold our first ever Jellybean Festival at our school. The Jellybean Festival brings together students of differing abilities to work with each other and perform for an audience. Think of it as Special Olympics meets the performing arts or even America’s Got Talent.



It was great to see the celebration of ALL our students and the opportunity for our students with special needs to really shine in front of their peers. One student even commented after the event, “I feel like a star!”



Our school has an organization called Character Council that promotes acceptance, positive decisions, kindness, etc. They organized our event and served as coaches for the participants, helping them develop acts and performing alongside them.



We were thrilled to have Howard Martin, the founder of the Jellybean Conspiracy, in attendance at our program. He shared his story and some thoughts on kindness and acceptance. 



His comments were profound…

At the Jellybean Festival we celebrate two things. First, every life matters. Every life, every single life matters.The second thing is thisit is kindness that makes us most human and most divine.

I’m going to tell you something now I don’t think you’re going to believe. But I challenge you to put aside your doubts. The most important indicator of success in life is kindness. The most important thing you can learn in high school is to be kind.

You want a definition for kindness? Kindness is becoming important in the life of another human being, especially the one is most likely to be left out.

You want another definition of kindness? See what happens today at the Jellybean Festival.

 In my recent post, I presented 5 questions every person is trying to answer:



1. Am I important to someone here?

2. Do I belong here?

3. Am I good at something here?

4. Who will listen to me here?

5. Is my presence here making a difference?



We all have a responsibility to BE the answer to these questions for someone. We all must help others know they are valued and that they matter. It is so important to do this.



The Jellybean Festival was a way we could do that as an entire school. It was a way to show how we should value each other. We were able to celebrate differences and just have fun together. 



I think the Jellybean Creed really says it best.






I’ve included the video highlights from our festival. You can get an idea of what our event was like in case your school wants to do something like this too. If you want to bring a Jellybean Festival to your school, I am happy to share more about how to do that. 









Read More Kindness Is the Most Important Indicator of Success



It was awesome to recently hold our first ever Jellybean Festival at our school. The Jellybean Festival brings together students of differing abilities to work with each other and perform for an audience. Think of it as Special Olympics meets the performing arts or even America’s Got Talent.



It was great to see the celebration of ALL our students and the opportunity for our students with special needs to really shine in front of their peers. One student even commented after the event, “I feel like a star!”



Our school has an organization called Character Council that promotes acceptance, positive decisions, kindness, etc. They organized our event and served as coaches for the participants, helping them develop acts and performing alongside them.



We were thrilled to have Howard Martin, the founder of the Jellybean Conspiracy, in attendance at our program. He shared his story and some thoughts on kindness and acceptance. 



His comments were profound…

At the Jellybean Festival we celebrate two things. First, every life matters. Every life, every single life matters.The second thing is thisit is kindness that makes us most human and most divine.

I’m going to tell you something now I don’t think you’re going to believe. But I challenge you to put aside your doubts. The most important indicator of success in life is kindness. The most important thing you can learn in high school is to be kind.

You want a definition for kindness? Kindness is becoming important in the life of another human being, especially the one is most likely to be left out.

You want another definition of kindness? See what happens today at the Jellybean Festival.

 In my recent post, I presented 5 questions every person is trying to answer:



1. Am I important to someone here?

2. Do I belong here?

3. Am I good at something here?

4. Who will listen to me here?

5. Is my presence here making a difference?



We all have a responsibility to BE the answer to these questions for someone. We all must help others know they are valued and that they matter. It is so important to do this.



The Jellybean Festival was a way we could do that as an entire school. It was a way to show how we should value each other. We were able to celebrate differences and just have fun together. 



I think the Jellybean Creed really says it best.






I’ve included the video highlights from our festival. You can get an idea of what our event was like in case your school wants to do something like this too. If you want to bring a Jellybean Festival to your school, I am happy to share more about how to do that. 









Read More Kindness Is the Most Important Indicator of Success



We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It’s not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can’t fit it into their schedule.



We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It’s essential stuff for life.



You’ve probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don’t want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don’t want their child to take the course.



Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.



As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.



But I’m not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.



So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what’s best for their child:



“I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don’t grow stronger by doing what’s easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I’m always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn’t that what all parents want for their kids?”



And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we’ve developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It’s very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.



But we can’t have it both ways.



Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.



So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.



Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it’s not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?



We have a basic speech class that we require just about every student in our school to take. It’s not a graduation requirement, but our counselors include this semester class for all sophomores unless there is some compelling reason they just can’t fit it into their schedule.



We expect all students to take it because we know how important it is to develop good oral communication skills. The class includes public speaking components, but it also provides practice with interpersonal skills and interviewing. It’s essential stuff for life.



You’ve probably heard it stated that people fear public speaking more than death, in surveys at least. So inevitably, there are students who don’t want to take this course. And from time to time, I will here from parents who don’t want their child to take the course.



Jerry Seinfeld found the humor in just how much most people dread public speaking:

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

I get it. Public speaking can produce anxiety, dread, discomfort, apprehension, and more.



As a result, I always listen carefully to parent concerns and try to show empathy and understanding. It can be scary to stand in front of your peers and speak.



But I’m not easily persuaded to change our expectations about students taking this class. It’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and develop all sorts of valuable skills.



So, my dialogue with parents asks them to consider what’s best for their child:



“I understand this class makes lots of students uncomfortable. But that can be a good thing because growth requires stepping out of comfort zones. We don’t grow stronger by doing what’s easy. When we face something hard and push through it, that makes us stronger. So I’m always asking myself as a parent, do I want my kids to be comfortable or do I want them to grow? And the answer, of course, is I want them to grow. Isn’t that what all parents want for their kids?”



And of course, parents do want their kids to grow, but for some reason, we’ve developed a desire in our culture to protect our kids from anything that is uncomfortable or difficult. It’s very common to see parents protecting their kids from anything that produces discomfort.



But we can’t have it both ways.



Growth demands stretching the limits and trying something new. Growth demands risk of failure. It requires some discomfort. So we need to invite kids to embrace the discomfort. And we need to invite parents to encourage discomfort and not rescue kids from the struggle.



So I will continue to share with everyone in our school my belief that we have to get uncomfortable if we want to be all we can be. We have to push past our fear and go for it.



