Author: Elizabeth

Liz’s Big, Fat, Comprehensive Classroom Management Plan : )

Classroom Management Plan


Effective classroom management is the most significant contributing factor in student achievement.   According to the literature, a teacher’s actions in his or her classroom have twice the impact on student learning as do school policies on curriculum; assessment; staff collegiality; and community involvement ((Marzano, 2011; Evertson & Weinstein, 2006; Marzano, 2003).   The keystone in creating a supportive environment for learning is effective classroom management strategies, set in place by the teacher long before students even enter the classroom on their first day of school.

The start of a new school year presents many challenges for students as well as for teachers; change can be stressful, but it also offers many opportunities. Getting off to a good start with learners includes having a classroom management plan in place which also allows for student input and sharing of ideas about what an effective learning environment looks, feels and sounds like. It’s critical to establish class policies and procedures early, even on the first day of class, so that students can understand what’s expected of them and what they can expect from you as their teacher. Some protocols, such as maintaining student safety in the science lab, are non-negotiable; these class rules may be discussed with students but cannot be compromised or detracted from, although gathering student input about what safe procedure looks like to them and what consequences should result from misbehavior allows learners a sense of responsibility as well as ownership.

                      Establishing and maintaining an appropriate mental set is the foundation of effective classroom management.   According to Marzano, Gaddy, Foseid and Marzano, (2005), mental set deals with the ways a teacher thinks and behaves in the classroom from moment to moment.   Essential to maintaining awareness of student actions — and being proactive in heading off potential issues — is having the appropriate mental set (“withitness’) and emotional objectivity. Classroom management is not a one-time  




thought but continues every moment of every class, throughout the school year, and indeed whenever students are in your classroom. Once effective classroom management strategies have been shared with students, their input incorporated as indicated, and everyone has an appreciation for pulling together in the same direction, the teacher can direct attention to getting to know their students as unique individuals. This strengthens the professional relationship between student and teacher while also providing acceptance of the person in a supportive atmosphere and a productive environment. The teacher’s mental set includes keeping an open mind, refusal to be judgmental, and maintaining emotional neutrality. Being unafraid to use gentle humor also goes a long way in creating a relaxed yet focused atmosphere and also makes the teacher more accessible. Students see teachers as authority figures; however, showing students that you’re approachable and have genuine interest in their success as well as their likes and dislikes helps maintain a healthy classroom environment where students feel secure enough to take risks and step outside their comfort zones, to verbalize opinions and think critically as young adults. Circulating between lab groups or “owning the space’ by wandering among students while teaching also provide solid information on what students are actually getting out of the class as compared to what they should be taking away.

Before the School Year Starts

                      In the science classroom it’s essential that all equipment be tested to validate that it’s in safe working order, as well as consulting the maintenance log to see when the equipment was last checked or serviced by maintenance staff. Capital budget equipment such as sinks, laminar flow hoods, lab work areas, and emergency response eyewash and shower stations must be in good working order for student safety as well as student learning. Proceeding from this point, inventory and functionality of items such as microscopes, lab equipment (beakers, graduated cylinders, petri dishes, etc.) needs to be determined and supplies replenished as indicated.   This includes keeping track of supplies such as chemicals which may



need to be ordered well in advance; grocery store items such as sodium carbonate or sodium chloride for which the school district may have an account with a local store; or biology specimens which may need to be procured in accordance with what level and which science is being taught. Invariably, science teachers find that they need to purchase their own classroom supplies at different points during the year. More often than not, local or online vendors are willing to extend discounts to teachers for needed classroom materials (Murray, 2002).   Once this inventory is completed, it’s time to check classroom technology to make sure all components are functioning and in good repair. The teacher needs to validate whether the laptop cart actually charges the computers when it’s plugged, and that the wheels are functioning so the cart can be easily transported as intended.   The overhead projector needs to be synched with the teacher’s computer and an extra projector bulb ordered, as they have a tendency to quit at the most inconvenient times; appropriate adaptors, extension cords, USB devices, computer cords and the classroom printer also need to be assessed and spare printer cartridges ordered if they aren’t already provided.   The condition of the SmartBoard or whiteboard needs to be evaluated; dry-erase markers need to be acquired, usually in vast quantities. Next, the teacher workspace needs to be configured so it supports the educator’s efforts and meets the physical, emotional and technological needs of the individual.   Teachers will also want to consider how to arrange desks in order to promote student participation and to provide the teacher with access to every point in the room as they “own the space’ and interact with students.

