Author: sgcarstensen

Cool Kids

This is a thought-provoking study and article. I haven’t kept up with any of the “cool kids’ that I went to school with, so it’s interesting to see how that early adolescent behavior unfolds into early adulthood. I was pretty surprised to learn that “pseudomature’ behavior in early adolescence was a stronger indicator of delinquent behavior and alcohol/substance abuse in early adulthood than levels of use in adolescence.

I hope the researchers continue with this study; it will be fascinating to see where the subjects are in another ten years and if the behavioral trend holds true. I also think that this is a topic parents need to be aware of. I know early relationships are often over looked as long as nothing sexual happens; and by the same token many parents fuss over their kids lack popularity. We’re social creatures and want to be recognized, so to that extent I think everybody wants some popularity or social standing. But the desperate drive to be popular needs to be monitored, rather than glossed over as just another part of school life.

As for my own experiences … I remember being in my early twenties and lamenting over some of my age cohort still acting like we were in high school/middle school. But I never gave much thought to why they acted that way — other than assuming bad home training. I didn’t connect that immaturity to prior behavior, at least in part, because I grew up in Fairbanks and spent my early twenties in rural Pennsylvania. None of my former peers were around.

I can think of one illustration of the decline the study mentions in popularity from middle school to high school ages for “cool kids’. There was a girl I went to school with that was definitely conscious of where she was on the social ladder. In middle school she changed who she hung out with to get in with the older “cool’ crowd, talked about dating, and sneaking drinks from her parents stash. By the time we were sophomores her behavior was more extreme, but she didn’t have the same popularity she had had.

These articles have certainly made me think about some of the people I’ve attended university with, and how far back their behavior goes.


The best opening strategy that I observed was a sponge activity. The teacher would place “Daily Geography’ questions on the document projector and the students, 7th graders, knew when they came in that they were responsible for recording the questions and the answers in their journals. The questions were review of either a topic they had gone over, or the use of a skill that they had learned — such as finding a specific point on a map. My mentor doesn’t use this every day, but often enough that the students were familiar with it and most started taking down the information as soon as they came in the room. It gave time for roll to be taken, and was a good starting point for a quick discussion that led into the day’s lesson.

One management strategy that I noted in several classes was proximity — moving around the room, between rows or groups — both when giving lecture and during group work or seatwork. This allowed my mentor to keep an eye on behaviors, but also to stop by each group and check on how they were doing or answer questions. She also gives praise when the students are doing well — i.e. staying on track and helping each other out — or encourages them when they get bogged down. I like this strategy because it allows equal attention to be paid to all the students; it also keeps from singling out only the students who are misbehaving or falling behind, and potentially embarrassing them about it.

For lesson closure, one of the best ways I’ve seen my mentor close a class was by reminding the students that they were to finish their work at home and that it would be due the next class. Then she asked the class when they’d meet next, and after they had answered, when the assignment was due. This is a good way to make sure that everyone knows when the assignment is due, and by asking the class to repeat it back it makes them actually think about it rather than letting it go in one ear and out the other.

One transition, going from passing break to starting class, that my mentor used was asking if everyone in had turned in the assignment that was due. Then while people were doing that asking questions about what people had done over the week end. Just for a couple of minutes, but it let the students get some of their chatter out; as this was early in the semester the students, 7th graders, were still getting used to procedures like that and some still needed a nudge to remind them.

Another transition between two activities — the sponge activity and giving directions for group work — that my mentor used was telling the class that to finish up their daily geography and get out their books for the lesson. After about 30 seconds she, told them they’d start when everyone was quiet. This signaled to students 1) that they needed to finish right away, and 2) that they should settle down.

For an end of period transition, from working on projects at their seats, my mentor gave a warning that there was only 10 minutes left in class and that they should wrap-up what they were working on. At 5 minutes she gave the time, and had the students close down and return their laptops to the cart. At 2 minutes she again, gave the time and had them start putting away their supplies and bringing their projects to the front of the room to be stored away. This strategy kept the students from rushing about chaotically to get things tidied away by breaking down the clean-up into steps.

My mentor has a basic agenda that she can swap out from magnetic clips on the side of her blackboard. It has things like Daily Geography, Bookwork, Test, etc. so that students know when they come in what is happening that day. She also has numbers that correspond to a volume scale, which go above the agenda. If the class gets noisy she gets their attention and asks what the volume level is, what level they think they were at, and if they think they can bring it down or if she needs to set the level to 0 (silent work). Since this is a normal procedure the students are good at gauging what level they were at, and also about bringing down the volume to where it should be. During advisory she can use it in the reverse; where most of period was at 1 (whispering), she can say “ok, you can go up to level 3 (talking normally) for the last 10 minutes.’