Do you have tips for helping parents understand that it’s not a bad thing for their child to be uncomfortable? That productive struggle is a good thing? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More Do You Want Your Child to Grow or Do You Want Him to Be Comfortable?





I completely agree with the tweet below from Jennifer Hogan. High schools can learn from elementary schools. And every level of education should stoke the fire and cultivate curiosity in learning. It’s important for every classroom to inspire kids to want to learn more.




High schools can learn a lot from elementary schools, who do a great job of creating a sense of wonder & cultivating curiosity in kids! Let’s keep stoking the fire! 🔥 #ALedchat #satchat pic.twitter.com/1mbGo4W2OR

— Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan) December 9, 2017

I truly believe that regardless of what level we teach, we should also strive to learn from each other. When we share our knowledge and experience across content areas or with other grade levels, it just makes us all stronger.



The tweet also reminded me of another way high schools might learn from elementary schools.



I’m always amazed when I have the opportunity to visit elementary classrooms. I observe keenly and enjoy seeing different strategies and methods that lead to more learning in that context. I often see things that would be beneficial in the typical high school classroom, too. 



All the way down to primary school classrooms, I have observed students taking responsibility, working collaboratively, and self-managing in various structures. The teacher is often working with a small group of students while other learning activities are happening all around the classroom.



I’ve heard teachers at the high school level make statements that seem to reject this type of learning. 



“Freshmen can’t handle working in groups.”



“Projects don’t work for my students.”



“I would like to do more collaborative things, but I have 30 kids in my class. It’s just not possible.”



“If I’m working with a small group of students, how will I know what the others are doing?”



All of these statements have an element of truth. It can be challenging to do these things, at any grade level. But the statements are also extremely self-limiting. These statements become self-imposed limits, probably based on an experience that wasn’t positive, “I tried that. It didn’t work for me. Case closed.”



Is it possible for projects, collaboration, and small group instruction to be effective at the high school level? Of course! I’ve seen high school classes thriving with these methods. And it makes no sense developmentally that even much younger students can handle self-directed methods while older students cannot.



So why do teachers tend to revert to more teacher-centric approaches in high school? It’s likely because of the efficiency, control, and structure that is provided through direct instruction. It’s partly because it’s what’s comfortable, and perhaps all they’ve ever known. 



By the way, direct instruction is not bad. It can be an effective and necessary method, but it shouldn’t be the only way students learn.



There should also be opportunities for more self-directed, student empowered methods also. We must provide students opportunities to develop agency, ownership, and social learning abilities.



So what does it take to have success with this type of learning?



Structure.



It’s the same thing that makes teachers want to use direct instruction. Every teacher knows that a productive learning environment is going to have structure. And it feels easier to do in a direct-instruction, teacher-centered classroom. And maybe it is easier to do. But that doesn’t make it better.



In the classes that succeed with more collaborative, student-centered approaches, teachers must clearly communicate the structure that will be used. There must be boundaries. The expectations must be communicated consistently and revisited regularly.



Whether it’s an elementary classroom or high school classroom, it takes structure to make any learning strategy successful. We are not talking about anarchy in the classroom here.



However, it will take willpower and determination on the part of the teacher to push through some of the struggles that may happen as students learn the structure. But as the teacher works with students to clarify expectations and provides opportunities for practice and reflection, students will learn to have more independence and exhibit a higher level of responsibility.



It’s not that the students can’t do it. Don’t impose your limits on a classroom of kids. Don’t diminish their capabilities. You are choosing not to pursue success when you embrace disempowering thoughts. You won’t have success with any method if you don’t believe in it and your kids’ ability to succeed with it.



It’s just that you must teach them to do it. You must provide accountability as needed. You must coach them. You have to reflect with them. You have to provide consequences when needed. You have to bring so much passion to the space that students know you’re not going to settle for less than their best.



With your guidance and creativity, you can help your students do amazing things, regardless of the grade level you’re teaching.



Is there a misconception that student-empowerment means not having structure in the classroom? I wonder about that. Share your thoughts below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Another Thing High Schools Might Learn From Elementary Schools





I completely agree with the tweet below from Jennifer Hogan. High schools can learn from elementary schools. And every level of education should stoke the fire and cultivate curiosity in learning. It’s important for every classroom to inspire kids to want to learn more.




High schools can learn a lot from elementary schools, who do a great job of creating a sense of wonder & cultivating curiosity in kids! Let’s keep stoking the fire! 🔥 #ALedchat #satchat pic.twitter.com/1mbGo4W2OR

— Jennifer Hogan (@Jennifer_Hogan) December 9, 2017

I truly believe that regardless of what level we teach, we should also strive to learn from each other. When we share our knowledge and experience across content areas or with other grade levels, it just makes us all stronger.



The tweet also reminded me of another way high schools might learn from elementary schools.



I’m always amazed when I have the opportunity to visit elementary classrooms. I observe keenly and enjoy seeing different strategies and methods that lead to more learning in that context. I often see things that would be beneficial in the typical high school classroom, too. 



All the way down to primary school classrooms, I have observed students taking responsibility, working collaboratively, and self-managing in various structures. The teacher is often working with a small group of students while other learning activities are happening all around the classroom.



I’ve heard teachers at the high school level make statements that seem to reject this type of learning. 



“Freshmen can’t handle working in groups.”



“Projects don’t work for my students.”



“I would like to do more collaborative things, but I have 30 kids in my class. It’s just not possible.”



“If I’m working with a small group of students, how will I know what the others are doing?”



All of these statements have an element of truth. It can be challenging to do these things, at any grade level. But the statements are also extremely self-limiting. These statements become self-imposed limits, probably based on an experience that wasn’t positive, “I tried that. It didn’t work for me. Case closed.”



Is it possible for projects, collaboration, and small group instruction to be effective at the high school level? Of course! I’ve seen high school classes thriving with these methods. And it makes no sense developmentally that even much younger students can handle self-directed methods while older students cannot.



So why do teachers tend to revert to more teacher-centric approaches in high school? It’s likely because of the efficiency, control, and structure that is provided through direct instruction. It’s partly because it’s what’s comfortable, and perhaps all they’ve ever known. 



By the way, direct instruction is not bad. It can be an effective and necessary method, but it shouldn’t be the only way students learn.