                      Once the physical environment has been addressed, the teacher will want to consider their student rosters for the year. Advance awareness of, and sensitivity to, special needs students and those with diagnosed health issues allows the teacher to have plans in place to support these individuals; modification of lab activities such as substitution of one reactant for another or adaptive technology may be needed.





At this point the teacher may want to call the homes of all the students they’ll be teaching in the year ahead, to introduce oneself to the parents/guardians and establish a relationship. This can promote parental confidence in their child’s educator and also facilitate future parental cooperation if the teacher needs to call home regarding student behavior issues or academic concerns. Also, by demonstrating the willingness to communicate with parents, it’s likely the teacher will make a positive impression and allay any anxieties parents may have about their child as a student.  If teachers communicate with the parents in a positive manner, the amount of time and quality of parent home involvement will be much higher (American Federation of Teachers, 2007).   In return, parents should make teachers aware of any student needs or learning modalities that have benefited their child in the past (Smith, 2001).

Classroom Policies, Procedures and Rules

                      Students cannot follow policies, procedures or rules of which they have not been made aware. Effective classroom management is demonstrated by teachers clearly identifying their expectations for behavior as well as academic performance. It is helpful to incorporate both visual and auditory learning strategies when identifying standards and expectations in behavior and performance; the teacher would provide students with a printed copy of classroom policies, procedures and rules and either have the class follow along while the teacher reads the policies and procedures aloud, or students may be selected at random to read a portion aloud. According to Marzano (2005), a rule is the identifier of a standard or expectation while a procedure communicates the expectation of a specific behavior. The immediate establishment and assiduous reinforcement of rules and procedures in the secondary science classroom is essential to learning taking place; however, it is even more critical in terms of maintaining student safety.

A lecture on safety should be the teacher’s first order of business (Marzano, 2005). Science students need to understand that the mishandling or misuse of particular lab equipment can have devastating consequences. Additionally, students need to be accountable for handling equipment provided for their use and education with respect, with the awareness that future classes will need to use the same equipment in years to come. Introducing students to the concept of leaving an environment in the same —


or better — condition than that in which it was loaned to you is also essential.   And, my personal respect and safety rule for secondary students: Absolutely no “horsing around’ is tolerated at any time in the science classroom.

One technique for student accountability is ensuring their safety and that of their classmates, as well as maintaining their lab equipment, is to assign lab activity sets in which all components are numbered with the lab group number (i.e., Lab Team 1 would receive 250 mL beaker 1, graduated cylinder 1, triple beam balance 1, etc.) and students are responsible for cleaning, caring for and collecting all components of their lab activity set during established lab wrap-up. If lab activity set components are missing, left out, not replaced in their containers or broken (as a result other than by accident), the student(s) will experience an appropriate, previously-identified consequence such as the penalty points subtracted from their lab report(s). As the lab groups clean their lab work areas and turn in their lab activity sets to the teacher, the materials would be inspected and, depending on the infraction, given the opportunity to correct the deficiency immediately or experience the identified consequence. Secondary education involves, to a great extent, the social education of adolescents; as young adults, soon to emerge from school and into the world of work or higher education, students need to understand that they cannot simply leave a mess behind for someone else to clean up, or misuse equipment that’s been loaned to them for a specific purpose without being held accountable. Learning respect for self and others, and their property, will significantly decrease transitional stress for students graduating high school and provide them with social skills they will need to apply every day.

In the science classroom lecturette followed by lab activity is by and large the pattern of the majority of lessons. A learning opportunity is provided, reinforced by interactive media activity or video, and the concepts provided to a lab activity which demonstrates the presented content. Lab teams of 3 or 4 students is not uncommon in today’s science classrooms of 26 students or more; cooperative learning is also enhanced by the group exchanging ideas. Currently in an 8th grade science practicum placement, lab teams of 4 are the norm and it appears that each team member has an opportunity to contribute and that


group process is facilitating learning. Lecturette, followed by lab (and clean-up), followed by reconvening for discussion is how most lessons progress and this procedure is followed Monday through Thursday. On Friday, a unit quiz is given or a previously-assigned project or presentation is due. No storage space for student work is needed in this classroom with the current curriculum in place. Currently Kodiak High School is being renovated and new, state-of-the-art classrooms are being constructed. It will be most exciting to see how this new construction promotes effective classroom management, and what new aspects of classroom organization will present themselves.