I think that if was teaching at a middle school, particularly 7th graders, this would be a pretty good strategy. It is a good way to train the students to know what volume they should be at during individual work and in groups; and by using it consistently it would add structure to the class. A consistent consequence — such as going no more talking — would hopefully cut off protesting, and allow for peer regulation.

Positive Student-Teacher Relationships
♦Improving Students’ Relationships with Teachers to Provide Essential Supports for Learning
♦ American Psychological Association


This page is well laid out, it has several sections that break down positive student-teacher relationships; including the characteristics of positive relationships, of negative relationships, dos and don’ts, recognizing risk factors for problematic relationships, and tips for improvement. It also has separate sections for references and where further information on the web. The way the information is organized and broken down makes it easy to digest, and it gives some salient advice on creating positive student-teacher relationships.


Pressure of Perfect

It is hard to write a comment to the “Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection’ NYT article; it is heart wrenching to think about kids feeling that they’ve somehow failed at life because they aren’t perfect in school.

There is ridiculous pressure, competitiveness, in our society from parents. Will your child getting straight A’s guarantee that they are a better employee? No. Will your child getting into an elite school outweigh mediocre job performance? No.

When I got stressed over grades in Uni, my mom would say “what’s the use of getting worked up till you burn out?’ I think that is an astute question. What is the point of running yourself into the ground, of making yourself miserable when a 3.0 will give you the same degree as a 4.0?

I do agree with the article and the comments made about “helicopter/lawnmower’ parents. I don’t think they’re doing their children any favors. How are they going to cope in the real world? Their moms/dads won’t be able to sit in on their job interviews, or negotiate a raise with their boss, or come in to bully the admin staff when they don’t get the lunch break slot they want.

I was surprised to not to see comments addressing debt, maybe I missed them. For me, and for people I know, educational debt is a big stressor. It puts pressure on students not to fail because failure puts them farther in debt, or is a waste of money you don’t have.

I think Active Minds is a good organization and their goal, to raise awareness about mental health issues on campuses, is an important one. I think peer awareness and support can do a lot for students. However, I think that parents also need to be more aware of how they are affecting their children. The stress to excel, to get into a “good’ school starts in high school. Once it becomes a habit it’s hard to break.

Sarah C – Classroom Rules

I think that a classroom, or any group really, runs smoother when expectations are plain. When kids know what is expected of them then they are more apt to act appropriately — and even when there is a laps in behavior with clear rules there is less room for argument. I also really believe in the idea that the teacher should be a model for the behavior expected of their students.

So to develop rules I would keep in mind minimal and to the point, so that students can easily remember and understand them. I would also think about the age of my students and what is commonsense, what will be covered in the student handbook, and ultimately what will make my classroom a good environment for learning.

For instance as a secondary teacher I probably wouldn’t post “Don’t Cheat;’ it should be obvious to students by this age that cheating is inappropriate, and academic honesty is generally covered in student handbooks.

While I would keep my posted rules short and sweet, I would also spend a few minutes at the start of the term going over what they mean in a bit more depth. This would bring them to the attention of the students and allow for any questions or comments to be taken care of.

My four rules would be:

Be Respectful — of yourself, others, and property.
Be Prepared — bring proper supplies and books, finish homework and reading before class.
Do Your Best — be attentive and participate.
Be Relevant — lessons first; discussions of life, the universe, and everything afterword.

The National Education Association site has links and PDFs of everything from professional development to activities and lessons related to classroom rules.

Daniel Nero – Introduction


My name is Daniel Nero, and I am an English and Secondary Ed double-major with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. I call the little emerald island-town of Kodiak, Alaska (with all its little quirks and windmills and sandwich shacks) home.

It was during high school when I had my initial thought of making teaching my career. My English teacher for 10th and 11th grade became (and still is) a significant influence and a tremendous source of inspiration from me. Our conversations and interactions had proved that he was invested in my success. And I want to do that too —— I want to help.

People say that I’m everywhere, and it’s true —— I am everywhere. I love being involved on campus! I work for the university’s Residence Life department. I am also a member of the Gender and Sexualities Alliance, the Nanook Diversity and Actions Council, Alpha Phi Omega, English Major Union, Ice Box, Concert Board, and Traditions Board. If you see me anywhere, come say hi.

I can’t wait to meet all of you!

Daniel Nero