There should also be opportunities for more self-directed, student empowered methods also. We must provide students opportunities to develop agency, ownership, and social learning abilities.



So what does it take to have success with this type of learning?



Structure.



It’s the same thing that makes teachers want to use direct instruction. Every teacher knows that a productive learning environment is going to have structure. And it feels easier to do in a direct-instruction, teacher-centered classroom. And maybe it is easier to do. But that doesn’t make it better.



In the classes that succeed with more collaborative, student-centered approaches, teachers must clearly communicate the structure that will be used. There must be boundaries. The expectations must be communicated consistently and revisited regularly.



Whether it’s an elementary classroom or high school classroom, it takes structure to make any learning strategy successful. We are not talking about anarchy in the classroom here.



However, it will take willpower and determination on the part of the teacher to push through some of the struggles that may happen as students learn the structure. But as the teacher works with students to clarify expectations and provides opportunities for practice and reflection, students will learn to have more independence and exhibit a higher level of responsibility.



It’s not that the students can’t do it. Don’t impose your limits on a classroom of kids. Don’t diminish their capabilities. You are choosing not to pursue success when you embrace disempowering thoughts. You won’t have success with any method if you don’t believe in it and your kids’ ability to succeed with it.



It’s just that you must teach them to do it. You must provide accountability as needed. You must coach them. You have to reflect with them. You have to provide consequences when needed. You have to bring so much passion to the space that students know you’re not going to settle for less than their best.



With your guidance and creativity, you can help your students do amazing things, regardless of the grade level you’re teaching.



Is there a misconception that student-empowerment means not having structure in the classroom? I wonder about that. Share your thoughts below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Another Thing High Schools Might Learn From Elementary Schools





In 1993, famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano gave an inspiring and hopeful message at the ESPY awards. Valvano was fighting terminal cancer that would soon cut short his remarkable life. I occasionally watch the speech over again. It reminds me of what’s most important.



During his passionate speech, Valvano helped put everything in perspective:

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. And if you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I invite you to take a few seconds to listen to Jimmy V speak these words in the video below.

So how can this apply to what we do as educators? Well, I think a great day at school includes the same things. We should laugh, we should certainly think, and we should also cry. 



I’m guessing that crying is harder for most of us to think about. We tend to think of some emotions as good or bad. We tend to hide those emotions that are sad or might be considered weak.



But emotions are an important way for us to connect. It’s how we better understand ourselves and others. Emotions help us to reach the heart and not just the mind.



We know that stories are powerful for learning. I think that’s because of how stories connect to emotions. You can talk about ideas all day, and I might be interested and even learn something. But if you connect those ideas with a story, and you touch my emotions, I may never forget what I’ve learned.



I remember one day years ago I was teaching freshmen English. It was one of those days when for whatever reason, I had a class period that was ahead of the others, and I needed to fill some time.



I decided to read a short story, The Scarlet Ibis, to the class. It was the first time I’d ever read the story myself, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.



But as I read, I was drawn into the story in a powerful way. No doubt the class could sense my quivering voice, my efforts to fight back tears, and my unsettled body language. As they saw how the story was connecting with my heart, they too were drawn in. You could’ve heard a pin drop.



The story is about two brothers. The younger brother is born with health problems, and he was never able to keep up with his athletic older brother. At times, the older brother is cruel and ashamed of his handicapped sibling. At one point, he even thinks of smothering the little brother with a pillow.



But he also demonstrates his love for him. He nicknames the younger brother Doodle and decides to teach him the things he will need to be ready for school, how to run, swim, climb trees, and fight. You know, the important stuff.



But the Saturday before school starts, the older brother pushes Doodle to physical exhaustion while rowing a boat. And then a storm blows in suddenly. The older brother runs ahead angry with Doodle for not keeping up so they can get out of the rain.



But when the older brother’s anger calms, he notices Doodle is missing. He goes looking for him and finds him curled up under a bush with his head on his knees. He is bleeding from his mouth. He is dead.



It’s a tragic ending.



I remember talking with the class about how the two boys reminded me of my own sons. Both of my boys are perfectly healthy. But there was something about the way the brothers interacted that reminded me of my own sons.



I also remember talking to them about empathy and cruelty. How most of us have it in us to be cruel. How we can fail to understand what someone else is going through. How selfish we can be.



I know without a doubt, even many years later, during that class period, there was laughter, there was thinking, and there were definitely tears. I think every student in the class felt something special that day.



So what does a perfect day in the classroom look like? 100% mastery of the objective for the day?



For me, I think a great day is when students are learning the objective, and the learning is also connecting with the heart. I’m not sure who said it, but I believe it’s true, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.” The lessons that stay with us the longest connect to our emotions.



Are you teaching with heart? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Information Without Emotion Is Rarely Retained





In 1993, famed college basketball coach Jim Valvano gave an inspiring and hopeful message at the ESPY awards. Valvano was fighting terminal cancer that would soon cut short his remarkable life. I occasionally watch the speech over again. It reminds me of what’s most important.



During his passionate speech, Valvano helped put everything in perspective:

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. And if you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”

I invite you to take a few seconds to listen to Jimmy V speak these words in the video below.

So how can this apply to what we do as educators? Well, I think a great day at school includes the same things. We should laugh, we should certainly think, and we should also cry. 



I’m guessing that crying is harder for most of us to think about. We tend to think of some emotions as good or bad. We tend to hide those emotions that are sad or might be considered weak.



But emotions are an important way for us to connect. It’s how we better understand ourselves and others. Emotions help us to reach the heart and not just the mind.



We know that stories are powerful for learning. I think that’s because of how stories connect to emotions. You can talk about ideas all day, and I might be interested and even learn something. But if you connect those ideas with a story, and you touch my emotions, I may never forget what I’ve learned.



I remember one day years ago I was teaching freshmen English. It was one of those days when for whatever reason, I had a class period that was ahead of the others, and I needed to fill some time.



I decided to read a short story, The Scarlet Ibis, to the class. It was the first time I’d ever read the story myself, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect.



But as I read, I was drawn into the story in a powerful way. No doubt the class could sense my quivering voice, my efforts to fight back tears, and my unsettled body language. As they saw how the story was connecting with my heart, they too were drawn in. You could’ve heard a pin drop.