Safety and Legal Requirements

                      As previously mentioned, ensuring continuous student safety is the most important responsibility we carry as teachers. Within the Kodiak Island Borough School District (KIBSD) teachers are required to thoroughly understand all safety procedures currently in effect within the school system. It is incumbent upon the teachers, as well, to ensure that their students are also completely aware of all safety rules and procedures. In addition to fire drills, tsunami drills and mass casualty drills (including school building evacuation), KIBSD also conducts lock-down drills.

                      Although these drills may seem repetitive, their purpose is to ensure student and staff safety by making required behavior in emergency situations so second nature that no one would be at risk of harm during an emergency situation; when an emergency happens is not the time to realize nobody knows what they’re supposed to do.   Sometimes KIBSD teachers have advance notice of drills, such as lock-down or mass casualty drills; the majority of the time the drills occur completely at random and are unanticipated. It is the teacher’s responsibility to be thorough in preparing students before a drill occurs in order that everyone may have the greatest likelihood of surviving a catastrophic event. This is not to be taken lightly; nothing should be left to chance.

                      Within KIBSD, the claxon sounds and the administration office signals the start of the drill exercise (or emergency procedure, if it were to occur). For example, in lock-down procedure classroom


doors and windows are to be closed and locked, shades pulled down over all windows, students are to seat themselves on the floor against the solid wall (no windows) out of the line of sight, and there is to be no talking, cell phone communication or other noise produced from within the classroom. The administration signals an “all clear’ to end the exercise. Emergent situations requiring a lock-down include a person carrying a weapon at large in the school; or an unidentified individual or several individuals who represent a threat to student safety.

                      It seems a human fallibility that we don’t want to believe that tragedy can happen to us, or even worse, to our young people. The reality is that disasters strike unanticipated and at random (hence they’re called “emergencies’). As teachers our best line of defense is diligent preparation of ourselves and our students for safety.
Promoting Positive Professional Relationships in the Classroom

The basis for any relationship is the establishment of trust; the foundation of positive classroom relationships, therefore, begins with the teacher earning student trust. This begins with creating good teacher-student relationships. Gathering student input via surveys as to hobbies, personal interests, and future goals enables the teacher to begin the relationship-building process and acknowledge the unique individual who is their student. The collective interests of a class may be easily applied to a science demonstration or perhaps a lab activity; learning that engages students on a level where they can personally relate to concepts or apply the knowledge to their life outside school fires student enthusiasm and encourages students to think beyond and identify how to apply this knowledge, thereby owning it.

Speaking informally with students when opportunities present themselves, after the initial stress of the school year starting, also builds trust and acknowledges the student as individual. This, in turn, demonstrates to students that the teacher is invested in their success, and that the teacher is a person rather than an unapproachable authority figure.

Promoting positive teacher-student relationships can also be encouraged via science demonstrations during lessons to which the concepts pertain. This is also a great opportunity for injecting


some humor into the day; students feel more at ease in a classroom where the teacher can laugh once in awhile and incorporate this levity into the lesson. Becoming trustworthy to students includes being “real’ and this results in students’ increased comfort in expressing their ideas and thinking critically.

Maintaining trust occurs as a result of the teacher following through on what they’ve said they’re going to do, demonstrating that students may rely on them. In teaching secondary science timelines are incorporated into lesson plans to permit sufficient time for various lab activities, science projects and presentations. As science is precise, so is the schedule of the science classroom. The establishment of class procedures and routines, and teacher adherence to these, not only promotes a safe, productive learning environment but also reinforces students’ trust and promotes a positive teacher-student relationship. Students also learn the valuable skill of time management which supports the larger concept of responsibility. Science in all its myriad disciplines has the ability to transform student thought, captivate their imaginations and stimulate their senses. The study of science is never boring: Through inquiry-based science, students will learn about their self-concept, self-consistency and develop greater self-esteem. As the student matures they can re-frame these concepts of being and refine them anew through the lens of science. Part of promoting effective teacher-student relationships is the teacher’s awareness of how the introduction of new topics may impact students, in how they may interpret the material (Marzano, 2005).

Teachers are always “on stage’ and every action is scrutinized, whether it be in the classroom or in the supermarket; teachers are held to the very highest of standards. However, the reality is that teachers are human and, as such, we have the human tendency to make decisions based on moral and political qualities (Kelchtermans, 2006). When we exercise this kind of decision-making in the classroom, however, it can have negative repercussions. Establishing and maintaining an appropriate mental set is the foundation of effective classroom management.   According to Marzano, et al., (2005), mental set deals with the ways a teacher thinks and behaves in the classroom moment to moment.   Essential to maintaining awareness of student actions — and being proactive in heading off potential issues — is having


the appropriate mental set (“withitness’) and emotional objectivity.   There are occasions, however, when student behavior may require intervention and this may happen when the teacher is feeling frustrated.   An essential component of teacher intervention is to remember that the point of addressing negative behaviors isn’t to intimidate the student, but rather to have them modify their behavior immediately in demonstration of respect for others as well of themselves.

When speaking to students, either individually or as a class, making eye contact with each student at least once every three minutes or so from wherever the teacher happens to be standing in the classroom is helpful.   While reviewing information or asking for students to volunteer answers, the teacher can scan the classroom for any irregularities in body language, facial expressions, physical layout of the room. Another very helpful way to head off potential issues is to move about the classroom (“circulate’) while teaching identified by Marzano (2005) as “occupying the entire room.’ For example, were a teacher standing next to or two desks away from a student who is contemplating acting out inappropriately, it’s more likely they’ll resist that impulse because of teacher proximity.   Also, circulating through the room can make students who sit in the back rows feel more included as part of the group.   Another positive component of circulating arises, again, from proximity:   If the teacher observes chats or fidgets they’re close enough to walk past the students’ desks to engage them directly or, even better, simply touch their shoulder as they continue walking. Maintaining situational awareness, akin to Marzano’s “checking the weather,’ is essential to effective classroom management.   In order to provide an environment conducive to learning, which is safe and accessible and meets all students’ needs, it’s incumbent upon teachers to continually assess and update, minute by minute, the management of the classroom and emotional and physical undercurrents which play into creating the educational milieu.




Student Diversity

                      As a result of the previously-mentioned scan of the student rosters, the teacher should have an awareness of special needs students in their classes and plan for meeting the needs of these students accordingly. It may be helpful to meet with the special needs student, their paraprofessional and the Life Skills and Resources teacher in order to review in advance upcoming lesson plans and lab activities. Such a collaborative approach builds team work and makes the student a part of the decision-making process.   Additionally, the teacher can then plan in advance for adaptive and assistive technologies that may be needed, as well as plan to have on hand lab equipment and supplies that are manageable, for instance, for a special needs students facing fine- and gross-motor skills challenges. If the teacher does not already have IEPs for the special needs students they will be teaching, they need to obtain them and familiarize themselves with the mandatory tasks and protocols described therein. Collaborative planning should be put into place, as well, when assigned seating in the classroom is considered; in some classroom environments, light   and noise levels may constitute a barrier for special needs students. Also, in arranging the classroom the teacher will need to consider how best to provide special needs students with direct and unrestricted routes to their work areas and supplies (Turnbull, Turnbull, Wehmeyer & Shogren, 2013).

                      Cultural awareness is also a critical skill set for teachers. Identifying alternate ways to demonstrate learning of required concepts is important in working with culturally diverse populations. It may be that the substances to be used in a particular lab activity conflict with a student’s cultural values or a student’s spiritual beliefs may necessitate their being absent on a schoolday; demonstrating respect for all cultures requires awareness, sensitivity and planning on the part of both teacher and student.

Planning and Providing Instruction

Within the secondary science classroom, instruction includes both the imparting of science knowledge from teacher to student and lab activities in which students engage, using psychomotor skills and learned concepts in order to reach conclusions based on observed phenomena, and then record hypotheses, observations and conclusions within the empirical framework of science. Within science


instruction is also the essential life skill of time management, as a day’s lesson needs to be accomplished within the space of a class period. The teacher needs to emphasize to students at the start of each class period that they must adhere to a schedule and that their schedule is quite full. While the goal of instruction is for students to learn by engaging in inquiry-based science, this needs to occur with focus and intent and an awareness of the time in which this must be accomplished. For students this results not only in development of time management skills but also a sense of personal responsibility and the value of perseverance and plain, old “hard work.’