The story is about two brothers. The younger brother is born with health problems, and he was never able to keep up with his athletic older brother. At times, the older brother is cruel and ashamed of his handicapped sibling. At one point, he even thinks of smothering the little brother with a pillow.



But he also demonstrates his love for him. He nicknames the younger brother Doodle and decides to teach him the things he will need to be ready for school, how to run, swim, climb trees, and fight. You know, the important stuff.



But the Saturday before school starts, the older brother pushes Doodle to physical exhaustion while rowing a boat. And then a storm blows in suddenly. The older brother runs ahead angry with Doodle for not keeping up so they can get out of the rain.



But when the older brother’s anger calms, he notices Doodle is missing. He goes looking for him and finds him curled up under a bush with his head on his knees. He is bleeding from his mouth. He is dead.



It’s a tragic ending.



I remember talking with the class about how the two boys reminded me of my own sons. Both of my boys are perfectly healthy. But there was something about the way the brothers interacted that reminded me of my own sons.



I also remember talking to them about empathy and cruelty. How most of us have it in us to be cruel. How we can fail to understand what someone else is going through. How selfish we can be.



I know without a doubt, even many years later, during that class period, there was laughter, there was thinking, and there were definitely tears. I think every student in the class felt something special that day.



So what does a perfect day in the classroom look like? 100% mastery of the objective for the day?



For me, I think a great day is when students are learning the objective, and the learning is also connecting with the heart. I’m not sure who said it, but I believe it’s true, “Information without emotion is rarely retained.” The lessons that stay with us the longest connect to our emotions.



Are you teaching with heart? Let me know what you think. Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook

Read More Information Without Emotion Is Rarely Retained





Some things we communicate intentionally. And sometimes when we fail to communicate intentionally, we send a message that we didn’t mean to send.




Here are 11 things you might unintentionally be communicating to your students.



1. When you don’t wait for all students to get quiet and give you their attention before you start talking, you might be communicating that it’s not really important that they listen to you.



2. If you complain about the school, other teachers, or the way things are, your students will probably think it’s okay to be negative about the school, other teachers, and probably your classroom too.



3. When you pass a student in the hall or they enter your room and you don’t say hello or call them by name, they may think you don’t really care about them.



4. If you give a grade for every assignment or activity and talk about how “this or that is going to be on the test,” your students may think your class is more about grades than learning.



5. If the questions you ask have just one correct answer, there’s a good chance your students will think your class is all about right answers, not about being better thinkers.



6. If you only recognize the ‘A’ students or celebrate the kids who have high test scores, that may communicate that only the ‘smart’ kids matter and that growth is not valued.

7. If you make mistakes in front of your students and then act defensive or embarrassed, you might be sending the message that only perfection is accepted and risk taking is not appreciated.



8. When you break a school policy or act like the rules are no big deal, you might send the message you don’t really value a culture of respect and shared responsibility.



9. If you aren’t intentional about making your classroom innovative and future driven, you may be sending the message to students that what their parents learned in school will be good enough for them too.



10. When you come in dragging, lack energy, or just don’t give your best, you might be communicating to students that it’s okay to try hard only when you feel like it.



11. If you don’t give students choices in their learning or opportunities to pursue their passions, they may view learning as more about compliance than actually being about…well…learning.



We have to be very careful about what we are communicating. Kids are always watching. They want to see alignment between our words and actions. They are looking to see what we really think, what we really believe, and how much we really care about them.



What is being communicated in your school unintentionally? I think that’s a good question to consider. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Things You Might Unintentionally Be Communicating to Your Students





Some things we communicate intentionally. And sometimes when we fail to communicate intentionally, we send a message that we didn’t mean to send.




Here are 11 things you might unintentionally be communicating to your students.



1. When you don’t wait for all students to get quiet and give you their attention before you start talking, you might be communicating that it’s not really important that they listen to you.



2. If you complain about the school, other teachers, or the way things are, your students will probably think it’s okay to be negative about the school, other teachers, and probably your classroom too.



3. When you pass a student in the hall or they enter your room and you don’t say hello or call them by name, they may think you don’t really care about them.



4. If you give a grade for every assignment or activity and talk about how “this or that is going to be on the test,” your students may think your class is more about grades than learning.



5. If the questions you ask have just one correct answer, there’s a good chance your students will think your class is all about right answers, not about being better thinkers.



6. If you only recognize the ‘A’ students or celebrate the kids who have high test scores, that may communicate that only the ‘smart’ kids matter and that growth is not valued.

7. If you make mistakes in front of your students and then act defensive or embarrassed, you might be sending the message that only perfection is accepted and risk taking is not appreciated.



8. When you break a school policy or act like the rules are no big deal, you might send the message you don’t really value a culture of respect and shared responsibility.



9. If you aren’t intentional about making your classroom innovative and future driven, you may be sending the message to students that what their parents learned in school will be good enough for them too.



10. When you come in dragging, lack energy, or just don’t give your best, you might be communicating to students that it’s okay to try hard only when you feel like it.



11. If you don’t give students choices in their learning or opportunities to pursue their passions, they may view learning as more about compliance than actually being about…well…learning.



We have to be very careful about what we are communicating. Kids are always watching. They want to see alignment between our words and actions. They are looking to see what we really think, what we really believe, and how much we really care about them.



What is being communicated in your school unintentionally? I think that’s a good question to consider. I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or share on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 11 Things You Might Unintentionally Be Communicating to Your Students



The current generation of students is dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but regardless of the causes we must work to help address the reality.



Here are the stats as reported in an article from Time:

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14, 2016 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

We hear the stories every day of kids fighting depression, feeling overwhelmed, struggling with problems with friends, parents, or both. There seem to be more kids than ever who are no longer living with parents at all.



And here’s the thing, if you are depressed or filled with anxiety, how are you going to focus your energy on learning? You probably won’t unless you shift your thinking. Or unless something in your environment helps you shift your thinking.



One of our teachers commented, “I want my class to be an oasis for students. For the time they are in my class, I want it to be so good they forget the problems on the outside.”



So how do you do that? How can you help kids shift energy from a focus on problems to a focus on learning? 



Here’s what won’t work.



“Class, yesterday we worked on such and such and today we will do such and such. So let’s get started.”



Ready, set, go.