                      As previously identified, one science unit is presented per week, Monday through Thursday, with a brief review followed immediately by a quiz on Friday. For example, for an 8th grade science class receiving an introduction to chemical reactions, the topic for the first lesson on Monday would be “What are Chemical Reactions?’   The successive lessons, Tuesday through Thursday, could be the affect of temperature on the rate of chemical reactions; combustion; melting (decomposition of) sugar; pH and neutralization of acids by bases; and saponification. Again, these topics would be taught on an 8th grade level as an introduction to chemical reactions. The repetition contained in each lesson, linking the concepts to one another and repeating verbatim core concepts, as well as demonstrations provided by the teacher, can provide useful information as to which students may be struggling with certain aspects of a given topic. The teacher can then provide support for these students so they can master the needed concepts.   Depending on the topic, the class may also be divided into teams for a cooperative learning experience; for example, constructing a flip book on the theories of atomic structure from Dalton to the present would provide an excellent opportunity for cooperative learning as well as differentiation. In science education, students learn and collaborate at the same time, particularly in the lab setting. Doing science provides students with opportunities to learn how to apply their creativity to answering the “Why?’ questions, but often they don’t yet understand the “how’ of doing science and need to be shown creative ways of pursuing inquiry-based learning. Students’ personal interests and hobbies can be factored



in by the teacher resulting in students applying concepts from the classroom in their daily life, now and as they grow into adulthood.


                      The middle- and high school years are periods of tremendous growth and development for students, physically, intellectually and emotionally.   Impulse control can be poor; social skills have yet to be developed. Additionally, the entire student population in middle- and high school at this moment have grown up with cell phones, iPods, computers, video games, fast food and microwave meals: Everything is about instant gratification in the environment of seriously limited attention spans. As teachers of science as the secondary level, it’s incumbent upon educators to instill in their students the value and necessity of building step by step upon science knowledge and lab skills, and that each step has its own significance in the totality of both a project and the study of science. By utilizing strategies such as student portfolios in their classroom management plans, teachers can demonstrate to individual students how they’ve progressed over a month, a quarter, a semester or a year. Students can’t help but be impressed by the visible evidence of their progress — progress that was built step by step, concept by concept, the whole being more than the sum of its parts.

                      Classroom organization and management in the secondary science classroom is the cornerstone of positive student achievement, acquisition of knowledge and effective teacher-student relationships. In the science classroom, effective classroom management and organization strategies are necessary to the teacher’s promotion of a safe student environment as well as the development of time management, inquiry-based learning and critical thinking. Effective classroom management, at every level and in every educational specialty, is necessary for the well-being of students, their families, the community and, most significantly, for the teachers themselves.





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Liz’s Learning Utopia

Adolescents are under so much pressure, between extracurricular activities, family dynamics, social growth and development, school assignments and expectations — you name it!   Often these stresses occur because the adolescent doesn’t understand what is required of them in diffusing conflict. My personal philosophy is that students deserve a clear definition of what behaviors and work ethics need to be modeled in any classroom, up front and before content instruction begins. For my classroom the essential ground rules are immutable:   “Respect yourself, respect others as you want to be respected.” These apply equally to students and teachers.   And based on these non-negotiables, I have the responsibility to encourage students’ participation in the formulation of classroom rules; obtaining student input is key to gaining their buy-in as stakeholders in maintaining a positive classroom environment. Classroom management is the single most important factor in promoting effective learning on the part of students. Gathering student consensus on what guidelines they consider important in framing their classroom community is also helpful for me, as a teacher, to become sensitive to the issues that these kids feel are important; subsequently, I can then better manage our environment as well as support the students in building positive coping strategies to master maturational crises. Oddly enough, it appears that students tend to identify far more severe consequences for infractions than I. However, bearing in mind that consequences must be relevant to situations and occur immediately after an infraction, I opt to guide my students in this direction.

My vision for a healthy classroom community includes providing a safe place for students to take risks, to master challenges that stretch their boundaries. In doing so, I support students to share in an atmosphere where censorship and criticism won’t be a possibility. Emphasizing the egalitarian nature of my classroom management strategies is designed to promote each individual’s sense of self-worth and self-consistency; everyone is equally important, every student is valued, and there will be no verbalized aggression or put-downs either on the part of peers or the teacher. The establishment of trust is an essential first step in a healthy collaborative relationship. By providing structure that makes my classroom a safe place to share ideas, work toward goals, and examine concepts, I’m encouraging trust on which students can build a strong foundation for learning not only of content, but also of critical social skills that will serve them in the world of work, as they move forward as adults after leaving high school. As a teacher, I owe my students at least this much.


Observation Protocol: 8th Grade Science


I have the pleasure and privilege of working with Kathryn Symmes in 8th grade science at Kodiak Middle School.   Kathryn started off the year by sharing her classroom rules with the students and there have not been any classroom management challenges since.

When students arrive in class, they get their notebooks out and start working through the “Starter” activity on the front board. Kathryn expects that once the students enter the classroom they’re ready to work; the kids wrap up their conversations at the door.   The Starter activity is consistently related to the unit we’re covering, usually reviewing a key concept from the previous class or, occasionally, an activity to get the students’ minds geared for a new topic.   By the time the bell has rung, everyone’s at their desks and writing or reading.   About 3 minutes after the bell, Kathryn will ask the class, “So how did everyone do on the Starter?”   Then, using wooden popsicle sticks onto which she’s written each student’s name, Kathryn begins calling on students at random to provide their answer.   She asks the class as a group to weigh in on the answers; this is the method used to guide discussion and it works nicely in achieving its goals of knowledge sharing and peer support.

After the Starter, students know what to prepare for next as Kathryn has written it on the front board, right under the Starter.   Transitioning from Starter to “Today” is quick and painless; and after approximately 10 minutes of lecture augmented by illustrations shown by overhead, the class shifts again to play “Periodic Table Scrabble.”   Students pair or triple up with friends and work on getting as many points possible for the next 5 minutes.   Kathryn checks in to see who has 6 or more words and gets and overwhelming response; it appears about 85% of the class is at this point.   Scores are written down and we’re off on the next topic:   Instructions for making a flip book or brochure illustrating atomic theory from Dalton’s theoretical model of the atom to the present day.   Materials are provided at the lab tables and the students work on their individual projects while sharing helpful hints with classmates.   Two minutes to wrap up . . . the bell rings and the students go on to their next class, having tidied up the lab before leaving.


From what I’ve observed consistently since beginning with Kathryn in early October, whatever method she uses to deliver her classroom rules is obviously working.   Students arrive in class, get working on the Starter, are cooperative, no chit chatting . . . it’s really pretty amazing.   And Kathryn is the mellowest teacher I’ve ever met!   She’s got a very calm voice, enjoys making science fun, and she really knows her stuff. So transitions between activities or between classes flows (at least since I’ve been observing) smoothly, students are able to anticipate the transitions between parts of the lesson — and Kathryn doesn’t spend more than 10 minutes engaged in any one modality — and they’re learning.


In all truth, there is no strategy that Kathryn uses that I don’t really appreciate.   However, two in particular stand out for me:   Don’t spend more than 10 minutes doing any one thing or 8th graders get bored; and using popsicle sticks to randomly choose students to respond to questions.   And with this second strategy Kathryn makes a really quick (lightning speed) note to herself regarding the student’s response and whether they’re moving along as expected or if they’re having challenges and she needs to help them along.



Liz’s 3 Helpful Links

First . . . here’s the link to what I think is a really cool video, “Hey Science Teachers — Make it FUN!”:

New teacher, Tyler DeWitt, uses a great narrative style to describe how he finally got his high school Biology class to the unit on Virology (his favorite Bio subject and mine, too!) and was so looking forward to discussing this topic with his students.   The kids were unable to get anything from the reading — even his “best student” looked him in the eye and said, “The reading sucked!”   So Tyler was able to think quickly and put together some last-minute props so the students would be able to relate to the size differentials between bacteria and viruses, as well as how they interact (yes, they do — to the detriment of bacteria!).   His presentation is in this video and it’s really great to watch — I’ve taken away several ideas on how to make science more accessible to my students.   And students who aren’t bored or lost or frustrated don’t pose a challenge to classroom management — it’s a win-win for everybody!   Plus, when a little bit of fun is interjected, it makes us more real, more human to our students, thereby fostering trust.