It’s an abrupt attempt to start learning. That won’t work because a bunch of kids in class are still thinking about how bad they feel, what was said to them that’s hurtful, or how they are going to deal with that personal problem. They are distracted. They aren’t emotionally in a good place to learn.



I believe every learner would benefit from more ‘right-brain’ directed starters in class. Lead with something that helps them access positive emotions, creativity, empathy, and connection.



It might take a few minutes to plan and execute these strategies, but it will be well worth it. In the end, there will be more learning by  helping students get the right focus. Start class by shifting the energy. Get kids in the right mindset first.



So here are 9 possibilities to make this happen. Find ways to open your class with one or more of these. And, look for ways to have these things show up throughout your class, too. It will help to inspire learning. 



1. Humor – Tell a joke, make fun of yourself, or do something zany and off the wall.



2. Music – Play upbeat music as students are coming into class. It’s amazing how the right music can put us in a different mood. 



3. Relaxed Breathing – Slow, deep breathing and quiet relaxation can help students to calm body and mind.



4. Imagination – Have kids write or share with each other on topics that require imagination. What if you could time travel? What time would you visit? Why?



5. Drama – Create some fun drama in the class. Have a debate about something ridiculous. Launch an investigation. Make it absurd. Be over the top.



6. Play – Toss a ball around the class. Have a quick game. Nothing too competitive. Just bring some whimsy and playfulness to class. 



7. Movement – Stand up and stretch. Give a high five to someone. Or go for a quick walk outside of class.



8. Sharing Gratitude – Ask students to share something they’re thankful for. Help them be grateful for the little things.



9. Stories – Share stories real and imagined. Find out what’s going on in their lives. I always had some winning stories that I told just about every year. Kids were on the edge of their seats.



These techniques are not intended to treat anxiety or depression, but they can temporarily relieve the symptoms. Of course, students who have depressive disorders need professional help. But for the time they are in your classroom, maybe you can help them focus on learning by using these strategies.



What do you think? Do you have other ideas for shifting the energy in your classroom? I listed several general categories. I would love to hear your specific ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom



The current generation of students is dealing with more stress and anxiety than ever before. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but regardless of the causes we must work to help address the reality.



Here are the stats as reported in an article from Time:

A study of national trends in depression among adolescents and young adults published in the journal Pediatrics on November 14, 2016 found that the prevalence of teens who reported an MDE in the previous 12 months jumped from 8.7% in 2005 to 11.5% in 2014. That’s a 37 percent increase. (An MDE is defined as a period of at least two weeks of low mood that is present in most situations. Symptoms include low self-esteem, loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, and problems with sleep, energy and concentration.)

We hear the stories every day of kids fighting depression, feeling overwhelmed, struggling with problems with friends, parents, or both. There seem to be more kids than ever who are no longer living with parents at all.



And here’s the thing, if you are depressed or filled with anxiety, how are you going to focus your energy on learning? You probably won’t unless you shift your thinking. Or unless something in your environment helps you shift your thinking.



One of our teachers commented, “I want my class to be an oasis for students. For the time they are in my class, I want it to be so good they forget the problems on the outside.”



So how do you do that? How can you help kids shift energy from a focus on problems to a focus on learning? 



Here’s what won’t work.



“Class, yesterday we worked on such and such and today we will do such and such. So let’s get started.”



Ready, set, go.



It’s an abrupt attempt to start learning. That won’t work because a bunch of kids in class are still thinking about how bad they feel, what was said to them that’s hurtful, or how they are going to deal with that personal problem. They are distracted. They aren’t emotionally in a good place to learn.



I believe every learner would benefit from more ‘right-brain’ directed starters in class. Lead with something that helps them access positive emotions, creativity, empathy, and connection.



It might take a few minutes to plan and execute these strategies, but it will be well worth it. In the end, there will be more learning by  helping students get the right focus. Start class by shifting the energy. Get kids in the right mindset first.



So here are 9 possibilities to make this happen. Find ways to open your class with one or more of these. And, look for ways to have these things show up throughout your class, too. It will help to inspire learning. 



1. Humor – Tell a joke, make fun of yourself, or do something zany and off the wall.



2. Music – Play upbeat music as students are coming into class. It’s amazing how the right music can put us in a different mood. 



3. Relaxed Breathing – Slow, deep breathing and quiet relaxation can help students to calm body and mind.



4. Imagination – Have kids write or share with each other on topics that require imagination. What if you could time travel? What time would you visit? Why?



5. Drama – Create some fun drama in the class. Have a debate about something ridiculous. Launch an investigation. Make it absurd. Be over the top.



6. Play – Toss a ball around the class. Have a quick game. Nothing too competitive. Just bring some whimsy and playfulness to class. 



7. Movement – Stand up and stretch. Give a high five to someone. Or go for a quick walk outside of class.



8. Sharing Gratitude – Ask students to share something they’re thankful for. Help them be grateful for the little things.



9. Stories – Share stories real and imagined. Find out what’s going on in their lives. I always had some winning stories that I told just about every year. Kids were on the edge of their seats.



These techniques are not intended to treat anxiety or depression, but they can temporarily relieve the symptoms. Of course, students who have depressive disorders need professional help. But for the time they are in your classroom, maybe you can help them focus on learning by using these strategies.



What do you think? Do you have other ideas for shifting the energy in your classroom? I listed several general categories. I would love to hear your specific ideas. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter

Read More 9 Ways to Shift the Energy in the Classroom





The teacher asked her students to make some decisions about the direction of the learning. The lesson required independent thought and initiative.



But one student resisted, “Isn’t it your job to teach me?”



Have you ever heard a question like that from one of your students? It’s a question that was asked by a student in our school. And to me it illustrates the way many students have come to believe that learning is a product of their compliance with a teacher. 



Just tell me what I need to know. Tell me what to do, what to learn. Teach me. Isn’t that YOUR job?



Another student said to me, “I just want to take notes and then have a test.” This comment came from a student in a classroom where students are expected to own a considerable amount of the learning and develop original thoughts. Learning in this class is demonstrated through projects and authentic activities.



I don’t blame these students for thinking this way. I think, at least in part, they are simply a product of a system that has conditioned them to be passive learners. 



So who owns the learning? The student? The teacher? Both?



How would you respond if you heard these words from your students? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Isn’t It Your Job To Teach Me?





The teacher asked her students to make some decisions about the direction of the learning. The lesson required independent thought and initiative.