Next up . . . blog:

Welcome to Mrs. Cheney’s 8th grade science class! I truly appreciate Erin Cheney’s goals for this class, which she states: . . . is to inspire my students to expand their understanding of the world, challenge their assumptions, and discover their passion.

Who can argue with that?   I really enjoy Erin’s 8th grade science blog.   Right now the class is working on a unit in Earth Science, so the blog page has some beautiful graphics focused on the earth.   In addition to listing learning goals by week, resources for the unit the class is working on, and providing both students AND their parents with a means for keeping current with homework, Erin also posts field trip plans on her blog and ties them into the unit the students study in class.   Check it out — I learned a lot from this blog:   I plan on having a similar blog in place for my class as it keeps parents informed, kids on track, makes learning engaging and fun and contributes immeasurably to effective classroom management.

And last but not least . . .   the website:

I found this little gem, “Five Quick Classroom Management Tips For Novice Teachers” on Edutopia and appreciate its practical approach. Even better, it speaks directly to body language, gestures, cues, voice modulation, addressing behaviors when they occur . . . a nice compendium of what we covered in Building Student-Teacher Relationships and with a couple of additional nice hints as well.


The Future of Alaska Native Education

I found Berg’s article rather thought-provoking.   I’ve lived on Kodiak Island for almost 4 years now, was a substitute teacher and RN within the school district here for 3 of those years and have been impressed continually by the ways in which the Alaska native tribes in my area honor their cultures and traditions.   There are Alutiiq language classes offered at our high school.   The Su’naq regularly host community events which include everyone who cares to attend — and I find myself so entranced every time the tribal dancers from Su’naq present their cultural interpretations.   Nobody seems to be repressing anyone else’s culture here.   But it may not be this way in other Alaska locations.

I served 2 years in Northwest Arctic Borough, based in Kotzebue, and openly admit to being one of the “middle class” professionals to whom Berg derogatorily refers.   However, I was invited to come to Kotzebue and work with the Inupiat to build a culturally-relevant healthcare program.   I think it was in Kotzebue, however, that I first encountered discrimination.   It felt ugly.   I’d be in the checkout line at the AC and local Inupiat folks would spout racial epithets — not solely to me, but to any other non-natives who were present; it didn’t matter what you looked like — African Americans, Asian Americans, everyone who wasn’t Inupiat was verbally abused.   One evening, when hanging out with friends who’d grown up in Kotzebue, after having listened to about 40 min. of “white people” being degraded in myriad ways, I said to my friends, “Hey guys, I’m white.”   And they said, “Oh, we’re talking about all the other white **!%$#, not you!”   It made me feel sad.

Culture and heritage are beautiful things and should not be lost.   That being said, I’m a 2nd generation American on my paternal side, and a 1st generation on my mom’s.   I grew up in NYC, went through the public school system there.   When I was growing up we primarily spoke my family’s native language at home, and I learned English as well because the society in which my family lived spoke English.   If Mandarin were the predominant language I would have learned that instead.   I brought my culture with me to school and I learned about so many different cultures, traditions and faith ways from classmates and neighbors and friends . . . no one culture predominated another.   And my life has been ever the richer for this; I was taught to respect and value my own culture as well as other people’s rights to do the same for their culture and heritage.

I rather appreciated one of the comments on Berg’s article in particular: ” I think it is equally important to teach Alaskan kids the culture of SE Asia, of Germany, of Cameroon, Peru, Alabama, etc. Talk about Yupik and Tlingit as well. That is how we honor all cultures and end up with educated, balanced kids ready for the world.”