But one student resisted, “Isn’t it your job to teach me?”



Have you ever heard a question like that from one of your students? It’s a question that was asked by a student in our school. And to me it illustrates the way many students have come to believe that learning is a product of their compliance with a teacher. 



Just tell me what I need to know. Tell me what to do, what to learn. Teach me. Isn’t that YOUR job?



Another student said to me, “I just want to take notes and then have a test.” This comment came from a student in a classroom where students are expected to own a considerable amount of the learning and develop original thoughts. Learning in this class is demonstrated through projects and authentic activities.



I don’t blame these students for thinking this way. I think, at least in part, they are simply a product of a system that has conditioned them to be passive learners. 



So who owns the learning? The student? The teacher? Both?



How would you respond if you heard these words from your students? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Isn’t It Your Job To Teach Me?





The teacher asked her students to make some decisions about the direction of the learning. The lesson required independent thought and initiative.



But one student resisted, “Isn’t it your job to teach me?”



Have you ever heard a question like that from one of your students? It’s a question that was asked by a student in our school. And to me it illustrates the way many students have come to believe that learning is a product of their compliance with a teacher. 



Just tell me what I need to know. Tell me what to do, what to learn. Teach me. Isn’t that YOUR job?



Another student said to me, “I just want to take notes and then have a test.” This comment came from a student in a classroom where students are expected to own a considerable amount of the learning and develop original thoughts. Learning in this class is demonstrated through projects and authentic activities.



I don’t blame these students for thinking this way. I think, at least in part, they are simply a product of a system that has conditioned them to be passive learners. 



So who owns the learning? The student? The teacher? Both?



How would you respond if you heard these words from your students? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More Isn’t It Your Job To Teach Me?





If you’ve followed my blog, you might know I really like to refer to classroom management as classroom leadership. But that’s not how we typically think of it.



Regardless of what we call it, it’s challenging. It’s one of the toughest things for early career teachers to get a handle on. And even seasoned teachers will have their fair share of challenges and not know how to respond in every situation.



It really has to be an ongoing process of learning and growth. No one ever has it all figured out.



So if you’re struggling with student behaviors, give yourself a break. Keep working at it. Learn from others. Study different methods. And reflect on your own failures and successes.



In this post, I’m looking at some of the BIG mistakes that can happen when a teacher is frustrated or has a lapse in judgement. It’s important to think about these in advance to plan for these NEVER to happen. When they do, it undermines the development of a positive classroom and healthy culture of learning.



These behaviors are harmful to kids and can harm your ability to develop a respectful, orderly classroom environment.



9 Mistakes That Will Sabotage Your Classroom Management



1. Painting a child into a corner.



Your most challenging students will often try to engage the teacher in power struggles. A skilled teacher can avoid these high stakes moments. The goal is to stop a disruptive behavior while also keeping the student in class. It’s important to avoid a showdown between student and teacher. These situations end up with everyone losing. The teacher doesn’t have to win in the moment. The situation needs to be addressed in the moment, but fully resolving a problem can happen at a later time. After some time passes, the results are often much better than escalating the situation when emotions are hot. 



2. Handling private matters publicly.



Students don’t want to lose face in front of their peers. You can always delay and say, “Let’s talk about this later.” Just be sure to follow up as you promised. If a student feels disrespected or belittled in front of others, it will not end well. Try to keep tough conversations private. The tone will often be much different when there is not an audience.



3. Failing to give a kid a fresh start.



We all want to have an opportunity for a fresh start. We don’t want to be judged by our worst moments. Our students need forgiveness too. So after an issue is resolved, let the student know they have a clean slate. Today is a new day. Let them know you believe in them and expect them to do great.



4. Using cutting sarcasm.



Sarcasm can be very dangerous. I’ve seen it used in a way that is not threatening and is just playful, but sarcasm can be degrading and manipulating. The best advice is to not use sarcasm at all. 



5. Speaking poorly of someone’s friends or family.




Never criticize a student’s friends or family members. You can certainly stand up for what’s right, but don’t pass judgments on people. It’s also very important to never talk badly about a student when they are not present. If you wouldn’t make a comment in front of that student’s mother or grandmother, you probably shouldn’t say it to a group of students or another teacher. If your harsh comment gets back to the student, it will be difficult to ever repair the relationship.



6. Speaking poorly of another staff member.



Never criticize another staff member in front of students as this creates a toxic environment. And, always defend a colleague if students are being critical. Even fair criticism isn’t fair when it’s shared at the wrong time and location. Tell your students if they have a concern with another teacher they should go talk to that person directly. If you have a concern with another teacher, you too should speak to them directly about it and not complain about them behind their back.



7. Losing control of your own behavior.



Always remember you’re the adult and a professional. You have to stay in control of yourself and your actions. If you act badly, it will make it much more difficult to address the student’s misbehavior. The student and the parents will be focused on what you did instead of focusing the responsibility on the student’s own actions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked to help a student reflect on their own bad behavior, but they are focused on what the teacher did instead. Sometimes that happens when the teacher was completely upright. But sometimes it’s because the teacher showed up poorly in the situation.



8. Comparing a student to a sibling or another student. 



Avoid comparing students to one another or to a brother or sister. These types of judgments chip away at dignity. You wouldn’t want to be subjected to public comparisons with another teacher. Students don’t like this either. Even comments like “Your sister was so smart or funny” that seem positive may chip away at a student’s dignity. People want to be noticed for who they are and not compared to someone else.



9. Rushing to judgment without listening.



This one encompasses so much. It’s easy to jump to conclusions or make assumptions in the course of a day working with students. Teachers make so many decisions. I shared recently about a situation where I really embarrassed myself by making a quick judgment in a situation. The key is slow down and approach problems with a sense of curiosity. Work to understand what is going on with the child, what needs they are trying to meet, or why they are not successful even when expectations are clear and consistent. In a recent post, I shared 21 phrases that can help with these conversations.



Of course, there are many other factors involved in building a positive classroom culture. What are some of your thoughts? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 9 Mistakes That Sabotage Your Classroom Management





If you’ve followed my blog, you might know I really like to refer to classroom management as classroom leadership. But that’s not how we typically think of it.



Regardless of what we call it, it’s challenging. It’s one of the toughest things for early career teachers to get a handle on. And even seasoned teachers will have their fair share of challenges and not know how to respond in every situation.



It really has to be an ongoing process of learning and growth. No one ever has it all figured out.



So if you’re struggling with student behaviors, give yourself a break. Keep working at it. Learn from others. Study different methods. And reflect on your own failures and successes.



In this post, I’m looking at some of the BIG mistakes that can happen when a teacher is frustrated or has a lapse in judgement. It’s important to think about these in advance to plan for these NEVER to happen. When they do, it undermines the development of a positive classroom and healthy culture of learning.



These behaviors are harmful to kids and can harm your ability to develop a respectful, orderly classroom environment.



9 Mistakes That Will Sabotage Your Classroom Management



1. Painting a child into a corner.



Your most challenging students will often try to engage the teacher in power struggles. A skilled teacher can avoid these high stakes moments. The goal is to stop a disruptive behavior while also keeping the student in class. It’s important to avoid a showdown between student and teacher. These situations end up with everyone losing. The teacher doesn’t have to win in the moment. The situation needs to be addressed in the moment, but fully resolving a problem can happen at a later time. After some time passes, the results are often much better than escalating the situation when emotions are hot. 



2. Handling private matters publicly.



Students don’t want to lose face in front of their peers. You can always delay and say, “Let’s talk about this later.” Just be sure to follow up as you promised. If a student feels disrespected or belittled in front of others, it will not end well. Try to keep tough conversations private. The tone will often be much different when there is not an audience.



3. Failing to give a kid a fresh start.



We all want to have an opportunity for a fresh start. We don’t want to be judged by our worst moments. Our students need forgiveness too. So after an issue is resolved, let the student know they have a clean slate. Today is a new day. Let them know you believe in them and expect them to do great.



4. Using cutting sarcasm.



Sarcasm can be very dangerous. I’ve seen it used in a way that is not threatening and is just playful, but sarcasm can be degrading and manipulating. The best advice is to not use sarcasm at all. 



5. Speaking poorly of someone’s friends or family.




Never criticize a student’s friends or family members. You can certainly stand up for what’s right, but don’t pass judgments on people. It’s also very important to never talk badly about a student when they are not present. If you wouldn’t make a comment in front of that student’s mother or grandmother, you probably shouldn’t say it to a group of students or another teacher. If your harsh comment gets back to the student, it will be difficult to ever repair the relationship.



6. Speaking poorly of another staff member.



Never criticize another staff member in front of students as this creates a toxic environment. And, always defend a colleague if students are being critical. Even fair criticism isn’t fair when it’s shared at the wrong time and location. Tell your students if they have a concern with another teacher they should go talk to that person directly. If you have a concern with another teacher, you too should speak to them directly about it and not complain about them behind their back.



7. Losing control of your own behavior.



Always remember you’re the adult and a professional. You have to stay in control of yourself and your actions. If you act badly, it will make it much more difficult to address the student’s misbehavior. The student and the parents will be focused on what you did instead of focusing the responsibility on the student’s own actions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked to help a student reflect on their own bad behavior, but they are focused on what the teacher did instead. Sometimes that happens when the teacher was completely upright. But sometimes it’s because the teacher showed up poorly in the situation.



8. Comparing a student to a sibling or another student. 



Avoid comparing students to one another or to a brother or sister. These types of judgments chip away at dignity. You wouldn’t want to be subjected to public comparisons with another teacher. Students don’t like this either. Even comments like “Your sister was so smart or funny” that seem positive may chip away at a student’s dignity. People want to be noticed for who they are and not compared to someone else.



9. Rushing to judgment without listening.



This one encompasses so much. It’s easy to jump to conclusions or make assumptions in the course of a day working with students. Teachers make so many decisions. I shared recently about a situation where I really embarrassed myself by making a quick judgment in a situation. The key is slow down and approach problems with a sense of curiosity. Work to understand what is going on with the child, what needs they are trying to meet, or why they are not successful even when expectations are clear and consistent. In a recent post, I shared 21 phrases that can help with these conversations.



Of course, there are many other factors involved in building a positive classroom culture. What are some of your thoughts? Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

Read More 9 Mistakes That Sabotage Your Classroom Management

This video is 100% student made. It was created to promote our open house on November 22nd. It’s just over a minute long, and yet it says so much… about our school, about empowering students, and about some pretty awesome students themselves. This year at Inquiry Hub, we really want to showcase our students, and […]

Read More How far would you go?

The first priority in creating a positive classroom environment and limiting problem behaviors is to develop positive relationships. That’s absolutely essential.

The second priority is to clearly establish expectations, for students and teachers. And that’s a necessity also. Both teachers and students should know what to expect.

Building relationships and communicating expectations must be tended to daily. Both are critically important. We have to constantly build relationships and communicate expectations.

But what happens when things go off the tracks a little? How do you address those moments when it’s not working well? The following are phrases I use when meeting with a student to work on a behavior concern. I gave a brief description of how and why I might use the phrase.

Set a Positive Tone

1. “I will never intentionally disrespect you.”

This is one of my favorite phrases. I want kids to know I intend to show them respect. The implied message is I also expect you to show me respect.

2. “I believe in you.”



Kids can’t here this enough. It’s important to establish positive intentions.

3. “I won’t give up on you.”

If a child feels you don’t accept him or her, you aren’t going to get their trust. Sometimes I even say, “I don’t approve of what you did, but I will always accept you and be here to help you.”

4. “Let’s work together to solve this.”

All of the problem-solving in working through an issue shouldn’t come from the teacher. It’s not me vs. you. It’s us vs. the problem.

Address the Issue

5. “I was puzzled when you…”

Approach the situation with a sense of curiosity instead of approaching it with judgment, frustration, or anger.

6. “What do we do here when….”

Remind the student of the expectations. “What do we do here when it’s time for bell work?” Then work with the student to verbalize the expectations.

7. “What should you have done differently?”

How did your behavior not meet the expectation? Help the student think through what behavior would have been acceptable in the situation.

8. “How did you intend for that to make ______________ feel?”



This is another one of my favorite questions. I often will use this to hold kids accountable if they do something disrespectful to me or someone else. “When you roll your eyes at me when I’m talking with you, how do you intend for that to make me feel? I care about you, and I feel sad or disappointed when you do that.”