Liz’s Classroom Rules

After substitute teaching for the last 3 years at Kodiak High School I was a bit nonplussed when I was assigned to Kodiak Middle School this year for student teaching in an 8th grade science classroom. Grades 9 through 12 had become comfortable for me, despite occasional havoc and displays of defiant behavior by a student every now and then. It had been rumored that the Middle School was a seething, raging pit inhabited by demonic pubescent monsters who swallowed teachers whole and rended paraprofessionals limb from limb for fun! So with head hung low and expectations even lower, I slunk into the 8th grade science room on my first morning and, to my surprise, there was no sign posted anywhere which read, “Abandon hope, all who enter here.” First period class began and, to my utter surprise, all students were in their seats before the bell rang — and they were actually working on their warm-up exercise with diligence and focus! My mentor teacher segued flawlessly into the lab activity following the lecture portion of the lesson. It hit me then: Now THIS is classroom organization and management! She’s who I want to be when I grow up!! Well, me growing up is probably never going to happen, so let’s just settle for “when I become a full-time, credentialed educator.”

A week has gone by and each class period passes like my initial experience in this classroom. How can this be? I asked Kathryn to share her secret formula with me. “From the very first day in class,” Kathryn said, “I’m up front with students about what they can expect from me and what I expect to see from them in terms of behavior, class routine, mutual respect, participation and classwork.” She went on to describe how students know to take a “starter” sheet off her desk as they enter and to work on it immediately. There’s an established routine in terms of the framework for her class time but Kathryn switches things up by having students work in groups every now and then or discuss problem solving with a neighbor; this keeps kids engaged. I noticed Kathryn switches gears about every 10 min. or so — sometimes more frequently — and this WORKS! The galactic center around which her well-managed classroom orbits is mutual respect: Kathryn demonstrates it and the students model it back. Every now and then she may have to remind a student to not talk over a classmate or to not whisper and giggle while Kathryn’s teaching, but it’s a pleasure to observe and, believe me, I’m taking copious notes!

So, as a future science teacher, my classroom rules are: 1. Respect yourself and others; 2. Personal accountability; 3. Preparedness; 4. Punctuality; and 5. Lab Safety. From my perspective, all classroom rules are an extension of #1; subsequently, you can’t successfully enforce any classroom rules until #1 is established.

I found the following article interesting. “Managing the Middle School Classroom: 3 Golden Rules,” authored by guest-blogger Mark Aaron, appears on, and reminded me how effective a tool humor can be, both with one’s self and with students. Aaron echoes my views of personal accountability on the part of students and the teacher as well. Additionally he makes a great point: If you promise your students something, whether reward or consequence, be sure to deliver.   Check it out:

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A howyoodoooin’ from Liz

Da Soap Champ!

I moved to Kodiak almost 4 years ago after spending 2 years in Kotzebue. Prior to that I had lived my entire life in New York City, the Greatest City in the World.   I attended Columbia University, landed a sweet job at Children’s Hospital at New York Presbyterian, became bored, certified as a Fire Fighter/Paramedic and then joined FDNY.   I was never bored afterward.

I came to Kodiak as a Nurse Educator and had no intention of changing career paths. My pursuit of a career in Education began rather serendipitously:   After substituting as school RN, I was asked if I wanted to fill in for high school Spanish classes, as KIBSD had no bilingual guest teachers.   I was then invited to cover a wide variety of classes and thoroughly enjoyed working with young adults and seeing the world through their eyes.   I ventured outside my comfort zone and covered classes like Auto Shop, Art and Statistics.   My students learned and had fun.   I learned and had even more fun.   I was hooked!   Following a long-term teaching assignment a colleague suggested I pursue my teaching credential and become a “real” educator.   Now I find myself here, with you fine people, embarking on what is now my 3rd career and loving every step of the way.   Teaching secondary education has become my passion and I find myself really enjoying the process of becoming.   My hope is to find a teaching position in the bush after graduation.

I have 2 fantastic and unbelievably wonderful kids, both of whom are in college, Georgie at Penn State and Mimi at Princeton.   They’ve started calling me at times other than when they need money, so that’s probably a good sign.   I share my home with 2 service animals, Cujo the 7-pound attack terrier (she thinks) and Terrible Jimmy the very large Siamese with cattitude.   My home in Kodiak overlooks the harbor and is a great place for my soap studio.   My soap making hobby has morphed into a small business and I’m truly thankful that folks like my products. This year my handcrafted all-natural soap cupcake took 1st Place and the Grand Champion rosette at the Kodiak Rodeo & State Fair.

It’s a pleasure to meet everyone. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

And here’s Cujo. She’s looking forward to sharing a steak.   LOL!