9. “How did you feel at the time?”

I also want kids to know I care how they are feeling and that feelings can be strong and make us want to do things we shouldn’t do. But we are still responsible for our actions.

10. “That seemed upsetting to you.”

Paraphrasing is important. Again, validate how the student is feeling but help them know they are still responsible for their actions.

11. “I hear what you are saying. I’m listening.”



If you want to help deescalate a situation, make sure the person is feeling heard. Not feeling heard is a sure way to keep the two side apart.

12. “Is it possible that…?”

Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. Kids, and adults for that matter, can get locked into seeing a situation from only one perspective.

Decide on a Path Forward



13. “What should you do when ___________________?”



This questions can be helpful to brainstorm how the student could respond to certain triggers.

14. “What will you do next time?”



It’s very important to get a plan that is future-focused. Too often, behavior is handled by just giving consequences. Punishments focus on the past. We want to build toward better future decisions, too.

15. “When will you do it?”



It’s just another question to be very intentional about planning for next time. Looking for things like, “I’ll do it the first time I’m asked.”

16. “What do you need to do now to make this right?”



This question is very important. There may need to be an apology. There may need to be some other action right now to address the problem.

17. “Would you like to _________________ or ____________________?”



Choices are really good for providing some agency while also limiting behavior to acceptable options.

18. “Can I count on you to do that?”



This question is very important. After I discuss with a student the path forward, I will follow up with this one. I want to make sure they are fully committed to our agreement.

19. “Okay, but in case you don’t, what do you think are fair consequences?”



The student also needs to consider there will be consequences if the agreement is broken.

Reflect on the Conversation



20. “What’s your understanding of what we decided together?”



This question requires students to provide a summary of what was decided.

21. “Do you feel that you’ve been treated fairly?”

Students may not always be happy when we are finished dealing with an issue, but I want them to feel they have been treated with fairness and respect. If they leave feeling disrespected, it is not going to help them be ready to make changes in their behaviors.

I hope these questions are good reflection for you as you work with students and solve problems. But I want to hear from you. What questions would you add to this list? What are some of your best tips for dealing with difficult situations? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 21 Phrases to Use in Dealing With Difficult Behaviors

The first priority in creating a positive classroom environment and limiting problem behaviors is to develop positive relationships. That’s absolutely essential.

The second priority is to clearly establish expectations, for students and teachers. And that’s a necessity also. Both teachers and students should know what to expect.

Building relationships and communicating expectations must be tended to daily. Both are critically important. We have to constantly build relationships and communicate expectations.

But what happens when things go off the tracks a little? How do you address those moments when it’s not working well? The following are phrases I use when meeting with a student to work on a behavior concern. I gave a brief description of how and why I might use the phrase.

Set a Positive Tone

1. “I will never intentionally disrespect you.”

This is one of my favorite phrases. I want kids to know I intend to show them respect. The implied message is I also expect you to show me respect.

2. “I believe in you.”



Kids can’t here this enough. It’s important to establish positive intentions.

3. “I won’t give up on you.”

If a child feels you don’t accept him or her, you aren’t going to get their trust. Sometimes I even say, “I don’t approve of what you did, but I will always accept you and be here to help you.”

4. “Let’s work together to solve this.”

All of the problem-solving in working through an issue shouldn’t come from the teacher. It’s not me vs. you. It’s us vs. the problem.

Address the Issue

5. “I was puzzled when you…”

Approach the situation with a sense of curiosity instead of approaching it with judgment, frustration, or anger.

6. “What do we do here when….”

Remind the student of the expectations. “What do we do here when it’s time for bell work?” Then work with the student to verbalize the expectations.

7. “What should you have done differently?”

How did your behavior not meet the expectation? Help the student think through what behavior would have been acceptable in the situation.

8. “How did you intend for that to make ______________ feel?”



This is another one of my favorite questions. I often will use this to hold kids accountable if they do something disrespectful to me or someone else. “When you roll your eyes at me when I’m talking with you, how do you intend for that to make me feel? I care about you, and I feel sad or disappointed when you do that.”

9. “How did you feel at the time?”

I also want kids to know I care how they are feeling and that feelings can be strong and make us want to do things we shouldn’t do. But we are still responsible for our actions.

10. “That seemed upsetting to you.”

Paraphrasing is important. Again, validate how the student is feeling but help them know they are still responsible for their actions.

11. “I hear what you are saying. I’m listening.”



If you want to help deescalate a situation, make sure the person is feeling heard. Not feeling heard is a sure way to keep the two side apart.

12. “Is it possible that…?”

Help introduce new possibilities to the situation. Kids, and adults for that matter, can get locked into seeing a situation from only one perspective.

Decide on a Path Forward



13. “What should you do when ___________________?”



This questions can be helpful to brainstorm how the student could respond to certain triggers.

14. “What will you do next time?”



It’s very important to get a plan that is future-focused. Too often, behavior is handled by just giving consequences. Punishments focus on the past. We want to build toward better future decisions, too.

15. “When will you do it?”



It’s just another question to be very intentional about planning for next time. Looking for things like, “I’ll do it the first time I’m asked.”

16. “What do you need to do now to make this right?”



This question is very important. There may need to be an apology. There may need to be some other action right now to address the problem.

17. “Would you like to _________________ or ____________________?”



Choices are really good for providing some agency while also limiting behavior to acceptable options.

18. “Can I count on you to do that?”



This question is very important. After I discuss with a student the path forward, I will follow up with this one. I want to make sure they are fully committed to our agreement.

19. “Okay, but in case you don’t, what do you think are fair consequences?”



The student also needs to consider there will be consequences if the agreement is broken.

Reflect on the Conversation



20. “What’s your understanding of what we decided together?”



This question requires students to provide a summary of what was decided.

21. “Do you feel that you’ve been treated fairly?”

Students may not always be happy when we are finished dealing with an issue, but I want them to feel they have been treated with fairness and respect. If they leave feeling disrespected, it is not going to help them be ready to make changes in their behaviors.

I hope these questions are good reflection for you as you work with students and solve problems. But I want to hear from you. What questions would you add to this list? What are some of your best tips for dealing with difficult situations? Leave a comment below or respond on Twitter or Facebook.

Read More 21 Phrases to Use in Dealing With Difficult Behaviors